“Our pride and gratitude for the work so gloriously completed by our naval and military forces”

There were mixed feelings in Ascot as the war’s human price was still an open wound.

The Ascot Sailors and Soldiers’ Committee have decided that efforts must be made to let every man from our parish serving overseas receive a Christmas present and a message assuring him of our pride and gratitude for the work so gloriously completed by our naval and military forces. Arrangements have already been made for the sending of such presents by registered letter post, so that if not delivered they may be safely returned and presented to any who may have already returned home.

To raise the money required, the R.A.F. have most kindly offered to arrange a special performance in their Cinema, probably on Wednesday, December 11th. Please look out for the announcement and make sure that no seat is left vacant. Members of the Committee will be calling upon relatives to ascertain the latest addresses of the men abroad.

We congratulate Sergt. C.C. Parsons on the great distinction of receiving a bar to his military medal.

The Managers have decided to devote the money which would have been expended on prizes during the past three years, on a Christmas Entertainment for all the Children before the conclusions of hostilities.

While we are all full of thankfulness for the great victory, it is a specially sad to have to record the death of yet another Ascot man, who has died whilst serving his Country. George Smith, for many years in the service of Sir Charles Ryan, died in a military hospital at Tidworth, and was buried at Ascot, on Nov. 23rd. When he was called up for the R.A.F. last summer there were many who doubted whether he was strong enough for a soldier’s life, and our deepest sympathy goes out to his widow and little daughter.

We are glad to hear that George Maunder, who is suffering from gas poisoning, is making progress towards recovery, and we hope that this is the last casualty we shall have to record. We pray that very soon those who have relatives prisoners of war may be relieved of their anxiety, and that we may all share in welcoming them home in safety.

Ascot section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, December 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/10)

Income from the treatment of discharged soldiers has been very large

Newbury District Hospital was profitting from treating discharged soldiers.

The Chairman’s Statement

The Chairman said with regard to the report and the accounts, he would make a few remarks only. They would have seen from the report that the character of the Hospital’s work was very similar to that of the previous year. For the first time they had a small out-patients department for the purpose of treating discharged soldiers who required some special treatment such as massage. Their income from the treatment of soldiers had been very large, but it was not only from the military that their income had increased. Every single item of the ordinary income showed an increase during the year.

The Annual Report

The thirty-third annual report was as follows:-

The past year, 1917, has been a very important one for the hospital. The figures, giving the number of civilian patients admitted, show a decline compared to the previous year by 34, whilst there is an increase of 27 in the number of soldiers admitted. This is due to the extra accommodation of 24 beds in the new Annexe constructed during the early spring. The Benham Annexe was erected, at the very urgent request of the War Office, at a cost of £386.

Many very useful gifts have been received during the past year. The local branch of the British Red Cross Society have provided useful articles for the new ward, amounting to over £50, as well as defraying the cost of entertainments. Mr. Fairhurst and the late Mr. Vollar presented a large circulating electric fan for the Benham Ward. Mr. Porter, of Bartholomew-street, did the entire wiring gratuitously, and Miss Wasey gave the sun blinds. Sir R. V. Sutton kindly lent all the beds, bedding and furniture for the same ward. The Newbury War Hospital Supply Depot have again supplied a large quantity of bandages, swabs, shirts, and dressing gowns, all of which were much appreciated.

Miss Wasey organised a Pound Day, which was most successful. Many entertainments were got up by various ladies in the town and district, which were much enjoyed by the soldiers. Special donations towards the Benham Ward were received from Mrs. Caine, Sir W. Walton, Mr. Fairhurst, and the hon. sec. Mr. Tufnall sent the proceeds of a week’s Cinema performance, which amounted to £67 17s., and Mrs. C. Ward’s Garden Fete at Burghclere, realised £30 18 s.

During August the War Office transferred the distribution of soldiers from Tidworth to Reading. The Berkshire Branch of the British Red Cross Society asked us to receive paralysed soldiers for special treatment in the hospital: this was willingly agreed to, and also the promise of two beds to be allotted for that purpose. A very important service that the Hospital is doing just now, is the treatment of discharged soldiers sent to them by the Military War Pensions Committee, who have appointed Dr. Heywood as their medical referee.

Annual General Meeting held at The Newbury District Hospital on Friday April 19th 1918: Newbury District Hospital minute book (D/H4/3/2)

“Now the beds are always kept full”

Many wounded soldiers were treated at Newbury District Hospital, with much help from local people.

The Thirty Third Annual Report of the Managing Committee of the Newbury District Hospital For the year ending December 31st, 1917.

The Past Year has been a very important one for the Hospital.

The figures, giving the number of Civilian Patients admitted, shew a decline compared to the previous year by 34, whilst there is an increase of 27 in the number of Soldiers admitted: this is due to the extra accommodation of 24 beds in the New Annexe constructed during the early spring.

There was a certain amount of delay before these beds were filled, and but for that fact, there would have been a very much larger increase in the number of Soldier Patients for the year.
The Benham Annexe was erected, at the very urgent request of the War Office, at a cost of £386. The Buildings, though similar to the previous one, cost rather more owing to the higher price of material and labour. It is situated on the West Side of the Main Buildings, and adjoins the Thurlow Ward.

Many very useful gifts have been received during the past year. The Local Branch of the British Red Cross Society have provided useful articles for the new ward, amounting to over £50, as well as defraying the cost of entertainments got up for the soldiers. Mr. Fairhurst and the late Mr. Vollar presented a large circulating electric fan for the Benham Ward. Mr. Porter, of Bartholomew Street, did the entire wiring gratuitously, and Miss Wasey gave the sun blinds, which were much needed.

Sir R. V. Sutton kindly lent all the beds, bedding and furniture for the same ward.

The Newbury War Hospital Supply Depot have again supplied a large quantity of bandages of various kinds, also swabs, shirts, and dressing gowns, all of which were much appreciated. Miss Wasey again came forward to organize Pound Day, which took place in June, and was most successful. Many Entertainments were got up by various ladies in the town and district, which were much enjoyed by the soldiers.

Special Donations towards the Benham Ward were received from Mrs. Caine, Sir. W. Walton, Mr. Fairhurst, and the Hon. Sec. Mr. Tufnail sent the proceeds of a week’s Cinema performance which amounted to £67 17s. 0d., and Mrs. C. Ward’s Garden Fete at Burghclere, realised £30 18s. 0d.

During August the War Office transferred the distribution of soldiers from Tidworth to Reading; this was done for the purpose of economising transport; the result has been quite satisfactory to the hospital, for now the beds are always kept full. Whilst the change was being carried out, we were able to close the Wards for a month for the purpose of painting and cleaning, which was thoroughly done.

The Berkshire Branch of the British Red Cross Society asked us to receive paralysed soldiers for special treatment in the hospital; this was willingly agreed to, and also the promise of two beds to be allotted for that purpose.

A very important service that the Hospital is doing just now, is the treatment of discharged soldiers sent to them by the Military War Pensions Committee, who have appointed Dr. Heywood as their Medical referee; these men come to the Hospital either as in-patients, or out-patients, for special treatment, and arrangements have been made that they come at fixed times on certain days for their treatment.

The Financial position of the Hospital is quite satisfactory; it has been well supported with liberal Subscriptions and Donations. The Hospital Saturday Fund amounted to £160; this is a record, and well to be proud of. The success of this fund is entirely due to the energetic Secretary, Mr. W. H. Paine, and his many willing workers. The League of Mercy kindly sent a grant of £15.
The Committee wish to thank, very heartily, all the Medical Staff, in Drs. Adams, Hemsted, Coplestone and Simmons, for all their useful work to the Hospital during a very strenuous year. The Committee’s thanks are due to Dr. Heywood, who returned from abroad in the autumn, and resumed his work at the Hospital; he has been appointed Medical Officer to the soldiers, thus releasing the other Medical Staff.

The thanks of the committee are offered to Mrs. Sharwood-Smith (Commandant), Miss. Cecile Boldero (Assistant-Commandant), Mrs. Adrian Hawker (Quartermaster), and the Ladies of Newbury Volunteer Aid Detachment for the great work that they are doing; to Miss Cecile Boldero, who has been a most consistent worker during the year, and has been a great help to the Staff; to Miss. Salway, who has given her services by providing special treatments to the soldiers; to Mr. Graham Robertson, for his useful help in the clerical work connected with the soldiers; and to Mr. Alleyne for kindly looking after the recreation room.

The best thanks are due to the Matron and her assistant Nurses during a very strenuous year, the increased number of soldiers naturally added very much to their work, and high praise is due to the efficient way in which they have performed their various duties. The difficulties in catering during the latter part of the year increased the work of the Matron considerably, who deserves praise and thanks of the Committee for her excellent management.

Newbury District Hospital Annual Report, 1917 (D/H4/4/1)

Happy evenings

Soldiers training at home were grateful for the hospitality shown by Reading people.

Our Soldiers’ Club

This is now well established and a steady increase in the attendance testifies to the appreciation of the comforts provided. Though only open a fortnight, the following letter is the grateful testimony of one who came every night and looked on the Club as “home”:- Reading 20/10/17.

Dear Mr. Stevens, –

You no doubt will be surprised to learn that I am leaving Reading this afternoon for Tidworth. It came very unexpectedly. I cannot let this occasion pass without tendering very heartfelt thanks for the way that I have received and the kindness shown to me by various gentlemen of the soldiers’ club. In fact, I will always look back upon the happy evenings which I spent there with very pleasant memories. I cannot tell you how I feel in leaving Reading, but will always maintain that the Trinity Congregational Church Soldiers Club is worthy of the highest credit which it thoroughly deserves, and I sincerely hope and trust that the good work will continue and that Miss Austin will sell the refreshments better than ever.

Again thanking you one and all,

Believe me, I remain,

Yours Sincerely,

John J. Kingdom.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, November 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

Not suitable for convalescents

A special meeting of the Managing Committee of Newbury District Hospital was called when the hospital’s provisions were downgraded from treating wounded soldiers to acting as a glorified nursing home. The hospital was deeply offended.

Thursday July 5th 1917:

The Hon. Secretary produced correspondence received from the Officer in charge of the Military Hospital, Tidworth, from which it appeared Newbury Hospital had been transferred to the control of Reading War Hospital as from June 18th and in future Convalescent Soldiers were to be received instead of Soldiers from Overseas.

After discussion, it was resolved to request the Hon. Secretary to write to the Military Authorities and state the Managing Committee of the Hospital learn with surprise that Convalescent Soldiers are in future going to be sent instead of Overseas Patients, the Committee do not know the reason for the change as they are perfectly ready as before to receive Overseas Patients & have recently at the urgent request of the Military Authorities spent a large sum of money in building a new annexe for the purpose of receiving Overseas Patients, the mixing of Convalescents with ordinary Civilian Patients is not workable.

The Newbury District Hospital is established for the treatment of Patients from the Neighbourhoods for cases of Sickness & Accidents and two Buildings have been specially erected to accommodate wounded Soldiers. Already between 400 and 500 wounded Soldiers have been successfully treated. No complaint whatsoever of the treatment of them has been received & the Committee have heard with surprise that Convalescents are going to be sent. Are there any reasons for the change?

Our staff of Doctors and Nurses are fully qualified and we possess all the necessary appliances of a fully established Hospital and in the opinion of the Committee it is not suitable for Convalescents.

It was unanimously agreed to send a copy of the above resolution to the Military Authorities to be followed with a request for an interview.

Newbury District Hospital minute book (D/H4/3/2)

“They wanted the beds badly, but were not in a position to provide the extra cost”

Newbury District Hospital was taking more and more wounded soldiers, and even had to build an extension at their own expense.

Annual General Meeting held at The Newbury District Hospital on Friday March 9th 1917

Committee’s Report

The record of the past 12 months may be told in a few words. Though the year 1916 has been in a sense an uneventful one, having been marked by no additions or alterations to the structure of the hospital, it shows an increase in the amount of work done amongst both civilians and soldiers over all former years. The resources of the hospital have been taxed to the full, as many as 74 beds having been occupied at one time. As in 1915, five convoys of wounded soldiers have been received from the Front. The total of civilian patients, amounting to 365 (not counting X-ray cases) exceeds the number of those treated in the previous year by 10, whilst 63 more soldiers have been treated than in 1915. Of these latter, there has been a considerably larger proportion of severe cases.

When the temporary annexe was put up at the end of 1914 for the reception of the wounded, there were not many who supposed that it would still be in use during a third winter. But the building, in spite of its light construction, has served its purpose well, and beyond some strengthening of the roof, has needed little repair. A sum of about £100 has been spent in painting the outside woodwork of the hospital and in completing the decoration of the Kerby Wing.

Military Hospital

A notice had been given that at the conclusion of the annual meeting a special meeting would be held to pass a resolution for the expenditure of a sum, not exceeding £300, of the capital funds of the Hospital, in providing further accommodation for military patients.

The Chairman, in introducing the subject, said the Medical Officer at Tidworth saw the Matron and asked her to provide further beds, as 25,000 wounded soldiers more would be placed in the Southern Command. It appeared to them that the one hospital especially suited was Newbury as being on the main line for Southampton. The matron pointed out to him the impossibility of further beds in the present building, and that the staff, which was sufficient for the present accommodation, would be too few for a different building. Miss Atkins brought the matter before the Chairman of the House Committee, and the House Committee referred to the Managing Committee.

It appeared at first that the Government might be induced to provide some, if not all of the money necessary. That was not received with enthusiasm by the authorities. The Managing Committee and Mr. Vollar went into the matter thoroughly, and decided that the Army appeal was of such a nature that they could not do otherwise than accept the proposal and the obligation involved. Efforts were made to get the Government to provide the additional cost of an annexe. The hon. Secretary interviewed the Medical Officer of the Southern Command, and he interviewed the War Office. The authorities’ attitude was that they wanted the beds badly, but were not in a position to provide the extra cost. It was pointed out that the hospital as arranged at present was sufficient for the needs of the neighbourhood, and that these extra buildings would only be used for the War Office. They had strong grounds therefore to ask for assistance, but it was definitely stated that they would get no money nor extra doctors or nurses. They decided to do their best. The conditions in the building trade made it difficult to get work done. At a special meeting it was arranged that Mr. Hitchman should do the work, and at once order the materials. He proposed that they authorise the expenditure of not more than £300 out of capital funds of the Hospital, and ratify the action the Managing Committee had taken before the meeting.

Mr. Savill said that he had been in communication with the Medical Colonel, and he could not promise any financial assistance. He did give one concession, and that was that formerly they had received 3s. 6d. per man per week; now it was suggested that 4s. would be paid. They would save £100 for beds and bedding, which would be supplied by Sir Richard Sutton. Mr. Hitchman had been able to get the galvanised iron. The cost would be £300, anything over that amount would have to be paid out of revenue.

Mr. Vollar said Mr. Hitchman had agreed to work on a five per cent profit. He would show his receipts. It was a very handsome and liberal offer on Mr. Hitchman’s part.

The resolution was passed, Mr. Peake seconding, and the meeting concluded.

Newbury District Hospital minutes (D/H4/3/2)

‘As slow as carthorses’: Percy Spencer tries to move on

Percy Spencer continued to struggle getting his transfer organised. On 19 September he wrote again to Captain Holliday, his peacetime boss, suggesting a medical discharge might be fudged:

Pte Spencer
11814
The Gloucester Regiment
YMCA Tent
Horfield Camp
Bristol
Sep. 19.14

Dear Sir

As wired to you today, I can’t get the adjutant to transfer or discharge. He is not unwilling, but acting, as it seems to me, on the advice of the head clerk in the Orderly Room, he cannot see his way to do anything.

I suggested that a medical exam might discover that I had a weak heart (which I’m supposed to have), or that a stiff joint on my big toe might get me a discharge, but this I understand would prevent my re-enlisting.

The only course he could suggest was that you should apply to the War Office through your CO for my transfer. This I gathered might involve the payment of a few pounds, but I should of course be prepared to repay this to you.

As I am being shoved about from pillar to post pending the settlement of this matter, and if I do not soon get away to Abbey Wood (which would be convenient) I shall be booked for this place or Tidworth (both of which units I hope to avoid), could you let me know by Monday (midday) whether you are doing anything further in the matter. Otherwise I propose to apply for my pass to Abbey Wood to rejoin my company. Drilling with Cheltenham farm hands is getting on my nerves – they’re as slow as carthorses, though very useful lads to have around in a charge, if once they get going, I should think.

I daresay, too, if I get attached to a permanent training station, I shall get through my course in time to see some service.

But I hope to hear on Monday that you have been able to take further steps in the matter of my transfer.

In any case, whether you are able to do this or not, I am very glad you wanted me to serve under you, and grateful for all the trouble you have taken.

Yours faithfully
Percy J Spencer
To – Staff Captain Holliday

Letter from Percy Spencer to Captain Holliday, D/EZ177/7/12/5

“One poor fool has cut his throat” – difficult conditions for the recruits

No sooner had he joined the army than Percy Spencer began to have second thoughts. Conditions at the camp he was assigned to were dreadful, with one suicide. His former boss, Reginald Holliday, had a staff post in the Territorial Army, and was keen for Percy to join him. But would this be possible faced with army bureaucracy? A lengthy struggle kicked off with this letter.

No. 3 Company
Gloucester Regiment
YMCA Tent
Horfield Barracks
Bristol
Sep. 13, 14

Dear Sir

Thank you so much for your letter – I’m very glad you think I’ve done the right thing.

I should like nothing better than to be with you in this business, so if you think I should be useful to you, I shall be more than glad if you can arrange a transfer as you are good enough to suggest.
I sincerely hope you will be able to do this, but in fairness to you, must point out that I am the rawest of recruits – a four days soldier, without uniform or kit. Moreover we have all been badly mauled by some OTC youngsters here.

But you will know whether I should be up to the work you require me to do, and, needless to say, I would do my utmost not to disappoint you, sir.

Today I have been transferred to No. 3 Company, and believe I shall get my number tomorrow when it is rumoured that we are to go to Tidworth, Aldershot or Woolwich. If we are moved, I will advise you at once.

Conditions are very bad here, and men are sneaking off, and one poor fool has cut his throat. But the camp is well situated in glorious country, and the staff here are undoubtedly doing their utmost to deal with an unprecedented situation.

Yours faithfully
Percy J Spencer
To –
Staff Captain R J Holliday
6th London Infantry Brigade

Letter from Percy Spencer to Captain Holliday (D/EZ177/7/12/1)