“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)

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A fairly good strafe

Both Percy and Sydney Spencer were now close behind the front line.

Sydney Spencer
Friday 3 May 1918

A fine morning! Stand to 4.30. Weather clear till 5.30. Then [illegible] for about ½ an hour, afterwards a perfect day. Trench dried up beautifully, ground became hard & easy to walk on. Arranged a good many details such as ammunition, lamps, fire positions, etc, during morning. Much aeroplane activity & a fairly good strafe at 10 am on the village behind enemy registering with artillery on all points on our line. Slept from 10.30 am till 1 pm & from 2-3.30 pm. Then duty till 5.30.

After tea had a talk with my men on general information. Got a plan made out for Lewis Gunners. Came back to HQ. Got a message to say that Company HQ was coming up with the spare platoon of B Company. They arrived at about 8 pm. Dillon and Rolfe arrived at about 10 pm.

Percy Spencer
3 May 1918

Hard day – returns & re-organising. Weather fine. Fritz bombed near by. Ridley turned up & talked over old times.

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

“Help the country and benefit yourself”

St John’s Church in Reading was a latecomer to promoting war savings, but explained its scheme very clearly.

S. JOHN’S WAR SAVINGS ASSOCIATION

Though somewhat late in the field, an Association for War Savings has now been started. Early in the month of March a meeting of the parishioners was held with the object of forming the Association for the parish and congregations of the two churches. A committee was formed as follows: the Rev. W Britton, chairman; Mr Haslam, vice-chairman; Miss Winter, treasurer; Mr Penson, secretary, with Miss Ridley and Miss Rundell as assistant secretaries; the other members of the committee being Mr F Winter, rev. R W Morley, Mr Badcock, Mr Hopcraft, Mrs Harrison Jones, Miss Wilkinson, Mrs Herbert Kingham, and Miss Ayres.

Subscriptions will be received at the Princes Street Mission Room, on Monday in each week from 12 noon to 12.45 pm; and also once a month after the District Vistors’ Meeting at 3.15 pm. Subscriptions will also be received at the Albert Road Mission Room, on Tuesday in each week, from 2.30 pm to 3.30 pm. The first day of attendance to receive subscriptions will be Monday April 2nd…

By this scheme, subscribers purchase from the collector a 6d coupon, which is stuck onto a card with 31 spaces for 31 coupons. When all the spaces are filled with coupons value … in total 15s 6d, a certificate for £1 will then be given in exchange for the card. This certificate can be cashed for 15s 6d at any time within twelve months from the date of issue, and for 15ts 9d at the end of one year, at the end of 2 years for 16 s 9d, at the end of 3 years for 17s 9d, at the end of 4 years for 18s 9d, and 5 years for £1.

The advantage of joining this Association is that, if there are say 31 members and they each purchase a 6d coupon, a certificate for 15s 6d is immediately purchased by the secretary. The first member to complete his or her card by having purchased 31 coupons, will receive this certificate, which will be dated some weeks back, viz at the time of purchase by the secretary. By the time it comes into the hands of the member a small sum by way of interest will have accrued…

Note the following points: Saving helps the Country which needs labour and materials for winning the War, and money with which to pay for them.

By saving, later on you will have £1 to spend instead of 15s. 6d. In this way you help the country and benefit yourself. Begin at once and get all the benefit you can.

Reading St. John parish magazine, April 1917 (D/P172/28A/24)

“German liners? There ain’t one on the seas”

Ralph Glyn’s sister Meg Meade was thrilled when her sailor husband came home on leave.

23 Wilton Place
SW
Oct. 22nd

My own darling Ralph

Imagine my feelings when last Saturday afternoon I got a wire from Jim saying “Meet me Kings X 6.15 tonight”! I ran from top to bottom of the house with one scream of joy. A little later I tried with my latchley to let myself into No 22 Wilton Place, & did other little inconsequent things like that till I met him at the station! And only 2 days before I had had a letter from him saying he couldn’t possibly get any leave! He managed very very cleverly. Such a thing I hear has never been done in the Navy before. But his Commodore, Le Mesurier came on board Royalist & said “My ship Calliope wants refitting so I propose to hoist my pennant in Royalist pro tem”. “Certainly”, says Jim, “but as there’s not room here for both of us, hadn’t I better take Calliope to Newcastle for you, as you don’t want to leave the squadron”. “Well & nobly thought out” says the Commodore, & so he has come, looking better than I’ve ever seen him look before, & he has been away for 7 months, all but one week! And you see Royalist must get leave for a refit some time soon, so he ought to get another go of leave soon!

Last Sunday we took Anne [their little daughter] & Harold Russell & 2 Colvins to the Zoo, which was great fun, & we met Mat Ridley there. He is looking much better & has been passed for home service at last. We fixed up about coming to Blaydon while Calliope is finishing, & Jim reckons we shall go north about 28th, but meantime every minute of each day is heavenly as you can imagine….

Wasn’t it a funny coincidence that John arrived at Sybbie [Samuelson]’s hospital at 4 a.m. the day after Jim arrived. The wounds in John’s back which had practically healed had to be opened again for fear of any poison, but he has got his poor head all bound up in a way that looks really interesting on account of an awful abscess he has got in his mouth.. They thought it came from the poison of his wounds, but now they think the abcess would have come on anyhow. There’s a large bit of dead bone inside it, but Maysie, who dined here last night, is beside herself with joy, as John has got to have 2 months leave to get well in! So as soon as he has finished his hospital treatment, which will take some time, they will go to Voelas.

The parents are coming up here on Saturday to lunch & meet John & Maysie here…

Sir Edward Carson’s resignation has not caused the stir I expected it would do. But it remains to be seen what happens next. The House of Commons seem principally concerned that Asquith is ill. I hear that you have been stopped at Greece…

Maysie & others rail at the Staff. Jim stops the flood of her disgust by a torrent of admiration which he feels for the Staff & soldiers fighting alike! What he says is so true, that if 2 years ago we had been told that our Staff would be called upon to handle our present army, & if we had been told that our army would perform the prodigies that it has done, it would have been hard for anyone to believe it, & as he says, “even the great Germans have made mistakes enough, or indeed they’d be in Paris & Petersburg now & have broken 10 times through our armies.” We laughed at last to find that Jim & I were defending the British Army in our discussion while Maysie was so pessimistic.

Jim & I went to Hallgrove on Monday for 2 nights, & had great fun playing golf both mornings & we had some tennis too.
Jim has just got so indignant over some Professor’s remarks in the Times about “sinking German liners” when “There ain’t one on the seas”! that I must take him out….

Meg

Letter from Meg M<eade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

A pretty pass

The Dodeka Book Club in Reading was a small group of 12 men who all belonged to Trinity Congregational Church. They met regularly to share books and discuss topics of interest. At their first meeting after the outbreak of the war, they talked about the war and chose a number of war-related books to buy and circulate.

October 2nd 1914

The following new books were voted in:
“Memoirs of the Kaiser’s Court” proposed by Morris 10/6
“Germany and the next War” proposed by Penfold 2/-

“Men around the Kaiser” proposed by Ridley 2/-
“Germany’s swelled head” by Johnson 1/-
[Two other books unrelated to the war.]

The host [Mr Gibbons] then delivered his paper on the “European Situations”. Drawing attention to the fact that his last subject was the “Progress of Nations”, he stated we had arrived at a pretty pass now. This big industrious nation of ours had been brought face to face with a sudden crisis and that she had met it with confidence and spirit spoke volumes from the strong course steered by the statesmen who form our Cabinet. “A serious war tomorrow would prove to our cost that the Army is not of the Old Stamp” said a British General a few years back. General French knew different to this and events have already shown our modern army in all its branches is probably superior to any army of the old stamp and no army in the world possesses a finer record than ours. The military preparations of our country had proved to be of a thorough character. British interventions in the European Situation has had the primary effect of stiffening the military power of France and Russia and has contributed largely to the great check given to Germany’s invincible army. In Russia it has been the means of uniting her disaffected provinces.

The host then went on to show that Germany’s great task, to which she subordinated everything else was to dispute the British claim to supremacy at sea. Germany boasts an invincible Army and England an invincible Navy. Events may prove there is no such word as “invincible” as applied to warfare. There was a great responsibility resting upon the shoulders of Sir John Jellicoe and he hoped the nation would never forget it. In conclusion, Gibbons said the war was more serious for Germany and the Western Powers than for Russia and the Balkan States whatever its termination as the latter being backward in civilization stood to gain by the war in a general awakening and throwing off of despotic powers.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)