“The difficulty of the supply of meat”

The Community of St John Baptist decided to cut down on meat consumption during the war.

5 April 1917

Maundy Thursday.

Notice was sent to all the Houses that a second meatless day (ordinarily Tuesday) would be kept each week owing to the difficulty of the supply of meat in consequence of the war. Rogation & Ember Days & Vigils would be kept as usual, and in the weeks when these occurred they would take the place of the second meatless day.

Permission was given for afternoon cups of tea on Easter day, Low Sunday, Ascension Day, Whitsunday, Corpus Christi and St John Baptist Day.

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

Advertisements

Beer and bottled water to be in short supply

Sydney Spencer underwent training in gas exposure, while Florence Vansittart Neale was shocked by the amount of items to be restricted.

Sydney Spencer of Cookham
Feb 22

I go through chlorine gas for first time (in a P.H. helmet).

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey
22 February 1917

Large contingent of nurses & MOs from Cliveden. Saw everything & had tea in hall. Came at 3, left 5.30….

Good speech by E. Carson on submarine menace – very serious, but hope it will get [illegible].

Importations of timber, apples, tomatoes, raw fruits, tea, restricted, meat, paper, wines, silks, only 10,000,000 barrels of beer – spirits also restricted, aerated water and table water.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/12); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

The finest, cosiest, and prettiest place in the whole Second Army Area

A Reading church sponsored a place of recreation for soldiers at the front.

“Words Fail Us.”

Such are the words used on a Christmas card by the Y.M.C.A. to convey their deep gratitude to all who have helped in the erection of Huts in France and elsewhere. The words may be even more fittingly used to emphasise the desperate need for these buildings, and we rejoice in having been privileged to take part in this good work. It will be remembered that soon after our pastor’s return from France in March of last year, he announced his wish to erect a Y.M.C.A. hut, and was met by so gratifying a response from his many friends in Trinity and elsewhere that, by the end of August it was being used by our fighting men on the Western “Front.” This month, by the help of the above-mentioned Christmas card, we are able to show our readers a picture of our own hut.

It is situated La Clytte, about 4.5 miles south-west of Ypres and within three miles of the front firing-line very, very near danger. It is by the side of a road, along which is passing a continual stream of men to and from the trenches. Near by is a rest camp, into which the men are drafted after having served a certain time actually in the line. Hence our Hut, capable of accommodating from two hundred to three hundred men, meets the very real need of a large number of men actually in “the thick of it.”

The picture represents its actual appearance from outside, which resembles many other Y.M. Huts, but the interior is most beautifully and artistically decorated with about 250 coloured pictures, with the result that Mr. Holmes (Sec. Y.M.C.A. 2nd Army) pronounces it to be the finest, cosiest, and prettiest place in the whole Second Army Area. For this proud distinction we must thank its present leader, Mr Cecil Dunford, who is an artist, and so in touch with colour-printing firms. To him, too, we are indebted to him for our picture. His helpers are the Rev. Eric Farrar, son of Dean Farrar a most interesting fact and the Rev. Herbert Brown, Chaplain to the Embassy at Madrid.

At Christmas-time, our thoughts flew naturally to the men in our Hut, and Mr Harrison, anticipating our wishes, telegraphed that a sum of £20 was to be spent on festivities. It will interest all to hear what was done.

On Christmas Eve a Carol service took place, assisted by a regimental band, followed by a distribution of free gifts and cake. On Christmas Day the Hut was crowded for service at 10 a.m., and 45 men present at Holy Communion. From 12-1 a free distribution of cakes and tea was enjoyed. An afternoon concert was held, after which the men were again supplied with tea and cakes. At 6.30 p.m. a very informal concert was held, interspersed with games and amusing competitions ducking for apples bobbing in a pail of water, drawing in to the mouth a piece of toffee tied to a long string held between the teeth, pinning blindfold a moustache to the Kaiser’s portrait, etc. Free drinks and tobacco were again distributed, and after three hearty cheers for the people of Reading, the National Anthem brought a memorable day to a close.

To the men this day was a bright spot in their cheerless, dangerous life, and their enjoyment is depicted by Mr Dunford in some clever sketches one of a man straight from the line, in a tin helmet and with pack on his back, beaming happily at a steaming mug of cocoa, and murmuring “Good ‘ealth to the Y.M.”; another man, whose swelled cheek testifies to the huge mouthful of sandwich (evidently “tres bon!” in quality and quantity), wittily designated “an attach in force on the salient.” To the helpers the Christmas festivities evidently proved exhausting as shown by two laughable sketches of utter collapse, one worker clinging feebly to a post, the other being dragged along the floor to a place of rest. Yet we venture to think that even they, with us, rejoice to do something to brighten the lot of our brave boys in khaki.


Trinity Congregational Church, Reading: magazine, February 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

Please don’t send too much from home

Interned in Germany, Albert Cusden wrote to one of his brothers in Reading. He and the brothers he was with in Ruhleben (Arch, Vic and Dick) were grateful for the support they were getting from friends and family.

Aug 22nd 1916
Dear Len

Since my letter to Father & Mother last week, many thanks for parcels Y, Z, A & B. Note from last letter received that Mrs Shrimpton will in future send Swiss Bread to Dick and you will therefore send to me instead. If Mrs S. does send, please don’t send any to me or we shall have more than we need. The one lot to Arch will be quite sufficient. As already stated, Vic receives Swiss bread each week.

Please don’t send too much. Last four parcels have contained toast, but this does not always keep now, so please do not send any more. Our needs in the bread line are quite met by Swiss as above. All the same thank you very much for trouble. As regards parcels generally, we now receive regularly from a number of friends, so would prefer you to act upon my previous suggestion not to send so much from home. We are receiving quite sufficient now, so please don’t think we should be short at all. Even if we received nothing from you we should manage quite alright. And we are sure it would make a little difference at home.

We are very grateful for what all of you at home have done. We have a fair amount of tea in hand and shall not need any more for quite a good time. Please also do not send any fresh winter clothing, or blankets, etc, as we have plenty left over from last year and shall not require any more whether we have to stop here right though another winter or not. The dripping just received was very nice, but from the jars they were in it looked as though you got these specially for same. A cardboard box would have done, or probably waterproof paper. Among those who send to us are Reading Teachers’ Association to Arch, & Vic’s old school…

I stick to the drawing here as much as I can, but you will readily understand the circumstances are not the best, and there are so many interruptions during the day that the time left at one’s disposal is not so great. Last week sent off to Mother 14 sketches (12 pencil, 1 charcoal & 1 ink). Please keep for me. Charcoal sketch is of wood seen through the wires….

Your affectionate brother

Albert

Letter from Albert Cusden in Ruhleben to L W Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/3)

Glad to be brought together for fellowship and prayer prior to the trenches

More from chaplain T Guy Rogers:

April 6th

I am writing at Headquarters… going out to bury at 8 p.m. Then back here to sleep for a few hours, and out again to visit at 3.30 a.m…. Yesterday I took in two sections – and had such touching Services for them – one deep under the ramparts, another in a cellar. They will be in the trenches and were glad to be brought together for fellowship and prayer…

I am busy now getting a canteen started where the men can get coffee, tea, chocolate, cigarettes, bread, tinned stuffs. The General is keen on it, and we are constructing a shed in the safest place we can.

Reading St. John parish magazine, May 1916 (D/P172/28A/24)

When the evening shadows fall: a valuable service for soldiers in Maidenhead

Maidenhead Congregational Church continued to provide a homely environment for off-duty soldiers billeted locally.

OUR SOLDIERS’ CLUB ROOM.
The room continues to be thronged every evening, and is undoubtedly doing a most valuable service for the men. There is always a large number engaged in letter-writing, for which paper and envelopes, ink and pens are provided free. The five bagatelle tables are never idle, the piano has little time for rest when the evening shadows fall; the news-papers and magazines are well thumbed. The ladies at the refreshment buffet take about £5 weekly, mostly in half-pence, for coffee, tea, cocoa, Oxo, buns, cakes and cigarettes. The B.W.T.A. ladies in the mending room “take in washing,” and see that it is returned darned and patched up. Two Concerts and a Conjuring Entertainment have been thrown in as extras, and other delights of a similar character are in process of being arranged.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, March 1916 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Much appreciated: soldiers’ recreation in Thatcham

Soliders billeted in Thatcham had the benefit of a special centre providing hot drinks, snacks and entertainment for their off-duty hours.

Soldiers’ Recreation and Reading Room.

The Infant Schoolroom in the Broadway was opened as a Soldiers’ Recreation Room at the end of October last, and from that time to this has been much appreciated, we understand, by all of them. Certainly it has been much resorted to by them. Two ladies, Miss Ida Worthy and Miss Taylor, have most kindly provided tea and coffee and light refreshments at a very small charge, and have also brightened the time spent there by an hour’s music most evenings. In this they have been considerably helped by several other ladies and by Mr. Fyfield and his orchestra. One evening of the week has been devoted to a “concert” or “social” … and on these occasions the room is usually crowded.

It is not of course without some considerable expense that it has been found possible to place this room at the disposal of the soldiers – heating and lighting alone are two expensive items this winter. We are glad to say, however, that many kind friends have come forward to assist, and what was required has been provided up to the present time. It may be some weeks still before the A.S.C. are summoned to leave their winter billets, and however long it may be they are quartered here, we shall endeavour, with the help of kind friends, to continue to them their recreation and reading room. We take this opportunity of thanking those who by their contributions have assisted in maintaining the Room up to the present time.

Thatcham parish magazine, February 1916 (D/P130/28A/1)

Tins and money for Serbia

The people of Wrgrave gave generously in support of our hard pressed allies in Serbia.

Servian [sic] Relief Fund

The Collections at the Parish Church on Christmas Day Amounted to £15 2s. 6d.

Miss Rhodes acted as Secretary in Wargrave to assist Mrs. Noble in her collection of tinned foods. People were invited to bring contributions to the Parish Church on Sunday, January 23rd, and a great quantity of things was given:- Many pounds of Cocoa, Coffee, Tea, and Benger’s Food; Tins of Fish, Bacon, Sausages, Beef, Soup, Beans, Biscuits, and Cakes. And £1. 16s. in cash.

Wargrave parish magazine, February 1916 (D/P145/28A/31)

“I am increasingly glad to be out here”

The minister of Trinity Congregational Church was volunteering with the YMCA in France, helping provide home comforts for thr troops, and reported to his flock at home. The Taube to which he refers was a kind of aeroplane.

News from France

Through the kindness of Mrs Harrison, we are able to print some extracts from letters telling of our Pastor’s doings. We shall all rejoice to know he is well and enjoying his novel experiences.

YMCA Hut
Near Calais
Jan. 1st-18th, 1916

Here we are, safe and sound, and already hard at work.
There are five of us helpers in this hut, – all good, good sorts!
We spend hours and hours each day serving out tea, coffee, cocoa, cigarettes, matches, chocolate, Nugget polish, boot laces, etc., to the soldiers.

By great fortune I have come across Hamilton Moss, who seems in excellent health and spirits. We were just going to have a smoke together, when I was called away to my duties, – we hope for better luck next time.

For the last two days I have been in charge of a motor transport tent, but am back again now.

This morning I have scrubbed our three cubicles, – a thing never done before at one co,- and gained great glory thereby.

It is now my afternoon out.

There are two great boilers in this hut, from which tea, coffee and cocoa are made, and all water for household purposes drawn. It is my present duty to light the kitchen fires, and keep these pots full and boiling. Scrubbing out cubicles is by no means the heaviest job nowadays. Cleaning up the back yard and the stables, and unloading big cases of provisions from the vans, is a usual morning’s work, while washing up stacks of dirty mugs is becoming second nature.

We have just had our first sight of a Taube. It came almost over our heads, and we watched the shrapnel bursting round it. It got away without doing any damage, but I am told that they brought it down further on.

It is pitch dark here at night, and getting about is a weird business. Flash-lights are indispensable. The weather is not as bad as it might be, and we have some jolly walks along the sands.
Now I am off to get hold of a stove for the rest room. I am able to get some good talks with the men in there, but the room is too bleak for words, so I must make things more comfortable if possible.

This morning, along with other sundry duties already mentioned, I had to peel the potatoes for dinner, and boil them! They were quite well done.

Our chief told us yesterday that we should most likely be sent to the Front this week. We don’t know where, as there are some thirty places under this Calais centre alone. We shall be right in things then, and have less freedom and more work. Some huts are just dug-outs within three quarters of a mile of the trenches.

I am thoroughly enjoying the work, and keeping in the best of health. I am increasingly glad to be out here.

Trinity Congregational church magazine, January 1916 (D/EX1237/1/11)

A real Christmas for wounded soldiers

70 wounded soldiers recovering in Reading were treated to a Christmas dinner no one would ever forget.

EARLEY WOUNDED SOLDIERS ENTERTAINMENT FUND

Of course the Christmas dinner [on 29 December 1915] has been “the event” – 12 men from each of the five Reading War Hospitals were invited. It consisted of a three-course dinner: soup, meat, puddings, &c. Two large turkeys were sent from our generous friends at Maiden Erlegh, who also sent two huge Christmas puddings and other good things. Mrs Fowler sent a ham and trifle, Mrs Heelas a joint of beef and also cooked for us a third turkey purchased out of the funds, whilst Mrs Wilson cooked for us a second ham also purchased. The Misses Hannaford sent sufficient hot mince pies; Miss Howlett, apples; soup, toast, apples and pears by myself and wife; Mrs Love, floral decorations and serviettes; Miss Goodwin and Mrs Francis, mince pies; Lieut. and Mrs Usmar, Mr W H White, Mr Fred Bright and Mr Watson, cigarettes; Mr Harris, bread; Mr Wooldridge and Mr Wilson, potatoes; Mrs Ballard, tea; Miss Jordan, sugar; Messrs Gregory, Love & Co, Ltd, bon-bons; and last, but not least, we must thank Mr H Allnatt, the well-known caterer, for his great help in providing us with cookers, fuel, cutlery, china, tabling, cruets, etc.

It is needless to say that our guests had a jolly time and very greatly appreciated the efforts which had been made to give them a real Christmas gathering – one of the party rising before the close to voice the feelings of the whole in expressing their gratitude for such an outing. The carvers were the Vicar, Lieut. Usmar, Mr Watson and Mr Ellis from Maiden Erlegh, and the company present included Mrs Joel, Miss Eileen Joel, Masters Stanhope and Dudley Joel, Mrs Honey, Miss Carlsson, Mlle Weill, Miss King, Mrs Helps, Mrs Hart, Mrs A C Jordan, Mrs Wilson, Mrs Francis, Miss Jordan, Miss Goodwin, The Misses Beauchamp, Mrs Culham, Mrs Howlett, Mrs Love, Miss Usmar, The Rev. H Wardley King (who has been of the greatest assistance in arranging the transport on each occasion), Mr Heelas and his sons, and Mr A C Jordan; Messrs White, Love, Howlett, Wooldridge and Wilson assisting in the general arrangements.

The programme on this occasion included two sketches entitled “The Burglar and the Girl”, by Miss Gibbs and Mr Edwin Love, and “My First Client”, by Miss I Hayward and Mr Maurice Love, Mr Walker, the well-known tenor, giving several popular songs, and Mrs Dracup.

Chas J. Howlett
Hon. Treasurer

Earley St Peter parish magazine, March 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/1)

All trying to “do our bit” to help our King and Country in one way or another

Spurred on by the loss of local men, women in Bracknell and district were working hard making medical supplies and warm clothing for the troops and Navy.

THE WAR

We have, we are grieved to say, two more names to add to the Roll of Honour of this Parish.

Percy Treble of the Royal Berks Regt. has been killed in the fighting in France and Harry Rixon of the Canadian Contingent succumbed to wounds received from bombs dropped by a Zeppelin in the last great raid. The families of both these young men are well known in Bracknell, and great sympathy is felt for them in their sorrow.

* * *

THE WAR WORK DEPOT.

The work at the Depot proceeds very satisfactorily and since it was opened on July 28th, many sandbags have been sent to Miss Tyler’s office in Highgate for distribution to the Front. The Needlework department has sent 19 flannel shirts, 10 cotton ditto, 41 pyjama suits, 22 bed jackets to the Central Depot, St. Marylebone, and to the mine sweepers 23 flannel shirts. The Surgical Dressing Department has made and handed over to the same Central Depot of which Miss Ethel McCaul is the organiser, 13 leg rests, 55 splints, 15 hip, 30 T., 20 stump and 80 abdominal bandages, 468 Turkey towelling, 408 gauze and 620 puff (gauze and wool) swabs, 20 caps for head wound dressings, 54 jug and basin covers. The Knitting department too has been doing good work and several dozen pairs of socks, sea boot stockings, steering gloves, mittens and cuffs have been made, also scarves and helmets, for the men of the mine sweeping fleet, patrol boats and trawlers.

The number of workers attending the depot continues to be satisfactory, though there is still room for more, who would be welcome. The average attendance is about 100 each day. The hours the rooms are now open are from 9.45 to 4.45 on Wednesdays and Fridays, the failing daylight making it expedient to close earlier. Tea is served at 4.15 at a charge of 2d. per head; the money thus taken goes towards the running expenses of cleaning and firing. For the convenience of those workers wishing to bring their lunch, arrangements are made for them to eat it in comfort, and upon notice being given to the Secretary on their arrival, tea can be made, or soup, milk or other hot drinks warmed for them.

Warfield Parish has its subsidiary working party and is making hospital clothing, housewives, and sandbags, and sending in through this depot, providing their own material but using the patterns supplied by Bracknell. Chavey Down is doing the same and has sent in a capital consignment of pyjama suits and helpless-case night shirts to the needlework department. Thus are we all trying to “do our bit” to help our King and Country in one way or another.

Bracknell section of Winkfield District Magazine, November 1915 (D/P151/28A/7/11)

All must help in war time, and none are too young

The people of Bracknell were sending photographs of home to loved ones at the front, while those at Cranbourne were urged to save money by giving children home made jam instead of treacle.

BRACKNELL

SNAPSHOTS

The Y.M.C.A. have a scheme on hand to cheer our gallant Soldiers and Sailors on active service. It is not money they ask for, only snapshots for our men, pictures of their little children, dear friends and relations. Helpers are wanted and wanted at once, so anyone with a camera who is willing to assist should at once communicate with Mrs. Vlasto, Binfield Park, who is Secretary for this district.

Many brave men have gone from this neighbourhood and their relations and friends are invited to write to Mrs. Vlasto, who will then arrange with as little delay as possible for photographs to be taken and forwarded. We know what a joy these pictures of home will be to our men.

CRANBOURNE

The voluntary enumerators for Cranbourne in connection with the making of the National Register were Mr. L. Creasy, Mr. R. Martin, Mr. Maxwell Williams.

We print below the rest of Mrs. Smith’s letter.

As for jam, the little ones need it. Make what you can at home. It is a lot of bother, and is cheaper, but good. Mrs. Dash will lend her preserving pan all along the road, now that it is war time. If you eat the jam quick as it is made, you may skimp the sugar. Boil the fruit till tender. Then add the sugar, and boil short and sharp. If it boils till it begins to brown, that shows it is wasting away.

Treacle pleases most children, but that gain comes from foreign parts, I fancy. Make the children save their half-pence, too. This sounds rather strict, but once taught to save, they are proud of it, and they learn to say “no” to temptation, which is half the battle of life. All must help in war time, and none are too young. Save the odds and ends, pieces of paper and string, jam glasses, old tins, pins, corks. It is true I am afraid that we are a wasteful nation, so let us try and learn our lesson during what will be for ever known as “the great war.”

I am forgetting the tea. Our tea is now so dear, and may be much dearer. When you only want one cup, or a cup for yourself and a friend, at odd times, use a penny strainer. Stand it over the cup, with a pinch of tea, and pour the water very slowly through it. It will taste alright and save half the tea. Cold tea with no milk, very weak, and if you can manage it, a squeeze of lemon, makes a refreshing drink. One of Queen Victoria’s doctors told me of this, to use in sickness or health. You could make this from the tea leaves, and still have them to sweep with. Now I must conclude, from your sincere friend and well-wisher.

MRS. SMITH.

WINKFIELD

Our Choir men have again unselfishly foregone their excursion this year in order that the burden on Church expenses may be lessened and enable more offertories to be given to War funds, and also that each of their brother members at the Front might receive a special present and token of remembrance.


Winkfield District Magazine, September 1915 (D/P151/28A/7/9)

St Mark’s in Venice targetted by bombs

Cambridge don John Maxwell Image wrote to a friend abroad with thoughts on national politics. The new Lord Chancellor he disliked was Stanley Buckmaster. His Conservative rival Lord Finlay was eventually to succeed him in the post. Image also admired Lord Stanhope, another Conservative peer.

TCC [Trinity College, Cambridge]
Thursday 10 June ‘15

My Very Dear Old Man

Yours of June 4 reached me at breakfast this morning – not a very sumptuous breakfast – a plate of Quaker Oats (loathsome, because sugar verboten) and a cup of tea…

All your letters come “Opened by Censor”. One don’t know what to write. I hope he’ll pass this remark: that of all the recent Cabinet Shuffles the nastiest is perhaps the Lord Chancellorship to that short-tempered overbearing late tenant of the Censor’s chair. Even “good” Radicals (are there any such?) had expected Finlay: but it is the swagger post for screw, and the stainless patriots refused to let it go out of the party…

A message dropped from an aeroplane promises an air-raid of Zeppelins on C[ambridge] tonight. So universally is it credited that there will be disappointment if it does not come off! In all corners of Trinity College and other Colleges and the Union stand zinc pails filled with sand: and hydrants are ready for the protection of public buildings. You saw of course that in the attack on Venice last Tuesday a bomb was deliberately aimed at St Mark’s. They say the horses have been removed.

Earl Stanhope in the Lords yesterday was the finest and straightest speech yet on the Shell question, and on the Gas. He came from the Front on Saturday and goes back today.

God bless you both.

Yours affect.
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/1)

‘Unhappily he is American!’ – more on the YMCA at Harwich

Sydney Spencer took the opportunity of his 26th birthday to reflect further on his work with the YMCA with soldiers at Harwich, and record his impressions of some of his co-workers – and one ordinary soldier – for posterity. His brother Will, also mentioned here, was a refugee from Germany, where he had been teaching the piano at Cologne Conservatory.

Sunday October 4th
My birthday!…
Dear old Will has just come in to wish me many happy returns & would make me accept a gift of 5s, which I would much rather he had not given me at such a time!…

There is so much about my experiences at Harwich which I want to write on, but as I have written some pages & must just read them over & see what has been left out. I have just read through the 20 pages of my diary at Harwich & find that there are a fair number of little anecdotes which I wanted to chronicle, also I find that I have not written my impressions of Hayes yet, and I promised him he should not be let off but would go down to posterity – or oblivion – according as my diary should [illegible] in the future! I will begin with him first. He is a man 6 ft 2 ins in height; a finely built man, ruddy brown with grey blue eyes & a small moustache. He strikes one as being a splendid specimen of a full grown & well proportioned Englishman. Unhappily he is American! His people left England somewhere about 1727. His parents are missionaries in China. He studied first at a college in America & afterwards as a Rhodes scholar at Merton College, Oxford. He has just finished his course at Oxford taking “greats”. He is a Leander Club man, & just missed getting his “blue” for the sake of getting “Greats”. In fact in Oxford the name “John Hayes” of Merton was a name of one of the “Bloods” of Oxford. He was a remarkably refined and sensitive man. He was alive to every wind of thought, & his sarcasm was of that refined & polished order which made me almost long to offend him so as to be subjected to some of his sarcasm. I used to just hug myself with delight when I saw him put on a lazy sleepy expression for I knew then that the game was up and someone was in for it. The fun he had in his “study” of the officers was delicious & I can see him now marching up and down our marquee with his fingers on his chin or viciously biting his little fingernail, thinking out in the dim light of our post-9.30 candle, just precisely the right message & its exact wording to boot which he should send over to the mess the next morning in return for a rather enigmatic one received by us during the evening…

After I had played at the service in the Co-operative Hall on the first Sunday night I was there, on coming into the body of the hall I was accosted by one of Kitchener’s men who wanted me to have a cup of tea with him at his expense, as a mark of his appreciation of my work. This of course I willingly did & we drank mutual goodwill to each other in cups of tea. I was delighted with this expression of his goodwill. On the night of our concert, that is the Wednesday night, after the preparations for the concert had been made, I found at 6.45 that the tent was already filling with men, while I was in a desperately begrimed condition & needed to find a place to wash & clean myself up. This operation had to take place on the concert platform & I had the curious experience of making my ablutions before an audience of some thirty or forty men! In the middle of these ablutions Captain Watson walked in & chuckled with delight over my idea for footlights, which by the way if I have not before mentioned it were 8 or ten candles placed in saucers on a form.

Dr Marks whom I mentioned in connection with Gravel Hill was a dear old man. A child psychologist – I think a professor of Sheffield University, he had a very beautiful character, & spent himself in his eagerness to do all he could in this YMCA work.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1914 (D/EX801/12)

‘Such revulsions of feelings’: Sydney Spencer’s emotional rollercoaster continues

Sydney Spencer was continuing to work hard as a volunteer at a YMCA tent. He had little time for his diary, but managed to find a few minutes to record his changing feelings:

Tuesday September 21st
I have absolutely had not a moment in which to write, although I have longed to get time to do so. I have had such experiences, such revulsions of feelings, such surprises, pleasures, disappointments, elations, & depressions, all in these few days that I wonder how many months or perhaps years of experience I have had in these ten days …

The work here has proved most strenuous. We have to be up by 5.30 or soon after to supply coffee & tea – seldom tea – for the men. We now have an orderly, Tight by name. he is, I think, strictly honest and fairly hard working too. The lad we had whom we called “Tommy Atkins”, a boy of eleven, who looked seven, & who was as sharp as a needle, proved what I feared he would – not honest! We found that he had been selling 3d packets of cigarettes for 1d, so we had to tell him that we should not need his help any more! Today we have a man here who plays [music, probably the piano] quite respectably & says that he was at Charterhouse to school. His father has a large business in the city – a tailor I believe he is.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/12)