Glorious sunshine – good for the Bosch, worse luck

Sydney Spencer was poised to move up the line to the worst action.

Sydney Spencer
Friday 17 May 1918

After a very good night’s sleep I got up at 3.30 after smoking a cigarette & taking an infinite childish delight in watching the bewildering clouds of vapours curling along the narrow slant of the shaft of sunshine which came through the small attic window in my room.

After breakfast I took rifle inspection afterwards. Sat & worked at mess bills & got them settled thank goodness. After lunch I went round to B HQ, settled up wine bills & left 80 francs with Sergeant Green for buying stuff while we are up the line.

It is now 4 pm & at 8.30 we go up the line again. So, my dear diary, I close your pages for a few days, as although I have been very careful to tell you little or nothing that is compromising, I dare not take you near where you might be taken prisoner! So au-revoir!

By the way, last night the Buffs made a big raid. Killed about 300, took prisoners, & got off with less than 10 casualties. It is a scorching hot day. We started out for the front line at 8.30 & got there at 11.15 & took over the trench without further ado – had absolutely no excitement getting there either.

Percy Spencer
17 May 1918

6 pm report from QM re petrol tins.

The best day since I arrived, a glorious sunshine. But good for the Bosch, worse luck. Division to be relieved tonight. We endeavouring to stay in Warlos for a might at least. Got NCO promotions nearly up to date, & a letter register started.
Pushed out of Warlos by 58th. Went to camp on hillside. Close quarters but lovely day. CO went to command 141.

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

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Peaceful persuasion

Sydney Spencer moved to better quarters today, while Percy’s regiment was handing out food to starving locals.

Sydney Spencer
Saturday 11 May 1918

Got up at 4 am. ‘Stand to’ and took men over to yet another new BP. Got back at 5.30 & slept till 9. Had breakfast brought to me in bivy. After breakfast a shave & wash & wrote long letters to Broadbent & Father & Mother. A note from the Padre re wine bills.

After lunch to change bivys with D Company. Completed by 3.45. Changed my socks & had tea. Wrote to the mother of one of my wounded men. During the ‘bivy’ [illegible] this afternoon saw a very comic fight between two men carrying petrol cans.

After dinner we all sat & waited to ‘scoot’ for A—s, which waiting lasted till 9.45, & then we took up our bed & walked. We arrived at midnight.

Found my platoon’s billet a very cosy one. Came here to our billet. Jolly comfortable. A small room each, and a mess room decked with French flags! Probably an old café’. To bed in my flea bag & valise with clothes off for first time for 15 days, with exception of taking them off for a bath!

Percy Spencer
11 May 1918

A good day. Had tea with my old chums of the 1&2. Called on Blofeld of the TMs, who was full of glee over his TM barrage which led to the 23rd killing 70 Bosch. Met Lynes whose company lost the bit of trench afterwards retaken. He told me trench was full of kit & pillows!

25-0 band conducted by a private (my old friend at Chiseldon – [Henry?] Doe & varsity man – deputy organist of St Paul’s) played outside my orderly room.

A good deal of misery in village owing to a shortage of food, army fed these poor folk. Have an idea this is part of peaceful persuasion scheme. Col. Parish on leave – a great loss to the mess. I prosecuted in SIW case for Col. P. & man was convicted.

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

During the war we all have to make ourselves responsible for more than we could rightly undertake in time of peace

The new vicar of Wargrave took on a new role as school inspector for church schools, mainly because his ownership of a horse meant he had transport denied to others.

Diocesan Inspection

There is one General Diocesan Inspector in this diocese who gives his whole time to the work, but the area of the three counties is so large that he can only visit one in each year. He is therefore assisted in each Deanery by an Honorary Inspector, appointed by the Bishop, who examines the Schools in two out of every three years.

The Vicar resigned this office when he left the parish of Medmenham in the Deanery of Wycombe. He has been asked to resume it in this Deanery. There are twenty-six schools to be inspected in the sixteen parishes of this Sonning Deanery. Somebody must do the work and it requires somebody with a horse, (even motor cars cannot run without petrol). So the Vicar has felt that it would not be right to decline. It is very congenial work, but acceptance of any additional task seems to require a word of explanation when we are shorthanded here and the things already left undone are evidence that the Vicar has no time to spare.

The fact is that during the war we all have to make ourselves responsible for more than we could rightly undertake in time of peace. And if we happen to have experience which makes a particular task lighter than it would be to a new hand it is not fair to decline it, unless it is an absolute impossibility. This work is done in the morning in the Schools and late at night at home so it will not much interfere with parochial visiting.

Wargrave parish magazine, February 1918 (D/P145/28A/31)

A day of wild rumours

The area was swept with particularly wild rumours about a possible invasion.

27 March 1917

Day of wild rumours. Our navy defeated! Big battle North Sea for 3 days! Germans landed Scotland. All troops mobilized. Nothing in papers.

Went on all today. That there was a great N. Sea battle – 11 ships lost! Then 9!! The Germans had landed in Scotland – then on east coast. All troops from neighbourhood sent away. The Engineers at Maidenhead left Sunday, Marlow this morning. (This latter is true). Also Sydney Elliott at Bramshott, then suddenly mobilized to go somewhere. Heatley said it was a rising in Ireland. Nothing in the papers – morning or night, except Londoner’s Diary laughing at the reports. Last version Germans had taken Scotland!!!

No petrol substitutes to be given out. No more petrol allowance after end April!

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Impossible to carry on council business due to “minute quantities of petrol allowed”

Berkshire County Council received a petition from the British Empire Union, a racist and anti-semitic pressure group formerly known more honestly as the Anti-German Union.

ALIENS

A circular from the British Empire Union, asking that meetings should be organised with a view to the internment of all enemy aliens, was read, and ordered to be laid on the table [i.e. ignored].

PETROL SUPPLY

Mr Preston called attention to the impossibility of carrying on certain important parts of the County business in consequence of the minute quantities of petrol allowed to the respective officers; and the Clerk was directed to communicate with the authorities responsible and to apply for an increase.

Berkshire County Council minutes, 29 July 1916 (C/CL/C1/1/19)

A terrible blow

Petrol shortages meant a blow for Florence Vansittart Neale, on holiday in Kent. Glycerine was needed for explosives.

21 July 1916
Heard all petrol stopped for private cars! Terrrible blow. Went into Folkestone to try to get some. Heard we could not. Wired to [Kidnes?] – no use!…

Still going well, but awful casualties.

Also no glycerine to be sold without doctor’s orders.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Petrol in short supply

Shortages were beginning to hit home.

2 July 1916
Discussed petrol with Phil.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Constables lost, cars gained: the first impact on the police

The Standing Joint Committee of Berkshire County Council and the Court of Quarter Sessions, which was responsible for the county police force (the Berkshire Constabulary), held a special meeting on 15 August 1914 to hear the report of the Chief Constable on the initial impact of the war on his force:

A special report by the Chief Constable was presented and … resolutions were passed as set out below:-

1. Police Army Reservists called on to rejoin the Army on mobilization:- I have the honour to report that, on the outbreak of war between this country and Germany, the following Army Reservists serving as Constables in this Force were called on to rejoin the Army on mobilization:

PC 58 Frank Brown Married
PC 101 Charles H. Goodchild Married
PC 103 Samuel Theobald Married
PC 105 Jesse J. Siney Married
PC 36 George Eales Single
PC 163 Philip Hubbard Single
PC 214 Harry Easton Single
PC 216 Ernest E. Sparkes Single

One other Army Reservist, PC 51, James H. Wood, who is the Drill Corporal to the Force, was, on my recommendation, allowed to remain for duty with the Force instead of being called up for duty.

I would recommend that, pending any order of the Secretary of State, the wives and children of the Constables so called up should be given an allowance calculated at half the pay they were receiving on being called up for Army Service.

So far as I now know the four single Constables have no one dependent on them, and, therefore, I do not recommend any allowance in their case, but I ask the committee to allow me to use my discretion in the matter.

I would also ask your authority to allow the wives of the four Army Reservists to remain in the houses now rented by the County so long as I consider it desirable, on payment of amounts equal to half the deductions for house rent.

Adopted.

(a) Increase of Force, and calling up of Police Reserves.

I beg to report that on the declaration of war, owing to the very heavy duties and responsibilities imposed on the Police, I considered it necessary to increase the Force and to call up a portion of the First Police Reservists. Three recruits joined the Force on the 12th August, 1914, and I called up for duty on the 5th August and subsequent dates the following First Police Reservists:
1 Inspector
11 Sergeants
10 Constables, Class A
11 Constables, Class B
Total 33

(b) In addition to these I have appointed 10 First Police Reservists. These include 8 chauffeurs to drive motor cars which owners have very considerately lent to the Police, and the cars and chauffeurs are accommodated in the Police Stations. It will be necessary to appoint others as available…

(c) It has been necessary to put up temporary sheds in several of the Police Stations for motor cars now in use and for the storage of petrol and benzol, and the possible accommodation of further motor cars which might in an emergency be required for the movement of the Police…

I would also ask authority for the payment for the purchase of petrol and benzol which I have considered advisable to purchase and store. Also for the payments for the upkeep of the motor cars lent for the use of the Police, to include all running expenses, upkeep of tyres, and repairs, as necessary.

At present this arrangement has only been made for seven Divisions, but I hope to have the same arrangement for the other remaining Divisions as soon as possible, should motor cars from owners be available.

As a further precautionary measure, I am arranging as far as possible for twelve motor cars to be available for each Police Division in case of emergency, and these will remain in the owners’ hands, and be only used if required.

Authorised.

(c) I would further ask your authority for the provision of such clothing and accoutrements as may be necessary for the use of the First Police Reservists, and an allowance for those acting as chauffeurs not exceeding £3 per annum each. Several of the First Police Reservists have been fitted up with the clothing previously stored for this purpose, but others require clothing and accoutrements which I have ordered.

Authorised.

(d) There are 17 First Police Reservists still available to be called up if required, and I would ask your authority to call them up should circumstances render it necessary.
Authorised.

The Chief Constable was requested to express the thanks of the Committee to the lenders of cars for their patriotic action….

[The County Surveyor’s report revealed that the temporary buildings for the cars were at Abingdon, Faringdon, Maidenhead, Newbury, Wallingford, Wantage, Windsor (Clewer) and Wokingham police stations, and the headquarters at Reading. Fire extinguishers were also supplied.]

Standing Joint Committee minutes (C/CL/C2/1/5)