“My dear old platoon”

We last saw Sydney marching back from the trenches through the night.

Wednesday 10 July 1918

We were marching still when Wednesday came in. Arrived at our first long resting place between W & V at about 3 am. We had a cup of tea & a biscuit on the wet ground for which I am very grateful. Slept with my head on my pack after discovering that my batman had left my burbury behind & brought with him an old one!

Started off again at 5.30 & got here to H…t at 7. Saw men into tents. Then wandered about rather unhappily not knowing whether I belonged to C Company or not, at last orderly room let me come back to B Company at 11.30 on parade. Saw my dear old platoon again.

After lunch took my clothes off & got into my valise in the sunshine. Slept until rain caught me. Slept till 5. Dressed & tea. Spent evening lolling etc.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15)

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Officers vs sergeants: sergeants won hands down

Sydney Spencer had a busy day. The Maud Allan affair referred to was a contemporary scandal in which a well known actress was accused of being a lesbian spy for the Germans, and sued for libel. One of her persecutors was Harold Sherwood Spencer, an American with no connection to the Berkshire family.

Monday 3 June 1918

Got up at 6. Paraded at 7. Inspected my platoon. Went to range from 7.30 to 9.15. Fired in sweepstake, officers vs sergeants. 15 rounds rapid was the shoot (mad minute). Sergeants won hands down. Top score sergeants = Sergeant York with 43. Top score officers myself with 31 only! Peyton 2nd with 30.

Took my platoon for a time in fire orders, & then scuttled off to O.14 C7.5 to a demonstration in wiring double apron fence. Knights was there & I enquired after his battle position affectionately. No wire cutters or gloves were to be found so I toddled back & fetched them. The Brigade Major wanted to know if I was any relation to Spencer in the ‘Billing’ Maud Allan affair!

After lunch slept till 4. Took company for march at 8.30. Had a nice ride on Charlie Chaplin [his commanding officer Dillon’s horse].

To bed at & read for a while.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15)

A chaplain among the departed

Prayers were requested for men from Reading serving or fallen.

Notes from the Vicar

Intercessions list: 2nd A.M. Clout, R.F.C; 2nd Lieut. A. Herman Turner, R.F.C.; Trooper M.T. Butler, Berks Yeomanry; Private A. Goodger.

Sick and Wounded: Gunner Goulden; Gunner H. Whitbread; Privates G. Wise, H. Standing, C. Beazly.

Departed: Sergt. C. Spencer; Private R. Egginton; Lce-Cpl. J. T. Foulger, R.E.; Privates Hugh Willis, R.A.M.C., E.A. Pearce, T.M.B.; The Rev. E.P. Carter (priest).

Reading St Giles parish magazine, November 1917 (D/P96/28A/32)

Severe shell shock for an Earley man

Two Earley men had been wounded, one of them – brave enough to have been previously awarded a medal – suffering shell shock.

We regret to say that Sergt-Major Jordan who holds the DCM has been seriously wounded in France, and is suffering severely also from shell shock. He is the son-in-law to Mr Spencer of Manchester Road. Private Ernest George Jupe, son of Mrs Jupe of Culver Road, has also been wounded in France. He is one of those who belong to the famous Canadian contingent. We rejoice that his wound is not pronounced serious. 2nd Lieut. T P Norris RE sailed for East Africa on Oct 11 with a draft of 32 sappers.

Earley parish magazine, November 1916 (D/P192/28A/14)

Many brave deeds

An officer with Bracknell connections had been praised in the national press for his role in fierce fighting in the Dardanelles before succumbing to his wounds, while ordinary soldiers from the town were wounded in the same battle.

THE WAR

All our readers will have read of the extremely gallant charge of the Berkshire Yeomanry in the recent fighting in the Dardanelles. The following account is from The Times.-

“When the order to charge was given, the Berkshire Yeomanry, although they had suffered many casualties, dashed into the enemy’s trenches, the first to reach them being Major E. S. Gooch, who was wounded in the head, and was defended with great gallantry by Second Lieutenant H. C. Blyde of Reading, who had followed close after him. After Major Gooch was wounded the Adjutant, Captain F. B. Hurndall, 20th Hussars, took over the command and showed excellent leadership. There were many brave deeds done by the rank and file…

The General commanding expressed to all ranks his intense appreciation of their conduct in this their first engagement and also commended the Brigade for reaching Hill 70 in spite of heavy casualties.”

Major Gooch, whose gallant conduct is thus mentioned, reached home, and was taken to Lady Riley’s Hospital in Carlton House Terrace. He was reported to be doing well, but to the intense sorrow of all in Bracknell he succumbed to his wound on September 21st. Though his home had been in Scotland since his marriage in 1902, he was often in Bracknell at his mother’s house, and we can well believe what we are told of the devotion that all in his regiment felt for him, and those who, like the writer of these lines, have had the privilege of knowing him in his Scotch home can testify that this devotion and affection was fully shared by his friends and neighbours there.

The casualties in the ranks of our Berkshire Yeomanry are also very heavy, and though no Bracknell man was killed, some of our neighbours in the villages round have fallen. Amongst those who were wounded, who have been admitted to hospitals at home or abroad, are Harry Adler, who has been severely bruised and shaken; W. B. Skelton, one of our postmen, who was wounded; as were also Lance-Corporal Howell and Sergeant Claude Spencer, both of whom were well known in Bracknell.

Bracknell section of Winkfield District Magazine, October 1915 (D/P151/28A/7/10)

A right minded boy does his duty and dies gloriously

Bracknell had lost its first man to the war – a young career soldier remembered locally for his football skills, with many others joining up.

The following is a list of those who belong to the Parish of Bracknell, and who are in the habit of attending Bracknell Church, who are now serving in H.M. Forces.

NAVY.
R.-Admiral Dudley de Chair, Cecil Bowler, E. Cordery, G. Freeman, G. Jenkins, A. Mott, C. Pleass, H. Roe, R. Watson, E. Wild.

MARINES
E. J. Brailey, R. H. Hester, E. S. Simmonds, C. H. Johnson, W. G. Johnson, J. H. Johnson, F. Gray, Charles Gambriel, G. Jenkins, S. Plummer, A. Prouten.

Many of these are in the North Sea.

ARMY
On Active Service.
Lieut. W. Foster, Lieut. W. Mackenzie, Captain W. K. George, H. Baker, Henry Barlow, Reginald Bowler, George Bowles, John Brant, G. H. Butcher, F. Butler, Alfred Case, Daniel Chaplin, L. Claridge, G. Clarke, N. Clarke, H. Currey, H. Downham, F. Dolby, M. Fox, W. Grimes, F. Harvey, H. Hollingsworth, A. Isaacs, B. Linnegar, A. Mason, H. Matthews, G. Morton, A. Newton, H. Norman, F. Offield, F. Rathband, R. Sadler, B. Sone, A. Winfield, C. Young, A. Penwell (India), S. Norman (Malta), W. Notley, A. E. Reed.

In England
Col. Sir W. Foster, Bart., Lieut. J. C. L. Barnett, Lieut. B. Foster, H. Alder, James Bowyer, John Bowyer, G. Brant, H. Bristow, C. Burt, C. Cave, C. Church, W. Clark, F. L. Dean, C. Dyer, W. Dyer, C. W. Ellis, F. Fitzhugh, J. K. George, E. Godfrey, F. Goddard, H. Gray, J. Gray, Ernest Gambriel, H. Gregory, S. Grimes, A. Holloway, H. Hoptroff, C. Hoptroff, G. Hoptroff, T. H. James, A. Jenkins, G. Kent, S. Kidley, R. Larcombe, J. Lawrence, L. Linnegar, E. Mason, G. Mason, H. Marshall, W. Norris, E. Noyes, H. Perrin, A. Pither, J. Pither, W. Pither, A. J. Prouten, S. Rixon, A. Readings, W. Sargeant, R. Sargeant, D. Sargeant, A. E. Searle, S. Sone, W. Spencer, H. Thompson, P. Treble, W. Turner, B. Turner, H. Webb, F. Webb, A. Winter, G. Winter, H. Winter, J. Wooff, R. Wright, A. Youens, E. Willman.

Two young men belonging to Bracknell have come over with the Canadian Contingent and will shortly be at the Front, – William Searle, and C. Berry.

Drummer Eric W. Roe of the Grenadier Guards is the first of our Bracknell men whose name is placed on the “Roll of Honour.” (more…)

A missionary is prevented from going to Japan

Pupils at a Caversham Sunday School run by Broad Street Congregational Church heard about the effects of the war on foreign missions:

ROKEBY HALL SUNDAY SCHOOL
On Sunday afternoon, September 13th, we had a visit from Miss Spencer. After the opening hymn and prayer, Miss Spencer addressed the scholars on missionary work. she told them that although the war had prevented her from going to Japan at present, still she hoped soon to be able to go to the mission field.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, October 1914
(D/N11/12/1/14)