A German rifle

War trophies were handed out.

September 17th 1919

A German rifle has been presented to the school by the Parish Council, who have received some six for distribution.

Bradfield CE School log book (D/P22/28/2, p. 227)

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“The last time I saw Sturdee was at the Falkland Islands”!

The American Commander in Chief, General John Pershing, British Admiral Doveton Sturdee and General William Birdwood were all granted honorary degrees from Cambridge after the war.

29 Barton Road
27 July ‘19

My very dear Smu

[Visiting Southwold, Suffolk] On Thursday 10th there came, with their crews, 2 armoured cars, which had been serving in Russia: and in the photographs sold in the shops next day, we recognised unmistakeably Mr and Mrs Image.

I see that I’ve only left a few inches to describe the Honorary Degrees on Wednesday 23rd – so I’ll enclose the paper I found on my seat. The figure I was most anxious to see was Admiral Sturdee. He looked like a Dean or an Archdeacon – an ecclesiastic of high degree. Just in front of me was a naval Lieutenant in uniform (with a pretty young wife) – so I appealed to him. He gave me all information quite simply – and as we rose to go, and watched Sturdee leave the Senate House, he said, “the last time I saw Sturdee was at the Falkland Islands”!! I was delighted to see a fellow who had been in that fight.

Pershing looked capable of sternness.

The u.g.s (who were all in their khaki) chaired Birdwood.

Our kindest remembrances to ye both.

Bild

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

A torpedo as a war memorial

A torpedo might have been an interesting choice of war memorial, but it was not allowed.

Report of Highways Committee, 26 April 1919

WAR MEMORIALS

Cookham.

With reference to the application for consent to erect a war memorial at Cookham – referred to in the last report of the Committee – the County Surveyor has since inspected the proposed site, which is the centre of the triangular piece of waste land adjoining the main road from the Moors to Cookham village.

The Committee recommend that no objection be raised to the erection of the memorial on the site suggested.

Pangbourne.

An application has been received from Miss Waddington for permission to erect a War memorial at Pangbourne, in the middle of the Square.

As the erection thereof would cause danger to the traffic, the Committee recommend that such consent be not given.

An application has been received from the Pangbourne Parish Council for permission to place a torpedo (which has been presented to them) on the parapet of the bridge over the River Pang as a War Memorial.

The torpedo being approximately 22 ft in length, 18 in wide, and about 1 ton in weight, the Committee recommend that consent to its erection on the bridge be not given.

Berkshire County Council minutes (C/CL/C1/1/22)

Interesting curios from the battlefields

Exciting incidents could distract children from their school work.

Sparsholt
1919
Jan 16th

This afternoon Major Pocock [an old boy] gave the children a short address, & exhibited various interesting curios from the battlefields in France.

Boxford
Jan 16th 1919

An aeroplane came down in the village this dinner time, many boys are absent this afternoon owing to the same.

Emmer Green
16th January 1919

Mrs Bartlett was absent from duty this morning on business connected with her husband’s return from ‘Active Service’.

Log books of Sparsholt CE School D/P115/28/47); Boxford CE School log book (C/EL115/2);Emmer Green CE School log book (R/ES8/3

“Such was his enthusiasm that he was led to write war verses with a view to stimulating the slacker”

Here we learn of the war experiences of some of the Old Boys of St Bartholomew’s Grammar School, Newbury, who had lost their lives.

In Memoriam.

In reporting the deaths of the following Old Newburians, we take this opportunity of expressing our most sincere sympathy with the bereaved friends and relations.

N. G. Burgess.

Croix De Guerre

Lieutenant Nathaniel Gordon Burgess, Croix De Guerre, R.N.R., entered the N.G.S. in April, 1901, and left at Christmas, 1906, from the South House. He obtained his place in both the second Cricket and Football elevens in 1903 and got into both firsts in his last year. On leaving school he entered the Civil Service, but subsequently turned to the Mercantile Marine. His connection with the Senior Service dates from April, 1915, when his offer of service was accepted and he was granted the commission of Sub.-Lieutenant. The following September he was promoted to Acting Lieutenant and posted to H.M.S Conquest. While serving under the then Commodore Tyrrwhit he had the good fortune to capture two German trawlers laden with munitions; and the telegrams of congratulations, both from his Commanding Officer and the Admiralty, together with the battered flag of one of the trawlers, were among his most cherished possessions. The posthumous award of the Croix de Guerre was conferred on him by the French Government for his gallantry in the naval action off Lowestoft, in July 1916, when a German shell entered one of the magazines of his ship. Fortunately the shell did not immediately explode, and, by flooding the magazine compartment, the gallant officer prevented what might have been serious damage, his action being regarded very highly by the authorities.. thus it was a very promising life which was cut short when at the age of twenty-six, Burgess was lost at sea in March of this year.

J. V. Hallen.

Corporal John Vernie Hallen, School House 1905-1908, was born in 1894 and received his preliminary education at College House, Hungerford, thence going to The Ferns, Thatcham, from which school he finally came to the N.G.S., getting into both the Cricket and Football Seconds in 1907. After leaving here he became an expert motor engineer, from which occupation he joined up early in the war, determined at all costs to uphold the honour of his country. Such was his enthusiasm that he was led to write war verses with a view to stimulating the slacker, which we understand to have been always well received, and in the meanwhile he found time to use his great physical strength in winning the heavy weight boxing championship of his regiment, the 1st Surrey Rifles. Such was the man who was killed in action in France some three months ago.

F. C. Mortimer.

Private Frederick C. Mortimer, South House 1910-1915, who was reportedly killed in action “in the Field,” on Friday the 26th of April, was exactly nineteen years and four months old on the day of his death. He took a keen enjoyment in outdoor sport and got into the Second Cricket Eleven in 1914, while his dash was quite a feature of the First Fifteen in his last year here. Always cheerful and amusing, he was generally liked in his form and took his school life with a lightheartedness that made it well worth living. His last letter to his parents was dated on the day of his death, from France, whither he was drafted on the first of last February, after a year’s training at Dovercourt and Colchester. We cannot but feel that he died as he had lived, quickly and cheerfully.

R. Cowell-Townshend.

Second Lieutenant Roy Cowell-Townshend, R.A.F., Country House 1913-1916, was a promising Cricketer, having played for the first eleven both in 1915 and in his last term. On leaving school he wished to become an electrical engineer and entere4d into apprenticeship with Messrs. Thornycroft, on June 1st, 1916. Having reached the age of eighteen, he was called to the colours on February 17th, 1917, and went into training on Salisbury Plain, quickly gaining a stripe and the Cross Guns of the marksman. Soon afterwards he was drafted to the R.F.C. as a Cadet and went to Hursley Park for his course. From here he went first to Hastings and then to Oxford when, having passed all his exams, he was granted his commission on December 7th, 1917. He then went to Scampton, Lincoln, where he qualified as a Pilot, and afterwards to Shrewsbury, where he was practicing with a Bombing Machine he was to take on to France. Every report speaks of him as having been a most reliable pilot, and he had never had an accident while in this position, nor even a bad landing, and at the time of his death he was acting as passenger. The fatal accident occurred on May 29th, 1918, the machine, which the instructor was piloting, having a rough landing, and Townshend being pitched forward and killed instantaneously. His body was brought to his home at Hungerford, where he was buried with military honours on June 3rd.

The Newburian (magazine of St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury), July 1918 (N/D161/1/8)

Horribly mutilated by shell fire

Animals were among the many victims of the war.

Sydney Spencer
Monday 13 May 1918

Got up at 6.50. Breakfast at 7.30. Peyton & I took company along the line to M- M-. Men walked along. I took first tack from 10-12.20. On way there a dead mule lay on track. Neck & chest horribly mutilated by shell fire. Poor beast. Our tool cart mules for a long time refused to pass it! They knew!

It rained from 10 on till 2.30 when we got back to A-n. After lunch I to bed as Pepys would have said. It is now 4.45 pm & I am just going to dress. A very ‘Novembery’ day. Yesterday I found some interesting old bills & receipts, dates 1782 & 3. I sent them to Florence. I hope she gets them.

After tea called down to interview with CO. I had let my men straggle a bit in the mud when coming home. Bad for discipline. After dinner to bed & lay awake reading till about 1.30 when I at last got some sleep. Finished reading Rupert of Hentzau, & this week’s Punch.

Percy Spencer
13 May 1918

A nice dirty day, promising trouble for the Hun tomorrow if he tries his luck against us. Dreamt of Gil last night. Somehow he got down a narrow shaft and I had to haul him out. He was in a pretty bad way.

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

“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)

A permanent memorial of the war

A soldier serving in Palestine sent a gift to the school his children attended.

7th May 1918

One of the nicest and certainly the most valued and unique present received in the name of the school was sent to us from Palestine a week or so ago. It is a wooden bound book containing dried and pressed flowers from the Holy Land. The sender is First Class Warrant Officer Ernest Baker and the book bears the title of blumen aus dem heiligen land [flowers from the Holy Land, in German] being posted on 4. 4. 18. The sender is now on active service in the Holy Land, his children attend our school but he is a perfect stranger never having seen Warfield. The book will be carefully placed in the museum cupboard to be a permanent memorial of the war.

Today I read and explained the royal letter of congratulation from the King and Queen. It is now framed and hung to be read by scholars of future years. On April 30 we had 124 members on our war savings association and we have purchased 386 certificates.

Warfield CE School log book (C/EL26/3, p. 395)

“We all had to doss down in the Officers’ Mess bivy as thick as sardines”

Sydney was now out of the trenches again, but found himself in sub-standard accommodation.

Sydney Spencer
Monday 6 May 1918

Although we all had to doss down in the Officers’ Mess bivy as thick as sardines, I got a good night’s sleep & got up at 8 am. It has been a glorious day throughout, warm, sunny & really like May weather. We did little all day except clean up after our four days in the trenches. At noon the Div[ision] General came round our line. He had a few things to say but seemed quite pleasant.

After lunch got my shave which I needed so badly, & then took Sergeant Leigh & section commanders over to shew them their battle positions. Then drew my range chart.

After tea letters came on from Florence. Her letters make landmarks, always welcome when they appear.

Went over my platoon front again, & drew a sketch of main features. Stand to at 8.30. Men dug fire steps or rather dug positions for themselves. Dinner at 9.15.

After dinner beds warm & cosy at first, & then it rained & rained & I look up to find little streams falling on my eyes.

Percy Spencer
6 May 1918

Another wet day. M. le Maire [the local mayor] dined with us & confessed to 4 Hun & 4 British rifles buried as souvenirs.

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

Too exciting to enjoy

Patriotic enthusiasm in Swindon was aroused by the public exhibition of a tank and a flying dispay.

4th May 1918

An ideal day. After dinner I chopped up fire wood for a week then shaved and washed and dressed and with wife and Mur & Marj. went down to the Public Offices. Great crowds there. Wife & I went into the Pub. Off. and each got a W.S.C., then down into the enclosure where the Tank was and had a tank stamp put on it and poked in our heads and looked round it. Not much room for the poor devils who worked them…

After tea I went to Bath Rd reading room, then hearing a lot of flying going on I went down the Town, and was glad I did, for an aviator was giving a most marvellous display of flying at the Town Hall. He seemed capable of doing anything with his machine. Looping the loop and flying down under the telephone wires and round the clock and coming up over the roof and round the corners enough to frighten one to death. Expected him to come a crash on the ground or into the walls every minute. It was too exciting to enjoy it. Men like this I should think too valuable to risk losing.

I heard 120,000£ has been invested this week in Swindon in the War Loan.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

A right little, tight little house with sandbag entrance steps and a strong sense of security

Percy Spencer told his sister Florence al about the cosy way he and a comrade had improved his current trench.

1.ii.18

Dear WF

Well, how are domestic affairs going?

We’re getting on quite well. Little by little we’re improving our “home”. Having been well strafed the other day, the map expert and I set to work to build a wall of sandbags at our end of the dugout. It’s now a right little, tight little house with sandbag entrance steps and a strong sense of security. Also we’ve got wooden gratings laid in the trenches, so we’re not so much in the mud as we were, and our home is greatly improved. You’d be surprised how each day “we” (that’s my brainy map expert assistant) make little improvements in ways and means. Now we each have a board bed off the ground, & a canvas bucket wash has taken the place of a teacup wash – by the way what would they say at home if I arose, cleaned my teeth, shaved, washed and breakfasted all from the same tin mug you sent me? But as I say, we’re gradually changing all that for the better. We took over a dirty untidy dugout open to the wind and the weather: we shall hand over a tidy, weather proof and shell proof residence, and I’m glad we shan’t hand it over to the people who left us such a miserable legacy. The best souvenir we found when digging to level the earth was a German officer’s revolver loaded in two chambers, one bullet having been bored at the top to make it a dum-dum. I wish I could have kept it and sent it you.

I’ve just been arranging a mouse trap on the tip cat system. We’ve made a beauty and the map expert with a bloodthirsty glint in his eye is toasting some cheese in the candle.
[Censored]

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/93)

A dead German’s Iron Cross

A soldier brought a poignant souvenir home – the medal won by a now-fallen adversary.

7th January 1918
I saw 2 curiosities to-day. Young Cox from Stanford in the Vale shewed me a 5£ piece and I was also shewn an Iron Cross a Swindon fellow had brought home from France which he took off a dead German.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

War trophies for the interned

Philip Preuss was a Belgian stockbroker, aged 41, when he was interned at Reading.

P Preuss

The above named prisoner states:

The letter is correct. Lieut. Le Cocq who is in the Belgian Army lent him some war trophies and also Lieut. Le Cocq’s father lent him some.

He gave receipts for these trophies to the Le Cocqs, father and son.

Mr Le Cocq wrote to him some time ago asking about the trophies and Preuss wrote a petition to the Home Office asking to be allowed to return the trophies to their owners.

The Home Office refused to allow this until either the war was over or Preuss was released, and Preuss wrote to Lieut. Le Cocq who was in France giving him the Home Office reply. Preuss is unable to give Mr Billings an order to return the articles to their owners, as all the trophies are together, and consist of many things besides those of the two Le Cocqs – and Mr Billings does not know the articles belonging to the different individuals.

He is anxious to return the articles to their owners but has not any facilities for doing so.

C M Morgan
Gov

22/12/17

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

“The villages have been ruthlessly pillaged, burnt, and razed to the ground”

A Reading man writes of his latest experiences at the front – and the death of a friend.

Our “Boys”

This terrible war has taken from us yet another of our brave soldier lads. Horace Pinker, who quite recently lost his brother and mother, was killed in France on the 5th of April. May the God of all comfort be very near to his father, sisters and brother – to console them in their keen sorrow!

The following extract from a letter sent by Eric Chapman to his mother is especially interesting, as it refers to the circumstances and death of his friend:-

“To return to my personal doings, it is unnecessary of course for me to allude to the German retirement on the western front, seeing that the papers are full of it. As you must have guessed, this has made a great difference to our lives, as we have had to be constantly hot on their heels. At times we come to close quarters with them, but on the whole they do not show much fight, and easily surrender or retire. The country over which we are advancing has been most thoroughly and diabolically destroyed. The villages have been ruthlessly pillaged, burnt, and razed to the ground. Not a thing of any value has been left behind by these barbarians. Even the young fruit trees have been deliberately maimed and rendered incapable of bearing fruit. Naturally this has made it most hard for us following in their tracks, as they intended it should, but we are able to overcome all difficulties and continue our victorious advance. There is not the slightest doubt we are winning by force of arms and smashing the Huns back to their own country. May the end come suddenly and speedily!

“Our battalion has just returned from a special attack, in which it distinguished itself, and about which the Colonel has given permission to write, so I am quite in order in relating a few facts without giving valuable information away. Our objective was a large village, fortified and held by the Huns. We commenced the attack in the early hours of the morning, and had to advance a distance of over 2,000 yards, before we came to grips with the enemy. It was snowing slightly at the time and a thin layer covered the ground as the men moved forward in waves to the attack. After we got fairly going I felt strangely exhilarated, and, much to my surprize quite unconcerned by the possibility of danger. The Huns yelled when they saw us coming, but our fellows yelled still louder, and never wavered a moment under the enemy’s fire. Barbed wire impeded our movements to a small extent, but in short time we had reached the village and were careering like mad through the streets. The Huns did not stand a ghost of a chance then, as our men paid back old scores, and in a few seconds they were doing their best to retreat. Many got back to tell the tale to Hindenburg, but I am thankful to say many not. It was not long before the whole village was in our hands, and after we had consolidated our gain we had some sport looking for souvenirs. The most interesting thing to us was the Germans’ rations which they left behind. Some of the men ate them, but although I am not dainty on this job, I did not have! The meat looked tempting enough, but had the undoubted characteristics of worn-out cab horse!

“I am glad to say our casualties on this occasion were comparatively few, although I regret to have to relate the death in action of Horace Pinker. He was killed by a bullet, and died before the stretcher–bearers could get him to the dressing station. It is very sad for his people, but they can have the satisfaction of knowing that he died bravely and nobly, and was accorded a decent burial.”

It has long been felt that we have not done all that we might for those of our numbers who are taking part in this bitter struggle. At Christmas our young people collected enough to send parcels to all on the Institute Roll of Honour. Now it is wished to do the same for the others, and the kind help and generous support of all our friends if asked. We feel confident that this appeal will not be made in vain! Contributions may be sent to Miss Gough, Mrs. Hamilton Moss, Mrs. Streeter, or Miss Austin.

Trinity Congregational magazine, May 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

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)