The right spirit: call to join the reserves in south Berkshire

Former soldiers too old to join up at the start of the war were encouraged to join the National Reserve, making themselves available for service if required. The Sulhamstead parish magazine explains:


The National Reserve, which in Berkshire was closely associated at the outset with the Caversham and Reading Veterans’ Association, is a register of officers and men who have served satisfactorily in any naval or military capacity, and who are no longer liable for service as reservists. Membership is voluntary. There is no uniform; but a badge is issued to all duly enrolled members. The members are organised under the County Associations, with a view to increasing the military resources of the country in the event of imminent national danger. They are divided into three classes, viz:

Class I – Age under 42, and medically fit (now temporarily closed for asmission).
Class II – Aged, Officers and Sergeants under 55, all others under 50, and medically fit.
Class III – (Men unable to undertake any obligation):
(a) Those qualified for Class I, but preferring to Join Class III.
(b) Those qualified for Class II, but preferring to Join Class III.
(c ) All those, without limit of age, not qualified for Classes I or II.

Members joining Classes I and II have to sign an honourable obligation to come up for service when required in time of imminent national danger. They will then be liable to be used to reinforce the Army, for garrison or guard work, as specialists or tradesmen in technical branches, or in hospital, veterinary, remount, clerical, recruiting, or other military duties.
Class I may be required to serve either at home or abroad. Class II can only be used in this country.

There is no pay except on actual service; but National Reservists of all ranks and classes who are duly accepted for service on moblilisation, whether with the Regular Army or the Territorial Force, will receive the current Army rates of pay and allowances, according t the nature of their employment; and they or their families are eligible for pensions and allowances in case of disability or death occurring in actual service.

Four “Berks National Reserve” Battalions have been filled mainly from the towns, but it is desired now to bring the movement within reach of the country districts, and in this particular neighbourhood a new Company (No 8) of the 1st Battalion is in course of formation. Its normal area for membership will, as at present arranged, include the following parishes, viz.: Burghfield, Sulhamstead, Mortimer, Wokefield, Beech Hill, Shinfield, Grazeley, Ufton, Padworth, Aldermaston, Beenham, Bucklebury, Frilsham, Yattendon, Stanford Dingley, Bradfield, Tidmarsh, and Theale. Applications however will be entertained from residents in any adjoining parish which is in the Reading Postal District, and is not within the area of another Company.

All persons, of whatever rank, who are qualified for any of the three “Classes” are cordially invited to communicate with Mr E T Norton (Colour-Sergeant), The Oaks, Sulhamstead, Reading, or with Mr H G Willink (Captain, commanding the Company), Hillfields, Burghfield, Mortimer, Berks.

The Company already numbers nearly 30, and there is no reason why it should not reach full strength, with a proper complement of Officers and NCOs.

After the war is over it is particularly hoped that all the men discharged from “Kitchener’s Army”, who come back to this area, will join. The terms of their enlistment do not include any period of retention on the Regular Reserve; and the National Reserve will afford the best chance for their keeping on touch with each other, and not passing away out of sight.

This is not an appeal to any man on the ground that he personally will get any pecuniary or material benefit out of membership. It rests upon better grounds. To men who are fortunate enough not to be too old it offers the renewed prospect of rendering to their country useful service in time of need. To all men, who have shown already that they have the right spirit in them, it offers opportunities of keeping alive that spirit, in fellowship with others, and with the consciousness that they are still recognised as part of the national forces. And upon all, unless and until occasion arises, it makes no present demand beyond a few parades and musters, and perhaps the taking honourable part in public gatherings.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, October 1914 (D/EX725/3)

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Soldiers’ wives in distress

The Executive Committee of the National Relief Fund Berkshire Committee met on 22 September 1914 at Shire Hall, Reading. They considered various applications for assistance from families of soldiers and sailors, the impact on local jobs, and the arrival of Belgian refugees in the county.


With the exception of three cases in the Wantage district, two cases in the Faringdon district and one case in the Wokingham district, Committees had reported that so far as they knew no wives or dependants of soldiers or sailors were likely to be turned out of their cottages in October. Of the six cases reported it was probable that arrangements could be made locally to accommodate each family concerned. No reply had been received from six districts….

With regard to conditions of labour and probable unemployment, no cases of emergency had been certified, except that of the Ready-made Clothes Factory of Messrs Clarke at Abingdon. The Committee had approached the Government Department on this matter and it was hoped that work had been obtained. The building trade was the only one that appeared likely to be seriously affected in the immediate future…

The Chairman gave details of certain applications for relief which had been received. In the case of Elstrick from Windsor, payment of 8/- a week for two weeks ending September 24th was authorised, and payment of 11/6 for Arnold from Windsor was also authorised. With regard to the case of Minnie Jones of Shinfield, Mr Tottie reported that it was under consideration by the Soldiers & Sailors Families Association. Decided that the cases of Mrs Pullen & Daisy Brown of Grazeley should be deferred for further enquiry by the Chairman. Other cases from Windsor were referred to the General Committee meeting at which the Town Clerk of Windsor was expected to be present.

The Local Government Board’s Circular PRD13 was reported to the Committee with the information that some accommodation for Belgian refugees had been offered in Wokingham, and by private persons in the Bracknell, Pangbourne and Newbury districts. Resolved that a letter be sent to the Refugees Committee asking whether any payment, & if so what amount, would be granted towards the expenses of the accommodation of refugees….

The chairman reported that the National Relief Fund Committee had sent him a cheque for £100 on account for the relief of distress, which sum he had paid into a separate account at Barclays’ Bank.


National Relief Fund Berkshire Committee minutes (C/CL/C6/4/1)