‘I shall probably have to do the common or garden “over the bags” stunt one merry morning’

Percy Spencer’s hopes of a commission seemed to have been dashed, but now at last he was going to get the opportunity – although he would have to undergo extra training, and would probably not get the administrative job he was most suited for.

June 11, 1917
My dear WF

You’ll think I’m a dreadful correspondent, but you’ll have guessed the reason of my silence – I’ve been terribly busy.

My commission papers went up with an application for a direct commission to be granted to me from the OC of the Battalion I was and am wanted for. (By the way this CO is now a Brigadier.)

Well, there is a rule that no direct commissions are to be granted. So altho’ my application was recommended by the Divisional Corps & Army Commanders & a special application was made to the war Office, the WO has refused to allow me to hold commissioned rank, unless I first come home for a cadet course. The reason given being that it has been found undesirable to grant direct commissions whatever the circumstances to men who have been mainly engaged upon clerical work. Isn’t it funny – and isn’t it a nasty sort of reflection upon “clerks”?

Just then was not an opportune moment for going into such matters. So it was put on one side until today.

Tonight my papers have gone up again for a cadet course in England; and if I dodge the shells & the submarines I ought to be in England within 3 weeks for a cadet course somewhere.

The crab of the business is that it will only be by the veriest luck that I shall get an administrative appointment at the end of it, and shall probably have to do the common or garden “over the bags” stunt one merry morning.

Anyhow, I feel I ought to hold commissioned rank, whether as a fighting or an administrative officer – and this stigma upon clerks must be removed, what!

If and when I come home I shall have some long stories to tell, some of which I’m sure John will wholly approve….

Yours ever
Percy

The asparagus was great. Never was it eaten with such relish or in such extraordinary circumstances.

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/38-40)

Anterhinums instead of vegetables

The head gardener at Bisham Abbey made the mistake of thinking the flower garden should be defended against vegetables. Meanwhile General John Pershing (1860-1948) made a visit.

9 June 1917

Martin had planted anterhinums instead of vegetables! Has to take them up….

American General & staff arrived – General Pershing.

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

Valuable lectures on the culture of vegetables

Ascot people grew vegetables for the war, while one couple lent their big house for use as a hsopital.

THE MILITARY HOSPITAL is to be re-opened immediately after Easter at “Sandridge.” Mr. and Mrs. Ninian Elliot have, most generously, handed over their delightful house for the purpose.

LECTURES on the Culture of Vegetables (two of them in this parish) have been given in the neighbourhood during the past few weeks. Interesting and valuable in themselves, they have also been very well attended.

ERNEST MERRY, who was some time ago reported missing, has been killed in France. We deeply sympathise with his wife and little children.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, April 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/4)

Splendid prizes for war-time vegetables

Amateur gardeners in Wargrave were being encouraged to grow vegetables.

The Gardener’s Association

On April 11th the concluding meeting of the spring session was held…

Autumn Show of War-time Vegetables

The Wargrave Food Production Committee in conjunction with the Gardeners’ Association have arranged for a Show of War-time Vegetables in October next. Splendid prizes for the best Cropped Allotments and Gardens, Potatoes, Parsnips, Carrots, Onions, Beet &c., &c. are offered, and it is hoped there will be keen competition in the various divisions. Mr. Coleby is acting as Secretary, from whom the Schedules may be obtained giving all information.’

Wargrave parish magazine, May 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

Wartime gardening

Gardeners were encouraged to take up allotments and grow vegetables to help alleviate the food shortages.

The Gardener’s Association

A second lecture on War-time Gardening was given in the Iron Building on March 28th, by Mr. C. Moore, Gardener to Mr. W. E. Cain, Wargrave Manor, on “Cropping the Allotment.” This was not so well attended as the former one, many of the Allotment Holders being busy on their plots that evening. A plan of a 20 pole allotment was shown on a blackboard, marked in the way he would advise planting, and a good and varied list of vegetables were selected for cropping it. Inter-cropping and the principles of rotation were explained and concluded an interesting lecture.

Mr. Coleby suggested the formation of an Allotment Holder’s Society for the mutual benefits of all concerned, but the idea did not seem to attract much attention.

Wargrave parish magazine, May 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

“Many empty lorries driven by the men of the Flying Corps pass daily through the village”

Cranbourne people were invited to grow vegetables, while church services were disrupted.

For the purpose of saving fuel and light in Lent week, Evening Services will be held in the Sunday School on Wednesdays at 7 p.m., and Evensong will be said on Sundays in Church at 3 p.m. instead of 6 p.m., until we can do without the gas. It seems to be almost impossible for the Coal Merchants to deliver fuel just now, there is coke and coal at the stations, but no carts are to be had. Many empty lorries driven by the men of the Flying Corps pass daily through the village, how helpful it would be if they could “dump” a few sacks of coal for us at some central place.

Two lectures on “Vegetable cultivation in War time” have been given in the Reading Room by Mr. F. W. Custin, F.R.H.S. Unfortunately there was not the large attendance that might have been expected when all of us are being urged to add to the food supply of the nation. The lectures were most practical and helpful. Great stress was laid on the need of spraying not only potatoes, but the young vegetable plants. The lecturer gave the following recipe for a spray of paraffin emulsion:- ¼ pint of paraffin, ¼ -lb. of soft soap, 3½ -gallons of water. Mix the soft soap with a little hot water, whisk it up and then add the paraffin slowly, beating it up as it is poured in, then add the remainder of the water. This should be used for onions and celery in May and June. Potatoes should be sprayed with Bordeaux mixture at the beginning of July and also early in August. We expect the delivery of the seed potatoes at an early date.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield District Magazine, March 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/3)

The horrors of winter war are over now

Spring was welcomed by John Maxwell Image, who sympathised with his brother in law Percy Spencer at the front, and was amused by wife Florence’s enthusiastic adoption of a potato allotment.

29 Barton Road
18 March ‘17

[Talking about his house]
Just at the garden’s paling lay an expanse of grassy fen, belonging to King’s College. It was indeed a godsend to this house as extending our outlook, our privacy and air freshness. Well – this glorious mead has been cut up into potato allotments! Crediti posteri. Florence (as full of energy as yourself) applied for one; as did most of the Varsity people around us: and has got 10 poles, which come close up to our palings. I declined anything to do with it…. It will give her plenty of fun, anyhow – though tillage by our old gardener at 4/6 per diem won’t speak for economy, I fear. Our two tall athletic Abigails are to take in turn the spade-culture. Indeed the whole scene is a lovely one, as beheld from our upper windows, male and female, old and young, rich and poor and each busy and toiling.

The winter happily is over. It will be spring campaigning. Iam ver appetebat cum Hannibal… The horrors of winter war. I remember a bit in one of Florrie’s brother’s letters, where he spoke of “the terrific bounds of red hot lumps of metal off the frozen surface of the road a few yards away from me”!!

Our best wishes and love to you both
Bild

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

It is more important to reduce the consumption of bread and flour than to reduce the consumption of meat

The Lunatic Asylum received official instructions explaining how to adapt food supplies under the current restrictons.

THE BOARD OF CONTROL,
66, Victoria Street, S.W.

2nd March, 1917

Sir,

I am directed by the Board of Control to advert to their circular letter of the 13th February asking to be informed how far the amount of bread, meat and sugar issued for the patients and staff in your Institution conform to the limitations imposed by the Food Controller, and to thank you for your reply thereto.

The Board have now learnt that the Food Controller considers the following articles of diet may properly be utilised as partial substitutions for the above-mentioned foods:-

A.
For Bread per 1lb. or Flour per ¾lb.

¾lb. Barley, or

¾lb. Oatmeal, or

¾lb. Rice, or

¾lb. Sago, or

¾lb. Tapioca, or

¾lb. Maize Meal (Cornflour, Hominy, &c.), or

5ozs. Butter, Margarine or Fat.

B. For Meat per 1lb. (uncooked without bone)

5ozs. Cheese, or

8ozs. Beans, (dry) or

8ozs. Lentils, (dry) or

8ozs. Peas, (dry)

The various ways in which Beans, Lentils and Peas may be cooked so as to render them savoury and appetising are no doubt known to you.

C. For Sugar per ¾lb.

1lb. Treacle or Syrup, or

1lb Honey

The Board understand that the amounts of Meat, Bread, Flour and Sugar indicated in the limitations prescribed by the Food Controller, must be taken as the broad average applying to households containing an average distribution of adults and children of both sexes and various ages. He recognises that in institutions not satisfying this condition the actual scale would, in some details, require modification and adjustment to circumstances.

At present, it is more important to reduce the consumption of Bread and Flour than to reduce the consumption of Meat. Bread should not be substituted for Meat. The Board suggest that, in institutions where the amount of Bread per head considerably exceeds the limitations prescribed by the Food Controller, a reduction might be effected by substituting a small ration of cold fat bacon for some of the breakfast bread.

It should be borne in mind that while substitutes for bread may be utilised to a certain extent, the object of the Food Controller’s scale is to effect a net reduction in the consumption of food.

I am, Sir, Your Obedient Servant,

O.C. Dickinson, Secretary

To the Medical Superintendents, of all institutions for Lunatics and to the Superintendents of all Certified Institutions or Houses for Mental Defectives and Approved Homes.

Letter to Berkshire Lunatic Asylum (D/H10/A6/6/1/4)

“Satisfied with the bright appearance of the wards”

A new hospital opened for wounded soldiers in Wargrave.

“Woodclyffe” Auxiliary Hospital, Wargrave. V.A.D. Berks, 58

The Woodclyffe Auxiliary Hospital re-opened on March 2nd, and on February 28th a most successful Pound Day was held, the various gifts filling the empty store cupboard. The Hospital and Woodclyffe Hall were open for inspection of visitors, who expressed themselves very much satisfied with the bright appearance of the wards, and the arrangements made for the comfort of the patients. There are now 50 beds.

A very clear balance sheet has been issued to subscribers showing that each occupied bed has cost 3s. 3½ d. per day, the Government Grant being 3/-. Gifts of vegetables and eggs are always most gratefully received, and flowers on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Wargrave parish magazine, April 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

A national duty, to avoid a national calamity

A Berkshire nurseryman saw potential profit in the war, as people were encouraged to grow vegetables at home.

THE SUBMARINE WAR

Merchant Ships are being Sunk in all directions,

Imports of Grain, &c., are all seriously hindered,

And we are still in the Midst of the War!

Do you realise that this means

A TERRIBLE SHORTAGE OF FOOD IN THE NEAR FUTURE?

In order to avoid this there must be in 1917

A LARGE INCREASE IN GARDEN CROPS!

Show real Patriotism by Cropping your Garden to its utmost capacity; and if possible by taking more Ground.

It is no longer a personal Matter. It has become

A NATIONAL DUTY

In order to avoid

A NATIONAL CALAMITY.

WEBSTER’S 1917 SEEDS ARE EQUAL TO THE BEST OBTAINABLE

SOW WEBSTER’S SEEDS IN 1917 for your own Profit and the Nation’s Welfare. Catalogues Now Ready, FREE to all.

124, High Street, and Station Front, Maidenhead.

And at the COOKHAM and BOURNE END BRANCHES

DO YOUR BIT, AND HELP TO WIN THE WAR

Advertisement in Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, February 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

Leeks and greens

Children in Cookham and their parents were hutting their savings in the hands of the war effort, while Little Wittenham lads were growing vegetables for the Navy.

Cookham Alwyn Road School
November 14th

The [War Savings] Association was started this morning and contributions were received to the amount of £4-13-0 thus enabling me to purchase 6 certificates.

Little Wittenham CE School
14th November 1916

The boys are going to School Gardens to cut greens and dig leeks for dispatching to the Navy.

Cookham Alwyn Road School log book (88/SCH/18/1); Little Wittenham CE School log book (C/EL24)

Vegetables and cigarettes

The village of Crazies Hill dedicated its harvest festival to supporting the troops, with gifts of varying levels of healthiness.

Crazies Hill Notes

The Harvest Festival was held on October 15th. Throughout the day the Services were bright and hearty. The congregations were large; indeed everything was in keeping with the joyous occasion. The Children’s Service also, in the afternoon, was well attended. The Children’s offerings were made during the singing of a hymn when the children marched in procession and placed the various articles in a basket. The basket was large, yet was well supplied with packets of cigarettes, sweets, and other things. These were carried to the Parkwood Hospital after the Service as the Children’s gifts for the wounded soldiers.

At the Evening Service the anthem ‘The Lord is My Shepherd’ was rendered very nicely by the Choir. The Special Preacher was the Rev. H. I. Wilson, Rector of Hitcham, to whom we are much indebted for coming.

The decorations were carried out with much care and skill – the building looking a veritable flower garden. It would be difficult to realize the amount of labour and time spent in arranging the flowers, plants, corn and vegetables. The result was certainly beautiful. We are very grateful to the following who so generously gave their labour and time: Mrs. Light, Mrs. Habbitts, Mrs. Wakefield, Mrs. Woodward, Miss Rose, Miss Stanton, Miss Beck, and Miss Doe, and the following who so kindly sent gifts: – Mrs. Whiting, flowers and vegetable marrow; Miss Beck, flowers; Mrs. William Willis, plants; Mrs. Hull, flowers; Mrs. Weller, flowers; Mrs. Goodwin, flowers; Mr. Kimble, flowers and vegetables. Mr. Griffin, flowers; Mr. Bacon, bread; Mr. Stanton, flowers. Miss Fleming, corn and wheat; Miss Rose, flowers; The Hon. Mrs. Crawford, corn; Capt. Willis, flowers.

We are also indebted to Parkwood for so kindly sending a collection of choice plants.

The collections throughout the day, which were in aid of the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, amounted to £1 10s. 7 ½ d.

The vegetables and flowers were sent to Wargrave Military Hospital, Mr. Whiting most kindly conveying them thither.

Throughout the day offerings of cigarettes, etc., were most generously made for our men serving at the present time.

Wargrave parish magazine, November 1916 (D/P145/28A/31)

Blinded soldiers turn to chicken rearing

Berkshire County Council and its committees dealt with several war related matters. One was the registration of the multitude of independent war charities which had sprung up.

Report of School Management Sub-committee, 14 October 1916

HEAD TEACHERS AND MILITARY SERVICE

The following Head Teachers have rejoined the Army since the last meeting: Mr Mills (Childrey), Mr Hunt (Cold Ash), Mr Bird (Priestwood), Mr Andrews (Mortimer St Mary’s) and Mr Verrall (Brimpton). Their places have been filled temporarily by the appointment of the Certificated Assistant (Woman) of their respective schools, or by the transfer of a teacher from another school.

Report of Smallholdings and Allotments Committee, 14 October 1916

COTTAGES AND LAND FOR BLINDED SOLDIERS, &C, FOR POULTRY FARMING

Enquiries were made on behalf of the Blinded Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Hostel, St Dunstan’s, as to whether any assistance could be given in finding locations near Reading for Blinded Soldiers who have been taught chicken rearing. They require a cottage and about an acre of ground at a rent not exceeding £30 per annum.

The agents in the Reading district were asked if they had any suitable properties available, but from the replies received it appeared that no suitable places were available for renting, and only three or four were put forward for sale.

It was stated by St Dunstan’s that at present only leasing could be considered.

Report of the War Charities Committee, 14 October 1916

The following applications for registration under the War Charities Act, 1916, have not been approved, and the Clerk instructed to issue certificates and to notify the Charity Commissioners: (more…)

A record of which Burghfield might be proud

The war’s anniversary was commemorated on the 5th of August in Burghfield. It was an opportunity to take stock of the impact of the war locally.

THE SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF THE DECLARATION OF WAR

On Saturday, 5th August, at the Handicraft Room, Mrs Bland’s School, a well-attended meeting was held to commemorate this anniversary. Sir Wyndham Murray, as chairman, opened the proceedings with a few patriotic remarks which were heartily received; and was succeeded by Brigadier General F. Bridgeman of Beech Hill, late Scots Guards, and formerly member for Bradford, who, in an excellent speech, drew a striking contrast between the great Duke of Wellington and our foe the Kaiser. The well-known inscription on the Duke’s monument at Strathfieldsaye [sic] records that “he was honoured abroad for in all the might of conquest he was always just, considerate, and humane” and “he was beloved at home because he had great power, and ever used it well”. Such a record could never truly be written of the Kaiser. In concluding he quoted the message given to Joshua when he became commander-in-chief of the army of Israel, “Have not I commanded thee, be strong and very courageous, be not afraid neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee wheresoever thou goest”. He moved the following resolution, “That this meeting of the parishioners of Burghfield expresses its inflexible determination to continue the struggle to a victorious end”.

Colonel A. Welby, late Scots Greys, Secretary of the Patriotic Fund, and formerly member for Taunton (who said that he remembered camping on Burghfield Common in 1872 at autumn manoeuvres), seconded. He gave a stirring account of the performances of our Army and Navy, and spoke hopefully of the war.

The resolution having been put, and carried unanimously, Mr Willink, in proposing a vote of thanks to the chairman and speakers, which was played by the parish in relation to the war, and particularly to the 240 names upon the Roll of Honour. These names were nearly all names of persons residing in Burghfield at the time of enrolment (not counting those rejected as medically unfit); some however were names of men who, though they had left the parish, had been born and bred in it, and were fairly entitled to be included. It was a record of which Burghfield might be proud. (Mr Willink hopes that parishioners will study from time to time the Roll of Honour, now hanging in the church porch, and will tell him of any omissions, or misdescriptions, or alterations, which ought to be attended to.) Mr Lousley, seconding, paid a warm tribute to the services of women in Burghfield, both on the land and in war work of various kinds. Nor were the Scouts forgotten, nor the 600 hospital appliances made on that very room, nor the eggs and vegetables sent to the hospitals in abundance.

The proceedings ended with the singing of the National Anthem. The resolution has been duly sent to the Committee for Patriotic Organisations, to be added to the numerous identical resolutions passed more or less simultaneously at similar meetings throughout the country.


Burghfield parish magazine, October 1916 (D/EX725/3)

Appeal for vegetables

Burghfield people were encouraged to grow vegetables for wounded soldiers.

THE READING WAR HOSPITALS
The Care and Comforts Committee (President, Mrs Benyon) again appeals for anything we can send for the use and comfort of the wounded soldiers, especially vegetables. Some of our parishioners send their offerings privately, but we wish to announce that Mr Turvey of the “Hatch Gate” will be pleased to receive any small contributions and to forward them once a week, as he did last summer.

Burghfield parish magazine, July 1916 (D/EX725/3)