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

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

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

Oxford engulfed by soldiers and wounded

Sydney Spencer of Cookham was a close observer of wartime Oxford, where he was an undergraduate.

October 20th
Tuesday afternoon at the Union

I have just got time for a scrappy bit of news before I take tea with Billings, one of our men who lives in Newton Road. There are soldiers & embryo soldiers here, there and everywhere. Oxford’s grey & venerable walls reverberate to the imperative urges of the bugle, her sedate quadrangles are the training ground for her soldiers. In gateways where gowned men used to loll & chat, there now stand stiff sentinels. Our men are seen flying off to lectures in [sic] karkai uniforms, & they are allowed to drop the gown. It is curious to see these men off to parade at 9AM lugging note books & Tacitus & Livy’s which soon they will open on a desk before their austere tutors.

There are lots of convalescent wounded men about. Even Belgian and French wounded are brought here. The officers get their poor hands nearly wrung off. Strangers go up and take off their hats & give what little French they have an airing on the Belgian and French officers in their weird costumes, bow & scrape & smile & doff their gold tassled hats & everybody beams, & everybody is pleased, & “poppa” has said ‘bong jourr Camerade’ to a real live officer, & “ma” doesn’t know what to do with herself in consequence of a dilemma in which she is placed, which dilemma being that she wants to swell with pride & not only fears to, but just can’t, and so on.

Oxford bloods swagger up & down looking like wax work figures in their OTC uniforms, & looking as my indignant Kenneth [Oliphant] says “like nothing at all”. I’m not blaming the men, but he says that these new officers are “just too much the limit” for being duffers at their work, but they will soon get into shape, & my dear old Oxford will have sent, like the Spartan mothers of old, many of the brood she so dearly loves, to serve their country & (we hope) their God by fighting a good cause.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1914 (D/EX801/12)

“One poor fool has cut his throat” – difficult conditions for the recruits

No sooner had he joined the army than Percy Spencer began to have second thoughts. Conditions at the camp he was assigned to were dreadful, with one suicide. His former boss, Reginald Holliday, had a staff post in the Territorial Army, and was keen for Percy to join him. But would this be possible faced with army bureaucracy? A lengthy struggle kicked off with this letter.

No. 3 Company
Gloucester Regiment
Horfield Barracks
Sep. 13, 14

Dear Sir

Thank you so much for your letter – I’m very glad you think I’ve done the right thing.

I should like nothing better than to be with you in this business, so if you think I should be useful to you, I shall be more than glad if you can arrange a transfer as you are good enough to suggest.
I sincerely hope you will be able to do this, but in fairness to you, must point out that I am the rawest of recruits – a four days soldier, without uniform or kit. Moreover we have all been badly mauled by some OTC youngsters here.

But you will know whether I should be up to the work you require me to do, and, needless to say, I would do my utmost not to disappoint you, sir.

Today I have been transferred to No. 3 Company, and believe I shall get my number tomorrow when it is rumoured that we are to go to Tidworth, Aldershot or Woolwich. If we are moved, I will advise you at once.

Conditions are very bad here, and men are sneaking off, and one poor fool has cut his throat. But the camp is well situated in glorious country, and the staff here are undoubtedly doing their utmost to deal with an unprecedented situation.

Yours faithfully
Percy J Spencer
To –
Staff Captain R J Holliday
6th London Infantry Brigade

Letter from Percy Spencer to Captain Holliday (D/EZ177/7/12/1)

Sydney Spencer continues to think about his future

Sydney Spencer was still considering his future plans as he headed off to help at a YMCA camp serving the armed forces:

Thursday 10th September
I am in a GWR train on my way to Paddington to meet Oliphant with whom I am gong to Harwich for a fortnight to work for the YMCA. I do not yet know whether we go to soldiers or sailors. I go to Russell Square to meet him & we get to Harwich at 2.30. I shall pop into the Coxes just for a few minutes on the way. Percy was accepted for the Regulars and has been put into the Gloucester Regiment & sent to Bristol. A letter came this morning from Holliday & Greenwood, offering to make Percy an orderly-clerk for Mr Holliday. I do not think perhaps that he will accept such a position. Last night I wrote a letter to the Oxford Grant people & placed my position before them, as follows.

Dear Mr Reade

This letter must be a rather long one, as necessity compels me to make a very clear statement of my present position. My last letter to you was to say that my allowance was made up to £108. Almost immediately after my sending you that letter, this terrible war broke out & my position is now, so far as I can at present tell, this:

Until the war is over and affairs can be looked into, my allowance is practically nothing, and my return to Oxford even as an unattached student is – as matters now stand – highly improbable. With regard to the war and my actions concerning it, I feel that I may, in justice to myself, say that I have tried all means in my power to get some work to do, & finally having offered myself as a private in the Old Public School and University Corps, I was refused on account of my chest measurement. Mr Cookson of Magdalen, whom I saw last week, advised me to join the OTC next term. This in the event of my returning to Oxford I should of course do.

Hence for the time being I cannot but turn my thoughts to my private affairs. These being as I have above stated, I feel that I must write to you to ask your advice as to my best course, since my whole future may be irrevocably checked & broken by this present state of affairs unless I try to improve my position. I of course am aware that at this juncture I am by no means the only man who is placed in the position I now find myself, hence I find it particularly difficult to make my plea, & foresee that this letter cannot but be one among many such. As you said, however, when I last saw you, that provided I was successful in Responsions my case might be reconsidered, perhaps in this present crisis there may still be a chance that I may look to my diocese for help.

If it were not asking too much of you, I should be so glad if you would write me your very frank advice as to my best course. I feel sure that you will see that it would be tantamount, metaphorically speaking, to suicide, if I did not do my best – being useless for the army – to continue my studies at Oxford, especially as the smallness of my exam I have just passed would make it of little value, were I forced to give up my studying for Holy orders – which I hope may never have to be – and take to other work.

There is but one other alternative – which I will place before you, & concerning which I should be grateful to you for advice – and you will understand how singularly disagreeable such an alternative must be – I could place my position before several wealthy friends interested in my future at Oxford & in the Church, & beg!

Yours truly

(Diary of Sydney Spencer, 10 September 1914 (D/EX801/12))

Dreading having to obey for three years

Sydney Spencer was still agonising over his future, as he found out a friend had joined up. He confided in his diary:

Sunday 6th September
Editarton, Lynwood Road, Epsom

Yesterday morning two things happened. One, a letter from Mr Ruscoe, & the other a letter I wrote to London. Hence I am here in Epsom just for the night. The following is my letter to the Secretary of the Ex-Public School & University Corps:

Fernlea, Cookham, Sept 5th

Dear Sir

I have spent three days in Oxford trying to get some work to do with the following result: Mr Cookson of Magdalen College advised me to get some drill practice and then join the OTC.

As I am not satisfied that I have done all in my power I apply to you to ask you whether I might have a chance of getting into the ex-public school and university corps in formation. I would willingly cycle up to London any day if you thought that the following statistics concerning myself would not make such a journey fruitless.

I am still a University man but it is doubtful as to whether I can continue my studies at Oxford. My age is 25 years 22 months. My height is 5 ft 4 ½ ins. Weight 8 stone 1 lb. Chest measurement 32 ½ ins. Constitutionally strong but physically rather weak. A good walker & good lungs! No military experience. I should be obliged for any advice or information you could send me.

Yours truly

That letter may mean my going up to London on Monday. Mr Ruscoe’s letter was to ask me to come and stay for a bit. As yesterday seemed the only chance, I cycled down here, getting a puncture en route. I got here at about 1.45. I found that Willie Birch has joined the East Surrey & is off on Monday! Poor, poor Mrs Birch, it does seem terribly sad for her. It is a hard thing that a mother should lose her only son! I hope too, & pray, that Willie will bear the brunt of what he has undertaken. It will be a fearful strain on him, I feel sure, & when temptation comes, may he be guarded & kept from all wrong. I am very glad that he is joining with four or five others whom he knows. So he will not be altogether alone. I am going to eight o’clock celebration in a few minutes, & shall sit with him. There is one thing about this corps I am trying to join, I fear that one has to bury oneself in it, also supply one’s own kit. But that remains to be yet proved. This failing, I can make no other efforts for I feel sure that I have then done all that is expected of me.

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham, meanwhile, was hearing of various family friends who had joined up including one with similar qualms to those of Sydney Sepncer.

6 September 1914
Church [at] 11. Willy read out names of those gone to volunteer…

Sep joined Public School Corps – rather dreads having to obey for 3 years!…

Papers signed by Allies. None will make peace without the others. Signed Kitchener – Cambon – Beckendorf.

(Diary of Sydney Spencer, 6 September 1914); Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“God forgive me if I have not played the man”

Sydney Spencer of Cookham visited Oxford, where he was an undergraduate, to investigate his options for service. His diary tells the tale of his anguished debate with hinmself.

September 3rd

Now dies the saying ‘No news is good news’! I have had to keep away from you, Mr Diary, for a very long time, but because I have not been able to give you any news it does not mean that it is all good news. Red war still rides her bloody way, & the noise of her chariot wheels is dread & fearful. In her course she ruthlessly runs down thousands of poor men, ruining at the same time hearts & homes, puffing out the one little flame that lit the home, & snatching away the one pair of hands which earned the bread. Oh War, War, when will your end come? On all sides one hears “cursed Germans, wicked Kaiser! Oh that they were all butchered!” Who will find me a man to get up into the chariot of dread war & cast her down & trample her to the ground? That is what we want cursed in its cruelty, cursed in its cold modern methods, cursed root & branch is War, & yet here we are in modern Europe, in the civilized (?) twentieth century, making the whole of Europe shake, making a ghastly field of battle of miles of smiling country, devastating, destroying, wounding killing, yes & even Murdering! Louvain, the loveliest of cities, mellowed by its ancient buildings, beautiful for its memories of the past, [rivalling] Oxford for its traditions & its university; is no more. It has been ruthlessly levelled with the earth. It is almost unthinkable that all those homes – private citizen homes – beautiful for their memories of childhood & young married days, & days spent around the fires by hallowed old age, all, all gone! The spirits of hundreds of homes wander over desolate spots & find no habitation for themselves.

It is just striking three & I am seated on the Union Lawn to write. To write what? The chronicle of perhaps the greatest mental strain I have ever passed through. I came up here to Oxford to find out what work I could do. I did not for one minute think that service might be a point now. It came as a terrible shock & brought me up dead against “self”, when Hudgel of St John’s Street suggested that I should join as a private in the 2nd Bucks Light Infantry Territorials, which are offering to go out on active service. I passed through such a two hours from 9.30 till 11.30 this morning as I never hope to pass through again. It seemed that everything pointed to my going to the office in 20 Magdalen Street, & offering to be medically examined. Every nerve in my body & mind was at breaking tension, & I had determined to throw up all “thoughts” & join, when, passing by Keble College I saw the men I should have to join. It was terrible. My whole power of reasoning & my whole religious feeling cried out, “Play the man, & go in & take the consequences”. But my mind & self kept edging out that it would be unendurable to be always always in the company of those men. The hard living I can endure, the drilling I would have done my best to satisfy, in the dying even for my country & my God I could even support & endure, rather than the hourly & daily torture of being in the company of men whose minds although ennobled by willingness to serve their country, would be for ever grating on mine by their coarseness or even worse than that. God forgive me if I have not altogether played the man, but I have done my all at present.

Last night I was refused altogether by Colonel Ranking at the Hospital (the Examination School). This morning Dr Allen said he would see if there were [sic] any sort of work I could do on the Emergency Committee. Then came the proposal to join the body of men, & I went, confessedly to myself almost distracted by doubts & longings, by thoughts pulling & pushing me one way & another – to Dr Pope. He advised me to go to a Mr C Cookson of Magdalen College, so I went to his rooms. He told me that it was utterly foolish to think of doing such a thing as Hudgel suggested, that I was altogether unfitted for it, & that I should not only be useless but be in the way & do harm. He did not even suggest that I should do any such thing as join this new battalion for ex-public school men or university men, but that I should go home & rest quietly till term commenced & then join in the OTC at once. By this I found that according to him – I should be doing not only what was best for myself, but also the best thing all round. So my next step is to go home & get some drill from Maidenhead in preparation for joining the OTC next term. No one who has not passed through what I have passed through this morning can know what a relief it is to me to feel that I have done what I could possibly do, & that I know my duty plainly – having it set before me by men who are purposely chosen to give advice to such as myself. Dr Pope was very sweet & kind to me & I feel deeply grateful to him, as also to Mr Cookson, for the way in which they helped me through this terrible ordeal. If I want to get further information re the Public Schools & University Corps I can write to the Secretary of the Public School & University Force Committee, 46 Victoria Street, Westminster SW.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/12)

The sticking point: more thoughts from Sydney Spencer

Sydney Spencer’s plans were still undecided.

Friday 14th of August
Yesterday morning I had a letter from Dr Pope in reply to the one which I sent him on Tuesday. I will copy it here as it explains itself.

Aug 12th
Dear Mr Spencer
I think you are asking quite rightly. I have placed your application in the hands of Capt. Ballein, Headquarters OU OTC [Oxford University Officer Training Corps], Alfred Street, Oxford, & he has taken charge of it. I took the letter to him myself so that I know it is with the right person.
God bless & keep you
R H Pope

Last night I had a letter from Captain Ballein mentioned in the above as follows.

Oxford Univerisity Officers Training Corps
9 Alfred Street
Dear Sir
Dr Pope has handed me your letter. I am afraid that we cannot help you to find work, as we are engaged solely in appointing officers for commission, & you have unfortunately had no military experience. Perhaps you might be of use in a military hospital. There is a large hospital being formed here in Oxford in the Examination School.
Yours truly
F Ballein
For the Adjutant

So now I can do nothing but wait. I can write to the Examination Schools & let them have my name as being willing to do any work that is wanted, so I shall do that & then just await events. Willie Thompson (of Clouskeagh Castle Co Dublin) wrote me that he will not be able to get to Persia now that this war is on. England has come to the sticking point in a most wonderful way & all are getting that quiet noble fortitude that is necessary under these circumstances. Conservative & Liberal join in united praise of our government & its actions & its preparations, & we may all be thankful that England goes into this terrible war with clean hands.

I am writing this over at Sweethayes [at Littlewick Green] & mother is here to tea. Ella has promised to give me some lessons on “first aid”, so when I come over here I shall be able to get just a little knowledge of the subject.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/12)