“We were very pleased that we spent those four terrible years in England”

The Van Hoof family, who had spent the war as refugees in Maidenhead, returned home.

OUR BELGIAN REFUGEE FRIENDS.

41, Kapelstraat, Boom,
Prov. (Anvers), Belgie,

March 8th.

Dear Mrs. Lewis,-

I am very sorry I have not been able to write before, but we have been so busy that we have not found time to do anything but arrange things at home. We spent nearly a week travelling before we were home. Before going on the boat we had to stay two days in London, which we spent in sight seeing.

We went on the boat about one o’clock on Friday, 28th, and started to sail about 4 o’clock the same day. The weather was glorious all through the sea journey, so that we arrived in Antwerp on Sunday morning about 12 o’clock. Before we were off the boat nearly an hour had passed. One of my uncles was there to meet us, so that it was quite 5 o’clock before we got home. You can imagine our relatives’ joy at meeting us again. We spent the whole of that day in talking, talking, talking.

Our home was quite alright, but the furniture and many other things that were in it have been stolen or else much damaged. The blankets you gave us have come in very useful, for they are things of the past here. The people have suffered very much, and the clothing has been so dear that they used to have all spare blankets dyed (for garments). The food is now much cheaper, about the same as in England, except the meat and bread. That is nearly twice the price as that in England.

We were very pleased that we spent those four terrible years in England, and by the help of the Committee we suffered nothing to complain of. Thanking you for your goodness towards us, and hoping to receive an answer from you,

I remain, yours faithfully,

J. VAN HOOF

Think of that from a little Belgian girl, who did not know a word of English when she came to Maidenhead!

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, April 1919 (D/N33/12/1/5)

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Our “Burghfield Belgians” are trying to return home

A refugee family who had found asylum in Berkshire were now hoping to return home.

Our “Burghfield Belgians”

It will be remembered that our honoured guests, the Laurent family of Louvain, after a year’s sojourn in the Old Schools, migrated on October 19th, 1915, to Reading, partly for Mme Laurent’s health and partly to get work. The step was successful in both respects. But still better prospects opening up in London they moved there after about 15 months, and have since supported themselves entirely. The enemy having been driven out of Belgium, they are now trying to return to their native country, for though their home at Louvain is destroyed, they have friends in Antwerp and mean to go there, at any rate for a time.

At the last meeting of our Committee it was resolved that any funds left after the payment of small bills should be retained by the Treasurer and handed to the family on repatriation.

The balance in question has grown by interest accretions, from £16 4s 4d to £18 9s 0d, which latter sum was paid by Mr Willink, the Hon. Treasurer, on 13th February, and he holds the receipt. The whole family begged him to thank the Committee and all Burghfield friends very warmly for their help in time of need.

They will probably set up a boot shop again – they had the biggest one in Louvain. The two sons have both served right up to the end of the war – Arthur in fact wishes to remain a soldier. We wish them all happiness and good fortune.

Burghfield parish magazine, March 1919 (D/EX725/4)

Repair the road

Reading Workhouse infirmary (Battle Hospital) had been taken over as a hospital for the wounded.

9th January 1919
Service Road at No 1 War Hospital

Reporting that a complaint had been received from the Commandant as to the condition of the Service Road. The Master reported that owing to considerable traffic in the carting of coal, etc, for the Hospital, the road had become much worn, and to put it in repair would cost about £50.

Recommending that the Commandant be called upon to repair the road and to be informed that the Guardians would hold him responsible for any damage which might occur to the boundary wall.

Report of Building and Farm Committee, Reading Board of Guardians (G/R1/58)

“The London Jews’ Society has probably suffered more material damage through the war than any other of our British Missionary Societies”

A missionary organisation sheds light on the impact of war in Palestine.

LONDON JEWS’ SOCIETY

The London Jews’ Society has probably suffered more material damage through the war than any other of our British Missionary Societies. In Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Safed the Turks, whilst generally respecting the missionary buildings, have ruthlessly commandeered everything on which they could lay their hands. On the Continent, owing to so many of the mission stations being in the fighting area, and the buildings having been used for the purposes of war, much damage must necessarily have been done. Under these circumstances the committee feel that many of their supporters would like to give, in addition to their ordinary contributions, a part of their thankofferings for the blessings of victory to help this special need. They therefore earnestly appeal for Victory and Peace Thank-offerings to the War Restoration Fund at present in existence, the object of which is the restoration and re-equipment of the Society’s mission stations, hospitals and schools, not only in Palestine, but also wherever they have suffered through the War. Remembering the great spiritual debt we owe to the Jew, who has given us our Bible, our Faith and our Saviour, we heartily commend this appeal to the consideration of our people. Contributions to the LJS Victory and Peace Thankofferings should be sent to the local treasurer of the Society or to Mr W R Cory, the Society’s Accountant, 16, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2.

Newbury St Nicolas parish magazine, January 1919 (D/P89/28A/14)

“We were cadets so they sent us at once to the Belgian front”

A refugee teenager ended up involved in the final push of the war, and helped to liberate his homeland.

The Head Master has recently received the following letter from Devos. We all remember how good a sportsman Devos was, and how thoroughly he entered into the spirit of English School life. It is good the think that he carries home with him some pleasant memories of his exile. We hope he will come and see us again.

Dear Mr Keeton,

It is already a long time I have not written you, but don’t think I have forgotten about Reading School. No, for my greatest pleasure is when I am at home to look at the old Reading School Magazine again. It reminds me of my former English teacher, whom I will never forget, the boys and the School where I had such a happy time.

Since I wrote you last time a lot of things have happened and the big war is over. Let me tell just what became of me. In the beginning of 1918, about the month of April, they sent me to the Belgian Sub-Lieutenant School near Treport (along the coast). I stopped there for six months, when the offensive broke out. We were cadets so they sent us at once to the Belgian front. I came too late for the first push, but the second was mine. On the 6th of October I was in front of Roulers. On the 14th at 5.35 our artillery began and we pushed forward. My battery was with the English people. After about three hours everything became quiet. Our troops were advancing and I went to a British ambulance nearby, to help carry the wounded.

The next day I had to move again, this time to Iseghem, where the French came to take our positions. Later on we came down to Thourout for two day’s rest. Hearing that our troops had entered Ostend I asked for one night and a day’s leave and went walking to Ostend where I arrived at night. You could never imagine what a sensation you have to enter your birthplace again after having left it for five years, not knowing anything about it and fearing not to find anything but ruins. Luckily for me I found everything back, except for the small pieces of furniture and copper they took away. I stopped in Ostend till the next day, when I met my brother, then came back to the battery. They had just received orders to move.

We had to go to Bruges to a small village called Ursel to the north of Ghent. We did not stop long, for we were trying not to the Germans time to breathe. On the 31st of October we made an attack but we could not pass the canal de derivation. We tried again the same morning, but again we could not get through. That day we had rather heavy losses. Two days later, on the 2nd of November, we heard the Germans had left their positions in front of us and were retreating. At once the cavalry began to chase them as far as Ghent. Our artillery pressure had become useless there and we moved to the south of Ghent. Everything was ready to make our big push on the 13th of November early in the morning. We had seen our infantry going up to the line in order to start at daybreak. Our guns and munitions were ready – (at that time I had to look out for the munitions of my battery) – even the men were already at the guns, when the order came that we had to return to our quarters, for the Armistice was signed. Luckily for Fritz ! For his worst time was coming, especially now because we had French and English reinforcements behind us.

From Ghent I went to Brussels and stopped there for about two months. Then we had the re-opening of our universities. I went in for Mechanical Engineering at the Brussels University, and have just finished my first year. I have still three others to do.

Please remember me to Mr. Newport, Mr . Thorpe, &c. Give them my kind regards, and tell them I have I have not forgotten all about the School. I suppose games have begun.

I hope that the list of casualties of Old Reading School Boys is not too heavy.

Yours Sincerely,
G. DEVOS.

October 18th, 1919.

Reading School Magazine, December 1919 (SCH3/14/34)

“What would have happened to us if things had gone the other way we shudder to contemplate”

Feelings in Earley were still hostile to Germany.

The Vicar’s Letter

My Dear friends,

We have again very much to be thankful for with regard to the War. We have been passing through a critical stage, much more critical than most people have thought. The attempts of our enemies to bring about an armistice, and to gain time to recover and bring about a peace favourable to themselves, have been attended by very real danger for the future of all free nations, and we may be thankful that they have not succeeded. We all desire peace from the bottom of our hearts, but it must be a just and righteous peace, which will once and for all safeguard the world in the future against the horrors and misery of the past four years. A vindictive spirit is not a characteristic of our nation, but none of us can have read during the past month of the “agony of Lille,” the cold blooded cruelty of the sinking of the “Leinster,” and the outrageous treatment of our prisoners, without feeling that there must be a sharp punishment as well as reparation. Moreover, we cannot, as President Wilson says, make any terms with the present rulers of Germany, and therefore we must still fight on for the present; and surely we ought to thank God that we are more than likely, within a reasonable time, to be in a position to impose our own terms. What would have happened to us if things had gone the other way we shudder to contemplate.

It is possible that the Magazine may have to be suspended for a time owing to the scarcity of paper and the great increase of cost. We shall be in a position to make a further announcement next month.
Your friend and Vicar,
W.W. FOWLER.

THE WAR

Events are moving so rapidly in the War that it is possible for us seriously to indulge in hopes of peace, even though we find ourselves quite unable to put the slightest trust in German professions. It is difficult to understand the state of mind of those who, while asking for peace, continue those very practices which have above everything produced the strong determination in the allies to render them impossible in the future. It does appear certain that the best hope for the World does not lie in a peace by negotiation, but in a peace dictated by strong conquerors who are in a position to ensure justice. The ideal of human justice is to secure society from the depredations of the criminal, and if possible restore the criminal so that he may become a worthy member of society; for this purpose punishment may be necessary and salutary but among civilized people the just judge is not expected to vindicate. It is to be regretted that in some of our leading papers letters are allowed to appear which are more characteristic of the Hun attitude in the days of their ascendancy than of the strong calm nation which is pledged to a righteous and lasting peace. The Germans have shown themselves to be brutal; we are happy to think that our own men could not bring themselves even in retaliation to be brutal, and that we shall to the end retain a clean record.

The following have been added tom the list of those serving in His Majesty’s Forces – Frank White, George Jerram, Albert Harry Burgess.

Our prayers are also asked for the following: –

Richard Goodall, Harry Russell, Killed.

Frank Lloyd, Neil Henderson, missing.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, November 1918 (D/P191/28A/25)

Not all destroyed

Cambrai was recaptured from the Germans.

10 October 1918
We in Cambrai. Not all destroyed.

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

Little details of war

This is the fascinating account written by Sydney Spencer in hospital recovering from shell shock of his experiences at the front line in August 1918.

I have read many a glowing account of deeds & doings up there when men know each other as they are. Not one of these accounts gives for me at any rate, more than a very sketchy idea of the innumerable happenings which may take place in a few days. War is made up, so far as I have seen in my short experience, of little details done, undone, to be done, or to be undone, and unless these things are truly & patiently portrayed, the great with the little, the brave with the craven, then for those who yearn to know how things really happen there is little hope of arriving at an understanding of the atmosphere which surrounds warfare.

Before going any further, do not for one moment mistake me. I am not the old war worn man who has been out there for 3 years or more. My service out here is still in its babyhood. All I wish to do is to set down here as much in detail as possible the happenings of some eight days ending for me in the morning of August 10th, in the hope that should my ain folk ever read this, they may enter a little into what we do out here. Let the papers speak for themselves of vast movements, of cavalry, tanks, army corps, air fights, massings of troops, forward or retrograde movements, strategy & tactics. I mean to talk about much more humble things. How to get men’s socks changed. How to get shovels with which to dig in, under fire when no shovels are obtainable, how to carry the burden of 11 Lewis Gunners, when you only have four gunners left. How to walk that last kilometre when men are almost asleep as they walk. How to buoy men up when they are down. How to sympathize & yet be firm. How to be grim with the craven, & gentle with the exhausted ones.

I want to get away from the newspapers’ broad sweeping view of things & come down to little things, nay, at times to talk of a yard or two of ground or an individual man. The yard or two of ground will not be one necessarily where deeds were done, the individual will not be a budding VC.

And so let us get away & follow these 8 days through. We had had a day’s rest at [censored], after coming up from down south, & then at an early hour of the 1st, Dillon had orders to reconnoitre line in front of [censored], & I was to go with him. (more…)

“If only Fritz would drop a bomb on it, it would save further argument”

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence to let her know how he was getting on. The following day he was to be wounded.

Aug 6, 1918
My dear WF

Almost I’ve forgotten how to write a letter. Lately I have been so busy picking up the threads and so on that I haven’t had time to write a line since July 14, I think it was – not even to write and wish you many happy returns of the 4th. However I’ll put the clock back a couple of days and do it now.

My diary has gone during the last few weeks and I’m racking my brain for news.

To go back, I finished my course on the 17th. My section, 4/7 of which was my Division, won the School cup. The runners up were also 4/7 my Division. So we set our caps at the Canadians, Australians & our friends from USA and swanked. Also individually my section scored highest marks in the examination. My own report read –
Qualifications Very good
Power of command Ditto
Keen

So there was much rejoicing and our [HLI?] instructor got very tipsy at our expense and insisted on singing all the Scotch songs ever written, and some which I believe had before scarcely escaped the boundaries of his “wee bit hoos ben” or some such foreign place.

After that I returned “here” – that’s interesting. From here I went up the line once or twice, and then went “there” and billeted the Battalion. With the aid of 200 men, made the area reasonably clean, and HQ habitable. There was even a piano and one evening we had our string trio over to play to us at mess, and afterwards the doctor (from USA) with a fine voice, sang to us and made us all homesick. And the adjutant begged for Raff’s [Cantina?] and got it, and wondered how I knew when I turned to him during the piece and said, “Your wife plays this”.

And then I came here again & the adjutant being inoculated & sick, I had to ride up the line and take over. And now I am here again (and it’s pouring with rain) in an abandoned cottage with an earth floor and leaky roof and really very comfortable. To a newcomer it would be startling to go round a battalion’s “billets” and hear our boys tell the visiting officer that they were quite comfortable in a tumbledown outhouse or barn. Someday again I expect we shall get luxurious again.

Had one very bad night here during an event I expect you are now reading about. Fritz bombed all night and generally played the devil. A few days before a billet of ours was gutted by fire due to another unit’s fault. Luckily overnight I had organised our people for such an event, and in 25 minutes we had it out and a large farm saved. The other unit having at last accepted liability, rebuilt the place. I remarked that if only Fritz would drop a bomb on it, it would save further argument. He did, but not till it had been rebuilt & occupied and the farmer was gloating over new buildings for old.

The CO has just turned up so I’ll close while I have the opportunity.
With my dear love to you both

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/58-60)

“We have no traitors in our midst worse than the so-called “pacifists,” who want peace at any price and, in many cases, are simply enemy agents.”

The fourth anniversary of the start of the war was commemorated soberly in churches throughout the county.

Sulhamstead

THE WAR

WAR COMMEMORATION

Sunday, August 4th, has been set apart for the purpose of commemorating our entry into this terrible war. We shall remind ourselves that it was impossible so long as we maintained honour, righteousness and justice to hold back. We took our place by the side of France and Belgium, not from any desire to increase our own power or raise our position in the world, but simply to prevent wrong and to work righteousness. Our objects are still the same. There is no hope for the world until the gigantic military despotism of Germany is destroyed. There will be services of Intercession at 11 a.m., St Mary’s Church, followed by the Holy Communion; 6 p.m., St Michael’s Church.

There were good attendances at the church on Sunday, August 4th, for Thanksgiving and Intercession. The offertories for the fund for assisting Prisoners of war belonging to the Royal Berks Regiment amounted to:

11 a.m. £3 11s 0 ½ d
6 p.m. £1 13s 1 ½ d
Total £5 4s 2d

Earley St Peter

August 4th

The anniversary of the proclamation of war (August4th) will this year fall on a Sunday. I do not know whether any special Order of Prayer will be issued. For myself I consider that the forms of Prayer for use in the time of War (by authority, S.P.C.K., 1S.) Contains sufficient material. But I hope all the clergy will prepare well beforehand to stimulate and satisfy the spiritual needs of their people. The collect, Epistle and Gospel for the Sunday (x. after Trinity) might well be used. Otherwise the order suggested for the last year may be used again (Forms of prayer, P. 87 FF.) with necessary changes.

My Dear Friends

The first Sunday of this month, August the 4th, is the anniversary of the war. I wonder what we should all have felt if on August 4th 1914, we had thought it would have continued up to this time. Lord Kitchener indeed said three years and enrolled his army for that time, but such is a contingency seemed impossible to the generality of our countrymen, many of whom thought that the first battle of the Marne was the beginning of the end.

Who then dreamt of the collapse of Russia, or of the entry of America into the war? Who for a moment imagined that Germany would descend to the depths of degradation to which she has sunk in the eyes of the world by her false dealings and her barbarities. Who had any conception of the miseries, the losses, the bereavements, of the greatest war that the world has ever seen? (more…)

Once one of the most lovely cities of France, now a vast loneliness

Many officers were not far removed from their schooldays, so it is not really surprising that some of them behaved like children at times, as a relief from the horrors they witnessed.

July 23rd (really 22nd!)
My Darling Florence

As there are 6 officers sitting at the table & we have all sworn to put a penny in a tin mug for every sentence spoken, there is for the moment a few minutes silence while we letter write. Alas this scheme while I write is broken! Everyone is being ridiculous & writing comic messages on paper & passing them round for inspection. So fat there is only a penny in the cup & it was not I spoke. Good heavens what babes we are!

Yesterday I had a long ride round & saw some lovely country. Glorious fields of ripe or unripe corn interspersed with lurid bands of poppy & laughing stretches of blue cornflower & chicory. Last week I came through a large city, once one of the most lovely cities of France, now a vast loneliness, pathetic, terribly pathetic, gaunt streets with closed houses, looking out with blind eyes on a dead vista, long avenues of trees, on either side of deserted boulevards, a great lovely cathedral seen for miles, looking down on this sleeping city. And only a few weeks ago, this city was instinct with life. The horrors of war came upon it & now nothing of that which makes habitations sweet is left for the people are gone & the ‘household Gods’ are gone too. Nothing is left but the shell.

From miles back this city is seen lying in a laughing valley. The hills round it are clothed with swaying corn, long avenues of trees lead with almost an atmosphere of eagerness down into this city & seen from a distance the city with its warm tinted roofs & clustering streets looks instinct with life! And then to enter it! A pall, grey & pallid, seems to hang over it & sunshine seems to vanish.

Tuesday! afternoon [23 July]

No more time, am off on parade. Just to tease the officers I read a word or two of this high faluting stuff. Result absolute collapse of everyone.

Your always affectionate Brer Sydney

Letter from Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/3/57)

A city of silence

Sydney Spencer was cautious about revealing place names in his diary in case of capture by the enemy, but it is clear that he was now at Arras, whose cathedral was severely damaged by German bombs.

Sunday 14 July 1918

Got up at 6.15. Breakfast 6.45. Am orderly officer today. We move at 9. Parade at 8.30. Marched off at 9. Got to busses [sic] (carrying 23 & 2 drivers) & embussed at 11.20 on RVS Road. Started at 11.35…

12.45 A..s a ruined city from the point of view of inhabitants. A fine cathedral. A city of silence. Left A-s at 1.15. D-y at 1.20. Now lying on road between D & St- awaiting orders. It is now 4.15 pm.

Got into village of “Holy Refuge” at 5.30. Saw men into billets. Found officers’ mess no. 38 ‘La Route de Paris’. Dawkins & I found a bed at no. 39. Mounted guard at 7 pm. Conference at 7.30 pm. Had dinner at 8.15. Saw staff parade at 9.30.

Lights out at 10. Turned guard out at 10.45, & then to bed. Had a bed to sleep on but flies were a great nuisance. Dawkins & I in same bed.

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

“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)

“Saw some poor old ladies who have been gassed with yellow X – a lamentable sight.”

Civilians were among the victims of German poison gas.

Tuesday 11 June 1918

Got up at 7.45 am. Got my kit packed by Fox [his batman]. Had breakfast, & then Jones stropped my razor & got a really good shave. After breakfast got down to Hesdin station. Train was due to leave at 10.15 so Graham & I bought biscuits, strawberries & bananas to eat if no food was available. Started at 11.45. Got to St Pol at 1.15. Lunch at the EFC canteen. Town has been fairly well shelled & bombed. Saw some poor old ladies who have been gassed with yellow X. ‘De profundis’ a lamentable sight.

7.30 pm Candas. We stay the night here at Candas as we cannot go further until tomorrow morning at 7.30. Tea at Café’ [illegible] Henly. Then kits to RTO office, a walk and dinner at same café’. Just discovered that I have left my advance pay book & my cheque book, ‘horribili dictu’, at Marronville!

After dinner I made paper frogs for French officers who thought them ‘tres gentils’. To bed at rest camp at 10 pm.

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

“Looking more or less like an Englishman, instead of a walking mole heap in damp weather & a dust bin in dry weather”

Sydney and Percy Spencer both took the opportunity to write to their sister.

May 28th [1918]
My Darling Florence & Mr I.

Now it is really a time of rest & once more I can sit at a table again looking more or less like an Englishman & feeling very much like one too, instead of looking like a walking mole heap in damp weather & a dust bin in dry weather. Your parcel of toffy & chocolate was very much enjoyed

May 29th
I am simply bursting to tell you of a frightful row between my platoon & the villagers who possessed the little orchard in which they live. Suffice it to say that, broken bottles, language, shovels, dogs, tent mallets, myself, 4 sergeants & the town mayor (an aged full colonel) were chief actors in the scene, to say nothing of a goat which eats my men’s soap and children who steal their rifle oil to put on boots & other little etceteras! Happily we decamped before anything more than threatened warfare had taken place.

The cause of the quarrel? I was ordered to make my tent bombproof which meant digging up the floor of the tent & heaping up round it. This raised the ire of Monsieur et Madame et les petits!…

Your always affectionate

Brer
Sydney

May 29, 1918
My dear WF

Wants as usual.

6 pots of Properts MAHOGANY polish & invoice, please.

1 bottle of fountain pen ink. Boots have some Watermans boxes if you cannot get Swan. Everyone borrows mine & then complain that it’s bad ink!

The polish is for the CO so I hope Thrussells will come up to scratch. He can’t get it from his wife. Thrussells can pack it no doubt. Rather elliptic, but you’ll understand.

Well dear, it’s a lovely day – the planes have been doing stunts over the line and all’s merry & bright. Our quarters are good shelter but no cover against fire so I wasn’t particularly happy last night when the Hun commenced shelling. We have also had a fairly consistent bombing stunt nightly – very pretty to watch but too near to be pleasant.

The other day – Sunday in fact – I went all over one of our tanks. Life inside one must be pretty cramped and unhappy [censored].

My quarters on Sunday were in the guest chamber of a ruined chateau. A shell had had an extraordinary career through the next room but except for windows my room was all right. We went there as our previous quarters were stiff with guns of all sizes firing into our back doors. When some 9 1/2s began to arrive we moved. The concussion of those beggars is terrific.

Yours ever
Percy

Letters from Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/3/38-39); and Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/40)