“Now that we are once again at peace we are glad to see this custom revived”

Park Place was actually in the Berkshire parish of Remenham.

CHOIR OUTING

Without any complaints, the members of our Choir have foregone their annual excursion during the years of war, and now that we are once again at peace we are glad to see this custom revived. On July 9th, at 9.30 am, a party, numbering 37, left the Tilehurst landing stage on board the steam-launch “Mystery”, bound for Park Place, Henley [sic].

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, August 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

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“His services to the wounded in this respect during this and previous years have been simply priceless”

Wounded soldiers in Reading were treated to a lovely day out.

River Trip for Wounded Soldiers

On Friday afternoon, September 13th, our own particular River Outing for wounded soldiers, under the auspices of the Care and Comforts Committee, took place under perfectly ideal conditions. After several days of somewhat broken weather, we struck the one bright sunny afternoon when the river was at its best. The arrangements on the steamer had been made as usual, by Mr. Awmack, whose services to the wounded in this respect during this and previous years have been simply priceless.

The “Merry Mascots” Concert party provided just the right sort of musical entertainment, with the songs that our soldiers delight in, accompanied by piano, harp and violin. The tea would have been very good in ordinary times – under present conditions it was marvellous. And the abundant supply of cigarettes handed round by Mrs. A.T. Watkins and Miss Shorter was evidently appreciated to the full.

The goal of our journey was Park Place, the residence of Colonel Noble, and it was good to see the enjoyment of our guests as they made their way up the green slope and through the famous tunnel to the fine historic mansion, with its glorious views, and enchanting grotto, and gardens.

Our party include men from many distant parts of the Empire as well as from the Old Country – from Australia and South Africa, and the Rocky Mountains. By their words and their looks, they left us in no doubt that the object we all had in view was fully attained, and the expedition will long live in their memory, as in ours who were privileged to go with them.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, October 1918 (D/EX1237/1)

“I feel that I have lost a friend in addition to a very gallant officer”

There was sad news for a number of Wargrave families.

The following names must be added to the Roll of Honour:-

Ogbourne, Harry.
Trooper 1st Life Guards, died of wounds due to enemy air raid, May 20th, 1818, aged 24. He was the youngest son of Mrs. Ogbourne, widow of John Ogbourne of Wargrave. He was educated at the Piggott School, Wargrave and the Knowl Hill School. Before the war, he was engaged as Assistant to the Lock-keeper at Shiplake Lock. He volunteered in October, 1914. He was sent to France in May 1915, and with two short periods of leave, he remained there until his death. His Squadron Leader gave him a most excellent report.

Sinclair, Gerald John.
Captain, 1st Battalion The Black Watch, only son of John Sinclair, was educated at Rugby, and joined the Inns of Court O.T.C.in September, 1914, from there going to Sandhurst in January, 1915. He joined the reserve Battalion in Scotland, in July, 1915, and went out to France in April, 1916, where he was wounded in Peronne, in July. He returned to France the following January. He was 21 on March 21st, 1918, was killed in action on April 18th, and was buried in the Military Cemetery at Givenchy. His Colonel wrote “I feel that I have lost a friend in addition to a very gallant officer.”

Woodruff, Charles Herbert.

Lance-Corporal 2nd Royal Berks, killed in action between April 22nd and 27th, 1918, aged 24. He was the youngest son of Mrs. Woodruff, widow of George Woodruff, who was cowman at Scarlets for twenty-two years. He was a Piggott Scholar and on leaving school he went to work under a gardener. Before the War he was an under-gardener at the Lodge, Hare Hatch. He volunteered on August 30th, 1914. He was stationed in Ireland for three years with the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars, but in 1917 he was transferred by his own desire to the Royal Berks in order that he might share in the fighting. He was sent to France, June 1st, 1917.

Missing.

The following are the names of those who are now missing:-

Burton Haycock, John Frame, Frank Heakes, James Hes, Arthur Haycock.

Prisoners.

The following are prisoners:-

Robert Burrough, Fred Hall, Albert Hodge, Henry Wise, Charles Crampton, Jack Gieves, James Pithers, George Woodruff.

O Lord, look down from heaven, behold, visit, and with the eyes of thy mercy, give them comfort and sure confidence in Thee, defend them from the danger of the enemy, and keep them in perpetual peace and safety; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

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

“Don’t worry, she can’t speak English & I could never make love in French”

Percy Spencer was excited by his sister Florence’s getting a comic article published in Punch, and almost fell in love with a French girl.

July 14, 1918

My dear WF

Another week gone & here I am still at school & beginning to know something about musketry.

I’m very glad to hear Sydney is better again and delighted about the Punch article. Mind you send me a copy of the number.

This week I’ve been feeling very dicky myself. I think I had a touch of this strange fever, but a very slight one. Another officer here, I am sorry to say, has died with it.

Today I have been to a much bombed town near here for a holiday. There is quite a good officers’ club and one can generally meet old friends there and get a good dinner. It’s nice to sit in a pretty garden and receive tea from the fair hands of a wholesome English girl.

Today as you know is France’s National day. I went to the cathedral – which by the way has been rather badly bumped at the eastern end – and listened to a service. The singing was delightful, but it is difficult for me, much as I love the Roman Church’s seriousness, to refrain from smiling at their quaint beadles armed with swords and wearing mighty cocked hats, and at the endless collections.

Another good thing out here is the good nature of all motorists. One sets out to walk anywhere, hails the first car or bus or lorry, which always stops & takes you as far as it can. The other night a staff officer we coolly hailed drove us in here and offered to take us as afar as Paris if we liked. This however only applies as between Englishmen or as between French etc. but today I had quite a romantic experience.

Following the usual custom I stepped out to hail a car, but observing it was driven by a Frenchman, stepped back. However, it stopped & then to my pleasurable surprise I saw it was driven by a French GIRL. I’ve given her capitals as she was a capital girl. She wasn’t going very far my way but would give me a lift on my way. Well, the fair chauffeuse who was on her way to fetch the Prefect of the town we had just left melted, & when she got to her turning & I made to alight, she said she would drive me here and she did. After that we got very friendly and talked about London & the Thames, and she said that after the war she should come to London, and I said then I hoped we should meet again, whereupon she volunteered her address and I mine and neither of us could remember the other nor muster a pencil between us, so we pulled up at a cottage & borrowed one & some paper from an old lady who smiled approval at the beginning of a romance. And all the while the Prefect cooled his heels at some village down south!
I must be a lady killer after all!

Don’t worry, she can’t speak English & I could never make love in French, and Bordeaux (her home) is a long way.

Well, goodbye & God bless you both.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/53-55)

Well known local ladies raise funds

A big bazaar was held in Wargrave in aid of war charities.

June
A War Time Bazaar

A bazaar will be held on Saturday, June 23rd, at Ferry Lodge, Wargrave. The proceeds will be divided between the St. Dunstans Hostel for Blinded Sailors and Soldiers and the Lord Roberts’ Memorial Fund.

Many Ladies well-known in the neighbourhood are taking a great deal of trouble to make the Bazaar a success.

Quite a novel feature will be introduced in using different rooms at Ferry Lodge, in which the particular things appropriate to the rooms will be sold. These will include a bedroom, kitchen, drawing room, river room, etc.

Joyce’s well-known band has been engaged to play by the river, and there will be cocoanut shies, clock golf and other amusements.

The entrance has been fixed at 1/- from 3 to 6.30 p.m. and at 6d. from 8 to 10 p.m. people coming by river can moor their boats at the Ferry Lodge landing stage.

July
The Bazaar

On Saturday, June 23rd, a Bazaar was held at Ferry Lodge, and Mrs. Maxwell Hicks and her helpers are to be most sincerely congratulated upon the excellent result attained. The object was to raise funds for St. Dunstan’s Hostel, Lord Roberts Memorial Fund and Local Wargrave Charities. All these will benefit most materially, as about £600 was realised.

Lady Henry very kindly came to open the sale.

Wargrave parish magazine, June-July 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

Wounded play the usual games

More officers were welcomed to Bisham Abbey.

4 June 1917
Young Lillyman (another Australian) came in afternoon. The wounded spent afternoon here & played usual games & went on river.

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

74 killed in Folkestone

The peace of Bisham Abbey seemed like a million miles from the south coast, hit by air raids.

2 June 1917

Captain Kennedy arrived – another Australian. Sat out. Men boated.

Bad raid on Folkestone – 74 people killed.

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

Heavy raid on the south coast

A massive air raid hit the south of England, the news making waves for our own diarists.

Florence Vansittart Neale
26 May 1917

H[enry] took Ag on river and brought back word heavy raid on S C woods. Lot of casualties.

William Hallam
26th May 1917

A great Air Raid on S.E. coast in to-night’s papers.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8) and William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Constant watchfulness keeping camps healthy

The maintenance of the River Thames was surprisingly important during the war – it provided healthy drainage of army camps, and entertainment for wounded soldiers.

THE WAR

At the outbreak of war there were 435 men in the Conservators’ employ, of whom 317 were eligible for service as regards age. Only 16 men have been temporarily exempted, and no appeal has been made on behalf of any unmarried man. Of the employees on active service 10 have unfortunately lost their lives.

Much difficulty has been experienced in engaging suitable substitutes, but with the employment of men either over military age or medically rejected, and with a close co-ordination between the various Departments, it has been found possible to carry on the work for which the Board is responsible.

RIVER PURIFICATION

The large number of military camps and other establishments recently set up in the watershed have necessitated a constant watchfulness on the part of the outdoor staff for the purpose of ensuring that the drainage disposal systems are effective, and in cases where such systems have not yet had the effect of preventing pollution, representations have been made to the responsible Officers, with the result that measures have been, or are being, carried out to meet the Conservators’ requirements. In view of the constantly changing population of the camps, continuous inspections are necessary to obviate pollution by misuse of the surface water systems.

GENERAL

During the year the river has been extensively used by wounded soldiers, and the practice has again been followed of placing the Conservators’ launches, as opportunity offered, at the disposal of Hospital Authorities, who have written expressing appreciation of the Conservators’ action.

Report to BCC of their representative to the Thames Conservancy Board, 3 April 1917, in Berkshire County Council minutes, 1917 (C/CL/C1/1/20)