Donkeys and drums

Some clergy had reservations about the unbridled nature of the peace celebrations.

July 1919

Vicar’s Letter

The Signing of the Peace will naturally turn the thoughts of many towards the ‘Peace Celebrations,’ proposed to be held on Saturday, July 19th. I do not think I can do better than quote a few sentences from a letter written by the Bishop of Norwich, which was published in The Times on Saturday, June 28th. With regard to organised festivities in connection with the Celebration of Peace, the Bishop fears lest these should bring out the poorer and not the nobler side of a natural outburst of high spirits, and he says:

‘We do not wish to substitute mere excitement for that quiet sense of fellowship with the living and the dead and that sober thanks-giving which ought to be the real notes of such a day. At this time we have to think not only of peace abroad, but also of true peace and good will at home, and no stimulated and unrestrained merrymaking helps to give us these. The expression of our joy should not be inappropriate to the tender and solemn remembrance of those who have fallen in the war, nor regardless of those who are mourning for the desolation of their homes. This is, indeed, an occasion for joy, but elaborated celebrations are costly, and the country is in no financial position, and many chastened people in no frame of mind, to spend large sums on extravagant exhibitions of rejoicing. Much sacrifice has gone before the day of thanks giving, and much sacrifice must follow it if the Peace is to be as great as the war. I venture to suggest that we should concentrate our efforts on giving the children a happy day, as many of us do at Christmas time when we commemorate the birth of the Prince of Peace. This, I believe, while shielding us from the risks of orgies protracted into the night, would evoke what is best in the hearts of all classes, and would make a memorable occasion for the boys and girls upon whom will eventually rest the task of fully working out the problems of the new age which the Peace has brought with it.’

No words could I think express better my own feelings with regard to the ‘Peace Celebrations,’ and I hope they will equally commend themselves to you all.

August 1919

The Vicar’s Letter

I feel that my first duty is to thank most heartily the Members of the Committee, and all others, who rendered such very efficient help in collecting funds, arranging and cutting up for the tea, and in superintending and devising the capital Sports, etc., which gave so much pleasure to our young guests on the occasion of the Peace Celebration. If only it had been a really fine day! The dampness of the unpleasant drizzle had no apparent effect on the spirits and excellent conduct of the children, yet we all felt it would have been so much brighter had the sun shone out. Provision for the tea was ample and much appreciated. The donkeys were quite up-to-date, and behaved as donkeys have ever done at a Children’s Fête! Most grateful were we to Mrs. Young, Mr Reynolds and Mr. Stretch for the loan of them; they were quite a feature in the programme. And what shall be told of the glory of the bonfire, which apparently surpassed in brilliance any other that could be seen far or near! As soon as the gentleman with the drum was satisfied that he had done enough in celebrating Peace, one was able to get to bed about 1.30 a.m.! thankful that all concerned had had a happy day, and may God grant that the occasion for keeping such a day shall never occur again during the life-time of the youngest of those who were present with us!

Cookham Dean parish magazine, July and August 1919 (D/P43B/28A/11)

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“What we have sunk to makes me sad”

John Maxwell Image had some interesting view on the effects of the war (some unfortunately anti-semitic).

29 Barton Road
7 April ‘19

My very dear old man

We have the American influx on us in full swing – u.g.s as plentiful as before the War: Navy blue and gold by the hundred: and now suddenly the Yanks. Where can all be accommodated?…

Ye take too much upon ye, ye sons of Zeruiah – that is the natural feeling as to the American air. They came in at the last hour – to receive every man a penny, and claim to boss the show.
Britain, bled to the white in men and money, cannot stand up against them. Grousing is no good. Our fighting class are killed off. Those now alive, want only panem et circences [bread and circuses]. They can‘t look beyond the day. Those who can make money, squander it: the unhappy ones with fixed incomes, and with a little saving, to tax for the proletariat’s advantage, won’t find England a fair country to live in, except for the Bolshevik. What claim to his own property will be regarded by Parliament.

Half an hour ago I was shewn Punches Almanack for 1915 – i.e. in the first 6 months of the War. It made me sad! What we expected then; and what we have sunk to. The retreat from Mons had but convinced us that we should thrash von Klack, and certainly – ; that, driven back to Germany, the Kaiser’s Army will be met by Cossacks in occupation of Berlin. No mention could I see of submarines! None of air-raids of any kind! What is more striking still, there was no hint of brutality by German soldiers, anywhere. There seemed in the country a contemptuous disdain for our German opponents. We should stamp them down, as did our fathers, and then Russia would mop them up. Poor Russia! And her German Tsaritsa – the cause of it all!

There was a curdling leader in the paper a few days ago on the Bolshevist Chiefs. Lenin, the writer who knows him [says], has brains and energy: and he is of noble birth. But Trotsky and the others – their names were all given – are one and all of them JEWS – and with the Jew characteristic of making a good thing for themselves, while others do the fighting.

It was a leader in the Times on April 1st (Tuesday). Read it. Trotsky, Zinovieff, Svendloff, Kameneff, Uritsky, Yoffe, Rodek, Litvinoff, many others – Jews one and all.

The Hon. Russell’s new book was reviewed in the Observer, did you see it? The Russell has the impertinence to pretend that Bolshevik ruthlessness is the offspring of Love! Is the man sane? or merely dishonest?

Your dear friend
JMI

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

A new Nurses Salaries Scheme

A nursing charity was now back to full strength, but the war had permanently inflated salaries.

6 March 1919
Nursing Staff

Miss Moxhay suggested that two members of the nursing staff who had been for some time in the service of the Institute and whose salaries were now £38 per annum in addition to a War Bonus, should receive an increased salary of £40. The matter was fully discussed and she was requested to obtain further information from Headquarters as to a new Nurses Salaries Scheme, a short notice of which had appeared in the “Times” of the previous day. She stated that she now had a full staff and that it was working quite satisfactorily.

Minutes of Queen Victoria Institute for District Nursing, Reading (D/QX23/1/2, p. 271)

“Suppose it had been the other thing, not victory but defeat”

The vicar of Reading St Giles was grateful the war had ended in victory at last.

Notes from the Vicar

S. Martin’s Day, November the 11th, will always be remembered as the day on which the armistice was signed and hostilities ceased. It was a wonderful deliverance for which everyone was devoutly thankful. It was most encouraging to see the way groups of people were to be found in church all that day thanking God for his great mercies; and many made their Communion and were present at the Eucharist next morning. On Tuesday evening there was a special service of thanksgiving, which was well attended. The service began with hymn 166, followed by Psalm 100, Isaiah lx1. Was read by the Rev. H.C. Frith; then psalm 46 was sung, and a second lesson (Rev.xx1. 1-9) was read by the Rev. F. Young. The Creed was recited and a special Thanksgiving prayers were offered by the Vicar. The other Hymns were 379, 165 and 298. After the procession a solemn Te Deum was sung. The Vicar gave a short address, taking as his text Psalms 29; verse 10 “The Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.” Only a few words. Thank God. Peace at last! That is the one thought that fills every heart to-day. Thank God. We are met here tonight, at short notice, to say, consciously and deliberately, the same words. Thank God, Peace! Our first thought then must be – it could not be anything else-the thought of God “The snare is broken and we are delivered.” How has this come about? As was said wisely in the Times on Saturday: “No doubt we are right in ascribing our victory to the skill and valour of the men of all ranks, who, as the allied nations, for more than four years, have fought for us by land and sea and air. By their amazing valour and indomitable spirit at last are enemies have been defeated. But they could not have fought thus in their own strength. He is of an uncomprehending mind who does not lift up his heart to the lord of hosts by whose power our valiant men and our allies have attained the victory.”

So said the Times, and that is full of significance. To God alone we ascribe this happy victory. Peace after four years and a quarter of war, and such war as the world has never known. To realize the blessing of our peace we have only to recall those four and a quarter years. Shall we, who are here in this ancient parish church, ever forget them – their darkness, and their sadness, their bereavement and their desolation. It is only when we remember what these years have meant to all classes, the mansion and the cottage alike, that the word peace becomes not merely a passing emotion. And first, then, we turn to God and thank him, as we did in our Eucharist this morning as we are doing now. In God’s name and in His help, then, we shall try to celebrate this gift of peace as something which comes from God.

I could not but help feeling yesterday morning as I heard the syrens and whistles go at eleven o’clock, and I am sure you must have felt the same: suppose it had been the other thing, not victory but defeat. For we have been in great danger of disaster not once or twice. Perhaps how near defeat has been to us few here realise. Dangers across the seas, difficulties at home, we never acquiesced in the thought of defeat, but we knew, those of us who were wise, it was possible. Well, as we think of that, ought it not all the more make us thank God for this great deliverance. Thank God that he has heard our prayers at each Eucharist and at out Intersession Services. It has been said that “it is often harder to acknowledge God in success than in defeat.” Popular language shows how men are more ready to confess his presence in disaster than in success. For one man who is ready to ascribe victory to God, a hundred will declare that pain and sorrow and defeat are the work of his vengeance. And therefore, it is all the more necessary that we should at once thank Almighty God who has brought us safely through these years and now gives us the blessing of peace.

There is no one here who does not feel more than ever with those whose rejoicing at the great victory and at Peace is alas touched with feelings of sorrow and sadness, as they think of those loved ones lying in nameless graves or buried beneath the little white cross. “If only he could have lived to see this day”; well perhaps, truly he sees this day “elsewhere.” We do not forget the gallant dead, who poured out their life’s blood on the field or in the hospitals or on the seas. It was not we who won this war: it was the soldiers and sailors: all gratitude to them, the Dead and the Living who have won our Peace.

I end as I began. Our first thought is one of gratitude to God. Ere this service closes we shall solemnly sing the Te Deum. But, it is not the voice of mere human exaltation which benefits the occasion of this service. It is rather as the Te Deum itself will suggest the acknowledgement of the divine power, in comparison with which all men of all nations are but things of the day. “He increaseth the nations and destroyeth them. He enlargeth nations and chasteneth them again” So we, to-night are here to hope the hope that is born of reliance upon him, the God of our fathers. Who has blessed us in the past and who will not fail nor forget us if we are true to him. “Hope in God for I shall yet thank him. Who is the help of my countenance and my God”.

On the following Sunday (12th), a great many communions were made, and there was an especially large congregation at the high celebration. In the afternoon, a special service of praise and thanksgiving was held for the cadets of the 4th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment and their friends, the church being nearly full. At festal evensong the church was crowded, over 1,500 being present, and many could not get admission. The flags of the allies were carried in the procession by officers and men in khaki, and the service a never to be forgotten one ended with the Te Deum.

We have, indeed, very much to thank God for.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P96/28A/35)

“The war is ending, it seems, but the misery of it cannot end with it”

More details of Sydney Spencer’s shell shock not long before his final days.

Oldbury House
Tewkesbury
9 Nov 1918

Dear Mrs Image

I was dreadfully sorry to hear of Sydney’s death, & it must have been a bitter shock to you, especially when you knew that there had been no real necessity for him to go back to duty when he did. You will be impatient to hear what Capt Dillon told me – though I fear it is as unsatisfactory as all such information must be.

The MC was given, not for any single piece of bravery, but for continued good work during the battallion’s [sic] attack at Morlanecourt (near Albert) on Aug 8-10 & during the previous period when the company had a difficult time owing to the German attack on the division immediately on its right. Sydney put in a tremendous amount of work – too much, Capt. Dillon says: he was too careless about himself, got quite insufficient sleep & really prepared the way for his break-down & shell-shock. While in this over-taxed state the company got shelled rather badly, & a shell fell pretty close with the result that Sydney succumbed to the trembling kind of shock & had to go to hospital on Aug 10th. He was not actually wounded, except for a tiny scratch on the upper arm, which they put some iodine & a dressing on. When he got to hospital he pretended, for fun, that he had a very bad wound & the nurse took extra care in unbinding it, but enjoyed the joke when the wound was revealed. He told Capt. Dillon on his return that he was only really ill for three days, but Capt. Dillon thought that he had come back too soon & in any case sooner than he need have done.

He was first of all in hospital at Rouen & then spent time at Trouville. On his return he seemed very well & cheerful: Dillon saw him again on Sept 10th. The battalion was then very busy preparing for the attack which was to be made on Sept 18th. On the 17th he & Dillon had a cheerful chat about prospects: & Sydney said they both would get nice Blighty wounds & go back together & be out of it comfortably; he seemed quite confident that he was coming out of the affair with his life. On the 18th Dillon was wounded, & Sydney took his place automatically. The company had a very bad time & almost everybody was knocked out. This accounts for the fact that there is so great difficulty in getting any particulars. The attack took place east of Epehy, & Dillon thinks that in all probability it was there that Sydney was killed. The line was being advanced at the time, & in those circumstances, it is some slight consolation to know, his body would probably be buried decently & the exact spot recorded. If you wished to make any enquiries on that point the Graves Registration people would be the ones to apply to. I am afraid I don’t know their address. Capt. Dillon suggests as possible sources of information Sydney’s batman, the chaplain or the company sergeant-major; but I think you have already tried those people. The other lieutenant who was with Sydney was also killed at the same time.

Capt. Dillon can’t say much about the time Sydney was in hospital, & he does not understand how it is that you have heard nothing about it: for he knew that Sydney was in the habit of writing very full letters about everything. The lack of news from the 5th to 10th was probably due to the amount of fighting that was taking place. Capt. Dillon suggests that you might get some particulars of what was happening from the “Times” of 8th-10th – which however he says is full of mistakes (it was their battalion who took Morlanecourt, & the Americans had no share in it). But I feel that what you want is more personal details, & though I managed to extract some from Capt. Dillon (which I have told you) there are doubtless others which might be pumped out by yourself but hardly could be by anyone else. Capt. Dillon is apparently a very good sort, but rather lacks the faculty of unbosoming himself to strangers. If you do ever meet him you may be able to do better than I have; as to actual historical details I think he gave me all he could. One point he mentioned which may interest you was that Sydney won his MC within a mile or so of the sport where Percy [his brother] was wounded; Percy’s division being the next but one in the line. You may already know this.

I do hope that Percy’s wrist is making good progress: I had no idea that it was so bad as you say, or that his nerves were so badly upset. The war is ending, it seems, but the misery of it cannot end with it.


Yours sincerely
R. Harold Compton

Letter from R Harold Compton to Mrs Florence Image regarding the death in action of her brother Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EZ177/8/24)

“We all long for peace, but it must be peace after victory, and the enemy must be thoroughly beaten first”

Even as more men were reported killed, some were determined that no easy quarter should be given to the enemy.

“Sir Albert Stanley, President of the Board of Trade, has sent a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Bourne, the Chief Rabbi, the Salvation Army, and the heads of Churches of all other Denominations in England and Scotland and Wales, calling attention to the serous scarcity of coal, and suggesting that Church Services should be held in daylight.”

The Times, October 17th.

If this should be enforced, we hope our congregation will loyally fall in with such an arrangement.

THE WAR

Our brave troops, along with those of our Allies, have been winning victory after victory for the last three months, and the enemy has made proposals for an armistice to the President of the United States. We all long for peace, but it must be peace after victory, and the enemy must be thoroughly beaten first. We can safely trust to our Rulers, and to our Admirals and Generals, with those of our Allies, to see that no premature peace is entered upon. Now they need all our prayers, that they may be guided to right decisions. We are deeply thankful for God’s recent mercies to us, and we pray that we may be worthy of them. What a glorious day it will be when the war really ends, and our men return home again!

Mrs Doggett has lost her husband, Sidney Newman Doggett, from illness in France, and we offer her our sincere sympathy in her trouble. Like so many others, he has nobly given his life for his country.

ROLL OF HONOUR

91 Albert Edward Marshall, 2nd Batt. Wilts Regt, died of wounds at Haesnes April 12th, 1918. RIP.
92 John William Charles Gough, 5th Batt. West Riding Regt, killed in action July 20th, 1918. RIP.
93 L-Corp. Frederick John Lake, 1st Dorset Regt, killed in action July 20th, 1918. RIP.
94 Pte Jesse A Buxey, 1st Royal Warwicks, killed in action in France August 30th, 1918. RIP.
95 Pte Sidney Newman Doggett, Roayl Warwickshire Regt, died in France September 28th, 1918. RIP.
96 Gunner Philip John Webb, RGA, died of wounds August 15th, 1918. RIP.

Newbury St Nicolas parish magazine, November 1918 (D/P89/28A/13)

There is no British heart that will not swell with gratitude

Maidenhead Congregational Church anticipated the end of the war.

THE WAR.

Since the last issue of our Magazine things have moved on with astonishing rapidity, and at the moment of writing it looks as though the end were fast approaching, and that it will prove a complete victory for the Allies. There is no British heart that will not swell with gratitude. Looking back across the past four years it has been a perilous and tragic time. And now there will be the almost equally important future of reconstruction to face. Did any body of men, since the world began, ever have entrusted to them a graver and grander task than that which is now, in the providence of God, being allotted to the Peace Conference?

The Archbishop of Canterbury has addressed a letter to the “Times,” in which he says,

“Upon all whom my words may reach I would urge the duty of being instant in prayer. Remember before God the statesmen on either side the sea, upon whom rests a burden of responsibility greater perhaps than ever before. The issues may speedily become critical beyond all words. On their firm handling of these issues may depend under God the future of the world. Pray, then, that they may be endued with a large vision of what is just and right, and may act worthily to the trust, we hold for the generations yet unborn.”

There is surely no fitter subject upon which Christians of every name should concentrate just now in prayer.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We regret to say that the wife of T. W. Mulford has applied for leave to return from Egypt to make arrangements about his children, and is probably on the way home at the present time. Ernest Bristow has had another slight operation to his leg, and is again at Cliveden Hospital. Hugh Lewis is at home on leave, in excellent health. Herbert Brand has been wounded, and is in hospital in England.

THE CHURCHES AND COAL ECONOMY.

The Fuel Controller does not seem to have taken counsel with wisdom in asking Churches to abandon evening services to save coal and light. He did not pause to reflect that if a building is heated for morning and afternoon services, it does not require any further fuel for the evening, and that considerably less light is consumed in Church than would be used by the people if they all remained in their own homes. In the interests of national economy, perhaps it would be well to issue an order that everyone should attend public worship every Sunday evening during the winter!


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

“In Glasgow in Stob Hill Hospital they are lying dead by the tens”

A friend or relative of Lady Mary Glyn had some insight into the mixture of pro-Zionism and anti-Semitism in upper class circles. William “Billy” Ormsby-Gore (later Lord Harlech was a convert to Judaism and a leading British Zionist. Meanwhile the terrible influenza epidemic was beginning to make its presence felt.

Oct 26/18
My dear M.

I had a good letter from Ralph of Oct. 22. I answered his queries re Frank, in a long letter, & as I had lunched with Arthur I had some War Cabinet talk. A curious lunch, it had been arranged by Frank, a Jew officer friend of his violently opposed to Zionism. I thought I should see a grave Rabbi, but enter a bubbling schoolboy type, bursting with his views. It was most comic. A. J.’s interruptions. “We must remember there was a Tower of Babel”. And, when some fears were expressed re the Jews, “Don’t be afraid, they will take very good care of themselves – very good care. Every 6th man in New York a Jew”. Billy Gore was there to put the Zionist view. Stern lunches here tomorrow to meet Buffy. I have an intense desire to fall back on ham as the piece de resistance. Stern by name, & no doubt a German in a past, but in the present body an intense Britisher….

I heard yesterday how the American troops are attacked in the transports with this septic pneumonia. No doctor, no nurses, no medicines. On one transport some nurses going to France banded together improvised a hospital, and by shere [sic] nursing, they had no drugs, pulled a lot of men through. In Glasgow in Stob Hill Hospital they are lying dead by the tens. The Times obviously knows it by its leader today….

Ever
[Illegible]

[Sybil or Niall Campbell?] To Lady Mary Glyn (D/EGL/C2/5)

“Wilson is doubtless very able & clever but he is thorough American”

The Revd E C Glyn was concerned that the Americans should not dominate peace negotiations.

St Mary’s
Bramber
Sussex

Oct 14 [1918]

My darling Ralph

I do hope you are all right again by this time & have entirely shaken off this ‘flu & its horrid effects…

I am wondering “where we are” after Wilson’s first reply to the Germans – & I am rather angered that we & W have been addressed alone, instead of the whole body of the Allies. As one unhappy consequence of his “individuality”, I see the Times today in its article divides him & us & speaks of the “Americans & the Allies” which does not look well – & if the Huns can break us even so far, it is bad enough – & we must take care that the unity of the whole bunch of allies is not weakened or impaired. Wilson is doubtless very able & clever but he is thorough American – & I dread our English distrust of Americans, doing a bad work for our real unity of purpose & action….

Your loving father
E C Glyn

E C Glyn to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/5)

“I did not think you were down that line and on the trail of the cauldron horror”

Lady Mary Glyn was closely following the war news. The ‘cauldron horror’ may be a reference to the Red Terror in Russia, or more likely the last bloody fighting in the breaking of the Hindenburg Line. Ralph’s current role was attached to the American Expeditionary Force.

Oct 8 1918
St Mary’s
Bramber
Sussex

My own darling

Your letter of Saturday night here this morning… I see papa Joffre has Flu, & there is so much of it about and I wish you had had the jolly medicine with you. I did send some to your AGF address.

I had been reading so carefully word for word the story of that attack and wondered just how it would strike you, but I did not think you were down that line and on the trail of the cauldron horror. Only the Morning Post believed in the factory. Both D. Chron: & Times believed in the smash in of a shell. But when I got hold of enclosed last night it seemed to me a good hint for BM to AEF & now your letter comes confirming it….

Own Mur

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/5)

“We have lost men and millions, but these wretched French return to smoking ruins”

Florence Image was devastated by the news that her beloved brother Sydney Spencer had been killed, just after returning to the Front after having shell shock.

29 Barton Road
7 Oct. ‘18

My very dear old man

You and your wife’s thoughts will, I know, be with us. We got home from London last Tuesday evening about 7. I was standing in hat and overcoat, my back to the fire, getting a warm. Florrie, the other side of the table, opened a bundle of letters. Suddenly – in a quiet, toneless voice, I heard her saying, “Sydney is killed”. I did not realise her meaning. It stunned me. And she, poor dear – I knew how passionate was the devotion between the brother and sister – and how he idolized her beyond any other woman in the world. She bore up, but I could not. To spare the old parents in their weakness, he (like his elder brother) had left all to her hands to manage. What a week!

The Major’s letter, scrawled in the hurry of the battle, is all that we have heard – and the pencil scrawl was but a few words.

“I am very, very sorry to have to tell you that your brother was killed on Sept. 24th.” (How matter of fact is the announcement!) “He was commanding B Company at the time. He was, I think, the keenest officer I have ever met. A shell burst near him and he was killed on the spot.”

We have heard no syllable since – nor could I find any mention of the Norfolks in the Times syllabus of those days. Poor boy! I told you how he was blown up by a shell on the fourth day of the advance, and how when he insisted on rejoining, the Colonel sent him down to the reserve, as not healed yet; but he wrote to us that he was less “tired” than those officers who had been years in the field – and he seems to have got his way – to this end.

But an end how glorious! He was BA of Oxford and was meaning to enter the church. Always he was doing something for others. It cheers me to remember that his was such a straight, clean, useful life. To us he is not, and never will be, dead.

Oh how I remember his leaving for the Front. He was staying with us, and went straight from our house without stopping, at so early an hour that I was not up. Florrie was with him to give him his breakfast: but I was abed still, when he came in for goodbye, and at the last moment he lifted to his lips my hand lying on the bedclothes. My last sight of Syd! He was so cheerful and so full of life.

Percy, the elder brother, is still at St Thomas’. The doctors marvel at their success with his left arm but he cannot move it yet: will he ever be able? His letter to her ended: “Thank God you have John, and thank God I have you both”.

The Impudence of the Kaiser! Announcing to the army that this tickling of the President was his own action; that he is still all in all. Wilson won’t be slimed over. We have lost men and millions, but these wretched French return to towns and villages that are smoking ruins – deliberately destroyed by the retiring Hun. I don’t care about a town for a town. We know that our squeamishness would let Germany off half price. No. We should compel them, by the labours of their own populace, to restore every ruined French town, every village, yes, every house: and keep military occupation of Germany until this has been done, and to France’s satisfaction.

Also, we should demand ample fines and indemnities.

Florence begs to join me in sending love to Mrs Smith and to you.

In all affection.

Yours
Bild

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

“I thought the Military Cross was only given for bravery but apparently they still have a habit of coming up with the rations”

Conscientious – and modest – Sydney Spencer had been so keen to get back to duty he had not allowed enough recovery time after his experience with shell shock.

Sept 7th 1918

My Dearest Sister

When I ‘caught up’ with the regiment I was immediately ordered back to the transport lines for a few days as they considered I had not given myself enough time to rest enough! Voila! So I am here instead of there! Now in your ear, & John’s ear & Percy’s ear only a secret. Of course I was burning to put this on the first page but thought I would try & look or rather appear on paper bashful. Well I have been – now what do you think? I think I must try & hold out this sentence till I get
[on second sheet:]
on this side of the paper.

Well as I was saying – & I hope by now I have got you into a perfect fervour of impatience – I have been recommended for an MC!! Heavens what a shock it was to me. I thought it was only given for bravery but apparently they still have a habit of coming up with the rations. Mind not a word. I don’t say I have got it, I am recommended for it. So I demand silence on your part until you see in the Times that among some 50 million or so other names of MCs, mine too appears.

All love and affection to you both from

Your always loving Brer
Sydney

Letter from Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/3/75-77)

Good news from France

Florence Vansittart Neale was cheered by the latest war news.

19 July 1918

Read Times.

Good news from France – by counter attack French & Americans retook 8 miles & 5000 prisoners.

Bread to be white soon. No more land to be ploughed up at present.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“His splendid bravery inspired all troops in the vicinity to rise for the occasion”

An experienced officer who in peacetime had worked managing a Wargrave estate was one of the few to be honoured with the Victoria Cross for his great courage. Oliver Spencer Watson (1876-1918) is buried in France.

The Late Lieut.-Col. O. C. Spencer Watson, V.C.

A supplement to the “London Gazette” of May 8th gave the following particulars respecting the award of the V.C. to Lieut.-Col. O. C. Spencer Watson, D.S.O. (Reserve of Officers), late King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry:

“For most conspicuous bravery, self-sacrificing devotion to duty during a critical period of operations. His command was at a point where continual attacks were made by the enemy in order to pierce the line, and an intricate system of old trenches in front, coupled with the fact that his position was under constant rifle and machine gun fire, rendered the situation more dangerous. A counter attack had been made against the enemy position, which at first achieved its object, but as they were holding out in two impoverished points Lieut.-Col. Watson saw that immediate action was necessary, and he let his remaining small reserve to the attack, organising bombing parties and leading attacks under intense rifle and machine gun fire.

Outnumbered, he finally ordered his men to retire, remaining himself in a communication trench to cover the retirement, though he faced almost certain death by so doing. The assault he led was at a critical moment, and without doubt saved the line. Both in the assault and in covering his men’s retirement he held his life as nothing, and his splendid bravery inspired all troops in the vicinity to rise for the occasion and save a breach being made in a hardly tried and attenuated line. Lieut.-Col. Watson was killed while covering the withdrawal.”

“The Times” of May 11th gave the following particulars, respecting Lieut.-Col. Watson: –

He was the youngest son of the late W. Spencer Watson, F.R.C.S., and was educated at St Paul’s and passed into the Army from Sandhurst, being gazetted to the Yorks Light Infantry in 1897. He was invalided in 1904, after taking part in the Tirah campaign 1897-1898, in which he was dangerously wounded, and in the China campaign of 1900, receiving the medal for each of these campaigns, in the first case with two clasps.

In 1910 he joined a Yeomanry regiment, and on the outbreak of war went with them to Egypt as captain and took part in the fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Promoted major, he came home to join a battalion of the Y.O.Y.L.I., going with them to France early in 1917. In May of that year he was dangerously wounded at Bullecourt, and received D.S.O. for gallantry and leadership.

He returned to the front last January, although he had not recovered from the effect of his wound; was shortly afterwards promoted lieut-colonel, and was killed in action on March 28th. Lieut-Colonel Watson was a keen sportsman, and was known locally as a good cricketer, boatman, and footballer, as well as a straight rider to hounds. Up to the time that he joined the forces in the present conflict he had been the estate agent to Sir Charles Henry, Bart., M.P., at Parkwood, and managed the Farm at Crazies Hill.

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

“We have all been made happy by the news of the entry of the British troops and their Allies into the holy city of Jerusalem”

Berkshire clergymen were delighted by the capture of Jerusalem from the Ottomans.


Reading St Mary
The Vicar’s Notes

The best wish that I can send to the people of St Mary’s Parish for 1918 is that it may be a year of Peace. God grant that it may be so.

We have all been made happy by the news of the entry of the British troops and their Allies into the holy city of Jerusalem. This great event was commemorated by a “Te Deum” at St Mary’s at both services on Sunday, December 16th.

An interesting letter appeared in the Times of December 12th from the Archdeacon of Northampton, in which he pointed out that it was at Reading on March 17th, 1185, that Heraclius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, gave to Henry II the keys of Jerusalem and of the Holy Sepulchre with the words: “In thee alone after God do the people of the land put their trust.” And the King’s answer was: “May our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Power, be the defender of His people, and we will be His fellow-workers to the utmost of our power.” Could we have a happier inspiration that these words, or a happier time for the possession of Jerusalem than just before the Festival of our Lord’s Nativity?

Cranbourne

The taking of Jerusalem was celebrated on Sunday, December 16th by a Te Deum sung in procession, and by special psalms, lessons and hymns.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, January 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2); Cranbourne section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, January 1918 (D/P 151/281/10)