Photos of soldiers and sailors in a place of honour

A Clewer church made sure that the faces of its servicemen were immediately before worshippers.


St. Agnes’, Clewer

We shall welcome still more photos of Sailors and Soldiers to put up with those which are already up in our War Corner in the Church.

Please write the name on the front of the photos before sending them to me. Of those already up most are in uniform, but some in civilian clothes: some are small, some large, and some cut out from a family group: and any photograph that you have of them has a place of honour waiting for it with all the rest among the Flags of the Allies around the Symbol of the Great Sacrifice.

Clewer parish magazine, November 1917 (D/P39/28A/9)

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Amateur dramatics behind the lines – “each pause is filled with the roar of guns & explosion of shells”

Percy wrote cheeefully to Florence, telling her about the amateur (and cross-dressing) dramatics by his soldiers.

April 24, 1917

I wonder if the sun is shining on you as well. It’s a perfectly glorious day here, full of sea, wind, aeroplanes and shells. There’s precious little sleep after daybreak this sort of weather.

Yesterday I went for quite a good walk across the fields along narrow waterways, and in the evening I went to the Follies and saw an absolutely topping performance. I do wish I could have you both here one evening just to show you what alluring damsels some of my boys make. Of course one can’t get away from the incongruity of it all, for each pause is filled with the roar of guns & explosion of shells, and at the end of each scene, as the windows are thrown open, bursting shells in the distance are just about all the view.

Altogether we’ve had a very good time lately, and but for a couple of rounds which the Huns fired at another NCO and myself a fortnight or so ago, we’ve been particularly immune from that being-shot-at feeling.

I’m enclosing one or 2 more souvenirs. I think Tyrrell’s is a perfectly charming group (the family put their Sunday clothes on for the event). The other is really sad – the central figure committed suicide a few days ago – why, heaven knows.

Well, I’m being so interrupted, I’m going to close.

Oh, I forgot to say I have been applied for direct (without a cadet course) by the OC of the Battalion I’m to go to, and the Brigadier has endorsed all the nice things said about me in the letter sent with my papers by the CO. So I doubt whether I shall get much, if any, time in England.

With my dear love to you both
Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/29)

“Just now on the threshold of a good roll up of the Huns I’m afraid there’ll be no time for reading in the army”

Percy Spencer and his colleagues had the opportunity to socialise with French girls behind the lines – and some romances developed, as Percy told his sister.

April 17 1917
My dear WF

Circumstances have prevented me from writing sooner, but please don’t ever imagine just because I sometimes cease my very occasional letters for a while that therefore I’m fighting in every battle on the Western front. I have always made a point of sending at least a field card whenever I am in any danger or you may have reason that I may be.

I’m enclosing a few souvenirs just to show that all our times are not anxious ones. The photos were taken in the rain in a quiet little village on a peaceful Sunday afternoon. You’ll note that all married and attached have vanished from the “mascot” group. We have had a very good, if strenuous time. The fellow who is understudying me against my departure (if that ever happens) and our mess mascot were mutually smitten, and altho’ I have done my utmost to persuade him from making the lady an alien, he is in daily correspondence with her, getting frightfully absent minded, and goes around humming her favourite tune until we put up a solid barrage of the same tune in the lady’s Anglo-French style.

As for my Benjamin (“Miss Mary Jones”, the junior clerk) the case is indeed desperate. All thoughts of his first love Lily of Clapham Common seem to be banished at the mention of “Jacqueline”, the blue-eyed maid at the second estaminet on the right. Her winsomeness was a great trial to me, as “Mary” was dangerously enchanted by her charms. On the day he was inoculated and should have kept very quiet, he was missing – sitting at the shrine of his goddess, drinking benedictions and secret smiles: as I find him out to his billet he assured me with tears in his eyes, “I’ve only had 2, sergeant”. Of course he ought to be dead, but he isn’t – and Jacqueline regards me as an ogre. However I think she judged me a little bit better before we left, for on the day we went away Mary had a scrawly pencilled note as follows –

My dear Dolly
I must see you at once. Tell your sergeant that if you no come quick I finish with you for ever.
With love & kisses
XXXXXX
from your
Jacqueline

He went.

And every now and then I see him take out an old passport and look at the left hand corner, and smile at her miniature there.

Dear old Will has sent me a long letter enclosing a photo of Johanna & himself and offering a selection from a number of books as a birthday present. I’ll let you know later what I’d like, but just now on the threshold of a good roll up of the Huns I’m afraid there’ll be no time for reading in the army.

I believe my affairs are going thro’ all right, but it may be some time yet or not at all before my promotion comes through – I hope it will be very soon or not at all. Further promotion would be very remote, if the job hung fire for long.

With my dear love to you both
Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/26-28)

“Our Heavenly Father is enriching this parish with heroes of self-sacrifice”

There was news of several Ascot men, including a report by one man of life as a prisoner of war in Germany.

THE WAR

We have to announce that Charles Edwards has laid down his life in the service of his country. Ascot has real reason to be proud of him. Upright, courageous, a communicant of the Church, a member of a family universally respected, he leaves behind him not alone our heartfelt sense of sorrow for the withdrawal of a true and noble young life, but an ideal to be reverently set before us of what a GOD fearing young Englishman can attain to. Our Heavenly Father is enriching this parish with heroes of self-sacrifice, even unto death. May we humbly value to the utmost so priceless a dowry. The whole district should be raised to a higher level of life by the example and the prayers of young men of the type of Arthur Jones and Charles Edwards. R.I.P.

OUR WOUNDED.

Victor Edwards (brother of the above), Reginald Smith and Arthur Taylor are reported wounded. All three are doing well.

THE ASCOT SAILORS’ AND SOLDIERS’ COMMITTEE state that since the commencement of the war 136 in all appear to have gone abroad from Ascot in the service of their country, and of that 110 are now serving abroad. 15 are in the Navy, 72 reported in France, 16 on the Mediterranean, 1 in Mesopotamia, 4 in India and 2 prisoners. Parcels were sent in June to those who appeared to require them: and similar parcels are now being sent, and in addition special parcels are now being sent to those in the Navy. The thoughts of all of us will go out to those in France at this strenuous time.

AT MOST of our Garrisons in England there are no Army Churches, and efforts are now being made, with the approval of the Deputy Chaplain-General, to raise a Fund for building a Church at Bordon Camp, near Aldershot, in memory of the Great War, and as a memorial to those who have fallen. Donations to this Fund will be gratefully received and acknowledged by W. H. Tottie, Esq., Sherlocks, Ascot.

ASCOT PRISONERS OF WAR.

We have good news from our Prisoners, who write to say they receive their parcels regularly and in good order. The following quotation from Private Richard Taylor (imprisoned at Friedrichsfeld-bei-Wesel) may interest our readers. (The letter was accompanied by the photograph of a beautifully kept burial ground and its large stone central cross. Each carefully tended grave was thickly planted with flowers and had its headstone with an inlet cross and inscription.)-

“I am sending you a photo of the monument which lies in the graveyard of our dead comrades, English, French, Russian and Belgian, who have died since they have been made prisoners. The money was raised by having concerts and charging from ten to forty pfennigs (otherwise from a penny to four-pence.)”

The letter continues: “One night we were playing a nice game at whist, and a parson came in and had a chat with us, and asked us if we should like to go to Church. Of course we all agreed, and on the same night we marched down to the village to Church and spent a very nice hour. And the parson is an Englishman, but he is allowed a passport to travel about Germany. He had some books with the short service, and some well-known hymns in them.”

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, August 1916 (D/P151/28A/8/8)

Snapshots from home

It was a great comfort to soldiers in the trenches, or sailors at sea, to have a photograph of wife, sweetheart or children in their pockets, But cameras were not owned in every household. A kind benefactor in Wargrave offered to help out a dozen local families:

Snapshots from Home

Anyone who would like a photograph taken of themselves or their children to send to Soldiers at the Front, may send word to the Vicar.

A very kind offer has been made to take 12 such photographs.

Wargrave parish magazine, July 1916 (D/P145/28A/31)

Family photographs at the Front

The YMCA had a heartwarming scheme to send photographs of family members to soldiers, many of whom came from poor families with no access to luxury goods like cameras.

Snapshots from Home

The Y.M.C.A. have enlisted a vast number of people to help in taking photographs of home scenes, to send to Soldiers at the Front. A photograph of wife or child must be a very pleasing addition to a letter from home and is, no doubt, greatly treasured. If anyone with a camera would like to lend a hand in Wargrave there would be plenty to do, either informally or under the Y.M.C.A organisation.

Crazies Hill Notes

The Working Party has been discontinued for the summer. We are very much indebted to Miss. Rhodes who carried on this work throughout the winter months. We are also indebted to Mrs. Rhodes who so generously provided tea each week for those who came. This kind act was greatly appreciated. In a letter we have received, Miss. Rhodes says: –

“The Working Parties have been a great success and no end of good work done; and I have had most grateful letters of thanks from St Bartholomew’s Hospital, The War Hospital, Wandsworth, and the Ladies’ Linen League, Royal Berkshire Hospital, and much praise on the quality of the work.”

Wargrave parish magazine, June 1916 (D/P145/28A/31)

Lives complete in self-sacrifice

A naval and army chaplain with links to Windsor reports on his experiences at Gallipoli ad in Egypt. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he was open to learning from the non-white and non-Christian peoples he encountered, and respected the Turks as an honourable enemy.

The Vicar has received the following letter from Mr Everett:

Hospital Ship “Asturias”
Alexandria
February 1st, 1916

My dear Vicar

Since I last wrote I have seen so much, and gathered so many new impressions, that I find it difficult to decide what to write, and what to leave out. I have been several times through the Aegean Sea, either from Malta or Alexandria, on my way to Lemnos, the Gallipoli Peninsula, or Salonica [sic], from which places we, of course, brought back sick and wounded…

What thoughts are produced by Mount Olympus – hoary Olympus – once believed of men the home of the greater Gods! There, standing lofty and snowcapped, it has looked down through the ages on the surrounding country and the Gulf of Salonica. What has it seen in the past, and what now! Then, men seeking an unknown God in their own way, making wars, too, or carrying on their simple business, or cultured lives, on land and sea; using their frail ships with their banks of oars, or driven by contrary winds, and now, watching the great ships go by, battle cruisers and hospital ships (two strange contrasts), huge transports for the gathering of armies, and busy torpedo boats, all more or less independent of storm and tempest, and defeating space with their wireless installations.

But my pen has run away with me over my fascinating travels, nd I must turn to twentieth century history. The Dardanelles campaign is over, but I am not likely to forget my brief visits to Anzac Beach or Cape Helles; nor will those splendid men of all ranks, who spent months there and at Suvla Bay, under conditions which are well known. At Cape Helles I was sometimes ashore, and went over ground once held by fire and sword. It would take too long to describe it – the camps, landing places, “River Clyde”, and the town and fortress of Sedd El Bahr; but one enclosed space, of pathetic interest, held me – the little grave yard studded with crosses, some elaborate, but the majority rough and ready, marking the resting places of some of the many on the Peninsula whose lives, though so short, were so complete in their voluntary self-sacrifice. I eagerly scanned the names and rude inscriptions, in case I could recognise some brave friend from Windsor or elsewhere, in order to tell someone at home about it, and bring back a photograph, but found none I knew. I venture to think that the Turk, who has been an honourable foe, now that he is again in possession of Cape Helles, will reverence that little spot. I might add that I carefully looked at the crosses on Lemnos Island, over the graves of those who had died in hospital there, and have also seen the military burying place in Alexandria, but have only come across one name I knew.

(more…)

Disaster in the Dardanelles

Two former pupils of a Warfield were casualties of a failed attack.

10th September 1915
We regret to say that two Warfield lads were engaged in the unsuccessful attack at the Dardanelles on Aug 20. Philip Bowyer was killed and Edward Gale was wounded.

The girls at Abingdon Girls’ CE School, meanwhile, had the chance to see photographs of the Dardanelles campaign.

September 6th to 10th
Rev: C. E. Thomas brought Photographs which came from the Dardanelles and spoke to the girls about the War.

Warfield CE School log book (C/EL26/3); Abingdon Girls CE School log book (C/EL2/2)

All must help in war time, and none are too young

The people of Bracknell were sending photographs of home to loved ones at the front, while those at Cranbourne were urged to save money by giving children home made jam instead of treacle.

BRACKNELL

SNAPSHOTS

The Y.M.C.A. have a scheme on hand to cheer our gallant Soldiers and Sailors on active service. It is not money they ask for, only snapshots for our men, pictures of their little children, dear friends and relations. Helpers are wanted and wanted at once, so anyone with a camera who is willing to assist should at once communicate with Mrs. Vlasto, Binfield Park, who is Secretary for this district.

Many brave men have gone from this neighbourhood and their relations and friends are invited to write to Mrs. Vlasto, who will then arrange with as little delay as possible for photographs to be taken and forwarded. We know what a joy these pictures of home will be to our men.

CRANBOURNE

The voluntary enumerators for Cranbourne in connection with the making of the National Register were Mr. L. Creasy, Mr. R. Martin, Mr. Maxwell Williams.

We print below the rest of Mrs. Smith’s letter.

As for jam, the little ones need it. Make what you can at home. It is a lot of bother, and is cheaper, but good. Mrs. Dash will lend her preserving pan all along the road, now that it is war time. If you eat the jam quick as it is made, you may skimp the sugar. Boil the fruit till tender. Then add the sugar, and boil short and sharp. If it boils till it begins to brown, that shows it is wasting away.

Treacle pleases most children, but that gain comes from foreign parts, I fancy. Make the children save their half-pence, too. This sounds rather strict, but once taught to save, they are proud of it, and they learn to say “no” to temptation, which is half the battle of life. All must help in war time, and none are too young. Save the odds and ends, pieces of paper and string, jam glasses, old tins, pins, corks. It is true I am afraid that we are a wasteful nation, so let us try and learn our lesson during what will be for ever known as “the great war.”

I am forgetting the tea. Our tea is now so dear, and may be much dearer. When you only want one cup, or a cup for yourself and a friend, at odd times, use a penny strainer. Stand it over the cup, with a pinch of tea, and pour the water very slowly through it. It will taste alright and save half the tea. Cold tea with no milk, very weak, and if you can manage it, a squeeze of lemon, makes a refreshing drink. One of Queen Victoria’s doctors told me of this, to use in sickness or health. You could make this from the tea leaves, and still have them to sweep with. Now I must conclude, from your sincere friend and well-wisher.

MRS. SMITH.

WINKFIELD

Our Choir men have again unselfishly foregone their excursion this year in order that the burden on Church expenses may be lessened and enable more offertories to be given to War funds, and also that each of their brother members at the Front might receive a special present and token of remembrance.


Winkfield District Magazine, September 1915 (D/P151/28A/7/9)

Harrowing scenes with maddened mothers desperate to reach wounded sons abroad

Cambridge don John Maxwell Image wrote to the wife of his friend W F Smith, who was living abroad, with a report on the rush to get passports in order to attend a dying son’s hospital bed.

TCC [Trinity College, Cambridge]
Thursday 29 April 1915

My dear Mrs Smith

Here in England Passport Photographs are being turned out by the thousand – owing to the accursed War. A lady friend of mine whose son – his battalion (Rifle Brigade) will not go out till next month – has already had hers done, to enable her to start at the first moment’s notice for the French Hospital where she foresees the boy will be lying, directly after he has entered the deadly Trenches.

The Photographer at Harrods, who is being worked to death, describes to her the heart-rending interviews he has to undergo with maddened mothers imploring him to produce in a couple of hours the likeness without which the passport is unable to bring her to receive, perhaps, the dying words of the wounded son. The scenes are harrowing, he says.

The world was at peace – Germany itself (despite the wolf lurking secret under every German fleece) would have kept peace, but for these malign Prussian robber-savages.

Who, so prate our Prigs, must not be “humiliated”, or even penalized for their crime.

Leave Prussia unbroken, and let our children, half a century hence, be destroyed by a fresh and bloodier hurricane of these same villains, when maybe there are no France and Russia at their side.

How strange to you would seem Cambridge as an armed camp. We, by this time, are inured to it. Full term is on – yet the streets swarm with khaki only – massed Regiments in the Great Court two or three times a day – the streets blocked with Paddocks echoing to drill – and the River at the backs alive with canoes and punts of an afternoon.

Yesterday, for the first time since January 26, we were allowed electric light, instead of candles, to eat our dinner by: and this with only one half the regular number of burners.

No light in the Great Court (you’ve no conception of the grace and majesty of the buildings seen under the full moon).

St Mary’s Clock restarted its chimes on Easter Sunday, but by daylight only. Silent all the night. A week ago the Trinity Clock resumed striking the Hour, with both voices, but not the Quarters: and by day only.

At 1 pm for the last week a huge hooter has emitted its gigantic wailing, heard all over the Town: this is merely to teach the populace. When that hooter shall rouse us from slumber, it will imply a Zeppelin over Cambridge…

The German war book owns that there is no check save the fear of Reprisals – which they have no dread of from England, the flabby. Possibly France and Russia may be less squeamish.

The 2nd battalion of the Monmouths (how different from the first battalion!) evacuated Whewell’s Courts on the 21st – leaving such filth behind them – broken windows, smashed doors and electric fittings, scribbled walls, etc, that the Junior Bursar demanded over £100 damages before he would consent to admit another Regiment. That Regiment was only a couple of hours off, and the billeting officer was at his wits’ end to put them anywhere else – so the terms were granted.

The Regiment in question is the 4th Royal Surrey – a very different set of men. The finest and best drilled Territorials I ever saw. Their Colonel, Campion (Unionist MP for Lewes, New College, Oxon) – sat next me in Hall, and is as nice a fellow as his Regiment are “smart and snappy”….

I respect the autocratic eraser too much to give you any of the hundred thrilling rumours (or canards) hovering around us. Will he suffer me to say that we lie under a rotten ministry?

Love to both
Affectionately

Bild [nickname]

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don (D/EX801/1)