Shelled at dawn

It was a dramatic day for Percy Spencer.

22 May 1918

Shelled at dawn. Doe & I dressed hurriedly as we were getting a lot of backwash. Marvellous escape of 2 bivouacs due I think to AP shell. Horses moved. Bankes hit & died of wounds. All officers out except me. Went down to Bd. and was strafed re claims.

Went to Follies in evening with Davis.

Diary of Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

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“I wonder what England would say to a dozen tanned fellows nonchalantly stripping & dressing up in feminine attire”

Percy Spencer told his sister Florence about the cross-dressing entertainment on offer behind the lines.

May 22, 1918
My dear WF

Letters do take a long time these days.

However I got one from you yesterday though apparently you had not got mine of the 13th when you wrote it.

I’m writing this now because I don’t suppose I shall be able to write later on or for a day or two. But don’t imagine I’m going into action.

Just at the moment every officer but me is out so I have a whole battalion under my command. The only snag about it is that Brer Hun turned us out of bed at 6 am this morning with a few 8” – one of them dropped unhealthily near me by the way – and if they start again I shall have to move the men to a safer spot, so I’m sort of listening for the next shell.

It’s a perfect day succeeding a perfect day. Last night I went into the valley below to watch the Follies perform. Transport arrangements broke down so they were 2 hours late. I wonder what England would say to a dozen tanned fellows arriving at an improvised stage by the roadside and nonchalantly stripping & dressing up in feminine attire, and making up as charming damsels & so forth. The dress of members of the audience was no less extraordinary. About the most decent was a Varsity bathing costume.
Mind you, let me know about the Punch sketch.

With my dear love to all at 29

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/39)

A very sketchy but very jolly time – perpetual movement and precious little sleep

Percy Spencer shared his latest doings with his sister.

May 21, 1918

My dear WF

I don’t appear to have written you a letter since the 13th. And there has really been no reason why not except a mass of work. I’m very glad to say that I can see the results of my labour, anyway, so that should console you, even if you don’t see many letters.

Well my dear girl, I’ve lately had a very sketchy but very jolly time – perpetual movement and precious little sleep. We’re in lovely surroundings in a wood on one side of a steep valley. The days are quiet and very hot and the night is filled with the roar of guns. On the other side of the valley from another camp every evening a very fine trumpet player amuses all the world with cheery music and beautiful clear toned calls. And when he ceases, the nightingales improve upon his performance and sing all through the night whatever the guns are doing.

We’re all more or less on tiptoe and I’m getting rather fed up with it, one gets so little time to oneself and the night has a nasty way of turning itself into day. Nevertheless even that sort of life has its compensations.

For instance on Whit Sunday I arose at 2 am and didn’t turn in again until I had strolled around our wooded hilltop with our padre (a delightful fellow) and watched the sun rise and heard the birds sing praises to his glory.

On the 16th I met Anderson. You will remember him at the Boarding House at St Albans. Did you meet his wife? He told me you did. The war has made him look sterner but he has not lost his delightful smile.

On the 18th we had a terrific thunderstorm and life was moist. I had a painful toothache and got our dentist to haul out a wisdom tooth. A very trying performance as the tooth had an unauthorised prong. However I daresay the extra prong accounted for my extreme wisdom, so that problem’s settled, and now I suppose I shall be very foolish.

On Monday (yesterday) our Follies gave an open air performance on the hillside. I was unable to get away to it, but it was very jolly to view from a distance.

Will you let everyone who ought to have a photo have one. If possible I should like to see one of each myself.

Could you send me a tinder lighter some time, and a refill for my short tubular torch. I also badly need a key ring. I’m so sorry to bother you about these things, but they are unobtainable out here….

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/37)

“No one was killed & no one was hurt”

Joan Daniels’ father’s clothing factory in Kentish Town was hit by a bomb.

Joan Daniels
May 20th Monday (Whit Monday)

Wakened at 6 o’clock in the morning by a policeman for Daddie. There was a bad air raid on London last night after eleven o’clock and they dropped a bomb at Daddie’s place. So of course he went off immediately & sent a telephone message through to say that no one was killed & no one was hurt. Which we were more than thankful to receive. The bomb dropped on a wall at the back between Ash’s false teeth factory & Daddie’s, breaking practically every window in the latter & blowing a lot of the false teeth into LDG’s! Daddie came back by the 12.15 & we spent a lovely afternoon on the river. What a difference. Such a peaceful scene & how much we have to be thankful for that no one was hurt. We heard in the evening that four Gothas were brought down, which is splendid.

Percy Spencer
20 May 1918

BF officer for rest at Le Touquet.

Bosch again disappointed us. A glorious day. Boys dug in cable. Follies performed in evening. CO Major P. dined with 17th. Huns really promised for tomorrow. Davis & I had a long talk in the evening.

Diaries of Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1); and Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)