“Our Government’s policy renders it absolutely necessary to come in every morning to the food shops, your cycle bearing a basket, which you bring home crammed!”

Several years’ worth of university intakes were crammed into one as demobilised young men flocked to Oxford and Cambridge.

29 Barton Road
19 Oct. 19

My very dear old man

Cambridge overflows just like Oxford. Miss Allen speaks of 5000 u.g.s at the latter, I have heard of 7000 here, and it’s possible that 7000 applied – but this is a small town, and though artisans’ cottages are turned into lodging houses, and at incredible distance from St Mary’s, we certainly cannot overtop the Oxford entry.

You should see the streets at midday, when lectures are over and even the sidewalks become mob. Every u.g. seems to own a motorcycle, and not know how to ride it with safety…

You will understand that our Government’s policy renders it absolutely necessary to come in every morning to the food shops, your cycle bearing a basket, which you bring home crammed!

Ever affectionately yours
Bild

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

Special classes for soldiers

Students were getting back to normal on leaving the army.

MAIDENHEAD TECHNICAL INSTITUTE

The Sub-committee understand that the Technical Institute will probably be evacuated by the Red Cross Hospital authorities shortly…

EVENING CLASSES

In a circular letter, the Board of Education urge the importance of the resumption of the part of this work which was curtailed owing to the war and of its further development at the earliest possible date.

The Sub-committee have not found it possible to resuscitate any of the closed classes this session but have made provision in the estimates for increasing the number of classes next session.

ARMY EDUCATION

In connexion with the scheme for Army Education, the Sub-committee have been asked to arrange special classes for soldiers at Windsor and these have been duly held. The whole of the cost is payable by the War Office.

COUNTY SCHOLARSHIPS

The Sub-committee have allowed B L James (3rd year Senior Scholar), who was released from the Army in January to resume his Senior Scholarship at the Newbury Grammar School for the remainder of its period.

M G Hyder, who was granted a Supplementary County Scholarship in 1916, has been released from the Army, and took up his Scholarship at Keble College, Oxford, as from the commencement of the Lent Term.

The Sub-committee have renewed the Scholarship of E H Austin (who has also been released from the Army) at the University College, Reading, until the end of the Summer Term.

Report of Higher Education Sub-committee to Berkshire Education Committee, 3 May 1919, in Berkshire County Council minutes (C/CL/C1/1/22)

“We can’t get coal enough to keep the flame of life within our veins”

Fuel was still in short supply, as the universities got a sudden influx of new students, many of them men who had served in the armed forces.

29 Barton Road
25 January ‘19

My dearest old CMY

We can’t get coal enough to keep the flame of life within our veins – though we are eking our fuel out with blocks of wood – 30/- for 300! – and even with the fire in my little study (you remember it?) I go about with Florrie’s Shetland shawl – I gave it her when she was Miss Spencer – wrapped round my senile shoulders. And we cannot afford fire in the study more than twice a week. Half of our whole coal ration has already been used.

The streets are filled with Caps and Gowns – all new. The wearers of course are all freshmen. When last, say, 3 years back, Cambridge saw u.g.s, not a soul wore academical dress, except to lecture. Now they are vain of it. How they will manage at Trinity I wonder. The Cadets have left the New Court Rooms in a dirty confusion, and the upholsterers cannot supply furniture of beds, chairs, tables, etc. Many mammas seem to be importing furniture from home to their hopefuls. Lawrence, Junior Bursar, is driven out of his senses. Then in Master’s Courts are 400 Naval Lieutenants and Sub-lieutenants. The gold lace of their uniforms quite cuts out the military khaki. So I hear ladies say. It glitters over the streets all day. Naval men refuse Oxford, which doubtless knows neither Math nor Science.

But did you notice the slight cast here by the Army? I boil!

Our dear love, Florence’s and mine, to you both.

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

Uncertain whether any part of the properties are suitable for land settlement

It was hard to find land to offer to ex-servicemen hoping to go into farming.

Report of Small Holdings and Allotment Committee to BCC, 18 January 1919

FARINGDON

Land belonging to Oriel College

Correspondence, which has passed between the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries and Oriel College with reference to an offer by the latter of land for the settlement of ex-servicemen, has resulted in the College sending to the Board a schedule of their lands in various counties. In the correspondence the Treasurer of the College reminds the Board that in addition to the reluctance that the College naturally feel in disturbing the tenants of lands held under them, they would make themselves liable to claims for compensation should they seek to render their land available for the purpose. In the circumstances they suggest the Board should address the leading farmers on the subject in order that they may voluntarily relinquish land for the purpose. The Treasurer states that the College have no unoccupied lands in hand, and are uncertain whether any part of the properties are suitable for land settlement.

The Board request that the property in the county should be inspected to ascertain whether it would be suitable for the purpose.

The College Authorities have been asked to send a detailed schedule and a plan of each farm to facilitate this.

HUNGERFORD

Port Down and Freeman’s Marsh

It has been suggested to the Committee that the above property might be acquired for land settlement.

The land is stated to be part of the endowment of the Town and Manor Charity at Hungerford, to be about 350 acres in extent, but to be subject to certain common rights.

The Clerk to the Charity has been communicated with; he states he will bring the matter before the trustees at their next meeting….

LONG WITTENHAM

St John’s College land

The Board of Agriculture and Fisheries asked the Council to report on the Manor Farm, Long Wittenham, which had been put forward for the settlement of ex-service men.

After considering a report by the Land Steward, the Board have requested the Council to consider the advisability of negotiating for the acquisition of the property.

The Committee also considered the report, and asked the Sub-committee to enter into negotiations.

Report of Small Holdings and Allotment Committee to Berkshire County Council, 18 January 1919, in BCC minutes (C/CL/C1/1/22)

“Right in front of the battalion, leading his men in true British style”

This supplement to the roll of honour’s bald list of names gives us more detail about the parish’s fallen heroes.

Supplement to the Wargrave Parish Magazine

ROLL OF HONOUR.
R.I.P.

Almighty and everlasting God, unto whom no prayer is ever made without hope of thy compassion: We remember before thee our brethren who have laid down their lives in the cause wherein their King and country sent them. Grant that they, who have readily obeyed the call of those to whom thou hast given authority on earth, may be accounted worthy among thy faithful servants in the kingdom of heaven; and give both to them and to us forgiveness of all our sins, and an ever increasing understanding of thy will; for his sake who loved us and gave himself to us, thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Baker, Edward
Private, 7th Wiltshire Regiment, killed in action on the Salonica Front, April 24th, 1917, aged 21. He was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Baker. He was born at Wargrave and educated at the Piggott School. When the war commenced he was working as a grocer’s assistant in Wargrave. He volunteered in 1915 and was sent out in 1916. He was killed by a shell in a night charge.

Barker, Percy William

Private, 7th Batt. Royal Berkshire Regiment/ Killed at Salonica, July 4th 1917, aged 19. He was the only child of Mr. and Mrs. William Barker at Yeldall Lodge. His father was for twenty years a gardener at Yeldall. He was born at Crazies Hill and educated at the village school. On leaving school he began work as a gardener. He was one of the most helpful lads on the Boys’ Committee of the Boys’ Club. He volunteered May 11th, 1916. On July 4th, 1917, he was hit by a piece of shell from enemy aircraft while bathing and died within an hour. The Chaplain wrote to his parents “Your loss is shared by the whole battalion”.

Bennett, William
Sergeant, 8th Royal Berkshire Regiment, killed in France, Dec 3rd, 1916 aged 25. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Bennett, of Wargrave, and when the war broke out he was working on a farm. He volunteered at once. He was killed instantly by a shell. One of his officers wrote: “Sergt. Bennett was the best N.C.O. we had in the company. Fearless, hardworking, willing, he was a constant inspiration to his platoon. His splendid record must inevitably have led to his decoration. We have lost an invaluable N.C.O. and a fine man. He was buried with all possible reverence about half a mile from Eaucourt L’Abbaye”.

Boyton, Bertram
Lieut., 6th London Brigade Royal Field Artillery, died of wounds in Palestine, Nov. 9th, 1917, aged 36. He was educated at King’s College, London, and was a Surveyor and Architect by profession. He was a Fellow of the Surveyors Institute and had won Gold and Silver Medals of the Society of Auctioneers by examination. He was married to Elsie, second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Spencer Morris, at the Parish Church, Wargrave, Sept. 7th 1905, He was a member of the London Rowing Club and the Henley Sailing Club, and keenly interested in all athletics. He enlisted in the Honourable Artillery Company in April 1915. He was given a commission in the 6th London R.F.A., in July 1915 and was promoted Lieutenant soon after. He went to France with his battery in June 1916, and to Salonica in the following November. He was sent to Egypt and Palestine in June 1917, and was wounded while taking his battery into action in an advance on November 6th. He died at El Arish on November 9th, 1917.

Buckett, Ernest Frederick

Private in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, killed in action Sept. 20th, 1917, in France, aged 23. The dearly loved husband of Dorothy May Buckett, married May 31st, 1917. He was educated at the Henley National School, and before the War was a slaughterman with Messrs. O’Hara & Lee, butchers, Henley and Wargrave. In 1910 he joined the Berkshire Yeomanry (Territorial Force), and was called up on August 4th, 1914, at the commencement of the war. He immediately volunteered for foreign service. He went to France in the spring of 1915. When he had completed his five years service, since the date of his enlistment, he volunteered for another year, but received his discharge as a time-expired man in January 1916. In July, 1916, he was called up under the new regulations and sent immediately to France where he remained, except for leave on the occasion of his marriage, until he fell in action, September 20th, 1917. (more…)

Flu at Oxford

The epidemic had now struck the University of Oxford.

20 October 1918
Heard Jack Farrer ill with “flu” at Oxford.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

“We have lost men and millions, but these wretched French return to smoking ruins”

Florence Image was devastated by the news that her beloved brother Sydney Spencer had been killed, just after returning to the Front after having shell shock.

29 Barton Road
7 Oct. ‘18

My very dear old man

You and your wife’s thoughts will, I know, be with us. We got home from London last Tuesday evening about 7. I was standing in hat and overcoat, my back to the fire, getting a warm. Florrie, the other side of the table, opened a bundle of letters. Suddenly – in a quiet, toneless voice, I heard her saying, “Sydney is killed”. I did not realise her meaning. It stunned me. And she, poor dear – I knew how passionate was the devotion between the brother and sister – and how he idolized her beyond any other woman in the world. She bore up, but I could not. To spare the old parents in their weakness, he (like his elder brother) had left all to her hands to manage. What a week!

The Major’s letter, scrawled in the hurry of the battle, is all that we have heard – and the pencil scrawl was but a few words.

“I am very, very sorry to have to tell you that your brother was killed on Sept. 24th.” (How matter of fact is the announcement!) “He was commanding B Company at the time. He was, I think, the keenest officer I have ever met. A shell burst near him and he was killed on the spot.”

We have heard no syllable since – nor could I find any mention of the Norfolks in the Times syllabus of those days. Poor boy! I told you how he was blown up by a shell on the fourth day of the advance, and how when he insisted on rejoining, the Colonel sent him down to the reserve, as not healed yet; but he wrote to us that he was less “tired” than those officers who had been years in the field – and he seems to have got his way – to this end.

But an end how glorious! He was BA of Oxford and was meaning to enter the church. Always he was doing something for others. It cheers me to remember that his was such a straight, clean, useful life. To us he is not, and never will be, dead.

Oh how I remember his leaving for the Front. He was staying with us, and went straight from our house without stopping, at so early an hour that I was not up. Florrie was with him to give him his breakfast: but I was abed still, when he came in for goodbye, and at the last moment he lifted to his lips my hand lying on the bedclothes. My last sight of Syd! He was so cheerful and so full of life.

Percy, the elder brother, is still at St Thomas’. The doctors marvel at their success with his left arm but he cannot move it yet: will he ever be able? His letter to her ended: “Thank God you have John, and thank God I have you both”.

The Impudence of the Kaiser! Announcing to the army that this tickling of the President was his own action; that he is still all in all. Wilson won’t be slimed over. We have lost men and millions, but these wretched French return to towns and villages that are smoking ruins – deliberately destroyed by the retiring Hun. I don’t care about a town for a town. We know that our squeamishness would let Germany off half price. No. We should compel them, by the labours of their own populace, to restore every ruined French town, every village, yes, every house: and keep military occupation of Germany until this has been done, and to France’s satisfaction.

Also, we should demand ample fines and indemnities.

Florence begs to join me in sending love to Mrs Smith and to you.

In all affection.

Yours
Bild

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

“Sometimes it’s a piece of shell – next day it will be a piece of bone”

Percy was clearly feeling a little better, and was able to observe life in his ward with his customary wry humour.

Bed 8, Florence Ward
St Thomas Hosp[ital]
SE1

Sep 1, 1918

My dear WF

Since Thursday morning I’ve lived – my arm went to sleep and has remained so. This morning the muck from it was much diminished and I am actually beginning to sleep without drugs and to walk a few paces. Two nights ago I indulged in the luxury of a bath and was strong enough to balance on one leg when necessary. In a few days time I am to be operated upon again to get at odds and ends of bone not wanted again. Of course I’m no end pleased at the prospect.

The fellow opposite is a perfect [illegible – source?] of wealth. They get something fresh out of him every day. He affords the sisters all the excitement of a bran pie insamuch as all the things are different – sometimes it’s a piece of shell – next day it will be a piece of bone, followed by a chunk of glass or a cork. I’ve got a small wager that inside a week they’ll find a bottle of whiskey in him somewhere.

I’ve asked No 9 (of Oriel College Oxford) what a “stunt” is and he confirms my opinion that today it has reached the stage when it means anything one likes to make it. Still I look back to the day when it was only applied to an out of the ordinary military minor enterprise. Nowadays, tricks in the air are stunts – so are raids – so is a disagreeable field practice or a route march – or the attendance at a court martial – and to go to big things, I remember that huge affair the battle of Messines being described as a “splendid stunt”. So carry on – make it mean what you like & look confident about it, you’ll worry through all right. I’m quite sure that will not satisfy John’s accurate mind.

No. 17 IBD “L” depot Calais means the “L” depot of the 17th Infantry Base Depot situated at Calais. It also means that Sydney having got beyond the point on the lines of communication from which officers are sent to rejoin their Battalion, has been sent back to the base depot, from there to be sent back to his Battalion when required or elsewhere possibly. Alternatively, assuming he is not yet fit, it means either that he is being sent to his base depot to convalesce, or being considered worn out he is there is do a few months tour of duty. Now I feel sure you must know exactly what it means.

This morning was very lovely. After I had been bathed, I lay and watched the Mother of Parliaments shyly move away from the night, down to the water’s edge and then silently and soberly await the first kiss and warm embrace of her other love. (It’s quite all right, I had some medicine yesterday.)

Just there I had to suspend operations for lunch – cold beef salad & potatoes: plum pie & custard. Unfortunately I had to refuse second helpings. However, as I lay here in the sunshine I feel that comfortable replete feeling stealing over me and presently I shall stretch forth my hand for John’s cigar and dissolve in smoke.

With my dear love to you both

Yrs ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/85-88)

“The real thing: he was a rock, strong, capable, self-reliant, and possessed the complete confidence of every man and officer in the battalion”

A tribute was paid to a Burghfield hero.

THE WAR

IN MEMORIAM

George Ouvry William Willink, MC
2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment

George was only 2 ½ years old when the family came here, in July 1890, so his life’s home has been in the parish, and he loved it. And that he has not been spared to live out his days at Hillfields is a sore loss to all classes.

Perhaps no record can be more suitable for printing in the Magazine than the following notice by his Eton Tutor, Mr Vaughan, his parents’ old friend, which appeared in the Eton College Chronicle:

“George Willink came from Mr Locke’s school, St Neot’s, Eversley, in 1901 to Mr Vaughan’s House. Diffident at first, and somewhat slow in thought, he yet showed already those qualities of steadfastness, unselfishness and good temper, which in time won for him the respect and affection of all. He made himself, by pluck and concentration, one of the best in the House at football and fives. In the Lent Half of 1907 he played for Eton v. Harrow in the first “Rugger” match between the two schools, when Eton won by 12 points to 0, and in the summer of that year rowed 2 in the Eight at Henley, and thus at the end of his blameless career came into his own.

“He was always so self-effacing”, writes the boy who was his most intimate friend in the House, “that it was only those who knew him really well, as I did, that realised what a splendid fellow he was”.

It might truly have been said of him at Eton, as it was at Oxford, that “Things, whatever they were, would go all right, if he was mixed up with them.” Throughout his life he thus exercised far more influence than he himself realised. “If my own sons”, his Oxford tutor wrote, “should grow up with that sort of character, I should feel more thankful for this than for anything else in the world.”

In 1907 he went up to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he not only rowed in the Varsity Trial Eights, and managed his College Boat Club, of which he was captain, but worked hard at History, and reaped his reward by obtaining a Second Class in the History School in 1911. In 1913 he was called to the Bar. A keen member of the Eton, and of the Oxford, OTC, in both of which he was a sergeant, he had, on coming to London, joined the Inns of Court OTC (in which his father had once been a captain), and was a lieutenant when the war broke out.

He commanded for some time as captain, No. 1 Company of the Battalion at Berkhamsted, and the universal testimony of officers and men to his good work is remarkable. The words of one of the former (Sir F G Kenyon) may be quoted: “There never was an officer more hard-working, more conscientious, more self-sacrificing, and without claiming any credit for himself”.

In 1916, as soon as he could obtain permission to leave Berkhamsted, he joined the Berks Territorials, in his his brother Captain F A Willink had already seen foreign service, and in July proceeded to France.

In 1917 he was mentioned in dispatches, and later gained the MC for a daring rescue by digging out with a few men, under heavy fire, some buried gunners. Rejoining his regiment, after a “course” behind the lines, on March 23rd, he took over command of his Battalion, the CO having been killed a few days before.

On the 28th he fell while he was gallantly leading, in advance of his men, a counter-attack. “On the first day that I took over the brigade, in September 1916,” writes his Brigadier, “I put him down in my mind at once as the real thing. He was a rock, strong, capable, self-reliant, and possessed the complete confidence of every man and officer in the battalion.”

In the words of a barrister, twenty years his senior in age, who served as his CSM at Berkhamsted: “He was one of the ‘gentlemen unafraid’ and as such has found his welcome in Valhalla’”.

More might be said, especially as to the affection which he inspired, as well as confidence. But this is not the place for it, and after all, his Burghfield neighbours know.

Honours and Promotions

Temp. Lt Geoffrey H B Chance to be Temp. Captain from 27th April 1917.

Casualties

Private E J V Cox (Worcester Regiment), missing; Private F G Cummins (Royal Berks Regiment), severely wounded; Private D Hutchins (Royal Berks Regiment), wounded.

Lance Corporal Howard Pembroke (see Magazine for April) has been definitely offered the choice of a commission in either the Infantry or the Royal Air Service. But he prefers to remain in the ASC, where however he will have to wait for a similar chance until he is older.

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

The Austrian offensive seems to have vanished into mid air

Officers were well treated on their visits home, on leave or wounded.

Florence Vansittart Neale
22 June 1918

I & two officers motored to Oxford. Saw Dorchester, had lunch en route. Saw Magdalen, New College & Christ Church. Two MO Canadians here for Sunday, Captains Johnston & Reay. They out all evening. We brought Phyllis home. She left Oxford.

Joan Daniels
June 22nd Saturday

Bruce McPherson has come for the weekend… Bruce has had a very nasty wound in the back of his head which he got last October.

The Austrian offensive seems to have vanished into mid air.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and Joan Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

He has given his health, as his brother has given his life

Burghfield men continued to pay a high price.

THE WAR

Honours and Promotions

Cadet Alfred Searies has been posted as 2nd Lieutenant to the Suffolk Regiment. Lance Corporal Percy Sheppard (Army Ordnance Corps) and Rifleman E Wigmore (Rifle Brigade) have been promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Casualties

Ernest Eaton (Royal Berks Regiment) wounded; 2md Lieut. F Wheeler (King’s Liverpool Regiment), Sergeant Wigmore (see above) and Private W H Brown (Royal Berks Regiment), Prisoners of War.

Discharges

Captain Francis A Willink (4th Royal Berks Regiment), Dysentery and Colitis; Isaac Osman (Labour Corps, ex Rifle Brigade), Rheumatism.

The promised statement about the late Captain George Willink is held over.

Congratulations to 2nd Lieut. Alfred Searies. He is the first of Mr Sheppard’s “old boys” of the Burghfield C of E School to obtain a commission. Let us hope he will not be the last, as he certainly will not be the least, either in stature or merit.

Condolences with Captain Francis Willink, who sorely against his will is, after fifteen Medical Boards, gazetted out of the Army “on account of ill-health contracted on active service”. He worked up from Private to a Commission in the Eton College OTC. On going to Oxford in 1910, he joined the 4th Royal Berks, and was a Lieutenant when war broke out, soon afterwards being made Captain and given command of “E” (the Newbury) Company. In March 1915 he went to France with the Battalion, which had then become the 1/4th, upon the formation of the 2nd unit. They went immediately into trenches at “Lug Street”, afterwards holding sections of the line by Bethune, and later at Hebuterne. The trying conditions of active service however told upon him and brought on dysentery and colitis, and after holding out as long as he possibly could, perhaps too long, he was invalided home in September 1915. Since then he has done a lot of useful work with the 3rd Line at Weston-Super-Mare, and Windmill Hill on Salisbury Plain, and for some time was Draft Officer. But his health did not really improve, and about a year ago he was transferred to Reserve, since which time he has been further twice medically examined and is now declared to be permanently unfit for medical service. He has given his health, as his brother has given his life. Fortunately there is still useful work open to him to do of national importance.

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

The work of vandal hands

Sydney Spencer was distressed by the signs of looting and damage by the enemy, but could still delight in natural beauty.

Friday 26 April 1918

I got up at 7.30 & Peyton & I went into the cook-house, & we sat by the fire & talked about Oxford & had a cup of tea, & then we had breakfast. Morning spent in gas drill, rifle inspection & mouching [sic] round & lying about.

After lunch we went down to the platoons & O ticked them off about camouflage. Then went for a ‘scrounge’ with Harvey through the town. Very pathetic. In one house I found beautiful books, furniture & china all pelmel [sic] smashed & broken & torn by vandal hands on the ground. Upstairs large cupboards ruthlessly torn open, quantities of women’s apparel lying thick on the floors, & [illegible] lying full sprawl on the apparel a massive black dog with weak brown eyes, also looked long & sadly at me. In a ruined chateau I found a curious letter written on Sept 25 1915 from here.

After tea rations came. While I was away at D company HQ, 2, 15 point 9 shells got used. B company HQ. No damage to life but a hole in wall just outside the cellar. Tonight Rolfe and [illegible] have gone on working parties.

I gathered some lovely apple blossom from an apple tree blown up by a shell today. Also some forgetmenots, wallflowers, [peonies?], cowslips & bunches of blossoming branches of Tulip Tree.


Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15)

Adventures in armoured cars and tanks

Old Boys of Reading School continued to serve their country, and share their experiences.

O.R.NEWS.

Mr. A.J. Wright has kindly sent the headmaster extracts from a letter of R.F. Wright’s, who was then in the 2nd squadron Russian Armoured Cars. The letter gives a vivid description of the threat on the Galician front and for the adventures of the Armoured Cars. The most striking sight was the explosion of the huge ammunition dumps at Crosowa, – apparently caused by a chance shot,- which Wright witnessed from a distance of 5 or 6 miles. It was most fortunate that the British cars got away with such small loss.

We must congratulate Capt. Rev. A.G. Wilken, Brigade Chaplain, Canadian Force on his return from Germany. He has been a prisoner of war for a year and eight months, during which time he has made the acquaintance of no less than six prison camps, Gutersloh, Minden, Crefeld, Schwarmstedt, Holzminden and Frieburg. We understand that some of these were comfortable enough, others very much the reverse. We hope that someday perhaps Capt. Wilken will tell us of some of his experiences.

Captain Haigh, M.C.

We are now in a position to publish news of the great honour which has been conferred upon Capt. Richard Haigh, M.C., Tank Corps, son of Mr. W. Haigh, of “Llanarth,” Hamilton Road, Reading. Capt. Haigh has been selected from all the officers of “His Majesty’s’ Land Ships” to take charge of the tank which has been touring Canada and the United states to help boom the U.S. Liberty Loan. He and his crew all of whom, by the way, have been wounded, have been touring the chief cities of the Republic for the past three months polarizing the great loan which our Allies have been raising. Such work is, of course, of the highest responsibility, and the fact that the gallant officer has been entrusted with this duty speaks well for his ability and for the confidence which the authorities place in him.

Educated at Reading School, where he distinguished himself in every form of athletics, particularly long distance running and football, Capt. Haigh obtained a commission in the Royal Berks Regt. just after the outbreak of war. He was wounded at Loos in 1915 and again on the Somme in 1916. In January of last year he was awarded the Military Cross, and for the last twelve months he has been attached to the Tank Corps.

Lieut. Fielding Clarke. – On Wednesday in the last week Captain Fielding Clarke of Ampthill, Craven Road, Reading, received a telegram intimating that his second son, Sec. Lieut. A. Fielding Clarke, R.F.C., was missing. The previous Saturday he had been with his squadron carrying out a bombing raid on and around Metz, and his machine was the only one which did not return. Lieut. Clarke, whose age is 18 and a half, was educated at Reading School and Bradfield College, and joined the R.F.C. at the age of 17 years and four months. He had been in France about three months and had just returned from his first Furlough. It is supposed that the cause of his failing to return must have been engine trouble, for on the occasion of the raid there was particularly little German anti-aircraft fire.

(Later). Lieut. A. Fielding Clarke is now known to be a prisoner of war interned at Karlsruhe.
(more…)

“10 seconds later his plane was crippled on the ground, enveloped in gigantic flames”

Sydney Spencer revealed life behind the lines in France in his diary, and wrote to his sister with more details.

Diary
Sunday 21 April 1918

Men bathed today from 9-4. So ‘Beer’ company officers had a rest in bed. Got up at 8.30, had a cold bath. After breakfast wrote to Mother & Father & Florence. It is now 11.15 am. A sunny morn & I am in a bit of pretty woodland. We parade at 11.30 am so I must go.

We had our parade on some fields near to billets. Only a short inspection & a talk and organization of platoon. I take over No 6 Platoon. After lunch took out company for football. After tea went to church in ‘flying fox’ lecture hall. A good service with a band and some solos from Elijah. A lovely day with plenty of sunshine.

After dinner I tried on my field boots which came today. They fit well. To bed at 10. Read Tennyson.

Letter

7th Norfolk Regiment
BEF
France

Sunday
21.4.18

My Dearest Florence & Mr I

Just a short line to let you know that I am very well & quite happy. Nothing exciting has yet taken place. The great pleasure at present is coming across lots of men who used to be in our regiment, who shew in their slow Norfolk way a keen relish at meeting a man of the old (help! I nearly got within reach of the censor I believe!) regiment. Also I have come across two men who were up at Oxford with me, one yesterday & one last week. …

Yesterday night a man was ‘stunting’ in his plane just above us. One moment he was like a calm serene bird floating down the wind. 10 seconds later his plane was crippled on the ground, enveloped in gigantic flames. I only hope he escaped a horrible death!

All love to you both
Your affectionate Brer Sydney

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); and letter to his sister and brother in law (D/EZ177/8/3/20)

Fritz planes are busy overhead

Although his unit was still behind the front, Sydney Spencer could see evidence of the air war.

Friday 12 April 1918

Rose at 7 am. Breakfast and on road by 8.45. Arrived here in camp at 12 noon. Fritz planes are busy overhead, & one can see over to SE 5 German observation balloons. Our anti aircraft guns are pooping at Fritz as I write.

A glorious day and wonderful undulating country wooded in parts, & we are camped in an orchard, 2.45 pm. Just came across Rory [illegible], who was at Oxford with me! He looks well. He is brother to our Padre!

8 pm. I am going to bed soon as we stand to at 4.45 tomorrow morning. Cozens Hardy has made me Company Mess President. Have just been making up mess accounts. Have written to Col. Hallis. Have also got two blankets. Dinner tonight. Soup, fishcake, meat [illegible], custard & fruit.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15)