Sick and wounded horses

Berkshire children supported efforts to help war horses.

Ascot Heath Girls School
23rd April 1918

The girls contributed to the St George’s Day effort to raise money for the RSPCA for the benefit of sick and wounded horses. A guinea was sent from this school.

Bradfield CE School
April 23rd 1918

St George’s Day – collection on behalf of sick and wounded horses realised 15/-, which was duly forwarded to the Hon. Secretary RSPCA.

Log books of Ascot Heath Girls School (C/EL109/2, p. 288); and Bradfield CE School (D/P22/28/2, p. 200)

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By gun barrow, train, foot and pony

It was a long day’s travel for Sydney Spencer.

Wednesday 10 April 1918

Rose at 6.30. Got breakfast & we – that is Capt. Richards, 13th Welsh, 38th Division – bagged a Lewis gun barrow & got our baggage to ROD convoy exchange station, where we had to wait till 10 o’clock for a Belle Eglise train.

I am now packed up in a corner, with the baggage, that’s the only word for it. Heaven only knows where the 12th Division is.

We have started 9.35 am, arrived at Belle Eglise at about 12. 12th Div Reinforcement officer gave me some tea. Very nice.

Marched 3 hours with some Berkshire Troops thro’ country. Found that 7th Norfolks were in line. QM [quartermaster] Frost arranged for a pony to take me to where the Battalion HQ was in rear, later heard that Battalion being relieved. The whole Div was relieved by 38th Div.

QM gave me job of billeting the Battalion here at Toutencourt.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15)

“A horse flesh shop has opened here now but I notice a good many more people were outside than in”

Food shortages had led to an attempt to sell horsemeat to the British – who were not keen.

15th February 1918

Down to Ship to pay A.S.E. then got our meat – a piece of pork. 5lbs to last us all the week. A horse flesh shop has opened here now but I notice a good many more people were outside than in.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

During the war we all have to make ourselves responsible for more than we could rightly undertake in time of peace

The new vicar of Wargrave took on a new role as school inspector for church schools, mainly because his ownership of a horse meant he had transport denied to others.

Diocesan Inspection

There is one General Diocesan Inspector in this diocese who gives his whole time to the work, but the area of the three counties is so large that he can only visit one in each year. He is therefore assisted in each Deanery by an Honorary Inspector, appointed by the Bishop, who examines the Schools in two out of every three years.

The Vicar resigned this office when he left the parish of Medmenham in the Deanery of Wycombe. He has been asked to resume it in this Deanery. There are twenty-six schools to be inspected in the sixteen parishes of this Sonning Deanery. Somebody must do the work and it requires somebody with a horse, (even motor cars cannot run without petrol). So the Vicar has felt that it would not be right to decline. It is very congenial work, but acceptance of any additional task seems to require a word of explanation when we are shorthanded here and the things already left undone are evidence that the Vicar has no time to spare.

The fact is that during the war we all have to make ourselves responsible for more than we could rightly undertake in time of peace. And if we happen to have experience which makes a particular task lighter than it would be to a new hand it is not fair to decline it, unless it is an absolute impossibility. This work is done in the morning in the Schools and late at night at home so it will not much interfere with parochial visiting.

Wargrave parish magazine, February 1918 (D/P145/28A/31)

A useless horse

28 November 1917

Man came to fetch chestnuts. Horse from Government useless….

Wire from Boy [their son in law Leo Paget] to say Paris leave on from 10th to 16th.

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

Ploughing new ground

Lawns and other land not normally ploughed was turned to growing crops for food during the war. Meanwhile, the news from Russia seemed to be better, although this was a false dawn.

14 November 1917

Ploughman & horse coming to plough up new ground (15 acres), more this year…

Russia better. Kerensky, Korniloff & Kaledin beaten rebels.

Allenby in Holy land very good.

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

“They would be bitterly disappointed if they could see how few really care”

Enthusiasm was flagging among those who had committed to praying for the troops in Cookham Dean – but the village’s children cared about injured horses.

The Vicar’s Letter

Might I plead once more for more regular attendance at our ordinary Intercession Services? Why has the attendance dropped in numbers so seriously – especially on Wednesdays at 11? As far as possible I vary the Services so that they should not be the same – and I would urge those who began well and attended so regularly during the first months of the war to begin again. ‘Be not weary of doing well’, says St. Paul, who there enforces a lesson we all need to learn over and over again. The thoughts of so many on Active Service turn for comfort and support to the thought that at certain times, ‘Many are gathered together praying’ for them in the Church which at home they know best and love most; and I fear they would be bitterly disappointed if they could see how few really care to come with any regularity to the Services provided for them. Do think of this, and act upon it.

The Roll of Honour

The promotion of Pte. E. Blinko to be Corporal should have been notified some months ago. We should like to congratulate most heartily Capt. Vesci Batchelor M.G.C. (elder son of the Vicar of Cookham), who has recently been promoted Major, and 2nd Lieut. C. Edwards promoted Lieut.

Parish Registers

The children of the school have made a Collection on behalf of the Wounded Horses Fund, and have sent up £1 to the R.S.P.C.A. Society.


Cookham Dean parish magazine, November 1917 (D/P43B/28A/11)

Donations for wounded army horses

Berkshire schools were affected by the war in varying ways.

Abingdon Girls’ CE School
1917, 23rd-27th July

As last year the County Council gave War Time Certificates instead of Prizes.

During the year the girls have sent:

1. To the Jack Cornwall Fund for Memorial Ward – 13/
2. Xmas puddings for soldiers at the Front – one guinea
3. To the RSPCA Fund for sick and wounded army horses – 12/
4. The Overseas Fund on Empire Day – 7/

Broadmoor School
27th July 1917

Miss Haines was allowed to leave school at 2 o’clock on Monday to see a friend from the trenches.

Charlton Infant School
27th July 1917

The usual school treat is not taking place this year, in accordance with the wishes of the Food Controller.

Abingdon Girls’ CE School log book (C/EL 2/2); Crowthorne: Broadmoor School log book (C/EL100); Charlton Infant School log book (C/EL12)

Strict rationing at the Sunday School treat

While other towns had cancelled Sunday School parties, or at least put them on without the usual refreshments, it was business as usual in Maidenhead.

THE S. S. TREAT.

At a meeting of the Superintendents and Secretaries of the Maidenhead Free Church Sunday Schools, it was resolved to hold the Treats as usual this year. This will be good news to our youngsters, for in many towns, some of them not far distant from us, the Food Controller’s frown has prevailed. The demands for food economy can be met, so our Superintendents and Secretaries think, by strict rationing, and every child’s portion is to be separately tied up in paper, with no free helping from plates! And as the delightful Thicket is so near, and there is no call for economy in the use of healthy muscles, we need make no demand on railway or horse wagon, and fresh air is plentiful enough, and we hope high spirits too. So let our young folks look forward to the 12th July.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, June 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“If we waste bread, we are helping the Germans to win the war”

Newbury people were urged not to waste food, particularly bread.

The King has issued a Proclamation on food saving, which is being read, by Royal Command, in Church, but it would perhaps be also as well to put the case in plain language:

1. The stock of bread in the country is not sufficient.

2. The German submarines may make it still more in-sufficient.

3. Therefore we must save all the bread we can.

4. We must not catch horses with bread.

5. We must not give crusts to birds or pigs.

6. We must not throw bread into the street, canal, or dust-bin.

7. We must not cut the crusts off toast.

8. We must eat as little bread as is consistent with health.

9. If we do otherwise, we are helping the Germans to win the war.

The Soldiers’ Club is moving on June 2nd, to “the King’s Arms” in the Market Place. This Hostel must now resign itself to the provision of temperance drinks only. The ladies in charge will be glad of any help in money or kind.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, June 1917 (D/P89/28A/13)

“The villages have been ruthlessly pillaged, burnt, and razed to the ground”

A Reading man writes of his latest experiences at the front – and the death of a friend.

Our “Boys”

This terrible war has taken from us yet another of our brave soldier lads. Horace Pinker, who quite recently lost his brother and mother, was killed in France on the 5th of April. May the God of all comfort be very near to his father, sisters and brother – to console them in their keen sorrow!

The following extract from a letter sent by Eric Chapman to his mother is especially interesting, as it refers to the circumstances and death of his friend:-

“To return to my personal doings, it is unnecessary of course for me to allude to the German retirement on the western front, seeing that the papers are full of it. As you must have guessed, this has made a great difference to our lives, as we have had to be constantly hot on their heels. At times we come to close quarters with them, but on the whole they do not show much fight, and easily surrender or retire. The country over which we are advancing has been most thoroughly and diabolically destroyed. The villages have been ruthlessly pillaged, burnt, and razed to the ground. Not a thing of any value has been left behind by these barbarians. Even the young fruit trees have been deliberately maimed and rendered incapable of bearing fruit. Naturally this has made it most hard for us following in their tracks, as they intended it should, but we are able to overcome all difficulties and continue our victorious advance. There is not the slightest doubt we are winning by force of arms and smashing the Huns back to their own country. May the end come suddenly and speedily!

“Our battalion has just returned from a special attack, in which it distinguished itself, and about which the Colonel has given permission to write, so I am quite in order in relating a few facts without giving valuable information away. Our objective was a large village, fortified and held by the Huns. We commenced the attack in the early hours of the morning, and had to advance a distance of over 2,000 yards, before we came to grips with the enemy. It was snowing slightly at the time and a thin layer covered the ground as the men moved forward in waves to the attack. After we got fairly going I felt strangely exhilarated, and, much to my surprize quite unconcerned by the possibility of danger. The Huns yelled when they saw us coming, but our fellows yelled still louder, and never wavered a moment under the enemy’s fire. Barbed wire impeded our movements to a small extent, but in short time we had reached the village and were careering like mad through the streets. The Huns did not stand a ghost of a chance then, as our men paid back old scores, and in a few seconds they were doing their best to retreat. Many got back to tell the tale to Hindenburg, but I am thankful to say many not. It was not long before the whole village was in our hands, and after we had consolidated our gain we had some sport looking for souvenirs. The most interesting thing to us was the Germans’ rations which they left behind. Some of the men ate them, but although I am not dainty on this job, I did not have! The meat looked tempting enough, but had the undoubted characteristics of worn-out cab horse!

“I am glad to say our casualties on this occasion were comparatively few, although I regret to have to relate the death in action of Horace Pinker. He was killed by a bullet, and died before the stretcher–bearers could get him to the dressing station. It is very sad for his people, but they can have the satisfaction of knowing that he died bravely and nobly, and was accorded a decent burial.”

It has long been felt that we have not done all that we might for those of our numbers who are taking part in this bitter struggle. At Christmas our young people collected enough to send parcels to all on the Institute Roll of Honour. Now it is wished to do the same for the others, and the kind help and generous support of all our friends if asked. We feel confident that this appeal will not be made in vain! Contributions may be sent to Miss Gough, Mrs. Hamilton Moss, Mrs. Streeter, or Miss Austin.

Trinity Congregational magazine, May 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

“No better discipline or anything of that sort, I hope”

Percy Spencer wrote to Florence asking for some
Lysol petroleum jelly, an antiseptic. He had recently attended a dinner with old comrades, which had both tragic and comic elements.

May 3, 1917
My dear WF

This is just a few scrambled lines, mostly to ask for things.

I should very much like a tube of Lysall [Lysol] petroleum jelly, or a small bottle of Lysall and some phospherine tablets.

Also some ink to fit my box.

If I have any merino underwear or any shirts, I should like them please!

I’m sorry I can’t think of anything more to ask just now!

Well, I saw the Big Brass Hat yesterday and he said “H’m yes” 3 times, so I expect I’m in for something pretty bad – probably a month’s training in the trenches – or “something worth boiling out in it”.

We had a first rate dinner the night before last – the surviving officers & sergeants of my old Battalion, numbered just 18, 15 of whom were present. It was a right good evening, tho’ it had its tragic side.

By the way I am the only original member of the staff left: also I am the only remaining Staff Clerk in the Division who came out with us. The only original Quartermaster in the Division (of my old Battalion) was at the dinner. In fact so many of us were the only remaining something or other, we felt quite lonely.

Well, dear girl, I’m sending you the souvenir of that event. “Pat” enlisted as a private tho’ in private life he is Paterson of the Home Office – head of the Prisons of England – a fine man with a grand head. Dear old RSM Fisler’s speech was too funny. Private Pat, Corporal Pat, Sergeant Pat & 2nd Lt Pat of No. 4 Platoon was the well beloved of this Battalion of rough lads, and the fine old RSM ran himself high & dry on the rock of affection for the battalion idol: “that’s about all I’ve got to say, I think, sir”, he concluded lamely after a long pause.

The Sergeant Cook was pressed to sing – everyone knew he wanted to sing, and what he wanted to sing, and what he would sing – still he announced as he reluctantly rose to his feet, it would be a sad song. Nobody said, “We know; it’s going to be “Speak not ‘er nime”, tho’ everyone knew that “Speak not ‘er nime” it would be notwithstanding the cheering effect of a [bumper?] of port & Kummel shandy the worthy fellow had mixed for himself under the impression the harmless looking liquor was a sort of Perrier.

And so the evening passed. We talked of the St Albans days & the early days out here, of this good fellow and that, of a stout hearted Sergeant who wouldn’t be put off his game by enemy shelling before the battle of Loos – “What’s that?” exclaimed a jumpy platoon sergeant as a crump landed near. “Spades trumps” replied the other, and as the next one landed even nearer, “Clubs laid, your turn to play.”

But always we got back to Pat – to the early days out here, when as a Lance Corporal he “borrowed” the transport officer’s mount and a local landau & drove his “boys” out, only to run into the Divisional General. Of the Divisional General’s wrath & enquiry as to disciplinary action taken, & the CO’s reply – “This NCO has been promoted to Corporal”.

And I reminded him of the day when talking to the RSM he passed by en route for the guard room, there to comfort one of his platoon with all the food & illegal things he could buy.

Oh, the discipline of No 4 was awful, but they’d follow Pat anywhere.
Pat had to go away for a long time – upon returning he asked how things were with No. 4. “Oh, they’ve gone downhill fast, sir, since you left”. “No better discipline or anything of that sort, I hope”, Pat enquired anxiously. “Oh no” replied his informant in a horrified tone.

And now this same Pat is our Divisional Lecturer on “Discipline”.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/33-35)

Shells laming horses

Wounded soldiers visiting Bisham Abbey gave Florence Vansittart Neale information about the war.

16 April 1917

Went to Engineers’ camp to see dug outs & trenches…

Wounded came for afternoon. Nice set – usual games & singing. All enjoyed themselves. Edie & Mary came.

One of the wounded from church told me we could have taken Bapaume before Xmas but the French Government stopped us to save the town – now the Germans have destroyed it.

Hear [illegible] casualty to horses 10,000 in 3 days! Germans leave shells with sharp points that get into the hoofs & lame them.

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

Remounts in Bisham

The Vansittart Neale ladies went to inspect a base for getting horses ready to be sent to the front, at Temple House, Bisham.

12 December 1916

Bubs, Baba & I went to Temple to see remounts.

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

A small block of wood from the Somme

The Battle of the Somme approached its end with the Battle of the Ancre. An acquaintance of the Vansittart Neales had a dramatic story.

15 November 1916

Most successful push. Ancre battle – nearly 6000 prisoners taken.

Ernest Rich brought from France small block of wood, the only thing left of a gun, 20 horses, 4 officers, several men – big shell came in middle – everything gone!

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