French holding fairly, lost in some parts, but fighting very hard

It was the last day of Sydney Spencer’s gas training course.

Sydney Spencer
Monday 10 June 1918

Got up at 7.15. After breakfast, I wrote up some of my notes. Then to lecture given by chemical adviser Major Edwardes-Ker, on Responsibilities of Officers.

Then the usual last day of course lectures by students. Very droll, some of them, too. Major Knights was asked about Green X shells & spoke lengthily about what his CO had said concerning yellow X shells. Jones the Welsh man had a fit of spoonerisms, talking of ‘belastic lands’ for elastic bands! Poor Bin – he was dumb! Hardwick knew nothing but was so droll as to pass it all off. Graham was very good indeed. I had to speak on ‘Reliefs’ & gassed areas, etc. Major Ker promised to send my notes down to Broadbent in England. Wore SBB for an hour. After lunch a short lecture by Ash. Then break up of school.

After tea to Hesdin shopping & a bath at common dark place. Dinner, a short walk with Major Knights and then the completion of note writing up to 12.30 am. Wrote letter to Major Ker, reference notes & to bed & read Tartarin de Tarascon.

Florence Vansittart Neale
10 June 1918

Canadians left 9.45…

Disturbed siesta. Soldiers came early – nice set of men. Boats, bowls, croquet & tennis. Left 6.30.

French holding fairly. Lost in some parts, but fighting very hard.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer in France (D/EZ177/8/15); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

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A sumptuous tea and games for wounded soldiers

Wounded soldiers in Reading were treated to a summer afternoon’s entertainment.

HELP-ONE-ANOTHER SOCIETY

The tea for 54 wounded soldiers from various hospitals given by the members of the H.O.A.S. on July 11th on St John’s Lawn was a very great success. The weather, though threatening, was kind, and not being too hot made it all the more enjoyable. 170 in all sat down to a sumptuous tea, after which the soldiers thoroughly entered into all the various amusements arranged for them, viz, croquet, tennis, clock golf, sports and competitions. Prizes were awarded to the winners. The Committee wish to thank all the kind friends and members who contributed to generously to the tea, etc.

A letter has been received from Mrs Field, in which she wishes to convey her grateful thanks to all the workers of the above Society who sent so many articles to the depot. She says that everything was most acceptable, and more especially just now when there is an extra demand on them in consequence of so many wounded coming to the town.

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

Social Evening for Wargrave’s wounded soldiers

Wounded soldiers recovering in the Wargrave area were invited to a social evening including cards and refreshments.

Social Evening

The Wargrave Tennis Club arranged a most successful Social Evening on February 16th in the Woodclyffe Hall, when over 130 guests were present including most of the wounded soldiers from the V.A.D. Hospital in Wargrave and Sir Charles Henry’s Hospital at Crazies Hill. In the Whist Drive the prize winners were:- Ladies, 1st Miss Pilworth, 2nd Miss Hayes, Mystery, Miss Blackwall, and Consolation, Mrs. H. Barker. Gentlemen:- 1st, Trooper Foster, 2nd, Mr. W. Hunt, Mystery Sergeant Fawcett, Consolation, Mr. W. Hope. The prizes were kindly provided by Mrs. Hinton, Mrs. Pennell (Lawrence Waltham) and Mrs. Ward (Osterley Park). The Committee were able to hand over a sum of three guineas to the V.A.D. Hospital authorities. The catering for refreshments was most capably superintended by Mrs. Hanson.

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

Making up for other men’s lack of duty

Sydney Spencer wrote to his brother Percy to tackle Percy’s doubts about Sydney’s joining up. Sydney was still at Oxford at this point, and this letter explains exactly why he chose to join the army.

12 Southmoor Road
Oxford
Monday June 7th [1915]

My dear Percy

So I hear from Flo [their sister Florence] that you don’t approve. And why. Because you want to shield me from horrors which other people have to endure. Well that doesn’t wash. As things stand now, if the horrors were 50 times greater it would make little difference. If you were over here in England just now to hear the way some men talk you would be glad enough that anyone should be willing. I played tennis last week. A lolling lazy looking Welshman enters into conversation with me.

“Why don’t you think you will pass Mods?”
“Because the OTC work has swallowed up an enormous amount of time.” “Well I suppose you must have liked military life to make you join the OTC”.
“Yes indeed,” I said, “a man who has spent most of his life reading poetry & playing the piano would naturally be deeply absorbed in such work!”
“Well I can’t understand what made you join the OTC if you didn’t like the work.”

I just looked at him, & then he said in a confused tone “Oh I suppose you felt it a duty.”

I don’t say that there are numbers of such people about but I feel that it is well to make up in any small way possible for what is lacking in other men’s sense of duty by offering myself unconditionally.

If the thing turns out to be too much, well I should knuckle under, I suppose, & what’s left of me would get a discharge, & would settle down to civilian life again with this much added to it however, that I had done my share even if it was ever so small a share. As to my being saved from these horrors, I don’t see a single argument in favour of such an attitude. Put me in Madame Tussaud’s & preserve me in spirits right out, one might as well suggest, and I prefer neither of those alternatives. I feel that if God Almighty has other work for me to do, He will play the Germans all sorts of tricks, so that I may pull through. And if I don’t, well I shall fall in good company.

Letter from Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/4)