“These things cannot be done in five minutes – but do you not think that nearly 4 months is rather a long delay?”

Sydney Spencer was increasingly frustrated that he was still on the home front.

Copy of a letter I sent to Brigadier General Pratt [sic?] commanding 208th Inf. Brigade at Doncaster on Easter Sunday March 31st 1918.

From The Brigade Gas Officer
208th Inf. Brigade

To the Commander
208th Inf. Brigade

Sir:

I have the honour to lay the following request before you hoping that it will meet with the great consideration which you have shewn at all times towards me in my rather unhappy position. May I be forgiven if for the moment I break through that necessary reserve which rightly exists between a junior subaltern & his General Officer Commanding, & write rather more openly than official language will allow, even being you, for the time being, as one who has seen more of life & service than I have lived years, & one who has shewn great sympathy & willingness to aid me towards the one great end to which I unceasingly look, rather than as my superior officer to whom I have no right to address the following in such terms as I am about to use.

Sir: both you & General Fortescue before you have done your best to get me overseas, & have rightly understood the unenviable position I am now in, & yet nothing has happened. My first definite application through the Brigade to the Division must have reached the division at about Christmas time. Since then other applications have gone in. Nothing has come of it. Lord Stanley, when he was with the Brigade, told me to be patient & that these things cannot be done in five minutes. I realize that, but do you not think that nearly 4 months is rather a long delay? Hence I feel driven to ask the following favour. May I be allowed an interview with the General Officer commanding the Division so that I may know what are his real feelings about my position.

General Fortescue, Colonel Harris told me in Sheffield last week, definitely stated that the taking up of my post as Brigade Gas Officer would in no way interfere with my going out as a SS officer should the opportunity arise. In five days time I shall have held my appointment 5 months. Six months is the full term of this office according to ACI Instructions. Frankly, Sir, if I have given satisfaction in my work, & if I have put enthusiasm into the Battalion Gas officers under me, & they have given me every support, as this last week has shewn, it is on my part, an enthusiasm born of an unceasing desire to keep from becoming despondent, & lose after nearly 3 years home service as a General Service Officer. May I hope that the length of this letter, & the language in which it is couched, has in no way given offence.

I have the honour, Sir,
To be
Your obedient servant

Sydney Spencer Lieut
Doncaster

31.3.13

Diary of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/12)

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