A touching ceremony

William Hallam saw a memorial unveiled.

20th April 1919

Easter Sunday. Up at ¼ to 7. A bright day but a bitter cold wind. Wife Mur. & I to St Saviour’s Church to H.C. at 8. Then I went down to St. Paul’s at XI by myself. A large number there. After the service a new stained glass window was unveiled by Capt Wright in memory of 2 brothers- Dixon- killed in the war. Capt R. Hogson in uniform carried the cross. Quite a touching ceremony. It was such a cold wind I didn’t go out again.


Diary of William Hallam of Swindon (D/EX1415/25)

“Master Chaffinch sings near by me despite the swish of shells through the air or craaack of shrapnel”

Sydney Spencer took comfort in nature surviving the battlefield, but the nice weather meant easy pickings for the German artillery. Meanwhile their brother Will was in touch with a former pupil in Germany.

Percy Spencer
9 May 1918

A lovely day again, worse luck. Huns shelled our boys with 8” & gas. 14 gassed.

Dr Caux had tea with us & told us pretty story of old lady who refused to leave until her children left, asked how many she had, she replied that she didn’t know, & pointing to the yard crowded with Tommies, exclaimed, “These are my children”.

Sydney Spencer
Thursday 9 May 1918

I was very cold in the night so felt rather cheap when I got up this morning. A glorious spring morning. The grass on which I lie now at 12.30 pm is sweet May scented. All around are the ubiquitous dandelions, daisies & buttercups, & here & there graceful patches of delicate green & white, made by the greater sketchwort. Master Chaffinch sings near by me despite the [illegible] and swish of shells through the air & the angry snip of 18 pounders, or craaack of shrapnel.

Now for some lunch. Saw a beautiful little ‘copper’ butterfly today. The last I saw was at dear old Thoresby Camp, Worksop, only 8 short months ago. After lunch a read or sleep & then worked out mess accounts. After tea continued on mess accounts. At 8.30 ‘stand to’. No 5 platoon dug my fire positions in new battle positions. Bed about 10 pm. Oh happy day. A long night’s sleep.

Will Spencer
9 May 1918

Was pleased to receive a long letter from Fraulein Hildegard Vogel from Cassel, telling me of her musical studies under Dr Zulauf (is now studying the Chopin Fantasia!) & enclosing a photograph of herself with her fiancé. J. thinks, from his uniform, that he is an officer in the Artillery. As the elder of her two brothers (aged 18) is in a Cadet School, & the younger, who is physically & mentally weak, is just going to a Waldpaedagogium in Berka in Thuringen, they (the mother and two daughters) are leaving Cassel next month & going to live in a smaller house in Naumburg a/d Saale, where they will be near Berka.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67); and Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX802/28)

A game with Johnny Turk

A Sunningdale man was fighting in Turkish-ruled Palestine.

Bevis Jerome’s letter from Palestine we are reluctantly obliged to condense for we have not space for the whole of it. He writes on April 23.

‘We have made some big moves since I wrote last to you, and have been through some heavy fighting, but I am glad to say I have come through it safely so far. We started off for the first push from Beulah and the first place we went through was Beersheba. I expected to find a town, but it had only a few nice buildings and mostly mud huts. We then went up into the Judean hills and came up with the Turks again. They were holding some very strong positions and just behind them were some wells that we wanted to get.

Well it took us four days to drive them from the hills and I can tell you we were jolly glad when they were on the run again for we had had just about enough of it. Then we had a short rest while the mounted troops chased till they were held up and of course we had to go in again.

We have had some very long marches and it was wonderful how they managed to get our rations up and the guns along for it is a very bad country. After a time we came to Solomon’s wells outside Bethlehem. The Turks were holding some strong positions but soon had to give way. The weather at this time was very bad as the wet season had started and we had only thin drill suits.

We had a very rough Christmas as we were in the lines and it rained hard all day and it was February before our mails arrived, still better late than never. Our boys had a game with Johnny Turk a few days before Christmas. It was an early morning stunt and I do not know who were more surprised, our lads or the Turks, for they were at each other before they knew it, and some of the Turks were still under their blankets, you may guess it did not take long to hustle them out. We got over 100 prisoners and 3 machine guns. Not a bad Christmas bow.

I have been to Jericho and do not think many of us want to go there again. The weather is a treat now and we are in the line at a pretty part of the country. I am enclosing a photo of the Hill of Temptation just outside Jericho which I bought at the Monastery that you can see about half way up. It is a wonderful place and built right into the mountain. It is the hill where Our Lord was tempted by Satan.

Again thanking you for the nice parcel,

I remain yours respectfully,

Pte. B. Jerome.’

Sunningdale Parish magazine, July 1918 (D/P150B/28A/10)

‘A “fine big man” in his officer’s uniform’

Percy Spencer’s visit home on leave impressed his parents.

24 March 1918

A letter for me from Mother, dated March 18th. Father had been spending the weekend with the Shackels & taking the organ at Dropmore. Percy had been home. Looked a “fine big man” in his officer’s uniform. It was a pity, Mother adds, that the weather was too cold for her to go out with him. Stanley had received the letter which I wrote to him on Jan. 8th.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/28)

A uniform bombed to cinders

Air raids were apparently more damaging and extensive than the general public was aware of.

29 Barton Road
30 Dec. ‘17
My very dear old man

Are you really thinking of “some sunny place on the South Coast”. Well, but gare les obus – F’s KRR brother called at his London tailor’s on the 21st, to try on a new uniform. The tunic had been bombed to cinders in the raid three days before, and the poor tailor at work on it was in hospital! Much ghastly work, which we’re never allowed to hear of in the newspapers, is done in these raids. London is so vast that the quarters untouched have grown careless and indifferent…

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

The Church Lads’ Brigade has lost many of its smartest lads, who are now serving in the Forces

The Reading St John branch of the Church Lads’ Brigade was preparing teenage boys for army service.

CLB

The Company is changing its headquarters from the Institute to the Princes Street Mission Room. It has been passing through some stormy times lately, but we feel that it has now weathered the worst, and we look forward to a winter of real progress. There are vacancies for some good recruits, who will be welcomed any Monday from October 8th onwards.

The Company has had a great many changes in the personnel of its officers during the last year, and has lost many of its smartest lads, who are now serving in the Forces. In spite of these difficulties, the drill was very fair, and the uniform clean and correctly worn, and the lads steady on parade… Acting Captain Hawkes is evidently very keen.

Reading St. John parish magazine, October 1917 (D/P172/28A/24)

Drawing on the nation’s too limited wool supply

By this point in the war 10 Berkshire policemen who were serving at the Front had been killed. Closer to home, demand for army uniforms was monopolising the nation’s wool supply. Most men’s outdoor clothing was based on woven woollen cloth, which was warm and waterproof.

6 October 1917
Clothing for 1918

The Acting Chief Constable has received the following letter from Messrs Titley, Son & Price, whose tender for the supply of clothing for the year 1918 has been accepted.

19, Cheap Street, Bath
13th Sept. 1917

Dear Sir

When we tendered for 1918 overcoats, something serviceable at old prices, we anticipated some difficulty but this has been increased by the few men, on the two lists we have received, who are doing without them. We calculated that we might obtain sufficient material to supply about half your force; and in the state of the wool market, which as you know is practically commandeered for military requirements, we do not see how we can fill more than that. We have plenty of blue to enable us to offer Capes, Serges, or Trousers in lieu, without drawing on the nation’s too limited wool supply. Could you kindly, at the next pay day, help us by causing to be discovered if there are not a large number of men with overcoats sufficiently new to enable the exchange to be made.

Yours obediently in all commands
Titley, Son & Price.

The Committee recommend that the Acting Chief Constable be empowered in all cases where the Superintendents report that the great coats now in the possession of the men are serviceable and likely to last until the next issue in 1920, to issue capes, serges or trousers in lieu thereof, or to grant, as compensation, £1.1s.0d on the understanding that in the event of a man’s coat not lasting until the issue in 1920, he shall repay an amount in proportion to the period unexpired.

Constables killed in action

I regret to report the death on active service of the following Police Constables, viz PC 111 Raymond E. Offer, PC 119 Charles Warman, PC 213 Arthur Frank Wheatcroft and PC 82 George William Bennett.

PC 111 Offer died on 20 July 1917 from wounds received in action, and PCs 119 Warman, 213 Wheatcroft and 82 Bennett were killed in action on 1 August, 16 August and 8 September respectively.

All four were unmarried, and so far as I am aware had no one dependent on them for support. Bennett joined the force on 1st January 1907.

This makes 10 Constables who have lost their lives during the war.

PCs 80 Pill and 41 Vile have rejoined the Force, the former on 1 September and the latter on 24 September.

Berkshire County Council and Quarter Sessions: Standing Joint Committee minutes (C/CL/C2/1/5)

The bravest man in the trenches

Many of the former pupils of Reading School were serving with distinction.

O.R. NEWS.

Military Cross

Temp. 2nd Lieut. F.A.L. Edwards, Royal Berks Regiment.- For conspicuous gallantry during operations. When the enemy twice attacked under cover of liquid fire, 2nd Lieut. Edwards showed great pluck under most trying circumstances and held off the enemy. He was badly wounded in the head while constructing a barricade within twenty-five yards of the enemy.

2nd Lieut. (Temp. Lieut.) W/C. Costin, Gloucester Regiment. – For conspicuous gallantry during operations. When the enemy penetrated our front line he pushed forward to a point where he was much exposed, and directed an accurate fire on the trench with his trench guns. It was largely due to his skill and courage that we recaptured the trench. An Old Boy of Reading School, he won a scholarship at St. John’s College. Oxford.

2nd Lieut. D.F.Cowan.

Killed in Action.

Lieut. Hubert Charles Loder Minchin, Indian Infantry, was the eldest of three sons of the late Lieut-Col. Hugh Minchin, Indian Army, who followed their father into that branch of the service, and of whom the youngest was wounded in France in May, 1915. Lieutenant Minchin, who was 23 years old, was educated at Bath College, Reading School, and Sandhurst. After a probationary year with the Royal Sussex Regiment, he was posted to the 125th (Napier’s) Rifles, then at Mhow, with whom he served in the trenches.

After the engagement at Givenchy on December 20th, 1914, he was reported missing. Sometime later an Indian Officer, on returning to duty from hospital, reported that he had seen Lieut. Minchin struck in the neck, and killed instantly, when in the act of personally discharging a machine-gun against the enemy. The Indian officer has now notified that he must be believed to have fallen on that day.
2nd lieut.

F.A.L. Edwards, Royal Berkshire Regiment, awarded the military cross, died of wounds on August 10th. He was 23 years of age, and the youngest son of the late Capt. H.H. Edwards, Royal Navy, and Mrs. Edwards, of Broadlands, Cholsey. He was educated at Reading School and the City and Guilds College, Kensington. He had been on active service 10 months. His Adjutant wrote:

“He was the bravest man in the trenches. All the men say he was simply wonderful on the morning of August 8th. We lost a very gallant soldier and a very lovable man.”

(more…)

We do not intend to disparage the uniform

Dr Baker, Medical Superintendent of Broadmoor, and his assistant Dr Foulerton were willing to work with German PoWs for no extra pay – but they did want to have any extra expenses, like RAMC uniforms, provided for them.

27th October 1916
Dear Simpson

I am returning you the War Hospital papers in case you require them for reference. I have copies.

It would hardly be correct to say that Foulerton and I do not wish to wear uniform. That might imply disparagement of the uniform, a feeling which certainly neither of us entertain. The point is simply that if the War Office require us to wear uniform, and it is probably necessary in their view for disciplinary purposes, they ought in common fairness, to make us some sort of allowance as they do in other cases. As I said before we are willing to do the work without extra emoluments and I am glad to think that the attitude on the part of the Staff is appreciated….

Yours very truly
[File copy not signed]

Broadmoor correspondence file (D/H14/A6/2/51)

“The War Office still cling to the view that a Criminal Lunatic Asylum is not good enough for a Bosch prisoner of war”

There was concern at the top that there might be some stigma attached to sending insane prisoners of war to Broadmoor, which normally only housed the criminally insane.

Home Office
Whitehall
SW

24th October 1916

Dear Baker

We have not yet got Treasury sanction for the use of the vacant block as a military hospital. It is really for [the] War Office to hurry up if they want it, not for us. I understood from Mr Sayer that neither you nor Dr Foulerton wish to wear uniform. I propose therefore when we get Treasury sanction and tell War Office they can get the block, to tell them also,

1. That the Secretary of State cannot ask you to supply yourselves with a uniform and assumes that they do not desire you to wear one. I have telephoned something to this effect already, but of course there seems to be more than one Department of War Office concerned and the question has to go the round!

2. That before they take possession they should send down someone to settle what clothing, crockery and cutlery will be required. Personally I should be inclined to deprecate the idea that anything marked “BCLA” is tabu. That may have been all very well at the beginning of the war, but we are long past that stage by now. If the War Office still cling to the view that a Criminal Lunatic Asylum is not good enough for a Bosch prisoner of war, I am inclined to think they should pay for it. What we offer is merely what we provide for present inmates…

I was very glad to hear from Mr Sayer that he believed all the staff at Broadmoor on whom new work will fall are most ready to do it without extra pay. He will probably have a good deal of trouble as well as you and Dr Foulerton, and it is very gratifying to find this is accepted so cheerfully.

Yours very truly,
H B Simpson

Broadmoor correspondence file (D/H14/A6/2/51)

Home from home in a German dugout

Percy Spencer wrote to his new brother in law John Maxwell Image with his impressions of trench life – and the captured German trench he was now in.

26.10.15
Dear Mr Image

Almost it seems another world that last I saw you in. We move so often and crowd so many events into our time that the clock seems to have more hours in it nowadays than in ordinary peaceful times.

Here I am in a long lean dugout made by the Huns. [Censored.] Being in a Hun’s trench naturally the parados [sic] is our screen from the enemy. And that makes life fairly exciting for the parados is very low in places with here and there a gap. Bullets are plentiful and shells quite frequent, but at present we are all here still and keeping fit. You can’t be anything else while life overhead is so exciting, and life underfoot is equally so, for swimming, sliding, gliding and staggering along the trenches the slightest error will land you at the bottom of a shoot 15 or 20 feet deep – German funk holes scarcely wide enough to admit a man, diving steeply into the bowels of the earth: a tribute to the power of our artillery.

Another thing that strikes one is this evidence of the Huns to stay for the duration of the War. The officers’ dug-outs are walled, floored and ceiled with wood – spacious beds are built between walls at either end. The walls are papered with a cheerful pattern; the ceiling is also papered. Between beds 2 small tables, a couple of chairs, a comfortable arm chair and a full length mirror. On the floor oil cloth – on the walls a few pictures. A stove with flue carried up and through the wall heats the room. The trench leading down to this palace is floored with wood gratings: at the entrance door there is a good scraper – overhead a porch formed with a circular sheet of corrugated iron – “Home from home”.

Well, we’ve run up against a pretty rotten kind of existence as the result of our “push”, but no doubt if this war goes on through the winter which God forbid, when our line is straightened and settled down we shall get better quarters. At present we are “fighting” our men from pretty close up.

This morning I went round the reserve lines with the Brigadier and at one point got well “strafed”.

The reason apparently was a man standing in full view of the Huns on his parapet. He was looking for a bottle of rum another had taken from him and thrown over the parapet. Queer how men will risk their own and others’ lives.

Well, we’ve a strange collection of men and I find them a humorous one too. We all get as much fun out of this life as we can and the dry hunour of our Signal Section is a constant source of amusement to me. One “Taffy” speaks a weird language he describes as pure English. He’s been advised to have a phonetic vocabulary printed down one side of his tunic with the English equivalent opposite, so that we should only have to run our fingers down until we came to the sound he was making. He’s not at all pleased.

It’s 11.30 pip emma as the Signallers say, so good night my dear friend.

With love to you both
Yours ever

Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/10/11)

Uniforms allocated according to height

Sydney Spencer was beginning to get accustomed to military drill, when he met an old acquaintance from his YMCA work at the start of the war:

27 January 1915
This morning’s drilling was much more satisfactory. The Sergeant made us so several new motions which go under several terms which I recognise when I hear them but which I cannot yet remember apart. At 10 o’clock we went to the OTC headquarters and there we were measured for our overcoats. Not a careful examination, but according to height. I am 5’5”. After Latin Prose I went to Shepherds with Loughton & we were both measured for our OTC uniforms. We are to be fitted on Saturday. I met two people whom I knew. One was, of all people on earth, Hayes of Merton, with whom I worked at Harwich (YMCA work). He is staying at No. 41, only just a few yards down. He has been doing YMCA work at Havre for some time & has left his studies at Edinburgh for a time. The other person I met was the Rev. Demans of Hedsor.

We won’t be hearing from Sydney for a couple of months, as he was too busy with his new activities to write in his diary.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/14)