“The last time I saw Sturdee was at the Falkland Islands”!

The American Commander in Chief, General John Pershing, British Admiral Doveton Sturdee and General William Birdwood were all granted honorary degrees from Cambridge after the war.

29 Barton Road
27 July ‘19

My very dear Smu

[Visiting Southwold, Suffolk] On Thursday 10th there came, with their crews, 2 armoured cars, which had been serving in Russia: and in the photographs sold in the shops next day, we recognised unmistakeably Mr and Mrs Image.

I see that I’ve only left a few inches to describe the Honorary Degrees on Wednesday 23rd – so I’ll enclose the paper I found on my seat. The figure I was most anxious to see was Admiral Sturdee. He looked like a Dean or an Archdeacon – an ecclesiastic of high degree. Just in front of me was a naval Lieutenant in uniform (with a pretty young wife) – so I appealed to him. He gave me all information quite simply – and as we rose to go, and watched Sturdee leave the Senate House, he said, “the last time I saw Sturdee was at the Falkland Islands”!! I was delighted to see a fellow who had been in that fight.

Pershing looked capable of sternness.

The u.g.s (who were all in their khaki) chaired Birdwood.

Our kindest remembrances to ye both.

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Letter from John Maxwell Image to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

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Sick at the thought of how we are being let down at Versailles today!

John Maxwell Image was not optimistic about the future. His wounded brother in law was our friend Percy Spencer.

29 Barton Road
7 May ‘19

My dearest old man

Florence … wants to see her wounded brother who is still at St Thomas’s Hospital, poor fellow.

I feel sick at the thought of how we are being let down at Versailles today! Especially at the ingratitude of Belgium, and of Italy – the latter I have heard vigorously defended here. But Belgium!

And the Agitators in Britain!

And Shinn [sic] Fein impudence!

What a future lies before every one in England except the moneygrubber and the Profiteer and their lickspittles.


Tuissimus
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Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

“What we have sunk to makes me sad”

John Maxwell Image had some interesting view on the effects of the war (some unfortunately anti-semitic).

29 Barton Road
7 April ‘19

My very dear old man

We have the American influx on us in full swing – u.g.s as plentiful as before the War: Navy blue and gold by the hundred: and now suddenly the Yanks. Where can all be accommodated?…

Ye take too much upon ye, ye sons of Zeruiah – that is the natural feeling as to the American air. They came in at the last hour – to receive every man a penny, and claim to boss the show.
Britain, bled to the white in men and money, cannot stand up against them. Grousing is no good. Our fighting class are killed off. Those now alive, want only panem et circences [bread and circuses]. They can‘t look beyond the day. Those who can make money, squander it: the unhappy ones with fixed incomes, and with a little saving, to tax for the proletariat’s advantage, won’t find England a fair country to live in, except for the Bolshevik. What claim to his own property will be regarded by Parliament.

Half an hour ago I was shewn Punches Almanack for 1915 – i.e. in the first 6 months of the War. It made me sad! What we expected then; and what we have sunk to. The retreat from Mons had but convinced us that we should thrash von Klack, and certainly – ; that, driven back to Germany, the Kaiser’s Army will be met by Cossacks in occupation of Berlin. No mention could I see of submarines! None of air-raids of any kind! What is more striking still, there was no hint of brutality by German soldiers, anywhere. There seemed in the country a contemptuous disdain for our German opponents. We should stamp them down, as did our fathers, and then Russia would mop them up. Poor Russia! And her German Tsaritsa – the cause of it all!

There was a curdling leader in the paper a few days ago on the Bolshevist Chiefs. Lenin, the writer who knows him [says], has brains and energy: and he is of noble birth. But Trotsky and the others – their names were all given – are one and all of them JEWS – and with the Jew characteristic of making a good thing for themselves, while others do the fighting.

It was a leader in the Times on April 1st (Tuesday). Read it. Trotsky, Zinovieff, Svendloff, Kameneff, Uritsky, Yoffe, Rodek, Litvinoff, many others – Jews one and all.

The Hon. Russell’s new book was reviewed in the Observer, did you see it? The Russell has the impertinence to pretend that Bolshevik ruthlessness is the offspring of Love! Is the man sane? or merely dishonest?

Your dear friend
JMI

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

“We can’t get coal enough to keep the flame of life within our veins”

Fuel was still in short supply, as the universities got a sudden influx of new students, many of them men who had served in the armed forces.

29 Barton Road
25 January ‘19

My dearest old CMY

We can’t get coal enough to keep the flame of life within our veins – though we are eking our fuel out with blocks of wood – 30/- for 300! – and even with the fire in my little study (you remember it?) I go about with Florrie’s Shetland shawl – I gave it her when she was Miss Spencer – wrapped round my senile shoulders. And we cannot afford fire in the study more than twice a week. Half of our whole coal ration has already been used.

The streets are filled with Caps and Gowns – all new. The wearers of course are all freshmen. When last, say, 3 years back, Cambridge saw u.g.s, not a soul wore academical dress, except to lecture. Now they are vain of it. How they will manage at Trinity I wonder. The Cadets have left the New Court Rooms in a dirty confusion, and the upholsterers cannot supply furniture of beds, chairs, tables, etc. Many mammas seem to be importing furniture from home to their hopefuls. Lawrence, Junior Bursar, is driven out of his senses. Then in Master’s Courts are 400 Naval Lieutenants and Sub-lieutenants. The gold lace of their uniforms quite cuts out the military khaki. So I hear ladies say. It glitters over the streets all day. Naval men refuse Oxford, which doubtless knows neither Math nor Science.

But did you notice the slight cast here by the Army? I boil!

Our dear love, Florence’s and mine, to you both.

Ever affec
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Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

Whom could England put in place of Lloyd George at this juncture?

The upcoming General Election was a historic one – the first in which all men over 21, and at least some women (married women over 30), could vote. The new Labour Party appealed to the working class new voters.

6 Dec. ‘18
My very dear old man

The Poll (but possibly you already know this) will be taken on MTWOF (16th to 20th)…

As for the election – I’m not “enthusing”. I only seem to fear it is Eclipse and the rest nowhere. Whom could England put in place of Lloyd George at this juncture?

We shan’t make Germany cash up, but under any other leader we should secure less than under him.

Beattie and Foch have ‘guts’ and are not timorous of Ultimatums – but these civilian tin-gods! I really half think that one of the Labour men would be more solid and less certain to be weakened than the creatures we are sending. The Hun will play upon Wilson’s vanity for bossing, and England, as usual, will cringe. Carson wouldn’t! O that he could have gone.

Ever affec.
Bild.

Her wounded brother, after whom you kindly ask, is still in St Thomas’s Hospital. It will, I fear, be a very long time with his left wrist – but I can see the great progress in it already.

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

An overpowering Germany is shewn by this war to be a Curse to the world

Unlike many, John Maxwell Image did not believe the Armistice meant peace.

29 Barton Road
17 Nov. ‘18

My very dear old man

The town – even in London – is full of riot and devilry. I send you the Cambridge Daily News of the first day – and nightly bonfires have succeeded – with the Kaiser for Guy Faux [sic]. The u.g.s that evening, and on Tuesday, are said to have gone to Girton with music, and serenaded the fair captives “in dismal dance about the furnace blue” – dismal, for on Monday evening no dove would listen – on Tuesday a few weakened, and the whirl became epicene. Then the Mistress phoned to Cambridge for Proctors – who hurried up with bulldogs in motor cars: and at their mere aspect – pulveris exigui jacta quiescent – the u.g.s scattered and fled.

Each day that passes heightens my conviction that the Hun has done us – as it was prophesied by his own people he would. Who can believe that Foch was left free handed in the matter of this armistice? Foch, who had everything matured for the final battle that would have left the Hun army a run away rabble, howling for mercy on any terms – and the Armistice simply gives them a fortnight (or is it a month?) of Rest Cure, to rehabilitate discipline and morale unhindered, and at the end confront us with a restored army well-equipped – Foch knows his Hun. Unhampered by the politician allies, he surely, if grant an armistice he must, would have demanded as sine qua non the bridge heads over the Rhine – over which he would have guaranteed a peaceful passage to the German forces after surrender of their arms.

He would never have allowed this debating about Terms. The man who has his boot heel on the adder’s head, and suffers the reptile to wriggle free, deserves his fate.

Directly debates begin, US (the only safe terms) is lost. The Hun will promise anything; and stick to no promise he can find means to evade. He has himself carefully taught the world that.

I should like to see Germany broken up into free republics. If German Austria unites with the Hohenzollern empire, the agglomeration will be numerically the ‘Predominant Power’ of Europe. An overpowering Germany is shewn by this war to be a Curse to the world.

Ever your affec.
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Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

“It is very hard indeed to realise that we shall not again see his figure when he is so very much alive in the hearts of his friends”

Percy Spencer was saddened to hear of the death of his younger brother Sydney.

Sunday

My darling sister

I’m grieved that the first shock of this blow should have fallen on you, yet there must be some comfort in knowing that it was dear Syd’s great love for you that so arranged it.

As soon as I got your letter I hastened home and stayed the night. Mother grieves when she thinks about it. Father cries if it is mentioned, but it is a merciful fact that neither appears heavily overpressed by it. Mother spoke as usual about all her little worries and Father too conducts himself much as usual.

Even in Cookham he was greatly loved and it is very hard indeed to realise that we shall not again see his figure when he is so very much alive in the hearts of his friends and those who came in contact with him. It is a happy thought that his was such a straight, clean, useful life that he is not and never will be dead.

I found father difficult about Syd’s kit. I am trying to get it sent here and have been up to Cox’s twice but if, as I imagine from the fact that the War Office wired father, Syd gave him as next of kin, my instructions will not be accepted unless covered by father’s authority.

I wish you would write to father and tell him you wish Syd’s kit sent here (27 Rattray Rd) and to write me a letter asking me to arrange this. I quite agree that it would be bad for mother to go through it.

Well, dear, I am afraid this is not a very comforting letter. That God you have John, and thank God I have you both.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister Florence (D/EZ177/7/7/94-96)

“What keen, sensible, often attractive faces the Huns had: nothing vicious or brutal; even kind-looking, sometimes!”

Florence Image and her frail elderly parents were dealing bravely with the loss of Sydney.

29 Barton Road
28 Oct ‘18

My very dear old man

On Thursday [Florence] goes up to London (and to Cookham), to settle poor Syd’s affairs. She has been in correspondence with the WO (how feelingly and touchingly some of them can write) – the disposal of his kit would be an overstrain for the broken old father. The mother appears so abnormal in the unnatural cheerfulness and insouciance she shews that Florrie dreads the crash which must come, when at last she begins to realise her loss. Both parents inundate poor Florrie with constant reams of letters, of portentous length: and besides, there are numberless letters eternally reaching her from officers, and Oxford people, who loved Sydney. I think these keep her life up – for she is full of energy and even bright…

I saw a posse of Hun prisoners march by, this afternoon, escorted by a soldier with fixed bayonet, and another whose rifle looked innocuous, behind. What keen, sensible, often attractive faces the Huns had: nothing vicious or brutal; even kind-looking, sometimes! And how coarse and vulgar and unheroic look our Tommies – I have often wondered why Punch, for instance, always gives our men animal countenances – and so do the photographs in the D. Mail, whereas the photographs there of Germans are often clean cut and amiable.

Florrie received today from the Front a letter saying that news had just reached the Regiment that the Military Cross had been awarded to Sydney Spencer! Poor Syd, it was promised to him as far back as August. I recall the joy with which he told us as a secret not to be spoken of. It will be a pride to us, in token that, in his 6 months’ active service, he bore himself manfully.

Florrie isn’t the least scared about Influenza. Our streets reek of eucalyptus and all the ladies are sucking Formamint.

With our dear good wishes to you both

Your loving friend
J M Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

“In justice to the Army we must understand that they are also at their wits’ end for men and as hardly any of them understand that the spirit wants support as well as the body, they look probably upon us all as cranks”

Henry Tonks (1862-1937) was a professor at the Slade School of Art, where Stanley Spencer had been among his pupils. He was trying to get Stanley released from the army to become a war artist,and was frustrated by the bureaucracy.

Vale Studio B
Vale Avenue
Chelsea SW8

Oct 12 1918

My dear Image

I am at my wits end to know what to do about the various cases of artists who are wanted by the Ministry of Information etc to do work whom the War Office will not let go. I received a pathetic letter from [Stanley] Spencer to whom I am very much attached and all I could do was to write him a letter consoling him as best I could. I will write to Yockney and ask him if he is willing (as representing the Ministry of Information) for me to try and come to some understanding. In justice to the Army we must understand that they are also at their wits’ end for men and as hardly any of them understand that the spirit wants support as well as the body, they look probably upon us all as cranks. The Admiralty are much easier to deal with.

Would you believe it, the Army will not release Russell, my chief assistant or give him time to paint a picture, he is 52, in the Res, volunteered, and been nearly 3 years in the Army. Write to poor Stanley Spencer and console him if you can.

Yours very sincerely
Henry Tonks

Letter from Henry Tonks to [Selwyn or John Maxwell] Image (D/EX801/110)

“We have lost men and millions, but these wretched French return to smoking ruins”

Florence Image was devastated by the news that her beloved brother Sydney Spencer had been killed, just after returning to the Front after having shell shock.

29 Barton Road
7 Oct. ‘18

My very dear old man

You and your wife’s thoughts will, I know, be with us. We got home from London last Tuesday evening about 7. I was standing in hat and overcoat, my back to the fire, getting a warm. Florrie, the other side of the table, opened a bundle of letters. Suddenly – in a quiet, toneless voice, I heard her saying, “Sydney is killed”. I did not realise her meaning. It stunned me. And she, poor dear – I knew how passionate was the devotion between the brother and sister – and how he idolized her beyond any other woman in the world. She bore up, but I could not. To spare the old parents in their weakness, he (like his elder brother) had left all to her hands to manage. What a week!

The Major’s letter, scrawled in the hurry of the battle, is all that we have heard – and the pencil scrawl was but a few words.

“I am very, very sorry to have to tell you that your brother was killed on Sept. 24th.” (How matter of fact is the announcement!) “He was commanding B Company at the time. He was, I think, the keenest officer I have ever met. A shell burst near him and he was killed on the spot.”

We have heard no syllable since – nor could I find any mention of the Norfolks in the Times syllabus of those days. Poor boy! I told you how he was blown up by a shell on the fourth day of the advance, and how when he insisted on rejoining, the Colonel sent him down to the reserve, as not healed yet; but he wrote to us that he was less “tired” than those officers who had been years in the field – and he seems to have got his way – to this end.

But an end how glorious! He was BA of Oxford and was meaning to enter the church. Always he was doing something for others. It cheers me to remember that his was such a straight, clean, useful life. To us he is not, and never will be, dead.

Oh how I remember his leaving for the Front. He was staying with us, and went straight from our house without stopping, at so early an hour that I was not up. Florrie was with him to give him his breakfast: but I was abed still, when he came in for goodbye, and at the last moment he lifted to his lips my hand lying on the bedclothes. My last sight of Syd! He was so cheerful and so full of life.

Percy, the elder brother, is still at St Thomas’. The doctors marvel at their success with his left arm but he cannot move it yet: will he ever be able? His letter to her ended: “Thank God you have John, and thank God I have you both”.

The Impudence of the Kaiser! Announcing to the army that this tickling of the President was his own action; that he is still all in all. Wilson won’t be slimed over. We have lost men and millions, but these wretched French return to towns and villages that are smoking ruins – deliberately destroyed by the retiring Hun. I don’t care about a town for a town. We know that our squeamishness would let Germany off half price. No. We should compel them, by the labours of their own populace, to restore every ruined French town, every village, yes, every house: and keep military occupation of Germany until this has been done, and to France’s satisfaction.

Also, we should demand ample fines and indemnities.

Florence begs to join me in sending love to Mrs Smith and to you.

In all affection.

Yours
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

“Thinking so much of my own grief and never having courage to speak of it to anyone”

One of Sydney’s old friends shares his sorrow.

Sweethayes
Littlewick
Maidenhead

Oct 5th

My dearest Florence

How selfish I have been these last three days, thinking so much of my own grief and never having courage to speak of it to anyone. But, dear, I have been thinking constantly of you and wishing so much that I could send you just a message of love & sympathy.

I know only too well what you must be feeling in the loss of the dearest of brothers, and you, more than anyone, will understand how I am missing and ever shall miss the dearest of friends.

We had been so looking forward to having him with us again soon – that cannot be, but thank God the fondest & happiest memories of him will always stay with us.

With my dear love to you and Mr Image and every kind thought.

Always yours affectionately
Bertie M Lamb

Letter of sympathy to Florence Image on the death of Sydney (D/EX801/81)

“I have lost a friend”

A neighbour offers symapthy for the loss of Sydney Spencer.

Hedsordene
Cookham

3-10-18

My dear Floory

It was with the greatest sorrow Gwyn & I heard the sad news contained in your letter to Miss Bailey – Syd was such a ‘friend’ & we have known so much more of him during these years of war. He was so kind & cared so truly for others – poor or rich – & the pleasures he has given to Gwyn are numerous, helping her with her ‘collections’, badges or what-not.

G. was broken-hearted on hearing it, saying truly “I have lost a friend”.

Percy is down today – & he says Mrs Spencer & Annie are most brave – but Mr Spencer is feeling it very keenly – I feel so very sorry for you – you seem to have to shoulder all the trials & worries for your people. I do hope Mr Image will soon be better, but this sudden change to winter has been very trying.

I will call & see Mrs Spencer in a day or two, but I felt with Percy there, they would prefer to be alone.

Bess is staying with me for a few days. She is quite tired with her long duty at Hospital.

With our truest sympathy & kind regards to your husband –

Yours sincerely

Amy

Letter of sympathy to Florence Image on the death of Sydney (D/EX801/81)

“When my enemy is dead then he is but a soul thrown into the boundless space of infinity, & he is no longer my enemy”

We have followed the story of Sydney Spencer from timid young man scared by the roughness of the army, but driven to join up; through his finally ariving at the front in 1918, to an experience with shell shock in August. Sadly, he would not survive the war. This is the last full letter written by Sydney to his beloved sister Florence; a couple of field postcards followed, before his death in action less than two months before the end of the war. Here he describes his current bivouac, and spares a thought for the enemy. His story epitomises the tragedy of the war, and his spirit shines through the years between us.

Sept 15th 1918
7th Norfolks
My Dearest Florence

My pillow is my haversack containing iron rations, my bedding, borrowed Burberrys eyc. (My kit – all of it – is still wandering about between here & Cox & Co’s London!) Now for the door which is the chef d’oeuvre! It is about 2 ½ feet square i.e. the opening of it! The door is a lid of a sugar box which just fits it! Hence when I go to bed, I lie down on the ground & pull myself into the bivouac by my hands. When I go out, I have to go feet first, & back out probably looking about as dignified in the action as does a dog over whose head some wretched boy has tied a paper bag! Dear old Dillon [his captain] chuckles with delight when he sees me getting in & out. My batman is about as big as I am [Sydney was rather small] & he & I are about the only two who can fit inside! Mind you I believe that he & Bodger (Dillon’s batman) made the entrance small on purpose, a covert pulling of my leg. Nevertheless it is so ‘cumfy’ [sic] & warm & dry I love the little spot. Its dimensions are 7 feet length, 4 feet breadth. Height 2 ½ to 3 feet high. Voila ma cherie. Vous avez une phantasie vraisemblable de ma maisonette qui doit vous donner a rire? [This rather bad piece of French translates as “there you are, my darling. You have a vision resembling my little house which will make you laugh”.] …

Two nights ago German aeroplanes (note I say German, I hate ‘Hun’, ‘boche’ etc, it is petty!) came over on bombing intent. A low moon sickly behind a cloud hung (it could not do much else by the way!) in the sky! Planes over. Lights out! The usual boredom. Then about 14 search lights crisscrossed in the sky. Hallo, they have got one in the ray. I had my strong field glasses & there sure enough in the focus of about a dozen searchlights I could see him. He glowed against the deep blue green of the sky, like those lovely flies of May which have transparent emerald green wings. The usual rat-a-tan of machine guns & the muffled boom of shells bursting round him followed. Then high above him appeared a speck of light like a star which winked & glowed & winked again. Machine gun fire stopped. This was one of our men after him. A moment of waiting, a dull spark of light like a shooting star (a tracer bullet) sped by the enemy plane, another one, a momentary pause then a sheet of flame curved gracefully to earth followed by a brilliant stream of coloured lights – some mystic comet from a Miltonian chaos & dark night it looked – & the soul of an enemy passed into the infinite. Over lonely wooden crosses in shell holes one sees in German characters a name & above it the one word ‘Ruhe’ [rest]. I felt that for him. Through all this I cannot help preserving the thought that when my enemy is dead then he is but a soul thrown into the boundless space of infinity, & he is no longer my enemy. Another enemy plane came, another fight took place & he sped to earth at a sickly pace, his signal rockets all colours bursting out behind him in reckless profusion. I suppose he crashed to earth too somewhere, but he did not set on fire.

This afternoon I was in my nothings & a very smart sergeant came up to me & said, “Are you Sydney Spencer”? Well I thought “Yes I am Sydney Spencer as it happens but anyway what the – is it to do with you”, & then “My word, it is Frank Godfrey!” My dear, I was so overwhelmed at meeting someone from Cookham, that I nearly fell on his neck in front of the whole company – all with their nothings on – & wept. I had not seen him since Aug 1914. Thus does anyone from home stir one!

Percy. How is he? I hoped he would be held in bed for months to prevent his coming out soon….

Leave. Think, Florence, I have been out here 6 months & possibly before Christmas I may get leave! And then a rug in front of a warm fire, your sweet selves to charm me to laziness and – oh well – let’s wait till it comes off. I might get impatient if I wrote more on that score. …

Cigarettes. By the way, you said in one of your letters that you had sent Dillon 500 cigarettes. I think from a business point of view you should know that the parcel contained 200. He did not tell me for a long time, but when he did, I thought you ought to know in case Coln Lunn [the merchant] made a mistake & only packed 200, charging you with 500.

The men were delighted with the share they got of them. Dillon, dear old chap, was almost pathetically grateful….

My kit & cheque book are wandering about somewhere in France or England & have been doing so for the last about 40 days, & at present I sit twiddling my thumbs & waiting! When I came out of hospital, lo! I had no hat, no belt, no change of linen, no nothing except for a pair of Tommy’s slacks & a tunic! I managed to go to Le Havre where I spent fabulous sums on making myself look like an officer, having managed to borrow a cheque, which I changed at Cox & Co’s…

By the way, darling, you may send that kit for which I asked although probably by the time I get it all my other kit will come tumbling back & then I shall be once more told I possess too much.

All love to you my sweet sister & to John, of whose approbation – told me through your letters – I am more proud than I can say

Your always affectionate Brer Sydney

Letter from Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EZ177/8/3/79-82)

“I thought the Military Cross was only given for bravery but apparently they still have a habit of coming up with the rations”

Conscientious – and modest – Sydney Spencer had been so keen to get back to duty he had not allowed enough recovery time after his experience with shell shock.

Sept 7th 1918

My Dearest Sister

When I ‘caught up’ with the regiment I was immediately ordered back to the transport lines for a few days as they considered I had not given myself enough time to rest enough! Voila! So I am here instead of there! Now in your ear, & John’s ear & Percy’s ear only a secret. Of course I was burning to put this on the first page but thought I would try & look or rather appear on paper bashful. Well I have been – now what do you think? I think I must try & hold out this sentence till I get
[on second sheet:]
on this side of the paper.

Well as I was saying – & I hope by now I have got you into a perfect fervour of impatience – I have been recommended for an MC!! Heavens what a shock it was to me. I thought it was only given for bravery but apparently they still have a habit of coming up with the rations. Mind not a word. I don’t say I have got it, I am recommended for it. So I demand silence on your part until you see in the Times that among some 50 million or so other names of MCs, mine too appears.

All love and affection to you both from

Your always loving Brer
Sydney

Letter from Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/3/75-77)

“Our children will inherit a war eviller still”

John Maxwell Image’s latest letter to his old friend W F Smith saw hypocrisy among those advocating the growing of vegetables, while he and Florence heard that both Percy and Sydney had been wounded.

29 Barton Road
1 Sept. ‘18
My very dear ancient

We went to the Botanical Garden the other day, and found the great lawn stripped of grass, and from end to end now green with potatoes – that of course, one expected – but I boiled with wrath when great beds, which had been carefully set out with scientifically labelled specimens are now filled with kitchen vegetables – e.g. faded yellow beans rattling in their pods – for not a single one of them, either here or in other beds, had been picked. Woe unto you, S. and P., hypocrites – it is all shabby humbug. At least these might have been brought to utility. But for the publicity to myself, I would fain bring this scandal under the eye of the Local Food Controller, and give a dressing down to the paid Curator…

You object to RC “mummeries” and genuflexions which teach the men at the front to forget the inside of a church. What do you think of this, which I heard the other day from the Medical Officer of an Army Hospital at Cherryhinton? It had happened to the RC Padre only the day previously. A poor Anzac soldier was dying of his wounds, and in very low heart. The RC, who liked the man, was endeavouring to comfort him with the assurance that God is a Merciful God and will pardon the sinner who repents. “Ah, Sir”, said the dying man, “that is not my trouble. I know Him to be merciful: it’s the other chap I’m afraid of.” (The word used wasn’t “chap” but “b—“.)

To me it seems that our best, and only, chance, is for America to crush the High Command and Junkers while she is still hot on the business. If we cool down, the Hun, with our own Pacifists and Defeatists, will be too clever for us – and our children will inherit a war eviller still. It is horrible the slaughter and loss among the families known to us here. Not one seems to have escaped, wounds at least.

Florence has two brothers, Lieutenants in the Norfolks and the Civil Service Rifles respectively. When the push began, we had such a joyous letter from Percy at breakfast, and that same afternoon, as I was sitting in my study, a rap came at the door, and Ann’s voice: “Mistress has had a telegram. Mr Percy is wounded.” Very smart the WO was – “regret to inform you that … admitted 8 General Hospital Rouen August 9th. Gunshot wound left wrist and scalp severe.” Admitted Aug. 9: and news to us at Cambridge the very same day.
Then Sydney, the Norfolks, after fighting Thursday, Friday and Saturday – a shell landed exactly where he stood – with 6 of his men – only 1 of the 7 not killed or wounded.

You would imagine Florrie to be miserable. On the contrary, she is in brighter spirits than she had ever shewn during the English Advance. She feels that they are safe, for a short time – no anxiety: and I heard her giving joy, two days ago, to her Cook Ruth, who has just heard news of her brother being wounded and in hospital and therefore safe (poor Ann’s brother was killed).

We have had such charming letters from Colonels and Generals etc, re both boys, each of whom is a favourite in his Regiment. Sydney (whom his Colonel describes as always working “at Concert pitch”) will, I trust, soon be well enough to return. Poor Percy – they fear he will lose the use of his left hand.

Re the Greben. Admiral Troubridge (so I heard) had her nicely encircled, when suddenly came an Admiralty wire, ordering him to let her alone. He was recalled to England to explain his action – and produced this very telegram. They identified the room in the Admiralty from whence it came: but professed inability to identify the sender. Credit Judaeus Apella – Traitors in high places – who will never be dislodged. It is our own people we have to fear.

Kind love from us both to you both.

Ever yours
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)