A shoot against two anti-aircraft pits

An RAF officer with Sulhamstead connections was awarded with a medal.

In the latest list of awards to Officers of the Royal Air Force, the following occurs under the heading of Distinguished Flying Cross:

Captain J H Norton, MC (Egypt)
On all occasions this officer displays gallantry and devotion to duty, notably on July 29th when, in co-operation with our artillery, he carried out a shoot against two anti-aircraft pits. On approaching this target Captain Norton was wounded in the left foot; notwithstanding this, he continued to shoot, and succeeded in destroying both pits, thereby putting out of action two hostile guns.

Captain Norton is the grandson of the late Mrs J Norton, who spent her last years at the Rectory.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, March 1919 (D/EX725/4)

Not a single letter or parcel

News of Sulhamstead men.


We regret to report several casualties to soldiers connected with our parish:

Gunner W C Giles, RFA, has been reported missing since May 27th.

Private Rowland Pitheral, 2nd Royal Berks, has been reported missing since May 27th.

Captain Stanley Strange, 14th Welsh, DSO, MC, reported missing on May 10th, has since been reported as a prisoner. At the time when this went to the press, he had not received a single letter or parcel.

Captain Strange’s two brothers are now each of them Majors, viz Major Percy Strange and Major Gerald Strange.

Captain Jock Norton, MC (and bar), Royal Air Force, has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, September 1918 (D/EX725/4)

A great honour and a proud record

A Berkshire landowner’s wife was only the fifth woman in the country to be awarded the title of Dame – equivalent of a man being knighted. Men from the are were also being honoured for their roles.


The great honour that has been conferred upon the lady now to be known as Dame Edith Benyon, is of importance to other parishes besides Englefield. Apart from the share in this honour that the county justly claims, a considerable portion of Sulhamstead belongs to, and is farmed by, the Englefield estate, and Sulhamstead has its own reasons for being glad. Apart from Queen Alexandra, only four other ladies in the United Kingdom have received this honour.

We take the liberty of quoting the following, which is appearing in the Englefield Parish Magazine:


It was a great honour that the King conferred on the lady who now enjoys the above title. It means that she has been appointed a Dame of the Grand Cross of the British Empire, for her services in connection with the VAD work at the Englefield Hospital, as well as in the County. It is, we need scarcely say, a well-deserved reward for her untiring services. Dame Edith looks upon it as an honour not only to herself, but to the village and the County of Berkshire. It may be useful here to mention that letters should be addressed to her, ‘Dame Edith Benyon, GBE’ on the envelope, and inside she will be addressed as ‘Dear Dame Edith’. So her old title of ‘Mrs Benyon’ will be dropped for good and all.”

Flight-Lieutenant Jock Norton has received a Bar to his Military Cross for recent military services.

Private William Marlow has been awarded the Military Medal in France, and was to have returned home to have it presented to him, but has now been sent to another front.

The following from the “Westminster Gazette” will greatly interest all who remember Sir Reginald Bacon, when in the old days, as nephew of Major Thoyts, he used to visit at Sulhamstead House.

“Another change is announced in the appointment of Vice-Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon as Controller of the Munitions Inventions Department, for which office he gives up his command of the Dover Patrol. Despite the fact that thousands of men are crossing between this country and France every day, he can claim that no life has been lost in the cross-Channel traffic from Folkestone or Dover during that time. That is a proud record, and if his successor achieves as much we shall have every reason for satisfaction.”

Lieutenant H A Benyon has been gazetted Captain.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, February 1918 (D/EX725/4)

Only a few from Wokingham have not yet offered themselves

Increasing numbers of young men from Wokingham had joined the troops. Sadly, the parish of St Sebastian had seen its first loss. The parish magazine used this as a pointed reminder to those who had, they felt, shirked their duty:

On Service. Additional Names
Barnard, Kenneth, HMS [no ship name printed]
Brant, Charles
Chapman, Fred
Garrett, William, Grenadier Guards
Longley, Frank, Berks Yeomanry
Law, Arthur
Maynard, William, 1st Hants
Maynard, Percy, 2nd Hants
Norton, Isaac
Robins, Benjamin
Rocket, Benjamin

We are sure that many will wish to join in an expression of sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Barnard at the loss of their son, Dudley Barnard, (2nd Lieut. R.F.A.), who is the first from this parish to give up his life in his country’s service. In addition we may mention that Daniel Prater and William Maynard are prisoners of war, and that James Jewell was wounded but has returned to duty.

The friends and relations of those serving are specially asked to inform the Vicar of any alterations in or additions to the list.

We are glad to say that the number of those who could go, but who have not seen their way to offer themselves for service, is getting smaller and smaller, and we hope soon to be able to say that all those from the parish who were able to do so have offered their services.

Wokingham St Sebastian parish magazine, March 1915 (D/P154C/28A/1)

Special Constables in Sulhamstead become efficient

Sulhamstead was among the Berkshire villages to respond to the appeal for Special Constables. The parish magazine reports:

In consequence of the appeal made by the Chief Constable of Berkshire (Major Poulton), Sulhamstead has, like most of the other towns and villages in the county, organized a body of Special Police. About 25 men came forward as the result of the appeal.

Drills have taken place for several weeks, and the men are now rapidly becoming efficient. Captain Waring is the Divisional Officer, and the Sulhamstead Section is in charge of Mr Norton.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, December 1914 (D/EX725/3)

Sulhamstead helps unhappy refugees and wounded soldiers

The parishioners of Sulhamstead supported refugees from Belgium in several ways, ranging from providing homes for some families, to making clothing for them – almost essential in an era when few bought readymade garments. Sulhamstead women and children also knitted and sewed garments and bags for wounded British soldiers. The parish magazine reports:

Most villages are affording hospitality to the unhappy refugees from Belgium who have lost their all in the ruthless destruction of their country. Announcements of many of these have been made in the Reading papers. In our own village 9 are being housed and cared for by Sir George Watson, Bart. Mrs Merton is entertaining 7 in the Rectory cottage and Mr Tyser has some although they are not housed in Sulhampstead [sic]. Mr Norton has also put up two more in his own house.

Many women joined the Working Party either at the Rectory or in their own homes. A good number of garments were made for women and children. Besides these 6 kit bags were made and fully provided with all requisites for wounded soldiers in hospitals. Mrs Merton kindly provided a shirt pyjama suit and other things to complete their equipment.

Subscriptions were received from several people towards the expenses; the balance was paid by the part proceeds of a Jumble Sale.

In addition to the above public effort, there has been continuous work privately sent to headquarters by members of the parish.

A Jumble Sale was held on November 2nd. The proceeds were allocated as follows: Balance to Red Cross and Belgian Working Party £1.7s.9d. Wool for school children to make scarves for the soldiers 12/-. Towards the Font Cover £1.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, December 1914 (D/EX725/3)

The right spirit: call to join the reserves in south Berkshire

Former soldiers too old to join up at the start of the war were encouraged to join the National Reserve, making themselves available for service if required. The Sulhamstead parish magazine explains:

The National Reserve, which in Berkshire was closely associated at the outset with the Caversham and Reading Veterans’ Association, is a register of officers and men who have served satisfactorily in any naval or military capacity, and who are no longer liable for service as reservists. Membership is voluntary. There is no uniform; but a badge is issued to all duly enrolled members. The members are organised under the County Associations, with a view to increasing the military resources of the country in the event of imminent national danger. They are divided into three classes, viz:

Class I – Age under 42, and medically fit (now temporarily closed for asmission).
Class II – Aged, Officers and Sergeants under 55, all others under 50, and medically fit.
Class III – (Men unable to undertake any obligation):
(a) Those qualified for Class I, but preferring to Join Class III.
(b) Those qualified for Class II, but preferring to Join Class III.
(c ) All those, without limit of age, not qualified for Classes I or II.

Members joining Classes I and II have to sign an honourable obligation to come up for service when required in time of imminent national danger. They will then be liable to be used to reinforce the Army, for garrison or guard work, as specialists or tradesmen in technical branches, or in hospital, veterinary, remount, clerical, recruiting, or other military duties.
Class I may be required to serve either at home or abroad. Class II can only be used in this country.

There is no pay except on actual service; but National Reservists of all ranks and classes who are duly accepted for service on moblilisation, whether with the Regular Army or the Territorial Force, will receive the current Army rates of pay and allowances, according t the nature of their employment; and they or their families are eligible for pensions and allowances in case of disability or death occurring in actual service.

Four “Berks National Reserve” Battalions have been filled mainly from the towns, but it is desired now to bring the movement within reach of the country districts, and in this particular neighbourhood a new Company (No 8) of the 1st Battalion is in course of formation. Its normal area for membership will, as at present arranged, include the following parishes, viz.: Burghfield, Sulhamstead, Mortimer, Wokefield, Beech Hill, Shinfield, Grazeley, Ufton, Padworth, Aldermaston, Beenham, Bucklebury, Frilsham, Yattendon, Stanford Dingley, Bradfield, Tidmarsh, and Theale. Applications however will be entertained from residents in any adjoining parish which is in the Reading Postal District, and is not within the area of another Company.

All persons, of whatever rank, who are qualified for any of the three “Classes” are cordially invited to communicate with Mr E T Norton (Colour-Sergeant), The Oaks, Sulhamstead, Reading, or with Mr H G Willink (Captain, commanding the Company), Hillfields, Burghfield, Mortimer, Berks.

The Company already numbers nearly 30, and there is no reason why it should not reach full strength, with a proper complement of Officers and NCOs.

After the war is over it is particularly hoped that all the men discharged from “Kitchener’s Army”, who come back to this area, will join. The terms of their enlistment do not include any period of retention on the Regular Reserve; and the National Reserve will afford the best chance for their keeping on touch with each other, and not passing away out of sight.

This is not an appeal to any man on the ground that he personally will get any pecuniary or material benefit out of membership. It rests upon better grounds. To men who are fortunate enough not to be too old it offers the renewed prospect of rendering to their country useful service in time of need. To all men, who have shown already that they have the right spirit in them, it offers opportunities of keeping alive that spirit, in fellowship with others, and with the consciousness that they are still recognised as part of the national forces. And upon all, unless and until occasion arises, it makes no present demand beyond a few parades and musters, and perhaps the taking honourable part in public gatherings.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, October 1914 (D/EX725/3)

Recruits wanted in Burghfield

The village of Burghfield was one where there was much enthusiasm encouraging the young men to answer Lord Kitchener’s call to arms. The parish magazine combines reportage with propaganda:

Burghfield Recruits wanted
Lord Kitchener wants 100, 000 men for his new Regular Army. Every able bodied young man who has not very strong reasons for standing out ought to offer himself.

Those who cannot possibly do this will find information below how to be of service to their King and Country in this time of need. But Kitchener’s appeal must come first.

Two enthusiastic meetings were held on August 18th (at the Technical School) and August 19th (at the Jubilee Room) to promote recruiting: and a strong committee is being formed for the purpose.

A stirring sermon was preached on Sunday morning in the Parish Church by the Rev. Holland Stubbs on the text from Numbers xxxii.6, “Shall your brethren go to war and shall ye sit here?

Age for enlistment.
Ex-soldiers – up to 42.
(Ex-Non-Commissioned Officers particularly needed.)
All others – 19 to 35.

Physical Standards.
Height – 5 ft 3 in or upwards.
Chest – 34 inches or over.

Period of Service – the duration of the war. Men will be discharged as soon as possible at its close.

Recruiting Centre (Sergeant Cole, Recruiting Sergeant) – The Depot (Barracks) Royal Berks Regiment, Oxford Road, Reading; also at the 4th Royal Berks Headquarters, St Mary’s Butts.

Special Reserve.

Age for Enlistment.
Ex-Reservists – Up to 35.
Recruits for Royal Army Medical Corps, Royal Garrison Artillery, and good tradesmen for Royal Engineers – Up to 35.
Ex-Regulars (if satisfying certain conditions) – Up to 38.
All others – 17 to 30.

Physical Standards.
Height – From 5 ft 2 in (Infantry).
Chest – Measurement according to height.
All recruits must be able to read and write.

Period of Service – On original enlistment, 6 years; on re-enlistment, 4 years.
Recruiting Officer – Apply to the Barracks, Reading.

NB – Special Reservists who joined before 11th August can claim a bounty on enlisting in Kitchener’s Army.

Age for enlistment: up to 35.
Period of Service – 4 years (may be extended in case of war).
Recruiting Centres.
Infantry – Headquarters 4th Royal Berks Regt, St Mary’s Butts, Reading.
Yeomanry [the cavalry] – Yeomanry House, Castle Hill, Reading.

NATIONAL RESERVE (open only to men who have served in some branch of His Majesty’s Regular or Auxiliary Forces).
Ages for joining, and classification.
Class I: General Service – up to 42.
Class II: Home Service – Officers & Sergeants, up to 55; others, up to 50.
Class III: No obligations. All over age for Class II, and those who are eligible for Class I and II but do not wish to join either.

Recruiting Centre – 13 Castle Street, Reading (near St Mary’s Butts)

NB – A Company of the National Reserve is being formed in Theale and district. All ex-servicemen wishing to join are asked to communicate with Mr W T Norton, The Oaks, Sulhamstead.

Burghfield parish magazine, September 1914 (D/EX725/3)