An epidemic of influenza

The dreadful flu epidemic hit Berkshire.

Abingdon
1918, 14th-18th October

There is an epidemic of influenza, poor attendance the whole of the week. Sent out notices of absence replies all reported illness. Only 99 girls present on Wednesday morning…

School closed on the 16th owing to the epidemic and reopened November 11th.

Hampstead Norreys
16th Oct.

School closed this morning for blackberrying. Children return to school for the afternoon.

Beedon
16th October.

School closed for blackberrying – 60 lbs gathered.

Boyne Hill
Oct: 16th

Dr Paterson has again been notified of the increasing number of influenza cases.

The PT [pupil teacher] was too ill to remain in school this afternoon.

Log books of Abingdon Girls’ CE School (C/EL2/2, p. 167); Hampstead Norreys CE School (C/EL40/2); Beedon CE School (C/EL55/1); Boyne Hill Girls’ CE School (C/EL121/3)

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

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

May 13, 1918

Ny dear WF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours ever
Percy

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

A strange looking man who looked ill, got into a trench & started making charts

Sydney Spencer was obviously a suspicious looking character! Halma is a strategy board game involving constantly moving pieces across the board.

Sydney Spencer
Friday 10 May 1918

Got up at 7 am and went over to my platoon front to make out my range charts. I was taken for a spy and questioned by an Essex officer. The sentry had described me rather comically. I was to him a strange looking man who looked ill (!!) & wandered about, & finally got into a trench & started making charts!

At 9.45 gave evidence in a case at the orderly room & then had a bath at old brewery. Met Forster & another chap with whom I walked back.

Found that once made, our battle positions were to be changed! We seem to be sort of playing at Halma! After lunch I had a long sleep from 2.15 pm till 4.30 & much I enjoyed it too. Now I am writing to dear old Jumbo [Kenneth] Oliphant who wrote me last night. His address is St Margaret’s, Fern Hill Park, Woking.

Stand to tonight is at 8.15 pm. I took out a carrying party. Two journeys down a road you wot of, master diary. We had one casualty from machine gun fire. A C Company man. Got back at 11.30.

Letters from Florence, Broadbent & Father. Wrote a long letter to Florence.

Percy Spencer
10 May 1918

A glorious day. Paterson lunched with us. The Lance Corporal who was no good – only offence apparently that he plastered tracts on latrine seats.

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

“No better discipline or anything of that sort, I hope”

Percy Spencer wrote to Florence asking for some
Lysol petroleum jelly, an antiseptic. He had recently attended a dinner with old comrades, which had both tragic and comic elements.

May 3, 1917
My dear WF

This is just a few scrambled lines, mostly to ask for things.

I should very much like a tube of Lysall [Lysol] petroleum jelly, or a small bottle of Lysall and some phospherine tablets.

Also some ink to fit my box.

If I have any merino underwear or any shirts, I should like them please!

I’m sorry I can’t think of anything more to ask just now!

Well, I saw the Big Brass Hat yesterday and he said “H’m yes” 3 times, so I expect I’m in for something pretty bad – probably a month’s training in the trenches – or “something worth boiling out in it”.

We had a first rate dinner the night before last – the surviving officers & sergeants of my old Battalion, numbered just 18, 15 of whom were present. It was a right good evening, tho’ it had its tragic side.

By the way I am the only original member of the staff left: also I am the only remaining Staff Clerk in the Division who came out with us. The only original Quartermaster in the Division (of my old Battalion) was at the dinner. In fact so many of us were the only remaining something or other, we felt quite lonely.

Well, dear girl, I’m sending you the souvenir of that event. “Pat” enlisted as a private tho’ in private life he is Paterson of the Home Office – head of the Prisons of England – a fine man with a grand head. Dear old RSM Fisler’s speech was too funny. Private Pat, Corporal Pat, Sergeant Pat & 2nd Lt Pat of No. 4 Platoon was the well beloved of this Battalion of rough lads, and the fine old RSM ran himself high & dry on the rock of affection for the battalion idol: “that’s about all I’ve got to say, I think, sir”, he concluded lamely after a long pause.

The Sergeant Cook was pressed to sing – everyone knew he wanted to sing, and what he wanted to sing, and what he would sing – still he announced as he reluctantly rose to his feet, it would be a sad song. Nobody said, “We know; it’s going to be “Speak not ‘er nime”, tho’ everyone knew that “Speak not ‘er nime” it would be notwithstanding the cheering effect of a [bumper?] of port & Kummel shandy the worthy fellow had mixed for himself under the impression the harmless looking liquor was a sort of Perrier.

And so the evening passed. We talked of the St Albans days & the early days out here, of this good fellow and that, of a stout hearted Sergeant who wouldn’t be put off his game by enemy shelling before the battle of Loos – “What’s that?” exclaimed a jumpy platoon sergeant as a crump landed near. “Spades trumps” replied the other, and as the next one landed even nearer, “Clubs laid, your turn to play.”

But always we got back to Pat – to the early days out here, when as a Lance Corporal he “borrowed” the transport officer’s mount and a local landau & drove his “boys” out, only to run into the Divisional General. Of the Divisional General’s wrath & enquiry as to disciplinary action taken, & the CO’s reply – “This NCO has been promoted to Corporal”.

And I reminded him of the day when talking to the RSM he passed by en route for the guard room, there to comfort one of his platoon with all the food & illegal things he could buy.

Oh, the discipline of No 4 was awful, but they’d follow Pat anywhere.
Pat had to go away for a long time – upon returning he asked how things were with No. 4. “Oh, they’ve gone downhill fast, sir, since you left”. “No better discipline or anything of that sort, I hope”, Pat enquired anxiously. “Oh no” replied his informant in a horrified tone.

And now this same Pat is our Divisional Lecturer on “Discipline”.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/33-35)

The army uses a school’s toilets, to the head teacher’s annoyance

King Street School, Maidenhead, was inconvenienced by army use of the premises. The schoolmistress noted with annoyance in the log book:

19th January 1915
‘The military’ had the use of children’s lavatories during holidays, for soldiers using these buildings for medical inspection – this continued after school re-assembled & Mistress found it inconvenient, the accommodation being limited & supervision by teachers necessary. A notice was therefore written on door prohibiting use from 9am to 12, & 2pm to 4pm.

20th January 1915
Councillor Chamberlain, Dr. Paterson & the Town Clerk visited this morning. Enquiries were made as regards sanitary arrangements & the ‘military’.

King Street School log book (C/EL77/1, pp. 339-340)

An exchange of doctors with the enemy

A local doctor with firsthand experience of wartime Germany shared those experiences with Bracknell people.

A very interesting lecture on “Germany and the War” was given on the evening of Monday, November 23rd, at the Victoria Hall, by Dr. Paterson, the Medical Officer for Health for the district. At the beginning of the war he was in Hamburg and was detained there; subsequently he was imprisoned and only recently allowed to return to England in exchange for German medical men allowed to return to Germany.

The lecture was arranged by the Staff of the District Council, and as no expenses were incurred, everything – the use of the Hall, the printing, and other expenses being given free of charge – the whole proceeds of £17 were available for War Charitable Funds; part of this has been sent to the Central Red Cross organisation and part reserved for local needs.

Bracknell section of Winkfield District Magazine, December 1914 (D/P151/28A/6/12)

A fine response from Ascot

The Ascot parish magazine shows how that village was adapting to war conditions. Some of the entries are typical of other parishes; more unusual is the use of Ascot Racecourse for a hospital, and the encouragement of the working classes to take responsibility for care of refugees.

THE WAR.
No less than 95 names of parishioners, or men connected with the parish, are mentioned in All Saints Church at the Special Service of Intercession on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. All these have, in some capacity or other, joined the Navy, or Army. It is a fine response, on the part of Ascot, to the call of the Country upon her sons to take up arms in her defence, and in the great struggle for justice and righteousness. May GOD watch over all our lads, and keep them from harm, both moral and bodily.

THOSE AT THE FRONT.- The names of those at the front are mentioned at the Holy Eucharist on Sundays and Thursdays ay 8 a.m. : also at Matins and Evensong on Sundays. We ask the help of our people to ensure an accurate list, for it would grieve us to leave nay names out. A box, with pencil and paper, is placed on the table at the west end of the Church for the reception of the full names (of those at the Front).These names shall be inserted in the Parish Magazine month by month. We append the first list, which we trust is complete as far as it goes –

NAVY. – Eric Welman, Herbert Edward Cook, Archibald James Ewart, John Nobbs, William Luke Havell, Frederick George Barton, Oliver Frank Tindall, William Percy Siggins, Joseph Wilfred Ferns, Thomas William Hawthorn, Herbert William Wilderspin, George Parker, Albert Arthur Barton.

ARMY.- Eric Harold Tottie, Herbert Lane Poole, Reginald Poole, Vernon Charles, Tapscott Cole, Maurice Wingfield.

RED CROSS HOSPITAL, &c.

We extract the following from the Windsor Express –

Mention has already been made in these columns of the valuable uses to which the racecourse buildings and enclosures at Ascot are now being put. The five-shilling stand, as previously announced, has been arranged in wards for the accommodation of wounded soldiers, and to make things as comfortable as possible, a heating apparatus costing between £400 and £500 is being installed.
But this is not all. Series after series of ambulance lectures have been given here by Dr. Gordon Paterson to prepare men and women for the duty of attending to the sick and wounded, while the grounds adjoining have been occupied considerably by special constables and others at drill – this being another kind of preparation of which the importance cannot be overlooked.

The latest development is that every suitable building is to become a dwelling for wives and children of soldiers at the front. It means that these families will leave barracks, thus making room for recruits, and will come to comfortable quarters at Ascot, where everything will be provided – furniture, firing, light, etc. – but food, and the latter they will provide for themselves from their separate allowances. The number of those who will swell Ascot’s normal population is at present unknown, but it is expected that full advantage will be taken of the preparations now in progress.

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