Two old boys home on 7 days leave

Two Sandhurst soldiers visited their old teacher.

July 19th 1918
Jack Carter and Jon Morgans, two old boys home on 7 days leave called to see me this week.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 444)

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“For nearly four years he and others of a sensitive and refined nature fought suffered, bore the rough and tumble hardships of a private soldier, without recognition, without reward or any other distinction than that of doing their duty”

One of the first Earley men to join up in 1914 died at the hands of the influenza epidemic.


In Memoriam

Frank Earley died of influenza in Italy, June 13 1918.

Our readers will remember that in the May magazine we offered our best wishes to Pte. Frank Earley on his return to Italy after a brief and well earned spell of leave. He is gone from us now, not to return. In his home in Manchester Road, by his brothers in France and Italy, and by many friends his loss will be felt.

Always serious from the time he joined the choir as a little boy, as the years went on he took things more seriously, his character taking shape. In August 1914 he was just 18 years of age, and volunteered at once with his brother for service. After six months training he crossed to France. For nearly four years he and others of a like sensitive and refined nature fought suffered, bore the rough and tumble hardships of a private soldier, without recognition, without reward or any other distinction than that of doing their duty.

In the first year of the War commissions were not sought as they are now. Volunteers in the ranks made up the little army which went out to save England. We who knew Frank Earley well can picture him at his post; we knew he never flinched from what was hard, never swerved from what was straight. Thoughtful, modest, resolute – he bore this look in his quiet, almost suffering face, with the strong lines playing about his mouth.

On his last leave he was home for two Sundays. His pleasure at the play on Saturday night did not prevent his presence at the early Celebration at 7.30 the following morning; and on the second Sunday he made his Communion again at the same hour. In Italy he quickly won the admiration of his nurses in the hospital during the brief interval before he laid down his tired life. So passes another of those English boys who at the first responded to England’s call, and by an unselfish devotion to duty have earned themselves an imperishable name.

Short notes

We have heard from our old friend and choir-boy Mr Harry C Taylor who has served at the front in the Guards since 1914. He is presently in hospital in London after a bad attack of influenza.

Earley St Bartholomew parish magazine, July 1918 (D/P192/28A/15)

VC in Jerusalem

A local officer showed off his medal.

We were very glad to see Major John Haig, V.C. in church on June 23rd. He is home on a fortnight’s leave. It is interesting to know that he received his decoration of the V.C. from the Duke of Connaught in the city of Jerusalem.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, July 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/6)

“2 old boys have been awarded the Military Medal for bravery in France”

A school was proud of two Old Boys, while a teacher took off time to spend it with her sweetheart while he was home on leave.

White Waltham
June 10th 1918

News has been received that 2 old boys, George Ranscombe and Oliver Clark have been awarded the Military Medal for bravery in France. A letter of congratulations has been sent to Sergeant Clark and Lance Corporal Ranscombe signed by scholars, staff and correspondent congratulating them on their success.

Clewer
June 10th 1918

Miss Crook is absent from school on June 10th onwards to visit the home of her fiancé home from the Front.

White Waltham CE School log book (D/P 142/28/3/2, pp. 269-270); Clewer St. Stephen Intermediate Girls School log book (SCH/8/8/2, p. 176)

“I wonder what England would say to a dozen tanned fellows nonchalantly stripping & dressing up in feminine attire”

Percy Spencer told his sister Florence about the cross-dressing entertainment on offer behind the lines.

May 22, 1918
My dear WF

Letters do take a long time these days.

However I got one from you yesterday though apparently you had not got mine of the 13th when you wrote it.

I’m writing this now because I don’t suppose I shall be able to write later on or for a day or two. But don’t imagine I’m going into action.

Just at the moment every officer but me is out so I have a whole battalion under my command. The only snag about it is that Brer Hun turned us out of bed at 6 am this morning with a few 8” – one of them dropped unhealthily near me by the way – and if they start again I shall have to move the men to a safer spot, so I’m sort of listening for the next shell.

It’s a perfect day succeeding a perfect day. Last night I went into the valley below to watch the Follies perform. Transport arrangements broke down so they were 2 hours late. I wonder what England would say to a dozen tanned fellows arriving at an improvised stage by the roadside and nonchalantly stripping & dressing up in feminine attire, and making up as charming damsels & so forth. The dress of members of the audience was no less extraordinary. About the most decent was a Varsity bathing costume.
Mind you, let me know about the Punch sketch.

With my dear love to all at 29

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/39)

Alas! glorious victories cost precious lives!

There was news of several Maidenhead men, one of whom had paid the ultimate price while taking part in an important operation.

OUR SOLDEIRS.

Reginald Hill is at a Convalescent Home, but he has not quite done with the Hospital yet. However, he hopes to say farewell to his friends at Sheffield in a month or so. Ernest Bristow has not yet been able to make the promised move to Cliveden, apparently because there has been a slight set-back in the healing process. But he is in excellent spirits. Harold Islip is in Hospital in France, suffering from a slight attack of trench fever. He expects shortly to return to England to be trained for a Commission. Wilfrid Collins has returned to Canada. Cecil Meade has been invalided home from Salonika, with a touch of malaria. He is reporting himself immediately, but does not expect to return to the East. Benjamin Gibbons is out of hospital again, and has been sent to Ireland. Herbert Brand has been gazetted 2nd Lieut. in the Staffordshires. Alfred Vardy went over to France at the beginning of April. Harry Baldwin has been home on leave, and anticipates being sent on active service (naval) very shortly. Wallace Mattingley, after a year’s training at Sandhurt, has received a Commission in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

We deeply regret to record the death of Arthur Ada, who was killed in the attack upon Zeebrugge on the night of Monday, April 22nd. Alas! glorious victories cost precious lives! We sympathise deeply with his sorrowing friends and relatives. There will be a touch of pride and admiration in the recollection of him when the manner of his death is recalled. It is said that before the operation actually took place everyone was informed quite clearly of the risk, but that no one backed out. The body was brought to Maidenhead for burial, and after a service in the Baptist Chapel (where Mr. Ada was organist), conducted by Revs. T. W. Way and T. F. Lewis, the interment was made at the Cemetery. Mr. Ada at one time contemplated offering himself for Missionary service.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, May 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“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)

An old boy who has been wounded

A wounded soldier visited his old school.

May 10th 1918
Albert Pell, an old boy, who has been wounded, came to see me.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 437)

Temporary apparent chaos

The Spencer brothers were both subject to a temporary reprieve.

Sydney Spencer
Wednesday 8 May 1918

After a good sleep from 4.30 till 9.30 I was called to go with Dillon to BHQ, to speak for 2 lance corporals (vide April 29). This was postponed so I washed, shaved & had a thorough good clean up after yesterday night’s escapade. Felt much lighter round the nether regions after I had removed the mud from trousers & boots. Had a short snooze after lunch. Then viewed scene for new bivys.

At 3 pm this afternoon we were informed that the company would move up a bit – consequence temporary apparent chaos while everyone ‘scrounged’ bits of wood & corrugated iron, old doors etc lying about for making new bivys. Finally we got the men fairly settled in by about 7 pm. Had dinner at 6.30 so as to give the men a chance of getting mess stuff away. While cutting ‘broom’ for our bivy, men from D Company passing by, not knowing me: “Hullo George, what yer doing… [remainder illegible but seems to be vulgar].

Percy Spencer
8 May 1918

A lovely day. Huns didn’t come up to time. Field cashier who had no cash – aide to contrary. Walk up to Hunancourt. Saw 1st shell hole for 10 months. Haven’t heard them shell again yet.

A jolly evening. Col. Parish gloating over leave & going down walks in various parts of London. Me le Maire [the local mayor] again dined with us & collared lots of bread. Fitzclarence lunched with us & told good stories of 3rd degree trial re loss of 5000 francs. Also of Mrs R- of Rouen.

Hun attack reported postponed 3 days.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); and Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

“We shall follow him – as all our “boys” – with interest and prayers’

A Tilehurst teenager made a religious commitment prior to joining up.

On May 2nd, Harold Bunce joined the colours, and so in a way our [Sunday] school has been robbed of a scholar. We were much inspired to receive an application for church membership from Harold before he left us, although we were sorry not to have his presence at the May communion service. Next time he is home for a Sunday we hope to have the joy of offering him the right hand of church fellowship. We shall follow him – as all our “boys” – with interest and prayers.

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, June 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“Sydney has crossed to France at last”

In Switzerland, Will Spencer heard the news that younger brothers Sydney and Percy were now both fighting in France.

1 May 1918

Shortly before eleven Johanna came & handed to me a postcard from father, then a letter from him & a letter from Mother. These were dated April 18th, 16th & 13th respectively, & the card which I received from father yesterday, April 11th…

Johanna read in yesterday’s paper that a “Briefsperre” on the French frontier had just come to an end.

The letters contained the news that Sydney had crossed to France at last, & that Percy had also just returned thither.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/28)

“We can ill afford to lose men of this sort”

Winkfield families heard news of loved ones.

OUR MEN WHO ARE SERVING

With deep sympathy for his bereaved relatives, we have to record this month the death in action of Lieut. George Ferard, who was killed instantaneously on February 21st whilst giving first aid to one of his wounded men in the front line when under machine gun fire. Lieut. Ferard had been twice invalided home severely wounded and had only just returned to France from leave.

One of the Officers of the Devon Regiment writes “He was a very great loss to the battalion in many ways, we can ill afford to lose men of this sort.”

We have also to mourn the loss of 2nd Lieut. Arthur Cartland who was killed last month in a flying accident near Newcastle. Educated at our schools he joined the Flying Corps in 1913 and acting as “Observer” saw a great deal of active service in France. He did so well that he rapidly rose to the rank of Sergeant, and then gained his Commission and qualified as a pilot last year. Only three days before his death he was home on leave under orders to proceed to the front. He was buried at Worthing with military honours on March 2nd. This is the second son Mrs. Cartland has lost in the war, and our deep sympathy goes out to her and her family.

We congratulate most heartily Captain Sir Thomas Berney – now home on leave from Palestine – on winning the Military Cross awarded after the battle of Gaza.

We were glad to welcome home on leave this month Private R. Mitchell, who has now quite recovered from his wound; and Privates A. Carter and A. Holmes, both of whom were at the battle of Mons and now hold the 1914 medal.

We are glad to learn that Lance-Corporal James Knight, who has been ill in hospital, is progressing favourably.

Winkfield section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, April 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/4)

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.
(more…)

Ordered to France at once

A young Maidenhead soldier would have his leave extended as he managed to catch an infectious disease while home on leave.

King Street School, Maidenhead
16th April 1918

Mrs Trace had leave of absence for the afternoon as her husband is ordered to France at once.

Mrs Bland’s Infant School, Burghfield
April 16th 1918.

Bertie West absent owing to the fact that his brother who is a soldier is home on leave and has contracted German measles.

Log books of King Street School, Maidenhead (C/EL77/1, p. 418); and Mrs Bland’s Infant School, Burghfield (86/SCH/1/1, p. 235)

“It is incredible the difficulty of getting food here” – are piglets the answer?

One way around savage food restrictions was to buy your own piglet, and fatten it up on table scraps. Florence Image (nee Spencer) was inspired.

29 Barton Road
15 April ‘18
Beloved Signor

The Signora’s ambitious soul now requires Pigs! She learns that ownership of the unclean animal will entitle you to his entire carcase – (at all events, my lord R[hondda] is said to have granted so much to your first pig. She is full of hope and daring, has already purchased 2 little beasts, one white and one black. I, who am of soberer anticipation, went one day to see them – 10 weeks old. How horrible to feed and pamper creatures, not for their good but for their early death! Callous man!

She is just now in from a cycle flurry, thro’ howling wind and drenching rain, to Comberton, 5 miles off – in search of wood for the finish off of her stye for these two little beasts. It appears that the Meddlesome Food Tyrant demands permission and tickets for any member of the Middle or Upper Classes who wants to buy such a commodity as wood – unless it be old tarred wood. She rode first to Barton, where she had no success, but was directed to Comberton 2 miles further away. Her purchase is promised for delivery tomorrow. We won’t boast till it has actually arrived. But it really was a spirited expedition on a day like this.

It is incredible the difficulty of getting food here. We are fresh from a week of it in this house. Two of Florrie’s brothers, hurriedly recalled to the front, have successively been staying here to say goodbye – sickly that! (The most affectionate letter came here from the Colonel of one: he wrote like a father to his son. And another letter to the other brother from his Brigadier, equally flattering. Alas, since that was written, the whole brigade staff has been wiped out, except the Brig.-General himself, who is recommended for the VC.).

Then there was a cousin and godchild of my own – and my sister is staying with us. Finally a friend and his wife from next door – a Fellow of Caius, going out as Botany Professor to Capetown – when their house, No. 31, was gutted of all furniture, spent 4 days with us…

Well, we have 4 one-and-threepenny cards, per week, for meat. You may guess how thorny our task to feed these numbers. Fish we could get, tho’ not good, but, for meat, we had to bow our pride and accept help from our guests…

With our love to you both.

Affec.
Bild

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