“His parents have relinquished hope that he may be alive”

There was bad news for many Maidenhead families.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We are glad to know that Reginald Hill is still progressing. Harold Islip has been wounded in the arm, and after a fortnight or so in the hospital, is now recruiting at a Convalescent Home in France. It is fifteen months since his last leave. Alfred Vardy has been at home on special leave, lengthened by a slight attack on influenza, but is now back on light duty at the Convalescent Camp at Thetford. Percy and Hugh Lewis have been home on leave, both looking well. The two brothers passed each other unknowingly in the Channel, one coming and the other returning. Fred Hearman, who has been for three weeks in hospital with trench fever, is now in a Convalescent Home in France.

We have heard with deep sorrow that Lieut. Edgar Jones, son of the Rev. G.H. and Mrs. Jones of Marlow, has been posted as “missing” since the fierce enemy attack in the Nieuport sector in June which ended so unfortunately for us, and his parents have relinquished hope that he may be alive. Our hearts are full of Christian sympathy with our stricken friends.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, August 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

24 hours

Florence Vansittart Neale’s daughter came home on leave.

9 August 1917

We fetched Phyllis home for her 24 hours…

Heard officer wished to come next day for a week.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

An awful disappointment

Florence Vansittart Neale was disappointed that her nurse daughter could not make it home on leave as planned.

1 August 1917

Telephone from Australian officer wanting to come. Arranged to come that night – Lieut. Maxwell….

Heard Bubs leave stopped – awful disappointment!

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“All right, now mind all you – will attend the next – parade”

Back in the UK as he undertook officer training, Percy Spencer was amused by a sergeant particularly keen on ensuring religious observance.

July 29, 1917
My dear WF

Sunday, and if there could have been any doubt about it, this was settled by the burly orderly sergeant who appeared in our hut at 9.50 am and in stentorian tones demanded all Nonconformists on parade. Nobody moving, he added. “All right, now mind all of you – will attend the next – parade, C of E. Doesn’t matter a – what you are. Understand?” and I’ve no doubt he sings hymns beautifully.

There are strong rumours that we should be away from here by Friday next at latest. But I have nothing definite to go upon.

If I get 3 or 4 days I shall run up to London and get my kit together. Here I have nothing but army clothes. At the cadet school I shall want quite a lot of civilian things I have.

I am writing on the front at Abergele, a very quiet little place, charmingly situated north of St Ormes Head. On Tuesdays we come here to bathe – a great privilege but rather spoilt by the march here which the officer who takes us tries to do at 150 paces a minute, a frightful step.

I’ve heard from Will this week. He seems very well and still deep in the heights of mountains and size of lakes.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister Florence Image (D/EZ177/7/6/58-61)

Donations for wounded army horses

Berkshire schools were affected by the war in varying ways.

Abingdon Girls’ CE School
1917, 23rd-27th July

As last year the County Council gave War Time Certificates instead of Prizes.

During the year the girls have sent:

1. To the Jack Cornwall Fund for Memorial Ward – 13/
2. Xmas puddings for soldiers at the Front – one guinea
3. To the RSPCA Fund for sick and wounded army horses – 12/
4. The Overseas Fund on Empire Day – 7/

Broadmoor School
27th July 1917

Miss Haines was allowed to leave school at 2 o’clock on Monday to see a friend from the trenches.

Charlton Infant School
27th July 1917

The usual school treat is not taking place this year, in accordance with the wishes of the Food Controller.

Abingdon Girls’ CE School log book (C/EL 2/2); Crowthorne: Broadmoor School log book (C/EL100); Charlton Infant School log book (C/EL12)

On leave from Palestine

The son of a friend of Florence Vansittart Neale was on leave from the Middle East. Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire, one of our enemies.

18 July 1917
To Helen’s. Eden had just come from Palestine.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“Their language is of the bluest, but their hearts are sound enough”

Percy Spencer reported on his experience in officer training. Most of his fellows had, like himself, been at the front in the other ranks, and been selected for promotion based on merit, rather than the traditional pre-war gentlemen only.

July 17, 1917
My dear WF

My address is No. S/4/087268 Sgt P J Spencer, ASC, Attd C Company, 58th TRB, Sergeants Mess, No 9 Camp, Kinmel Park, Rhyl. That’s all.
And really I think that sums up the horror of this place.

From my very short experience, it seems to be an exceedingly well organised place – the staff are pretty stiff on parade, but jolly good fellows off it.

Just how long I shall be here it is difficult to say. It depends apparently on the needs of Cadet units. Probably I shall not be here more than 2 ½ weeks. But I may be here 6 weeks.

I am told the War Office issues orders as to when and where men are to be sent. So I may possibly still go to Cambridge. Application to the GOC 13th Training Reserve Brigade from Col Ready might possibly be useful, but I don’t think so, as rumour hath it that we ASC people do a special course somewhere in this part of the world. There is also a rumour that some men get 4 days leave from here before joining their Cadet School.

There is an extraordinary mixture of men here. Their language is of the bluest, but their hearts are sound enough….

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/46-49)

“Battles are nothing to what I have had to endure the last 4 days”

At last Percy Spencer was on his way back home, to undergo training as an officer in North Wales.

July 2, 1917
My dear WF

At last my soul is my own.

Battles are nothing to what I have had to endure the last 4 days.

Anyhow, here I am, just arrived from Southport with 15 days leave and orders to report on July 16 to GOC 13th Training Reserve Brigade, Kinmel Park, near Rhyl.

I did not receive your letter saying Col Ready had applied for me.

My programme is to go to Cookham for 3 or 4 days or perhaps a week & then I should like to come to you, supposing you’ll have me, and I am not coming to Trinity….

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/42)

Several wounded since the late terrible fighting

There was worrying news for families in Mortimer West End.

West End

News of our Sailors and Soldiers

It was with deep regret that we heard of the death of Thomas Henry Dicker. He had recently been transferred to the Lincolnshire Yeomanry and was on the “Arcadian” when it was torpedoed and, unhappily, was amongst those lost. We offer our heartfelt sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Dicker on the loss of their eldest son.

News has been received of several wounded since the late terrible fighting. James Bailey writes cheerily of his wounds and it is good to hear that Arthur Penny’s are notified as slight while Gilbert Cowdry, at the time of writing, has gone to a convalescent home. Mr. Harry Trelawny, after having slight concussion of the brain, went into the line again but is once more in hospital, suffering from shell-shock.

Charles Murrell, R.N., has been home on leave and Alfred Cowdry has joined the Royal Navy.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, June 1917 (D/P120/28A/14)

Remarkably happy & conversational

Percy’s transfer to a commission was now well on rack. Better still, it looked as if he might get to do his training at Trinity College, Cambridge, where brother in law John Maxwell Image was a don.

June 23, 1917
My dear WF

My orders have just come in.

I am due to leave here (and, I expect, to arrive in England) on the 29th inst.

I am then entitled to 14 days leave, and after that, I may get longer leave still (some get months) or I may go straight to a Cadet Corps.

If dear John’s note to Col Ready is successful, I expect I shall go straight to Trinity after my leave.

By the way, I am No S/4/087268 Sgt PJS, 47th Div Train, in case you want this information.

I hope I’ll get thro’ my course all right, but I shall be starting from scratch, so shall have to work jolly hard.

Yesterday I went to a very jolly dinner – we were 16 & we all got remarkably happy & conversational.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/41)

Sick leave from France

A Maidenhead teacher’s husband came from from the front due to illness.

8th June 1917
Mrs Wells had leave of absence for two days, as her husband had sick leave from France. Secretary acquainted of this fact.


Log book of King Street School, Maidenhead (C/EL77/1, p. 396)

Returning to France today

Slough and Chalvey British Infants’ School
June 4th 1917
Mrs Stewart is absent today as her husband is returning to France after leave.

Wokingham Wescott Road School
June 4th 1917

A memorial service for Mr Vickers was held at All Saints Church this afternoon at 4pm. It was specially arranged for the scholars, and 230 attended.

Slough and Chalvey British Infants’ School log book (C/EL123, p. 342); Wokingham Wescott Road School log book (C/EL87, p. 175)

“May blossoms and war seem as though they ought to be impossible in the same world”

The minister of Maidenhead Congregational Church tried to encourage members to look on the bright side of life despite all the horrors and losses of the war.

May blossoms and war seem as though they ought to be impossible in the same world. The dreadful mud in the midst of which our soldiers have been living is more congruous with the spirit of warfare than sweet grass and hawthorn buds. Many letters from the front have spoken of the start of surprise with which a lark’s song is heard over the trenches. We have all, when some sorrow is heavy upon us, felt a sort of astonishment that the sun should go on shining, and the birds twittering, and passers by smiling, as though nothing had happened. But the worst of sorrows cannot cover the whole sky. We want taking out of ourselves at times. Evils won’t bear brooding over, we only make them worse. We shall be able to bear “the strain of toil, the fret of care” better, if we make rich use of the ministry of the blossoms.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We are glad to hear that Reginald Hill is progressing, though slowly. He has had several operations, and probably must undergo two or three more. The doctors think he may have to be in bed for at least three months yet, but they hope he will make quite a good recovery.

We regret deeply to have to record that John Boyd, formerly the Caretaker of the Chapel, was killed in action on March 29th. He enlisted in the 2nd Berks. In June 1916, and was sent to France on Sept. 22nd. He was a most genial and kind-hearted man, and had a wide circle of friends among whom he was very popular. We offer our Christian sympathy to Mrs. Boyd and her family.

It is distressing too to hear that Stephen Harris is returned as “missing.” The Captain of his Company has written to Mr. and Mrs. Harris that he has made all possible inquiries and can gain no information. The best that can be hoped for is that he may be a prisoner in German hands. Robert Harris was killed in July last. May God grant His patience and consolation to the distressed parents.

Wallace Mattingly has been admitted to Sandhurst Military College for eight months’ training. G. Frampton is expecting to be called up immediately. We are glad to see Cyril Hews at home again on leave, looking in the pink of health. P.S. Eastman writes in good spirits from “somewhere in the East.”

He says, “I have not yet left for the special work for which I was sent out, but may do so any day now. In the meantime I have had quite a variety of work, until at present I find myself in the C.O.’s office. Yesterday I had a line from Frank Pigg, who is with the R.F.C in Salonica; may be one of these days I shall be able to pay him a visit.”

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, May 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“How splendidly he is fulfilling his mission”

Eric Brereton (1889-1962) moved to Scotland after the war, and eventually became Dean of Glasgow.

The Rev. Eric Brereton, Military Chaplain to Salonica, arrived home unexpectedly, on a fortnight’s leave, on May 14th, to the great delights of his parents at Ascot, and of many friends in the Parish. It has done us good to see how well he looks, and to know how splendidly he is fulfilling his mission.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, June 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/6)

Cheer him in his pain and solitude

Members of Maidenhead Congregational Church were serving in various fields. One man was having a nice break in Malta on his way to the east, while another was suffering with a severe wound.

OUR SOLDIERS.

Sidney Eastman sent us a message announcing his arrival at Malta. He says,

“A line of greeting from an isle of sunshine and blossoms! The brilliant blue of sea and sky, white sails and grey giants, sandstone rocks and golden architecture, vividly focussed by the eyes of an enthusiast, convey to the chambers of memory a mental masterpiece in the producing of which nature and man work hand in hand – nature gives light while man gives shade. I am very fit now, and much enjoying a day or two of respite here.”

Evidently the “sunshine and blossoms” have got into our deacon’s soul.

Reginald Hill has been rather badly wounded and is at the Wharncliff War Hospital at Sheffield. We may be quite sure that letters from any of his old friends of the West Street Church would cheer him in his pain and solitude, and would be joyfully welcomed. Letters should be addressed, “17 Ward, 6 Block.” We are glad to know that his doctors anticipate that he will probably make quite a good recovery.

Ernest Bristow is in Hospital in France, suffering from influenza.

Alfred Vardy was married on March 8th to Miss Coxhead, and is now on active service in France.

We were glad to see Ernest Mead on Sunday last looking quite fit and well.

W.H. Clark has arrived at Salonika.

A. Lane has been transferred with his section to Marlow.

Charles Catliffe is with a Signal section at a Camp near Bedford.

MILITARY MOVEMENTS.

Most of the Engineers who have been for some months in training at Maidenhead have been removed elsewhere, and at least an equal number have been brought to our town to take their place. The new-comers seem to appreciate the comforts of the Clubroom more than their predecessors, and use it in much larger numbers. But the Free Church parade service has suffered. So far, only a few attend, instead of the eighty or more of recent months. Perhaps the organization has been at fault, and we will yet hope for better things.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, April 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)