Reading School’s contribution to the war

A complete listing of Reading School’s alumni who had served in the war.

OLD BOYS SERVING IN HIS MAJESTY’S FORCES.

This list has been compiled from information received up to December 14th, 1918; corrections and additions will be welcomed and should be addressed to: – R. Newport, Esq., Reading School, Reading.

Allnatt, Rifleman N.R. — London Rifle Brigade.
(killed in Action).
Ambrose, 2nd Lieut. L.C. — S.L.I.
Anderson, Pte. L.G. — Can. Exp. Force
Appelbee, 2nd Lieut. T. — 13TH West Yorks.
(Killed in Action).
Atkinson, Lieut. E.G. — Indian Army
Atkinson, Capt. G.P. — 6TH Royal North Lancs.
Atkinson, 2nd Lieut. J.C. — R.A.F.
Aust, 2nd Lieut. H.E. — Yorkshire Regt.
(Twice Wounded).
(Killed in Action).
Aveline, Lieut. A.P. — Royal Berks Regt,
(Wounded).
(Military Cross).
Baker, 2nd Lieut. A.C.S. — R.G.A.
Baker, Rifleman A.E. — London Irish Rifles.
(Wounded).
Baker, Rifleman R.S. — London Irish Rifles.
(Wounded).
Baker, Lieut. T.H. — 8TH Royal Berks Regt.
(Wounded)
Balding, Capt. C.D. — Indian Army.
Banks, Pte. W.R. — Public School Corps.
(Killed in Action).
Bardsley, Capt. R.C — Manchester Regt.
(Wounded).
Barnard, F.P. —
Barroby, Trooper. F. — Strathcona Horse.
Barry, Capt. L.E. — R.A.F.
Baseden, Lieut. E. — Royal Berks Regt.
(Killed in Action).
Baseden, 2nd Lieut. M.W. — R.A.F.
Batchelor, Lieut. A.S. — Duke of Cornwall’s L.I.
Bateman, Capt. W.V. — Royal Munster Fusiliers.
Bayley, 2nd Lieut. F. — Chinese Labour Battalion.
Beckingsale, Pte. R.S. — Canadian Contingent.
Beckingsale, Capt. R.T. — Tank Corps (Military Cross).
(Wounded).

Belsten, E.K. — R.A.F.
Biddulph, 2nd Lieut. R.H.H. — Royal Berks Regt.
(Died of Wounds).
Bidmead, Pte. — Wilts regt.
Black, Pte. F. — Public School Corps.
(Killed in Action).
Blazey, A.E.H. — R.A.F.
Blazey, 2nd Lieut. J.W. — Royal Berks Regt
(killed in Action).
Bleck, Lieut. W.E. — R.F.A.
Bliss, 2nd Lieut. A.J. — Leinster Regt.
(Killed in Action).
Bliss, Pte. W. — 2ND Batt.Hon.Art.Coy. (more…)

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Intercessions for Reading men

Notes from the Vicar

Intercessions List
: Private A.H. Gray, R.A.F.

Departed: Gunner Ernest H. Relf, Lieut, Howard M. Cook, Private Heard, Lce-Corpl. Cornelius Smith, R.E.

Missing: Private A. Bartlett.

Prisoner: Lieut. S. Jardine.

Wounded
: Lieut. Taylor.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, September 1918 (D/P96/28A/35)

Deserving of high praise

Biscuit factory workers at Huntley & Palmer’s gave some of their earnings for the benefit of wounded soldiers.

Intercessions list

We are asked to remember the following who have gone “overseas”:

Privates J. Taylor, A. Victor Brown, Frank Griffin, 2nd lieut. G.A.F. Gillmor.

Missing: Lc. Corpl. Harold Walker (Essex Regt), Lc. Corpl. A.A.V. Smith (17th Middlesex Regt)

R.I.P.: Frederick J.T. Knoll (M.G.C.), Thomas Hook (Sussex Regt), William John Darboarn (Canadian Mounted Rifles), 2nd Lieut G.W. Baxter, Private A.G. Oliver (K.R.R.), Gunner A. Oliver.

The voluntary contributions made by the women employed at Huntley & Palmers factory for the wounded soldiers in Reading is indeed deserving of high praise. I see that from May, 1915 to June, 1917, they have contributed £286 13s. 7.5 d. I know the soldiers greatly appreciate their kindness.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P96/28A/32)

The “Scroungers’ Retreat”

Percy Spencer wrote to sister Florence to tell her about his experiences in officer training. His fellow trainees were mainly NCOs with experience of the worst of the war, and were not easily corraled by their superiors.

Attd C Company
58th TRB
Sergeants Mess
No 9 Camp
Kinmel Park
Rhyl

July 26, 1917
My dear WF

I’m very fit indeed, working very hard and always hungry. We are exceptionally well fed, I think, and conditions are good.

It’s very difficult to write as several of the boys are telling their experiences, and every now and then they touch ground I know and I have to join in. One man has just been minutely describing the bundling and labelling of corpses for the fat factory as seen by him, and another the manacling of maritime gunners to their guns, also as seen by him. Both descriptions are so minute and definite as to be convincing. I’ve only to meet someone who has actually seen a corpse factory and I shall be a confirmed Kadaverite.

The battle of wits – the staff v. us continues with varying success. The routine is changed daily to put us off our stroke and get ahead of us, but the same crowd who lay themselves out to “dodge the column” successfully carry on just as usual, appearing on parade, answering the roll call and vanishing into the blue before any work is done with consistent ability. This rather large section of our number have a discipline of their own. Backsliders are dealt with by courtmartial. Absence from the “Scroungers Retreat” (a quiet marquee in the neighbourhood) seems to be the most seriously looked upon offence, and is dealt with very harshly, the punishment being I believe to attend next parade and answer for all the others from their hut who are not there.

Of course, being out of training, I find the work very hard indeed, quite apart from my ignorance of it which is another difficulty with me, but I can feel myself growing straighter and stronger every day and look forward to being a Samson soon.

By the way I’ve had 2 days trench digging. It’s extraordinary how difficult such a menial job as digging earth and throwing it out of the trench is. An experienced man will throw his shovel of earth intact 10-20 feet away in any direction. The novice finds it difficult to throw and direct and very hard to keep together.

I can see I shall very soon be nailed down to drill and books – that is, as soon as I get to a cadet unit. Until then I’m not taking this business too seriously, and simply concentrate upon breaking myself in physically. You’d scacrcely credit how absurdly soft my hands and feet were. They are hardening up rapidly, but I’m still a pretty blistered object.

Well my dear girl, I feel this is a very uninteresting letter, but conditions are very trying for letter writing so you’ll have to please excuse it.

With my dear love to you both
Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/53-57)

A real “Godsend” to the boys

Churchgoers in Reading and Windsor paid for a recreation “Hut” behind the front lines.

Notes from the Vicar

Intercessions list

Ptes. W.G. Pearce, 2nd Worcestershire Regt,; H.A.T. Wicks, 33rd Training Reserve Batt,; H.W. March, 47th Canadians.

Missing: Lce,-Cpl. Harold Walker.

Sick and Wounded: Pte Green; Pte. Bailey.

Departed: Lce,-Cpl. J. Cole; Gunner W. Shaw. R.I.P.

C.E.M.S.

The following report has been received about the Reading and Windsor Federation Hut.

“Everything has been done to make this Hut one of the most attractive and comfortable in this area. Crowds of men pass through daily, and much use is made of the stationary Literature, and Games provided for their comfort. Concerts are held, Lantern Services and Voluntary services of all kinds. It’s a real “Godsend” to the boys.”

Subscriptions are still needed to supply the above Hut. And will be gratefully received by the Hon. Sec. Mr. Lane, 5/-

H.J. HINDERLEY, Hon. Sec.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, May 1917 (D/P96/28A/34)

An Australian gunner visits Bisham

An Australian officer visited Bisham Abbey.

1 June 1917
Found young Lt Rickards had arrived for weekend – Australian gunner.

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

A marvellous piece of electrical work consisting entirely of lemons

Percy Spencer was having difficulty getting his commission organised. He wrote to Florence with the latest news – and a story from the Somme.

May 1, 1917

My dear WF

Isn’t it perfect weather!

And that’s just about all that’s perfect hereaway.

Thank you for all your frequent letters: they’re so refreshing. Your last about [censored] is too delightful. I sometimes quote extracts from your letters to the Mess, so you see you’re helping to cheer more than one lonely soldier. Your jokes are always hugely appreciated.

Tonight I am going to a town some miles back to drive with the original officers and sergeants of my old Battalion. I thought it was very kind of them to remember me as I have had so little to do with them.

And tomorrow I have to go and see a still greater brass hat about my commission. I have an idea that there is no intention to hurry my affairs, the reason being, of course, that my experience & weight here are difficult to replace. However sooner or later I expect I shall be an officer or an angel – I have had thoughts of becoming the latter quite frequently of late.

Rene Hunt tells me that [Percy’s brother] Horace is going to apply for a commission.

Before I forget it I must tell you a story of the Somme battle last year.

Our Headquarters were in some ruins off a very narrow and deep lane. On one side of the lane was a series of small splinter proof dugouts; on the other side a battery of guns. One of the splinter proofs just opposite a gun was occupied by “Baby” Huish, the Surrey cricketer (a splendid raconteur). “Baby” tells me that one morning, annoyed by a fellow walking about on his roof and throwing off portions of its brick and sandbag cover, he crawled out and asked the man what he thought he was doing. The man, ignoring him, continued to clear material from his roof and then turning towards the gun hailed the gunner in his gun pit. “How’s that, Bill, can you clear ‘er na?” Voice from gun pit – “Yes, that’ll be all right if we don’t ‘ave to drop below eighteen ‘undered”. Exit Baby to safer quarters.

A sad thing has happened to us. The rum issue has ceased, leaving us with a stock of lemons and a supply of all spice, cloves and cinnamon, no more rubbers of bridge and rum punch nightcaps. Jerome K Jerome’s “Told after supper” is nothing to our experiences in punch brewing – we can all make one pretty well, but there are some – well, I’m reckoned an expert.

A short time ago when moving into the line, the Signalling Officer noticed an ammunition box. “What’s that?” he asked. “Oh, that”, replied an innocent telegraphist, “is a test box Sapper Newport is making”. “Is it, I should like to see that”, said the officer, and opening the box all eager to examine the boy’s clever work (and he is clever) discovered a marvellous piece of electrical work consisting entirely of lemons!

But, alas, those days are over – over for good I hope.

Well, dear girl, goodbye.

With my dear love to you both

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/30-32)

Mourning the death of a footballer

A keen amateur footballer was among the Reading men recently reported killed.

Notes from the Vicar
Intercessions list

Albert Henry Eaton, R.G.A. Malta; Private C.A. Pritchard, 2/4 Royal Berks; Private Edwin Gerald Ritchie, 2/21 1st London Regiment.

Sick and Wounded: Private James A. Dutton, Royal Scots. Privates Harry, George, and Walter Barnes, (on active service). Stoker Albert Edward Ayres, R.N.; Gunner Harold Whitebread, R.G.A. Lieut. Robert Carew Hunt; George G. Lanitz.

Departed: Martin Sinclair David; Lieut. Cedric C. Okey Taylor; Lieut. W.F.F. Venner; Robert D. Bruce; Private G Cooper; Capt. W.F. Johnson, R.N.; Private Walter Michael Carew Hunt (Canadian Infantry). Henry Bilson Blandy R.I.P.

Prisoner: William Henry Cook.

Our sympathy and prayers go out to those who are mourning the death of these loved ones. Lieut. Venner was the 1st Captain of our S. Giles’ football club and took an active part in its formation.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, January 1917 (D/P96/28A/34)

A hulk on the skyline

The tank was the shocking new weapon of 1916, which some thought could win us the war. Is this one of the first eye-witness accounts, from an Old Boy of Reading School?

THE “TANK”

There it lay in its fallen majesty as I approached it in the thick fog, my landmark, the “Tank.” I heaved a sigh of relief; whereas I had been lost I now knew my bearings. Have you ever tried crossing a field cut up with trenches and pitted with shell holes in a thick fog without a compass? I can assure you it is not an easy job. And when I struck this monster of the battlefield I was naturally glad, for I knew that from this point I could work from place to place till I reached my objective. I was too pleased at the time to think of the poor wretch which had served as my guide; but later I pictured the scene.

This mighty engine of destruction pounding along over trenches and shell holes, and spitting fire as it went; and then just as I reached the ridge and could look down upon the village of —– (in which, by the way, I afterwards found one live tree, an evergreen), just there the hand of fate was stretched out. “Thus far shalt thou go and no further.” Fritz had scored a direct hit on its “prow,” and the shell had pierced clean through the armour plate and exploded inside. And that was the end of its story; duty well done, but cut off, as it were, in the prime of its life. And of the gunners inside, who shall ask ?

There it still lies, a hulk on the skyline; and there it will lie, I presume, till the end of time. First to be shown to tourists from America and the home country, then to be neglected and let to decay. And perchance one day someone will point a finger of scorn at it.

“Look at it, and learn; twenty, thirty, forty years ago it started to plough its double furrow across the field; but it exceeded in pride and offended the gods; so the hand of fate intervened and it was blasted as it went. Look at it, and learn the lesson of the gods; think not thyself too great. Boast not thyself so that men talk of thee; thou wilt perchance be cut off in the midst of thy mad career, and men will say of thee, ‘this man began to build, and was not able to finish. ”Take heed I say, and learn to be moderate in all things; and fear the vengeance of heaven when all men talk of thee.”

D.J.D.

Reading School Magazine, December 1916 (SCH3/14/34)

Reading men serve their country

More men from Reading were serving their country.

Notes from the Vicar
Intercessions list:

Gunner H. Shelley, R.G.A.; Sapper R.E. Leadley. R.E.; L-Cpl. Mark Seymour, R.E.; Trumpeter Vallis C. Turner.

Missing: Corp. William Genge Heydon.

To The list of the departed: Private Arthur Josey, 2nd Hampshire Regt. Private Thomas Munt; Private Frank Pierce; Gunner H.J. West, R.G.A. Capt. E.A. Shaw; Novice Mary Elsa.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, November 1916 (D/P96/28A/33)

Back in the trenches again

More and more Winkfield men had headed to the Front.

Gunner Daniel Taylor has been wounded in the foot, and Pte. Edward Holloway in the shoulder; both are doing well.

We regret to learn that Pte. A.E. Burt, who was convalescent from a serious illness, has had a relapse, and is again in hospital. We sincerely hope that his relatives will soon have better news of him.

Pte. Edward Still having served his time in the Coldstream Guards, has rejoined the Colours and is now with the 14th Devons at the Front.

Pte. George Holloway has also just gone to the front.

Pte. Cecil Jenden recently wrote to the vicar that he has quite recovered from his wound, and is now back in the trenches again.

We were very glad to see Pte. George Benstead again in his place in the Choir for two Sundays; though lame from his wound he is able to get about, and we trust will soon be completely recovered.

We congratulate Lance-Corporal Edward Thurmer and Lance Corporal Brant on gaining their stripe.

The following men from our Parish have just joined His Majesty’s Forces:-

Pte. Albert Brown, A.S.C. Mechanical Transport.
Pte. George Clayton, 3rd Royal Berks.
Pte. A. E. Gardner, 4th Northants.
Pte. George Franklin, 10th Sussex Regt.
Pte. William Harwood, 3rd Royal Berks.
Pte. James Summer, R.F.A.

We hope this Christmas to be able again to send small Christmas presents to the men from our parish now serving, but as their numbers this year are so great we shall need more generous help than ever to enable us to send even a very small token of remembrance to each. Mrs. Maynard is arranging to have a small rummage sale in the Parish Room at the end of November to help raise some of the necessary funds, and she would welcome any articles for this sale.

She would also be glad to receive as soon as possible from their relatives the full addresses of any men serving in Mesopotamia or Egypt, for their gifts ought to be dispatched by the middle of November.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, November 1916 (D/P151/28A/11)

Twenty African clergy and teachers are said to have died of hardships in German prisons

The vicar of Reading St Giles was worried about the fate of British missionaries, and local converts, in German-controlled parts of Africa.

NOTES FROM THE VICAR

Zanzibar Diocese

When war broke out in 1914, 42 missionaries of the Zanzibar Diocese were at work in German East Africa, and hardly any direct news of them has since been received. Twenty African clergy and teachers are said to have died of hardships in German prisons. It adds to our anxieties to know that a great number of our African Christians are unshepherded and deprived of the sacraments. Now that a determined attempt is being made to take this, the last remaining colony of the Germans, the dangers and difficulties of our 19 Englishmen and 22 Ladies may be greater than ever.

Nyasaland Diocese

The war has debarred our missionaries from continuing their work on the north-east shores of Lake Nyasa, and the Diocese also is inconvenienced through the commandeering by the British Government of the Mission steamers “Chauncy Maples” and “Charles Jansen.”

To be added to our Intercessions List:

Private Albert Henry Oliver, R.M.A., Lieut. Commander C.J. Benton, R.N.R., Driver J. Cutter, R.E., Sergt. J. Burridge, A.O.C. Bombadier H. Burridge, R.G.A. Gunner G. Moss, R.G.A. Private W. Burridge, Scots. Fusiliers. H. Case, R.G.A.

Missing: Private A. Smith. Wounded: Private S.H.Truss. Private J. Wiltshire. Lieut. G.R. Goodship.

To the list of the departed: Private Sadler, T.J. Seymour, Hyde (R.Berks), E.J.Andrews, Criddle (A.S.C.), Capt. R. Attride (R.Berks).

Reading St Giles parish magazine, September 1916 (D/P191/28A/24)

“Very severely wounded in many places by a bursting of a bomb in the trenches”

More men from Winkfield were headed to the Front.

OUR MEN WHO ARE SERVING.

The following have joined His Majesty’s Forces during last month:-

Gunner Albert Jones, Royal Berks. Horse Artillery.
Pte. William Chater, Scots Guards.
Gunner Bernard N. Greatham, Royal Garrison Artillery.
Pte. Frederick Jackman, Royal Engineers.

Let us especially remember just now in our prayers the following who have just left for the Front:-

Pte. Edward Thurmer, Pte. Sidney Thurmer, Pte. Alfred Shefford. Also L.M. Donald Thurmer, who has recently sailed for Mudros, and Pte. Bernard Greatham who has sailed for Garrison duty at Hong Kong.

We regret to announce that Pte. Wilfred Church has been invalided out of the Army; we trust he will soon recover his health and be able again to take up useful work.

Pte. Walter Woodage, 1st Royal Fusiliers, was very severely wounded in many places by a bursting of a bomb in the trenches. He is now in hospital in England and recently wrote to the Vicar saying that he was getting on well, so we trust his recovery will now be rapid.
We are sorry to hear that Pte. James Moir was severely wounded in the campaign in East Africa, but he is now reported to as doing well. His brother, Pte. Joseph Moir, we welcome home on a well earned leave of several months and look forward to having the benefit of his services again to the choir.

Winkfield section of Warfield District Magazine, July 2016 (D/P151/28A/8/7)

“Why is the atmosphere of life more cheerful nearer to all the horrors and ugliness of modern war than it is behind?”

Ralph Glyn had political ambitions, and the College constituency in Glasgow was being nursed for him. He had narrowly lost the 1910 election to a Liberal (he was a Conservative/Unionist). While serving in the army he delivered a lengthy statement to those he viewed as future constituents. Unfortunately for him and all his work, the constituency was abolished before the 1918 election. The paper itself, however, is an interesting insight into the views of an intelligent officer into attitudes at home and at the front.

GHQ
MEF
November 1915

I have been asked by one or two friends in the College Division to write a letter that may be a link between so many old friends of those former days, when Peace was not understood, and myself. To do this as I would wish by personal letter my work here will not allow. I must ask everyone who reads these lines to believe how sincere are my wishes for as happy a New Year as these days permits to be theirs.

I write these lines because I have always been open with my friends in Glasgow, and I believe you will all understand how it is impossible to write “news”.

There are many who have been all the time in France, or in Gallipoli, whilst some have been in both theatres of operations; but there are few officers now who have not spent some time at home, either wounded, or on leave or duty, and so it is possible to take a comprehensive survey of men, matters and means.

The newspapers are the only medium between the Public and events that happen behind the veil of the censor. Letters from friends and relations pass from the Front to those at home producing for a period a clear gleam of light – sometimes too vivid – of what is fact and reality at one small point of that vague term “The Front”. The days are shortening, the winter with all its horrors is close upon us and we are all well aware that if only something could be lifted the Future would be brighter and more easy to face. To arrive at any satisfactory conclusion we must try and see things as they are – undisguised but very possibly naked and ashamed. No time should be lost in establishing both at “the front” and at “the back” a “New Feeling” based upon the firm belief that at last true bearings have been taken, the clouds have lifted and the sun seen long enough to enable the exact position of the ship to be located, and that each and all having but the one port open to them are determined, in spite of all stress of weather, to reach their destination without undue delay.

Why is the atmosphere of life more cheerful nearer to all the horrors and ugliness of modern war than it is behind? There is nothing in any trench in France or Gallipoli to equal the gloom of many a house at home. The individual man is happy when he knows he is doing “his bit” and has that feeling down his back of something worthy of accomplishment being well done. But this same feeling should animate those miners, munition-workers, ship-builders and all that other host at home, whose work is as vital to the war’s success as any gallant action in the trenches. Why is there this feeling of unrest and mistrust in so many quarters? “Out here”, be it in France or Gallipoli, this war acts in one way all the time and without variation. The Regular Army has almost ceased to exist as it was before the war. Officers and men have fallen and others have taken their place. The tradition of a great regiment holds all the new comers in its sway and the magic mantle of “esprit de corps” stirs through the new blood of the recruit, officer and man, tempering and making him part of the original stock. The Reserve ceased to exist when war began; because by our system the fighting force of the country, Regular and Reserve, were and are one and indivisible. Any gunner will tell you that had it not been for the “dug out” the new armies could not have been born. The “dug out” has much to bear from the gibes of younger men who too often assume that all “dug outs” must be musty and old, stupid and out of date, but he can console himself with the knowledge that without him the Regular serving soldiers could not have kept the machine running.
(more…)

Some hustle training recruits

New recruit and trainee gunner Harold Blackall wrote to his sister Annie Ellen Phoebe Blackall, describing his experiences as part of the great war machine.

17.8.15
17 Battery
13 Hut
Topsham Barracks
Exeter
Dear Nell

I have been inoculated this morning & have 48 hours sick leave… Recruits’ drill starts 9 am, drill through 11 am. They are rushing them through here with some hustle. Sunday Church Parade at 8 am, parade at 6.15 pm again at 8 am for church at 11 am for ordinary drill 6.15 to 5 & sometimes 7 pm, every day, Sunday & week day. They reckon a man is fit for active service in 2 months or less if he has brains. No leave. The War Office grant leave from Thursday night till Wed morning & free railway warrant once after he’s passed out as a gunner to enable him to go home once before going to the Front, so if you would be so kind as to take this on for me (of course you will have a free hand), I should be very much obliged when you write to me again, put the number 102277 under my name as I have only just got your letter because they said there was no number, only officers are allowed to have their letters sent with no number – we are only parts of the gun. The postmark obliterated the number you sent because it was over my name.

They send about 50 from here every week so you see there is as I said some hustle.

Some say the RFA are catching it hot out there, others say it is for an enormous bust up for Kaiser Bill, anyhow the fact remains all the RFA Depots in the country are bunging ‘em out there….

Your loving bro, H Blackall

Letter from Harold Blackall to his sister (D/EX1485/2/9/4)