“When my enemy is dead then he is but a soul thrown into the boundless space of infinity, & he is no longer my enemy”

We have followed the story of Sydney Spencer from timid young man scared by the roughness of the army, but driven to join up; through his finally ariving at the front in 1918, to an experience with shell shock in August. Sadly, he would not survive the war. This is the last full letter written by Sydney to his beloved sister Florence; a couple of field postcards followed, before his death in action less than two months before the end of the war. Here he describes his current bivouac, and spares a thought for the enemy. His story epitomises the tragedy of the war, and his spirit shines through the years between us.

Sept 15th 1918
7th Norfolks
My Dearest Florence

My pillow is my haversack containing iron rations, my bedding, borrowed Burberrys eyc. (My kit – all of it – is still wandering about between here & Cox & Co’s London!) Now for the door which is the chef d’oeuvre! It is about 2 ½ feet square i.e. the opening of it! The door is a lid of a sugar box which just fits it! Hence when I go to bed, I lie down on the ground & pull myself into the bivouac by my hands. When I go out, I have to go feet first, & back out probably looking about as dignified in the action as does a dog over whose head some wretched boy has tied a paper bag! Dear old Dillon [his captain] chuckles with delight when he sees me getting in & out. My batman is about as big as I am [Sydney was rather small] & he & I are about the only two who can fit inside! Mind you I believe that he & Bodger (Dillon’s batman) made the entrance small on purpose, a covert pulling of my leg. Nevertheless it is so ‘cumfy’ [sic] & warm & dry I love the little spot. Its dimensions are 7 feet length, 4 feet breadth. Height 2 ½ to 3 feet high. Voila ma cherie. Vous avez une phantasie vraisemblable de ma maisonette qui doit vous donner a rire? [This rather bad piece of French translates as “there you are, my darling. You have a vision resembling my little house which will make you laugh”.] …

Two nights ago German aeroplanes (note I say German, I hate ‘Hun’, ‘boche’ etc, it is petty!) came over on bombing intent. A low moon sickly behind a cloud hung (it could not do much else by the way!) in the sky! Planes over. Lights out! The usual boredom. Then about 14 search lights crisscrossed in the sky. Hallo, they have got one in the ray. I had my strong field glasses & there sure enough in the focus of about a dozen searchlights I could see him. He glowed against the deep blue green of the sky, like those lovely flies of May which have transparent emerald green wings. The usual rat-a-tan of machine guns & the muffled boom of shells bursting round him followed. Then high above him appeared a speck of light like a star which winked & glowed & winked again. Machine gun fire stopped. This was one of our men after him. A moment of waiting, a dull spark of light like a shooting star (a tracer bullet) sped by the enemy plane, another one, a momentary pause then a sheet of flame curved gracefully to earth followed by a brilliant stream of coloured lights – some mystic comet from a Miltonian chaos & dark night it looked – & the soul of an enemy passed into the infinite. Over lonely wooden crosses in shell holes one sees in German characters a name & above it the one word ‘Ruhe’ [rest]. I felt that for him. Through all this I cannot help preserving the thought that when my enemy is dead then he is but a soul thrown into the boundless space of infinity, & he is no longer my enemy. Another enemy plane came, another fight took place & he sped to earth at a sickly pace, his signal rockets all colours bursting out behind him in reckless profusion. I suppose he crashed to earth too somewhere, but he did not set on fire.

This afternoon I was in my nothings & a very smart sergeant came up to me & said, “Are you Sydney Spencer”? Well I thought “Yes I am Sydney Spencer as it happens but anyway what the – is it to do with you”, & then “My word, it is Frank Godfrey!” My dear, I was so overwhelmed at meeting someone from Cookham, that I nearly fell on his neck in front of the whole company – all with their nothings on – & wept. I had not seen him since Aug 1914. Thus does anyone from home stir one!

Percy. How is he? I hoped he would be held in bed for months to prevent his coming out soon….

Leave. Think, Florence, I have been out here 6 months & possibly before Christmas I may get leave! And then a rug in front of a warm fire, your sweet selves to charm me to laziness and – oh well – let’s wait till it comes off. I might get impatient if I wrote more on that score. …

Cigarettes. By the way, you said in one of your letters that you had sent Dillon 500 cigarettes. I think from a business point of view you should know that the parcel contained 200. He did not tell me for a long time, but when he did, I thought you ought to know in case Coln Lunn [the merchant] made a mistake & only packed 200, charging you with 500.

The men were delighted with the share they got of them. Dillon, dear old chap, was almost pathetically grateful….

My kit & cheque book are wandering about somewhere in France or England & have been doing so for the last about 40 days, & at present I sit twiddling my thumbs & waiting! When I came out of hospital, lo! I had no hat, no belt, no change of linen, no nothing except for a pair of Tommy’s slacks & a tunic! I managed to go to Le Havre where I spent fabulous sums on making myself look like an officer, having managed to borrow a cheque, which I changed at Cox & Co’s…

By the way, darling, you may send that kit for which I asked although probably by the time I get it all my other kit will come tumbling back & then I shall be once more told I possess too much.

All love to you my sweet sister & to John, of whose approbation – told me through your letters – I am more proud than I can say

Your always affectionate Brer Sydney

Letter from Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EZ177/8/3/79-82)

Two more dear young lads have joined the honoured dead

Sad news came for two Cookham Dean families, while other men were still joining up.

At the time of writing two more lives of dear young lads have passed from the list of those on Active Service to the number of those of the Honoured Dead who have given their lives for their King and Country. Sidney John Godfrey, of the Royal Berks Regt., and Edward Garrett, of the Grenadier Guards. The death of the first has been officially notified in The Gazette, and the news of the latter, received at present only through private sources, is of too circumstantial a nature, alas, to leave any room for doubt as to the actual fact, All alike join in deep sympathy for the fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, in their hour of sorrow.

The Roll of Honour
The following promotions are announced:- Lieut. Brian Lawrence, of the Nth. Staff Regt., is now Captain in the 4th Yorkshire Light Infantry; Sec. Lieut. Randall E. Hunt, A.S.C., is now Lieutenant; Pte Cecil Edwards, of the 13th City of London Regiment, is now Sec. Lieut. In the 8th Middlesex; Frederick Woodbridge is made Lance Corporal.

William Fitchett has enlisted in the 43rd battalion RFA; Alfred Tomlin and William Tomlin have joined the AOD; and Frederick Piercey (making the sixth of his family) has enlisted in the Royal Berks Regt. Lce Corporal Frederick Woodbridge has been badly wounded; Ernest Blinko and Charles Druce have each been wounded a second time; while as mentioned above Sidney John Godfrey and Edward Garrett were killed in action on Sept. 25th and on Oct. 17th respectively.

Cookham Dean parish magazine, November 1915 (D/P43B/28A/31)

Why should the young do all the fighting and the dying and offer the great sacrifice by themselves?

The people of Winkfield were urged to support the young men who were heading to the Front.

VICAR’S LETTER

MY DEAR FRIENDS,

When you receive this Magazine we shall be nearing the completion of a year of War, and this fact cannot fail to solemnize in our minds and make us seriously consider whether we are one and all doing our duty in this supreme crisis of our Nation’s history.

The call to service and sacrifice has been answered by numbers of our young men – a list of whom is printed in this month’s Magazine – but have we who are unable to offer ourselves for active service contributed all we can and ought to the common cause? As the Bishop of London says, why should the young do all the fighting and the dying and offer the great sacrifice by themselves? The sacrifice that is for all should be offered by all, and all are bound to make the resolution “I will pray, I will repent, I will serve, I will save.”

And yet we must sorrowfully confess that the army of intercessors to offer prayer as sacrificial as the self-oblation of the millions of men who have offered themselves for war, has not been forthcoming; unlike France or Russia, out Churches have not been filled with men and women to pray for the men whose peril and blood is their shield, and I must confess to much heart sickness and disappointment that even our intercessory services in the second Sunday evenings and the last Sunday mornings in the month have not been better attended.

What is the explanation? It cannot be that we are indifferent to our country’s need or without love to our brothers at the Front; nor is it that England does not believe in God; there is enough love of our country and enough belief in God to crowd our Churches with earnest suppliants. What then is lacking? Is it not the belief in prayer and especially the belief in united supplication in God’s house? Is not the lack of this the reason why the men and women who ought to be in the praying line have not proved so steadfast as the men in the fighting line, who so greatly need our prayers, and surely have a right to expect them.

I sincerely hope therefore that large numbers will make a real and special effort to attend the special Intercession Services on Wednesday, August 4th and on Sunday, August 8th, of which notice is given in another column. The result of this war will depend very largely on the atmosphere of prayer which has been created, for prayer is the strongest force in the world, and as has been truly said, through prayer we bring our nation and our Allies into contact with Christ, and set the life of the whole Society as well as individuals in the stream of that purpose of redemptive love which can overrule even war for God.

Your sincere Friend and Vicar,
H. M. MAYNARD.

PARISH NOTES

Lieut. Godfrey Loyd and Private Henry Hoptroff have just gone to the Front, and Privates Edwin Gray, Ernest Gray, Edward Holloway and Lance-Corporal Reginald Nickless are under orders to be in readiness to go immediately. We trust that they and their naturally anxious relatives will have a place in our prayers.

Much sympathy is felt for the family of Private John Williams (Royal Field Artillery) who died in hospital after a very long and distressing illness. He was buried with full military honours at Cosham Cemetery on July 1st, and special memorial prayers were said for him on Sunday, July 4th.

NOTICE

On Wednesday, 4th August, the anniversary of the declaration of war, a great service in St. Paul’s Cathedral has been arranged, when the King and all the leaders of the nation will attend to inaugurate the second year of the war be asking God’s help. In Winkfield Church, there will be Celebration of the Holy Communion at 8 a.m., and Litany and Intercession at 11 a.m. Also Evensong and Intercession at S. Mary the Less at 7.30 p.m.

On Sunday, August 8th, both morning and evening, there will be special services with Intercessions and Thanksgivings for the way in which the country has been preserved from many dangers.

The following is list of Winkfield men serving in His Majesty’s Forces at Home and Abroad.
(more…)

Longworth recruits include a woman

The people of Longworth who had remained at home were keen to support the war, while others had volunteered to serve – including one woman, at the Front with the Red Cross. The parish magazine reports:

Mr. Moon’s Ambulance Lectures were so much appreciated that they are (we believe) to be repeated. Miss Bartlett’s Nursing Lectures are also admirable, and the attendance from thirty to thirty-three proves that they are valued.

We give below a complete list, so far as we possess it, of the Longworth men who are serving their country in the Navy or the Army. If any corrections or additions are necessary, please send them to the Rectory as soon as possible.

Navy: George Painton, John Richings, Oscar Wilcox, Frederick Thatcher (Recruit).

Soldiers at the Front: Capt. Fitzwilliams, Lewis Brooks, Henry Timms, John Loder, Ernest Godfrey, Gilbert Beechy, William Hutt (Corporal, wounded), Reginald Harris, Albert Adams (wounded), Henry Newport, Herbert Hughes, John Leach (wounded), Richard Painton, James Hale, Mary Wilson (Red Cross).

Soldiers not yet at the Front: Major Crum, Charles Painton (Colour-Sergeant), Percy Painton (Quartermaster-Sergeant), Ewen Truman, Tom Sollis, John Hale, Walter Henley, James Webb, Harry Webb, Edward Webb.

Recruits: Edward Tyrhwitt-Drake, Herbert Wilson, Albert Hobbs (Lance-Corporal), John Porter (Corporal), Fred Heath, Ernest Ridge, William Pimm, George Pimm, Albert Pimm, Headley Luckett, John Rivers, Percy Butler, Alfred Leach, Harry Clarke, James Floyd, Vincent Adams, Robert Ashfield, Raymond Hobbs, Arthur Henley, Stephen Pike, and (although he is no longer with us in Longworth) Frank Knowles (Sergeant).

There is a Service of Intercession for all engaged in, or suffering through the War, on Fridays, at 3:30, in the Church.

Longworth parish magazine, December 1914 (D/P83/28A/9)

A right minded boy does his duty and dies gloriously

Bracknell had lost its first man to the war – a young career soldier remembered locally for his football skills, with many others joining up.

The following is a list of those who belong to the Parish of Bracknell, and who are in the habit of attending Bracknell Church, who are now serving in H.M. Forces.

NAVY.
R.-Admiral Dudley de Chair, Cecil Bowler, E. Cordery, G. Freeman, G. Jenkins, A. Mott, C. Pleass, H. Roe, R. Watson, E. Wild.

MARINES
E. J. Brailey, R. H. Hester, E. S. Simmonds, C. H. Johnson, W. G. Johnson, J. H. Johnson, F. Gray, Charles Gambriel, G. Jenkins, S. Plummer, A. Prouten.

Many of these are in the North Sea.

ARMY
On Active Service.
Lieut. W. Foster, Lieut. W. Mackenzie, Captain W. K. George, H. Baker, Henry Barlow, Reginald Bowler, George Bowles, John Brant, G. H. Butcher, F. Butler, Alfred Case, Daniel Chaplin, L. Claridge, G. Clarke, N. Clarke, H. Currey, H. Downham, F. Dolby, M. Fox, W. Grimes, F. Harvey, H. Hollingsworth, A. Isaacs, B. Linnegar, A. Mason, H. Matthews, G. Morton, A. Newton, H. Norman, F. Offield, F. Rathband, R. Sadler, B. Sone, A. Winfield, C. Young, A. Penwell (India), S. Norman (Malta), W. Notley, A. E. Reed.

In England
Col. Sir W. Foster, Bart., Lieut. J. C. L. Barnett, Lieut. B. Foster, H. Alder, James Bowyer, John Bowyer, G. Brant, H. Bristow, C. Burt, C. Cave, C. Church, W. Clark, F. L. Dean, C. Dyer, W. Dyer, C. W. Ellis, F. Fitzhugh, J. K. George, E. Godfrey, F. Goddard, H. Gray, J. Gray, Ernest Gambriel, H. Gregory, S. Grimes, A. Holloway, H. Hoptroff, C. Hoptroff, G. Hoptroff, T. H. James, A. Jenkins, G. Kent, S. Kidley, R. Larcombe, J. Lawrence, L. Linnegar, E. Mason, G. Mason, H. Marshall, W. Norris, E. Noyes, H. Perrin, A. Pither, J. Pither, W. Pither, A. J. Prouten, S. Rixon, A. Readings, W. Sargeant, R. Sargeant, D. Sargeant, A. E. Searle, S. Sone, W. Spencer, H. Thompson, P. Treble, W. Turner, B. Turner, H. Webb, F. Webb, A. Winter, G. Winter, H. Winter, J. Wooff, R. Wright, A. Youens, E. Willman.

Two young men belonging to Bracknell have come over with the Canadian Contingent and will shortly be at the Front, – William Searle, and C. Berry.

Drummer Eric W. Roe of the Grenadier Guards is the first of our Bracknell men whose name is placed on the “Roll of Honour.” (more…)

The people of Longworth and Charney support the war effort

Many young men from Longworth and Charney Bassett had answered the call and joined the armed forces. The Longworth parish magazine reports on these men, and what people at home could do to support them:

A poster calling upon us to remember in prayer our soldiers and sailors at the front, also the wounded, the prisoners and the bereaved, has been placed in the Church porch and elsewhere in the village. We hope it may be possible to ring the church bell at noon each day in order to remind us of this call. We shall be joining our prayers with thousands of others offered at the same time in every part of the country.

The names of men who are serving from this village are given, so far as we have been able to get them, below. They will also be found in the Church porch. Perhaps we could copy the list into our books of prayer, and so remember the men individually.

Soldiers- Henry Timms, John Loder, Ernest J. Godfrey, Lewis Brooks, Oscar Wilcox, Charles Truman, Charles Hammond, John K. L. Fitzwilliams.

Sailors- George Painton (North Sea), John Richings (China).

Recruits- Fred Heath, Ernest Ridge, George Pimm (Shorncliff), John Porter, Percy Butler, Alfred Leach, Harry Clarke, Hedley Luckett, Albert Hobbes, Francis John Rivers (Oxford), Richard Adams, Albert Pimm (Weymouth).

From Charney- George Shorter, George Wheeler, Ernest Franklyn.

In addition to the above, six have volunteered and been rejected as “medically unfit.” All honour to them notwithstanding, for they have done their best, and no man can do more. Will our readers be so kind as to help us to make this list complete.

CHARNEY
A service of Intercession on behalf of our soldiers and sailors engaged in the war is held each Wednesday at 7pm. The church bell is tolled a few times each day at noon as a call to private prayer on the same behalf. We should remember in our prayers the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa, whose work is carried on chiefly in German territory. The sum of 7s. 8d. was collected in Church on Sunday, August 16, towards the Prince of Wales’ National Defence Fund.

Lady Hyde has kindly taken some “Quiet Afternoons” with the Charney mothers, and supplied them with material for making clothing for the soldiers and sailors.

Longworth parish magazine, October 1914 (D/P83/28A/9)