“There is a consolation in knowing that he did his duty fearlessly”

One man after another from Stratfield Mortimer was reported dead or missing. The toll was beginning to tell.

Garth Club

We have received with the greatest possible regret the news of the death of yet another member on the Field of Honour. When war broke out many members volunteered, and have been serving in most of the fighting zones, – in the Persian Gulf, in Egypt, at the Dardanelles, and Salonica, whilst a number have been in France in the thick of the fighting.

The first to give his life was Frank Goodchild, Pte., R.M.L.I. (enlisted 1913), who went down in the H.M.S. “Good Hope” when she was sunk in action off the Chilian Coast, November, 1914. He took a prominent part in all Club doings and entertainments, and was a general favourite – “one of the best,” and greatly missed.

Next came the sad news that Lance-Corp. Chas. Wickens, who joined on the 11th August, and was drafted to France in the 1st R. Berks the following November, was reported missing on the 15th-17th May, 1915. And it is since believed that he was amongst those killed at Festubert or Richebourg. In the long period of uncertainty the greatest sympathy has been felt with his family and his many friends. He earned his stripe very early in his training, and was a most promising young soldier.

Swiftly came the news of the death of Sidney Raggett, Pte. In the R. Montreal Regt., who also joined in August, 1914, and after three months in Canada came home to complete his training on Salisbury Plain. He went out in February, 1915, was wounded in April, but returned to his duty in May, and on the 21st was killed by a stray shot at Richebourg. His Sergeant wrote of him, “I was awfully sorry he was hit, as he was one of the best boys I had,” and Major-General Sir Sam Hughes, in a letter of condolence to his mother, says, “…there is a consolation in knowing that he did his duty fearlessly and well, and gave his life for the cause of liberty and the upbuilding of the Empire.”

Another period of anxiety has been the lot of Harry Steele’s family and of his wide circle of friends and chums. He, too, felt directly war broke out that it was his duty to join, and he and a friend enlisted in the 10th Hants, and had a long training in Ireland and England. He went in July to Gallipoli, and was in the great charge on the 20th-21st August. He was reported missing, and after many anxious months there seems a sad probability that he may have fallen in that heroic effort. But no details are as yet known. He was a regular and loyal member of the Choir and of St. Mary’s Bellringers, and will be long remembered in the village for his clever impersonation of Harry Lauder, and for his realistic acting at the Club entertainments.

Associated with him, and one of his close chums, was Pte. W. G. Neville, whose death we now mourn. He enlisted in the Hants Regt., and went out early in this year. After a long period of suspense, the War Office have now announced, with the usual message of condolence, and also one of sympathy from the King and Queen, that it is feared he was killed in the great advance on the 1st July last. He was a regular bellringer at St. Mary’s, and he also took a keen interest and a leading part in all Club affairs, and his topical songs and really clever acting were always enthusiastically received at our concerts. He, too, will be most affectionately remembered and greatly missed by his many friends.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, November 1916 (D/P120/28A/14)

Thankful not to be in the trenches

Wounded officer John Wynne-Finch wrote to his brother in law Ralph Glyn from his convalescence in Wales.

John to Ralph (D/EGL/C2/3
Voelas
Bettws-y-Coed
N Wales
Jan 19th 1916
My dear Ralph

We have most certainly had a lovely long stay here. All thanks to my very “tuppenny-halfpenny” wound which refused to heal. During this time I have done a good deal of shooting, and the total bag for the year is really rather good and has beaten all previous records for the years when no pheasants have been reared. Over 1000 pheasants have been killed, and about 400 partridges, and very little shooting was done before the end of November.

The weather here has been very bad, and there have been many occasions when we have wondered how Jimmy was feeling in the North Sea. The gale here on New Year’s Day was of most unprecedented violence, and did a great deal of damage, bringing down over 100 trees in one wood alone. But owing to the war, one can luckily obtain a very good price for timber, and it is so much in demand that I have been able to sell them all, whereas in the ordinary course of events one can get no sale here on account of the cost of carriage….

The rain has also been a most tiresomely frequent visitor, as Meg found to her dismay, during the week she was here. On this account I have very often felt thankful that I was not biding my time in the trenches of Flanders….

My next Medical Board is due in a few days, when I suppose they will pass me fit for duty at Windsor, whither I suppose we shall have to go, to be there I suppose about 2 months before they send me out again.

The war news of the last few days has not been of the very best. The end of Montenegro will not help us very much in the Balkans I am afraid. I would have expected Italy to have sent troops there, because I don’t suppose it will be any help to her to have the Austrians with a longer sea-board in the Adriatic.

The Persian Gulf business also seems a very tough job. It was most awfully sad about poor Ivar. They seem to have had a very severe handling out there. Nevertheless they seem to be making a slow but sure progress, and will no doubt join up very soon.

As regards myself I have been very lucky in getting promoted Captain, after such few years’ service. But it was all due to the formation of the Guards Division and the consequent augmentation of the regimental establishments.

You probably know that Godfrey Fielding now commands the division, and Cavan has got a Corps, XIV, to which the division is shortly to be transferred, so as to be under his command.

The evacuation of Gallipoli was a most astoundingly wonderful feat; and I am simply longing to hear something about it. I often wonder now after reading the Turkish “official” communiqués what amount of truth there is in what they say as regards the booty etc, which they took. It is always difficult to believe anything these days, from whatever source it may emanate.

Maysie still keeps her pack of hounds; and Connell is as naughty and bad as possible. In the house he is no better than a travelling water-cart.

The whole country seems to be full of soldiers; and London is simply one mass of them. Those on leave from France, looking too untidy and dirty for words. One sees also very large numbers of men, of every class, wearing the khaki armlets of the Derby scheme.

I hope you are keeping fit.

Yours ever
John C Wynne Finch

Lady Mary Glyn, Ralph’s mother, also wrote to him.
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Three days without food in a forgotten trench

More Earley men (and a woman) joined up in the war’s second autumn. Others had suffered the vicissitudes of war.

Yet another of our choirmen, Mr F C Goodson, has gone forth to the war and carries with him our good wishes. Mr Goodson has joined the Army Service Corps (19th Labour Company) and will be employed in France, probably at one of the landing stages. On Sept 7th we heard of his safe arrival on the French coast, and the Vicar heard from him on the 20th.

Mr Stanley Hayward, who for many years has served both in the choir and as principal server, has also gone. Mr Hayward offered his services as clerk to the Army Ordnance Corps, and left home to report himself to Woolwich on Sept. 8th. He, too, carries with him our best wishes.

Mr William Stevens, of 119 Grange Ave, private 2nd Battalion of the Royal Warwicks (which played a gallant part in the first battle of Ypres in Oct, and later on took part in the battle of Neuve Chapelle) has been home and amongst us. Pte Stevens was wounded in the back and buried by a bursting shell in the trenches, and was subsequently dug out. Among his other experiences, he was left with 11 others in an advanced trench for three days without food, as the order to retire failed to reach them. On this occasion he was officially reported “missing”. He has now recovered his health, and sailed on Sept. 2nd to rejoin his regiment. His two brothers are serving, one in the Persian Gulf; the other is in the Royal Navy and shortly expected home on sick leave.

We regret to learn that Mr Herbert E Long, of 40 St Bartholomew’s Road, trooper in the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, has been wounded at the Dardanelles. Fortunately the wounds appear to have been slight. Like Mr W Stevens, he too has two brothers serving in the Army, one with the Army Service Corps in Egypt and one presently in England.

Miss Hilda Sturgess, one of our Sunday School teachers, sailed on Sept 10th for Egypt in company with about 100 nurses. Miss Sturgess reluctantly gave up her class at the beginning of the War and joined the nursing staff at St Luke’s Red Cross Hospital for the wounded. After many months work there the War Office requested her to undertake work in one of the hospitals, presumably Cairo or Alexandria, and she accepted the call. It is a courageous action to go out with strangers into a strange country without hope of return for at least six months. It seems to us a true and honourable service to one’s country and deserving of every commendation.

Mr Reginald Sturgess, another of our old choir leaders, has left England for the Dardanelles. He joined the West Kent Yeomanry about a year ago. They have been quartered near Canterbury these many months wondering whether they would be sent abroad or not. Orders came last month, and they are now either in Egypt or, more probably, at the front in Gallipoli. Mr Reginald Sturgess has won considerable distinction in machine gunnery, and will without doubt prove himself an efficient and capable soldier.

The Rev. J W Blencowe, whose lectures on the Melanesian Mission have been greatly appreciated here, has resigned his curacy at Wokingham and been appointed Chaplain to HM Forces in the Dardanelles. By a curious coincidence Mr Blencowe will go out with the West Kent Yeomanry to which Mr Reginald Sturgess belongs. At the time of writing we have no other information than that Mr Blencowe was ordered to be ready on Monday the 20th ult. If he sails with the West Kents, the chaplain and one of the troopers will begin their friendship with a good deal in common.

Earley parish magazine, October 1915 (D/P192/28A/13)