There should be some sort of Peace Memorial

There were mixed views in Wargrave as to how to commemorate the war.

October
Peace Memorial

The Parish has summoned a Parish Meeting for Friday, October 10th, which will be held 7.15 p.m. in the Woodclyffe Hall.

It is felt that this would be a suitable occasion for raising the question of a Peace Memorial in the Parish.

I. – There is a very general feeling that there should be some memorial in the Parish Church, in memory of those who fell and to record the names of those whose lives were freely jeopardised for the glory of God. Such a memorial has been already dedicated in the East Window, as a tribute from an individual donor, and it will be completed by a Chancel Screen with the names carved on the panels. But there are those who would like to have a share in raising a General Memorial, which would remain as a tribute from the parish as a whole. With this view the East End of the South Aisle was specially reserved by a Resolution of the Vestry. Sir Charles Nicholson has prepared a scheme of decoration, for this which will be submitted to the meeting on Friday, Oct. 10th. It provides for a screen, in continuation of the proposed Chancery Screen, and for the panelling of the walls. A lectern might be added with a large volume, after the fashion of an old chained bible, in which the names might be engrossed and biographical particulars added. We should thus have a Place of Memorial.

No scheme of embellishment can give to any part of the church the least dignity and sanctity without making it a place of Communion, because the whole plan in the building and decorating of our churches is to lead the worshippers to the altar, as that to which everything else is subordinated. In our Peace Memorial there is unfortunately no space for an altar. But the East Window of the chancel itself is a memorial to the fallen and all who approach the choir to enter the sanctuary will see the names on the chancel screen.

II. – there are also those who feel that there should be some sort of Peace Memorial outside the church. If so it would seem that this should be either a monument to commemorate the services rendered or an institution to benefit the families of those who served and their children after them.

There may be many suggestions made when the opportunity of the public meeting gives occasion and, if so, the widest possible range is to be encouraged. We want all the suggestions which commend themselves to the different views and tastes of parishioners. It will be easy to refer such proposals to a committee, who shall report to a subsequent meeting, if such a course is thought to be advisable.

It is therefore to be hoped that the meeting will be very largely attended.

The actual purpose for which the meeting is summoned is to decide about a German Gun.

The War Office has sent a 77 m/m Field Gun and Carriage to the Parish Council to be kept in the parish as a public trophy of the great victory and as an acknowledgement of the V.C. which adorns the Wargrave Roll of Honour.

It has been presented to the Parish Council that there is some difference of opinion as to how the gift should be dealt with. The Parish Council has therefore summoned a Public Meeting of the Parishioners to decide the matter.

November
The Parish Meeting

Three matters were brought before the Parish Meeting, which was summoned by the Parish Council on Friday, October 10th, at the Woodclyffe Hall. The Peace Memorial, a German Gun presented by the Trophies Committee of the War Office, and a new Burial Ground.

There were very diverse subjects, but in each case it was felt that the matter should be put to the widest possible vote, and when the prospect arose of a largely attended meeting it seemed best to take the opportunity of bringing them all forward on the same night.

The Peace Memorial

The Vicar, as chairman of the Parish Council, presided. He introduced the subject by explaining that there was no notice of any particular Resolution before the meeting, but it would seem that a Peace Memorial should either take the form of some sort of monument to commemorate the fallen, or some sort of institution to benefit those who had served in the Great War or their dependents.

A memorial to the fallen might be either inside the Church or outside. A memorial was already secured inside the Church in the East Window and Chancel Screen given by Sir William and Lady Cain. The names of the fallen would be carved on the panels of the screen. But this was an individual gift and several people had expressed a wish to add something more, as a memorial by public subscription. Any such proposal having to do with the fabric of the Parish Church must be submitted to a “Vestry Meeting”.

A Vestry Meeting had decided that the East End of the South Aisle should be reserved as a Place of Memorial and the walls had therefore been left free from individual tablets. The consulting architect, Sir Charles Nicholson, had considered that if this proposal was eventually adopted the best [plan would be to erect a screen, in harmony with the Chancel Screen, and to panel the walls in oak. It would be possible to preserve a record of the names of all who had served, together with biographical particulars of the fallen, in a book, after the fashion of a chained bible, on a Lectern inside the screen. Sir Charles Nicholson’s sketch design was exhibited in the Hall.

After some discussion it was proposed that a Committee be appointed to consider the best form of Peace Memorial outside the Church and to report. The following gentlemen were elected on the Committee with power to add to their number:- Messrs. R. Sharp, H. A. Hunt, T. H. Barley, F. Headington, A. B. Booth, W. Sansom, J. Richardson, J. Hodge, Major Howard Jones, Col. C. Nicholl, Major K. Nicholl, and Dr. McCrea.

Another Parish Meeting will be summoned in due course to receive the report of this Committee.

It is no doubt a good thing to leave the question of any Memorial inside the Church to a Vestry Meeting. A Vestry is an equally public Meeting, but it is summoned by the Vicar and Churchwardens and is technically qualified to apply to the Chancellor of the Diocese for het legal ‘faculty,’ which gives permission to proceed with the work. A Parish Meeting summoned by the Parish Council is not thus qualified and could only make a recommendation to a Vestry.

The German Gun

The next question was that of the German Gun. A resolution asking the Parish Council to accept the trophy was lost by a considerable majority.


Wargrave parish magazine, October and November 1919 (D/P145/28A/31)

VC in Jerusalem

A local officer showed off his medal.

We were very glad to see Major John Haig, V.C. in church on June 23rd. He is home on a fortnight’s leave. It is interesting to know that he received his decoration of the V.C. from the Duke of Connaught in the city of Jerusalem.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, July 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/6)

“His splendid bravery inspired all troops in the vicinity to rise for the occasion”

An experienced officer who in peacetime had worked managing a Wargrave estate was one of the few to be honoured with the Victoria Cross for his great courage. Oliver Spencer Watson (1876-1918) is buried in France.

The Late Lieut.-Col. O. C. Spencer Watson, V.C.

A supplement to the “London Gazette” of May 8th gave the following particulars respecting the award of the V.C. to Lieut.-Col. O. C. Spencer Watson, D.S.O. (Reserve of Officers), late King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry:

“For most conspicuous bravery, self-sacrificing devotion to duty during a critical period of operations. His command was at a point where continual attacks were made by the enemy in order to pierce the line, and an intricate system of old trenches in front, coupled with the fact that his position was under constant rifle and machine gun fire, rendered the situation more dangerous. A counter attack had been made against the enemy position, which at first achieved its object, but as they were holding out in two impoverished points Lieut.-Col. Watson saw that immediate action was necessary, and he let his remaining small reserve to the attack, organising bombing parties and leading attacks under intense rifle and machine gun fire.

Outnumbered, he finally ordered his men to retire, remaining himself in a communication trench to cover the retirement, though he faced almost certain death by so doing. The assault he led was at a critical moment, and without doubt saved the line. Both in the assault and in covering his men’s retirement he held his life as nothing, and his splendid bravery inspired all troops in the vicinity to rise for the occasion and save a breach being made in a hardly tried and attenuated line. Lieut.-Col. Watson was killed while covering the withdrawal.”

“The Times” of May 11th gave the following particulars, respecting Lieut.-Col. Watson: –

He was the youngest son of the late W. Spencer Watson, F.R.C.S., and was educated at St Paul’s and passed into the Army from Sandhurst, being gazetted to the Yorks Light Infantry in 1897. He was invalided in 1904, after taking part in the Tirah campaign 1897-1898, in which he was dangerously wounded, and in the China campaign of 1900, receiving the medal for each of these campaigns, in the first case with two clasps.

In 1910 he joined a Yeomanry regiment, and on the outbreak of war went with them to Egypt as captain and took part in the fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Promoted major, he came home to join a battalion of the Y.O.Y.L.I., going with them to France early in 1917. In May of that year he was dangerously wounded at Bullecourt, and received D.S.O. for gallantry and leadership.

He returned to the front last January, although he had not recovered from the effect of his wound; was shortly afterwards promoted lieut-colonel, and was killed in action on March 28th. Lieut-Colonel Watson was a keen sportsman, and was known locally as a good cricketer, boatman, and footballer, as well as a straight rider to hounds. Up to the time that he joined the forces in the present conflict he had been the estate agent to Sir Charles Henry, Bart., M.P., at Parkwood, and managed the Farm at Crazies Hill.

Wargrave parish magazine, June 1918 (D/P145/28A/31)

“It is incredible the difficulty of getting food here” – are piglets the answer?

One way around savage food restrictions was to buy your own piglet, and fatten it up on table scraps. Florence Image (nee Spencer) was inspired.

29 Barton Road
15 April ‘18
Beloved Signor

The Signora’s ambitious soul now requires Pigs! She learns that ownership of the unclean animal will entitle you to his entire carcase – (at all events, my lord R[hondda] is said to have granted so much to your first pig. She is full of hope and daring, has already purchased 2 little beasts, one white and one black. I, who am of soberer anticipation, went one day to see them – 10 weeks old. How horrible to feed and pamper creatures, not for their good but for their early death! Callous man!

She is just now in from a cycle flurry, thro’ howling wind and drenching rain, to Comberton, 5 miles off – in search of wood for the finish off of her stye for these two little beasts. It appears that the Meddlesome Food Tyrant demands permission and tickets for any member of the Middle or Upper Classes who wants to buy such a commodity as wood – unless it be old tarred wood. She rode first to Barton, where she had no success, but was directed to Comberton 2 miles further away. Her purchase is promised for delivery tomorrow. We won’t boast till it has actually arrived. But it really was a spirited expedition on a day like this.

It is incredible the difficulty of getting food here. We are fresh from a week of it in this house. Two of Florrie’s brothers, hurriedly recalled to the front, have successively been staying here to say goodbye – sickly that! (The most affectionate letter came here from the Colonel of one: he wrote like a father to his son. And another letter to the other brother from his Brigadier, equally flattering. Alas, since that was written, the whole brigade staff has been wiped out, except the Brig.-General himself, who is recommended for the VC.).

Then there was a cousin and godchild of my own – and my sister is staying with us. Finally a friend and his wife from next door – a Fellow of Caius, going out as Botany Professor to Capetown – when their house, No. 31, was gutted of all furniture, spent 4 days with us…

Well, we have 4 one-and-threepenny cards, per week, for meat. You may guess how thorny our task to feed these numbers. Fish we could get, tho’ not good, but, for meat, we had to bow our pride and accept help from our guests…

With our love to you both.

Affec.
Bild

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

A happy battalion

A senior officer gave up some of his period home on leave to deliver a public lecture on how his battalion was getting on.

The 2/4th R. Berks

The distinguished CO of this Battalion, Lt-Col. J H Dimmer, VC, MC, while home on leave, besides giving up much of his time to making acquaintance with families and friends of officers and men under his command, kindly gave a lecture on 16th January in Reading, upon the doings of the battalion, and the general conditions of life on foreign service.

He impressed his audience with a feeling of confidence that their “lads” were well looked after at the front, and that the battalion was not only a happy battalion, all ranks having full trust in each other, but that it had deservedly won a good reputation among those who ought to know, as was proved by private and official congratulations which he had received upon its behaviour in recent strenuous times.

The Burghfield men in the battalion at present are Captain G Willink, MC, Sergeant Ernest Wise, and Privates W Bushnell, L Clarke, B Hutchins and D Hutchins.


Burghfield parish magazine, February 1918 (D/EX725/4)

Dead meat

The Caversham clergyman who had signed up as an army chaplain was sent to a hospital. He sent back this very graphic account of one patient’s appalling wounds – a trigger warning may be in order before you scroll down.

S. Andrew’s
Things seen in a hospital

I am glad they have made a Hospital Chaplain if only because it brings one into contact with such an amount of heroism, patience, and persevering industry. It is greater than anything I had ever dared to believe existed in this England of ours.

I was asked this morning to help with a dressing; a man had been badly smashed; there were other wounds as well; one in particular in the hip that was bad, but it was the arm that chiefly mattered. I say an arm but it looked to me almost like a piece of dead meat; for a moment I thought the hand had been amputated, but then I saw there were fingers, or what had once been fingers. I was asked to support the wrist and the elbow, and more skilful hands than mine directed me where I was to hold; there was nothing which gave any indication to me as to the position of the wrist and elbow. And then they began to examine, and I will try to remember wounds; there was one I know in the palm of the hand, but that could not be dressed then, time and the patient’s strength did not permit; there was one somewhere above the wrist; there was a gaping one where the elbow joint had been excised; there was another a little above that, and there was one on the back of the shoulder that was very difficult to reach.

He had only just come in to our Hospital though he had been four months wounded, and one tried to picture what that arm had been like at the beginning of the treatment which had gone on for those four months in that French Hospital. The wounds had not been dressed during the thirty-six hour s that he had been traveling, and they were dirty and very painful. The sister had not yet learnt how to handle him deftly nor the exact position of all the wounds, and in moving the arm and getting off the dressings she could not help causing him exquisite torture which he shewed by screwing up his face, but he never uttered a cry.

Meanwhile, partly to distract his attention from what was being done to him I asked him to tell me his story and he told me of all the long months during which the doctor in France had worked on his arm. The elbow had been excised as far back as May 1st; then there had come a time when the doctor had given up hope and decided to take the arm off, but it so chanced that the day on which it was to come off was the day that the King and Queen had chosen to visit the Hospital and there were no operations; then the next day there was a slight improvement and the doctor determined to try a little longer and the arm was saved. And now the order had gone out to empty all French hospitals to make room for fresh wounded and the doctor had sent his patient home to Blighty, just pinning on his army papers a brief note, “let us know how he goes on.” That was his reward for all the self-sacrificing work, just to know that it had not all been in vain.

And while the man was telling the story the dressing was going on and occasional spasms of pain shot across his face. The Sister was not too occupied to forget that he might be feeling faint and sent for some soda water. There was even time for merriment when she found ointment of some kind on his shoulder and laughingly remarked she was sure it was some doctor put that on. All doctors are supposed to love ointment, and most nurses hate it, chiefly, one suspect, because they have to get it off again.

It was all just an incident part of the daily routine of a base Hospital, but I wanted to hug everyone connected with it, doctors, nurses, patients and all. A pawkey Scottish private who was helping remarked that it was nothing, that when a corporal in his company had won the V.C. he had forty wounds, but only twenty-nine of them had been serious. I asked what had become of him, and he said, “Ah, he’s living yet; he lost an arm, and an eye, and some fingers of the other hand and I misremember whether he lost a leg or no, but he’s worth fifty dead ‘uns.”

Some of the men in another hospital were talking about the various military decorations; they talked of the men who had won the Military Medal and the Military Cross, but when it came to the Victoria Cross they said that a man was generally dead by the time he had won the Victoria Cross in the war.
THOS. BRANCKER.

Caversham parish magazine, November 1917 (D/P162/28A/7)

A Zeppelin is brought down in flames

The First World War was the first air war, and raids terrified the civilian population. So the first Zeppelin to be downed was a cause of celebration.

3 September 1916
Zeppelin brought down in flames at Cuffley by Com. Robinson, a Canadian – he given VC.

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

A terrible price – are we worth it?

Eric Guy Sutton, a member of the wealthy family which owned Sutton’s Seeds, Reading’s iconic horticultural business, had joined up soon after the start of the war. He was awarded the Military Cross a year later for saving a fellow soldier’s life, but was killed in action in April 1916. His home church, St John’s, was devastated by the news.

It was with great sorrow and deep sympathy for the bereaved family that we heard of the death of Lieut. E. G. Sutton. This most promising young officer, who had already been awarded the Military Cross for an act of great courage and self-sacrifice, was killed on Saturday, April 8th, in the gallant performance of his duty. We shall hope to publish some details of his career in the next issue of the magazine.

“Ye are not your own. You are bought with a price” (1 Cor VI.20)
Most of us were moved, I think, a few weeks ago by a story of almost unexampled heroism given in a list of recently conferred V.C.’s. A young officer attempted to throw a bomb into the enemy’s trench. The missile, however, struck his own parapet and fell in to his own trench. The officer cried a warning to his comrades and himself sprang back into safety, but then noting that his warning had been unheeded, turned back, flung himself upon the bomb and was destroyed by its explosion. And I wonder what were the feelings of his comrades and whether the thought of our text came into their minds, and they said to themselves: “We are not our own, we have been bought with a price.” And I wonder how many of us at home had the same thought in our minds as we read the account, or whether we have ever sufficiently thought at all that not to one such glorious act of heroism, but to countless splendid and ungrudging acts of devotion, do we owe today the security of our shores, the air we breathe untainted by foul poison emanations, the food we eat unstinted in quantity, our women their honour, our children their deliverance from brutality, our old people the quiet, even tenor of their placid lives, and all of us our immunity from the horrors that have desolated Belgium and Poland and Serbia.

We are bought with a price! Who will deny it? Vicarious suffering! Vicarious death!, say some. “We can’t understand it, we can’t accept it!” To such, I say: Alas for the poverty of your intellect and the hardness of your heart, when the very thing is happening today before your very eyes and crying to your souls. When not one minute passes, but even now in France, in Russia, on the seas, wherever the ceaseless battle rages, a man dies that other men may live. We are bought with a price, and day by day in that pitiful concentration of tragedy we know as the casualty list, the bill is presented, and every now and then, at longer intervals, the account is rendered up to date. And how stands it today? Some half a million of Englishmen slain, mutilated, sick, languishing in pestilent Wittenberg prison camps – for us. Mown down by machine guns, crashing from the air in the shattered aeroplane, settling to the ocean-bed in the sunken submarine, buried beneath the soil, buried beneath the waves, unburied in the hideous no-man’s-land between the trenches, tossing in our hospitals, limping about our streets, cry of the wounded and sob of the broken of heart, laughing boys who do not know what awaits them, grave-faced men who do, going forth in courage to do their part – behold the price that is paid; the price that is paid for us; in virtue of which we sit tranquilly in this church this morning, and shall walk tranquilly home to our tranquil and ample dinners.

(more…)

“Rather too much” for a hero

A chance encounter at church with a soldier friend on leave gave Florence Vansittart Neale more news of life at the Front. The man awarded the VC was probably Sergeant Oliver Brooks from Midsomer Norton, Somerset. By coincidence, though, there is a Berkshire connection, because he moved to Windsor after the war, where he worked at the White Hart Hotel, and is buried there. (See the link for more about him.)

31 October 1915

Church early… Church again… Harry Paine there, back for 4 days. Not moving much in his part, only keeping the line while the French move on. Michael came – amusing experiences of fellow officers!…
King decorated VC man in ambulance train. Rather too much for him.

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

Death of a VC

Just ten days ago, Florence Vansittart Neale rejoiced over Reginald Warneford‘s feat. Now she heard of his tragic death.

18 June 1915
Death of Warneford, VC, trying an airship in Paris.

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

The great feat of Reginald Warneford

Lt Reginald Warneford became a national hero when he single handedly brought down a Zeppelin. Florence Vansittart Neale was one of those awed by his feat. Tragically, he was killed in a plane crash ten days later.

8 June 1915

Up to London by early train… Edith & I to Church Army about parcels for prisoners.

Great feat by Warneford – destroyed, destroyed a Zeppelin, blew it up. He turned turtle – alighted enemy soil but got away to home. King given him VC.

I heard a nice story of our submarines in the Dardanelles. It would not torpedo a ship as it saw women on board – but stoped it & asked for vegetables & paid for them! Much to the astonishment of the Turks!

Also a German posted a card telling of the whereabouts of a young Gladstone, as he has kindly done the same for Germans!

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

“The crack of bombs and the whistle of the bullets”

There was news of a number of wounded men from Ascot. One, Augustus Turner, wrote an illuminating letter about his experiences under heavy fire in the trenches.

We have to record, with regret, the following casualties during the past month.-
Harry Cooper (R. Middlesex Regiment) wounded, now at the Northern General Hospital, Sheffield.
Corporal of the Horse Harry Bonnard (1st Life Guards) wounded.
Captain Sidney Clement (5th Australian Bush Regiment) missing.
James Johnson (1st Life Guards) missing.
Rifleman Augustus Turner (London Irish Rifles) wounded, now in Woolwich Hospital, progressing favourably.
Ernest Oran (1st Life Guards) sick.
Thomas John Minns (1st Batt. R. Berks) wounded.

We give some further extracts from Rifleman Augustus Turner’s interesting letter from the Front.-

“In the evening, by which time we had got accustomed to the noise of bullets and shells and conditions in general, I was one of a party to go sapping. This experience will ever remain in my mind. A sap or a trench had already been dug a distance of about 50 yards from our first trench towards the Germans, and it was our duty to dig still further. I entered the sap first, and when a short distance along a star shell was sent up by the Germans. I’d been warned to keep low when any star shells were sent up so as not to be seen. I did bend down, but almost immediately after the star went up a bomb followed and exploded in the air above me. I don’t remember whether I laid full length on my own accord or really how I got down, but after the bang I found myself lying on my spade measuring my height and a little more perhaps, at the bottom of the sap. The explosion was terrific, it shook the ground and me too, but apart from that I was uninjured. This is just another form of a greeting of the Germans, but in a very short while the crack of bombs and the whistle of the bullets from our men and the ‘Germs’ which passed just above my head, had not the slightest effect and I worked on merrily, smothering myself with clay and throwing above that which didn’t stop on my clothes. It seems strange, but it is quite true that one gets accustomed to the worst of conditions in a very short while.

The sapping continued all night, reliefs taking place of course, and at 3.30a.m. on 12th March, I finished my duty in the sap, when an order was given ‘Rapid fire.’ It continued for an hour, and such a noise is hard to beat. An attack from the Germans was about to take place, but was repelled by this deadly fire. A fellow who dare risk being out in the open under such fire deserves V.C.’s all over him. Just before this hail of lead, an attempt to blow up the trench next to ours by mines, was made; the earth blew up high in all directions, in front of the trench. This made another tremendous report. Morning began to dawn, and things quietened down a bit, and at 9.a.m., on the 12th March we went from the trenches back to our base, after having an experience, which I think, none of us will ever forget.

Our stay in barracks was not for long, for on 13th March we were ordered back to the trenches again for a stay of 24 hours. It is pitiful to see some of the houses- which used-to-be. In villages near the trenches it is one mass of ruin; churches, too, are included. All that remains of what must have been a fine old church is half of the tower. An extraordinary thing in one of these wrecked villages is a beautifully constructed shrine by the roadside. It is practically untouched excepting for a bullet hole just here and there. Needless to say, it attracts everybody’s attention. Our Sunday service was conducted last Sunday in a modern theatre, built 1912. Holy Communion was celebrated at 8 a.m. on the stage of this theatre, but there not being sufficient room we had to remove the pit. This may strike one as being very curious, but I can say from experience a theatre can be turned into a very fine church. Our chaplain, who is a very pleasant gentleman, officiated.

The soldiers here seem fine fellows. They all look very fit and not a tiny bit perturbed through the war. Fighting has not the tiniest effect upon them apparently. That ‘Use is second nature’ seems perfectly true. This war is a fearful thing, but it is giving us all such an experience and bringing upon most of us such a fine condition of health that if we are spared to see it through we can never forget it. I am indeed sorry to hear of the outbreak of disease at the Ascot Hospital, but am more sorry to know of Miss Blackburn being a victim. I truly hope it will be very soon suppressed. I trust, sir, that my letter will not be boring to you, and in conclusion, I would like to say that I’m longing for the day when I can enter Ascot’s dear old church and thank the Almighty for deliverance and protection from and through this awful and terrible war.

With best wishes for your health and well-being.

I am, sir, yours faithfully,

AUGUSTUS T. TURNER.”

* *

A WORKING PARTY has been held (usually at the Rectory) from August to December, and is now going on. In the first instance the work and a contribution in money was sent to Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild. At the present time we are working for the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (Scottish Women’s Hospitals.) Pyjamas, slippers, and hot water covers are out chief contributions. Units are in France and Serbia. The sun of £41 13s. 3d. has been sent in money: and we have an “Ascot bed” in one of the Hospitals.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine (D/P151/28A/17/6)