“A rummy go”: 10 miles from the fighting, farmers are at work

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister about life close behind the line.

April 12th 1915
Dear Florrie

You’re a marvel.

Never was there such a parcel. The ingenuity of it all passes the mere mind of a man. Thank you for all its contents – chocolate, [spiritives?], battery, tobacco, tripod, cap, matches – is there anything I’ve forgotten!

And thanks for the biscuits.

Yesterday we had some fun. A hostile aeroplane came over, fired at by our allies’ guns. Then some of our aircraft got up, but too late to engage, otherwise we were looking forward to a fight right over our heads. However the enemy was driven off and had again to run the gauntlet of gunfire.

We’ve lost a few of our men up to date, but not many, and they have created a good impression I believe in the fighting line.

I think I told you I had been pretty close up, and now I hear from Stan that one of the Kennedys had been killed just about where I was.

I wonder if H Jackson of the 7th will ever look in here – quite likely as they are in our Division. I suppose he’s a lieutenant…

While I’ve been writing to you an aeroplane has been skirmishing around and being shelled. It’s a rummy go. Guns going and rifles cracking a short distance away from peaceful agricultural employment. I think that struck me more than anything else. A short ten miles from the fighting line over ground which had been quite recently the scene of bloody engagements, farmers were at work again.

Yours ever

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/4/22)

Death in action, “his rifle in his hand and smoking from his last shot”

A young Reading soldier’s death in action was reported by his parish’s magazine with first hand details from a friend:

Rifleman E.W. Hunt

The sad news of the death of Ted Hunt was received in the Parish on March 18th. He was one of our own young men, confirmed a few years ago at S. John’s – a young man of fine physique and character. The family, which lived for so long in South Street, is now scattered and Mrs. Hunt is living in London. Her many friends in Reading will feel keenly for this fresh sorrow which has come to her. The following extract from a letter, dated March 15th and written by a chum, was received by Sidney Hunt on March 18th, and he has kindly authorized us to make use of it. The letter speaks for itself in regard to the young man’s courage and fortitude:-

You have by now no doubt heard the sad news of your brother but I thought you would like to have a line from me as I was with him when he was hit. Ted and Griffin, whom you no doubt know, and myself, have been close pals since we have been out here and I need hardly tell you how very much affected we all were by his death. The circumstances under which he received his mortal wound were as follows:

Ted and myself were instructed by the Captain to occupy a small trench on our left for the purpose of sniping in order to harass the enemy. I may here add that your brother was very keen to go. We had been busy all the morning and Ted remarked to me, ‘I have only three rounds left, I’ll just give them those and will then get back to dinner.’ He fired one and had just fired the second when he was hit. I saw at once that there was very little hope. However I did what I could and immediately summoned assistance. We got him safely under cover, where he lay till it was dark when we carried him to the dressing station; from thence he was conveyed to the Brigade Hospital where he died the next day. He died as he had lived, keen as mustard, and I am sure had he chosen it, it was exactly as he would have wished – his rifle in his hand and smoking from his last shot. I am going to his funeral to-day and we shall then bury one of the most popular men in the whole Company as every man had the greatest respect and liking for him from the very first.’

Reading St John parish magazine, April 1915 (D/P172/28A/23)

Cookham Dean’s roll of honour

As the year drew to a close, Cookham Dean announced the latest roll of honour of parishioners serving their country (carefully listed by rank).  Two (tragically, members of the same family) had already paid the ultimate price:

Roll of Honour
The Roll of Honour has been carefully revised, corrected and added to and it contains, it is believed, a complete list of those who have offered themselves from Cookham Dean and Pinkneys Green for the service of their country.
Major Herbert Clark – London Royal Field Artillery
Major C Crookshank – Royal Engineers
Major J Henderson – Army Ordnance Dept
Capt. Tomlinson – Cavalry Reserve of Officers
Lieut. Reginald Geard – XVth Lancers (Indian Army)
Lieut. Cecil Saunders – Royal Flying Corps
Sec. Lieut. Lawrence – North Staffordshire (Prince of Wales’) Regiment
Sec. Lieut. Hewitt Pitt – Royal Field Artillery
Sec. Lieut. Russell Simmons – 3rd Royal Berks Regiment
Sec. Lieut. John A del Riego – 24th County of London (Queen’s) Regiment
Sec. Lieut. Randall E Hunt – Army Service Corps
Sec. Lieut. Douglas A A Geard – 3rd (King’s Own) Hussars
Sec. Lieut. Frank Snell – 6th Royal Berks Regiment
Sec. Lieut. Robert Kersey – Army Service Corps
Arthur Bampton –5th Gloucester, ASC
Henry Bishop – Royal Engineers
Ernest Blinko – 9th County of London (Queen Victoria’s) Rifles
Arthur Carter – Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry
William Carter – 2nd Royal Berks Regiment
Gerald Clark – Royal Engineers (Signalling Squadron)
Donovan Deadman – County of London Sharpshooters
Arthur Dore – Lance Corporal – 4th Royal Berks Regiment
Charles Druce – 2nd Royal Berks Regiment
Cecil B Edwards – 13th County of London (Kensington) Regiment
Bertram Ellis – 28th County of London (Artists’) Regiment
Albert Franklin – Army Service Corps (Mechanical Trans.)
George Franklin – Royal Flying Corps
Jesse Garrett – Royal Berks Regiment
Alfred Grove, RN – HMS Attentive
Thomas Grove, RN – HMS Hampshire
Harry Groves – Royal Berks Regiment
Percy Harris – Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
Thomas Hatch – Army Service Corps
Albert Higgs – Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry
Arthur Horne – Royal Engineers
Harry Hunt – Rifle Brigade (Reported missing since Aug. 26th)
William King – Royal Field Artillery
Alan Lidderdale – Public Schools OTC
Harry Long – Royal Engineers
Archibald Luker, Sergeant, 7th West Surrey (Queen’s) Regiment
William Markham, Sergeant – 1st Royal West Kent (Queen’s Own) Regiment
William North – 3rd Royal Berks Regiment
Albert Owen – Royal Field Artillery
Charles Piercey – 4th Royal Berks Regiment
Gilbert Piercey – Army Service Corps (Mechanical Trans.)
Herbert Prince, Corporal – 3rd Royal Berks Regiment
Frank Sandalls – Royal Army Medical Corps
William Sandalls – 2nd Royal Berks Regiment (Wounded at Mons, but has since rejoined his regiment)
George Skinner – Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry
Albert Stubbles – Royal Engineers
Frederick Tuck – Royal Engineers
George Tuck – Army Service Corps
Harley Vaughan-Morgan – Inns of Court OTC (Invalided)
Scott Ware, Corporal – Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry
Harold White – 4th Royal Berks Regiment
Harry White – Army Service Corps (South Midland Brigade)
Herbert Winkworth – 6th Royal Berks Regiment
James Winkworth – 1st Royal Berks Regiment
William Winkworth – Royal Field Artillery
Frederick Woodbridge – 5th Royal Berks Regiment
Harry Woodbridge – 5th Royal Berks Regiment

George Carter, killed in action September 14th
Robert Carter, killed in action November 13th

Cookham Dean parish magazine, December 1914 (D/P43B/28A/11)

RIP Lieutenant Whitfield

Tragedy struck a local family.  The Cookham Dean parish magazine reported:

Roll of Honour

We would venture to offer our very sincere sympathy to the Rev. A.L. Whitfield, Vicar of Hughenden, and Mrs Whitfield whose eldest son, a Lieutenant in the Royal Irish Rifles, was killed in action on Wednesday, October 14th. Lieut. Whitfield was honourably mentioned in Sir John French’s despatch to Lord Kitchener, published in the newspapers on October, 19th.

Cookham Dean parish magazine, November 1914 (D/P43B/28A/11)