The best results are obtained only by getting into touch with the men personally

Thousands of wounded or sick troops had now returned home. the nation owed them support for their service. Some needed medical help, others re-training for new occupations, or help finding jobs.

The Disablements Sub-committee beg to report that they have been notified of approximately 2,524 disabled soldiers and sailors discharged into the county. Of the cases now entered upon the Register, which exclude those being investigated, the numbers specifying disabilities are as follows:

Amputation of leg or foot 51
Amputation of arm or hand 34
Other wounds or injuries to leg or foot 353
Other wounds or injuries to arm or hand 147
Other wounds or injuries to head 69
Other wounds or injuries 192
Blindness and other eye affections 77
Heart diseases 217
Chest complaints 93
Tuberculosis 101
Deafness and affections of the ear 72
Rheumatism 151
Epilepsy 37
Neurasthenia 47
Other mental affections 31
Other disabilities 532

Of this number all have been provided with a Medical Attendant [i.e. a doctor] under the National Health Insurance Act, and special treatment, including the supply or repair of artificial limbs and surgical appliances, has been provided in accordance with the recommendations of Military Authorities, Medical Boards or ordinary medical Attendants.

From the 1 April 1917, 280 cases have received Institutional treatment – both in and out-patient – at Military Hospitals, Civil Hospitals, Sanatoria, Cottage Hospitals or Convalescent Homes.
The total number of tuberculous soldiers and sailors to date is 101, and of these 72 have received Institutional treatment within the County under the County Scheme and three have received Institutional treatment outside the County Scheme. This treatment is provided through the County Insurance Committee.

The Committee has assisted with Buckinghamshire War Pensions Committee in the provision of a new wing for Orthopaedic Treatment at the King Edward VII Hospital, Windsor. This, which was urgently needed, and will be of the greatest benefit to men in that part of the county, will be opened in the course of two or three weeks. The Committee has also been instrumental with the Buckinghamshire Committee in obtaining the approval of the Minister of Pensions to a proposed Scheme for the provision, equipment, and establishment of a special hospital for totally disabled soldiers and sailors at Slough and an assurance from the Ministry of adequate fees for maintenance thereof. Her Royal Highness Princess Alice is forming a provisional Committee, and we have every hope that the proposed arrangements will e speedily carried into effect.
(more…)

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Training is given free to disabled soldiers who are unable to take up their old employment

Big problems were faced by former soldiers who had been sent home because they were no longer medically fit to serve, often because they were now permanently disabled. The Burghfield parish magazine offered advice:

Discharged Soldiers and War Pensions

A man’s discharge dates, not from the day he leaves the colours, but from three weeks afterwards, ie. from three weeks after his return home. For those three weeks he should receive his pay, also a gratuity of £1 and an allowance of 17/6 in place of plain clothes, and also any arrears that are due to him. If a wife or dependant is receiving an allowance it should be continued, and the ring paper not withdrawn, for two weeks after the expiration of the three weeks. if the pension which is due after discharge is not paid, application should be made to the War Pensions Sub-committee, either through Mr and Mrs Willink, who are serving on it, or to the Secretary of that Sub-committee at the Shire Hall, Reading, any day except Monday or Wednesday.

If there should be a delay in the issue of the pension, this Sub-committee has power to give a returnable grant till the money is forthcoming. Training is given free to disabled soldiers who are unable to take up their old employment. The following are some of the trades being taught: Engineering, including Aeroplane work, Building and House Decorating, Printing, Furniture, Leather Goods and Boot and Shoe Making, Cane and Willow Industry, etc. A form is issued for each disabled soldier to sign and fill up, so that his case may be investigated should there be any distress or need.

MGW

Burghfield parish magazine, December 1917 (D/EX725/4)

The provision of light employment for discharged partially disabled men incapable of doing a full day’s work

The Disablements Sub-committee of the Berkshire War Pensions Committee reported on training programmes for disabled ex-soldiers, who faced an uncertain future.

The Disablements Sub-committee beg to report that the two schemes for training at Basildon and Windsor have now been approved by the Pensions Minister, with the exception of boot-making at Basildon, which is only provisionally sanctioned. The gardening course at Windsor has been extended from six to twelve months for suitable cases. Both schemes are now in full operation. Since the last meeting the Royal Warrant of April 1917 for treatment and training has come into force, payments being made under it as from 23 July 1917.

A list of hospitals throughout the county where treatment can be obtained for discharged men has been sent forward for approval to the Pensions Minister, also a special application for further necessary accommodation for out-patient treatment at King Edward VII Hospital, Windsor, to enable the authorities of that hospital to provide orthopaedic treatment for discharged disabled men within a radius of ten miles of that hospital. A special request was also put forward as regards the lack of hospital facilities in parts of North Berkshire, especially in the Wallingford District. It is proposed to formulate a scheme to include all facilities and arrangements for medical treatment and submit it as a whole for the approval of the Pensions Minister.

The National Health Insurance Commissioners have made new arrangements in respect of medical benefit for all discharged soldiers and sailors invalided from the Service, and have included those whose incomes do not exceed £160 per annum. Medical Practitioners are required to report to the Insurance Committee as to any special treatment to be provided by the Disablements Committee under the arrangements above alluded to. The scheme will also provide for any treatment recommended by a medical board for a man after his discharge, or for any man for whom treatment is recommended at the time of his discharge from the service by his invaliding board.

Instructions having been received from the Pensions Minister that discharged men who are not in receipt of a pension owing to the disability for which they were discharged not being considered attributable or aggravated by war service have now been afforded facilities for appealing against this decision. Instructions have been issued to all Sub-committees that such cases should be referred to this Committee. Three cases for appeal are coming up shortly for consideration.

The provision of light employment for discharged partially disabled men who are incapable of doing a full day’s work has been considered. A joint public appeal with the County Borough of Reading Committee has been issued through the Press to employers throughout the county for help in this important matter…

During the last three months 643 cases have been entered on the Register, making a total of 1,513 cases. In addition 325 cases (approximately) are being investigated. 512 new cases have been sent out to the various Sub-committees as follows:

Abingdon 34
Easthampstead 20
Faringdon 20
Hungerford 13
Lambourn 5
Maidenhead 72
Newbury 84
Reading Rural 43
Wallingford 27
Wantage 27
Windsor 95
Wokingham 52

220 cases have been considered by the Disablements Committee, treatment in hospital has been arranged for 62 cases, Sanatorium treatment for 7 cases, special training for 23 cases, and a number of men have been placed in employment.

12 November 1917

Berkshire County Council minutes, 1917 (C/CL1/1/21)

“The war is doing us a lot of good”

Maysie Wynne-Finch wrote to her brother Ralph Glyn in Egypt with the news that she and her wounded husband were going to be based in Windsor until he was well enough to return to the Front. Their aunt Sybil was still receiving letters from her son Ivar, written before his recent death in action.

Feb 11/16
11 Bruton St W
Darlingest R.

I had a mysterious message from Meg’s house today saying Colonel Sykes had called leaving a small parcel from you, & saying he was just home from the Dardenelles [sic]. I had the said parcel brought here, & it is a couple of torch refills apparently unused from Stephenson. I must get hold of Colonel Sykes for an explanation.

Our plans are now fixed up to a point. The doctor, [dear?] man, said John was not to return to France for 3 months, this being so the regimental powers that be used much pressure to get him to reconsider his refusal of the 5th Battalion Adjutancy, & so after being told they won’t try & keep him after he’s fit for France, he has said yes. There is no doubt it’s good useful work for home service, if it has to be, & I am glad for him, though I suppose I shall now see little or nothing of him at all. He begins on Monday. He went house hunting on Tuesday – a depressing job, as there are hardly any houses to be had, & those one more beastly than the other! However – nothing matters – it’s just wonderful to be there at all. We shall take what we can & when we can – that’s all. The house we long for, but it’s not yet even furnished, is one, & a charming old house done up & owned by that old bore Arthur Leveson Gower, you remember the man, we met at the Hague, years ago. Tony has been ill again with Flu, the 2nd time this year…

We’ve just had tea with Aunt Syb. She got another letter from Ivar written Jan 1, last Friday. It’s awful for her, & yet I think there is most joy, rather than pain, the hopeless silence is for a moment filled, though but as it were by an echo. Joan looks pale & oh so sad. She’s wonderfully brave & unselfish to Aunt Syb. Poor little Joanie…

I hear Pelly’s opinion is that Kut must fall. London was filled with rumours of a naval engagement on Monday & Tues, but as far as I can make out without foundation.

I met Ad[miral] Mark Ker[r] in the street the other day, & we had a long talk. I fear he’s not improved – & I think very bitter at being out of it all. He was interesting over Greece etc, but there is so much “I” in all he says, one cannot help distrusting a great deal. He’s very upset as he was starting to return to Greece a week ago & at the very last moment was stopped, & now he’s simply kicking his heels, not knowing what’s going to happen next. “Tino” now is of course his idol & here – I feel a pig saying all this, as I do feel sorry for him, & he was most kind. Yesterday he asked us to lunch to meet Gwladys [sic] Cooper, Mrs Buckmaster, how lovely she is, & seems nice, almost dull John thought! We then went on to the matinee of her new play. Most amusing, she is delightful, & Hawtrey just himself…

As you can imagine air-defence & the want of it is now all the talk. One of our airships has taken to sailing over this house from west to east every morning at 8.30 am. I hear we broke up 6 aeroplanes & killed 3 men the night of the last raid. All leave is now stopped from France. We’ve just lunched with Laggs Gibbs, who came over a day before the order came out. He says it’s said to be because of some new training scheme we have & not because of any offensive either way.

John had a Med Board today, & narrowly escaped being given another 3 months sick leave apparently. They implored him to go to Brighton & said he was very below parr [sic] etc, however he bounced them into giving him home duty, & they’ve made it 3 months, & “no marching”, etc, tc, etc. Of course as Adjutant he wouldn’t have that anyhow.

We think we have got a house, but can’t get in for a fortnight.

Bless you darling
Your ever loving Maysie (more…)

Children watch soldiers practise building pontoons

The children of Purley had an outing to watch soldiers based in the area practise building pontoons across the River Thames. There was some doubt about the educational value of this trip, as the school log book records:

19th April 1915The children, forty in number, were taken along the river bank, nearly to Pangbourne, at 1.45pm to watch the soldiers build rival pontoons.

Copy of letter received from the Education Secretary [not actually received until 23 April]:

“I have seen HM Inspector and have talked over the proposed school visit to the Pontooning Ground. He agrees with me that it is difficult to lay down any rule as to the educational value of such visits, as this must depend on the way in which the teacher deals with the subject. In this case he would not with-hold consent, but would expect the teacher to take the whole of the upper school according to their class or classes and to give a lesson beforehand to teach them what they had to observe and a lesson after the visit during which they would record what they had seen. The teacher’s notes should be presented to show the character of the instruction. If Miss Reed is prepared to conduct her visit in this way, HM Inspector will not raise any objection to is being counted as a school meeting”.

Purley CE School log book (C/EL85/2, p. 74)

A glimpse of Red Cross hospital ships

Still on the Isle of Wight, Henry and Florence Vansittart Neale observed a sea full of British ships:

H & I walked to Bonchurch as near as we could by the sea. Heaps of ships & mine-sweepers. Saw Red X ships, all white…

Heard from Ally – Russia on the offensive.

Heard Sep: was meant to stay & train recruits. He went to the General & before him scratched out his name & insisted on going to Dardanelles – so got in “Hood” division!!

Hear Kitchener & [Sir John] French fierce quarrel. French insisting on more troops. K refused – they not ready but had to send them as F. declared he would call army home if not!!

Heard all “Audacious” crew taken on Queen Eliz:!

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

Good wholesome fun: a soldier reports on life in training

The wonderfully named Dedlock Holmes from Stratfield Mortimer reported on his experiences as a recruit in the Royal Berkshire Regiment in a letter which was printed in the parish magazine:

4th Royal Berks Regt., T.,
Hitcham House Farm,
Burnham.

At the above-named spot, the country seat of Lt.-Col. Hanbury, the newly-formed Battalion are stationed.

The Camp is situated on a hill, overlooking the beautiful Thames valley on the south, and on a clear day Windsor Castle can be easily seen on the south-east. This hill is actually the first rise of the Chiltern Hills.

The Battalion at present numbers about 280 men, and a friendly spirit prevails throughout the whole, and also a spirit of good wholesome fun, as will be gathered from the names they give to their quarters (which consist of cowsheds, pig-styes, etc.). We have “Kitchener’s Villa,” “The Said Villa,” “Iseville,” “Hitchy Koo Villa,” “Ragtime Cott,” and many others.

These various so called villas meet every week in great football contests – and, so far, our “Villa” remains undefeated.
It must not be supposed, however, that we have nothing to think of but football; we never forget why we are here, and so take kindly to the somewhat hard training we get.

Every morning at 6.0 we are aroused by the bugle call, have a cold tub or wash and make ourselves fresh for an hour’s hard drill of Swedish physical exercises, which tend to loosen and strengthen every single muscle in the body, and those of us who have had two or three weeks of it can already find the benefit of it. After this follows breakfast, which, as you can imagine, is heartily enjoyed. The food we get is certainly plain, but good and wholesome. After breakfast comes the serious work of the day, varying of course from day to day.
Some days we are taken out for a route march by Lt.-Col. Hanbury, who is in command of this Battalion, and who, after a good march round the country, halts us at the beautiful Burnham Beeches while he tells us some yarns about the Chiltern Hundred, who used to look after the safety of travellers through this part in the early days.

Other mornings are spent in rifle drill, etc.: dinner is at 1.0 usually, and the afternoons spent in more drills and lectures on military subjects. Sometimes we have the evenings to ourselves while on others we are turned out for night work, outposts, etc.

The Working Men’s Club have kindly thrown open the Reading Room to us, and this is where I am now writing.

Before I close I should like to say one thing: should this catch the eye of any young fellow who is undecided about joining the Colours on account of the rumours about bad treatment, all I can say is, come and join us to-morrow, for there is a real reason why you should do so, and the change of living will do you a world of good.

With kind regards to all old friends.

Yours sincerely,
Dedlock Holmes.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, December 1914 (D/P120/28A/14)

‘I can ride a horse all right so long as it goes straight’

Percy Spencer continued to practice his riding while training with the Territorials:

Silverdale
Belmont Hill
St Albans
Decr 10.14

Dera Florrie

Thank you very much indeed for the mittens. The day they arrived I wore them out riding. It was a soaking wet afternoon, and I got them wet through, but they have quite recovered, and will be doing duty again tomorrow when I am to go out on a Divisional affair.

That was an unlucky day – the day I wore your silk lined mittens. I was riding with another sergeant and a corporal of the police, when in a side road, in a soaking rain, the corporal’s pony let him down badly. He was in a pickle, but being of an amorous nature, and there being a charming daughter in the house we carried him into, he soon bucked up and was sorry to be taken back to his billet where he now is nursing a bad ankle.

Yesterday I rode another (a big horse) with a police patrol, and pleased the police sergeant very much.

I think now I can ride a horse all right so long as it goes straight, doesn’t stumble, swerve, back or rear…

The Brigadier General went shooting on his estate last week and some of us (including myself) have been presented with a brace of pheasant apiece as a result…

Yours ever

Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister Florence (D/EZ177/7/3/29)

‘Thank goodness she’s only been married once’

Percy Spencer was still stationed at St Albans, and seems to have been enjoying himself. He writes to sister Florence about recent exploits – and his lachrymose landlady:

Silverdale
Belmont Hill
St Albans
Decr 6.14

Dear Florrie…

Fortunately for my health’s sake, going out on manoeuvres has been added to my duties. Twice last week I was out all day urging a bicycle over ploughed fields & steep hills, and through hedges I should at any other time have admired. On Thursday we had a splendid day – and won handsomely…

This next Friday we are to have a slap up fight with a “skeleton army”. So you see that’s all we are good for at present, and we shan’t be going to the front for ages….

Yesterday I rode round town on a horse I hadn’t ridden before – it was a most exciting experience for both of us. I’m glad to say we finished up together. It was a grand diagonal race, the wonder of the populace and the fear of all cyclists.

Tomorrow is Mrs Everest’s [his hostess] wedding day. Poor old lady, she is in rather a lachrymose condition and has been for some days. Arthur’s birthday, her birthday, Arthur’s funeral week and their wedding day are all sacred days, kept with tears and misery. I sympathise but – thank goodness she’s only been married once.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister Florence (D/EZ177/7/3/28)

Training for mobilization: clerical accuracy is essential

Two days earlier, Percy Spencer had planned to return some knitted socks his siter Florence had sent him. But he found they were just too cosy to leave behind:

Silverdale
Belmont Hill
St Albans
Herts
Nov. 22nd, 1914

Dear Florrie…

In a weak moment I tried the bed socks on, and succumbed to their comfort, so they are not going back to Maidenhead, thank you…

Today, all the troops in the division have been out as if for entrainment – that is to say, exactly as if we were off to the front. Of course, all that sounds very simple, and so it looks, but while you remember that the distance occupied by each unit has to be calculated, and the rate of movement arrived at to determine the times of starting of each section so that each will fall into the column in its right place at the right moment (each of the sections, by the way, coming from a different point) you will begin to understand that my simple little statement at the beginning of the paragraph implies a lot of labour and clerical work, accuracy in harrassing conditions is essential, and I’m looking forward with some anxiety to writing orders for advances or retirements on the field, when a clerical error may mean a hitch and subsequent misfortune – it’s as well to look on the gloomy side of things (our operations today were right on time, and successful).

Sunday, and I’ve done a hard day’s work, so I’ll say goodnight, and promise a longer letter soon.

Yours ever
Percy
Lance Sergeant

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister Florence (D/EZ177/7/3/25)