“The role of platonic friend is too difficult for me to sustain”

Percy Spencer found life at his parents emotionally challenging, so fled to his peacetime home in London, which was equally wearing.

27 Rattray Road
Brixton
SW

Decr 15, 1917

My dear WF

Cookham was a nightmare so I fled to London, and there I have been taking Dot out to lunch almost daily. She, I am happy to say, is quite normal again, but still very dependant upon her friends, so I think it has done her good to have me to talk to and detach her thoughts from the Battle of Cambrai. But the role of platonic friend is too difficult for me to sustain for long together, so just as your letter arrived I was writing to tell you that I am returning to 29 and peace on Monday 17th, please.


Letter from Percy Spencer to Florence Image (D/EZ177/7/6/74)

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Horrid Revolution in Russia – but may be better than the last one

If the February Revolution had shocked Europe, that of November (October in the Russian calendar) was to be even more earthshaking, as the Bolsheviks seized power.

10 November 1917

Horrid Revolution in Russia. Kerensky fled. Lenin at head. Can’t be worse – may be better!

Guildhall Banquet last night. Good speeches. Lloyd George not back from Italy. Combined Army Council – England, France & Italy [illegible] under Lord Wilson.

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

The war has brought in its train many economies over which we need waste no lamentations

The women and children of Burghfield were continuing to contribute to the war effort. The children’s collection of horse chestnuts was ready to send to be made into munitions, while the women sewed. But they were saddened that a local convalescent home had been forced to close due to the economic conditions.

Chestnuts
The centres for collection are the New Schools (Burghfield C of E) and Mrs Bland’s School. The whole will eventually be stored at the former School until sent for by the Director of Propellant Supplies, 32 Old Queen Street, London, SW1.

Holiday House
Not every village is fortunate enough to possess such an institute as Holiday House, though it is coming to be felt more and more that some such centre is needed in villages, where people may meet each other and relieve the monotony of the long dark winter evenings…

That Burghfield Common has such a place is entirely due to the generosity and public spirit of a lady who has the welfare of the Common very much at heart, Mrs Kirkwood. Founded in 1914, it has been the home and centre of varied activities: a band, Boy Scouts, dances, socials, entertainments, lectures, debates, are some of the chief, besides its nightly bill of fare of billiards, draughts, cards, etc. Not by any means the least of its activities have been the War-work Party started early in the war to make shirts and other necessary garments for the wounded, and also splints, bed trays and various other appliances. There is also a canteen, under the care of Mrs Bailey, who supplies refreshments and tobacco to all comers; but no alcoholic drinks are allowed on the premises.

St Catherine’s, Burghfield Common

The war has brought in its train many economies over which we need waste no lamentations. Other economies, however, cannot be passed over without a sigh. We allude, more particularly, to those which have lessened the power of people of moderate means to continue their contributions to charitable institutions…

It is therefore with peculiar regret that we have to record the closing of St Catherine’s. This Home was founded in 1913 by Miss Morison, and was offered by her to the Margaret Street Hospital for Consumption (Cavendish Square, W) for the benefit of girls and women in the early stages of tuberculosis….

From first to last no less than 130 patients have passed through the Home, and in the large majority of cases they have been discharged completely cured, or with the progress of the disease arrested. When we think of the wonderful air which those of the uplands of Burghfield are privileged to enjoy, it is not so very surprising to learn that the number of patients who got worse instead of better may be told on the fingers of one hand. It is a matter of grief to us all that Miss Morison has found it necessary to limit her beneficent work in the great crusade against what is so graphically called the “White Scourge” of these islands.

War Hospital Supplies
The Red Cross Working Party has re-commenced its meetings at the Rectory on Wednesday afternoons at 2.30. Mrs George will be glad to have some new members as the War Hospitals Supply Depot in Reading is urgently appealing for more comforts for our soldiers and sailors, ad we are anxious to send as much work as possible from Burghfield.

Burghfield parish magazine, November 1917 (D/EX725/4)

A great air raid

The Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist were relieved not to have suffered at the hands of the latest air raid.

31 October 1917
News came of a great air raid by the Germans on the eastern counties & London. No damage done in any of our Houses in London or at Folkestone either to the Sisters and those in their care, or to property. D. G. [Deo gratias – thanks be to God].

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

Broken up

The Hallams had sad news of an Australian soldier they had befriended.

William Hallam
31st October 1917

This morning at Breakfast time we heard from Gordon Inglis one of those Tasmanians who used to come in to see us. He tells us Don Blackwell, one of the others, was killed at ½ past 10 at night on the 17th in Polygon Wood. We were all very much cut up at this news. He was such a fine fellow. The girls especially broken up.

Florence Vansittart Neale
31 October 1917

Busy preparing for the whist drive. Had about 165 in two rooms….

Bad raid in London. Not much damage, only 3 got through! But most of people up 3 hours.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25) and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

London children find safety

More refugees from London arrived in Berkshire.

October 29th 1917

Admitted five children from London.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 415)

A rather large influx of “raid” children

More families fled London, while local children collected chestnuts for munitions.

Crowthorne
October 26th 1917

There has been a rather large influx of “raid” children from East London.

Yattendon
Octr 26th

Half holiday given this afternoon for chestnut picking.

Crowthorne C.E. School log book (D/P102B/28/2); Yattendon CE School log book (SCH37/8/2)

Not yet out of the wood

There was news of soldiers associated with Maidenhead Congregational Church.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We have not as much information this month as we would like, and shall be glad if friends will send us news of the boys month by month.

Harold Islip has been home on leave. After his gassing, he was in hospital for a week, and in a convalescent camp for a fortnight. It is about 17 months since his last leave. On return he went straight back to duty.

John Hedges paid his old school and church a visit on a Sunday in August. It is some six or seven years since he left us to seek his fortune in Australia. He returned in a khaki suit. After some hard experiences he is at present doing clerical work in London.

Reginald Hill still continues to improve though he must yet pass through another operation before he is out of the wood. But we hope to see him home about Christmas.

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

More children from London

More informal evacuees had fetched up in Sandhurst.

October 22nd 1917
Admitted five more children from London. There are now 341 children on Roll.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 414)

A refugee from the air raids

Yattendon children were sent out to pick horse chestnuts (for munitions) and blackberries (for jam to send to the troops).

Yattendon CE School
Octr 10th

Holiday given this afternoon to enable the children to gather horse chestnuts, which are asked for by the Ministry of Munitions.

Received circular re “Picking Blackberries” from Education Committee.

Abingdon Conduit Rd Infants School
10th October 1917

Re-opened school after fair holiday, admitted one boy (from London – a refugee from the air raids).

Log books of Yattendon CE School (SCH37/8/3) and Abingdon Conduit Rd Infants School (C/EL4/2)

“I could not say there was accommodation enough for a pig (much less a man) anywhere except in the cellars of ruined houses”

Civilians in wartorn northern France and Belgium suffered terribly due to the war.

Movement in Reading in aid of the Relief of Sufferers by the War in France and Belgium.

Friends at Trinity will no doubt be interested to know that a movement in the above direction has been initiated by the Reading Broad Street Brotherhood. The objective is to supplement the efforts now being made in other towns and in the colonies, and in continuation of efforts already made which have abundantly testified to the Christian sympathy which exists towards those who have suffered so acutely through no fault of their own. A relief fund of £20,000 is contemplated, a very large part of which has already been subscribed by Canadians, by London and other cities, towards which also many small towns have contributed nobly and generously.

It is supposed that the good lead of Basingstoke with its generous promise of £100 in cash, besides clothing, &C., Reading will not wish to be excluded from taking part.

It is proposed to collect both in cash and kind, as in some of the large townships in France (Lille in particular, which is the Manchester of France), the civil population – men, women and children – are in rags, not having had any opportunity of purchasing clothing and boots for 2.5 years (since the German occupation).

Clothing (cast-off and new) will therefore prove most acceptable, also boots.

Those who have seen tell us that the homes of the people in the country towns and villages are ruined-walls broken and roofs fallen. A witness on the spot says:

“In a large town it was my orders to report how many houses were fit for billeting British soldiers, and after visiting with a comrade every house in the place (about the size of Reading) there was not a single house with an unbroken roof, and I could not say there was accommodation enough for a pig (much less a man) anywhere except in the cellars of ruined houses such as I and my comrades occupied.”

Wood houses are already being prepared in sections in this country to be despatched to Northern France and Belgium directly the way opens-facilities having been promised for this purpose as soon as possible by our own Government. A wood house thus prepared can be erected by a few men within a day of arrival, and it cost would be about £40. Seed for gardens, food, flour, blankets, &c will also be despatched.

Interested readers can secure further information by sending two penny stamps to the national Brotherhood Offices, 37, Norfolk Street, London, W.C., when they will be supplied with a pamphlet entitled “The Story of Lille, and its associations with the Brotherhood Movement,” and which describes the Brotherhood Crusade of 1909 A.D. and the practical relief already given.

Locally, every Church, adult School, and Christian Society in Reading will later on be invited to join hands with the Relief Committee connected with Broad Street Men’s Brotherhood, the secretary being Mr. A. Woolley, 85, Oxford Street, Reading.

Further information may also be obtained from J. Harper, “Chelmarsh,” 42, Crown Street, Reading.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, October 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

Safe in Sunninghill

More families had fled the danger of air raids.

5th October 1917

I have this week admitted 7 children who have come to live here from London on account of the Air Raids.

Sunninghill: St Michael’s CE Mixed School log book (88/SCH/32/3, p. 218)

A day of grief and glory: another of our boys has heard the call of God and joined the throngs invading heaven “with gay and careless faces”

Memories are shared of a Reading-born man whose death had been reported.

Harry Ireland Long

It was with deep regret that we heard of the death of Lance-Corpl. Harry Long, who was killed in action in Flanders on August 15th. To most of us his name is familiar, as being the son of our old and esteemed friends, Mr. and Mrs. William Long, and to them, as to his sister and brothers, we offer our deep sympathy. Some, however, had a more intimate knowledge, and one of those, the Rev. Herbert Snell, of Caterham, a former minister of Trinity, has kindly written the following:-

“Lest Heaven be thronged with greybeards hoary,
God, who made boys for his delight,
Stoops, in a day of grief and glory,
And calls them in, in from the night.
When they come trooping from the War,
Our skies have many a new gold star.”

Another of our boys has heard the call of God and joined the throngs invading heaven “with gay and careless faces.” Another has cheerfully and bravely given his life to make earth clean again, and keep it safe for those who regard honour among the highest and love peace.

It is easy enough to write these words, but behind them are living hearts that ache with grief and yet rejoice with noble pride.

Harry Ireland Long was the eldest son of William and Anna Long. He was born February 25th 1886, at Reading, and was killed in Flanders on August 15th, 1917.

“Trinity” will remember him, first of all, as a youngster, attending school at Miss Lacy’s and at Miss Burgisi’s, and on Sundays as a member of Mr. H.A. Baynes’ Bible-class. When I knew him he was at Reading School, which he left in 1901 in order to work for a while in his father’s business. Everyone liked his handsome face, with bold dark eyes and pleasant smile; though there was plenty of the boy about him there was a serious vein in Harry’s thinking which soon brought him to face the great deep questions of life. A year had scarcely elapsed from the time of leaving school before he joined the membership of Trinity Church.

In 1904, Harry went to Kingston in Jamaica where he worked for eight years. During that time he went through the terrible experiences of the great earthquake of January, 1907. Although he escaped the physical perils of that time, I have some kind of an idea that it was then he met his “fate,” and that there was some connection between the incidents of January, 1907, and a marriage which took place in Kingston, 1910, between Harry on the one side, and Miss Isabel Frances, of Crouch end, London on the other. But I do not give this as authoritative, lest, perchance, a very treacherous memory should have betrayed me.

Only this I know, and can speak thereon with utter confidence, having been privileged to visit on several occasions their delightful little home in Montreal, that it was a marriage full of happiness and promise.

It was in 1912 that they migrated to Montreal and in 1914 that I found them there, with Maurice who had joined them about a year before. I was at that time taking charge of Emmanuel Church during Dr. Hugh Pedley’s vacation, and being altogether a stranded and solitary stranger in the huge city, it was an indescribable pleasure to receive an English welcome in a Canadian home. None of us thought, in those early uninstructed days of the war, that it would ever be necessary for one of us to join up, and it was utterly beyond the limits of considered possibilities that one of our laughing circle should, in three years from then, have given his life for freedom.

Harry enlisted in the 244th Canadian Battalion Kitchener’s Own on September 1st, 1916. Owing to his previous training in the Victoria Rifles (Montreal’s volunteer contingent), he was almost at once given Sergeant’s rank, and when he came to England in April, 1917, it was a company Quarter-master Sergeant. Six weeks later he went to the Front with a draft to reinforce a Canadian battalion already there, and so lost his stripes, but he was speedily promoted again to Lance-Corporal, and it was while “gallantly leading his section in an attack against a strong German position,” that he met his death. The Chaplain of his Battalion, Capt. C. Stuart, speaks of him as having speedily won a place for himself in affection and esteem of all the boys. “He was so keen and willing in his work, so cheerful always in the face of all discomforts and difficulties that he became one of the most popular men in his platoon.”

And so another of our boys is gone. And the world is becoming more cheerless as we think we shall have to go on to the end without them.

But this also we know, and it far outweighs the gloom, they have brightened the earth by their example, they have for ever enriched life by their self-sacrifice.

Harry Ireland Long will not be forgotten at Trinity, and his name will go down with honour among those who have helped to save the world for Christ.

“Oh, if the sonless mothers weeping
And the widowed girls could see inside,
The glory that hath them in keeping
Who went to the Great War and died,
They would rise and put their mourning off,
And say ‘Thank God, he has enough.”

Trinity Congregational Magazine, October 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

Visitors from London

The attacks on London had led to many families fleeing to the safety of Berkshire.

October 1st 1917
Owing to air raids in London several visitors are in this district. Have admitted 6 children in consequence.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 413)

Bright moon, bad air raids

The Vansittart Neale girls were both home for the first time since they started nursing the troops.

28 September 1917
Waited [at Maidenhead station] for both girls who had been to London for day’s shopping. All motored home. First time we all 4 together. Bad air raid nearly every night this week – bright moon.

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