Adventures in armoured cars and tanks

Old Boys of Reading School continued to serve their country, and share their experiences.

O.R.NEWS.

Mr. A.J. Wright has kindly sent the headmaster extracts from a letter of R.F. Wright’s, who was then in the 2nd squadron Russian Armoured Cars. The letter gives a vivid description of the threat on the Galician front and for the adventures of the Armoured Cars. The most striking sight was the explosion of the huge ammunition dumps at Crosowa, – apparently caused by a chance shot,- which Wright witnessed from a distance of 5 or 6 miles. It was most fortunate that the British cars got away with such small loss.

We must congratulate Capt. Rev. A.G. Wilken, Brigade Chaplain, Canadian Force on his return from Germany. He has been a prisoner of war for a year and eight months, during which time he has made the acquaintance of no less than six prison camps, Gutersloh, Minden, Crefeld, Schwarmstedt, Holzminden and Frieburg. We understand that some of these were comfortable enough, others very much the reverse. We hope that someday perhaps Capt. Wilken will tell us of some of his experiences.

Captain Haigh, M.C.

We are now in a position to publish news of the great honour which has been conferred upon Capt. Richard Haigh, M.C., Tank Corps, son of Mr. W. Haigh, of “Llanarth,” Hamilton Road, Reading. Capt. Haigh has been selected from all the officers of “His Majesty’s’ Land Ships” to take charge of the tank which has been touring Canada and the United states to help boom the U.S. Liberty Loan. He and his crew all of whom, by the way, have been wounded, have been touring the chief cities of the Republic for the past three months polarizing the great loan which our Allies have been raising. Such work is, of course, of the highest responsibility, and the fact that the gallant officer has been entrusted with this duty speaks well for his ability and for the confidence which the authorities place in him.

Educated at Reading School, where he distinguished himself in every form of athletics, particularly long distance running and football, Capt. Haigh obtained a commission in the Royal Berks Regt. just after the outbreak of war. He was wounded at Loos in 1915 and again on the Somme in 1916. In January of last year he was awarded the Military Cross, and for the last twelve months he has been attached to the Tank Corps.

Lieut. Fielding Clarke. – On Wednesday in the last week Captain Fielding Clarke of Ampthill, Craven Road, Reading, received a telegram intimating that his second son, Sec. Lieut. A. Fielding Clarke, R.F.C., was missing. The previous Saturday he had been with his squadron carrying out a bombing raid on and around Metz, and his machine was the only one which did not return. Lieut. Clarke, whose age is 18 and a half, was educated at Reading School and Bradfield College, and joined the R.F.C. at the age of 17 years and four months. He had been in France about three months and had just returned from his first Furlough. It is supposed that the cause of his failing to return must have been engine trouble, for on the occasion of the raid there was particularly little German anti-aircraft fire.

(Later). Lieut. A. Fielding Clarke is now known to be a prisoner of war interned at Karlsruhe.
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“The Royal Naval Division had encamped in our Nissen huts & refused to budge”

Sydney Spencer had the unappetising job of taking part in a court martial, before a dispute over who would get to sleep in a Nissen hut.

Monday 15 April 1918

9.15 am.
At 12 midnight a note came in to detail me for a court martial with 9th Essex Regiment at 10 am. Also orders came in for practice taking up of a trench system at —. We move into T-c-t this afternoon, after lunch. Have just made up my accounts.

FGC Martial over by 11.50. I spent remainder of morning in censoring about 100 letters and studying Intelligence reports, till 1 pm when company returned from scheme. 3 pm started for T-t-c-t.

Arrived at billets at 4 pm to find that Royal Naval Division had encamped in our Nissen huts & refused to budge. Result, we were camped outside & behagged the city until matters straightened themselves out, when we gave over half the huts to the RND.

Dinner at 9.30. I am orderly officer tomorrow. Duties start at 8.45. Had no chance of a read this evening as ten of us crowded into 1 Nissen hut.

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

An intelligence role for a dancer?

Many wounded prisoners of war were transferred to neutral Switzerland. Will Spencer wanted to meet a new arrival, still suffering from wounds from the first day of the bloody battle of the Somme. He also heard from his sister in law Natalie, a dancer, that her husband, Harold, had been called up, and that she too hoped to do war work.

19 January 1917

A letter from Natalie, from their new home, 18 Elgin Avenue, London NW. Harold has to join the army on Jan. 19th (today), but only for Garrison service at home. She is hoping that her knowledge of Spanish, & a personal introduction to the Head of the Intelligence Dept, will lead to her getting something to do at the latter.

Mr Arthur Hodges, now Lieutenant, who was wounded on July 1st, has now been brought to Chateau d’Oex. Wrote to Lieut. H., offering to call on him next Wednesday (from Gstaad).

Diary of Will Spencer, 1917 (D/EX801/27)

The bravest man in the trenches

Many of the former pupils of Reading School were serving with distinction.

O.R. NEWS.

Military Cross

Temp. 2nd Lieut. F.A.L. Edwards, Royal Berks Regiment.- For conspicuous gallantry during operations. When the enemy twice attacked under cover of liquid fire, 2nd Lieut. Edwards showed great pluck under most trying circumstances and held off the enemy. He was badly wounded in the head while constructing a barricade within twenty-five yards of the enemy.

2nd Lieut. (Temp. Lieut.) W/C. Costin, Gloucester Regiment. – For conspicuous gallantry during operations. When the enemy penetrated our front line he pushed forward to a point where he was much exposed, and directed an accurate fire on the trench with his trench guns. It was largely due to his skill and courage that we recaptured the trench. An Old Boy of Reading School, he won a scholarship at St. John’s College. Oxford.

2nd Lieut. D.F.Cowan.

Killed in Action.

Lieut. Hubert Charles Loder Minchin, Indian Infantry, was the eldest of three sons of the late Lieut-Col. Hugh Minchin, Indian Army, who followed their father into that branch of the service, and of whom the youngest was wounded in France in May, 1915. Lieutenant Minchin, who was 23 years old, was educated at Bath College, Reading School, and Sandhurst. After a probationary year with the Royal Sussex Regiment, he was posted to the 125th (Napier’s) Rifles, then at Mhow, with whom he served in the trenches.

After the engagement at Givenchy on December 20th, 1914, he was reported missing. Sometime later an Indian Officer, on returning to duty from hospital, reported that he had seen Lieut. Minchin struck in the neck, and killed instantly, when in the act of personally discharging a machine-gun against the enemy. The Indian officer has now notified that he must be believed to have fallen on that day.
2nd lieut.

F.A.L. Edwards, Royal Berkshire Regiment, awarded the military cross, died of wounds on August 10th. He was 23 years of age, and the youngest son of the late Capt. H.H. Edwards, Royal Navy, and Mrs. Edwards, of Broadlands, Cholsey. He was educated at Reading School and the City and Guilds College, Kensington. He had been on active service 10 months. His Adjutant wrote:

“He was the bravest man in the trenches. All the men say he was simply wonderful on the morning of August 8th. We lost a very gallant soldier and a very lovable man.”

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The Russians are shocking optimists and may run out of ammunition

Ralph Glyn’s old mentor was feeling a bit out of it now that he was no longer involved in the war.

Montpellier Hotel
Llandrindod Wells
21.6.16

My dear Ralph

I got your letter today. I wrote to you to Egypt about three weeks ago but expect the letter missed you.

Very glad to hear that you have found your way home. You will surely be able to light on some job other than intelligence in Egypt, which has lost its interest and importance so much. You will I suppose go and look up Whigham at the WO who is the dispenser of General Staff jobs in common with Bird.

I came down here last week and after finishing three weeks shall probably go on to Ireland before returning to Town. They are hardly likely to employ me again as they could not expect me to take anything that was not fairly good and there are plenty of people to fill such jobs, without their retrieving dug-outs for the purpose. I am sorry in some ways that I did not accept Haig’s offer last winter to go as his Mili. Secretary in place of Lowther; but at that time I was fed up with office work and I wanted to go to Russia; it could have kept me in harness till the end of the war.

I hope that you are none the worse for the wear [sic], Egypt can be uncommonly hot after April. Things are going well for the Allies but one feels a little afraid that the Ruskis may run short of ammunition if they are too busy; they are shocking optimists.

Ever yours
Chas E Callwell

Letter from General Callwell to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C24)

Italian Intelligence methods are “totally different to ours & in my humble opinion rather unintelligent”

An Intelligence officer contact of Ralph Glyn’s trying to work out how the Austrian army was deployed was unimpressed by his Italian counterparts.

MI2C
War Office
Whitehall
SW

3.V.16

My dear Glyn

Many thanks for your two last letters & the paper on artillery. I’m just back from a visit to the Comande Supremo, where I had a chance of seeing the Italian Intelligence at work. Their methods are totally different to ours & in my humble opinion rather unintelligent. However of that more when we meet again.

Since your last letter of 25/4/16, the Italians claim to have identified the 57th, 59th Divs & 10th Mountain Brigade from Albania in the Trentino. The 57th & 59th Divs appear to form an VIIIth Corps (not an XVIIIth, as they previously swore). I don’t think much if anything has gone to Macedonia from Albania. The containing force there at the moment appears to be 47th Div (probably keeping order in Montenegro), 53rd Div & 10th, 14th, 17th Mountain Bdes, two of which may be incorporated in the 62nd Div, if it still exists.

The only artillery unit I can definitely locate in Balkans is the 2nd Howitzer Bg of the 10th Mountain Artillery regiment (from intercepted correspondence of interned Austrian!) with the 103rd German Div. There are certainly many more Austrian artillery units there, but Lord alone knows which they are. The Italians won’t dish up the enemy artillery on their front other than in terms of guns – never by numbered regiments, batteries, etc, as the normal GS does, & information from Russia, seeing that the Intelligence mission is at Petrograd dependent for its information on Russian War Office, & not at GHQ, is correspondingly scanty & inaccurate.

The composition of units in the AH [Austro-Hungarian] army changes so rapidly that any attempt to reduce it to cut & dried book form in watertight compartments (as you can with the Boche army) seems foredoomed. The book as soon as written is found to be out of date.

However everyone here is anxious that I should carry on with it; and it certainly has been useful here in many ways, so I am going to produce it eventually. But it is awful work, so little reliable information being forthcoming, & so much being left to pure conjecture, that I sometimes give up all hope of making anything out of it.

I had a very interesting visit to the Italian front, of which I will tell you something; it was a welcome change after all the months of unrelieved monotony I had had at the WO.

No time for more
Yours

E M B Ingram

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/34)

“Your services are of such value to the State”

A request was made to transfer Ralph Glyn from Egypt to become aide-de-camp to the Commander of the 8th Corps in France.

Headquarters, VIII Corps
BEF France
May 1st, 1916

Dear Glyn

I rather feared it would be impossible for you to get away from Egypt where your services and knowledge of the Balkans are of such value to the State.

I, however, should much have liked to have had you on my staff, and I, therefore, got the authorities here to wire and offer you the appointment in case perchance it might have suited you to take it.

The best of luck to you wherever you are, and whatever you do.

Yours sincerely,
Aylmer Hunter-Weston

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/33)

The French Intelligence is the same as ours, and can be relied on

Another friend of Ralph Glyn’s helped with his Intelligence work.

Salonica
30/4/16

My dear Glyn

Yours of 22nd I have passed enclosure on to “I” here, with your request about it.

Re your second question – they think the Alpine Corps has left. The 2 German Divisions remain. Your allusion to “French GS” is not understood, as they say that the reports from AHQ & the French GS do not materially differ, and that you can safely base your information on the AHQ Intelligence Summaries. Hope you are fit and finding something to do.

Yours ever
[E Glynell??? – semi-legible signature]

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/32)

“Wireless telegraphy has been tremendously developed for intelligence” and is invaluable

Ralph Glyn’s Intelligence colleague Charles French wrote to him in Cairo.

Private
WO

25.IV.16

My dear Glyn

I was very glad to get letters from both you & Perkins by last mail. The organisation of the I branch in Egypt is now becoming quite clear to me, thanks to you two, & the knowledge will be an immense help to all of us.

Judging by your telegrams you seem to be having quite a busy time on the eastern frontier & apparently you are killing a number of Turks which is satisfactory. I am afraid this enemy activity may rather upset your plans of getting to France or home; but personally I find that one gets aaccustomed to sticking in the one place – Perhaps it is unenterprising – But on the other hand the scope of my activities have grown unceasingly ever since I came to the WO. You wouldn’t know many of my section now but I think you’d find it improved. It has been a great advantage breaking up the MO Directorate into MO [Military Operations] & MI [Military Intelligence].

I suppose you’ve met Lefroy – a most scientific bird who may be very useful. You might tell Holdick that here in England W/T [wireless telegraphy] has been tremendously developed for intelligence in every direction – We have a special section under Simpson, who is under me which is doing nothing but W/T and it is perfectly invaluable.

Much of the credit is due to you.

Yours ever
C French

Letter from Charles French to Ralph (D/EGL/C32/31)

“There are not nearly enough girls to go round”

A friend of Ralph Glyn’s who was posted at Salonika was enjoying the countryside.

Salonica
24 April 1916

My dear Glyn

Many thanks for yours of the 4th and for the book which you sent me. It’s about time they had a new one altogether of the German army. I was very glad to have your news, and I got more of it from Scott who returned today, but I have very little to give you in revanche. This is a very nice place and on the whole compares most favourably with Egypt, especially now that it must be getting hot with you. One gets the most delightful rides and the fine country & magnificent views make it a fresh pleasure every time one goes out. Last week I had a delightful trip with Sarrail in the Triad to visit Stavros, the extreme sight of our time. The country there is perfectly charming & we envied the people who live there in tents & dug outs in rocky & leafy glades, full of old Roman remains, for the Via Ignatia ran there, as it does through this town, and is still the main line of communication & the only road, bar the ones made by our troops, in that part of our line. It’s lucky you aren’t here, or you’d be at the Odeon or the White Tower every night. Still in case this should inflame your ardour I must state that there are not nearly enough girls to go round & what with British, French & Servian [sic] officers, all bent on Liaision work, to say nothing of the local nats of the great Greek Army, you’d have to take your turn in the ruck! However AHQ, like GHQ, has as much work as it can manage & little time for these enjoyments. I am not insinuating that I am overworked. Hope you are very fit and that “I” is going strong.

Yours ever
[Illegible …]well

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/30)

Misunderstandings are apt to arise at a distance

Ralph Glyn was getting all his contacts to help him with intelligence background for his latest mission, in Greece.

Alexandria
23rd April 1916

My dear Glyn,

The man who is doing the Greek personalities for us will do his best to let you have the particulars you ask for concerning the entourage of the King and Queen. It is however doubtful whether he will be able to help us as regards the G.G.S. [Greek General Staff] and their sympathies. We might of course find out this from our people in Athens, but I am always afraid of treading on the toes of a military attaché. If I were there I am sure I could easily arrange matters with Fairholme, who as you know is a very good fellow, but at a distance misunderstandings are apt to arise so I hope you will not be disappointed if you don’t get much from us about G.G.S.

Yours sincerely
R

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/29)

News from Bucharest “is invariably all skittles”

Basil Thorold Buckley, the Director of Military Intelligence, told Ralph Glyn that he was suspicious of the veracity of “secret” information passed to the British by the Romanians. Buckley was a cousin of Berkshire peer Lord Radnor.

General Staff
Director of Military Intelligence
War Office
Whitehall
SW

17 Apr. 1916

My dear Glyn

Your request for maps is receiving attention, but I think you have in one case asked for something that does not exist.

We cannot understand the craze which exists (& has always existed) in the MEF Intelligence for news from Bucharest. It is invariably all skittles & we never can rely on it.
Here is a very fair sample of it. I have a similar thing from W Clayton on 24th March by bag to show what rotten stuff. Comes from the Romanian GS [General Staff]. The Germans know jolly well that the RGS pass it on to us. So they feed the RGS up with all sorts of lies.

Critical times in the House of Commons this week. I think LG [Lloyd George] may chuck his place in the Cabinet if the PM does not show he is strong enough to bring in Conscription. Old Leverson paid me a visit yesterday on return from Egypt. I was in an awful fright he would as to be re-employed in MI2C.

Best of luck.
Yrs ever
B T Buckley

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Work for the “common cause”

Two of Ralph Glyn’s friends based in London – one orking in Intelligence at the War Office, the other an army officer seconded to arms manufacturer Vickers, wrote to him.

War Office
London, SW
M.I.1/113/NE

7th April, 1916

My dear Glyn

Very many thanks for your letter of March 13th. I was very glad to hear from you again after such a long time. I understand that Holdich is taking Tyrrell’s place and I expect to be writing to him by this mail also.

As regards your suggestion about I.a work in the B.C.I., I am afraid that any suggestion to strengthen this part of the B.C.I. will not be regarded with favour, because, when the B.C.I. was started, it was agreed by the representatives of the various Allies that this International Intelligence Bureau should not deal with matters which had hitherto been subjects of direct correspondence between the various GHQs concerned, and it was agreed that the B.C.I. was to be primarily a clearing house for information about contre-espionage [sic] and military statistical intelligence of a permanent or semi-permanent nature. Consequently, any attempt to meddle with enemy orders of battle or 1.a. work generally has been most severely discouraged.

I think that, when you realise this, you will probably not want to go to the B.C.I. and I shall, therefore, take no action on your part until and unless I hear from you again.

Yours ever,
C French

36, Sloane Court, SW
7th April, 1916

My dear Ralph

What has become of you?

It’s nearly a year since last I saw or heard of you and I’m now stirred into writing by seeing in the papers that your father is leaving Peterboro’.

I am so sorry: however, I expect he feels that after many strenuous year [sic] he wants to retire to a more peaceful life…

I am with Vickers now and am fairly up to my eyes in work all day and every day: it’s very interesting and real hard work; how long the WO will keep me at it I don’t, of course, know. I’ve never done a day with the W. Gds [Welsh Guards?] yet since I was transferred to them. However, as long as I feel I’m doing some work for the “common cause” I’ve nothing to complain of.

I occasionally hear scraps of news about you from Rome, or Greece, or Russia! I suppose you are dashing about all over the place on every sort of mysterious mission.

If you ever are in London, let me know – do: I’d love to see you again. Vickers House finds me all day & every day, except when I’m away at gun trials: and here we are installed in a flat – our first home!…

Yours ever,
Jack O’W

Letters to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/24-25)

“More brains than bowels”

Ralph Glyn’s mentor General Charles Callwell, just off to Russia, let him know what was going on at the War Office and internationally. For Czar Nicholas II’s impressions of Callwell, see his letters.

Central Station Hotel
Newcastle-on-Tyne

4th March 1916

My dear Glyn

I got your letter just when leaving. It looks as if things were going to be very dull in Egypt and, with the reduction of garrison, I suppose that there will be reduction of staff. Perhaps you will find yourself nearer decisive events before long. Latest news from Verdun seems quite satisfactory and Joffre two days ago was quite satisfied. Robertson had gone over to see him and Haig.

Wigram and I are for the Grand Duke’s HQ but go to Magily first to see the Emperor & Alexieff. I have a GCMG for Yudenich, who commanded the army that took Erzerum, which should make us popular & will justify our getting pretty well up to the front. Whe we get back to Moscow we may go on to Japan – I have a sack of decorations concealed at Christiania to serve as an excuse – so as to see how things are on the Siberian railway & at Vladivostok, but I could not get Robertson to make up his mind. The King told me that AP [Arthur Paget] put in from Petrograd for a trip to the Caucasus, suggesting a decoration for Yudenich as justification; but he was too late, our trip having already been arranged. We may meet him at Stockholm or some such place. Mac[law?] is going with us as far as Petrograd, he has managed to put in about three months at home on an irregular sort of sick leave and strikes me as having more brains than bowels; he is coming down here later and we start tonight. The passage across is no citch [sic] as it is bitterly cold, it is always rough, & the steamers are small & asphyxiating, proving altogether too much for Wigram and our recruit-servant.

The War Office has quite settled down on its new lines and the breaking up of the MO into MO and to MI seems to work very well and to be a decided improvement. Most of the old gang remain on and some of them look rather tired.

Wishing you the best of luck

Yours sincerely
Chas E Callwell

Letter from General Callwell to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C24)

The hell of a job: British intelligence

An Intelligence officer friend of Ralph Glyn wrote to him with another glimpse into the newly reorganised forerunner of MI6.

MI2c
22.ii.16
My dear Glyn

Thank you for yours of the 15th inst. yes, I alone survive of the old MO2c push. Con is back from GHQ in command of MI2c & the staff has been increased to 5 & possibly 6. I have forsaken the Hun for the Austro-Hun: Austria having been combined with Germany at last in this section (I can’t think why it was not done before). Cox has handed Austria over to me wholesale: it is a hopeless task taking over from old Perry. No handbook since 1909 in spite of the 1912 reorganisation. I hope to get out a booklet on the Infantry by end of March, showing present distribution. The whole army works by Battalions in the most complex way & it is the hell of a job.
Meantime we shall send you once a month a distribution & assumed composition of Austro German forces in the various theatres, which should keep you fairly up to date.

At end of March a new edition of “German Army in the field” will also be published, copies of which will be sent to you.

WO news is very prolific in that a complete reorganisation on very (apparently) sound lines has taken place. A tendency however is showing itself to devote too much attention in the highest quarters to masses of detail which really only concern the subsections or the forces in the field, & thereby to neglect the larger issues. I speak however only of the MI Directorate & it is only a personal opinion so “tell it not in Gath & publish it not in Askalon” [a Biblical quotation].

Wigram, having gone with the DMO to Russia, has returned with ‘Stanislavs’ upon his breast; he returns next week to Petrograd & is having the hell of a time. Buckley remains MI1 (Col) but his activities are narrowly restricted to ‘Intelligence’. Between you & me, he seems to have fallen slightly into the background; after so long a sojourn in the limelight it must be very galling to him & I feel very sorry indeed about it.

Look me up next time you’re back in England & we will dine together & prattle of affairs in general.

Goodbye & good luck to you.

Yours ever
G M B Ingram

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/8)