And down came the bombs

Percy Spencer was making a good recovery.

Bed 8, Florence Ward
St Thomas Hosp[ital]

Aug 27 [1918]

My dear WF

I’ve had some delightful letters from France. ‘Davey’ is the adjutant whose job I should have got had he not recovered and returned to the Battalion a week or so before me, and whose job I should eventually got [sic]. Dr [Camp/Lang?] is an interpreter, very literary fellow, who has done wonderful things in Spain. He was dining with me on the eventful night when hearing the old Bosch overhead I amused the fellows with a description of our real thoughts and the Hun plane’s thoughts on such an occasion – and down came the bombs.

Last night I got up for a couple of hours and didn’t feel too tired. Also last night I had a fairly good night without the aid of a sleeping draught. Mr Adams is satisfied with my hand – in fact all’s well again.

Can you send me Will’s address, and I should like the other boys’ addresses when you have time.

With my dear love to you both

Yrs ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/82)

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A good example of a good defensive position

Sydney Spencer and his men practiced tactics before meeting the locals.

Tuesday 16 July 1918

All the servants were very late this morning & we were not called until 7.55. It meant a rush! At nine on parade. Did a good morning’s work consisting of platoon drill, a very thorough inspection, I took the rifle bombers in cup discharge work, then we did a scheme from 11-1. Hervey took out his platoon to a hill with trenches. Kemp attacked. I was in reserve. A good example of how [sic] a good defensive position.

After lunch censored letters. Then went down to Kemp’s billet & played on an atrocious piano. A mademoiselle charmante [charming young lady] spoke pretty broken English, & prettier French. Madame gave me some flowers. Spent a pleasant evening – a really decent one. Acted as interpreter for a photographer who took our drums. The village crier, a pale looking youth with plaintive voice demanded after beating his drum that we should declare the boites de foin [haystacks] gathered in during the [illegible] in the morning.

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

“A dirty morning but bad for the Hun so it’s a good day after all”

Percy Spencer wrote a long letter to his sister Florence based on his diary.

May 13, 1918

Ny dear WF

It’s along time since I wrote you, but now I swear to steal an hour and give you a sort of diary of events.

First of all, though, before I forget them list of wants –

Propane Royal Navy dressing
2 pairs long cord laces for field boots
Wrights coal tar soap

Also what does my baccy cost out of bond? What would 50 small size Meriel de luxe cigars cost out of bond? And what would 100 reasonably good Virginia cigarettes cost out of bond?

If you could do all that for me when passing the tobacconist, the chemist & Thrussell’s. I shall be very grateful.

I’m trying hard for your sake to keep a diary that is within the law. Just how far I had got in my last letter I forget, so forgive me if I repeat myself.

On My 3rd Ridley, my No. 6 in the famous Eight, turned up and talked over our Trinity days.

The next day was mostly solid work. Colonel P[arish]’s band played at mess, I think it was that evening the Mayor dined with us and we drank to France and the King, and everyone was awfully friendly and nothing disturbed the harmony except Col. P’s boyish anxiety for Paddy, a lovely Irish terrier, the regimental mascot, which is always being stolen. Paddy was tied to the big iron entrance gates while the band played, and every few minutes Col. P jumped up to see none of the crowd outside had borrowed him.

On the 5th the Padre, a delightful fellow, messed with us. The CO wound up a jolly evening with an imaginary stroll “down the Dilly”.
The next day was wet. M. Le Maire [the local mayor] dined with us and under the influence of his own good brandy made a clean breast of buried souvenirs de la guerre.

The 7th was a red letter day. Many honours were received by the Division, Col. P getting a DSO and our own CO his 2nd bar to DSO.
In the evening another padre came in and talked politics & economies till a late hour.….

The 8th was a lovely day. The field cashier turned up short of cash & I had to cycle to another village to get money for the boys. Me. Le Maire [the local mayor] again dined with us & collared lots of bread. Col. P spent the evening gloating over the anticipation of leave and going [on] imaginary walks all over London much to our CO’s disgust. The APM lunched with us and told us amusing “3rd degree” trial stories.

The 9th produced the best story I’ve heard for along time. Told me by an interpreter at lunch who had been engaged upon taking a census of people in a certain village in the forward village [sic] and persuading them to leave. An elderly lady refused to go without her children. And how many children have you, enquired the interpreter. I don’t know, she replied. But surely madam! Exclaimed the interpreter. Pointing to the yard crowded with Tommies, she exclaimed, “There are my children: when they go, I go.”

10th Paterson the popular officer of my old regiment dined with us.
On the 11th I had tea with my old friends Tyrrell, Garwood & a host of others. They all made me very welcome, only “Miss Toms” couldn’t remember to call me anything but “Sergeant Spencer”.

In the evening another Regimental Band played outside my orderly room, conducted to my pleasant surprise by the private in my platoon in England who is a Mus. Doc. [doctor of music] & deputy organist of St Paul’s. Col. P went on leave. I prosecuted in a case for him.

12th: a very uneventful day because I have heard the full song of a Bosch shell for the first time for 10 months. Had a long chat with the CO who said the folks forward were finding me very useful. A letter too from a wounded Major in England arrived saying nice things about me. I’m easily getting to the not altogether enviable position of having a reputation to live up to. By the way I might say here that KK has been perfectly charming to me.

And that brings me up to today – a dirty morning but bad for the Hun so it’s a good day after all.

Give my love to all at 29 & let me know if you don’t like this sort of letter.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister (D/EZ177/7/7/35-36)

Amply provided for

The Executive Committee of the National Relief Fund Berkshire Committee met on 27 October 1914 at
Shire Hall, Reading. Once again they dealt with cases of families of servicemen who were in financial difficulties.


At present there is no distress in Abingdon directly caused by the war…

The following applications for relief were considered:
Fanny White, Shinfield. Resolved that 4/6 per week for three weeks, beginning October 17th, be granted.
P C Dennys, Wargrave. Letters concerning this applicant from the Rev. B Batty and Mr Henry Bond were read, and the secretary was instructed to write to Mr Dennys and advise him to apply for an interpretership to the War Office and to the Belgian Refugee Committee.
Oakley, Bracknell. The Committee resolved that the case be dropped for the present.
Ethel Bourgeois, Bray. The secretary reported that the applicant was receiving a weekly payment from the French Consulate and that her late employer had written saying that for the present she was amply provided for.
A Ross, Clewer. Resolved that the applicant’s arrears of rent to the amount of 35/- be paid to the landlord through the local Windsor Committee.

The Government Committee’s circular letter DMTI re Medical Relief was considered. Mr Melvill Davidson and Mr Tottie reported that the Soldiers and Sailors’ Families Association in Berkshire was prepared to deal with the administration of the medical relief….

National relief Fund berks ctee C/CL/C6/4/1

Can a government contract for blankets keep an Abingdon factory open?

The Executive Committee of the Berkshire branch of the National Relief Fund met on 13 October 1914, at Shire Hall in Reading. They tried to help a factory at risk from closure get war contracts, and gave handouts to various individuals:

The Chairman reported that with regard to Clarke’s Factory in Abingdon, contracts had been received which would keep the hands fully employed until Christmas.

That the manager of the Carpet Factory at Abingdon had asked the assistance of the Committee in obtaining contracts for rough horse cloths & blankets in order to enable him to keep the factory open, & the Committee had been able to obtain leave for him to submit 100 specimens of his blankets to the Admiralty & War Office, it being hoped that some contract would be obtained.

Applications for relief
Elstrick, Windsor. Mr Durant reported that work had been found for the applicant.
Daisy Brown, Shinfield. The Chairman reported that he had made personal enquiry into the case & agreed to pay arrears of rent, & that 36/- had been paid by the Treasurer on this account.
Fanny White, Shinfield. A grant of 9/- was sanctioned by the Committee, representing 4/6 a week for two weeks. A further report was to be asked for on this case from the Wokingham Committee.
Minnie Jones, Shinfield. Mr Tottie reported that the SSFA was dealing with this case.
Philip Dennys, Wargrave. The secretary was instructed to write to Mr Batty and Mr Bond & ask for particulars concerning the applicant for the post of interpreter.
Oakley, Bracknell. Mr Ferard made a report upon this case. The secretary was instructed to write to Mr Wilson asking what steps had been taken to obtain work.
Tindall, Windsor. Mr Durant gave a report on the case & the Committee decided to make a grant of £1 as representing the applicant’s rent for 3 weeks.
Heard, Cookham RDC. The application was declined on the ground that it was not a suitable one for the National Relief Fund.
Ethel Bourgeois, Cookham RDC. The Committee decided to advance £3 to the Local District Committee on behalf of this case, such sum to be expended at the discretion of the Committee. The secretary was instructed to write to the applicant’s late employer asking for particulars concerning rent of applicant’s house, and also to write to the French Embassy asking whether any fund was in existence for the assistance of the dependants of French Reservists in this country.

The Chairman reported the receipt of a telegram from the Local Government Board asking for further offers of hospitality for Belgian refugees. The secretary was instructed to send a copy of the same to Local District Committees.

Broad Street Congregational Church in Reading was just as anxious to help out those whose family finances might be badly hurt by the loss of the breadwinner, in an age when gaining public assistance meant the shame and unpleasantness of the workhouse. The church magazine tells us more:

ADVISORY COMMITTEE
The church at its last meeting decided to appoint an advisory committee whose function, during the course of the war, shall be to look after the interests of those amongst our people who may be adversely affected by the enlistment of fathers, sons or other relatives (upon whom they are dependent) in H. M. Forces or by privation directly due to the outbreak of hostilities. There are many ways in which this committee may be of service, apart altogether from the actual giving of relief.

It is hoped that every member of the church and congregation will hold a watching brief on behalf of the committee, and report cases of distress and privation amongst our number with which they may be acquainted, to the secretary. Very often the most deserving and the suffering cover their distress from a sense of pride – a pride which we commend – and it is for us to see that such are not overlooked on this account. Since the inception of the idea for which the committee stands, articles recommending the formation of such bodies in our churches have appeared, as many will have seen, in the British Congregationalist.

The following friends have promised to serve on the committee:-
Rev. W. Morton Rawlinson (Chairman)
Mrs C. Steward Smith
Mrs A. S. Hampton
Mr W. J. Brain
Mr J. Swallow (secretary)

National Relief Fund Berkshire Committee minutes (C/CL/C6/4/1); Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, October 1914 (D/N11/12/1/14)