Trench fever and training

Mixed news for Winkfield families.

We are very glad to be able to report that the parents of Pte. Cecil Brant have had their anxiety lessened by the news that he is a prisoner of war in Germany; they have also now had a card from him saying that he is well, and unwounded.

We congratulate Captain Forster Maynard on his promotion to Major R.A.F.

Sergeant Leonard Tipper has been ill with trench fever but is now convalescent, and about to begin his training in England for commission.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, September 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/8)

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“Don’t worry, she can’t speak English & I could never make love in French”

Percy Spencer was excited by his sister Florence’s getting a comic article published in Punch, and almost fell in love with a French girl.

July 14, 1918

My dear WF

Another week gone & here I am still at school & beginning to know something about musketry.

I’m very glad to hear Sydney is better again and delighted about the Punch article. Mind you send me a copy of the number.

This week I’ve been feeling very dicky myself. I think I had a touch of this strange fever, but a very slight one. Another officer here, I am sorry to say, has died with it.

Today I have been to a much bombed town near here for a holiday. There is quite a good officers’ club and one can generally meet old friends there and get a good dinner. It’s nice to sit in a pretty garden and receive tea from the fair hands of a wholesome English girl.

Today as you know is France’s National day. I went to the cathedral – which by the way has been rather badly bumped at the eastern end – and listened to a service. The singing was delightful, but it is difficult for me, much as I love the Roman Church’s seriousness, to refrain from smiling at their quaint beadles armed with swords and wearing mighty cocked hats, and at the endless collections.

Another good thing out here is the good nature of all motorists. One sets out to walk anywhere, hails the first car or bus or lorry, which always stops & takes you as far as it can. The other night a staff officer we coolly hailed drove us in here and offered to take us as afar as Paris if we liked. This however only applies as between Englishmen or as between French etc. but today I had quite a romantic experience.

Following the usual custom I stepped out to hail a car, but observing it was driven by a Frenchman, stepped back. However, it stopped & then to my pleasurable surprise I saw it was driven by a French GIRL. I’ve given her capitals as she was a capital girl. She wasn’t going very far my way but would give me a lift on my way. Well, the fair chauffeuse who was on her way to fetch the Prefect of the town we had just left melted, & when she got to her turning & I made to alight, she said she would drive me here and she did. After that we got very friendly and talked about London & the Thames, and she said that after the war she should come to London, and I said then I hoped we should meet again, whereupon she volunteered her address and I mine and neither of us could remember the other nor muster a pencil between us, so we pulled up at a cottage & borrowed one & some paper from an old lady who smiled approval at the beginning of a romance. And all the while the Prefect cooled his heels at some village down south!
I must be a lady killer after all!

Don’t worry, she can’t speak English & I could never make love in French, and Bordeaux (her home) is a long way.

Well, goodbye & God bless you both.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/53-55)

“A seething mass of Chinese & Prisoners of War”

Much of the behind the scenes work was undertaken by Chinese labourers.

Monday 1 July 1918

I did not have to get up very early as my duty for today consisted of taking 50 other ranks to Vendroux at 11 am. We had a long march of 6 kilos to get there, a hot & dusty road. Arrived at Vendroux, found it a seething mass of Chinese & P of War.

A desolate waste of burnt out hay ricks! About £300,000 damage by a spark! Party worked at filling trucks from 1.30 till 4. Tea & started march back.

A man named Nicker taken ill with PVO. It took 3 hours to see him into hospital. He kept almost ..[illegible due to bleed through from other side]…

Leave Calais tomorrow.

End of 12th week.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

“Why should we all be potential thieves, liars, cads & scoundrels”

Sydney was uncharacteristically resentful of his superiors.

Wednesday 26 June 1918

When I got up today at 6.45 I felt just as scornful & uppish with everything in general as I did yesterday. Thus does ‘Flu’ play pranks with us. At 7.45 to MO’s inspection. A farce when I simply said ‘I am alright’ & walked off. At 8.5 listened to a long long harangue from the Base Colonel. I cannot understand why such an attitude as he took up should be necessary. Why should we all be potential thieves, liars, cads & scoundrels. At any rate I shall be anxious to prove myself otherwise!

5 pm I am up in the little turret at the top of the Fleche of Rouen Cathedral. A wonderful view. 500 feet or more up. Had dinner at Club. Had a long talk with a staff Major. Afterwards went to a picture show to rest my weary legs. Very boring.

Back to camp by 10 pm. Saw men & dogs being tossed in a blanket. I go away tomorrow. To bed & read more of Tartarin sur les Alpes.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

“I have never felt so demoralised & depressed since I have been in France as I felt today”

Sydney was designated well enough to return to duty.

Tuesday 25 June 1918

Today came the word! I got up at 7. My chest was pretty sore with coughing, but I felt annoyingly fit when the doctor came round. He looked at me, smiled sweetly, & apologising gently told me in military language, ie, scribbled all over my temperature chart in blue pencil the word ‘Duty’ – that he would rather have my room than my company.

So at two, once more I got into an ambulance car & now am at DIBD camp out by the racecourse. Now I am in Rouen again to tea. After tea went over the famous St Ouen church. Very ‘self contained’ & ‘self possessed’. A very perfect example of Gothic in its great days. Got back to camp at 7.

After dinner to bed & read some more Tartarin de Tarascon sur les Alpes. I have never felt so demoralised & depressed since I have been in France as I felt today.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

“On the 3rd day one is terror stricken at the idea that they may take one to be a malingerer”

Sydney had the chance to do some sightseeing and wrote to his sister.

Monday 24 June 1918

I thought that the word would go forth today but it didn’t! I got up to breakfast feeling extraordinarily cheap & depressed. At tea the ‘chirpy’ doctor saw me & pronounced me fit to go down into Rouen. I spent the morning getting dressed.

After lunch went with the red haired Flying Corps boy to Rouen. First of all to Cox’s where I got a cheque changed. Afterwards to Ordnance on the other side of the river via a bridge with a hanging carriage called the [blank]. Then back & over Rouen Cathedral. I recognised it as though I had seen it before. Went up to top of fleche. A wonderful view. Saw Coeur de Lion’s tomb, and a wonderful alabaster tomb of two cardinals.

Back to hospital by 6 pm. Feeling very tired. Got round the sisters to let me have dinner in the ward. To bed at 8. Wrote to Florence & to Mother & Father. Read Tartarin sur les Alpes.

June 24th
My Dearest Florence

The Postman will soon whisk through the ward saying letters letters & tear off & not wait for anyone. So just a hurried line.
I have had a slight form of Trench Fever lasting 3 days. First day one feels like nothing, absolutely nothing. Temperature goes up to 103, etc.

2nd day one wonders if one really did feel yesterday & how in the name of fortune one has got past the doctors into hospital.
On the 3rd day one is terror stricken at the idea that they may take one to be a malingerer.

This form of FUO (fever of unknown origin) is very prevalent. You get fever shivers, backache, headache, pain behind eyes, & coughing. There now isn’t that field of symptoms in which dear little Mother might disport herself.

Well, I am up now, got up yesterday for the first time. Feel a bit rocky, stupidly low in morale (it has same effect on life’s outlook as Influenza!) & a bit peevish of a mornin’ me dear.

Here comes that dratted postman.

Write me always to old address

Your always affectionate

Brer
Sydney

7.30 am

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); and letter (D/EZ177/8/3/46)

“I witnessed all the terrific bombardment from land and sea against the Gaza defences, and shall never forget the awful spectacle”

A Maidenhead man bears witness to the fighting in Palestine.

OUR SOLDIERS.

Reginald Hill has left Sheffield Hospital, and hoped to have left hospitals for ever, but very shortly after getting home he had a slight relapse, and at the time of writing is a patient at Cliveden. We hope his stay there will be very brief.

Harold Islip is in hospital at Trouville, suffering from trench fever. He expects shortly to be in training for a Commission.

Ernest Bristow will probably be at Cliveden by the time this has reached our readers’ hands.

George Ayres has been transferred to a Field Company of the Engineers, and is at Anglesey.

Reginald Hamblin is in a Flying Corps, and is training at Totteridge.

Herbert Hodgson is in a camp near Salisbury Plain.

Benjamin Gibbons is in Ireland.

Leonard Beel sends a letter (which has evidently had a soaking in sea water) with vivid account of what he has seen in Palestine. He says:

“I witnessed all the terrific bombardment from land and sea against the Gaza defences, and shall never forget the awful spectacle. Afterwards I had a good look around Gaza, and saw the results of the bombardment, but unfortunately missed the several interesting spots associated with Samson’s career through want of a guide.”

He speaks, too, of visiting Ashdod, Lydda, the Vale of Ajalon, and Jaffa, where Simon the tanner entertained Peter, and where Dorcas was raised.

“The native villages,” he says, “are picturesque from a distance only. Inside they are usually worse than any English slum, full of filth and squalor. It is months ago since I last saw an Arab with a clean face.”

His one regret is that he has missed seeing Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

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

Alas! glorious victories cost precious lives!

There was news of several Maidenhead men, one of whom had paid the ultimate price while taking part in an important operation.

OUR SOLDEIRS.

Reginald Hill is at a Convalescent Home, but he has not quite done with the Hospital yet. However, he hopes to say farewell to his friends at Sheffield in a month or so. Ernest Bristow has not yet been able to make the promised move to Cliveden, apparently because there has been a slight set-back in the healing process. But he is in excellent spirits. Harold Islip is in Hospital in France, suffering from a slight attack of trench fever. He expects shortly to return to England to be trained for a Commission. Wilfrid Collins has returned to Canada. Cecil Meade has been invalided home from Salonika, with a touch of malaria. He is reporting himself immediately, but does not expect to return to the East. Benjamin Gibbons is out of hospital again, and has been sent to Ireland. Herbert Brand has been gazetted 2nd Lieut. in the Staffordshires. Alfred Vardy went over to France at the beginning of April. Harry Baldwin has been home on leave, and anticipates being sent on active service (naval) very shortly. Wallace Mattingley, after a year’s training at Sandhurt, has received a Commission in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

We deeply regret to record the death of Arthur Ada, who was killed in the attack upon Zeebrugge on the night of Monday, April 22nd. Alas! glorious victories cost precious lives! We sympathise deeply with his sorrowing friends and relatives. There will be a touch of pride and admiration in the recollection of him when the manner of his death is recalled. It is said that before the operation actually took place everyone was informed quite clearly of the risk, but that no one backed out. The body was brought to Maidenhead for burial, and after a service in the Baptist Chapel (where Mr. Ada was organist), conducted by Revs. T. W. Way and T. F. Lewis, the interment was made at the Cemetery. Mr. Ada at one time contemplated offering himself for Missionary service.

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

Sympathy for the loss of a young man of great promise and amiability

Worshippers at Maidenhead Congregational Church sent Christmas gifts out to their young men at the front.

OUR SOLDIERS.

Those who knew George Whitmill will be able to sympathise the more keenly with his parents in their sorrow. He was a young man of great promise and amiability, and a keen student. He was a member of Mr. Heywood’s Bible Class in the Institute. He was killed at the front on October 30th. We offer our tenderest Christian sympathies to his friends.

Victor Anderson is in hospital at Sheffield suffering from “trench fever.” Reginald Hill is back at Shheffield, and is to undergo another, and we trust the last, of a weary series of operations. Donald Lindsay and Percy Lewis have been home on leave.

Christmas parcels have already been sent out to our lads in the Mediterranean Forces, and the others will be forwarded very shortly. Miss Hearman and Miss Nicholls have been good enough to undertake the considerable task of the purchase and packing of these parcels.

Letters also of greeting from the Church will be sent to all our men. The minister will be grateful for addresses corrected up to date. Boxes are to be placed at the doors on Sundays, December 2nd and 9th, to receive contributions towards the cost, which amounts to about £6.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, December 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“His machine nose dived to what seemed certain death”

There were varying fortunes for the men of Winkfield.

OUR MEN WHO ARE SERVING.

Much sympathy is felt for the family of Private Charles Mitchell, who we much regret to record was killed in action on October 11th. He was only 19, and had been at the front but a few weeks. A memorial service will be held on Sunday, November 11th, at 6.30 at the Parish Church , when we have no doubt that many will show their sympathy by attending.

Stoker Karl Brant has been very ill with pneumonia but is now convalescent and home on leave.

Private Fred Fancourt has been wounded in the face; he is in Hospital in France and is doing well.

Flight Commander Foster Maynard met with an aeroplane accident which nearly cost him his life. It is reported that when flying, through some mishap, his machine nose dived to what seemed certain death, when it was held up by some branches and he sustained many cuts about the head and a badly broken arm, but is now doing well in hospital.

Private Albert Carter is ill with trench fever, he is in hospital in England and we hope progressing favourably.

We are glad to learn that Private John Carter who had a very long and serious illness, is now convalescent, also Private George Streamer is now almost recovered and able to take up light duty in Ireland.

Private William Burt has been invalided out of the Amy, the chronic nephritis from which he is suffering being brought on by the exposure and hardships of the trenches. He is much better now and will we trust in time get quite strong again.

We congratulate Sergeant Henry Oatway on his promotion to Sergeant-Major in the Engineers.

CHRISTMAS PRESENTS TO OUR MEN.

We have always remembered the Sailors and Soldiers from our Parish at Christmas, and sent them small Christmas gifts which they have greatly appreciated. Mrs. Maynard raised the fund for doing this last Christmas and the Christmas before by means of a rummage sale, but this cannot be managed this year and so we must fall back on the subscriptions as in 1914, but I am sure that we shall feel it a privilege to do our share in bringing some Christmas cheer to the men to whom we owe so much. About £15 will be required.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, November 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/11)

“His parents have relinquished hope that he may be alive”

There was bad news for many Maidenhead families.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We are glad to know that Reginald Hill is still progressing. Harold Islip has been wounded in the arm, and after a fortnight or so in the hospital, is now recruiting at a Convalescent Home in France. It is fifteen months since his last leave. Alfred Vardy has been at home on special leave, lengthened by a slight attack on influenza, but is now back on light duty at the Convalescent Camp at Thetford. Percy and Hugh Lewis have been home on leave, both looking well. The two brothers passed each other unknowingly in the Channel, one coming and the other returning. Fred Hearman, who has been for three weeks in hospital with trench fever, is now in a Convalescent Home in France.

We have heard with deep sorrow that Lieut. Edgar Jones, son of the Rev. G.H. and Mrs. Jones of Marlow, has been posted as “missing” since the fierce enemy attack in the Nieuport sector in June which ended so unfortunately for us, and his parents have relinquished hope that he may be alive. Our hearts are full of Christian sympathy with our stricken friends.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, August 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“Shell shock rendered him unconscious for five days, and left him deaf and dumb for a time”

There was sad news for some Winkfield families, although other men had distinguished themselves.

OUR MEN WHO ARE SERVING.

We tender our heartfelt sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Thurmer, who have to mourn the loss of their son Fred (of the Royal Berks Regt.) killed in action. This is the third son they have lost in this War and all will earnestly hope that another son now at the Front will be spared to return home safely to them.

Much sympathy is also felt for Mr. and Mrs. Holloway, who soon after hearing of the death in action of the second son they have lost in the war, were informed that a third son, Charles, is missing and probably a prisoner of war.

Pte. F. Onion has been ill with trench fever but is now well on the way to recovery, and we are also glad that Pte. Albert Carter has quite recovered, and that Pte. John Carter is going on well. Pte. George Higgs has been ill in France, but is now convalescent.

Trooper Alfred Brant lately sailed to join the Mediterranean Force and his parents have just heard of his safe arrival in Egypt. Pte. Fred Johnson and Pte. Fred Blay have gone to France. We regret that inadvertently we omitted to mention that Lance-Corporal Frank Brant is now serving in France, and has been at the Front for some time.

We are delighted to hear that Lieut. Cecil Ferard has won the Military Cross at Salonika, and tender warm congratulations. We also heartily congratulate Pte. James Winnen who has been recommended for the Military Medal “for gallant conduct in the field on March 21st” (which happens to be his birthday). He hear the good news whilst in Hospital, suffering from shell shock which rendered him unconscious for five days, and left him deaf and dumb for a time; but he has, we are glad to hear now completely recovered and re-joined his regiment.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, July 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/7)

Do the German hear our starlight singing in their distant trenches?

There was much news of soldiers from Maidenhead Congregational Church.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We are glad to be able to report that Reginald Hill is so far improving, that he has been able to sit up a little each day. Thomas S. Russell has been called up, and is in training with the Motor Transport Section of the A.S.C. G.C. Frampton after about two hours drill was considered advanced enough for foreign service, and left England for France on May 18th. He is gone into Military Canteen work.

An interesting letter has come to hand from Sidney Eastman, which may justly be described as lengthy, for it is written upon a piece of paper some seven or eight feet long, and covers both sides. It is mostly occupied with a description of his travels and of the sights he has seen, and we are glad to gather that he is in good health and spirits.

G.C. Frampton has been unpatriotic enough to take German measles, and is in Hospital at Etaples. We hope to learn very shortly that he is quite well again.

Alfred Vardy, after a severe bout of pneumonia, caught on his way to the Front in France, is now at a Convalescent Camp in Thetford, gaining strength before returning to duty.

Wilfrid Collins is in hospital at Reading, suffering from heart weakness following upon a severe attack of “Trench fever.”

Reginald Hill has been out of bed for an hour, and is going on satisfactorily, though slowly.

Cyril Hews had a somewhat narrow escape recently. He was out with his motor-bicycle upon a French road during a thunderstorm, when the lightning struck a tree by the road-side, and a large branch fell upon the handlebars of the machine, providentially leaving the rider untouched.

Alfred Lane, after more than a year’s training in the Home Counties’ Engineers at Maidenhead, has been sent over with a draft to France.

Harry Baldwin, having attained the age of 18, and being called up, has elected to enter the Navy, and will probably enter a Training School.

One of our young men, who took an active part in the Messines victory, writes:

“Rather a good sight yesterday. I attended with my men a very large open-air drum-head Church Parade Service, as a sort of Thanksgiving Service for our recent great victory. A large number of Welshmen were present, and it really was great to hear these fellows sing “Aberystwith” and “St. Mary,” accompanied by a band.”

The papers, by the way, have been recently telling us that in all the Welsh regiments there are “glee parties,” who sing under the stars, until the Germans must hear and perhaps wonder, in their more or less distant trenches.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, June 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)