“The French are very selfish”

John Heading, a young man working with a labour company in France, wrote to his Berkshire farmer uncle with his impressions of his work – and the French.

Pte J C Heading
84,790
142nd Labour Co.,
BEF
France

My dear Uncle

I received your very kind letter, and we are glad of some warm weather. We have had quite a lot of thunder shower[s] ever since St Swythyn’s day, but it’s been very growing [sic]. The pears are very plentiful.

The French people charge very dear for everything. I take care they have very little of my money. There’s a reason in all things and they are very selfish. I’m very glad that this Heavenly Father has so mercifully spared my life up to the present time. I can assure you I have had some very narrow escapes. It’s only him that has kept me safe.

We have just heard some good news – this is Wednesday Aug 1st 1917. I am asking my wife to forward this letter on to you. We only get a green envelope once a fortnight and I send something home in that envelope for my wife. All other letters have to be left open to be censored. I may not post this letter until Friday has [sic] we expect to be paid then. I hope that you are all quite well and that the Country looks well. We, all of us, will be glad when the War is over, I can assure you.

We have a bath every week and we have to do our own washing. We are at a rail Head and have to unload trucks of Coal, Hay, Oats, Biscuits and all such things for the Troops. It’s a very heavy thunder storm, Aug Wed 8th, 1917.

I now conclude with best love to all. I remain

Your affect. Nephew
Pte J C Heading
84,790

Letter from Private John Heading to his uncle Albert Castle of Charlton, 1 and 8 August 1917 (D/EX2547/2/3/10)

“I am quite happy and enjoy life immensely, wouldn’t have missed it for anything”

Several men from Reading St Giles had fallen in the war. The vicar pays a personal tribute to their heroism:

NOTE FROM THE VICAR

Hearty congratulations to Sergt. S.W. White, 1/4th R. Berks, on winning the D.M.C. I believe he is the first of the old C.L.B. boys to obtain honours in the war.

To the list of the fallen in the war is a long one this month, and it contains some names closely connected with the work of the church (Reginald Golder, Herbert Day, Harry Walker, Leonard Smith), they all played their part bravely and have died gloriously, and I am sure we shall not forget them nor their good work here. All four were splendid types of the real patriot who thought no sacrifice too great for England: all four loved the church they worshipped in and, as I know well, did not forget the lessons they were taught in it.

Reginald Golder was a very special friend of mine, he rarely missed coming to see me each ‘leave’ and his devotion to his Grandfather in the days gone by was something to admire. His final words in his last letter to me, written a few days before the final action in which he was taken prisoner:

“I am quite happy and enjoy life immensely, wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”

It was a letter showing his deep interest in the things and persons connected with S. Giles’. To the parents and relatives of all these brave men we give our heartfelt sympathy. For them we give our prayers and our affection: they have won a great reward.

To be added to the intercessions list: Private E.F. Mundy, 11th Labour Batt, Royal Berks Regt,; Lieut Frank Moore, 22nd Batt King’s Royal Rifles; Cpl. C.V. Pyke, R.F.C. ; George Biles, 3rd Batt,. Royal Berks Regt.; Geoffrey Church ; Lieut. Boston; Private A.T. Henton, 9th Royal Berks Regt,; Private W. Clare, A.S.C. ; Private S. Watson, Grenadier Guards; Private J. Gibbons, 6th Batt. R.I.F.; Private T.B. Mills, London Scottish.

Sick and Wounded: Private S.J. Tugwell, D.C.L.I.; L, Cpl. Mark Seymour, R.E.; Private W Hart; Private G.F. Stroud, A.S.C.; C.S.M.L. Goodenough 1/4 Royal Berks Regt.; Private E. Wilson, 24th London R.; Gunner H.G. West,R.F.A; L. Cpl. A Harris, Royal Berks Regiment.; Private Redstone, Private G.W. Holloway, 3rd Gloucester Regt.

Prisoners: Private H. Guttridge, Private James Smith. ¼ Royal Berks Regt.

Missing: Private Albert Langford, ¼ Royal Berks Regt.; L.Cpl. Jack Foulger, West Kents; Private Frederick Long, 6th Batt. Royal Berks Regt.; L. Cpl. H. Goldstone, R.W. Surry Regt.

Departed: Private Davey, L. Cpl Herbert Dray, Sergt. Reginald Golder, 2/4 Royal Berks Regt.; Private R. Morris, Private S. Land, Private H.V. Walker, ¼ Royal Berks Regiment,; Private A. Josey. 2nd Hants; Private J. Miles, Oxford and Bucks Lt. Infantry; Private Arthur T. Knott, Private T. Seymour, Royal Berks Regt.; Private Edward Rogers, 8th Batt. Royal Berks Regt.; Private John Simmonds, 6thBatt. Royal Berks Regt.; Private H. Leonard West, Canadian Cont.; Driver Rodney Lock, A.S.C.; Sergt Clement Perrin, 1/4 Royal Berks Regt.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, October 1916 (D/P96/28A/34)