“The line is a very different country now to what it was when I was here in September 1916”

Percy Spencer, as a single man, relied heavily on his sister Florence for the supply of toiletries and other things, and even asked her to do his mending. He was pleased to hear that former art student brother Stanley had been asked to join the War Artists scheme. As Percy proudly predicted, it was to be the first step in a starry career.

June 5, 1918

My dear WF

Thank you for the long letter, battery, key ring and tinder ‘lighter’, the lighter however does everything but light and the battery is the wrong shape. I think I said tubular. However I’m trying to get one here.

I got the last parcel – in fact all you have sent I think, dear. But letters do seem scarce when one’s only correspondents are a dear sister and one’s mother and father.

Can I give you another wants list –

6 eyelets for field boots
1 pair long laces (field boots)
2 pairs mohair laces (ankle boots)
Cake Wrights coal tar soap
Tube Kolynos tooth paste

3 or 4 pairs of socks I have, want mending. May I send them back to you on receipt of some from you?

I can’t remember whether I left any at my diggings. If you have none I’ll write to Mrs Curtis.

I’m having a lovely time camped in a wood by a stream. Worked pretty hard, as the orderly room has run downhill badly and I’m applying ginger.

We generally get a few hours bombing each night and occasional shelling and gas shelling, but nothing very near. Had a lucky escape further back a week or so ago. The Huns shelled our camp and dropped a shell close to the tent the doctor and I were in and between 2 bivouacs. Luckily we were all sleeping at the time and the force of the explosion and another from the shell went over us.

Last night I went for a walk up the line as I was feeling rather bilious. It was about 8 miles up from here. A very different country now to what it was when I was here in September 1916. It was a very quiet trip, no shelling or machine gunning. Arrived back at 2.30 am and feel all the better for my walk this morning.

Have you seen that Gen. K has got a CMG?

Your news about Stanley is the best that has reached me for many a day. Of course it’s a terrific compliment to his work and an appreciation which may be the making of his name.

I rather think that Sydney is north of me.

Yours ever

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/41-44)

“If you dare mention little tattling birds & ‘scared of shells’ to me again I’ll —“

Sydney Spencer addressed this note (written in pencil) to his sister Florence. Someone had told her he was afraid of the costant shelling.

Time 4.15 pm Date May 17th Year 1918 Place A mortal coil

My Darling Sister Mister

I want nothing now except some toothpaste, my love, & you could send that with your weekly letter. You say weekly, but I seem to get them nearly every other day! If you dare mention little tattling birds & ‘scared of shells’ to me again I’ll —. …

If I had felt scared I should make no bones about the matter, but you must remember that as a bombing officer I got so used to ‘explosions’ that although shells & whiz-bangs & machine guns struck me as being a bit incongruous & out of place – as they seem a sort of affront & one feels inclined to say ‘how dare you! Do you know who I am?’ Still, to say or even whisper that I was scared of them is emphatically a terminological inexact trick….

I hope that will temporally [sic] satisfy a sister who loves to feel that war is all martyrdom to an always affectionate


PS But it isn’t. NOT NOHOW.

Letter from Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/3/35)

Nothing to indicate war but the sound of the guns

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence with various requests, and dropped a few hints that he was soon to go to the front lines.

April 18 1915

Dear Florrie

Before I forget it, will you send me a tube of KOLYNOS toothpaste, and can you get me a diary pad (Letts) … a week on a page.
Also before I forget it, do you want any money? I haven’t drawn any pay at all yet, and do not in any case propose to draw more than a [score?] or so francs per month. Shall I send any to you periodically, or shall we square later on? If possible I should prefer the latter.

By the way, in case of accidents, I am entitled to 2.6 per day from Marks and may be entitled to 3/6 per day – for this I have applied. The sum of money due to me can be ascertained from my pay book, which shows all payments made to me.

I expect to be very busy for the next fortnight, so don’t expect to hear much from me.

Today it’s perfectly glorious.

I’m sitting in the farm – or one of the farms belonging to the house – in the sunshine, with the chickens scratching around and nothing to indicate war but the sound of the guns…

Yours ever

I’ve just received another parcel from you with tobacco, torch & chocolate.

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/4/24)