Gallant service since 1914

A veteran of the first days of the war and the Retreat from Mons was rewarded for his service.

The Military Cross

We tender our most sincere congratulations to Captain John Boyd, of the Coldstream Guards, on winning the Military Cross.

Captain Boyd was Lieutenant and Quartermaster in the Coldstream Guards when the War broke out in August 1914. He was immediately sent to France, and from the days of Mons to the present time he has been with his regiment at the Front. His many friends learn with the greatest of pleasure of this latest recognition of his gallant service.

Wargrave parish magazine, July 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

No half time: kill or be killed

Sydney Spencer summarised the lessons he had gained from his army training. This was the last entry in Sydney’s diary, although we will still be hearing from him in his letters after he went overseas.

28 February 1916
Captain Shaft

Physical Training

Fitness by training. Bayonet not obsolete as many people think.

Physical training has been worked out for 100 years.

During retreat from Mons, new recruits going by in a train saw an old wounded soldier, & called out “Are we down hearted” & they answered “No”, but he called out “Then you will – well soon be”.

Physical Training massages the inside orders.

Physical Training trains the brains.

Men whose insides are all twisted up get straightened out. Such exercise requires mental as well as physical force.

Bayonet

We have a great advantage over the Germans. We fight more extended than any other nation. In other words he is so to speak alone & must “carry on”. Not so with Germans. The German lacks the resource & initiative. The German is gone when it comes to close quarters.

Our fighting spirit must be controlled & skilled.

Direction of Bayonet.

In bayonet fighting “No half time”. One goes out to kill or be killed.

No “orders” should be given in bayonet fighting practice after actions are once learned. All to be done by signs & prodding at your man.

Company Training

All men, if possible, should be put on in company training & men should be trained in his own company.

Keep a Company Diary, & a Record of each day’s work, & sketches, plans, messages & remarks of his own or visiting officers’ work.

Keep a note of capabilities of your men, NCOs & officers.

Diary kept as a confidential document or as a company book. These diaries should be kept till the next “Company Training”.

Training of NCOs.

6 days to NCO & chosen Privates.

1. Map Reading.
2. Outposts, Flank, Advanced, Rear Gun.
3. Duties of Patrols.
4. Writing reports.

Fire direction.
Indication of targets.
Instruction by lectures & practical work. Frequent questionings.
Reforming after an assault. A lot of practice & arrangement required.

Lectures should be given every day if possible on the next day’s work.

Lectures include Regimental Records, Cleanliness & Morality. 1st Aid, Observers.

Every company commander, & every platoon commander, should have an observer.

How to load pack animals.
How to make knots.
Cooking.

Men should be reminded of faults such as slowness. Taking cover clumsily.

The new importance of night marching. Aircraft. “Disappearing Drill”. Company commander makes programme. Hang it in Orderly Room.
Tactical scheme to be carried out. CC should go out beforehand & see ground over which work is to be done.

He should be commander & umpire always, not umpire sometimes and commander at another time. After each operation hold a pow-wow.

Platoon & section commanders should see that men do work in right way or they won’t do it in actual warfare.

“Habit” to be aimed at in loading etc.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/14)

Three teeth lost to a hostile aircraft

The Standing Joint Committee which oversaw the Berkshire Constabulary met on 9 October 1915 to consider various war-related matters, including an unfortunate accident resulting from the shock of an air raid, whetehr the Chief Constable should abandon his job to take up a role with the army.

A circular having been received from the Board of Trade (Railway Department) dated 6th September, 1915, addressed to Council Authorities, recommending that every effort should be made to accumulate stocks of coal in consequence of the probability that, owing to the number of miners who have joined the colours, the supply for home consumption next winter will be less than usual, instructions were issued to Superintendents to purchase sufficient coal to last the winter (or partly so) if it could be properly stored.

Accident to Special Constable G. E. Loader
The Divisional Officer, Berks Special Reserve, Wokingham Division, has reported that Special Constable G. E. Loader met with a serious accident on 13th September, 1915, while proceeding to his post on an alarm being given as to the approach of hostile aircraft. He ran into a post in the dark and injured his jaw, three teeth being knocked out, which he is having replaced by new ones. I beg to recommend that as the accident happened when on duty, the cost of the new teeth should be paid for out of the Police Fund. The amount would be £1. 19s. 4d.
Recommended for approval. (more…)

Because we pray, a bullet may miss

As the war continued, the members of Broad Street Congregational Church in Reading renewed their prayers for their friends who had joined up. Interestingly, one detects here a little scepticism in the veracity of the legend of the Angel of Mons.

PRAYER AND SAFETY

“In Jesus’ keeping
We are safe and they”

The editor has again very kindly invited me to send him a few lines for our magazine, and whilst wondering what they should be, the above quotation from one of our well known hymns came to my mind.
The thought should be, I think, very helpful to us in these most trying days providing we do, as we might, really and truly believe it.

I take it that practically everyone connected with us is thinking of our soldiers and sailors throughout each day, and of the dangers they have been facing so long, and are facing still, and also of the lesser dangers we at home are liable to meet with from overhead, from possible invasions and in other unexpected ways.

And as we “look up” at the beginning of every new day and commend the keeping of these brave fellows – an ever-increasing number – and especially those whom we know so well, to Almighty God, and when again the darkness falls, we repeat with added earnestness the prayer to our ever watchful Father Who never slumbers nor sleeps, I do think we feel the grace and beauty of those eight words. Are we not frequently being told by men who should know that the power of prayer is indeed wonderful? And some of us would very humbly say we have not the shadow of a doubt about it. Some day we may know that because you and I prayed, a bullet missed its object by a brief inch or two and a precious life was spared.

I cannot but make just a reference to the vision of angels seen at Mons and which undoubtedly many of our men there sincerely believed aided them and discomfited their foes, but I do place entire reliance in a very much older record, “the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him and delivereth them.”

HFA

(more…)

A year of horrors unimaginable, and the end not in sight

Across the county, the first anniversary of the declaration of war was solemnly commemorated with religious services.

At Mortimer West End, the services were dominated by the loss of two of its men who had given their lives.

Wednesday, August 4th, was the anniversary of the declaration of war by England, and we held a well-attended service in the evening of that day to pray about the past and the future. The service began with a Memorial for those who had fallen, remembering especially Captain Stephen Field, R.A.M.C., and Frank Goodchild, who went down on the “Good Hope.” Then we joined in intercession for our Rulers, our Army and Navy, and our Allies, the wounded and those tending them, and made an act of penitence for our national sins and shortcomings. The family of the late Captain Field has put up a memorial brass in the church bearing the following inscription:

“In loving memory of Captain Stephen Field, R.A.M.C., who died a prisoner in Germany, April 10th, 1915, aged 34. He was taken prisoner in the retreat from Mons while tending the wounded in a church. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

The later news which has come shows that the text was true of Captain Field up to the very last, as he laid down his life attending to typhus patients in camp in the midst of appalling conditions.

If any parents should be summoned to France to see a son dangerously wounded (which God grant may not occur) will they communicate at once with the Vicar, who will put them in touch with an organization which will make things easier for them?

At Stratfield Mortimer:
August 4th
The anniversary of the outbreak of war was observed by large congregations at all the services, 7.45 a.m., 2.30 and 7.30 p.m. There was no preaching, only hymns and prayers, but there was impressive evidence of a deep reality and earnestness. And this we hope to see maintained at the two week-day war services throughout the autumn. We should like to see at these weekly services more of parents and friends of Mortimer men who are now at the Front.

All Saints’, Dedworth, reported:

August 4th, the anniversary of the Declaration of War, was kept as a day of solemn Intercession. There was, as far as possible, continual Intercession throughout the day, and Services at different hours. We were glad to see so many were able to take their part at sometime of the day. We hope these days help to make us realize the tremendous need there is for all to intercede humbly every day to God for our nation, our friends, and our foes.

Nonconformists took part as well as Anglicans. Maidenhead Congregational Church announced the town’s nonconformists’ contributions to the day:

A YEAR OF WAR!
It is a whole year since the world’s peace was broken up, and horrors unimaginable before have become our daily meat. And the end is not yet in sight. There are those who prophesy that the end will be as sudden and unexpected as the beginning, and that Christmas will see us settled down once more in ways of peace. Whatever happens, we are convinced that the Allies will not lay down their arms until their warfare is accomplished, and they have lost no jot of their conviction that their chivalrous and Christian struggle on behalf of a great cause will be crowned with a complete and satisfying victory. But it may be that vast sacrifices lie before us, and for those we shall need more and more the continual succours of grace of God. Fortitude must be fed and supported by faith.

We urge upon all our friends the duty of earnest and constant prayer. We ought to pray in private as well as in public services, that our soldiers and generals may be strong, and our rulers wise. We ought to pray for the Church, that it may be rich in counsel, and that it may guide the people to a more solemn faith in God. And we shall need to pray for ourselves, that our faith may not fail, however great the burdens may be that it may be called upon to carry.

A united meeting of the Free Churches of the town for Thanksgiving and Intercession has been arranged to be held in the Congregational Church on Wednesday, August 4th, the Anniversary of the outbreak of war, at 7.30 p.m. Rev. G. Ellis (the new Primitive Methodist Minister) will preside, and a brief address will be given by the Rev. G. D. Mason. We hope the faith and gratitude of Maidenhead Nonconformists will suffice to bring them together in large numbers, and that we shall renew and enlarge our trust in a ruling and guiding Will. Let us not dwell too much on the past, but let us think of our duty now, and let us set our hearts right before Him. When the nation is on its knees, the victory will arrive.

The minister of Broad Street Congregational Church in Reading, whose instincts were opposed to war in general, was less thrilled by the commemorations, although he allowed his congregation to take part in the town’s services.

Wednesday August 4th will see the first anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War. War is not a thing that we rejoice in. Rather do we deplore the necessity for such a dire calamity. But we are in it – righteously, as we believe – and, God helping us, we are determined to see it through to a victorious conclusion. That is the thought that is animating the vast majority of our countrymen at this time, and a demonstration to give it expression on August 4th is now being organised by the Mayor…

Personally I cannot say that I am enamoured of processions and demonstrations at such a time as this; but that is neither here nor there. The thing I do rejoice in is that the religious element is to be prominent in the proceedings, and I hope my friends will help to make it and keep it so. In this connection I desire to draw attention to the United Service (arranged by the Executive Committee of the Free Church Council) which is to be held in our church that day at 5 p.m. Several of the Free Church ministers of the town will take part, and our organist and choir have promised their help. I trust we may see the church crowded for that service.

St John’s Church in Reading reported its own services and the interdenominational town ones:

Wednesday, August 4th, the anniversary of the Declaration of War, was observed among us principally as an occasion for earnest intercession. We began the day with a Celebration of Holy Communion at 5.30 a.m., at which there were 31 communicants, most of whom were on their way to work. At 10.30 a.m. we had a second Celebration, with an address by the Vicar. The hour of this service was fixed with a view to giving mothers an opportunity to come and pray for their sons at the Lord’s own service, and the number that came shewed how greatly they valued the opportunity. It was indeed a wonderful service, and will live long in the memories of those privileged to take part in it.

Later in the day, after Evensong in St Laurence’s Church, attended by the Mayor and Corporation, there was a great procession, in which all the public bodies in the town were represented, ending up with a demonstration in the Market Place, at which, after a short religious service, stirring addresses were delivered by Bishop Boyd-Carpenter and the Lord Chief Justice. St John’s Church was open from 8.30 onwards, and we ended the day with Family Prayers in Church, at which a large number of worshippers were present, thus ending the day as we had begun it – in prayer.

Churches in the Winkfield area also commemorated the anniversary of the war’s start.

ASCOT

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 4th, the Anniversary of the Declaration of War, was observed in our Church, as in almost every Church throughout the land, as a day of Intercession before Almighty God in the spirit of deep penitence and true humility. We are thankful to be able to say that the chain of intercession was never allowed to be broken throughout the whole day. The great service of intercession, the Holy Eucharist, was offered at 8 a.m. and at 10.30 a.m.; and some of the grand old Offices of the Church were said: Sext, None, and Compline. The large attendance at all the services was something to be thankful for. It proved that our people have a sincere belief in the power of intercessory prayer and are willing to make an effort to do at least this much for our soldiers and sailors. But it also proved that mane more might, by a little sacrifice in the re-arrangement of their time, attend the Intercession Service which is held every Wednesday evening at 8 p.m. “Orare est laborare” – “to pray is to work,” and intercession for our men is a very important work in which we can all do our share, if we will.

CRANBOURNE

We were very unfortunate as regards the weather in our open air services of Intercession, four of them had to be abandoned owing to the rain. The Intercessions Services on the Anniversary of the Declaration of War were very well attended.

WINKFIELD

The special Services on August 4th were well attended, especially in the evening when we had a full Church; and the congregations were also large on the Sunday following. The anthem, “Lord for thy tender mercies sake,” being well rendered on both morning and evening.

Our thanks are due to the members of the C.E.M.S., who distributed notices of these services, which work was especially valuable in view of the notices in the Magazine being somewhat belated owing to its late issue this month.

Second Lieutenant Wilfred Loyd has just gone to the Front and will we trust be remembered in our prayers.

We are glad to be able to add two more names, Jack Dear and James Winnen to the list of Winkfield men serving, which was printed last month.

We regret to learn that Private R. Nickless has been wounded after having been at the Front only a few days. He has undergone an operation as is now progressing favourably.

The Vicar has sent a copy of the August Magazine to every man whose name is on the list published in that number.

WARFIELD

WAR ANNIVERSARY.- On August 4th there were two early celebrations of Holy Communion at 6.30 and 8, and though a week-day there were thirty communicants. The best attended service however was the open-air service held at Newell Green at 7 p.m. The Choir vested at the Brownlow Hall and preceded by the Processional Cross and followed by the Warfield Scouts made their way to the Cross Roads, where the service was begun by the singing of the National Anthem, followed by a short address by the Vicar on penitence and prayer, after which the hymn “Lord teach us how to pray aright,” was sung; prayers were offered for every Warfield belligerent by name.

The Vicar then asked all present to come up to the Church and to walk in couples and maintain strict silence while Church Litany was recited in procession. Just before reaching the Church the old Hundredth was sung; the service in Church was that sanctioned for use on the first Sunday in the year. The congregation which came in the procession numbered about three hundred. We thank God for His good hand upon us and for the great number whose hearts were touched and whose lips were opened on this solemn day.

The vicar of Warfield planned an open air service to commemorate the first anniversary of the war’s start.

THE VICAR’S LETTER.

MY DEAR FRIENDS AND PARISHIONERS,

Wednesday, August 4th, ought to be a very solemn day for all of us this year, being as you know the Anniversary of the Declaration of War. A great example is being set to us all on that day by our King and Queen Mary by their intention to be present at a solemn Service of Intercession in St. Paul’s Cathedral at noon. What are we going to do? Let the King be represented by all his subjects in Warfield, and St. Paul’s represented by our own Parish Church. The hour of noon be substituted by 7 p.m. Let us have a united open-air service at the Crossways at Newell Green. The National Anthem will be sung, a short address will be given. All our village soldiers will be prayed for by name. The Litany will be recited on our way to Church, where the service will conclude with the special service used on the first Sunday of this year. The Holy Communion will be celebrated that morning at 6.30 and 8.

Anyone who is absent on such an evening I should feel was ashamed of his country, and deserved no blessing from God. Let us all be united about it, and come not in tens but in hundreds and not be afraid to confess the mighty working of God in our midst. This can be done and I want you all to say that it must be done. Let us confess our God and cry mightily to Him. I ask every parishioner to do his or her utmost to bring their neighbours. London has set us all an example, let the country do her part, and may God lift up your hearts to seek His great and abundant blessings in the coming year.

Yours affectionately in Christ,
WALTER THACKERAY.

More privately, the Community of St John Baptist held its own services at the House of Mercy, Clewer.

4 August 1915
Anniversary of our declaration of war with Germany. The Penitents were present at the 7 a.m. Eucharist. War Litany was said by one of the priests at 12; & at Evensong there were special prayers, hymns, & the National Anthem.

Florence Vansittart Neale went with a friend to attend the big national service at St Paul’s.

4 August 1915
Up by early train with Mary Hine to London for the service at St Paul’s! 1st year of war over! Long wait. Nice service. Artillery band. Royalties there. Over by 1. We missed 2 o’clock train so had lunch, came down 3.45. Church after.

Bubs’ men had motor drive & tea at Henley.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, September 1915 (D/P120/28A/14); Clewer parish magazine, September 1915 (D/P39/28A/9); Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, August 1915 (D/N33/12/1/5); Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, August 1915 (D/N11/12/1/14); Reading St John parish magazine, September 1915 (D/P172/28A/24); Winkfield District Monthly Magazine, August 1915 (D/P151/28A/7/8); CSJB Annals (D/EX1675/1/14/5); Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Wounded in the retreat from Mons

There was bad news of several men associated with Bracknell.

THE ROLL OF HONOUR.

It is feared that the name of Henry Hollingsworth, of the Royal Berks, must be added to the list of those who have fallen in the war. He was reported as missing as long ago as September last, and since then diligent enquiry has been made concerning him. Some time ago some of his comrades reported that he had been wounded in the retreat from Mons, and now definite information from one who saw him after he was wounded has come in with the further information that he has died of his wounds. Hollingsworth was formerly one of our Choir boys, but his family removed to Newbury, and it was only about a year ago that his mother returned to Bracknell. He was a widower and has left some little children in his mother’s care.

SIDNEY HARVEY, one of our postmen, Corporal in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, has been wounded in the head. He has been moved to England and is in a hospital in Rochester. We are thankful to think that he is going on well.

ALBERT REEVE, another Corporal in the same Regiment, has also been wounded in the arm, which is broken. He is at Woolwich, but we shall hope soon to see him in Bracknell.

JOHN SCOTT, who has many friends in Bracknell, has also been wounded, but is reported to be doing well.

LEONARD TAYLOR, of the Canadian Contingent, was engaged in the battle in which these troops so greatly distinguished themselves, after the enemy had driven back the French soldiers on their right by the use of poisonous gas. Thank God he was unhurt.

We continue to offer daily Intercessions in the Church for the War at 12 noon when the bell rings. On Monday, May 10th, one of the Rogation days, a Special Intercession Service was held at *p.m. This was well attended.

Bracknell section of Winkfield District Magazine, June 1915 (D/P151/28A/17/6)

Cookham Dean’s roll of honour

As the year drew to a close, Cookham Dean announced the latest roll of honour of parishioners serving their country (carefully listed by rank).  Two (tragically, members of the same family) had already paid the ultimate price:

Roll of Honour
The Roll of Honour has been carefully revised, corrected and added to and it contains, it is believed, a complete list of those who have offered themselves from Cookham Dean and Pinkneys Green for the service of their country.
Major Herbert Clark – London Royal Field Artillery
Major C Crookshank – Royal Engineers
Major J Henderson – Army Ordnance Dept
Capt. Tomlinson – Cavalry Reserve of Officers
Lieut. Reginald Geard – XVth Lancers (Indian Army)
Lieut. Cecil Saunders – Royal Flying Corps
Sec. Lieut. Lawrence – North Staffordshire (Prince of Wales’) Regiment
Sec. Lieut. Hewitt Pitt – Royal Field Artillery
Sec. Lieut. Russell Simmons – 3rd Royal Berks Regiment
Sec. Lieut. John A del Riego – 24th County of London (Queen’s) Regiment
Sec. Lieut. Randall E Hunt – Army Service Corps
Sec. Lieut. Douglas A A Geard – 3rd (King’s Own) Hussars
Sec. Lieut. Frank Snell – 6th Royal Berks Regiment
Sec. Lieut. Robert Kersey – Army Service Corps
Arthur Bampton –5th Gloucester, ASC
Henry Bishop – Royal Engineers
Ernest Blinko – 9th County of London (Queen Victoria’s) Rifles
Arthur Carter – Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry
William Carter – 2nd Royal Berks Regiment
Gerald Clark – Royal Engineers (Signalling Squadron)
Donovan Deadman – County of London Sharpshooters
Arthur Dore – Lance Corporal – 4th Royal Berks Regiment
Charles Druce – 2nd Royal Berks Regiment
Cecil B Edwards – 13th County of London (Kensington) Regiment
Bertram Ellis – 28th County of London (Artists’) Regiment
Albert Franklin – Army Service Corps (Mechanical Trans.)
George Franklin – Royal Flying Corps
Jesse Garrett – Royal Berks Regiment
Alfred Grove, RN – HMS Attentive
Thomas Grove, RN – HMS Hampshire
Harry Groves – Royal Berks Regiment
Percy Harris – Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
Thomas Hatch – Army Service Corps
Albert Higgs – Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry
Arthur Horne – Royal Engineers
Harry Hunt – Rifle Brigade (Reported missing since Aug. 26th)
William King – Royal Field Artillery
Alan Lidderdale – Public Schools OTC
Harry Long – Royal Engineers
Archibald Luker, Sergeant, 7th West Surrey (Queen’s) Regiment
William Markham, Sergeant – 1st Royal West Kent (Queen’s Own) Regiment
William North – 3rd Royal Berks Regiment
Albert Owen – Royal Field Artillery
Charles Piercey – 4th Royal Berks Regiment
Gilbert Piercey – Army Service Corps (Mechanical Trans.)
Herbert Prince, Corporal – 3rd Royal Berks Regiment
Frank Sandalls – Royal Army Medical Corps
William Sandalls – 2nd Royal Berks Regiment (Wounded at Mons, but has since rejoined his regiment)
George Skinner – Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry
Albert Stubbles – Royal Engineers
Frederick Tuck – Royal Engineers
George Tuck – Army Service Corps
Harley Vaughan-Morgan – Inns of Court OTC (Invalided)
Scott Ware, Corporal – Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry
Harold White – 4th Royal Berks Regiment
Harry White – Army Service Corps (South Midland Brigade)
Herbert Winkworth – 6th Royal Berks Regiment
James Winkworth – 1st Royal Berks Regiment
William Winkworth – Royal Field Artillery
Frederick Woodbridge – 5th Royal Berks Regiment
Harry Woodbridge – 5th Royal Berks Regiment

RIP
George Carter, killed in action September 14th
Robert Carter, killed in action November 13th

Cookham Dean parish magazine, December 1914 (D/P43B/28A/11)

Pluck, endurance and steadiness under fire: a tribute to the Royal Berkshire Regiment

The sterling service at the Front of the Royal Berkshire Regiment was acknowledged on 3 December 1914 by Field Marshal Sir John French (1852-1925), Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium.

Fresh Laurels for the Berkshires
Sir John French inspected, on December 3rd, the 1st Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment, which has been engaged in some of the fiercest fighting since Mons, and delivered the following address:-

Royal Berkshire Regiment, – As your Commander-in-Chief, I wish to say how much I appreciate the magnificent work you have done in this campaign. It is men like you who have enabled us to gain the successes that have been won.

This is not the first time I have fought with your regiment. Thirty years ago I remember the laurels your regiment won in Egypt – your glorious colours bear the names of nearly all the battles in which the British Army has been engaged for the last 200 years.

In these battles in France not only have you maintained your reputation, but you have won fresh laurels.

I deeply regret that Colonel Graham, who has led you so gallantly, is not present, and that he has been wounded.

We all hope that he may soon be at the head of his Battalion again.

Royal Berkshire Regiment, from the bottom of my heart I thank you – every single man of you – for what you have already done in this campaign.

It was printed in the Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, together with the personal tribute of an officer home on leave:

An Officer just returned from the front writes:-

Every one who belongs to Berkshire will be intensely proud of their regiment when the history of the doings of the 1st Battalion during the past three months comes to be written. They fought at Mons, and during the subsequent retirement and at Maroilles, and then they were in the advance and fought in the battles of Marne and Aisne. For thirty-two days they were on the Aisne, and all but five days were spent in the trenches. They are making a great name of themselves, a name for steadiness under fire, pluck and endurance. They have been out there from the beginning, have been in every battle and always on the front line. Their example should be an inducement to all able-bodied men in Berkshire to enlist immediately.

The following copy of orders by Lieutenant–Colonel M. D. Graham, commanding 1st Batt. Royal Berkshire Regt., is exhibited at Reading Barracks:-

October 29th. – The Commanding Officer has been directed by the Major General Commanding 2nd Division to convey to the Battalion the very high appreciation of their attack on October 24th, and of the determined manner in which they subsequently held their ground.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, January 1915 (D/P120/28A/14)

Steadiness, pluck and endurance

A Bracknell officer writes of the impressive fighting by the Royal Berkshire Regiment in the early months of the war.

From “The Times” of November 27th.
RECORD OF THE BERKSHIRES

An officer just returned form the front writes:-

Every one who belongs to Berkshire will be intensely proud of their regiment when the history of the doings of the 1st Battalion during the past three moths comes to be written. They fought at Mons and during the subsequent retirement at Moroilles, and then they were in the advance and fought in the battles of the Marne and Aisne. For 32 days they were on the Aisne, and all but five days were spent in the trenches. They are making a great name for themselves, a name for steadiness under fire, pluck, and endurance. They have been out there from the beginning, have been in every battle, and always in the front line. Their example should be an inducement to all able-bodied men in Berkshire to enlist immediately.

The following copy of orders by Lieutenant-Colonel M. D. Graham, commanding 1st Batt. Royal Berkshire Regt., is exhibited at Reading Barracks: –

October 29th. – The commanding officer has been directed by the Major-General Commanding 2nd Division to convey to the battalion the very high appreciation of their attack on October 24, and of the determined manner in which they subsequently held their ground.

Bracknell section of Winkfield District Magazine, December 1914 (D/P151/28A/6/12)

A most uncomfortable time – but the men are transformed

Percy Spencer was keen to arrange his transfer. He spoke frankly about army life and the shocking conditions for new recruits in a letter to his father in Cookham. He had also met some of the survivors of the retreat from Mons.

Private Spencer
No: 11814
The Gloucester Regiment
YMCA Tent
Horfield Camp
Bristol
Sep. 17.14

Dear Father

But for the fact that I shall probably get my transfer, I should today have been off with my company to Woolwich. Under the circumstances, I shall probably be here another four days, now.

We were a merry party, wet through or dry, penniless or flush, we saw the fun in everything, and when there was no fun, one of us made it.

My chums of a week have gone and you wouldn’t believe how lonely I felt looking round our empty tent. If I don’t get my transfer, I am after them; they may not be good enough for a dinner party but the sort of men I should like to fight with.

We lost a lot of men at Mons, and some of the wounded are here, fine earnest looking fellows, all anxious to get back again. All the men here who have seen service, have a wonderfully straight, stern look.

I have been very chatty with the officers this last day or two about my transfer. They are a fine body of men, sympathetic and anxious to relieve our conditions if possible. Practically active service conditions, to quote the press, are very trying to untrained men, and it would sicken your heart to see the fellows going down all over the ground at first parade. But I am told that when a few days ago. Men were sleeping on the grass without cover (luckily I have at least escaped that), the Colonel would walk round after midnight, and see that every man at least had a blanket.

Yesterday I saw Major Trench about my transfer. He thought I should get it, and told me to see the CO this morning. I made my first salute, turned right about and went flying over some tent rope. Today, amongst 500 men in the YMCA tent, he remembered my face, and stopped to ask me how I had fared, and expressed the hope that I should get my transfer. A wonderful man, with eyes like electric drills but so kind. He made a rattling good speech to us the other day – nothing silly, just earnest and sincere. None of the claptrap we had served up to us in London.

Your loving son
Percy

On the same day Percy wrote to his peacetime boss, Captain Holliday, to try to move things along, with a brief comment on life in the camp. (more…)

A hero’s death: who will follow his example?

One of the first Berkshire men to fall in the war was a regular soldier from Cookham Dean. He was killed at the First Battle of the Aisne which ended with stalemate. He was a private in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment. The parish magazine gave the following tribute to him:

In Memoriam
On Sept. 14th, in the Battle of the Aisne, George Carter, of Hoveden Cottages, was killed in action. George Carter was a born soldier, he was only 23 years of age, and had served nine years in the army and had joined the Militia six months previously to entering the Regulars. He came home in February last from eight years’ service in India, the same bright cheery face greeting us as it used to do in old days when he was a boy in school. He was one of the first to be called up and went off waving his goodbyes to his many friends in the village early one morning at the beginning of August. He lies in a soldier’s grave in France, having died at the post of duty a hero’s death. His name will not be forgotten in Cookham Dean.

The list of all those who are on Active Service at the Front or who are on Home Defence or who have recently joined the Army as Recruits or who are otherwise in training will be found below. I hope it is accurate and complete; I have done my best to make it so; but it is only too possible that a mistake may have occurred here or there, if so, I hope my attention will be called to it, and that anyone concerned will kindly accept my apologies for it. It has been my earnest endeavour to avoid mistakes, and I have repeatedly asked for information, but scarcely anyone has responded to my request. Our daily prayers in Church are offered for these dear men and lads who have so nobly come forward at the call of duty. It is not too late for others to place their names on this roll of honour and there are some few whom I should be proud and pleased to see doing so. Is there no one who feels an ambition to take George Carter’s place?

Roll of Honour
The first list contains the names of those whose homes are in Cookham Dean, and who, it is believed, are actually serving at the Front or who are on Home Defence. The second list contains the names of those who have, since war was declared, joined either the Officers’ Training Corps or who are in training as recruits. On the third list are the names of some closely connected with Cookham Dean but not actually resident here.
(more…)

Tremendous fighting retreat from Mons

Florence Vansittart Neale continued to follow the war news. Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien led the retreat from Mons.

10 September 1914

Sir J. French’s 1st despatch in D.M. [Daily Mail?]. Tremendous fighting retreat from Mons. Most courageous. S. Dorrien. Haig specially mentioned. Allies still pursuing. No mention of Russians yet!

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