A very gallant officer and gentleman, recklessly brave and a fine example of cool courage

The Old Boys of Reading School were distinguishing themselves at the Front.

O.R. NEWS.

Killed in Action.

2nd Lieut. Norman A. Howell, King’s Shropshire Light infantry. On December 23rd.

He is the second son of Mr. W. Roland Howell, architect, of this town. Born at Reading in April 1897, he was educated at Reading School and St. Laurence College, Ramsgate, and had been about a year in his father’s office before joining the Army in November, 1915. His cadet training at school and college enabled him to get his commission. He was posted to the King’s Shropshire’s, was ordered to the front at the end of June last, and has been in the thick of the Somme fighting for six months. Lieut. Norman Howell came home on his first leave on December 6th and returned on the 16th. Within a week he had made the great sacrifice.

His Commanding Officer wrote to Mr. Howell on December 24th:

“I deeply regret to report the death of your son, who was serving in my Battalion. Whilst going up to the front line trenches in charge of a party last night an enemy sniper shot him through the head, killing him instantly. This morning his body was buried by the Chaplain near where he fell, with military honours, officers and men attending.

“I had trench mortars and rifle grenades on the sniper’s post, patrols had reported 8 to 10 Huns there, none there now! On behalf of his comrades, officers, N.C.O.’s and men, I wish to convey to you our profound sympathy . He was loved and respected by all of us, and we mourn the loss of a very gallant officer and gentleman. To all of us he was known as recklessly brave and a fine example of cool courage, devoted to his duties, which he discharged most cheerfully under the most trying conditions.”

“I placed him in charge of the Lewis Gun detachment, on which he had set his heart and soul. He belonged to my own Headquarters’ mess, and I took particular interest in him. A cross has been put up on the grave near Les Boeufs.”

It will be remembered that in October, 1915, Mr. Howell’s elder son, 2nd Lieut. Roland Basil Howell, was reported “wounded and missing.” Nothing has since been heard of him, and any hopes of his being alive hangs on the very slenderest thread. On the 16th of last month the War Office wrote saying that they were now forced to believe he was killed.

Lieut. Basil Howell was born in October, 1895, and received his commission in the 4th North Staffordshire’s three months after the war started. He was attached to the Northumberland Fusiliers (the Fighting Fifth), and went to the front in May, 1915.

Reports received from the front show that on the night of October 1st-2nd, 1915, the battalion to which Lieut. Howell was attached were in severe action. After all the officers of the company had been killed he gallantly led a bombing party to attack a German trench, but was never seen again.

Every possible enquiry was made through the War Office, the American Embassy, the Red Cross, and the wounded men who returned to England. Many references were made by the latter to the respect and love they had for the brave young officer. Like his brother he was educated at Reading School and St Laurence College, and had started his training to follow in his father’s profession. For many years he was an enthusiastic scout, and took a big share in starting the South Reading Troop.

Lieut. Cedric Charles Okey Taylor, East Kent Regiment, attached to Trench Mortar Battery, only son of Mrs. Taylor, 39, Weltje Road, Ravenscroft Park, W., and of the late Mr. Charles Warmsley Taylor, of Reading. Further details are now to hand of Lieut. Taylor’s death.

He died for King and country on December 3rd, 1916, in his 22nd year. Young in years but old in endurance, he was in constant action for 15 months at Ypres in 1915 and on the Somme in 1916. He is laid to rest in the cemetery, at Faubourg d’Amiens, Arras.

2nd Lieut. W. Marsden Cooper, Worcestershires, only son of Mr. and Mrs. John Cooper, 107, London Street, Reading, aged 19.

Cooper was only 19 years of age and went out to the front in the Worcestershire’s about the middle of December, shortly after completing his course at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was educated at Reading School, where he gained a Council scholarship in 1909. His School career was unusually distinguished. In 1914 he gained a School Certificate followed the next year by a higher certificate.

In response to his country’s call, he decided to take a commission, and in the entrance examination for the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, held in February, 1916, he came out second on the list, gaining a Prize Cadetship. At Sandhurst his success was no less pronounced than at school, and he gained the position of Sergeant in his cadet unit, the highest position a cadet can obtain, before he left College. Not only did he have considerable intellectual gifts, as his record shows but he was a fine athlete as well. He was an excellent all round cricketer and his natural powers as a bowler would have enabled him to make his mark in really good company. As a Rugby Football player he showed great promise, and before he left school he had the distinction of being captain of football, captain of cricket and captain of the school. Yet he was never elated by success, and perhaps it was more than anything else his modesty which made him so popular with the boys and the masters alike. Those who have watched his career, for the last two years, and marked the way in which his development always seemed to keep pace with his new responsibilities feel a special grief that a young life so full of promise should have been brought thus prematurely to a close.
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We shall never regret complying with the new restrictions

The new food restrictions were a worry in Cookham Dean, especially for the poorer who were already struggling.

The Vicar’s Letter

I expect we are all, more or less, feeling worried about the Food Regulations, not that we do not wish to do all we can do to support the Government’s arrangements at such a crisis, but the difficulty is, how to do it. In households where, as is the case with so many of you, there is never too great a supply of food, it must be most anxious work to know how best to carry out the regulations.

Let us try loyally and conscientiously to do our best: after all what is the inconvenience that we have to put up with compared with what our Allies in Belgium, France, Serbia and Roumania [sic] have had to suffer. If, as we are assured over and over again by those in authority, it is one of the ways that we can each one do our best to assure ourselves and our Allies of Victory, for which we long and pray, let us do our part as cheerfully and uncomplainingly as our brave men in their trenches and in the North Sea are doing theirs. We shall never, never regret it.

Notices

The week-day collections during Lent (apart from Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) will be given to the National Institute for the Blind, which is doing so much at the present time for those of our wounded soldiers who have alas lost their sight.

Cookham Dean parish magazine, February 1917 (D/P43B/28A/11)

We do not forget

The Bishop congratulated the Revd T Guy Rogers, the Reading vicar turned army chaplain, on being awarded a medal for bravery.

THE BISHOP’S MESSAGE

The following extracts are from the Bishop’s message in the November Diocesan Magazine:

Your prayers are asked especially
For the good hand of God upon us in the war.
For our allies and especially for Roumania [sic].
For the National Mission…

Your thanksgivings are asked…
For the liberation of the Missionaries in German East Africa.

THE DIFFICULTY ABOUT EVENING SERVICES

I most heartily trust that neither in town parishes nor in country parishes will the evening service on Sundays be abandoned without a very strong effort to carry it on under conditions of lighting which the police can sanction…

THE DEFINITION OF RESIDENCE FOR PURPOSES OF BANNS

I wish to call attention again to the ruling under which I act, given by my Chancellor… to the effect that a person’s normal home where he or she is known may be reckoned as place of residence, though the person in question is at the moment absent whether on military service or for some other purpose.

We are all delighted to know that Mr Guy Rogers has been given the Military Cross. We do not forget him.

COMFORTS FOR THE TROOPS

I have received a letter from the Director General of Voluntary Organisations expressing great anxiety as to the sufficient supply of comforts for the troops, such as mittens, mufflers, helmets and socks, especially the three first. I am asked to ‘secure the co-operation of the clergy’ in my dioceses to make the anxiety known. The following are depots of the V.O.A. in this diocese…

Berkshire: W. C. Blandy, esq, 1 Friar Street, Reading…
Reading: D. Haslam, jun., esq, 16 Duke Street, Reading…

C. OXON

LIST OF MEN SERVING IN HIS MAJESTY’S FORCES

The following additional names have been added to our prayer list:

William Monger, George Slaughter, William Hewett, Harold Hales, Cecil Hales, William Brown, Albert Bishop, George O’Dell, Frederick Eady, Herbert Ballard, Alfred Clibbon, George Breakspear, Albert Gray, Harry Rixon, Walter Rosser, Rupert Wigmore, William Butler, Walter Drown, Percy Prater.

In addition to those already mentioned we especially commend the following to your prayers:

Killed: Percy Wyer, Walter May, Ernest Bishop.
Sick: Edward Iles, Charles Webb, William Wright.
Wounded: William Holmes, Frank, Fowler, Harry Merry, Arthur Morrice, Leonard Strong.
Wounded and Missing: Frank Snellgrove.
Missing: Edward Taylor.

CONCERT IN ST PETER’S HALL

On Wednesday, November 29th, there will be a concert in St Peter’s Hall to help provide funds for giving a Christmas Dinner and Entertainment to a party of Wounded Soldiers. Mr E. Love and party are working up an excellent programme, and we hope our readers will help to make the concert a great success by supporting it as much as they can.

Earley parish magazine, November 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/11)

So many war babies

William Baring Du Pre of Taplow (1875-1946) was MP for High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, and a Territorial Army officer. It is not clear how his family was related to Mrs Lane.

6 November 1916

I to Taplow to see Mrs C Lane, just had baby at Du Pres. She depressed me dreadfully – so many war babies.

Roumania [sic] in such a bad way, to make peace with G soon!!

Seen Mrs C Lane. Says Red X worker in Roumania [sic] is telling Sister Ward R. will make peace with Germany in 6 weeks!!

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

Nervous about Romania

Florence Vansittart Neale was anxious about the war news. Romania had only recently joined the Allies.

22 October 1916

Still nervous about Roumania [sic]. All news good, I think….

2 remounts came (Bicknells), very nice girls from near Dover.

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

Romania declares war

A new ally joined the war. Romania’s objective was to acquire Transylvania, a region within the Austro-Hungarian Empire with a high Romanian population.

29 August 1916
Roumania has declared war on Austria, & Germany on Roumania next day.

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

The French line at Verdun is not broken

Florence Vansittart Neale noted the latest French war news.

5 March 1916

Verdun battle still going on after lull. Been fighting French about fortnight. Not broken French line. They supposed casualties 50,000, Germans reported 150,000! Hope Roumania siding with us.

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

“I hate the press” – it prints anything, true or false, as long as it sells

Lady Mary Glyn, wife of the Bishop of Peterborough, wrote again to her son Ralph with news from home. She loathed the British press, particularly the empire of Lord Harmsworth.

Monday Dec 6th

Dad … had the Service of Intercession in the Chapel at 3. Many come to it most regularly and one gets to know who are in the one comradeship of these days.

The Baghdad news is sore reading and I think of Syb and all the dread anxiety for her.

We hear little or nothing here, and perhaps it is as well. The “WJ” is the only cheering paper today – it gives an account of conditions which show why the Bosch is anxious to make peace, & the Reserves they are calling up. Rumania [sic] & the ships is the other news, & I have no light on it. It will be known when you get this….

It looks very like Conscription today. Thomas speaks up as to the shortage under Lord Derby’s Scheme & calls for a great last effort.

A good letter from “Wounded” in the Times almost makes me believe the Harmsworth Press to be not so evil as I now think it is. But I always hate the press and its ways, and greed for “copy” and for sale of news, good or bad, true or false, if only it sells – & pays…
There is to be a great Memorial Service in St Martin’s Leicester for the 4th Leicesters on Friday, and I hope to go with Dad. He is to preach, & I hope will only say a few calm strong words & not preach a sermon…

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to her son Ralph (D/EGL/C2/2)

“Arab treachery” in Mesoptamia

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey continued to be worried about the war news from the east. Mesopotamia, now in Iraq, was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire which had joined the war on the side of the Germans.

5 December 1915
Greece still uncertain, also Roumania [sic]. Meanwhile we landing troops at Salonika.

Bad setback in Mesopotamia. General Townshend had to retreat 80 miles from Bagdad [sic]. Treachery of Arabs. Chris wounded in it.

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

The Government has no policy

An estate employee at Bisham Abbey was set to join the army. Florence Vansittart Neale was also concerned about the international situation with more countries coming in on the enemy side, and she thought the British Government was foundering around.

2 November 1915

Tuck joining Bucks Hussars…

Turkey declares war. Sent troops to Egypt. Turkish Ambassador much
distressed.

Asquith speech. Plausible. Carson after – strong. Government no policy….

Demonstrations in Roumania for war party.

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

Will the Balkan states come in?

Serbia had been involved from the war from the start, of course, but other countries in the Balkans were not sure what to do. Bulgaria and Romania were both friendly with Germany before the war, but undecided as to what was their best move during the war. The Austro-Hungarian Empire still ruled what is now Slovenia and Croatia, and Italy’s desire to reclaim what it called Italia Irridenta in Istria would eventually pull Italy into the war.

14 August 1915
Motor went to Reading to take soldiers out & bring back Bubs at 5 o’clock…

Political doings going on with Balkan states. Will they come in or not? Roumania refuses ammunition to go through to Turkey.

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

“We will grip munitions yet”

John MacLeod (1857-1934) was a wealthy stockbroker who was about to be elected Unionist MP for Glasgow Central. His son George (1895-1991) was serving in the army (and later founded the Iona Community). He wrote to Ralph Glyn with some thoughts on the war.

149 West George Street
Glasgow
18th June 1915

My dear Ralph Glyn

Greetings and hearty ones to you. Is it true that you are going on a mission to Iceland, & taking St Kilda on the way home, as these are the only spots where your influence has not been felt.

Private: I understand Central may be offered to me. If it is done with unanimity, under present conditions I’ll take it. My presence won’t be required in London much except on special occasions for me. It will be the climax of my life, & I never dreamt of such a thing occurring. But it may not come off…

I think things are going all right. We will grip munitions yet. These glorious Russians. Italy is very good. What are the London odds for Roumania, Bulgaria & Greece.

Heartiest wishes

Yours as ever
John M MacLeod

Letter from John MacLeod to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C31/7)

The Italians “prefer money to fighting”

Ralph Glyn, a young officer attached to the War Office, was on a diplomatic mission to our allies in Serbia. He took the opportunity of a break in Rome to report on a country preparing to join the war – sometime. Colonel Sir Charles Lamb http://lafayette.org.uk/lam2898.html (1857-1948) was the British military attache at Rome, while the less positive Captain William Boyle (1873-1967) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Boyle,_12th_Earl_of_Cork was the British naval attache. Both were from upper class families – Lamb was a baronet, while Boyle was cousin and heir to the Earl of Cork and Orrery. Italy eventually declared war on Austria in May 1915, and on Turkey and Germany in August. We will be hearing much more from Ralph Glyn and his family – see the Who’s Who page for more information.

Private
Syracuse 26/1/15

Dear General

We have arrived here after a very good journey with a break at Rome. We cross to Malta tomorrow night arriving there on the 28th. I don’t know whether we shall leave that day or the following but it is blowing a bit and I doubt if we shall reach the Piraeus before the 31st.

When I was in Rome I had a long talk both to Colonel Lamb & to Captain Boyle. They have both the fixed idea that Italy will not come in for some little time. Boyle is doubtful if they will come in until some very good excuse is forthcoming. He thinks that the Italians would feel some difficulty in going against their old ‘friends’ without some obvious cause. The northern manufacturing centres are making so much profit that they prefer money to fighting. Their naval yards are working overtime but very few extra men are being employed. All the energy is being devoted to military rather than naval work. Boyle pretends to believe that he will know the Italians mean to fight when they ‘come in’. I rather think he wants to get a ship out home!

Lamb on the other hand, although he has only been out a very short time, has found out a very great deal. Nobody better could be in his job. He has looked up all his old friends & learnt a great deal from them. Besides this the King gave him a long audience when he went to the Quirinal. Colonel Lamb was when I saw him writing a long report which will be in your hands as soon as this. From what I gathered Lamb is sure that Italy will come in – late in April. The transport section is the difficulty. There is no organised mechanical transport & the Rome WO is divided into two – Operations & Transport. All the Transport staff officers on mobilization go to their various districts & there bring together what transport is on the district list. It is now thought to be too late in the day to have a service for ‘conductors’ & the trouble already looms large. To operate until the snow is off the hills is almost impossible. Bologna will be the advanced base, & the doubling of the railway through the Appennines is not yet completed – this is another worry. The whole of northern Italy was full of troops on the move as we came through & the Swiss have strong guards at all the stations. There is an idea in Rome that the Germans & Austrians are now massing troops near Triest [sic] & that their objective is not Servia [sic].

It is difficult to believe this as they can have no object in bringing Italy in against them, & much might happen if they give the Serbs a knock before Italy or Roumania [sic] come in.

The Italians have found that much of their Krupp bought shells are loaded with faulty powder. They are busy now emptying & refilling. This puts their normal output back a good deal. They can put 1,200,000 men in the field with 259 4-gun batteries. The Deport gun is great success & the mobile militia batteries are being given the Krupp guns as the Deport are given to the active batteries.
These are only very rough impressions – I know you will so soon have full details from Col: Lamb.

I shall hope soon to send you other letters more worth reading.

I am, Sir,
Yours,
Ralph Glyn

Letter from Ralph Glyn to General Charles Callwell (D/EGL/C24)