“Rarely, if ever, before, have we been called upon to mourn the loss of so many of our friends, in such a short time as during the past month”

Broad Street Church had endured many sad losses through the war, and the toll was not yet over.

CONDOLENCES

It is our sad duty to report from time to time the death of members of the church and congregation. But rarely, if ever, before, have we been called upon to mourn the loss of so many of our friends, in such a short time as during the past month….

Private Ernest Layton Francis, son of our esteemed Deacon, Mr Ernest Francis, and Mrs Francis, was well known and greatly beloved at Broad Street. Up to the time of his enlistment in the London Scottish Regiment he was a most faithful teacher in the Sunday School, and he exerted a powerful influence for good over his boys. Both teachers and scholars alike bear testimony to his patient and enduring work, and they all deplore his loss.

Mr Witcombe, Chief Warder at Reading Gaol, had been a loyal member of the church since 1911. During the whole of the war period he has given unstinted and devoted service in the work for men and women in khaki attending our rooms, and his cheery presence was always an inspiration. His early and unexpected death from pneumonia has fallen as a sad blow upon his wife and family.

Mr Harry Haydon was, in early days, a loyal worker in connection with the C[hristian] E[ndeavour] Society and Sunday School… a few months ago he had to join the army, but, as he was never strong, the period of training proved too great a strain on his constitution, and the influenza scourge found in him a victim. He leaves a wife and two young children to mourn his loss…

[Miss Rosa Millard and Miss Christina Codiferre are also named as among those dying of influenza.]

The influenza epidemic, which has been raging throughout the country lately, seems to have been worse in Reading than in most places. For several weeks the Sunday School had to be closed. So, too, had the Soldiers’ Rooms. Very many of or Broad Street homes have been visited, and some, unfortunately, with fatal results. It is a relief to know that the evil is now abating, and we trust that those friends who are still suffering may speedily be restored to health.

PTE E. LAYTON FRANCIS

The deepest sympathy has gone out from our whole community to Mr and Mrs Ernest Francis and their family, in the sad loss they have sustained through the death of their second son, Private E. Layton Francis. Layton Francis was a fine type of strong, intelligent, upright manhood, and his passing is deeply regretted by all who knew him.

When the war broke out he was anxious to volunteer at once for active service, but he was prevailed upon to complete his course of training as a Chartered Accountant before doing so. After successfully passing his final examination, he voluntarily joined up in the London Scottish Regiment, and saw much active service in France, Macedonia and Palestine. Readers of the magazine will remember the interesting descriptions he sent of various places in the Holy Land.

At Es Salt, on May 1st, 1918, he was seriously wounded in the right arm. After undergoing treatment in several Military Hospitals abroad, he ultimately reached England and was taken to the Military Hospital at Napsbury, near St Albans. Here, unfortunately, he was seized with influenza, and, pneumonia supervening, his weakened constitution was unequal to the strain.

We give below a couple of extracts from the many letters received by his parents. They testify to the very high regard in which he was universally held:

From a school friend:

“To me Layton was the best chum I ever had, or can hope to have. In fact he was more than a friend, he held the place of a brother. He was a real gentleman, and the life that God has taken will always be a great example and ideal for me to live up to.”

From a friend and former worshipper at Broad Street:

“Although I was considerably older than Layton you know what friends he and I were whilst I was at Reading. It was a friendship of which I was proud. He was the finest boy I have known. He was such a splendid combination of strong character, high principle and lofty ideals. He was absolutely straight – too great a character either to tell a lie or to harbour a mean thought. He was a fine example of young muscular Christianity.”

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

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“We shudder to think how thin seemed the partition between us and destruction!”

Maidenhead Congregational Church rejoiced.

PEACE!

The war is over! How difficult it was to believe at first! We could only slowly get our eyes accustomed to the sudden light. It seemed like passing out of a dark prison into the light of freedom again. Timidity was changed into a feeling of triumph. We can scarcely recognise the altered world, the change has been so sudden and startling. Everything seems new. The glow of victory and expectation is everywhere. As the enemy’s records slowly come to light, it is ever more plain how deliberate and wanton was Germany’s onslaught upon a world at peace, how deep her plots to get the nations under her heel, how tremendous her preparations, yes, and how nearly she succeeded! And now her huge strength has been destroyed. We open our daily newspapers now without a tremor. Nothing in the Peace celebrations seems more wonderful than the restraint and dignified calm of the people as a whole. There was no “mafficking” in the streets, there was no bombast anywhere. Perhaps it was because we had all suffered too deeply. Exultation of course there was, and it was abundantly justified. Dr. McLaren in one of his books asks the question, “Does Christianity forbid us to rejoice when some mighty system of wrong and oppression with its tools and accomplices, is cleared off from the face of the earth?” And the great preacher answers his own question with a text of scripture: “When the wicked perish there is shouting.”

It will be good for us to strive to make our gratitude to God more conscious and eager. We have been in tremendous peril! The Prime Minister said some year or two ago, “We shall win, but we shall only just win.” And it has been “only just.” We may well shudder to think how thin seemed the partition between us and destruction! Can we hope that a new sense of God will fall upon the nation? We need divine guidance and help as certainly in the reconstruction problems as in the peril of the war. Britain’s future depends upon the settlements of the coming year. The nation and the Churches too are at the cross roads! None of us, none of our sires or grandsires, have known a time when the call for earnest thinking and devoted service was to be compared with what it is to-day. Everyone of us must give answer unswervingly if we are not to let the hour pass and the opportunity slip away.

And now, among other things, we want our boys back again. We have felt their absence keenly, not only in our homes, but in the Church. There are nine of our own who will not return, and we will not forget them. But the others, may they come back firmer in fibre, more ready to serve Christ in His Church and in His Kingdom, more determined by His help to “build Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land.” And may the lessons of our great trial and triumph make us all wise and strong while life lasts.”

CHRISTMAS.

We ought to be able to fill our Christmas this year with real and unaffected joy. The great shadow is taken off merry making. Not that all the problems of the world have been solved, but they are nearer solution, and there is a grand hope in our hearts. And the coming of the world’s great King may remind us that the first of all conditions of real peace and content is a child-like heart, a spirit of gentleness and meekness, and of trust in the guidance of the good Father above. Rivalries and frettings eat out our peace, as a moth a garment, as acid soft metal. When man is right with God, all the earth will be right with men. If we are to gain true peace and happiness in the future, either for ourselves or for the nations, it must be by utter submission to Him who was born a child at Bethlehem.

OUR SOLDIERS.

F. W. Harmer is in hospital in London, suffering from some internal trouble, and may have to undergo an operation. Ernest Bristow is much better, and will soon be ready for his artificial leg. He is back at the Maidenhead Red Cross Hospital. Hugh Lewis has been down with a severe and serious attack of “flu,” and is in hospital at Boulogne.”

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, December 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Joy in victory is clouded by the thought of those whose fidelity unto death helped to win that victory

A Reading vicar rejoiced at the end of the war.

MY DEAR FRIENDS

None of us are ever likely to forget the month that is ended. We have lived through tremendous days, apocalyptic days, when the judgements of God have been manifest in all the earth, when his voice has been heard saying to them that rose up against Him, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Witnessing the utter downfall, the complete humiliation and final ruin of the Germanic Alliance, we are driven again to the great poetry of the psalms for words adequate to describe the things we have seen, and we find them in the second psalm, ‘The Kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against His anointed… He that dwelleth in Heaven shall laugh them to scorn, the Lord shall have them in derision… Thou shalt bruise them with a rod of iron and break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ And from the same psalm we draw the moral for ourselves, ‘Serve the Lord in peace and rejoice unto Him with reverence.’ Reverence was the most marked feature of those wonderful Services of Thanksgiving wherein on Monday evening and on the following Sunday we thanked God for His deliverance and for the victory which we attribute only to His help- reverence and a solemn awe. A new devotion to God’s service and a new oath of allegiance to the divine King must be our permanent response to our God thus made manifest in judgement and in mercy.’ This God is our God for ever and ever. He shall be our guide even unto death.’

In the midst of our rejoicings our loving sympathy goes out to those whose joy in victory is clouded by the thought of those whose fidelity unto death helped to win that victory. May the knowledge that the sacrifice has not been in vain comfort the hearts of all whose dear ones’ names are entered on our Roll of Honour for the fallen and must in due time be permanently engraved upon the walls of our Church.

The news of the signing of the armistice came to us in the midst of the severe epidemic of influenza which has claimed many victims among soldiers and civilians alike….

We pray that God may bring comfort to the parents of soldiers who have died of pneumonia following on influenza, among whom we would mention Privates Aliban and Church, old boys of St John’s and St Stephen’s respectively. Lastly, we offer respectful sympathy to the family and friends of Frank Fisher, old boy and chorister of St Stephen’s, killed in battle in the last month of the war….

The sermon and preaching arrangements for Advent will be found in the Calendar. I propose on Sunday mornings at St John’s to speak from the Christian standpoint on certain important ideas which are at present occupying the minds of thoughtful people, under the general title of “Issues of the Great War”. My subjects each Sunday will be:

Dec. 1 The War to end War
Dec. 8 The World Safe for Democracy
Dec. 15 The League of Free Nations
Dec. 22 The Re-union of Christendom…

I wish you all a very happy Christmas. The birthday of the Prince of Peace will be celebrated this year by a world at peace at last after 4 ½ years of war. Let us celebrate it with glad thanksgiving and with the earnest prayer that the hearts of all men everywhere may be inclined to do His Will, so that there be permanent peace on earth, among men of good will.

Your sincere friend and vicar,

W. Britton.

Reading St. John parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P172/28A/24)

“We all long for peace, but it must be peace after victory, and the enemy must be thoroughly beaten first”

Even as more men were reported killed, some were determined that no easy quarter should be given to the enemy.

“Sir Albert Stanley, President of the Board of Trade, has sent a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Bourne, the Chief Rabbi, the Salvation Army, and the heads of Churches of all other Denominations in England and Scotland and Wales, calling attention to the serous scarcity of coal, and suggesting that Church Services should be held in daylight.”

The Times, October 17th.

If this should be enforced, we hope our congregation will loyally fall in with such an arrangement.

THE WAR

Our brave troops, along with those of our Allies, have been winning victory after victory for the last three months, and the enemy has made proposals for an armistice to the President of the United States. We all long for peace, but it must be peace after victory, and the enemy must be thoroughly beaten first. We can safely trust to our Rulers, and to our Admirals and Generals, with those of our Allies, to see that no premature peace is entered upon. Now they need all our prayers, that they may be guided to right decisions. We are deeply thankful for God’s recent mercies to us, and we pray that we may be worthy of them. What a glorious day it will be when the war really ends, and our men return home again!

Mrs Doggett has lost her husband, Sidney Newman Doggett, from illness in France, and we offer her our sincere sympathy in her trouble. Like so many others, he has nobly given his life for his country.

ROLL OF HONOUR

91 Albert Edward Marshall, 2nd Batt. Wilts Regt, died of wounds at Haesnes April 12th, 1918. RIP.
92 John William Charles Gough, 5th Batt. West Riding Regt, killed in action July 20th, 1918. RIP.
93 L-Corp. Frederick John Lake, 1st Dorset Regt, killed in action July 20th, 1918. RIP.
94 Pte Jesse A Buxey, 1st Royal Warwicks, killed in action in France August 30th, 1918. RIP.
95 Pte Sidney Newman Doggett, Roayl Warwickshire Regt, died in France September 28th, 1918. RIP.
96 Gunner Philip John Webb, RGA, died of wounds August 15th, 1918. RIP.

Newbury St Nicolas parish magazine, November 1918 (D/P89/28A/13)

“It was 60 to 100 at Lloyd’s yesterday there would be peace before Xmas”

Everyone could see the war coming to an end – even the German PoWs.

St Marys, Oct 31 [1918] Hallows Eve

My own darling own

Yesterday… a man called Savage with his wife quite intend on taking this place and if possible buying it. Evidently a very rich man in war profits having to do with all insurance societies, Lloyd’s included, & he told me it was 60 to 100 at Lloyd’s yesterday there would be peace before Xmas….

Meantime the papers are an hourly unrolling of great scrolls of prophecy fulfilled, and to be having a part in it must be a wonderful feeling, and how I long to talk to you, and how I long for the evening papers with news, if any, from Paris. I dread Bolshevik risings, and spread of that disease with Prussianism a fallen God? It is a tremendous thing to think what is in the hands of those few brains at Paris, and I cling to the knowledge that two at least there are with belief in the Eternal Righteousness revealed as Divine Love to those who follow Christ and company with him in sacrifice for the sake of that Righteousness? It must be hard to go on fighting with the world all crumbling that has opposed that righteousness, and it seems as if it – the victory – was already decided.

The news from Italy is glorious, and then Hungary & Austria & Turkey, and with the little bits of news coming in from the Danube – these waterways and tributaries in silence or in spate determining the way of victory. Well – here I watch our little road and the village passers by, and the trees getting bare, but still some golden glow slimes in at the window, and the only thing in touch with the war are the German prisoners no longer bursting with spirits & laughter and talk, but they look grim….

There is a great deal of mild flu about, and some measles, but I have heard of no bad cases so far. I have no sign of flu, only a very little cold of which I take quite abnormal care, & eat formamint lozenges without end….

Archdeacon Moore has resigned – and I am sorry – one of the few gentlemen left in that changing diocese where everything is going on socialistic lines, and I am so unhappy about poor dear Norman Lang, & cannot imagine what his future is to be when the 6 months at the front are over – & will he be needed there 6 months.

Do take care of yourself – send for formamint lozenges & have eucalyptus & a good tonic?

I suppose John will be all right. Maysie is moving to 6 Hill Street, Knightsbridge…

All my love, darling
Own Mur

Lady Mary Glyn to her son Ralph (D/EGL/C2/5)

A reputation for utter disregard of personal safety, but with it an equal regard for the safety of his men

Two young men from Ascot were confirmed killed.

Many of our readers will have felt the most profound sympathy for his parents in their loss of their only son Harold Keating. He fell in action on June 28th whilst carrying out a duty full of danger. After a school career of extraordinary brilliancy, in which he had gained the gold Asiatic Medal, open to all the youth of England, he had begun his Oxford life when the war broke out.

In September, 1914, he received a commission in the Royal Engineers, and was in France soon after. There he gained a reputation for utter disregard of personal safety, but with it an equal regard for the safety of his men. He would expose himself to risks from which he carefully kept those under him. In 1916 he was wounded and sent home, but in the following year was back again in France. In March, 1918, he was in the Amiens salient, and shared to the full the dangers and hardships of the great retreat. His letters showed how galling that failure to hold the line was to his sensitive mind, but he was spared to see the tide turn, and his own sacrifice not in vain.

Apparently, like many others, he had a premonition that his life here was to end; and before the engagement in which he met his death, he left behind for his parents a letter of the deepest affection and unusual perception.

“I am enough”, he wrote, “of a philosopher not to fear the thought of death, and enough of an adventurer to feel excitement and thrilling sensations of adventure at entering continents unknown. That is how I would have you think of me. The captain of my ship setting sail for some most glorious Eldorado, while the rising sun blazes into my face”.

That is something of the martyr spirit, and the adventure he speaks of is the spirit of faith which God asks from all who step out into the unknown. That a career which might well have left its mark in history has been cut short is obvious, but God has greater rewards to grant than the rewards which men can give. It will be when we can read life in its unabridged edition that we shall know that God does not so lose the gifts he gives to me.

After a long delay of mingled anxiety and hope, the authorities have reluctantly resigned all hope of further news of Robert Brown. Many will recollect the boy solo in All Souls’ choir, with his remarkable pure boy’s voice. He was badly wounded on October 9th, 1917, but from that day onwards not the slightest trace has been heard of him. It is thought that on his way to the clearing station he must have come under shell fire, and been blown to pieces. It is God’s mercy that his only brother has been spared to his parents after a desperate and usually fatal illness.

To the parents of both these young boys of our parish we offer our deepest sympathy. For their souls we shall continue at each requiem to pray, “Grant unto them, O Lord, eternal rest, and let Thy light perpetual shine on them”.

South Ascot Parochial Magazine, October 1918 (D/P186/28A/18)

“In Glasgow in Stob Hill Hospital they are lying dead by the tens”

A friend or relative of Lady Mary Glyn had some insight into the mixture of pro-Zionism and anti-Semitism in upper class circles. William “Billy” Ormsby-Gore (later Lord Harlech was a convert to Judaism and a leading British Zionist. Meanwhile the terrible influenza epidemic was beginning to make its presence felt.

Oct 26/18
My dear M.

I had a good letter from Ralph of Oct. 22. I answered his queries re Frank, in a long letter, & as I had lunched with Arthur I had some War Cabinet talk. A curious lunch, it had been arranged by Frank, a Jew officer friend of his violently opposed to Zionism. I thought I should see a grave Rabbi, but enter a bubbling schoolboy type, bursting with his views. It was most comic. A. J.’s interruptions. “We must remember there was a Tower of Babel”. And, when some fears were expressed re the Jews, “Don’t be afraid, they will take very good care of themselves – very good care. Every 6th man in New York a Jew”. Billy Gore was there to put the Zionist view. Stern lunches here tomorrow to meet Buffy. I have an intense desire to fall back on ham as the piece de resistance. Stern by name, & no doubt a German in a past, but in the present body an intense Britisher….

I heard yesterday how the American troops are attacked in the transports with this septic pneumonia. No doctor, no nurses, no medicines. On one transport some nurses going to France banded together improvised a hospital, and by shere [sic] nursing, they had no drugs, pulled a lot of men through. In Glasgow in Stob Hill Hospital they are lying dead by the tens. The Times obviously knows it by its leader today….

Ever
[Illegible]

[Sybil or Niall Campbell?] To Lady Mary Glyn (D/EGL/C2/5)

Mentioned in the Gazette again

News of Burghfield men.

THE WAR

Honour
Lt-Col. H A Anderson, CMG, RAMC, again mentioned (Gazette of 3rd Sept.)

Casualties

W H Lay (Sapper RE), killed in action, August, 1918; Sidney Keep (1st Royal Berks), wounded, August, 1918.

Discharge
J S Rance (Royal Navy, HMS Rocket), 11th July, 1918, neurasthenia.

Burghfield parish magazine, October 1918 (D/EX725/4)

Let us hope that the War will soon be over

PARISH NEWS

Mr and Mrs Berriss, Remenham Hill, have received a brave and cheery letter from their son, Lance-Corporal Arthur G Berriss, who is a prisoner in Germany. He is well, and is determined to make the best of his misfortune. Let us hope that the War will soon be over, and that we shall have him back with us safe and sound.

We were so sorry to hear that Private Wm J Stevens, who is at Devonport, had to undergo an operation for appendicitis on August 12; things were very critical for some days, but we are thankful to learn that he is now progressing steadily towards recovery.

Remenham parish magazine, September 1918 (D/P99/28A/4)

Efficiency and gallantry

A Burghfield doctor was commended for his contributions.

Honours and promotions

2nd Lieut. F Wheeler (King’s Liverpool Regiment), before being taken prisoner (see last month’s magazine) won 1st Prize Bayonet Fighting (Officers) in the First Army Corps; Sergeant E Cooke (Royal West Surrey Regiment) to be Sergeant Instructor, April 1918.

Casualties

2nd Lieut. T Warner (RAF), flying accident, Salisbury Plain; Private Stretcher-bearer Albert Painter (Royal Berks Regiment), missing since 21st March, now reported died. Company Sergeant Major Albert Manners (17th Lancers) died 10th July in hospital (gastric complaint). Sergeant Manners served through the South African War, and through the present war. Private T Searies (Royal Berks Regiment), wounded (doing well).

Discharge

Private Frank J Cooke (Worcester Regiment), 24th July (heart).

Lt-Col. Anderson

Lt-Col. H S Anderson, RAMC, who is the brother of Mr W C F Anderson of Hermit’s Hill, and who is himself on the Burghfield Electoral Register, was in the New Year’s list of honours, and received the CMG. His name also appeared in the Gazette of February 8th among those who had been “brought to the notice of the Secretary of State for War by the Army Council, for very valuable services rendered in connection with the war, up to 31st December 1917”.

HRH the Duke of Connaught, on his visit to the Citadel, Cairo, invested him with the Order at the Hospital which is under his charge. Among such services may particularly be mentioned those in connection with the “Britannic”. Col. Anderson was in command of all the medical staff and hospital arrangement of the huge vessel during several voyages out and home, with marked efficiency, and was on board when she was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Greece. For his gallantry and conduct on this occasion he received especial thanks and mention.

Burghfield parish magazine, August 1918 (D/EX725/4)

“If only Fritz would drop a bomb on it, it would save further argument”

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence to let her know how he was getting on. The following day he was to be wounded.

Aug 6, 1918
My dear WF

Almost I’ve forgotten how to write a letter. Lately I have been so busy picking up the threads and so on that I haven’t had time to write a line since July 14, I think it was – not even to write and wish you many happy returns of the 4th. However I’ll put the clock back a couple of days and do it now.

My diary has gone during the last few weeks and I’m racking my brain for news.

To go back, I finished my course on the 17th. My section, 4/7 of which was my Division, won the School cup. The runners up were also 4/7 my Division. So we set our caps at the Canadians, Australians & our friends from USA and swanked. Also individually my section scored highest marks in the examination. My own report read –
Qualifications Very good
Power of command Ditto
Keen

So there was much rejoicing and our [HLI?] instructor got very tipsy at our expense and insisted on singing all the Scotch songs ever written, and some which I believe had before scarcely escaped the boundaries of his “wee bit hoos ben” or some such foreign place.

After that I returned “here” – that’s interesting. From here I went up the line once or twice, and then went “there” and billeted the Battalion. With the aid of 200 men, made the area reasonably clean, and HQ habitable. There was even a piano and one evening we had our string trio over to play to us at mess, and afterwards the doctor (from USA) with a fine voice, sang to us and made us all homesick. And the adjutant begged for Raff’s [Cantina?] and got it, and wondered how I knew when I turned to him during the piece and said, “Your wife plays this”.

And then I came here again & the adjutant being inoculated & sick, I had to ride up the line and take over. And now I am here again (and it’s pouring with rain) in an abandoned cottage with an earth floor and leaky roof and really very comfortable. To a newcomer it would be startling to go round a battalion’s “billets” and hear our boys tell the visiting officer that they were quite comfortable in a tumbledown outhouse or barn. Someday again I expect we shall get luxurious again.

Had one very bad night here during an event I expect you are now reading about. Fritz bombed all night and generally played the devil. A few days before a billet of ours was gutted by fire due to another unit’s fault. Luckily overnight I had organised our people for such an event, and in 25 minutes we had it out and a large farm saved. The other unit having at last accepted liability, rebuilt the place. I remarked that if only Fritz would drop a bomb on it, it would save further argument. He did, but not till it had been rebuilt & occupied and the farmer was gloating over new buildings for old.

The CO has just turned up so I’ll close while I have the opportunity.
With my dear love to you both

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/58-60)

The NCOs do not seem to know a great deal about bombs

Sydney was battling through his digestive issues – not to mention his self confidence.


Monday 22 July 1918

As I had had a hard day yesterday, what with the reconnaissance & my indisposition, I did not attend the first parade but went to aid post & there obtained some castor oil for inspection uses.

Went on 9.45 parade. Did platoon training which included some interesting fire orders work. After lunch rested & censored letters.

At 5.15 gave a lecture to all NCOs on bombs, chiefly about the mills bomb. The NCOs do not seem to know a great deal about bombs. I hope I didn’t bore them stiff. After the lecture there were no other parades.

Spent remainder of day in writing, playing patience etc. To bed fairly early. Feeling better after castor oil!

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

“What glorious War news! It fills me with chastened joy”

The Spencers’ patriotism was moderated by their affection for Will’s German wife.

Fernley
Cookham

July 21, 1918

My Dear Sydney, …

Your birthday letter to Nan [Sydney’s elder sister Annie] was accompanied by one from Gil [brother Gilbert, later a well known artist]. He is training for the Infantry, not as I feared for the Air Corps. Letter was dated June 9. He does not think much of Cairo. Is about to visit the Pyramids.

Flo’s ‘On Both’ has not yet appeared in ‘Punch’.

We are all well at Fernley. Horace [another brother] is in a base hospital with malaria.

Harold [yet another brother] expects to be transferred to a military band which will I hope put an end to his grousing.

Write soon.

With our united love, Father.

P.S. What glorious War news! It fills me with chastened joy. Chastened for we are not yet out of the wood. Besides Johanna [his German daughter-in-law] whom I dearly love! I can’t help thinking grievingly of her. F.

Letter from William Spencer of Cookham to his son Sydney at the front (D/EZ177/1/6/2-3)

French camouflage and courtesy

Sydney Spencer’s stomach upset didn’t make his day any easier.

Sunday 21 July 1918

I had a most interesting day today. I got up at 6.45. Had a snap of breakfast despite my ‘colic’ – to put it politely.

At 8.30 I, with about 14 other officers, went off to a village due east of this village, about 10 kilos via a very roundabout route covering some 20 to 25 miles. Here we went to the [blank]ieme Division HQ French Army. Saw the French positions from Soutien line or purple line. French camouflage wonderful! French colonel’s courtesy more wonderful, chairs under arbour with dainty cup of coffee!

Returned by a blue shaky but wonderful car to lorry & got back to this place of Holy Refuge by 6 pm. My very poor digestion gave me a bad time on that lorry. After dinner I went to bed fairly early. But I sleep very badly these nights, getting little reading.

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

Bad sanitary conditions

Hygiene was not always ideal, with the inevitable results.

Saturday 20 July 1918

When I got up today I found that I was suffering very uncomfortable things from my tummy. Probably it is the water or perhaps the plague of flies or a combination of both, helped considerably by foetid pools of water, the ubiquitous French Muck heap always in the front garden (!) & the bad sanitary conditions.

Morning parades fairly easy although the march rather tried me. After tea I concluded the day’s performance by being violently sick & having other troubles. I had only a couple of cups of tea today and a slice of bread & butter so that I went to be feeling very cheap! Maddison, Knights & Nixon to dinner.

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