The flag of St George is hoisted

Cranbourne greeted the end of the war with joy.

The news of the signing of the Armistice on Nov 11th reached Cranbourne about noon. The ringing of the Church bells announced the fact to the village, the flag of St. George was hoisted, very quickly flags appeared on most of the houses, and everywhere one heard expressions of deep thankfulness. An impromptu service of Thanksgiving, which was very well attended was held at 12 o’clock on Nov. 13th.

On the following Sunday the form of service drawn up by the Archbishops was used, and the names of all our men serving in H.M. forces was read, also the manes of those who have made the great sacrifice. The large congregation joined most heartily (we might say fervently) in the Hymns, and the singing was much helped by a cornet played by Bandmaster J. Dennison of the R.A.F., at Ascot and by a violin played by Miss E. Hern. Before the singing of the hymn, “For all the saints,” special reference was made to our men who have been killed, or died of wounds.

“Our dead lie scattered far and wide, On Mount, and Plain and Sea, But since for Thee they fought and died, They surely rest with Thee. O Love Divine, O Living Lord, Heal every broken heart; Who gives to God hath great reward, And they — the better part.”

And we remembered too those who have fought for us and worked for us, and whom we hope soon to welcome home, for them also we thanked God with thankful hearts.

“From that Brute force its saddle hurled, And that the sword no more can rule the world, For that Thy Justice is again restored, And War as arbiter abhorred, For high heroic bearing under stress, For hearts that no ill-fortune could depress, For noble deeds as simple duty done, In their Christlikeness known to God alone. We thank Thee Lord, We Thank Thee Lord.”

Cranbourne section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, December 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/10)

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An overpowering Germany is shewn by this war to be a Curse to the world

Unlike many, John Maxwell Image did not believe the Armistice meant peace.

29 Barton Road
17 Nov. ‘18

My very dear old man

The town – even in London – is full of riot and devilry. I send you the Cambridge Daily News of the first day – and nightly bonfires have succeeded – with the Kaiser for Guy Faux [sic]. The u.g.s that evening, and on Tuesday, are said to have gone to Girton with music, and serenaded the fair captives “in dismal dance about the furnace blue” – dismal, for on Monday evening no dove would listen – on Tuesday a few weakened, and the whirl became epicene. Then the Mistress phoned to Cambridge for Proctors – who hurried up with bulldogs in motor cars: and at their mere aspect – pulveris exigui jacta quiescent – the u.g.s scattered and fled.

Each day that passes heightens my conviction that the Hun has done us – as it was prophesied by his own people he would. Who can believe that Foch was left free handed in the matter of this armistice? Foch, who had everything matured for the final battle that would have left the Hun army a run away rabble, howling for mercy on any terms – and the Armistice simply gives them a fortnight (or is it a month?) of Rest Cure, to rehabilitate discipline and morale unhindered, and at the end confront us with a restored army well-equipped – Foch knows his Hun. Unhampered by the politician allies, he surely, if grant an armistice he must, would have demanded as sine qua non the bridge heads over the Rhine – over which he would have guaranteed a peaceful passage to the German forces after surrender of their arms.

He would never have allowed this debating about Terms. The man who has his boot heel on the adder’s head, and suffers the reptile to wriggle free, deserves his fate.

Directly debates begin, US (the only safe terms) is lost. The Hun will promise anything; and stick to no promise he can find means to evade. He has himself carefully taught the world that.

I should like to see Germany broken up into free republics. If German Austria unites with the Hohenzollern empire, the agglomeration will be numerically the ‘Predominant Power’ of Europe. An overpowering Germany is shewn by this war to be a Curse to the world.

Ever your affec.
Bild

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

God’s wonderful deliverance of our own nation and the world from the tyranny of lawless force

The first Sunday after the Armistice was the occasion for services of thanksgiving across Berkshire.

Newbury

Monday, November 11th, St Martin’s Day, will for ever be remembered in the history of our country as the day on which the greatest of all wars came to an end, and the strongest and most ferocious of military nations confessed itself beaten. It has been a tremendous triumph for right and justice, and we have endeavoured to express our thankfulness to Almighty God, who has so signally vindicated His mighty power and has so wonderfully blessed our arms and those of our Allies. May we now as a nation and Empire prove ourselves more worthy of His goodness to us, and endeavour to work together to make the world a better, and therefore happier, world.

Thanksgiving Services were held at the Parish Church: on Tuesday morning [12 November], a celebration of the Holy Communion, when there were 88 communicants; on Wednesday afternoon [13 November], when the church was full; and the following Sunday [17 November]. There was also a United Thanksgiving Service in the Corn Exchange, under the presidency of the Mayor, on Sunday afternoon, when there must have been 2,000 people present, and when several hundred failed to gain admittance. Mr Liddle had got together a splendid orchestra for the occasion. May this spirit of thanksgiving remain with us, and may we not forget the spiritual lessons of the war.

The streets presented a very gay appearance, and there were processions (authorised and unauthorised) much to the delight of the young. All the fireworks possible to be obtained were let off in the streets, and one unexploded bomb was found inside the Churchyard gates, and handed over to the police. It appeared afterwards that another member of the Police Force had put it there for safety. We were very glad to see the excellent and sober spirit of the merry-makers. It was indeed an occasion for rejoicing with great joy.


Speenhamland

It was with feelings of profound thankfulness that we heard the Armistice had been signed. Our feelings were deeply stirred at the thought that at last this terrible War, which has oppressed us for over four years, was over, and that there were good prospects of a peace being signed, which we trust will be a righteous and lasting one. Our rejoicings took various shapes during the week, and culminated in our services in Church. We were glad to see many at the Celebrations and at other services; and it was a happy thought to hold a joint service in the Corn Exchange, which was crowded with a devout and reverent congregation. We shall long remember the sight of that vast audience.

Earley

Sunday, November 17, being the first Sunday after the declaration of peace, naturally was observed as a day of thanksgiving. The families of those on our roll of honour responded quickly to the invitation to send flowers, which were massed on the window shelf and corner where the roll hangs. The black oak was relieved by a magnificent display of colour, by flags hanging from the rood loft on the west side.

Reading

Such tremendous things have happened since the last issue of the Magazine that it is almost impossible adequately to express all we should like to say. On S. Martin’s Day, November 11th, about 11.15, came the great news of the signing of the Armistice, and the cessation of hostilities. At 12 o’clock at S. Marys a short impromptu Service of Thanksgiving was held which was attended by quite a number of the faithful. None of us will ever forget the crowded Civic Service held at S. Mary’s, on Wednesday November 13th, when the Mayor and corporation came in state to render solemn thanks to Almighty God for His wonderful deliverance of our own nation and the world from the tyranny of lawless force. Sunday, November 17th was observed as the special Day of Thanksgiving. At the Eucharist at 11 and at evensong at 6.30 the Church was fuller than it has ever been of late years. This is an encouraging sign that our people in in times of joy, as well as in times of trouble and distress, turn instinctively to God.

At 3.30 on the same Sunday the Church Lads’ Brigade came in full strength to S. Mary’s for their parade service; several Officers and Lads were admitted, and the address was given by the Rev. Edgar Rogers, Chaplain at C.L.B. Headquarters in London, who also preached at Evensong. It should be mentioned among the special features of the service of this great Sunday that a large and handsome silk Union Jack was carried in the Procession and also two laurel wreaths to which were tied bows of patriotic colours.

“Deo gratias.”


Broad Street Brotherhood

The Brotherhood held a great mass meeting on Sunday, November 17th, to celebrate, and give thanks for, the Armistice recently concluded with Germany.

Principal Childs of the Reading College [later Reading University] delivered a most impressive address on “The Responsibilities of Victory”, which gave us much food for thought, and left with the members present a clear conception of the trying and serious times with which our country is faced. It was truly a great meeting, and our best thanks are due to the President for arranging it.

Newbury St Nicolas parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P89/28A/13); Speenhamland parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2); Earley St Bartholomew parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P192/28A/15); Reading St Mary parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P98/28A/13); Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, December 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“We must seek comfort in remembering what Sydney was, & in remembering him as he was”

The news of Sydney Spencer’s death in action reached his eldest brother Will in Switzerland.

Will Spencer
23 October 1918

After breakfast I played [the piano] a little. I had just gone to my room to finish my note to Director Eppler [a potential employer], when Johanna came in & sat down on the sofa opposite me with a troubled face. I was afraid that she had had bad news from [her sister] Agnes, but the news which she had to tell me was that dear Sydney had fallen. She shed a few tears in telling me, & handed to me the letters which she had received from Mother & Father last night, but had not told me about it until this morning, to avoid the danger of the news affecting my night’s rest. But she would probably have had a better night than she did if she had not still had the breaking of the news to me to look forward to.

My feeling, in thinking of Sydney, is one of thankfulness for what his life was.

Mother’s & Father’s letters were both dated Oct. 3rd. Sydney had suffered no pain, having been killed instantly by a shell on Septe 24th (?) (the date had been almost obliterated, but it looked like the 24th. His Major had written that he was one of the keenest officers he had known. Father wrote that he had never known Sydney to speak an unkind word to or of anyone. Mother quoted a loving message which he had written to her from the front on Sept. 15th.

As it was a beautiful morning, Johanna & I afterwards went for a stroll through the wood together. After dinner, Johanna produced a bundle of photographs, & found the photo of Sydney which she had thought of this morning – the one which he sent us from Epsom [where he had been studying before going to Oxford in 1914]. On the back of it Sydney had written “An amateur photo taken by my friend Willie Birch last Sunday week, Nov. 5th, 1911.” During the latter part of the day, Johanna & I both wrote to Mother & Father. I wrote that we must seek comfort in remembering what Sydney was, & in remembering him as he was.

Florence Vansittart Neale
23 October 1918

Heard cases of flu & some deaths in Marlow. Mabel wired for for Jack, but rather better.

Diaries of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/28); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

“Thy warfare is accomplished”

The devasated father of Sydney Spencer wrote a poem in tribute to his son.

To Sydney

O well-beloved! How shall we pay
The debt to thee we owe?
How find the words half adequate
Thy priceless worth to show?

Fair as the Evening Star wert thou
Pure as the morning dew
As gentle as a little child
Brave as the dauntless few

Who once at Crecy did withstand
Their proud insisting foes
And scattered them in hideous rout
With their good English bows

So with thy peers didst thou withstand
Th’exciting German host
With them didst share the glorious day
That shamed the foe’s proud boast

Thou took’st thy Father’s gifts with joy
The beauty of the flowers
The glory of the starry sky
And of the cloud-built towers

The thoughts of great men fitly clothed
In words that flame like fire
And Music’s deep, mysterious voice
For thou could’st touch the lyre

Thine was a perfect sacrifice
In thought, in will, in deed;
Thou couldst have been in England still
But thou wert of the breed

Who hear the clarion call but once
To where red Danger’s tide
Most fiercely sets, and thither haste
As bridegroom to his bride

Could’st thou have known, thou had’st forgiven
The foe who aimed the shell
For in thy brave and gentle heart
Nought but pure love did dwell

Would we have shaped it otherwise?
‘Twas not within our choice;
Or, still to feel thy loving touch,
To hear thy gentle voice

To Duty we had recreant proved
Perchance, and tried to sway
Thy steps from that appointed path
Which thou didst know thy Way

“Thy warfare is accomplished”
Life’s battle nobly won
And thou beyond the stars hast heard
Thy Father’s great “Well Done”

FATHER
Fernley, Cookham, Oct. 22nd, 1918

Poem by William Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/78)

“His soldiering days are probably over”

With six of their seven sons having joined the army, the Spencers of Cookham had a lot to worry about.

Will Spencer
30 September 1918

By the afternoon post a letter of Sept. 11 from father. They have had news from Stanley. They are not allowed to know Gilbert’s present whereabouts. Sydney has gone back to the front. Harold leading an orchestra (in Plymouth, Father believes). Horace is better, but Father thinks his soldiering days are probably over.

Florence Vansittart Neale
30 September 1918

We reached Cambrai. 2nd Army with Belgians got Dixmade.

Diaries of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/28); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“The cost, already doubled since the war began, has lately again been raised 20 per cent”

The temporary organist at South Ascot was clearly a poor substitute for the man who had gone to war.

It has been with very evident welcome that our friend Mr D Clarke came back to us for his leave before going abroad. For two Sundays we had him at the organ, instilling into the choir his own enthusiasm and genius. Still it would be very ungracious not to add that we have been exceedingly fortunate in having Mr Drake available, and under him the music has been well kept up.

Our readers will understand if the Magazine is contracted to the minimum of parochial news. The cost, already doubled since the war began, has lately again been raised 20 per cent.

South Ascot Parochial Magazine, septnber 1918 (D/P186/28A/18)

“His services to the wounded in this respect during this and previous years have been simply priceless”

Wounded soldiers in Reading were treated to a lovely day out.

River Trip for Wounded Soldiers

On Friday afternoon, September 13th, our own particular River Outing for wounded soldiers, under the auspices of the Care and Comforts Committee, took place under perfectly ideal conditions. After several days of somewhat broken weather, we struck the one bright sunny afternoon when the river was at its best. The arrangements on the steamer had been made as usual, by Mr. Awmack, whose services to the wounded in this respect during this and previous years have been simply priceless.

The “Merry Mascots” Concert party provided just the right sort of musical entertainment, with the songs that our soldiers delight in, accompanied by piano, harp and violin. The tea would have been very good in ordinary times – under present conditions it was marvellous. And the abundant supply of cigarettes handed round by Mrs. A.T. Watkins and Miss Shorter was evidently appreciated to the full.

The goal of our journey was Park Place, the residence of Colonel Noble, and it was good to see the enjoyment of our guests as they made their way up the green slope and through the famous tunnel to the fine historic mansion, with its glorious views, and enchanting grotto, and gardens.

Our party include men from many distant parts of the Empire as well as from the Old Country – from Australia and South Africa, and the Rocky Mountains. By their words and their looks, they left us in no doubt that the object we all had in view was fully attained, and the expedition will long live in their memory, as in ours who were privileged to go with them.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, October 1918 (D/EX1237/1)

“If only Fritz would drop a bomb on it, it would save further argument”

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence to let her know how he was getting on. The following day he was to be wounded.

Aug 6, 1918
My dear WF

Almost I’ve forgotten how to write a letter. Lately I have been so busy picking up the threads and so on that I haven’t had time to write a line since July 14, I think it was – not even to write and wish you many happy returns of the 4th. However I’ll put the clock back a couple of days and do it now.

My diary has gone during the last few weeks and I’m racking my brain for news.

To go back, I finished my course on the 17th. My section, 4/7 of which was my Division, won the School cup. The runners up were also 4/7 my Division. So we set our caps at the Canadians, Australians & our friends from USA and swanked. Also individually my section scored highest marks in the examination. My own report read –
Qualifications Very good
Power of command Ditto
Keen

So there was much rejoicing and our [HLI?] instructor got very tipsy at our expense and insisted on singing all the Scotch songs ever written, and some which I believe had before scarcely escaped the boundaries of his “wee bit hoos ben” or some such foreign place.

After that I returned “here” – that’s interesting. From here I went up the line once or twice, and then went “there” and billeted the Battalion. With the aid of 200 men, made the area reasonably clean, and HQ habitable. There was even a piano and one evening we had our string trio over to play to us at mess, and afterwards the doctor (from USA) with a fine voice, sang to us and made us all homesick. And the adjutant begged for Raff’s [Cantina?] and got it, and wondered how I knew when I turned to him during the piece and said, “Your wife plays this”.

And then I came here again & the adjutant being inoculated & sick, I had to ride up the line and take over. And now I am here again (and it’s pouring with rain) in an abandoned cottage with an earth floor and leaky roof and really very comfortable. To a newcomer it would be startling to go round a battalion’s “billets” and hear our boys tell the visiting officer that they were quite comfortable in a tumbledown outhouse or barn. Someday again I expect we shall get luxurious again.

Had one very bad night here during an event I expect you are now reading about. Fritz bombed all night and generally played the devil. A few days before a billet of ours was gutted by fire due to another unit’s fault. Luckily overnight I had organised our people for such an event, and in 25 minutes we had it out and a large farm saved. The other unit having at last accepted liability, rebuilt the place. I remarked that if only Fritz would drop a bomb on it, it would save further argument. He did, but not till it had been rebuilt & occupied and the farmer was gloating over new buildings for old.

The CO has just turned up so I’ll close while I have the opportunity.
With my dear love to you both

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/58-60)

Merry as a marriage bell – despite the unbidden guest

Church choirs typically had an annual jolly day out. The choir at Broad Street Church in Reading invited along a group of wounded soldiers in 1918.

July

RIVER TRIP

Arrangements are being made by the Church Choir for a river trip in the afternoon of Saturday, July 20th, when they hope to entertain a party of wounded soldiers. Goring and Hartslock Woods will most likely be the places visited. In addition to the members of the choir and their wounded friends, there will be accommodation for about thirty visitors. Full details have not yet been arranged, but particulars may be obtained from members of the choir after July 1st. It is very desirable, however, that early application should be made for tickets by those who wish to join the party.

August

CHOIR TRIP

On Saturday, July 20th, the annual choir trip took place, the destination this time being Goring and Hartlock Woods. A party of twenty-five wounded soldiers from the military hospitals had been invited as guests of the choir, so there was accommodation for only about forty other friends.

In the forenoon the weather outlook seemed very uncertain, but as 1.30 pm drew near it assumed a more promising aspect. Immediately after the arrival of “the men in blue” the steam-launch “River Queen” was started, and the party of 105 proceeded upstream at a steady pace. The choir discoursed sweet music as we journeyed and “all went merry as a marriage bell”.

We reached Goring without mishap at 4.15 pm, and there we disembarked for about twenty-five minutes, to permit of a hasty look round. Setting off on the return journey at 4.45 pm, we reached Hartslock Woods at 5 o’clock, and took a short walk whilst arrangements were being made for tea.

At 5.15 we sat down to do full justice to the good things provided. The sun was now shining with unwonted brilliance, and was even considered by some to be too powerful. After tea, Mr F. W. Harvey read a letter from the Rev. W. Morton Rawlinson (who unfortunately, through indisposition, was unable to join the party) and in an appropriate speech gave welcome to our guests. To this welcome, the officer who accompanied the wounded soldiers fittingly replied, and expressed the gratitude of those for whom he spoke.

The company now dispersed in various directions. Some rambled along the banks of the river; others explored the beautiful woods; and still others climbed the high hill from which an uninterrupted view could be gained of “Father Thames”, stretching away into the distance on either side.

As our soldier friends had been granted an extension of time it was not proposed to start for home until 8.15. but unhappily the fickle sun, which had promised so well at tea-time, was hidden from view by a heavy thunder-cloud, which speedily began to give us a taste of its contents. Everyone made for the boat, and at 7.30, as there seemed to be no prospect of a change in the weather, it was decided to return.

The rain continued most of the way home, but the choir again delighted us with various musical selections, and made it impossible for us to feel depressed or even dull. Their efforts to beguile the time, from Tilehurst onwards, were supplemented by those of three youngsters on the lookout for stray pence, who, on the river bank, kept pace with the boat and provided a varied exhibition.

Altogether, although the rain was an unbidden guest, the trip was most thoroughly enjoyed, and great praise is due to the choir for the entertainment given to their wounded guests and to the whole party. We should like to thank Mr Harvey, too, and the members of the Choir Committee, for the excellent arrangements made for the comfort of all.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, July and August 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“Don’t worry, she can’t speak English & I could never make love in French”

Percy Spencer was excited by his sister Florence’s getting a comic article published in Punch, and almost fell in love with a French girl.

July 14, 1918

My dear WF

Another week gone & here I am still at school & beginning to know something about musketry.

I’m very glad to hear Sydney is better again and delighted about the Punch article. Mind you send me a copy of the number.

This week I’ve been feeling very dicky myself. I think I had a touch of this strange fever, but a very slight one. Another officer here, I am sorry to say, has died with it.

Today I have been to a much bombed town near here for a holiday. There is quite a good officers’ club and one can generally meet old friends there and get a good dinner. It’s nice to sit in a pretty garden and receive tea from the fair hands of a wholesome English girl.

Today as you know is France’s National day. I went to the cathedral – which by the way has been rather badly bumped at the eastern end – and listened to a service. The singing was delightful, but it is difficult for me, much as I love the Roman Church’s seriousness, to refrain from smiling at their quaint beadles armed with swords and wearing mighty cocked hats, and at the endless collections.

Another good thing out here is the good nature of all motorists. One sets out to walk anywhere, hails the first car or bus or lorry, which always stops & takes you as far as it can. The other night a staff officer we coolly hailed drove us in here and offered to take us as afar as Paris if we liked. This however only applies as between Englishmen or as between French etc. but today I had quite a romantic experience.

Following the usual custom I stepped out to hail a car, but observing it was driven by a Frenchman, stepped back. However, it stopped & then to my pleasurable surprise I saw it was driven by a French GIRL. I’ve given her capitals as she was a capital girl. She wasn’t going very far my way but would give me a lift on my way. Well, the fair chauffeuse who was on her way to fetch the Prefect of the town we had just left melted, & when she got to her turning & I made to alight, she said she would drive me here and she did. After that we got very friendly and talked about London & the Thames, and she said that after the war she should come to London, and I said then I hoped we should meet again, whereupon she volunteered her address and I mine and neither of us could remember the other nor muster a pencil between us, so we pulled up at a cottage & borrowed one & some paper from an old lady who smiled approval at the beginning of a romance. And all the while the Prefect cooled his heels at some village down south!
I must be a lady killer after all!

Don’t worry, she can’t speak English & I could never make love in French, and Bordeaux (her home) is a long way.

Well, goodbye & God bless you both.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/53-55)

“Competitors to walk 50 yards smoking a cigarette”: competitions for wounded soldiers

On Wednesday 10 July 1918, Reading Philanthropic Institution mounted a Wounded Soldiers’ Outing at Rectory Grounds, Caversham, placed at the disposal of the committee by Lady Moseley.

The day consisted of the following programme:

2.30

Sports programme

1. Guessing Competition.
The Secretary of the Institution [J H Smart of Beresford Road, Reading] was born in the year 1841. What was his age in days on July 1st, 1918, estimated at 365 days per year?

2. Threadneedle Race.
Wounded Soldiers and Ladies – Soldiers to thread needle.

3. Slow Walking Race.
Competitors must place one foot after the other in a forward movement; to stand still means disqualification.

4. Egg and Spoon Race.
Teams of three; each competitor to cover 25 yards.

5. Necktie Competitions.
Conditions explained at the start.

6. Toy Symphony.
Competitors to walk 50 yards playing “toy instruments”.

7. Whistling Competition.
Conditions explained at the start.

8. Animal Imitations.

9. Musical Chairs.

10. Potato Race in Pairs.

11. Feeding Bottle Contest.
Competitors to walk 50 yards smoking a cigarette, drink contents from feeding bottle suspended without using their hands, cigarette to be kept alight until the finish of a further walk of 25 yards.

12. Bowling Competitions.

13. Fixing The Donkey’s Tail

14. Band Race

7.30
Lady Moseley will present the Prizes to the winning competitors.

From 5.45 to 7.30 the sports were accompanied by a concert by Reading Favourites Concert Party, followed by the band of the 1st battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment.

Wounded soldiers’ outing programme (R/D137/6/3)

A very sketchy but very jolly time – perpetual movement and precious little sleep

Percy Spencer shared his latest doings with his sister.

May 21, 1918

My dear WF

I don’t appear to have written you a letter since the 13th. And there has really been no reason why not except a mass of work. I’m very glad to say that I can see the results of my labour, anyway, so that should console you, even if you don’t see many letters.

Well my dear girl, I’ve lately had a very sketchy but very jolly time – perpetual movement and precious little sleep. We’re in lovely surroundings in a wood on one side of a steep valley. The days are quiet and very hot and the night is filled with the roar of guns. On the other side of the valley from another camp every evening a very fine trumpet player amuses all the world with cheery music and beautiful clear toned calls. And when he ceases, the nightingales improve upon his performance and sing all through the night whatever the guns are doing.

We’re all more or less on tiptoe and I’m getting rather fed up with it, one gets so little time to oneself and the night has a nasty way of turning itself into day. Nevertheless even that sort of life has its compensations.

For instance on Whit Sunday I arose at 2 am and didn’t turn in again until I had strolled around our wooded hilltop with our padre (a delightful fellow) and watched the sun rise and heard the birds sing praises to his glory.

On the 16th I met Anderson. You will remember him at the Boarding House at St Albans. Did you meet his wife? He told me you did. The war has made him look sterner but he has not lost his delightful smile.

On the 18th we had a terrific thunderstorm and life was moist. I had a painful toothache and got our dentist to haul out a wisdom tooth. A very trying performance as the tooth had an unauthorised prong. However I daresay the extra prong accounted for my extreme wisdom, so that problem’s settled, and now I suppose I shall be very foolish.

On Monday (yesterday) our Follies gave an open air performance on the hillside. I was unable to get away to it, but it was very jolly to view from a distance.

Will you let everyone who ought to have a photo have one. If possible I should like to see one of each myself.

Could you send me a tinder lighter some time, and a refill for my short tubular torch. I also badly need a key ring. I’m so sorry to bother you about these things, but they are unobtainable out here….

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/37)

“A dirty morning but bad for the Hun so it’s a good day after all”

Percy Spencer wrote a long letter to his sister Florence based on his diary.

May 13, 1918

Ny dear WF

It’s along time since I wrote you, but now I swear to steal an hour and give you a sort of diary of events.

First of all, though, before I forget them list of wants –

Propane Royal Navy dressing
2 pairs long cord laces for field boots
Wrights coal tar soap

Also what does my baccy cost out of bond? What would 50 small size Meriel de luxe cigars cost out of bond? And what would 100 reasonably good Virginia cigarettes cost out of bond?

If you could do all that for me when passing the tobacconist, the chemist & Thrussell’s. I shall be very grateful.

I’m trying hard for your sake to keep a diary that is within the law. Just how far I had got in my last letter I forget, so forgive me if I repeat myself.

On My 3rd Ridley, my No. 6 in the famous Eight, turned up and talked over our Trinity days.

The next day was mostly solid work. Colonel P[arish]’s band played at mess, I think it was that evening the Mayor dined with us and we drank to France and the King, and everyone was awfully friendly and nothing disturbed the harmony except Col. P’s boyish anxiety for Paddy, a lovely Irish terrier, the regimental mascot, which is always being stolen. Paddy was tied to the big iron entrance gates while the band played, and every few minutes Col. P jumped up to see none of the crowd outside had borrowed him.

On the 5th the Padre, a delightful fellow, messed with us. The CO wound up a jolly evening with an imaginary stroll “down the Dilly”.
The next day was wet. M. Le Maire [the local mayor] dined with us and under the influence of his own good brandy made a clean breast of buried souvenirs de la guerre.

The 7th was a red letter day. Many honours were received by the Division, Col. P getting a DSO and our own CO his 2nd bar to DSO.
In the evening another padre came in and talked politics & economies till a late hour.….

The 8th was a lovely day. The field cashier turned up short of cash & I had to cycle to another village to get money for the boys. Me. Le Maire [the local mayor] again dined with us & collared lots of bread. Col. P spent the evening gloating over the anticipation of leave and going [on] imaginary walks all over London much to our CO’s disgust. The APM lunched with us and told us amusing “3rd degree” trial stories.

The 9th produced the best story I’ve heard for along time. Told me by an interpreter at lunch who had been engaged upon taking a census of people in a certain village in the forward village [sic] and persuading them to leave. An elderly lady refused to go without her children. And how many children have you, enquired the interpreter. I don’t know, she replied. But surely madam! Exclaimed the interpreter. Pointing to the yard crowded with Tommies, she exclaimed, “There are my children: when they go, I go.”

10th Paterson the popular officer of my old regiment dined with us.
On the 11th I had tea with my old friends Tyrrell, Garwood & a host of others. They all made me very welcome, only “Miss Toms” couldn’t remember to call me anything but “Sergeant Spencer”.

In the evening another Regimental Band played outside my orderly room, conducted to my pleasant surprise by the private in my platoon in England who is a Mus. Doc. [doctor of music] & deputy organist of St Paul’s. Col. P went on leave. I prosecuted in a case for him.

12th: a very uneventful day because I have heard the full song of a Bosch shell for the first time for 10 months. Had a long chat with the CO who said the folks forward were finding me very useful. A letter too from a wounded Major in England arrived saying nice things about me. I’m easily getting to the not altogether enviable position of having a reputation to live up to. By the way I might say here that KK has been perfectly charming to me.

And that brings me up to today – a dirty morning but bad for the Hun so it’s a good day after all.

Give my love to all at 29 & let me know if you don’t like this sort of letter.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister (D/EZ177/7/7/35-36)

Peaceful persuasion

Sydney Spencer moved to better quarters today, while Percy’s regiment was handing out food to starving locals.

Sydney Spencer
Saturday 11 May 1918

Got up at 4 am. ‘Stand to’ and took men over to yet another new BP. Got back at 5.30 & slept till 9. Had breakfast brought to me in bivy. After breakfast a shave & wash & wrote long letters to Broadbent & Father & Mother. A note from the Padre re wine bills.

After lunch to change bivys with D Company. Completed by 3.45. Changed my socks & had tea. Wrote to the mother of one of my wounded men. During the ‘bivy’ [illegible] this afternoon saw a very comic fight between two men carrying petrol cans.

After dinner we all sat & waited to ‘scoot’ for A—s, which waiting lasted till 9.45, & then we took up our bed & walked. We arrived at midnight.

Found my platoon’s billet a very cosy one. Came here to our billet. Jolly comfortable. A small room each, and a mess room decked with French flags! Probably an old café’. To bed in my flea bag & valise with clothes off for first time for 15 days, with exception of taking them off for a bath!

Percy Spencer
11 May 1918

A good day. Had tea with my old chums of the 1&2. Called on Blofeld of the TMs, who was full of glee over his TM barrage which led to the 23rd killing 70 Bosch. Met Lynes whose company lost the bit of trench afterwards retaken. He told me trench was full of kit & pillows!

25-0 band conducted by a private (my old friend at Chiseldon – [Henry?] Doe & varsity man – deputy organist of St Paul’s) played outside my orderly room.

A good deal of misery in village owing to a shortage of food, army fed these poor folk. Have an idea this is part of peaceful persuasion scheme. Col. Parish on leave – a great loss to the mess. I prosecuted in SIW case for Col. P. & man was convicted.

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