Still alive but no chance of getting home yet

Farrier Harry Blackall had been co-opted by the army. His wife passed on news of him to her in-laws.

27/4/19
8 Lowestoft St
Swindon

Dear Mother, Father & Nellie

I am glad to tell you I had a letter from [her husband] Harry yesterday, he says he is still alive but no chance of getting home yet. Too much to do, he is fed up. He has got 140 horses & mules to keep shod. He is the only man left in his unit. All others were applied for [by their employers] and got home now. There are no shoes left, but he hopes when they get to Constantinople there will be a few stray ones about. They are moving in a day or so.

He sent me his photo. He looks very old and thin & worried, poor fellow. I wish he was home, it’s no joke being left all this time alone…

I remain your loving [illegible] Judy

Letter to the Blackall family of Cane End, Caversham, from their daughter in law (D/EX1485/2/16)

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Horribly mutilated by shell fire

Animals were among the many victims of the war.

Sydney Spencer
Monday 13 May 1918

Got up at 6.50. Breakfast at 7.30. Peyton & I took company along the line to M- M-. Men walked along. I took first tack from 10-12.20. On way there a dead mule lay on track. Neck & chest horribly mutilated by shell fire. Poor beast. Our tool cart mules for a long time refused to pass it! They knew!

It rained from 10 on till 2.30 when we got back to A-n. After lunch I to bed as Pepys would have said. It is now 4.45 pm & I am just going to dress. A very ‘Novembery’ day. Yesterday I found some interesting old bills & receipts, dates 1782 & 3. I sent them to Florence. I hope she gets them.

After tea called down to interview with CO. I had let my men straggle a bit in the mud when coming home. Bad for discipline. After dinner to bed & lay awake reading till about 1.30 when I at last got some sleep. Finished reading Rupert of Hentzau, & this week’s Punch.

Percy Spencer
13 May 1918

A nice dirty day, promising trouble for the Hun tomorrow if he tries his luck against us. Dreamt of Gil last night. Somehow he got down a narrow shaft and I had to haul him out. He was in a pretty bad way.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); and Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

“A terrible blow to his parents”

Tribute is paid to Burghfield men whose deaths had been reported.

THE WAR

Casualties
C Searle (killed)
Sidney Cooper (wounded and missing, reported killed)
Ernest F Bunce (died of wounds)

Discharge
R Jordan (wounded)

Obituary Notices

Lance-Corporal Ernest Bunce is reported as having died from wounds received on the 18th November; he was on 1/1st Berks Yeomanry in Palestine during General Allenby’s victorious advance. No news except the telegram of his death has reached his parents, deepest sympathy is felt for them and his twin sister Elsie in their great sorrow. They wish to return grateful thanks for many kind messages.

Christopher Searle of the Royal West Surrey was killed on October 4th in France. His Commanding Officer writes of him that he had just gone through an attack with his Battalion safely, and on going to fetch some water, a shell burst close to him, and he was killed instantly.

“The Company all regret him, he did his work well and was very popular.”

It is a terrible blow to his parents, he was their only son, but he was a brave lad, and they must feel very proud of him.

Sidney Cooper, 2nd Royal Berks, of Pinge Wood, was reported as “wounded and missing” some time ago, he is now believed to have been killed.

Fred W Fisher died in hospital at Brighton on December 6th after a long sad illness partly due to a kick from a mule. He enlisted in the ASC in March 1916, and was fit for duty for only a few months.

Burghfield parish magazine, January 1918 (D/EX725/4)