Slush, real Flanders slush everywhere

It was a gloomy day, but a more cheerful evening, for Sydney Spencer and his fellow officers.

Thursday 18 April 1918

Got up at 7.30. A miserable day, wet & slush, real Flanders slush everywhere. Parades up on the high ground at the range, not of the most cheerful with a biting wind & drizzle, but we got through alright. We had some gas stunts very like what we had in England, except that the Div officer had not the stuff I could use.

After lunch went down to billets & gave two lectures on gas to the company, & there was a kit inspection. After tea wrote a few cards & a letter to Florence. Also packed some spare kit to send home. Washed & changed & bad dinner.

The other chaps are now playing vingt et un, & I am going to be OC gramophone, & then to bed to read Tennyson.

8.45 pm. A fine moonlight night.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15)

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“It seemed very strange to be doing my work after so many months”

Sydney Spencer was still some way behind the front line.

Wednesday 17 April 1918

Got up at 7.30. A better morning, warmer, but wind.

Went on parade at 9. A march of about one mile up on to a trench system where … I did platoon’s drill for a time. It seemed very strange to be doing my work after so many months.

After lunch fine again till 3 when it poured with rain. I gave a lecture to ‘B’ company on Gas. Paid company at 3.30.

After tea got my clothes dry, changed, made out mess and [illegible] for A and B companies. After dinner, all officers paid me so that I was able to make things square.

To bed at 9.30 & read In Memoriam for a little while. A fine night.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15)

Lectures to the interned

A local JP wanted to enliven the lives of the internees stuck in Reading Prison. Sadly, this request was destined to be turned down by the Prison Commission.

11th April 1918

About a month ago Mr Jackson, one of the Borough Visiting magistrates, asked if a friend of his, Mr H M Wallis, Ashton Lodge, Christchurch Road, Reading – also a Borough magistrate, could give a lecture to the interned men here.

I told Mr Jackson his best procedure would be to request Mr Wallis to write to me, and to submit a syllabus of the proposed lecture, and that I would then refer the matter to the Prison Commissioners.

Mr Wallis called on me today, and asked if such a lecture would be allowed, and also left me the attached syllabus of three lectures to select from [not actually attached].

I am informed that Mr Wallis is an able lecturer, but have not met him before. Should the Commissioners approve, the lecture would be held on a weekday in the chapel.

I informed Mr Wallis that I would submit his proposal to the Commissioners. The lecture would of course be voluntary attendance.

C M Morgan

Gov.
[to]
The Commissioners

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

“Providing a man is practical & unselfish, the life is not bad”

Will Spencer heard from soldier brother Horace, who offered a pleasant view of army life, and from the wife of another soldier brother, Natalie.

19 March 1918

When I got back, Johanna asked me if it was my birthday. Letters from Natalie & from Horace, & a parcel [and letter from a Swiss friend]…

Reading the [three] letters to Johanna, with running comments, after dinner, was quite a long proceeding, as Natalie’s letter was one of 8 large pages!.

Horace writes to me,

“Perhaps you are sometimes pained at the conjectured hardships that we have to undergo, so I will try to relieve your mind on that point. Providing a man is practical & unselfish, the life is not bad, there are kind words and deeds exchanged at all times, & so the atmosphere is pleasant. He has heard concerts & lectures, visited 6 cathedral towns in France, has learned to play chess, & read – amongst other books – Holmes’ Life of Mozart….

Natalie writes that Harold “had a rotten [underlined] time one way & another, tho’ now his lines seem to have fallen into pleasanter places”.


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

Subjects closely connected with the War

Food shortages had led to a soup kitchen for children in Ascot.

The Lantern Services in the Parish Room on Fridays at 7 p.m. are being taken by the Rector and deal with subjects closely connected with the War. There was a very fair attendance at the first service, and it is hoped that it will increase as the services become more generally known.

By the effort of the Teachers a Soup Kitchen is being started as the Schools for the benefit of the children, and we are sure many parents will be most grateful for this help in this difficult days. The Managers have made a small grant towards utensils, and gifts of vegetables, or offers of personal help will be welcomed by the Teachers ….

At a War Savings Conference held at the Reading Rooms, Sunninghill, on Wednesday, February 20th, it was resolve to form a local War Savings Committee for the district to be known as “The Sunningdale and Ascot District War Savings Committee”, its chief object being to establish as many new Associations as possible in the neighbourhood, the ladies and gentlemaen elected being Mr. Percy Crutchley (Chairman), Messrs. H. J. Whitehead and A.J. Merton (Hon. Secretaries), Col. Blackburn, (Hon. Treasurer), Mrs. Ninian Elliott, the Hon. Miss Gordon, Mr. E. Wolseley, Heresy Marchioness of Linthgow, Mr. G. J. Francis, Mr. F. J. Patton, Mr. C.W. Searle, Mr. J.W. Abbott, Mrs. Trotter, Mr T.A. Woods. The Committee was given power to add to its number, and it was intimated that if Sunningdale cared to join up with this Committee, the inclusion of this parish would be cordially welcomed.

The Ascot War Savings Association has just completed one year’s working. The total number of certificates sold during that time being nearly 1000.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, March 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/3)

Re-kindling our interest in Serbia

There were Serbian child refugees in Reading.

Miss Parkinson’s lecture on Serbia should go far towards re-kindling our interest in Serbia, and especially in the Serbian boys living amongst us here in Reading. There will be special collections for the local work of the Serbian Relief Fund at S. Mary’s on Sunday, March 10th.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2)

Lessons of the Great War

The vicar of Reading St John suggested parishioners might like to help provide a new communion set for an army chaplain:

Letter from the vicar

My dear friends,

My own letter to you this month will be a brief one, as I want to give pride of place to Mr Morley’s very interesting letter from the front. Perhaps some of his friends in the parish would like to supply his obvious need of a set of Communion vessels of convenient size. I shall be very glad to receive subscriptions for this purpose….

The addresses on Wednesday evenings [during Lent] are to be given by the Rev. E J Norris… These services will consist of war intercessions and the address, and will last about 40 minutes…

At St Stephen’s Church on Thursday evenings there will be a series of lantern services, if gas is obtainable for the lantern, under the general heading, “Lessons of the Great War”. The pictures illustrating the addresses are really beautiful, and I think the services will be found both helpful and comforting….

Also let us not cease day and night to make supplication to God for the restoration of Peace.

Your sincere friend and vicar

W. Britton

Reading St. John parish magazine, February 1918 (D/P172/28A/24)

A lecture on aerial photography

The new technology of flight was used in the war not just for battles and bombing – it was an intelligence tool.

1918
Jan 25th

Battalion order 136. A lecture on aerial photography to be given by Captain H Lejeune, MC, RFC Feb 4th. Extremely interesting.

Diary of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/12)

Collections for the sufferers in Palestine from the war

There was sympathy for the plights of civilians in wartorn Palestine.

LECTURES.

Two lectures on Jerusalem were given by the Vicar on December 20th at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. They were illustrated by many lantern slides. Collections were made for the sufferers in Palestine from the war, and realised £1 22d. 9d. and many collecting boxes were taken by old and young.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, January 1918 (D/P 151/281/10)

Shot at dawn for “cowardice” caused by shell shock

John Maxwell Image wrote to his friend W F Smith, who was staying at Hindhead in south west Surrey, not far from the big army camp at Aldershot. Normally very gung-ho in support of the war, Image’s compassion had been aroused by stories of court martials and teenagers shot at dawn. The Revd Thomas Pym (1885-1945), in peacetime the chaplain at Image’s college, was serving as an army chaplain.

29 Barton Rd
6 Dec. ‘17
My very dear old man

The military cars to and fro Aldershot must surely be more or less an interesting sight.

The poor Tommy comes under this [?not clear] penalty quite frequently. Not often from cowardice, poor boy. Most often (I believe) it is from slinking off to some girl in the rear which is called “desertion”, tho’ he would have returned right enough.

Just before I was married there was shown to me a letter from a young Trin. Officer at the Front, describing a visit from one of our Trin. Chaplains, begging this young friend of his to “pray for him”, for he had to pass the night with a boy of 18 who was to be shot at dawn. Pym spoke then of a night with another poor child (of 17!) who had been shot the previous week, for what the CM was pleased to style Cowardice – though he had twice behaved with exceptional bravery, and it was only after seeing his two brothers killed at his side that on this occasion his nerve broke down. In an officer it would have been called “shell-shock”, and the interesting sufferer sent home to a cushy job in England. I know of 2 thus treated. Pym’s words brought the tears to my eyes. I see that he has told the story (slightly altered) in a book that has recently come out by him, Characteristics of the Army in Flanders.

Sir Arthur Yapp at the Guildhall last Friday. The Signora went (non ego) and returned enthusiastic – she and her Cook – over the great man’s dignity and sweetness. That evening he lectured the students (and I believe also them of Girton) in Newnham College – and left by the 9.9 for London.

One remark of his: “The vessels sunk by the U-boats during the week ending Nov. 24 (I forget how many that was) might have carried enough bread to feed Cambridge for nearly 7 years, or enough meat for 8 ½ years, or enough sugar for 64 years.”

He said that Food Tickets have changed Germany to a nation of forgers. He dreaded the like fate for England.

Yours ever
Bild

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

“Many empty lorries driven by the men of the Flying Corps pass daily through the village”

Cranbourne people were invited to grow vegetables, while church services were disrupted.

For the purpose of saving fuel and light in Lent week, Evening Services will be held in the Sunday School on Wednesdays at 7 p.m., and Evensong will be said on Sundays in Church at 3 p.m. instead of 6 p.m., until we can do without the gas. It seems to be almost impossible for the Coal Merchants to deliver fuel just now, there is coke and coal at the stations, but no carts are to be had. Many empty lorries driven by the men of the Flying Corps pass daily through the village, how helpful it would be if they could “dump” a few sacks of coal for us at some central place.

Two lectures on “Vegetable cultivation in War time” have been given in the Reading Room by Mr. F. W. Custin, F.R.H.S. Unfortunately there was not the large attendance that might have been expected when all of us are being urged to add to the food supply of the nation. The lectures were most practical and helpful. Great stress was laid on the need of spraying not only potatoes, but the young vegetable plants. The lecturer gave the following recipe for a spray of paraffin emulsion:- ¼ pint of paraffin, ¼ -lb. of soft soap, 3½ -gallons of water. Mix the soft soap with a little hot water, whisk it up and then add the paraffin slowly, beating it up as it is poured in, then add the remainder of the water. This should be used for onions and celery in May and June. Potatoes should be sprayed with Bordeaux mixture at the beginning of July and also early in August. We expect the delivery of the seed potatoes at an early date.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield District Magazine, March 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/3)

Excellent war pictures

People in Mortimer attended an illustrated lecture on various fronts of the war.

War Pictures
On Mar. 12th S. John’s Hall was crammed from end to end with a responsive audience for Colonel Lynden-Bell’s lecture on the Somme, Russian, and Mesopotamia fronts. The pictures were excellent, the lecturer most interesting: the only flaw was the failure of the supply of hydrogen at about half time. But the lecturer has kindly offered to come again and finish his programme. £4 15s. 6d. was given at the door – for the Russian Red Cross. It was a pleasure to have Colonel W. P. Nash in the chair.

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

“Our part in the struggle for liberty”

Sir Charles Hunter (1858-1924) of Mortimer Hill was an experienced soldier and, during the First World War, held a post on the General Staff. He gave a patriotic talk to his neighbours in the church hall.

The War

On Monday evening, June 12th, in S. John’s Hall, Sir Charles Hunter gave a very interesting and illuminating lecture on the War. The Speaker was listened to with rapt attention, and we are sure that the very good audience were were both charmed and cheered – charmed as they heard of the grand way in which we are taking our part in the struggle for liberty, and cheered to know that there is no doubt as to the ultimate result of that struggle. Sir Charles was accorded a hearty vote of thanks for his goodness in giving the lecture. “God save the King” was sung, and the proceedings closed.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, July 1916 (D/P120/28A/14)

Women on the land

You may recognise the name of Miss Pott from the extracts we have reported from the National Relief Fund Berkshire Committee. Gladys Pott (1867-1961), daughter of the Revd Alfred Pott, a former Archdeacon of Berkshire, was a well known speaker against female suffrage, but she was a strong speaker and organiser. She served as a Woman Inspector of the Women’s Branch of the Board of Agriculture from 1916 to 1919, and was awarded an MBE for her efforts after the war.


Women on the Land

A well attended meeting was held in S. John’s Hall on the evening of Thursday April 6th, to consider the question of the employment of women in gardening and general farm work, to take the places of men called up for military service.

The chair was taken by Mr. Alfred Palmer, who was supported by Miss Gladys Pott, Miss Ludlam, Miss Watson and Mr. Job Lousley.

The Chairman, in opening the meeting, spoke in glowing terms of the splendid way in which the women of the cities had come forward to help with the work on the land, and pointed out how the local women could help in this good work. He said instruction in dairying and farming was provided by the Berks Committee for those who could leave their homes, and for those who could only give a part of their time Miss Watson had offered the use of her garden and grounds every Saturday afternoon to all women (or others) who desired instruction in gardening. Those who wished to aid in the movement were urged to give in their names to Miss Ludlam, the Registrar.

Then Miss Pott, in a most interesting speech, told how much had been done by women since January, 1915, to the present time, and insisted that the question of the food supply was one of the supremest importance, and that every woman could do something to increase the productiveness of their own gardens and allotments, even if it were simply to make two lettuces grow where only one grew before.

Mr. Lousley gave some practical details of the movement, and referred to the successful outcome of women’s outdoor work in his parish and on his own farm.

After the speeches, pictures showing the work of wives and daughters of the French farmers were thrown on the screen. Miss Potts, who explained the pictures and had herself been present as a member of the Women’s Mission to France when these pictures were taken, said, that what they saw in France proved conclusively the glorious way in which the French had understood and answered the call of their country, and such an object lesson should serve to animate English women with a like spirit of devotion to their native land.
Miss Potts thanked Mr. Methold for manipulating the lantern, and a vote of thanks to the chairman and speakers brought the meeting to a close.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, May 1916 (D/P120/28A/14)

The horrors of this war will lead the nations back to God

Windsor women who belonged to the Anglican Mothers’ Union were invited to a lecture on the war.

The Mothers’ Union

Mrs Bosanquet very kindly invited a meeting of Mothers’ Union workers to the Bank House on February 7th, when the Hon Lady Acland have a very beautiful and thoughtful address on “Some Lessons of the War”.

It is impossible, she said, to explain the reason for the permission of evil in the world: to reconcile God’s love with the horrors of this war. It cannot be done in logical terms: our only way is to look for the good through all the pain and suffering; to realise that they lead to the glory of Sacrifice. And it is certain that these are a great purifying force, leading the nations back to God: for they all, with the one great exception of Russia, had fallen away from God during the years of peace…

Prayer and Sacrifice – they are the duty of us all. God accepts the sacrifice our men are making, and He will accept that of our girls, too, for whom life will be a more serious, and in many ways a harder, thing than ever before. Through all the sorrows and the changes the truths of God stand fast, like the Crucifixes of which we read, that remain unharmed in the battlefields of Flanders.

New Windsor St John the Baptist parish magazines, March 1916 (D/P149/28A/21/1)