“Started my first adventure in the front line”

Sydney Spencer was at the real front line at last.

Sydney Spencer
Saturday 18 May 1918

At stand to this morning, i.e. 4 am. Started my first adventure in the front line. My bit of line was on the extreme right flank, being a straight portion facing due east, & running north & south. On my left was No. 8 platoon. From my front I could see the crater 250 yards away slightly to my right. It had a great coil of French wire all round it. The hill on which it stood sloped down to a valley along which runs the New B Hand road. At the end of a patch of withered tree stumps & behind out of sight, the site of BH on the left of the road, the hill rose up again & went over the crest on which was line of NZs, C & D on our left.

[Illegible] front ran north & south, while the remainder of B Company was in a weird sort of re-cutment like a horse shoe, a very curious position as posts of Peyton’s platoon could fire at posts of Hervey’s platoon if they faced their direct front. The day was spent in settling on fire positions, sleeping & eating. Company HQ was in a dugout in the local support line…

Percy Spencer
18 May 1918

Another lovely day. Heavy thunderstorm in afternoon. I went down to Warlos and had to wade. Rathorn & party from Wing arrived. Awful toothache. Had wisdom tooth drawn. A painful business – a 4 pronged beggar. One prong too many, aid the dentist.

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

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A marvellous escape from an airship crash

Broad Street Church kept in contact with all its men who had joined up.

News has now been received from Air-Mechanic Fred W. Warman to the effect that he is interned at Croningen in Holland. He was acting as wireless-operator in the air-ship which came down there, and had a marvellous escape. We are glad to know that he writes in a bright and cheerful strain, and that he is trying to make the best of things.

Flight Sub-Lieut W. R. Taper of the RNAS has been appointed for duty in Malta. It has been a pleasure to see him frequently in our midst in recent weeks. The good wishes of many friends at Broad Street will go with him as he takes up his new duties.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

Brother Woolley has consented to continue his good services by acting as correspondent with our members on service. This [is] a quiet piece of work which is bound to have its good results when things are normal again.

THE ROLL OF HONOUR

The list of our men who have responded to the call of God and King and Country. (more…)

Doing our bit to help the Boys

People in Wargrave were contributing to the production of medical supplies for the wounded, as well as food for the local hospital.

Woodclyffe Auxiliary Hospital

Eggs are greatly needed for the wounded soldiers. Will everyone please give one a week to the Hospital during the winter months?

Vegetables of all kinds are also always wanted and will be welcome in large or small quantities.

[To the] Surgical Dressing Society
Wargrave, Berks

A. A. Cable Section B. E. F.

Dear Madam,

I am writing to thank your Society for the kind gift of a parcel of socks, which reached us at a peculiarly timely moment. We were all bemoaning the fact that we wanted socks, and then along came the parcel like magic – thanking you for myself and the men in my section.

I beg to remain,
yours very gratefully

……………………..

Miss G……. Wishes to convey her thanks for the most useful parcel of pneumonia jackets.

Dear Madam,

I have very much pleasure in acknowledging your welcome gift of pants, dressing gowns, handkerchiefs and pyjamas – I beg to assure you they will be most useful. The warm dressing gowns I am especially pleased with, but all articles will be invaluable.

Yours ever truly,
I. H.
Matron.

The Director General of Voluntary Organizations asks all to remember the needs of the men in the trenches and Hospitals.

Regular Requisitions sent out – 4 each month – since we last published the list.

120 Hankerchiefs
120 Limb Pillows
200 Pillow Cases
60 Towels
185 Slippers (Pairs)
1500 Abdominal Bandages
500 Hospital Bags
1250 Capuline Bandages
3500 Roll Bandages
600 Triangular Bandages
60 Dressing Gowns (Warm)
125 Bed Jackets
60 Pairs Pyjamas
1000 Slings
13000 Gauze Dressings
3500 Medical Swabs
3500 Operation Swabs
250 Knee Bandages
500 Shoulder Bandages
500 T Bandages
100 Pairs of thick long Operation Stockings

Extra requisitions
66 Pyjamas (Flannel)
576 Roll Bandages
200 Operation Swabs
167 Pairs of knitted Socks
150 Pneumonia Jackets
800 Abdominal Bandages
65 Slippers Pairs
20 Helpless Jackets
25 Limb Pillows
50 Capuline Bandages
50 T Bandages
150 Gauze Dressings
425 Slings
50 Fracture Pillows
119 Flannel Shirts
24 Pairs of long operation Stockings
98 Pairs Knitted Mittens
99 Helmets
42 Knitted Mufflers
2 Cardigans

Dressings have also been sent to the Cancer Free Hospital Fulham Road.

Mended nightshirts and dressings to the district Nurse.

Hospitals Supplied.

25th, 30th, 2nd, 11th, 54th, 3rd, 34th, 12th, 21st.
General Hospital B.E.F.
1st Australian
3rd London
2nd New Zealand
King Edward VII Hospital
Stoke-on-Trent General Hospital
Military F.O. Havre
A.D.M.A. Ambulance

Trains Supply
Boulogne B.E.F.
4th Casualty Clearing Station B.E.F>
A.A. Cable Section – B.E.F.

The Surgical Dressings Emergency Society wish to express their great appreciation of the help given them by Mr. Henry Butcher who, at no small sacrifice of valuable time, has packed all Bales of Dressings and Comforts for the Front – doing his bit to help the Boys. It is with much regret we say Good-bye to him. We shall miss him very much, but wish him good luck in his new home.

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

Ashamed to be connected with strikers

Lockinge-born William Hallam, living and working in Swindon, felt strikers and trade unionists were behaving in an unpatriotic way.

20th May 1917

There was a Trade Union demonstration and procession round the Town. I left it severely alone. Thousands of our T.U. men are out on strike in different parts of the country and as I told some of our fellows I should be ashamed to be seen in anyway connected with them by young fellows in khaki who have come from all parts of our Colonies to fight for us; for hundreds come in every Sat & Sun from Draycott Camp. Australians, New Zealanders & Canadians.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Mesopotamia had a bad name, but things are greatly improved

Some of the surgical dressings made by volunteers in Wargrave were put to use on a hospital boat in what is now Iraq.

Surgical Dressing Emergency Society, Wargrave, Berks

The Society is now sending regular Monthly Bales as follows:
To the 2nd New Zealand Hospital, Walton-on-Thames, Requisition 18856:

24 Handkerchiefs
24 Limb Pillows and Pillow Cases
12 Towels
30 Pairs of Carpet Slippers with Firm Soles
(Due on the 6th, of each month)

To the 25th, General Hospital B.E.F. France Requistion 23,111.

100 Hospital Treasure Bags
200 Capeline Bandages
500 Roller Bandages
50 Triangular Bandages
6 Flannel Dressing Gowns
25 Bed Jackets
12 Pairs of Flannel Pyjamas
50 Slings
12 Pairs of Carpet Slippers
12 Paris of Surgical Slippers or Boots
500 Gauze Dressings (Small)
500 Gauze Dressings (Large)
200 Medical Swabs
200 Round Swabs
500 Operation Swabs
And a quantity of old Linen.

To the 30th, General Hospital, Requisition 20519, B.E.F. France.

100 Abdominal Many Tail Bandages
50 Knee Bandages
100 Shoulder Bandages
50 Capeline Bandages
500 Roller Bandages
100 T Shaped Bandages
50 Triangular Bandages
500 Large Gauze Dressings
500 Medium Gauze Dressings
20 Pairs of Operation Stockings
500 Operation Swabs
500 Round Swabs

A good many other Bales are being sent out also, containing all kinds of comforts – one very beautiful present of 18 fine white winsey pyjamas.

We are glad to receive comforts to send out, especially knitted socks, for which there will be a great sudden demand in September and October.

A River Boat
Basra
Mesopotamia,
April 12th, 1917.
Dear Madam,

This is to inform you that a bale of dressings from your Society was opened by me a few days ago. The contents will be most useful and they were just what we needed. We are employed in conveying the sick and sounded from places up the line, down to Basra. Boats, such as this, travel up and down the Tigris. The hot weather has now arrived so we expect more sick than sounded, especially now that the fighting here is almost over. You will of course have read in the paper of the splendid advance and capture of Bagdad [sic] a few weeks ago.

Yours faithfully,

J…. T…. R.A.M.C.

P.S. Mesopotamia had a bad name, but after six months here, I can say that things are greatly improved.

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

Don’t imagine tanks mean the end of the war

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence to describe his current quarters (a cowhouse in a devastated village), and the impact of our newest weapon: tanks.

3.10.16
My dear WF

It sounds paradoxical, but the nearer to the enemy we get, the more peace we get. In other words, action replaces preparation.

It’s 9 am and I’ve just had brekker after a fairly good night – turned in at 10 pm, called at 1 am, up till 4 am, put Garwood in then, and turned in till 7.30 am. Turning in consists of rolling myself up in my blankets on the bench where I am sitting, and falling straight off to sleep in spite of constant traffic and telephoning within a few feet of me. I’m writing from a spacious cellar in which there is a telephone exchange, officers’ mess and sleeping accommodation, our office, officers’ kitchen and men’s sleeping accommodation. In peace times it was an underground cowhouse. The whole system of accommodation here is most interesting and I should love to show you over it – after the war. The village where it is is a complete ruin – scarcely a vestige of the place remains and none at all of the church – a couple of crosses of before the war-date stand in the little churchyard, and standing there before brekker this morning I saw the bodies of a couple of Huns who had been buried there and been concealed by a shell.

[Censored section]

Outside at this moment is a very pale Hun – you could only tell he was a Hun by his tin hat (a very useful and artistic design), for he’s been in a shell hole for 3 days and is thickly muddied khaki from head to foot. He like all the others we get is very thankful to be cotched [sic].

The “tanks” are of course very funny, but the boundless faith of the folk at home in them is even funnier. Our native concert in our ideas is apt to run away with us. With enough of them they may go a long way to winning the war for us. But don’t imagine “tanks” mean the end of the war. (more…)

Not a good enough sailor to nurse on a hospital ship

Elizabeth “Bubbles” Vansittart Neale wanted to nurse on a hopital ship, but unfortunately she was prone to seasickness. Meanwhile her parents were hosting a day out for some wounded soldiers recuperating at Cliveden.

8 December 1915

Bubs came to discuss going on Hospital ship. She not good enough sailor – so refused….

Sent motor to Cliveden for 5 wounded. Drive first, came here about 3.30. Showed them some of the rooms, then tea in hall. Smoke with Harding after. Very nice men. 2 Canadians, 1 NZ, 2 English – a Sheffield man most difficult to understand.

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

The Broad Street Brothers continue to serve

Here is the latest list of men associated with the Broad Street Brotherhood asociated with Broad Street Congregational Church in Reading:

MEN OF THE BROTHERHOOD ON ACTIVE SERVICE, NOVEMBER 17TH, 1915

Bailey, 1932 Pte E G, 4th Royal Berks Regiment, 83rd Provisional Battery, Burnham on Crouch, Essex
Barrett, 2045 Sadler Sergt W, 4th Hants (How) Battery, RFA, Indian EF, Aden
Bishop, 4003 Corp. T E, No 1 Supernumery Comp., 4th Batt. Royal Berks Regiment, Barton Court, New Milton, Hants
Brant, 68686 Pte G P, RAMC, V Co, Hut 181, Haig Hutments, Tweseldown Camp, Surrey
Bucksey, 2697 Trooper C, 1st Berks Yeomanry, 2nd South Midland Brigade, 2nd Mounted Division, BMEF
Burgess, 100747 Sapper J, D Co, RE, Inner Lines, Brompton Barracks, Chatham
Burrett, 4005 Pte W, 4th Royal Berks Regiment, Arnould House, High Street, Lowestoft
Chapman, Sapper E, RE, Wantage Hall, Reading
Cox, 888 Dr W J, 1st Berks RHA, 2nd South Midland Brigade, 2nd Mounted Division, BEMEF
Cranfield, Pte G, 2/4th Royal Berks, B Co, 162 Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford
Edwards, 4078 Pte H, Section 1, MT, ASC, 73rd Co, Attached 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Supply Column, EF, France
Elvin, 1702 Pte A C, RAMC, T, 4th London General Hospital, Denmark Hill, London, SE
Gooch, 2273 Corp. E, B Squadron, Berks Yeomanry, King’s Lynn, Norfolk
Gooch, 1656 Trooper Percy, 1st Berks Yeomanry (wounded)
Gooch, M2/034985, 21st Division Supply Column, 273rd Co, ASC, MT, BEF, France
Goodyear, 69005 Pioneer J, 35th Division Signal Co, RE, Bulford Camp, Wilts
Grigg, Pte C A, RAMC, 16 Radnor Street, Chelsea, London, SW
Hawting, 15775 Pte H T, 1st Batt, Royal Scots Fusiliers, B Co, 3rd Division, BEF, France
Hunt, 9215 Rifleman J, Prisoner of War, 1st Rifle Brigade, English Gefengenem, Solton Colony Konigsmoor, 14P, Hanover, Germany. Letter address only. For parcel address see another entry, No. 37.
Lambden, P134777 Pte F, 9th Co, ASC, MT, Osterly Park, Middlesex
Lay, 1910 Pte W, A Co, No 1 Platoon, 1/4th Royal Berks Regiment, BEF, France
Lee, M2/035034 Driver W R, 345 Co, ASC, MT, 25th Division Sub, Anm. Park, BEF, France
Littlewood, B, RR
Mills, 13026 Pte C, B Co, 5th Platoon, 8th Royal Berks Regiment, BEF, France
Mills, 1621 Sadler Corp. H, 3rd troop, B Squadron, Royal Berks Yeomanry, 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade, 2nd Mounted Division, Albania Barracks, Cairo
Milner, 2678 Lance-Corp. H J, 1/6th East Surrey Regiment, E Co, Signallers, No 13 Bungalow, Kuldana, Murree, India
Parr, 71372 Sapper F C, Royal Engineers, 20 Lancaster Road, Hitchin
Pocock, 8607 Corp. E C, 4th Platoon, 33rd Division ACC, Hut 29B, F Lines, Bulford Camp
Pounds, Sergt M, Berks RHA, Reading
Richardson, 16895 Pte H J, RMLI, H Co, H3 Room, Chatham Barracks
Rolfe, Driver H E, 181, ASC, B Squad, Dorset Yeomanry, Cairo, Egypt
Smith, 10456 Pte C, 5th Royal Berks. Wounded.
Smith, L V, Friends Ambulance Unit, Army Post Office, S10, BEF, France
Ward, 1026 Pte F, C Co, 2/6th Cyclist Section, Royal Sussex Regiment, Potter Heigham, Norfolk
Waite, 13687 Gunner J H, 16 Eastney Road, Eastney, Portsmouth
Hunt, 9215 Rifleman Joseph, 1st Rifle Brigade, Konigsmoor Bie Tostedt, Kriegsgafangenew Lager, Kries Harberg, Deutschland. Prisoner of war. Parcel address only.
Shelley, 66407 Pte E, RGA
Gooch, Pte Stanley, Royal Engineers, Reading

In Memoriam
George Shearwood, 323 London Rd, who gave his life for his country whilst serving with the New Zealand Contingent in the Dardanelles
Keene, George, who after many months of service at the Front, in France, was killed whilst doing his duty in the trenches with the 1st Batt. Herts Regiment

From PSA Brotherhood
May, Brother V M, 219 Southampton Street, who was killed in action in October, with the 8th Royal Berks Regiment

Broad Street magazine, December 1915 (D/N11/12/1/14)

That dread word “missing”

Broad Street Church in Reading continued to care about its men who had gone to war.

November 1915

We desire also to express our sympathy with the relatives and friends of our brother, Trooper G P Lewis, of the Royal Berks Yeomanry. Mr Lewis has been a member of our church for some years. He was one of the first to respond to the call of his country in August 1914. He has been reported “missing” in the Dardanelles, for some weeks. We can imagine what that dread word “missing” means to his loved ones, and we tender them our affectionate sympathy.

News reached Reading a few days ago that Private Reginald S Woolley, son of our friends Mr and Mrs W A Woolley, 85 Oxford Road, had been seriously wounded “somewhere in France”. It is a pleasure to be able to report that our young friend is now making good progress towards recovery, and hopes before long to be home on sick leave. We congratulate his parents upon this relief from their anxiety, and we hope that their natural desire to have their son home may soon be realised.

The call for recruits for the army and navy is sadly depleting our ranks in the Sunday School, and there is the possibility of further loss in the near future…

Talking of recruits reminds me that eight more names have been added to the church section of our Roll of Honour.
(more…)

A day out from Cliveden

Florence Vansittart Neale invited some local Belgian refugees to lunch at Bisham Abbey, and also hosted a day out for wounded soldiers from the British colonies being nursed at Cliveden.

8 October 1915
Had the 4 Belgians to lunch: M. Vandewerve & son & daughters. Then about 30 or more wounded from Cliveden came with Lady Boston. Australians & Canadians & New Zealanders. Much interested – most on Sir George. We kept 5 & sent them back. Saw death of Kenneth Mackenzie – awful.

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

Queer developments in the Balkans

Stephen Hungerford Pollen (1868-1935) was another officer friend of Ralph Glyn’s. He was Sir Ian Hamilton’s military secretary in the Dardanelles, so knew exactly what was going on.

Private & Confidential
GHQ
Mediteranean Expeditionary Force

6th October 1915

Dear Glyn

Many thanks for your letter of the 24th September which has just arrived by KM. I rather smelt a change coming and that is why I was anxious for you to get away from here. As I think I told you, the place we were concerned about really finished on August 21st. The whole of this Balkan development is exceedingly queer; I cannot write very much about it, but were you here I think you would be amused and a little astounded at the odd way in which this new push at Salonica has been managed. I do not mean our end of it, but the FO part of it. The Salonica people, apparently, had not the slightest idea of anybody coming; the whole thing was a bit of a “surprise packet”.

The position is so liquid just now that it is impossible to express any opinion as to what is going to happen. The last news I have is Venizelos’ resignation as Premier; whether this means a reversal of Greek policy we do not yet know. One thing is certain, the MEF is a bit sidetracked unless our “lost Sheep” return to us. You are well aware of what we are up against and what we have got per yard and what we are losing per day in wastage. Well – there is not much over for a push, more’s the pity.

I should dearly like to get home and hear what is going on, but I do not know whether they will allow us to do it.

Let me know if I can do anything for you; I shall be delighted.
Very glad to hear they may give some honours to Aus & NZ AC. I hope our poor old 29th Division will be remembered too.

Ever yours
S Pollen

S Pollen to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C31/28)

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…)

War in a nutshell

Ralph Glyn wrote to his father from the Dardanelles. He painted a vivid picture of the compact fighting area, not to mention the shirtless Australians.

HdQr XIII Division
August 27th [envelope postmarked Field Post Office Aug 27, 1915]

My darling Dad

The weather is changing a bit & it is blowing great storms of dust all over us. I together with four other fellows have had a go of dysentery – but after an injection I am nearly all right. It takes it out of you all the same. Nearly everyone here is the same! Aubrey Herbert who is with the NZ Division next door has had it badly & is being sent on board a hospital ship today.

I have now been with the general round all the [fire?] trenches of our own & the adjoining Brigades. It is like trying to capture Gib: & the moral is that the men had been able to do what they have done. As for going further from their spot I rather doubt it being worth the inevitable cost. The Divisions all are reduced to about ½ strength but reinforcements are on their way. We are having shells all round us today & a good many bullets. The casualties have not been heavy so far. One great difference between the fighting here & in France is that here everything is so much more compressed – sort of war in a nutshell. The firing line is close by – not more than a few hundred yards in some cases. Then close behind are the supports & reserves – hospitals, cemeteries – supply depots. There is therefore no peace for man or beast.

Last night was lovely & calm. We have our ‘mess dug-out’ in the side of the hill facing the sea about 50 ft up. One cannot go down to the sea-edge because they can snipe out – here we are just sort of round the corner from direct fire. Well, about 9 last night up came a destroyer & monitor close off shore & put her search-light on a Turk trench at the top of the cliff behind. In a minute the row was tremendous – the 6” guns & the machine guns & rifles action. It soon died down but was lively whilst it lasted. There is so little elbow room. That’s what one feels. And all the time in spite of all these difficulties the spirit of the men is splendid & they are cheery & happy all the time. The physique of the NZ & Australians is extraordinary. They wear nothing except a pair of shorts & are burnt by the sun as dark as Indians.

There is a move in the wind for this Division. We shall go for a period in reserve. I don’t know yet how long I’m to remain with this Division. It is all very interesting & the General was very kind indeed. I shall, I think, have to go to GHQ again before I’m sent back with dispositions by Sir Ian [Hamilton]. One knows very little being here – even in comparison with GHQ, & then the outside world is fairly remote. I’m longing to know what is going on – usually I know so much that I suppose I’m spoilt!

I wonder if my other letters have fetched up all right…

Yours
Ralph

Letter from Captain Ralph Glyn to his father E C Glyn, Bishop of Peterborough (D/EGL/C1)