A great lift for Apsley Cherry-Garrard

A new opportunity to work with an armoured car section opened up for Apsley Cherry-Garrard. His transfer seems to have been rather easier than that of our friend Percy Spencer – clearly connections in high places helped! He was to take it, but was later invalided out of the army with an intestinal complaint

12th October 1914

Dear Cherry-Garrard

I have received your letter of yesterday.

I am afraid I may be responsible for your telegraph from the Admiralty, and if I have been indiscreet I am sorry. I saw Lady May Boothby last week, whose husband is in the Navy, and told her where you were. Boothby is instructed to get up a corps of men for working Motor Armoured Cars, and not knowing quite how you were situated with regard to the RE, I thought it might be a chance if you wanted something to do….

Yours sincerely

[Arthur Farrer]

Royal Engineers
Stanhope Lines

Dear Farrer

No! Thank you very much indeed. It is a great lift for me – whether I can do it I know not – but one can try.

The RE refused to transfer me at first but I have now heard that they will, & leave here today. Very many thanks.

Yours very sincerely
Apsley Cherry-Garrard

Correspondence of Apsley Cherry-Garrard with Arthur Farrer (D/EHR/Z8/147-148)


Ridiculously soft conditions – but rumours are rife

Percy continued to worry about the permanence of his transfer. He wrote to his sister to tell her about his situation, and thank her for what was to be the first of many articles of warm clothing.

Hart Road
St Albans
Oct. 6.14

Dear Florrie

How rapidly my future changes. I forget whether I have told you that my transfer will not be confirmed, and I may therefore have to return to Kitchener’s Own. But Capt. Holliday is most anxious to retain me, and if I cannot get a discharge either free or by payment (and I do not think I shall) the Brigadier General is going to apply for me to be attached to Headquarters Staff here.

There are all kinds of rumours rife as to our destination and the date of our departure, but altho’ I have been given “definite information” on the point, I really believe no one here knows anything reliable on the point.

Whenever, and wherever, I go, you may rely upon it, I shall try and give you good notice.

It is good of you to knit me a muffler, and very kind of Mrs Fuller too to make me one. Just at present these welcome comforts when I really go on active service, or if I have to return to camp, make me smile. The conditions here, so far as I am concerned, are ridiculously soft. But, as I say, I should be glad enough to have them when later on the conditions will be more soldierly.

Lord Roberts is coming this afternoon to have a look at the troops at work. He is coming to my office so I shall have a good view of the old fellow.

Yours ever

Letter from Percy Spencer of Cookham to his sister Florence (D/EZ177/7/3/10-11)

Too soft a time in St Albans

Percy Spencer reports the latest on his situation to John Maxwell Image, a Cambridge don who was a close friend of the family.

Hart Road
St Albans
Oct. 5, 1914

Dear Mr Image

Thank you so much for your letter.

I am having a very soft time here at present – too soft altogether, but if I am allowed to remain, I have been promised that ample opportunity will be given to me to do my training and musketry.
Unfortunately the GOC Salisbury District has refused to confirm my transfer, and I am supposed to return to Bristol.

Captain Holliday is most anxious to retain me; in fact he has made such representations to me that I feel bound to stay with him if it is at all possible.

All day long we have been deep in the “Army Act”, “Manual of Military Law”, “Royal Warrants” etc, until I am beginning to think in sections and sub-sections.

The result of our researches is not at all promising, but I am tonight making an application for a discharge for the purpose of re-enlistment. It is very doubtful indeed that I shall get a discharge either by “indulgence” or by payment, and failing these, it is intended to apply for my attachment to the 22nd C of London Battalion, 6th London Infantry Brigade. Failing all these expedients, I shall have to return to Bristol. But in that case, I think I shall be able to transfer to the Bristol Battalion of my regiment, which is composed of Bristol professional and business men – anyway I shall try.

The impression here is that the Territorials will see more service than Kitchener’s Vagabonds, and certainly they should do, as they are practically equipped, and their training is well advanced. But I feel there is an afternoon feeling about the men here which was absent from my mob.

Of course if the City Battalions or the Public School Corps had been known to me, or had commenced recruiting at the time I joined the army, I should have been enlisted in their ranks. But we were informed that a good class of man was enlisting in Kitchener’s Own – I hope the recruiters will prove correct.

Thank you for the introduction to the Dean of St Albans. I hope to use it, but now my freedom may be terminated by a Corporal and file from Bristol, I suppose.

I’m very much in love with St Albans already. There seems to be all sorts of nooks and corners I should love to explore, so I hope to stay. But with the Cathedral I am rather disappointed. I like the exterior from the west end immensely, but the interior I found rather commonplace.

Yours affectionately
Percy Spencer

Letter from Percy Spencer to John Maxwell Image (D/EZ177/7/10/7-8)

Very different from Kitchener’s Army

At last, Percy Spencer secured his transfer to a territorial unit at St Albans, working for his peacetime boss. Or had he?…

In a letter to his sister Florence, Percy reported the good news:

Hart Road
St Albans
Oct 2.14

My dear Florrie

You’ll be glad to hear that, if we go to the front, I should probably be with the staff at headquarters, well away from serious danger.

Soldiering here is very different to that of Kitchener’s Army, but I hope to do some of the rush [sic] and tumble work shortly. This office job exclusively is getting on my nerves. I’ll feel in sorts at all directly, if I don’t do my training and musketry course.

Yours ever

But it wasn’t the end of the story, as this menacing letter reveals:

The OC Depot
Gloucestershire Regiment

In reference to the attached correspondence, I am directed to inform you that this transfer cannot be sanctioned.

Clerks are urgently needed in the Regular Army, and the services of Pte P J Spencer in that capacity can be fully utilized in his present Corps if he so desires.

G Hill
Staff Capt
2nd Oct 1914

[On the reverse page is the following note:]

The Officer Commanding
6th London Infantry Brigade

Please see decision of Headquarters Southern Command … and arrange for the return of Pte Spencer accordingly. Please return this correspondence.

C L Barnes, Lt Col
Commanding Depot Gloucesterhire Regiment

Letter from Percy Spencer of Cookham to his sister Florence (D/EZ177/7/3/9) and letter demanding his return (D/EZ177/12/7/14)