Eager to go into the trenches

A couple of Reading soldiers write from the Front:

NEWS FROM THE FRONT.
Service in a Cornfield.
‘We had a Church Service in a cornfield this morning and a Communion Service afterwards. It was quite a novelty; the grain was standing in the sheaves and the surrounding scenery was lovely. We are in a valley with clumps of trees and cornfields all around us, and in the distance one can see the spires and chimneys of a town, and on the other hand a little way behind can be seen the ruins of a smaller town where an occasional shell can be heard to burst. We had a good bath yesterday, the first we have had for about six weeks or a little more. Since I last wrote to you I have joined the Signalling Section, and I was about to you a few days ago on my station in the trenches, but just as I was about to start ‘Fritz’ got ahead of me with a few souvenirs in the shape of shells, trench-mortar bombs, rifle grenades, and such-like niceties, so I had to clear for action, as a demonstration by ‘Fritz’ is likely to make our wires pretty busy with messages. ‘Fritz’ got a direct hit on our trench in one place and we were lucky not to have our wire broken, which would have meant going out to mend it, shells or no shells. I saw Lieutenant Poulton Palmer’s grave the other day.
A. Goodson.

Ronald Palmer Club
“Just a line to let you know that another old club boy has managed to get to France. We left Southampton at 7 p.m. on Saturday, august 7th, and arrived in France at 1 o’clock in the morning, but we did not disembark until 8 oc’clock. We went to a rest camp about two or three miles away for the next night. Next day we started to move nearer the firing line. we started at 6 p.m. in cattle trucks and travelled all night until midday the next day, and we were cramped, tired and dirty. We then had a march over rough cobbles to a town, where we are now billeted in barns waiting to be moved into the line, but I am afraid it will be some time before we get there, though our fellows are all eager to go into the trenches. We see a number of aeroplanes hovering round here all day long. I saw one of the old club boys the other day, J. Sawyer of the RHA; he went to our first camp with Mr Heaton, and enlisted just after. I hope the Club and all concerned are getting on well.
Lance-Corporal Bushell.

August 4th
From the four corners of the earth,
Where’er the British flag shall float,
Our vow of victory we take,
Resolved to drown the craven note.

For there are those within our midst
To whom NO peace is premature;
But our’s to war to end such war!
And ne’er again this curse endure.

Not for our gain – a year ago –
‘Twas not for greed we drew the sword,
But to defend our plighted word
Our blood and wealth have been outpoured.

The Empire’s vow’s the Empire’s bond,
All round the world today she’s bound –
This pledge to keep her sword unsheath’d
Until her cause with victory’s crowned.
A.W.E.

Reading St John parish magazine, September 1915 (D/P172/28A/24)

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‘A lot he could tell, only he wasn’t allowed to’

A serving sailor visited his old primary school in Reading while on leave. He took naval secrecy seriously, as this report in the parish magazine reveals:

It is delightful to see the way in which old scholars now serving in the Army and Navy find their way back to their Headmasters of their old day schools when they are on leave. Herbert Pendlebury of H.M.S. ‘Irresistible’ paid a welcome visit to S. Stephen’s School the other day to greet Mr. Hopcraft. He told us ‘there was a lot he could tell us only he wasn’t allowed to.’ It appears he was stationed at Sheerness at the time the ‘Bulwark’ blew up.

Another local man, who had joined the army before the war started, also made contact:

One of Mr Heaton’s lads, William Sawyer – (Mr. Heaton was the first Manager of the University College Lads’ Club in the parish) – writes thus to the Vicar from the front. The Vicar spent a night with the Club in camp years ago:-

‘I was attending a Field Service on Sunday last when I thought perhaps you would be pleased to hear from a Reading lad, as before I enlisted I lived in your parish. I have been in the service for nearly three years…

My mother informs me that us soldiers are always included in your prayers, which I think is very kind and thoughtful of you. This war is a very terrible thing, Sir, but I am sure, Sir, that the right will prevail in the end.’

Reading St John parish magazine, January 1915 (D/P172/28A/24)