Adventures in armoured cars and tanks

Old Boys of Reading School continued to serve their country, and share their experiences.

O.R.NEWS.

Mr. A.J. Wright has kindly sent the headmaster extracts from a letter of R.F. Wright’s, who was then in the 2nd squadron Russian Armoured Cars. The letter gives a vivid description of the threat on the Galician front and for the adventures of the Armoured Cars. The most striking sight was the explosion of the huge ammunition dumps at Crosowa, – apparently caused by a chance shot,- which Wright witnessed from a distance of 5 or 6 miles. It was most fortunate that the British cars got away with such small loss.

We must congratulate Capt. Rev. A.G. Wilken, Brigade Chaplain, Canadian Force on his return from Germany. He has been a prisoner of war for a year and eight months, during which time he has made the acquaintance of no less than six prison camps, Gutersloh, Minden, Crefeld, Schwarmstedt, Holzminden and Frieburg. We understand that some of these were comfortable enough, others very much the reverse. We hope that someday perhaps Capt. Wilken will tell us of some of his experiences.

Captain Haigh, M.C.

We are now in a position to publish news of the great honour which has been conferred upon Capt. Richard Haigh, M.C., Tank Corps, son of Mr. W. Haigh, of “Llanarth,” Hamilton Road, Reading. Capt. Haigh has been selected from all the officers of “His Majesty’s’ Land Ships” to take charge of the tank which has been touring Canada and the United states to help boom the U.S. Liberty Loan. He and his crew all of whom, by the way, have been wounded, have been touring the chief cities of the Republic for the past three months polarizing the great loan which our Allies have been raising. Such work is, of course, of the highest responsibility, and the fact that the gallant officer has been entrusted with this duty speaks well for his ability and for the confidence which the authorities place in him.

Educated at Reading School, where he distinguished himself in every form of athletics, particularly long distance running and football, Capt. Haigh obtained a commission in the Royal Berks Regt. just after the outbreak of war. He was wounded at Loos in 1915 and again on the Somme in 1916. In January of last year he was awarded the Military Cross, and for the last twelve months he has been attached to the Tank Corps.

Lieut. Fielding Clarke. – On Wednesday in the last week Captain Fielding Clarke of Ampthill, Craven Road, Reading, received a telegram intimating that his second son, Sec. Lieut. A. Fielding Clarke, R.F.C., was missing. The previous Saturday he had been with his squadron carrying out a bombing raid on and around Metz, and his machine was the only one which did not return. Lieut. Clarke, whose age is 18 and a half, was educated at Reading School and Bradfield College, and joined the R.F.C. at the age of 17 years and four months. He had been in France about three months and had just returned from his first Furlough. It is supposed that the cause of his failing to return must have been engine trouble, for on the occasion of the raid there was particularly little German anti-aircraft fire.

(Later). Lieut. A. Fielding Clarke is now known to be a prisoner of war interned at Karlsruhe.
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Unfit for peace

Maysie Wynne-Finch wrote to her brother Ralph Glyn to tell him of her joy at having her soldier husband home from the Front – and the excitement of experiencing air raids.

Sep.10/15
Cliffe Close
Highcliffe
Hants

My darling R.

…I am very sorry it’s so long since I wrote, I missed one mail & then last week I was hopeless as John got his week’s leave. Oh it was heavenly, only I didn’t know time could go so quick. I got a wire the 31st and he cane on Wed – no time for me to meet him in London. To my sorrow he caught a 5 a.m. train from Euston, having arrived 2.30 a.m. so he didn’t waste much time. The Parents fled as if we were plague struck. However they came here so are more than happy. Meg [her sister] has been splendid & fitted them in. John went back Wed evening & Meg & I came here that night. Addy is an angel & I am with her. Somehow I couldn’t face going straight back home. I am going on the 18th I think.

We are having great Zep days. On Tuesday we were just turning in when there was a noise & John said it was a gun – then we heard another & fetched Reg. We saw nothing & heard only a few more distant shots. It turned out they’d been over Kennnington. They destroyed some houses in the Old Kent Road. Fire engines were dashing about all night. Then Wed night seems to have been more exciting. There were 3 Zeps & everyone saw them for about 10 minutes, as our searchlights got them. Lord Colville writes to Addy & says for 10 minutes the sound of bursting bombs & guns was terrific – & they did a lot of damage – 15 people were killed by one bomb hitting a motor bus in the City. They caused several fires & one very large one close to the Bank. I suppose we shall have a spell of the devils for a bit. I wish we could catch them. So long as they don’t get our munition works it won’t matter much.

Dear old Sir Edward Goschen was here yesterday. We hadn’t met since Berlin. He has taken a house here. He brought word of these Russian successes in Galicia, he also said he heard on good authority that the Russians would be able to make an offensive on less than a month, & that their immediate reserve was a [division?] now ready. In fact he was so cheering I can’t believe him! Everyone seems to think we are going to make a big move in the west now at once. I suppose we ought & shall. John expected it. Meantime the new Guards Div. are still right back – not formed even, apparently they have no guns yet even. But that is probably not true & they are sure to be in any push, if there is one.

You seem to be fairly “in it” now. Your story of Coxson is priceless. How he must hate it. I wish your news was better – it must be so sickening for you all – especially seeing the awful price we paid & without the result. Now one wonders so what next. There seems precious little light anywhere just now. Every day I am getting more convinced there is going to be no big Fleet action, aren’t you? I’m afraid the Russians didn’t destroy the Nolke, but anyhow the Huns are properly taken on evidently.

I expect you’ll be sad about the Grand Duke. He wouldn’t change his C of Staff so was told he must or go with his own man, so he went. That’s the yarn I heard from Edmund Charteris, & he generally knows the right of things…

There has been great excitement at Cefre over these submarine [illegible] glass balls which are being washed ashore. At least that’s what they are said to be. They caught a submarine string on the sand of some Tripper beach in Anglesey the other day! 57 is said to be the number of Fritz’s we’ve now disposed of. Not too bad.

That Trades Union decision about National Service was pretty rotten, it shows how utterly unfit we still are for peace & how little better a year of war has made us. Dreadful. These boys here are splendid…

John has brought home a beautiful specimen of a rifle [bomb crossed through] grenade thing. They must be the devil.

Bless you darling. Take care of yourself…

Your ever loving
Maysie

Letter from Maysie Wynne-Finch to her brother Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

Agonized at regimental losses

Florence Vansittart Neale sympathised with a friend whose son had faced the deaths of many of his fellow soldiers. The city of Lemberg was in a part of historic Galicia ruled before the war by the Austrians. As Lwow, it was part of Poland between the wars. It is now known as Lviv, and in Ukraine.

19 June 1915
Down by 10 o’clock [train] to see Helen. Letter [to her] from Val [her son] – rather agonized. His regiment much cut up…

Edith & I shopped, did up parcel for prisoners….

Fear Russians still retreating – Germans making great dash on Lemberg.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Helping at the YMCA

Florence Vansittart Neale and her friends helped out again at the YMCA canteen.

11 June 1915

Up to Canteen – took Edie & Mary. Not much doing till 4, then plenty of men. Home 6.30…

German defeat in Galicia. Two of our destroyers sunk in North Sea.
Heard Sep. wounded slightly in head. In Alexandria Hospital. Had hard fighting in Gallipoli.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Pleased to be nursing bad cases

Phyllis Vansittart Neale, elder daughter of Henry and Florence, was nursing the wounded like her younger sister. She was pleased to be working on the most challenging cases.

4 May 1915

Germans claim great victories in Galicia! They at Riga too. Believe great battle going on in Flanders….

Hear we are to have great good news in 2 or 3 days!

Heard from P. – she changed her ward, got under Dr Keith & bad cases! Pleased.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (DEX73/3/17/8)