“We are to use Stokes Guns & bombs from ‘cup’ attachments & ‘umpteen’ rounds of SAA”

Sydney faced another extended journey before being thrown back into the fray.

Wednesday 12 June 1918

Got up at 6 am. Got across to Candas exchange station. A kindly goods RE in the cook house shaved me with a safety razor, with much & very earnest care! Caught a supply train, which got us quite quickly to Puchvillers by 9 am. Here Graham caught a lorry for Toutencourt, so one more ship vanished in the night.

Barker & I got our breakfast at 10.30. Caught a lorry to end of Puchvillers. Lorry jumped from there to Reinecheval, & finally to Argueres where he came & had lunch with us.

Dear old Peyton I find has gone to A Company as 2nd in command. I am very sorry although he well deserves the rise. After lunch saw Barker off, called on Peyton.

After tea went out to range & practiced an attack for a scheme tomorrow morning before our new corps commanders, the ‘23rd corps’. We are to use Stokes Guns & bombs from ‘cup’ attachments & ‘umpteen’ rounds of SAA. After dinner the CO came in & talked about scheme, then to bed.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

“Saw some poor old ladies who have been gassed with yellow X – a lamentable sight.”

Civilians were among the victims of German poison gas.

Tuesday 11 June 1918

Got up at 7.45 am. Got my kit packed by Fox [his batman]. Had breakfast, & then Jones stropped my razor & got a really good shave. After breakfast got down to Hesdin station. Train was due to leave at 10.15 so Graham & I bought biscuits, strawberries & bananas to eat if no food was available. Started at 11.45. Got to St Pol at 1.15. Lunch at the EFC canteen. Town has been fairly well shelled & bombed. Saw some poor old ladies who have been gassed with yellow X. ‘De profundis’ a lamentable sight.

7.30 pm Candas. We stay the night here at Candas as we cannot go further until tomorrow morning at 7.30. Tea at Café’ [illegible] Henly. Then kits to RTO office, a walk and dinner at same café’. Just discovered that I have left my advance pay book & my cheque book, ‘horribili dictu’, at Marronville!

After dinner I made paper frogs for French officers who thought them ‘tres gentils’. To bed at rest camp at 10 pm.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

French holding fairly, lost in some parts, but fighting very hard

It was the last day of Sydney Spencer’s gas training course.

Sydney Spencer
Monday 10 June 1918

Got up at 7.15. After breakfast, I wrote up some of my notes. Then to lecture given by chemical adviser Major Edwardes-Ker, on Responsibilities of Officers.

Then the usual last day of course lectures by students. Very droll, some of them, too. Major Knights was asked about Green X shells & spoke lengthily about what his CO had said concerning yellow X shells. Jones the Welsh man had a fit of spoonerisms, talking of ‘belastic lands’ for elastic bands! Poor Bin – he was dumb! Hardwick knew nothing but was so droll as to pass it all off. Graham was very good indeed. I had to speak on ‘Reliefs’ & gassed areas, etc. Major Ker promised to send my notes down to Broadbent in England. Wore SBB for an hour. After lunch a short lecture by Ash. Then break up of school.

After tea to Hesdin shopping & a bath at common dark place. Dinner, a short walk with Major Knights and then the completion of note writing up to 12.30 am. Wrote letter to Major Ker, reference notes & to bed & read Tartarin de Tarascon.

Florence Vansittart Neale
10 June 1918

Canadians left 9.45…

Disturbed siesta. Soldiers came early – nice set of men. Boats, bowls, croquet & tennis. Left 6.30.

French holding fairly. Lost in some parts, but fighting very hard.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer in France (D/EZ177/8/15); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“A chaffinch is singing impetuously overhead, & it is peace, absolute peace”

Sydney enjoyed a pleasant day off.

Sydney Spencer
Friday 7 June 1918

After a most beautiful night’s sleep I got up at eight o’clock. Took breakfast at my leisure & am now lying under an apple tree in an orchard with the four other men. We are sprawling on the grass in the warm sunshine & a chaffinch is singing impetuously overhead, & it is peace, absolute peace.

We are now going into Hesdin.

Went into Hesdin & bought some gloves. 22 francs. Also some cherries. Afterwards got my hair cut, & had a delicious bath in camp commandant’s enclosure. Returned to mess at 1 pm. After lunch wrote a long letter to Bertha Lamb & also to Florence.

After tea went over churchyard & church with Major Knights & Graham. Then a short walk. Finally we lay in orchard & read. I read more of Tartarin de Tarascon. Have got half way through it.

Now it is dinner time. The army chemical adviser & gas instructor has just rolled in. We start work tomorrow morning. After dinner, went to bed & read more of Tartarin de Tarascon. To sleep by about 10.30 pm. (After dinner a short walk to Barker’s billet.)

Will Spencer
7 June 1918

A letter … for me from Mother, from Florrie’s. …

Mother’s letter contained the news that Percy had received still further promotion, – that he and Horace and Sydney had not yet met in France, but hoped to do so later, – and that Stanley’s name had been suggested to undertake war pictures, & he had “accepted the offer”, & would be leaving his present position.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer in France (D/EZ177/8/15); and Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/29)

Battalion HQ in very deep dugout

Sydney had a sightly better journey today, and paid more attention to the controversial Billing case at home.

Sydney Spencer
Thursday 6 June 1918

Rose at 5 am. Got breakfast, & into the train for Hesdin by 6.30. It is now 9.30 & we haven’t yet started. Another glorious morning, all sunshine.

Billing has been pronounced ‘not guilty’. Justice Darling makes use of the following expression, ‘I tell you now that I do not care a bit for you or anyone like you, or what you say about me’ seems ridiculously childish. A street boy would have pulled a face & said ‘yar ‘oo cares for you’ & would have called for more conviction with him!

Started for Hesdin (30 miles) at 9.30. Got there 11.30. Wonderful. Lorry jumped to Marronville, arriving at 12 noon. Graham & I billeted at the mead, a long low white cottage facing the church. Mess will be started tomorrow morning.

Had lunch at the Hotel de Commerce. Walked back to billets. Slept. Got some [illegible] out of the sergeant. Walked down with Graham & Barker to Hesdin. Had dinner at the Hotel de France. Back by 9.15 & to bed. Started reading Tartarin de Tarascon by Alphonse Daudet. A very droll book.

Percy Spencer
6 June 1918

17th relieved us and we went into support. Battalion HQ in very deep dugout.

Florence Vansittart Neale
6 June 1918

Early church – dog walk – then fussed to find rooms for farm workers till lunch. Heard another officer coming today & one tomorrow. Captain Petcher AFC Maidenhead called on Miss Areson.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

A marvellous escape from an airship crash

Broad Street Church kept in contact with all its men who had joined up.

News has now been received from Air-Mechanic Fred W. Warman to the effect that he is interned at Croningen in Holland. He was acting as wireless-operator in the air-ship which came down there, and had a marvellous escape. We are glad to know that he writes in a bright and cheerful strain, and that he is trying to make the best of things.

Flight Sub-Lieut W. R. Taper of the RNAS has been appointed for duty in Malta. It has been a pleasure to see him frequently in our midst in recent weeks. The good wishes of many friends at Broad Street will go with him as he takes up his new duties.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

Brother Woolley has consented to continue his good services by acting as correspondent with our members on service. This [is] a quiet piece of work which is bound to have its good results when things are normal again.

THE ROLL OF HONOUR

The list of our men who have responded to the call of God and King and Country. (more…)

One of life’s failures

St Augustine’s Home was a home for boys in need in Clewer, run by the Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist. It was not strictly speaking an orphanage, as many of the lads had at least one parent living, but they were usually in dire circumstances, and the home gave them stability. Many of the Old Boys were now serving in the armed forces, while the current residents were making little jigsaw puzzles to send to PoWs and the wounded.

A Short Notice of St Augustine’s Home for Boys, Clewer, December 1917

Roll of Honour, 1917
On Active Service

Robert Annesley
Reginald Barber
Frank Berriman
Arthur Booker
Leonard Borman
John Brown
Frank Bungard
William Carter
Percy Cattle
Robert Chippington
George Collyer
Tom Corbett
Jack Corbett
Herbert Cousins
Thomas Cox
Francis Dawes
Charles Douglas
Wilfrid Eccles
Jack Ettall
Edward Farmer
James Frame
James Farmer
Charles Fisher
Wallis Fogg
George Finlay
George Gale
Stanley Graham
Robert Gosling
John Green
John Harrison
George Houston
Ernest Howells
Fred Hunt
Albert Hudson
Arthur Hudson
William Hobart
Albert Jarman
Reginald Jarman
Joseph Kelly
Edward Lewendon
Harry Macdonald
Eric Matthews
Harry Mott
Norman Neild
Alfred Newsome
Robert Parnell
Samuel Perry
Bennie Payne
William Potter
Charles Price
George Pitt
William Robert
Claude Roebuck
Alan Sim
George Simister
Thomas Small
William Smith
Thomas Squibb
Alfred Stroud
George Tate
Graham Taylor
Albert Turnham
Jack Ware
William White
Albert Wicks
Leonard Wicks
William Wicks
Harry Wilden
Edwin Williams
Albert Worth
Leslie Worters
Fred Wright
Seldon Williams


At Rest

Walter Bungard
Albert Braithwaite
Harry Clarke
Joseph Eaves
Russell Evans
Ernest Halford
Frank Lewis
Douglas Matthews
James Matthews
Harry Pardoe
Arthur Smith
Maurice Steer
Thomas Tuckwell
Harry Worsley
RIP

..
A Home for Boys has a special claim on the interest of all at this time, when so many are being left orphans as a result of the war, or who are temporarily without a father’s care and discipline, and letters come very frequently containing requests for information as to the admission and maintenance of boys at St Augustine’s….

(more…)

“I expected to be home about Xmas, but instead I found myself in Italy”

Members of Broad Street Brotherhood were reminded of home at Christmas.

MESSAGES FROM BROTHERHOOD MEN

Below we give extracts from a few of the letters recently received from members of the Brotherhood who are serving with HM Forces. The writers of these – and many other – letters were most grateful for the Christmas parcels, but in making our extracts we have not thought it necessary to include their expressions of appreciation in every case.

Today I had a very pleasant surprise in receiving the parcel of very useful things you all had so kindly sent me. I thank you very much for your kind thoughts and wishes expressed in your helpful letter, and for all you have sent. What a splendid and helpful “Xmas Message” that is on the leaflet you enclose. I shall pass it on.
Stanley Gooch (OS)

Thank you so much for the parcel I received quite safely. It is good of you all to make our Xmas so bright by the splendid things that you sent along. I received the parcel on Xmas afternoon. I expected to be home about Xmas, but instead I found myself in Italy. But never mind. Let us hope that this terrible war will soon finish…

How I look forward to the time when I can sit in my old place in the choir and let rip our good old Brotherhood hymns…

I thought of Broad St and the Choir on Xmas Day when our Quartette Party sang “The Soldier’s Farewell”.

J E Graham (OS)

I beg to acknowledge the parcel that was so kindly forwarded to me from the Church and Brotherhood. Please convey my heartfelt thanks to all those who helped to add another kind expression of brotherly feeling to the absent ones. They can never know the pleasure it gives….

Although so far away it seems to bring us all right home to Broad St and the happy times we’ve had together…

I am sorry to say we have no Brotherhood here, but one of the Church Army Huts, which I can assure you is very acceptable to the boys at the Hospital. We have service morning and evening, and since I’ve been here I have not missed one. We have a Male Voice Choir of which I am a member, and I believe we could now put Broad Street M[ale] V[oice] Choir in a back seat. But please don’t tell the conductor this, as he might take it serious.

Herbert Tott (OS)

Will you kindly thank the members of the Church and Brotherhood who so kindly gave to the parcel you sent. I received it in the trenches…

I must thank God I have been spared to see another Xmas where there have been so many that have fallen. I have been very glad Mr Woolley ever induced me to join the Brotherhood…

We are having very cold weather, and the ground is thick with snow which makes it bad for getting about.

C Mills (OS)

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, April 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“Sun punishment” for prisoners of war

Meg Meade, visiting her sister and brother-in-law in Windsor, met a former prisoner of war with harrowing reports of German treatment.

March 23rd
Elgin Lodge
Windsor
My darling Ralph

Have you heard that Asquith came home sober the other night, so his dog never recognised him & bit him!! And another evening after he’d had a good dinner he played bridge with some friends. He seemed alright except he would go on trying to cut the matchbox!

It is not yet settled whether Jim keeps the flotilla or goes to LCS, in any case he keeps Royalist. He writes as if the last alternative is the decisive one, but it’s contrary to various [illegible] I’ve heard in London. However everyone agrees he is right to stick to Royalist…

I came down here on Thursday to stay with Maysie & John, & this is a nice little house with a hideous outside… John looks well, but his jaw is still oozing, I believe… This evening a Coldstream soldier is coming up here to see them, as he’s been a prisoner in Germany since Sept. 1914, & has weird tales of the punishments the Germans dish out, but of course it must be a grand occasion for a yarn. No one here can contradict him when he says he has twice been put in prison 3 days on end in darkness & then one day in daylight to make him blind, & he says they use “sun punishment”, making the prisoner remain in the sun without a hat & facing the sun all day…

There are many stories about “Moesa” getting out & getting home. All or more may be true, but one thing’s certain, & that is 2 ships without lights may pass each other on a dark night without knowing the other’s there, even though they be only a few 1000 yds apart, & the sea is quite a big place you know. Lack of coaling facilities will & has prevented them sending many Moeses out, & they are so very liable to meet a nasty sticky end.

And I was very impressed about your remarks of the Navy in the East. I’m afraid the Army won’t come out well in comparison of wasting material with the Navy. It seems a too difficult job for both services. They are burning military saddles here when they don’t know what to do with them, & there are too many tales of Staff officers’ expensive motors to quote, but they’d put into shade your grouse about an Admiral using motor boats as despatch carriers. As for the Navy’s job as Transporters in general, they don’t seem to have done so very badly when you come to think of the millions of men they have been carrying up and down the world to every military expedition which the WO has thought good to attempt. If there’s one thing quite certain it is that the Army can’t move hand or foot without them, & are entirely dependant on the Navy in whatever part of the world they’re fighting in.

Do tell me some more Naval items from the Desert, darling. Anyway you’ll approve of the way that Arthur Balfour & Hedworth Meux smashed up that mad viper Winston. I never heard such tales as Jim Graham told me of Winston’s organization of the Naval Brigades in the beginning of the war. However as some sailor said, “Thank God Winston was got busy with his Naval Division & Flying Brigade, & the Navy was saved owing to the fact he was too busy to interfere with it!”!…

Your ever very loving
Meg

Letter from Meg Meade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)

“There is a great necessity for more doctors and nurses at the Front”

Five doctors from Newbury volunteered to go to treat the wounded.

The local doctors are responding well in their country’s need: Drs Graham, Coplestone, Heywood, Parsons, and Thompson, having volunteered their services and having been accepted: there is evidently a great necessity for more doctors and nurses at the Front, and we would not grudge their going to tend the brave men who are doing and suffering so much for us.

We hope that the Magazine will be in the hands of our readers by Sunday, October 3rd: in that case may we remind them that it is the Sunday of our Harvest Thanksgiving, and express the hope that they will not fail to attend church, and also make some tangible return to God for His Mercies… Any gifts of fruit or vegetables will be devoted to the wants of the Navy, for which Mr H Godding collects so assiduously – and we should remember that we owe a very great deal to the Navy just now.

We hope that during the winter months our thoughts will be not too much distracted by the war, and that the Church’s work will be carried on all the more earnestly.

Newbury parish magazine, October 1915 (D/P89/28A/13)

Steadiness, pluck and endurance

A Bracknell officer writes of the impressive fighting by the Royal Berkshire Regiment in the early months of the war.

From “The Times” of November 27th.
RECORD OF THE BERKSHIRES

An officer just returned form the front writes:-

Every one who belongs to Berkshire will be intensely proud of their regiment when the history of the doings of the 1st Battalion during the past three moths comes to be written. They fought at Mons and during the subsequent retirement at Moroilles, and then they were in the advance and fought in the battles of the Marne and Aisne. For 32 days they were on the Aisne, and all but five days were spent in the trenches. They are making a great name for themselves, a name for steadiness under fire, pluck, and endurance. They have been out there from the beginning, have been in every battle, and always in the front line. Their example should be an inducement to all able-bodied men in Berkshire to enlist immediately.

The following copy of orders by Lieutenant-Colonel M. D. Graham, commanding 1st Batt. Royal Berkshire Regt., is exhibited at Reading Barracks: –

October 29th. – The commanding officer has been directed by the Major-General Commanding 2nd Division to convey to the battalion the very high appreciation of their attack on October 24, and of the determined manner in which they subsequently held their ground.

Bracknell section of Winkfield District Magazine, December 1914 (D/P151/28A/6/12)