“Wounded in the back. Hope it is not serious. Poor boy”

Elisabeth, a German relative of Johanna’s had been visiting Will and Johanna Spencer in Switzerland. She was planning to sneak some gifts through customs inspection. This ruse proved successful and the gifts passed muster when Elisabeth returned to Germany on the 29th.

Will Spencer
21 June 1918

During the afternoon Johanna was wearing the shawl which she is asking Elisabeth to take with her for Mutter [Mother]. She wears it, in order that it may have a better chance of passing the Customs House as a worn article of apparel. Johanna also dried some lemon peel today, for Elisabeth to take with her.

Joan Daniels
June 21st Friday

Mummie had a PC from Gerlad saying that they had received a telegram from the War Office to say that Leslie [McKenzie] was wounded in the back. Hope it is not serious. Poor boy.

Diaries of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/26); and Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

Advertisements

“Far away from my battalion and the plague of khaki”

Percy had gone on ahead of his unit to arrange billets in the French countryside.

June 19 [1918]
My dear WF

I like this place. Far away from my battalion and the plague of khaki, here I am billeting – at least I was yesterday.

Today I’m just waiting for my people to turn up.

I like the chateau with its monster lime trees – one, the largest I have ever seen. And I like the big farmer who took me into a direct current from his styes and there held me in lengthy conversation – and the old ladies apparently born in strait waistcoats who hold one spellbound for hours in a flood of patois out of which one thing only is clear – they require an exorbitant price for what they are pleased to call an officers’ mess.

The postman, fat & aged, is refreshing too. His cheerful announcement of letters & postcards with all details and contents of the letter is good to the heart. His cheery good day to me as I passed and request for a cigarette & explanation that tobacco is very scarce went straight to my cigarette case.

And then there is M. le Maire, schoolmaster & umpteen other things, who left his overalled charges to show me billeting matters and give me lengthy explanations only pausing to hurl corrections across the courtyard to the schoolroom, where one of the boys was reading aloud.

And then there is Madame at the estaminet where I have my temporary headquarters, who provides me with an interminable reserve of eggs and coffee, and constant shocks. The climax was reached when I asked for milk, and taking a homely bedroom utensil [a chamberpot!], she drew therein a supply from her little goat and served me liberally therefrom.

And that’s my village.

With my dear love to you both

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/47-49)

Balance sheets are delightful things now-a-days

Newbury’s clergymen were rejected for war work, while the parish magazine was at risk.

THE WAR

There are reported Missing – Alfred Dennis, William Smith, Mr Barlow, and Mr Marshall; Wounded – Ernest Giggs; Gassed – Jack Smart; Prisoners – Jack Cooke and William Selwyn. We offer our sympathy to the relatives and friends.

The clergy of the diocese have received a Form from the Bishop on which they could offer for War Service. The Rector stated on his Form that he would be prepared to go to a Church Army Hut for several months if the work of the Parish could be provided for; and he has received the following reply through the Bishop’s Secretary: “The Bishop says stay where you are”.

Mr Marle offered to go to a YMCA Hut for four months, but received the reply: “The Bishop certainly thinks that you should stay where you are”.

As with our food, our clothes, and our boots, so with our paper. We are continually being faced with a new situation. After urging our readers to continue to take in the Parish Magazine, we have received a communication from the publishers of the Dawn of Day [insert] that there is serious shortage of paper, or that there will be, asking us to cut down our number of copies. However, it appears that our circulation has been so far reduced that we shall not have to ask any of our subscribers not to subscribe; but whether we shall be able to make both ends meet at the end of the year is doubtful. Balance sheets are delightful things now-a-days.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, June 1918(D/P89/28A/13)

Eagerly expecting the result of the present clash of arms

The vicar of Earley reflected on the latest news.

The Vicar’s Letter
My dear Friends,

The struggle still drags on, but we have very much to be thankful for, in spite of set backs. The fear of the shortage of food which was seriously threatened for June and July has almost passed away, and the situation has in several ways cleared, but we are still in a state of suspense and are eagerly expecting the result of the present clash of arms, which we hope and pray, may decide matters on the side of right and justice.

Your friend and Vicar,

W.W. Fowler.

List of men serving in his Majesty’s forces

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

Walter Bluring, Thomas Hosler, William Heard.

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

Killed in Action or Died of Wounds: Richard Smith, Cecil Hale.

Missing: Harold Hale, Percy Philips, Arthur Hosler.

Wounded and Prisoner: William Barton.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, June 1918(D/P191/28A/25)

“A measure forced upon us by the War”

It was usual for church magazines to contain not only the unique local information and articles which we are drawing on for this blog, but also a nationally published magazine like The Parish Magazine, Home Words, or Dawn Of Day, which was sewn into the local magazine. These included serious articles and short stories, and provided popular reading for the general public at a relatively low price. But war conditions put the practice at risk. It is interesting to note that in Wargrave, church officials hoped to keep the supply of edifying reading going for the poorer parishioners, who could not afford to buy books or belong to a subscription library.

Editorial

The Publishers of the “Dawn of Day” write as follows:

“Since our letter of April 10th was circulated, circumstances have arisen in connection with the supply of paper which render it necessary for us to reduce our printing order, from the July issue onwards, by at least 20 per cent.

It naturally follows that we must cut down customers’ supplies to a like extent, and we beg to ask their forbearance for so doing. We are very sorry, and beg to express our apologies to the clergy who localised the magazine. It is a measure forced upon us by the War, and the uncertainty of obtaining regular supplies of paper owing to prevailing conditions.”

The full number of copies of the Wargrave Magazine will be issued, but 20 per cent will in future contain local matter only. Those distributed to the Cottages will as far as possible contain the “Dawn of Day” as hitherto.

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

Oh! what a blessing when families can be together in this dreadful time of strife & separation

Beer was in very short supply.

William Hallam
9th June 1918

Much colder to-day and heavy storms which were wanted badly but a N. wind with it. Didn’t go out all day except at 1 with Geo. to the Frome to have a drink. He says the first comfortable drink in a pub he’s had for months, for in Coventry if a pub has beer in it’s a fight for it.

Joan Daniels
June 9th Sunday

[After description of pleasant family day]

Oh! what a blessing when families can be together in this dreadful time of strife & separation.

Diaries of William Hallam of Swindon (D/EX1415/25); and Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

Starving and orphan children walked, some from Jerusalem and others 200 miles, to obtain food and shelter from the British

A missionary organisation was helping care for child refugees in British-occupied Palestine.

WORK OF THE CHURCH IN THE WAR ZONE

A Lawn Meeting was held at the Rectory on June 6th, when a most interesting account was given of the work of the Church in the Mohammedan Land of Palestine.

Miss Roberts told of how the Church Missionary Society were asked to re-open their Hospitals at Gaza, of the starving and orphan children who had walked, some from Jerusalem and others 200 miles, to obtain food and shelter. She exhibited samples of the lace work done by these children and others, and was ready to receive orders.

She showed how the Military Authorities were relying for such help upon the Church Missionary Society, and the danger of having numbers of orphans to maintain without the provision of funds. A voluntary collection was made, producing £2 6s 6d. This included a cheque from a lady who could not attend.

Sulhamstead parish magaizine, August 1918 (D/EX725/4)

Bring your own potatoes

Pupils learning to cook during the war had to use potatoes for pastry dough.

28 May 1918

Cookery: Course I. N. Moreton 5. S. Moreton 8. Wallingford C.E. 5

No. 12

Date: May 28th
Time: 1.45-4pm

Lesson: Shortcrust pastry. Tarts [alternative]

No. present: 8

Signature: R. D. Bronsdon.

Girls brought own potatoes for pastry.

Wallingford Cookery Centre Log Book, 1914-1920 (SCH22/8/5, pp. 169-170)

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)

Workmen “called up” for the war

A printer could not fulfil his firm’s orders due to losing most of his employees to the war.

10 May 1918

Office Papers could not be sent as usual for the week because the printer had not been able to send the forms which had been ordered some time before, owing to lack of workers, his workmen “called up” for the war.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

“All possible economy must be effected”

The economic cost of the war affected every aspect of life at home.

The Church Accounts, 1917-1918.

Wargrave Vicarage,
April 20th, 1918.

My dear Friends,

We now have the pleasure of publishing the parochial accounts for the year ending at Easter, 1918.

The income for which they account to £623 as against £542 11s. 0d. the increase of subscriptions is partly due to the inclusion of all the Churchyard Accounts of which only part has been included in previous years, but this makes an addition of only £19 12s. 0d., and the remainder is due to increased support. The increased church collections is to some extent attributable to the addition of two Organ Recitals, £20 16s. 6d, but to the very generous response to special appeals, as in the case of the Red Cross, £36 5s. 0d, but the general level of weekly offertories has been distinctly higher and the result is most pleasing.

The increased income is balanced on the expenditure side by additions to salaries and the heavy cost of fuel.

Sir William Cain’s gifts are distributed so widely in the parish that his liberality is known to all and everyone in Wargrave has reason to be grateful for them, they have for instance made the V.A.D. Hospital possible, on its present scale…

A copy of the statement of accounts is to be sent to every subscriber, but no copies are to be included with the parish magazines as in former years, because all possible economy must be effected in printing and paper. The Schedule of Special Offertories will however be inserted in the magazine together with this letter.

I remain faithfully yours,

STEPHEN M. WINTER

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

Damage caused by the continual trial trips of the instructional lorries of the Royal Flying Corps

The air war was causing problems on roads back home in Berkshire.

MILITARY REQUISITIONS

Road over Swinford Bridge

A military requisition has been issued for the repairs to the road over Swinford Bridge carrying the brick traffic from Chawley Works to the Oxfordshire Aerodromes. The road belongs to Lord Abingdon and is in a bad state of repair. As Lord Abingdon is unable, owing to lack of labour and materials, to do the work, the Committee have – at the request of the Road Board – undertaken the repairs, and an estimate of the cost has been forwarded to the Finance Committee.

MILITARY TRAFFIC: Damage to roads
Extraordinary military traffic, Ascot and Windsor Road

Damage has been caused by extraordinary military traffic between Lovel Road and “The Squirrel” by the continual trial trips of the instructional lorries of the Royal Flying Corps stationed at Ascot, and damage was also done in Hatchet Lane. The lorries have since left…. Owing to this damage the amount of last year’s estimate for the repairs to the whole of this road has been increased by £1,640.

Berkshire County Council Highways and Bridges Committee report, 20 April 1918 (C/CL/C1/1/21)

“It is incredible the difficulty of getting food here” – are piglets the answer?

One way around savage food restrictions was to buy your own piglet, and fatten it up on table scraps. Florence Image (nee Spencer) was inspired.

29 Barton Road
15 April ‘18
Beloved Signor

The Signora’s ambitious soul now requires Pigs! She learns that ownership of the unclean animal will entitle you to his entire carcase – (at all events, my lord R[hondda] is said to have granted so much to your first pig. She is full of hope and daring, has already purchased 2 little beasts, one white and one black. I, who am of soberer anticipation, went one day to see them – 10 weeks old. How horrible to feed and pamper creatures, not for their good but for their early death! Callous man!

She is just now in from a cycle flurry, thro’ howling wind and drenching rain, to Comberton, 5 miles off – in search of wood for the finish off of her stye for these two little beasts. It appears that the Meddlesome Food Tyrant demands permission and tickets for any member of the Middle or Upper Classes who wants to buy such a commodity as wood – unless it be old tarred wood. She rode first to Barton, where she had no success, but was directed to Comberton 2 miles further away. Her purchase is promised for delivery tomorrow. We won’t boast till it has actually arrived. But it really was a spirited expedition on a day like this.

It is incredible the difficulty of getting food here. We are fresh from a week of it in this house. Two of Florrie’s brothers, hurriedly recalled to the front, have successively been staying here to say goodbye – sickly that! (The most affectionate letter came here from the Colonel of one: he wrote like a father to his son. And another letter to the other brother from his Brigadier, equally flattering. Alas, since that was written, the whole brigade staff has been wiped out, except the Brig.-General himself, who is recommended for the VC.).

Then there was a cousin and godchild of my own – and my sister is staying with us. Finally a friend and his wife from next door – a Fellow of Caius, going out as Botany Professor to Capetown – when their house, No. 31, was gutted of all furniture, spent 4 days with us…

Well, we have 4 one-and-threepenny cards, per week, for meat. You may guess how thorny our task to feed these numbers. Fish we could get, tho’ not good, but, for meat, we had to bow our pride and accept help from our guests…

With our love to you both.

Affec.
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

Such days as England never experienced before

The spring of 1918 saw a new onslaught at the front.

THE GERMAN FURY.

We have been passing through such days as England never experienced before. Defeat and disaster has seemed to be within measurable distance. If the British lines had been broken through, and the enemy had gained the coast; it is hard to see how we could have avoided surrender.

But through all our terrors and alarms we have never really believed that surrender was possible, not only because we trusted in the unconquerable British Army, but because we trusted in God. As the struggle lengthens out, and privations increase, our hope of endurance and final victory depends even more upon this flaming certainty, that this is the sacred cause of righteousness and God. We shall be traitors to heaven and earth if we allow war-weariness to abate our fixed resolve to continue to the end. Let us be quite sure that the end will be as we desire. It must be, because there is a justice immanent in things, and because God has bidden us defend the right. To leave our task half done would be to leave the world so shadowed by a great evil, that life would be monstrously burdened and spoiled, and happiness and rest for the nations would be impossible.

The nation is being called to still greater sacrifices, and every one of us must give his answer with a whole heart. Already there has been a wealth of sacrifice on all hands greater than we could have dreamed possible. Even we who thought best of our countrymen never guessed of the magnificent capacity for self-denial and service. And if more is demanded, shall we not all be ready? Whatever it is, economy in food or dress, or the rendering of such services in any form as may be in our power, or the brave bearing of the long strain, we must realise that our little counts, and that we shall never respect ourselves again if we do not play our part well now.

Almost every preacher during this Eastertide seems to have likened the anguish of the nation to Christ’s Gethsemane and sacrifice. Surely the resemblance is a real one. If we take it aright, the whole strife and agony of the nation to-day is of a piece with the cross of Christ. Christ’s cross was a voluntary suffering for the advantage of the race. And if we will consciously take it so, our suffering is a willing burden and anguish for the sake of the world and its peace. All those who have willingly risen up and taken arms against the monstrous scourge that threatens us, though some of them had perhaps little thought of religion, are really fighting in Christ’s cause against Antichrist.

And let those who believe in prayer pray. “More things are wrought by prayer than this world knows of.” Shall not the need of to-day teach us to pray with new faith and insistency? So let us pass through these days of pain as Christians should, in the trust that God is, that God sees, that God works, that right is right, and that right is might.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, April 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)

This time of great national anxiety

It was another worrying Easter.

The services on Good Friday and Easter Sunday were well attended and it was satisfactory to notice that at this time of great national anxiety a larger number than usual came to meet our Risen Saviour in his Holy Communion, and pray for their loved ones at His service. In spite of the shortages and high prices many offerings of beautiful flowers were brought to the Church, which looked its best, thanks to the care and taster of those who so lovingly arranged them.

Ascot section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, May 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/5)