“An incalculable amount of pain, many limbs, and indeed many lives must have been saved by the timely arrival of the bales”

Wargrave had been at the heart of work providing surgical supplies during the war.

Wargrave Surgical Dressing Society

This Society, which has just brought its work to a close owed its existence to the energies of Miss Choate.

At Millward’s, generously lent by the late Mr. Henry Nicholl and recently by Major C.R.I. Nicholl, was started by her in March 1915, a work which grew to such an extent that during the four years some 500,000 dressings and comforts were dispatched to the wounded from Wargrave. These were not, of course, all made in the village. Under Miss Choate’s organisation, branches were started at Dartmouth, Ledbury, Loughton, Pangbourne, Peppard, Shiplake and Wimbledon, while welcome and regular parcels were received from Twyford, Kidmore and Hoylake. But all were packed for shipment and consigned from Wargrave.

The parcels went to Hospitals and Casualty Clearing Stations at almost every fighting area – to Mesopotamia, to Gallipoli, to Egypt, to Serbia and to American and Colonial Hospitals in England and in France.

It is impossible to ever estimate the value of the work. An incalculable amount of pain, many limbs, and indeed many lives must have been saved by the timely arrival of the bales. As a lame man said to the writer “Only we who are still suffering the effects of the shortage of medical comforts at the beginning of the war can appreciate fully the work these people have done.”

In the early days, consignments were sent in response to urgent appeals from Commandants and Matrons of Hospitals, but since 1916 the Society, in common with other of the larger Societies in England, has worked under the direction of the Department of the Director General of Voluntary Organisations at the War Office.


A meeting of the Society and the subscribers was held on Wednesday, Feb. 5th, at Millwards to decide upon the disposal of the Balance in hand. Every provision had been made for carrying on the work through the winter if the war had continued, and the funds amounted to over £200.

In the absence of Capt. Bird, the Vicar was asked to take the chair. After a full discussion it was unanimously resolved that £200 be given to the Ward Fund and Recreation Fund of the Manor Hospital, Hampstead.

It was a great happiness to all concerned to feel that the money should benefit a work with which Miss Sinclair was so closely associated.

It was resolved that the remaining balance be given to the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, for a Care and Comforts Fund for the Soldier Patients.

The accounts have not yet been audited but it is expected that the amount to be given to Reading Hospital will be about £20.

These resolutions, together with the audited accounts, must be submitted to the Charity Commissioners for approval, but there is every reason to think that they will be endorsed by them.

The men in the Manor House Orthopedic Hospital, Hampstead, for discharged Soldiers and Sailors, wish to send their grateful thanks to the Members of the Surgical Dressing Emergency Society, Wargrave, for their splendid gift (£200) to be used for their Care and Comfort. As many Wargrave ladies have consented to be god-mothers in the wards, it is the wish of the men that some of them should be on the new Committee, called the Care and Comforts Committee, who from time to time will decide how the money shall be spent. The appreciation of the men is very touching in its sincerity and sense of sympathy.

Wargrave parish magazine, March 1919 (D/P145/28A/31)

These served their King by land or sea from the Parish of Wargrave during the Great War

A final list of the Wargrave men who served in the war. NB: where this symbol † appears in the list, an entry for this soldier exists in the corresponding supplement to follow.


These served their King by land or sea from the Parish of Wargrave during the Great War.

Additions and Corrections for this Roll should be sent to the Vicar as soon as possible.

Adby, L.
Adby, C.
Adby, W.
Adby, O.
Alderton, F. J.
Allen, C. W.
Allum, H.
Amos, G.
Andrew, H.
Arnold, A. E.
Arnold, W.
Attlesey, H. F.

Details of the last moments of a friend are wonderfully precious

Sydney Spencer’s good friend and army comrade Henry Loughton shared in the general grief at his death.

2/5th Norfolk Regiment
Royal Air Force

23 Oct. 18

Dear Mrs Image

I convey to you my heartfelt sympathy at this time as you mourn the loss of your brother Sydney.

I am very grateful for the kindliness which prompted your letter. Details of the last moments of a friend are wonderfully precious and especially so when the noble courage they define is so truly typical, and of the essence of the life into which I am proud to have memory for me.

I am immeasurably thankful that he desired me to possess a memento.

I am at present attached for training to a long distance bombing and reconnaissance squadron and hope to be in France in a month or so.

Believe me,
Yours very sincerely

Henry E Loughton

2/5th Norfolk Regiment
Riyal Air Force
23 Oct. 18

Letter of sympathy to Florence Image on the death of her brother Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/81)

Splendid courage and untiring energy throughout the heavy fighting

Two brothers were reported killed.

Roll of Honour.

Almighty and everlasting God, unto whom no prayer is ever made without hope of thy compassion: we remember before thee our brethren who have laid down their lives in the cause wherein their King and country sent them. Grant that they, who have readily obeyed the call of those to whom thou hast given authority on earth, may be accounted worthy of a place among thy faithful servants in the kingdom of heaven; and give both to them and to us forgiveness for all our sins and an ever increasing understanding of thy will; for his sake who loved us and gave himself for us, thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The following names must be added to the Roll of Honour:-

Loughton, Frederick George.
Private, Grenadier Guards, aged 33. He was the second son of Mr. William Loughton of Wargrave. He was a Piggott Scholar and educated at Wargrave. Before the war he was a gardener at Ouseleys, where he had been five years. He volunteered but was not accepted as fit for service. In September 1917, he was called up and sent to France after four weeks training. He was reported Missing in November 1917, and in June 1918, his name was recorded among the killed. He married in August 1917, and his wife survives him.

Loughton, Joseph Burton. Private, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, killed in action March 29th, 1918, aged 27. He was the third son of Mr. William Loughton. He was educated at Piggott School, Wargrave. Before the war he was a gardener and had been in the same situation for six years. He volunteered in February, 1915. He was sent to France in November, 1915, and with the exception of three short periods of leave he remained there until his death. He was killed instantly by a shell. His Captain wrote: –

“he did his duty as a soldier and a man and behaved with splendid courage and untiring energy throughout the heavy fighting. His death is a great loss to us all”.

Wargrave parish magazine, September 1918 (D/P145/28A/31)

Howitzer training for Sydney Spencer

Sydney Spencer was sent on howitzer gun training.

Aug 27

By order 1378. Howitzer course. Capt Loughton will not attend this course. Lieut Spencer will attend in his place.

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

A tremendous excitement: acting as company commander

Sydney Spencer wrote to his sister to tell her that he and his close friend expected a transfer to the Front in the near future.

12 Angel Hill
Bury St Edmunds
Jan 12th 1916
My Darling Florence

Loughton and I are simply being worked off our legs. We have to give lectures to the whole brigade of officers, & colonels & staff officers & the Brigadier etc are present to hear our lectures! The Brigadier turned my head dizzy with his public compliments upon my lectures. I only tell you this because I know how you like to hear of the little conquests of your brer Sydney.

Also (now that I have the chance to give you news in brief) I was made & posted company commander of “A” company for a whole week! Of course I have often taken a company for a morning or for a day, but it was a tremendous excitement, & a great experience to hold the reins of government on my own orderly room, & to see into the puzzling details of company work. You would scarcely believe all the hundred & one little details of work of all sorts that have to be seen into & remembered. Then Loughton & I have had the whole battalion on our hands to instruct in Trench warfare & that has meant incessant work & scheming.

Also Loughton & I are Librarians to the battalion & have to spend hours working to get the library in order. Also I am on an entertainment committee for the soldiers to get up brigade concerts etc. so you can see what a lot of time I have at present for writing even the shortest of letters to so sweet a sister as you are.

And now very much sotto voce & in your ears – that is yours & Mr I – the most exciting bit of news of all. Loughton’s & my names have been sent up for promotion now that we have got our transfers through. So watch the Gazette and perhaps one of these days – ! Well perhaps you will see something interesting. Only Bertie Lamb [another friend] knows this. No one at home must know it till it comes though. I fear a few men here who have been up longer than we have may not altogether like it, so we are not saying a word of it & Loughton & I & one other man the only ones who have the least idea of it. I am so sorry that this is only a short note but I am bodily & mentally just weary & will sign myself

Your very affectionate Brother

Letter from Sydney Spencer to his sister Florence Image (D/EZ177/8/2/7)

The postman is going to Persia

Florence Vansittart Neale was still keeping busy working with the local ed Cross. Sydney Spencer was too busy now that he was training in the army to write much in his diary. But he occasionally found the time to write a few words. He was the perfect choice to run his battalion’s library.

Florence Vansittart Neale
22 November 1915

Went to meeting re Red X at Christine’s… Settled to keep money to go to meeting at Maidenhead. I to Park Place [for] a final “quilt” party…

Geoffrey (the postman) starting for Persia [now Iran]. Seems little more hope for Servia [sic].

Sydney Spencer
Nov 22nd [1915]

Battalion order 4. Library formed at 19 Northgate Street under 2nd Lt H E Loughton & S Spencer.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8); Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/12)

Comradeship: the beginning, the middle and the end of military success

Sydney Spencer was dejected when he was not among those sent to the Front.

12 Angel Hill
Bury St Edmunds
Saturday Nov 13th 1915

My Darling Florence

I am very weary tonight. Such things do happen & go on happening with bewildering rapidity that one doesn’t know where one is. Last weekend we were all to have new rifles. Rumour said we were off to the front at once. Result great joy & excitement. Officers warned to get inoculated. Further proof. I was nearly telegraphing you to ask to come to you after the business was over.

Then on Thursday the crash came. Most of our best men are off on Monday to go almost immediately to the front, & we officers who know how to love our own men are left, with the prospect of having about 200 men between us instead of about 800! Worse still they are the cowards who would not volunteer or else the men who are too young or unfit! Of course you will all say at once how glad you are, but from my own point of view I am not. Imagine losing all those men whom I have loved so much – I have one corporal & 3 men left! – & having a lot of conscript troops thrust into my hands with the prospect of giving them recruit drill for the next 3 or four months!

To most of us the whole thing is insufferable. First of all our best officers are taken & that nearly caused a mutiny among the officers, & now the very kernel & mainstay of our battalion is walked off with & we are expected to be cheerful, & to go on “doing our bit”. Esprit de corps is almost the beginning, the middle & the end of military success. How on earth our esprit de corps is to be kept going, under these trying circumstances I don’t know. Perhaps this brigade is not of the highest order. I do not see that necessitates breaking the hearts of men & officers by promising them all sorts of things & then ruthlessly treading on just the one joy of military life, comradeship. In a game of football you will often find, that mediocre players who know each other well & who have often played together will put up a far better game than an eleven which comprises picked players who have never seen each other before. It doesn’t need any further words of mine to draw the analogy.

A catchphrase known to officer & man will often carry men & officers through the most fearful ordeals, when the choicest of logical arguments & careful encouragements on the part of a strange officer to strange men will utterly fail. I used to often call out to my men at work “Now then, what’s happening over there?” That has become a phrase, & it will often bring good humour & order back when men are inclined to be fractious. All these and many other arguments come to one’s mind at once when one learns how battalions are chopped up & shifted from place to place. It comes to this, half the officers of a battalion are unknown to the other half of the officers & almost entirely to the men of the battalion, & away goes comradeship & esprit de corps.

What a pleasure it is to share an evening’s talk round the fire when we are all together with the phrase “Do you remember” – It makes the whole thing worth doing & relieves the monotony of the jog trot military life. Militarism kills initiative almost entirely & one begins to feel that one is sacrificing ones elasticity of intellect to the cause too! That is of course part & parcel of the necessary sacrifice one is making but realising the hugeness of the thing – a palpable lack of alert intelligence at the end of the war – one is inclined to feel a little grumbly when even our one consolation, comradeship, is attacked & taken away!

If only some of you knew how I have longed to have the time for the letters you all wait for. It takes away all the peace of mind at my disposal when I think of all the friendships which I am gradually letting slip. I know they are going because I get fewer & fewer letters from people. I can’t blame them, but it makes me feel a bit dumpy sometimes. Even Loughton feels the same. We can’t get the time for using thought or for quiet reading or writing & there’s an end on it. Now this letter seems to me to be very grumblesome but really my darling sister I don’t feel a bit grumpy, it is only a sort of attempt to justify a weakness on my part.

All love from
Your v affectionate
Brer Syd

Letter from Sydney Spencer to his sister Florence (D/EZ177/8/2/2-4)

Wargrave’s roll of honour

Wargrave was one of many parishes to publish a list of men serving in the parish magazine. This allowed parishioners at home to pray for them all by name.

‘The Roll of Honor for the Parish of Wargrave

The Royal Navy
Bywater, Darol. Lieut. R.N.D
Grey, Thomas Robinson. Sub-Lieut., R.N.A.A.V.C.
Blackburn, Ernest. H.M.S. Glory
Bucker, J. H.M.S. Laurel
Carr, Joseph, Fireman. Transport
Clarke, William. H.M.S. Laconia
Coleman, Charles William. H.M.S. Glasgow
Doughty, Albert. H.M.S. Irresistible
Doughty, Arthur. H.M.S. Tartar
Doughty, Herbert. H.M.S. Queen Mary
Doughty, Horace. H.M.S. Donegal
Doughty, John. H.M.S. Hindustan
George, Walter. H.M.S. Agamemnon
Haskett, Bernard. H.M.S. Jason
Haycock, Charles William. H.M.S. Ajax
Hollis, Alfred John. H.M.S. Implacable
Jemmett, Leonard Oakley. H.M.S. Galatea
Mayne, Frederick. H.M.S. Britannia
Parritt, Edward. H.M.S. Defiance
Pauline, Leonard. H.M.S. Hebe
Payne, William. H.M.S. Britannia
Pugh, Charles. H.M.S. Hibernia
Sandleford, James. H.M.S. Mars
Waldron, Jesse. H.M.S. George V.
Waldron, William. H.M.S. Dido

George, William. Royal Marines, H.M.S. Agamemnon
Pugh, Herbert. Royal Marines, H.M.S. Prince George

Uniforms allocated according to height

Sydney Spencer was beginning to get accustomed to military drill, when he met an old acquaintance from his YMCA work at the start of the war:

27 January 1915
This morning’s drilling was much more satisfactory. The Sergeant made us so several new motions which go under several terms which I recognise when I hear them but which I cannot yet remember apart. At 10 o’clock we went to the OTC headquarters and there we were measured for our overcoats. Not a careful examination, but according to height. I am 5’5”. After Latin Prose I went to Shepherds with Loughton & we were both measured for our OTC uniforms. We are to be fitted on Saturday. I met two people whom I knew. One was, of all people on earth, Hayes of Merton, with whom I worked at Harwich (YMCA work). He is staying at No. 41, only just a few yards down. He has been doing YMCA work at Havre for some time & has left his studies at Edinburgh for a time. The other person I met was the Rev. Demans of Hedsor.

We won’t be hearing from Sydney for a couple of months, as he was too busy with his new activities to write in his diary.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/14)

A terrifying sergeant wakes up the OTC

New OTC recruit Sydney Spencer experienced drill for the first time on 25 January. It was a challenge for the mild-mannered undergraduate.

25 January 1915
This morning I went to my first parade & put myself under the protection of dear old Loughton. It was of course a very new sensation to be ordered about in matters concerning my bodily movements. It is strange how very seldom if ever in my life, my bodily movements have been under the control of anyone outside my immediate self. I suppose that only when I was about 10, when I did a little infant school drilling, or when I learned to swim, & had a few breathing lessons, or when I have been sounded by the doctor, & sighed, & coughed and said “r” or “99”, did I feel the power of another mind over my corporal freedom. Did I like this subservience to the will of another? I answer conclusively and inclusively “Yes”. There was an intellectual satisfaction in the knowledge that one is voluntarily surrendering oneself to the mind & will of another. It is peculiarly difficult to quite explain how this comes about, perhaps there are other thoughts inevitably bound up in it too, i.e. – “No man is safe to command, but he who has learned well how to obey” (a Kempis chapter XX: Book I). I felt an infinite amount of satisfaction from this my first drill, for with all the ceaseless comments, of “eyes right”, “hands to side”, “heels together”, “form fours”, “form two deep”, “right turn”, “about turn”, etc etc, there was the growing knowledge & experience of the infinite depth of meaning in the words, “implicit & unquestioning obedience”. A command is given, I don’t know what it intends, never mind, obey each detail & get the result, & other peoples’ actions look after themselves!

As my head is really very full for the moment of OTC work I shall discuss that question fairly fully these days. Of course we had the usual sort of lectures and mods work in the morning, i.e. Tacitus & Livy. After lunch came the crucial point. I had to face the ordeal of going on company drill with no knowledge of what was expected of me! Things were pretty exciting. First of all I had no place and so that made rather a fly in the ointment. Then Lieutenant Claypole, a young faced chubby fellow who has just been made 1st Lieutenant took up, and we had sundry types of marching to so, some of which were moderately successful, others of which were an appalling hash up since there were a fair number of recruits in our C Company. After a good deal of this type of drilling we had to go to Keble & get rifles. This made matters exciting in the extreme for me, as I never thought I should be able to carry the beastly thing when I got it. To add to the general feeling of ignorance, there was the sergeant who now took us in hand. He was an enormous fellow, Sergeant Glover by name. He has a terrifying bass drone, and his orders split the air for yards around. His whole abdomen seems to contract when he shouts out his commands, & he works us up to such a pitch in marching – at first – that it is almost ludicrous. Of course his whole intention is to make us wake up. He informed me at the end of the rifle drilling that the rifle did not weigh 15 pounds but only eight pounds and a half! He saw that I was having a battle with it but was not cruelly sarcastic, only humorously so. He treated Greenhalgh rather abominably which made him go down in my estimation.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/14)

A lump to stand on

Sydney Spencer continued to think seriously of a future as an army officer, despite his slight build:

21 January 1915
I wrote to Harold and Father this morning to find out whether they agree & will help me to get into the OTC. Also last night when I had done my work I wrote to Captain Wixly & told him of what I was intending to do if matters sorted themselves out properly. When I was discussing probabilities with Loughton I suggested that if I did ever get a commission and went out to the trenches they would have to make a little lump for me to stand on! He was highly amused at this!!

This evening I went to see Colonel Stenning at the OTC Offices in Alfred St, No 9. (Ye Gods! I have been to the wrong Alfred Street every time! How was I to know that there was another Alfred Street?) He tells me that I can go into the Corps as soon as I definitely know from home as to whether it is approved of.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/14)

Fit for service

Theology student Sydney Spencer got a medical examination to see if he would be fit to serve. He had a history of delicate health and weak lungs, which explains his amused surprise at the results:

18 January 1915
Our members [at the Divinity School] have been very much diminished since last term, and I learn that Pyng and another are already at the front. Good luck to them.

I went in quest of [his friend Loughton] & found him in the High, & had a walk with him and went to his digs to tea, & talked of the OTC. I settled that I should have a medical examination & find out exactly whether I was fit or not. So I went to the OTC Medical Examiner & he told me that – now don’t faint, my dear Diary – I WAS QUITE FIT! – that although I was an inch too small when my chest was expanded for ordinary service, yet my expansion (3 inches) & my breathing were both excellent! So I have written to Percy and told him all circumstances & asking his advice. If conscription came I would rather be prepared to accept a commission than have to be a private. That would finish me off! I hope I am doing the right thing.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/14)

Why this unnecessary evil?

Sydney Spencer agonises over the evils of the war:

Thursday October 29th, Saturday October 31st & Sunday

Oxford still exists, & the sound of martial feet is heard in the land, & bugles startle the sacred learned precincts of our college with their brazen cry, & all points to & tells of war. As I write & think of those days when Loughton and I basked in broiling sunshine on the lawn of the Rose & Lily tea gardens, or paddled our canoe among beds of rushes & golden eyed lilies, & followed the sleepy current of that wending stream which runs by the hotel at Wheatley, & saw the world of nature, & pronounced it “very good”, that in four short months the world would be plunged in war!

Yes, as I write our fair world is clouded & darkened, & shaken to its foundations by one of the greatest & most terrible wars that this world has seen. Germany: France: Servia [sic]: Belgium: Portugal: India: Turkey: Poland: Russia: South Africa! All these countries are at war with one or another! England has Germany as her enemy. England, Belgium, Russia, Japan & France are allied against Germany. Servia has as it were, although the originator of the war, died out of the question. In South Africa there is a German party stirring up hatred against England & causing war & bloodshed. Turkey has lifted her hand against Russia & the relations between England & that nation are at breaking point. Today I see that America is protesting against our detention of a ship the “Kroonland”. India in her loyalty to England is drawn into the net, & so the war circle ever widens & widens till indeed it will be a world war.

And that word war. What does it all mean? Why this brutal waste of humanity, why this “unnecessary evil”? For unnecessary it undoubtedly is. And the answer is surely that the nations are not yet Christianised, that is to say not yet civilised. Are those who say that war is a necessary evil right or wrong? In one respect they are right, in one respect wrong. Or perhaps it were better to say, that if they present their arguments in one light they are right, & if in another light wrong. Suppose they say that in the present state of affairs, since the world is neither Christian nor civilised, since nations are wholly ignorant of even the rudiments of Christ’s teaching, since nations would be greeted, if they were suddenly transported to the other world with Depart ye strong to Me, & my Father, depart ye workers of iniquity who lived on earth with a lie ever on your lips: suppose & say that these people acknowledged all this, & further acknowledged that as militarism is the only universally understood language – what a lamentable truth! – and that consequently when we rise up & punish a wicked nation, we must shew we must talk to them in their own language, we must in a word use militarism as an argument & our language, then undoubtedly was is a most necessary evil, & their statement is true. Consequently it is only untrue when nations have learned to respect other arguments, of “meekness”, of “non-resistance”, of “CHRIST”.

I heard an address a little time back, in which the speaker suggested that if I am to gain a man’s respect, & get him to a higher level, I must first shew him that I can beat him on his own level. I take him to mean that I must teach him to respect the fact that I know his own language & philosophy of life, & can beat him on it, & then lift him – having gained his respect and ear, onto a higher level…Well this is a very specious argument, without doubt, as it would logically mean that I must get blind drunk with another man before I can teach him that temperance is a higher level.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1914 (D/EX801/12)