We can trust our brave soldiers absolutely and entirely

The vicar of Reading St Mary encouraged parishioners to pray for all involved in the war.

The Vicar’s Notes

We are now in the thick of the most terrific struggle in the history of the world. We can trust our brave soldiers absolutely and entirely; they are fighting with a magnificent spirit and courage that is the wonder and admiration of all. The point is that they should be able to trust us, the civilian population; a great deal of the issue of this battle depends on the moral and spiritual backbone of those who are here at home. We ought at this critical time to make our prayers a deeper and greater reality and so I am putting in front of our magazine this month some simple heads of intercession.

Let us pray for:
Our King, and all our leaders at home and at the front.
Our fighting men and those of our allies.
The wounded and the prisoners.
The fallen.
The doctors, nurses, stretcher-bearers, the chaplains, on or near the field of battle.
The people at home that may be steadfast and true.
For final victory and after victory, lasting peace.

S. Mary’s Church is open each day till 9 o’clock in the evening so as to give opportunities of quiet prayer and intercession in this time of need.

S. Saviour’s District
R.I.P.

It is with great sorrow that we have heard of the death of George Courtnell, our late esteemed Verger, and our hearty sympathy is with Mrs. Courtnell in her sad bereavement. He died in the Canadian hospital at Doullens, having been brought there with many other wounded at the beginning of the recent big battle in France, and was buried with military honours near there. He died as he had lived, trying to do his duty. He was a faithful servant of Christ, and a loyal worker and helper at S. Saviour’s.

Our deep sympathy is also with Mrs. Lane, who has for the second time been called to make the sacrifice of a son, Henry Paice having been recently killed in France. He leaves a widow and children, to whom also, as to his mother, we offer our sincere condolence.

S. Mark’s District
R.I.P.

It is with sincere regret that we have to record the death of George Martin, one of our old S. Mark’s choir boys. He met with a very serious accident some six months ago, while engaged in the service of his country, from which he never recovered and passed away in the Royal Berkshire Hospital on April the 8th. He was most wonderfully patient and cheerful through all his illness. We offer his parents and sisters our sincere sympathy.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, May 1918 (D/P98/28A/13)

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Alas! glorious victories cost precious lives!

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

OUR SOLDEIRS.

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

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

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

Offers to tend the graves of soldiers

A few Wokingham parishioners had volunteered to held look after the parish’s war graves (of Canadian soldier who had died of wounds).

Soldiers’ Graves

In connection with the request in the last Magazine for offers to tend the graves of soldiers, two applications have been received. A dozen more are wanted.

Wokingham St Sebastian parish magazine, May 1918 (D/P154C/28A/1)

“It all seems like a Cook’s tour to me instead of real war”

Sydney Spencer was now very close to the action, as he confided in both his diary and a letter to sister Florence (written in pencil on a scrap of paper). His fluency in French meant he was the recipient of the sorrows of an elderly Frenchwoman.

Diary
Wednesday 24 April 1918

After a very peaceful night I got up at 7.30. after breakfast had a rifle inspection. Made up mess acocount. Wrote to OB. Sent cheque to W H Smith & Sons. We march off & dig in at 2 pm. We go to M-M. We arrived here at 8.45 pm. Our platoons dug in & made cubby holes. Before one could say knife they had scrounged any mount of loot & made cubby houses! One was named Norfolk Villa, another “Tumbledown Nest”. Another “Home sweet home”.

Two pathetic incidents, an old lady horribly crippled finished her plaint weeping, “Vous me donnerez, M’sieur, [meme?] grand service si vous tirez a moi”! [You will give me great service, sir, if you will shoot me.]

Another, outside our cellar here in the yard lies a cross with grave number & the legend ‘A British soldier’. Tonight Frost found some flour someone else went to move. Brought back some sort of [lime?]. The two were mixed before I discovered the mistake. Result chaos!

Guns are behind us now firing considerably in “crashes on suitable targets”!


Letter

24.4.18
My dearest Florence

A cellar in a ruined village, straw on the floor, 4 candles, a brazier, a table ‘scrounged’ from somewhere with glasses, table cover & supper in preparation. Artillery getting ever louder & nearer. And that is how I approach nearer the real thing. It all seems like a Cook’s tour to me instead of real war. I suppose it is a case of fools & angels again!

Only twice have I been made to feel the effect of war. Outside leaning against the wall is a small wooden cross torn up from goodness knows where & on it the legend “A British Soldier” and a grave number. An old lady, very crippled, who wept & spoke patois, poured her troubles into my ears, seated on a pile of wood & earth. I was the only one who could understand her so I had to bear the brunt of all her troubles. I will not tell you all she said, but when I told her gently that there was nothing I could do, she wept and pathetically asked me whether I would do her the kindness of shooting her! My captain, who says that he is a well seasoned soldier, was quite touched by the incident, so you can imagine that I had to take very great care to preserve an outward calm.

But still my darling Florence I am as I have repeatedly said, very perky & as well & vigorous as ever I have been. My tootsies are just a little weary after much walking about today, but otherwise c’est une bagatelle.

All love to you my darling sister &
Cheer Ho

Your always affectionate Brer
Sydney

Same address
I am Mess President of my Company. Tonight my [illegible] discovered some flour in a disused mill, another went for more & brought back some lime, both were mixed before I discovered mistake. Result chaos!!!

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); and letter to Florence Image (D/EZ177/8/3/22)

Laid to rest: the Newbury roll of honour

The Newbury men who had been killed were listed in the church magazine by installment.

ROLL OF HONOUR

Copied and supplied to the Parish Magazine by Mr J W H Kemp

(Continued from last month.)

45. Pte Benjamin Weller Smith, Duke of Cornwall’s LI, killed in France, June 18th, aged 24. Laid to rest at Bus, France.

46. Corp. Harry Lawes, killed in Mesopotamia 21st January, 1914.

47. Pte Ernest Westall, Territorials, died 16th June, 1916, in hospital.

48. Pte William Oscar Wickens, 8th Batt. Royal Berks Regt, missing since Oct. 13th, 1915, now reported killed.

49. Pte Bertram Edgar Wickens, Inter-communication Section 1/4 Royal Berks Regt, died of wounds April 17th, 1917.

50. Pte Gerald Lionel Wickens, 1/1 Trench Mortar Battery, 1st Infantry Brigade, killed in action August 27th, 1916.

51. Pte James Reginald Swatton, killed November, 1916. RIP.

52. Basil Henry Belcher, Royal Berks Regt, missing, believed killed, July 1st, 1916.

53. Pte Charles Whitehorn, killed in action July 3rd, 1916, 5th Royal Berks Regt.

54. Alan George Busby, killed in France June 9th, 1917. RIP.

55. In memory of Thomas Alfred Stillman, 2nd son of Mrs Stillman, of Market Street, Newbury, killed in action June 6th somewhere in France.

56. In memory of George Frederick Stevens, Qr-Master-Sergt, Royal Engineers, killed in France, July 10-11, 1917.

57. Sergt Frederick John Preston, 2/4 Royal Berks Regt, died of wounds, Le Trefont Hospital, France, 7th June, 1917.

58. L-Corp. William Crook, 94142, 128th Field Co, RE, killed July 1st, 1917, late of Diamond Cottages, Newbury.

59. Sergt W H Lake, 633 battery RFA, Indian Expeditionary Forces, died August 10th, 1916; prisoner of war in Turkey.

60. Pte Frank Pibworth, 6th Batt. Royal Berks Regt, died of wounds August 1st, 1917.

61. Pte Charles Mundy, KOYLI, killed Sept. 14th, 1917.

62. Pte Alfred John Aldridge, 16th Royal Warwickshire Regt, killed in action in France July 27th, 1916.

63. Pte Albert James Geater, A Co 1/4 Royal Berks Regt, killed in action August 16th, 1917.

64. Signalman Arthur William Stevens, 1st Devons, died of wounds in Hospital, France, October 4th, 1917.

65. Pte George Herbert Smith, 6th Batt. Royal Berks, killed in France March 10th 1915.

66. Pte James Henry Smith, 6th Batt. Royal Berks, killed in France August 27th, 1915.

67. Pte Edward Albert Smith, 6th Batt. Royal Berks, killed in action August 16th, 1917.

(To be continued.)

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, April 1918 (D/P89/28A/13)

Are the Canadian war graves well cared for?

War graves in Wokingham were untended.

Last July the following paragraphs were inserted in the Magazine:-

Soldiers’ Graves.

It is hoped to arrange for the care of all the graves and more especially of those of men from Overseas, who have no friends here to do this. Several people have already undertaken this excellent work, and the Vicar would be glad if they would kindly inform him which grave they are tending, so that such a grave may not be apportioned to anyone else. He would also be glad to receive the names of any others who would like to undertake the care of the grave.

There was no response. This, to say the least of it, was somewhat disappointing. The Canadian Authorities have now written to ask if the graves are well cared for or whether they should make arrangements for getting the work done. We hope that it will be regarded as a privilege of the Parish to tend the graves of those who lie buried here.

We therefore draw attention to the paragraph above.

In connection with the care of graves it has often struck us that more use might be made of small plants and bulbs. If suitable ones are chosen they need but little attention and always look tidy.

N.B.- The Vicar has a few such plants which he would be glad to give anyone who applies.

Wokingham St Sebastian parish magazine, April 1918 (D/P154C/28A/1)

The clear, brave notes of the “Last Post” are heard again

There was news of a number of men from Burghfield.

THE WAR

Honours and Promotions

Captain Richard P Bullivant of the Mill House (County of London Yemanry) has been awarded the Military Cross for good service in Palestine, particularly in connection with the charge of dismounted Yeomanry near Jerusalem.

Mr George D Lake of Brookfield has received his commission as 2nd Lieutenant after OTC training, and is to join his unit (ASC, MT) in France on 1st March.

Ernest Wise (2/4th Royal Berks) has been made Provost-Sergeant of the Battalion.

Casualties

B Hutchins (2/4th Royal Berks), wounded, a second time.

Discharge

A C Lovelock (ASC, MT), ill health, Feb 1918.

Obituary Notice

Lance-Corporal R T Montagu (see last month’s magazine). Mr Montagu has received a letter from the captain of his son’s Company containing the words –

“Your son was in my platoon before I took over the command of the Company, and I gave him his lance stripe. He was a thoroughly good fellow, and a really fine soldier. The Company has lost a good man, and he will be greatly missed.”

He appears to have been killed by a shell while out on patrol early on the morning of the 8th January.

The death of Ernest Goddard is recorded with regret. He died at home on 12th February. He was called up from Reserve at outbreak of war, and posted to the 1st Royal Berks. Wounded in October 1915, he lost his right arm, and was discharged in June 1916. We all sympathize with his father and the family. The Depot of the Regiment sent a bearer party with a corporal and a bugler to his funeral on the 16th February; and the clear, brave notes of the “Last Post” were heard again in our quiet churchyard.

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

“He has had one of his legs amputated, but is going on well”

Several Bracknell men had been killed or very badly injured.

We have to record the death of three Bracknell men who were on active service.

Sapper Alfred Brant, R.E., was killed on 1st December, 1917. His officer wrote that he was killed instantanously, and said that he had rendered very valuable service and had just been nominated as an N.C.O.

Private Henry Fletcher was in the Royal Berks; he died of fever at Salonika on January 1st.

Corporal A.F. Davis, 2/4 Royal Berks, was killed on January 20th. His mother has received a letter from the Chaplain who buried him, in which he says that he was a very fine soldier and very popular with all. Before the war he was a policeman in the Berks Constabulary.

Trooper Richard Legge, Berks Yeomanry is reported missing since 27th November. He was serving in Palestine.

Sergt. F. Mutlow, R. Scots Fusiliers, was seriously wounded on December 14th. He has had one of his legs amputated, but is going on well, and is in hospital at Liverpool.

Bracknell section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, February 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10)

“He died gloriously doing glorious deeds during the course of our brilliant advance “

Tribute was paid to former students at Reading School who had fallen in recent months.

Killed in Action.

Central Ontario Regt. Pte. F.C.(Eric) Lawes, eldest son of Mr. F.J. laws., of 116, Hamilton Road, Reading, aged 22 years. On August 8th.

Captain Brain, Killed In Action.

The sympathy of the whole town will go out to Mr. and Mrs. Sydney Brain in the loss of their second son, Captain Frances Sydney Brain, Royal Berks Regiment, who was killed in action on the 3rd October. Born IN 1893, he was educated at Reading School and Leighton Park School, and in 1912 he obtained a scholarship at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. At the outbreak of the war he joined the Cambridge University O.T.C., and on February 26th, 1915, was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant, being promoted Lieutenant on July 29th, 1918. He proceeded to France in June, 1916, and was recently promoted Captain. The news of his death was received by his parents on Wednesday, and was contained in a letter from the chaplain of his regiment, who wrote as follows to Mr. and Mrs. Brain:-

“I am so grieved to have to tell you of the loss of your gallant son in action on the 3rd inst. He was hit on the head by a shell during the course of our brilliant advance and died instantly. I hope it will be of some little consolation to know that he died gloriously doing glorious deeds. He is a great loss to the regiment, as he was one of our most promising officers. In him I, too, had a friend, and more than a friend, for we were both of the same Varsity, and had mutual friends. I was able to get his body and bring it back to a little cemetery which we started here, where he lies with others of his regiment. We had the service of the Church of England, the last post and a funeral party. My prayers go up that the Almighty will give you strength to bear your sorrow.”


Lieut. H.M. Cook Killed.

Lieut. Howard Mortimer Cook, who was killed on August 8-9, would have been 29 September 1st had he lived. He was the elder son of Mr. John R. Cook, late of Lloyds Bank, Reading, and Mrs. Cook, and grandson of the late Town Clerk of Reading (Mr. Henry Day). He was educated at Reading School and St Edmunds Hall, Oxford, where he rowed in the eight. Although his original intention was to take Orders, at the outbreak of war he was on the point of leaving for Holland to take up teaching in schools, and his passport bore the date of August 4, 1914. He applied for a commission at once, having in the meantime joined a Public Schools Battalion as a private, and in November, 1914, he was gazetted to the 6th Royal Berkshire Regiment. He went to the front in February 1916, being attached to the 5th Battalion, and shortly afterwards was wounded in the head by shrapnel but after a few months at home he returned to the front. He and two other officers were especially mentioned in certain orders of the day as having accomplished some very good work at Cambrai, in which the 5th Berks played so prominent a part. In May last he was transferred to the machine-gun corps. He was killed by the explosion of a mine when taking his section into action during the night. His commanding officer wrote that although he had only been in his battalion a short time he was very popular and his death meant a sad loss to the regiment.

Mathews.

Previously reported missing, now known to have been killed in action on the 31st July, Captain John Waldron Mathews, F.A.F., of San Julian, Patagonia, elder son of E.J. Mathews and Mrs. Mathews, Brockley Combe, Weybridge, aged 28.

Death of Lieut. F.L. Hedgcock.

We greatly regret to record the death of Second Lieut. Frederick Leslie Hedgcock, M.G.C., who was killed in action on Sunday Sept, 29th, at the age of 20, after having served with his Regiment in France over seven months. He was educated at Reading School and Brighton College, and was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Hedgcock, of St. Margaret’s, Shinfield Road, Reading. Mr Hedgcock has two other sons serving in the Army, the eldest, Captain S.E. Hedgcock, now on the staff in Mesopotamia, and Lieut. S.D. Hedgcock, recently gazetted to the R.E. Both have been on active service, the eldest at Suvla Bay and the second son twice in France.

A brother officer writes: –

“we were fighting in a very important sector, and had done very well. Your son was shot through the heart, and was therefore instantly killed.”

His Major writes that he was killed while leading his men into action.

“On behalf of the officers and man of the company, I would tender you our heartfelt sympathy in your sad bereavement. We have lost an excellent officer and you have lost an excellent son.”


Pte. L.C. Shore

Pte. Leonard C. Shore, Lincolns, who died on August 19th of wounds received in action in France, was the son of Lance-Corpl. Shore and Mrs Shore, of 51, Francis Street, Reading, and was 19 years of age. He was educated at the Central School, and at Reading School, having won an entrance scholarship to the latter. Prior to joining up in April, 1917, he was in the office of the surveyor of taxes at Richmond (Surrey). His father, an old soldier, is serving with the Rifle Brigade in Egypt, where he has been for the past three years.

Funeral of Capt. S.J. Hawkes.

At St Bartholomew’s church, Reading, on Monday afternoon, a very large congregation assembled to pay their last tributes to Capt. Septimus J. Hawkes, Royal Berks Regt.

At St. Bartholomew’s Church, Reading, on Monday afternoon, a very large congregation assembled to pay their last tributes to Captain. Septimus J. Hawkes, Royal Berks Regt, who died suddenly in his barrack quarters at Dublin on the previous Wednesday. The Rev. T.J. Norris was the efficient clergyman, being assisted by the Revs. A.T. Gray, B. Mead and H. Elton Lury, C.F., the latter reading the lesson. The deceased officer was before the war, greatly in the boys of St. Bartholomew’s Church, and held this position of Scoutmaster of the St. Bartholomew’s Troup. Educated at Reading School, where he was a member of the Officers Training Corps and of the Rugby xv. He joined the University and Public Schools Brigade. Soon after the commencement of hostilities, and subsequently transferred to the Military College, Sandhurst, where he obtained his commission in the Royal Berks Regt. He soon went to France, and after serving there for some time was wounded and returned to England, and later, with the rank of Captain, went to Ireland. As recently as last month Capt. Hawkes was on leave in Reading on the occasion of the wedding of one of his brothers, at which ceremony he performed the duties of best man. A short time ago Capt. Hawkes successfully passed the difficult examination for the Royal Air Force to which he had transferred just prior to his death.

Reading School Magazine, December 1918 (SCH3/14/34)

A brave man’s death for his King and Country

A bellringer at St Andrew’s Church, Clewer, was the latest to be reported killed.

In Memoriam: Henry Wetherall. R.I.P.

We desire to express our heartfelt sympathy with Mrs. Wetherall, who has lost her husband at the Front. Henry Wetherall was one of our Bellringers, and we could ill afford to lose him.

The Chaplain has written: –

“Your husband was killed in his dug-out by a shell. I know what a blow this will be to you, but I pray that God may show you that even in this ‘all things work together for good to those who love Him.’ You have the pride and the joy of knowing that he died a brave man’s death for his King and Country. I buried him on September 8, in the little village of Boeringhe, in Belgium, in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to Eternal Life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. He was buried alongside of some of his Comrades, and the Police, to whom he belonged, have erected a Cross over his grave. May God comfort and bless you in your great need.

F. W. HEAD, Chaplain of the Guards Division.

Clewer parish magazine, October 1917 (D/P39/28A/9)

Caring for war graves in Wokingham

Some wounded soldiers succumbed to their injuries. The people of Wokingham took on the task of caring for war graves of non-locals, some of whom would have been from the British colonies.

Soldiers’ Graves.

It is hoped to arrange for the care of all the graves and more especially of those of men from Overseas, who have no friends here to do this. Several people have already undertaken this excellent work, and the Vicar would be glad if they would kindly inform him which grave they are tending, so that such a grave may not be apportioned to anyone else. He would also be glad to receive the names of any others who would like to undertake the care of a grave.

Wokingham St Sebastian parish magazine, July 1917 (D/P154C/28A/1)

“Doing our best to be worthy of being the cadets of one of the most famous regiments in His Majesty’s Army”

The Church Lads’ Brigade offered training for teenage boys which in many cases led to heroic actions as adults at the Front.

CHURCH LADS’ BRIGADE CADETS

We had a very good Field Day at Streatley on Whit-Monday. The Battalion turned up in good strength, and some useful skirmishing practice was got through on the Downs, an ideal spot for such work.
On Saturday, June 9th, the Annual Battalion Marching Competition was held. By kind permission of the Headmaster of Reading School, the various Companies assembled in the School Quad, and under the management of Sergeant-Major Green, were quickly got into due order for inspection. Colonel Melville, RAMC, very kindly came over from Aldershot to judge the competition, and expressed himself as quite astonished at the efficiency of the lads and highly delighted with the whole arrangements and the esprit de corps displayed by the teams. We congratulate our friends the Caversham Company on winning the Shield, our Earley lads were a very close third.

The arrangements for Whit-Monday and the Marching Competition were very ably carried out by the Acting Adjutant, Capt. H A Smith-Masters, who has just received his commission as a Chaplain in the Army. We congratulate him, and shall miss his help very much. He is the fourth Adjutant we have had since the war began, and all four are now serving in the Forces.

Our Captain, Corporal C J O’Leary, MTASC, received some rather severe scalds while rescuing a comrade from a motor which went wrong, and has been in hospital in France, but we are glad to say he is now much better again.

The following Army Order has filled us with pleasure and determination to try and do our best to be worthy of being the cadets of one of the most famous regiments in His Majesty’s Army:

“ARMY ORDER 128, 1917.

The Army Orders for April contain one of the most epoch-making which has ever been issued in respect of the CLB. It runs thus:

‘The recognised Cadet Battalions of the Church Lads’ Brigade are affiliated to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.’

We hope that every member of the CLB will appreciate the honour of belonging to the famous 60th, and that this will be one more incentive to obtain even a higher standard than the CLB has ever attained before.

The great fact is accomplished, and we hope by it the future of the CLB is assured, and that an adequate safeguard of all its religious training and ideal is achieved.”

Having passed the required examinations, the following lads have been promoted as stated: Corporals F Ansell and C Downham to be Sergeants; Private M Smith to be Lance-Corporal.

The body of one of our old members, Frank Snellgrove, who has been missing for months, has been discovered by a Chaplain in France, and reverently buried with full Christian rites. We offer our deepest sympathy to his people, who have thus lost their only son.

H. Wardley King [the curate]

Earley St Peter parish magazine, July 1917 (D/P191/28A/24)

“An old French lady follows all soldiers’ coffins buried from this hospital, to represent the absent mothers”

A much loved Caversham teacher died after an attack of appendicitis at the front.

Sorrow.

It is with a keen sense of loss that we at Trinity heard of the death of yet another of our noble band of soldier heroes, Percy White who passed away 0n May 10th after an operation for appendicitis. The operation itself was most successful, and he rallied splendidly from it, seeming to be doing well, but later complications set in, and though he made a good fight, his strength was gone.

Percy enlisted in The Army Service Corps in October 1915, fully realising that by reason of long-standing delicacy, he thereby ran more risks than many men, but his action was prompted by a keen sense of duty and a desire above all things to do right. He was an able musician, and for a long time had been a much valued member of the choir. There his help has been greatly missed.
His happy nature, his unfailing good temper, and love of peace, won for him a high place in the regard of all that knew him. All who came in to contact with him felt his worth, and the memory of his quiet, good life will add fragrance to the many undying influences which cast a halo round these walls. As our Pastor said in a sympathetic reference on Sunday afternoon, “He was a musician to his very core, and he made music his life.”

He was a staunch friend, a good brother and a devoted son, and to those of his nearest and dearest called to bear this heavy blow we offer our deepest sympathy. Our hearts go out to them in tenderness, praying that the Father Himself will draw very near all strength and consolation.

One of his comrades in France (where he had been 15 months) writes: “I hardly know how to begin this letter. As I told you in my letter of the 9th, poor Percy was much improved that day, but he had a relapse about one in the morning of the 10th, and passed away about 9 a.m. I truly believe everything possible was done for him, he himself said so to me the last time I saw him. It was a great blow to us all, and we know by what he was to us who have only known him such a comparatively short time, what his loss must be to you. We are only plain men, and as such we offer our deepest sympathy. You knew your boy, we knew him. He lived a clean, honest, upright life, and will, I know, reap the rewards such a life merits. We laid him to rest this afternoon in the British cemetery in a soldier’s grave with full military honours, and it was all we could do for him. The whole section and all ranks attended, and he was followed by an old French lady who follows all soldiers’ coffins buried from this hospital. I believe she represents the absent mothers. She has done it all through this long winter in all weathers; it is a great task she has set herself, but surely a kind one. I can say no more except to repeat that we all mourn the loss of the best of comrades.”

The headmaster of the Caversham Council School, where his great ability as a teacher was much appreciated, gives his testimony: “We trust that the memory of Percy’s cheery disposition, high sense of duty, and good life, will bring some solace to you. I think I may truly say that Percy won the esteem of all those with whom he came in contact, and I know that, in the case of those who became more intimately acquainted with him, that esteem ripened quickly into real affection.”

A fellow-teacher also testifies: “To-day has been indeed a sad one at school, where we felt we all knew and loved him. His nobleness and character had endeared him to all. Working and talking with him as I did, I can say that his daily life was one that helped others to be strong, and I am sure those who were privileged to know him must feel as I do, that they have lost a friend. The children at school loved him.”

Several of our “Kitchener’s Men” have this month laid down their lives for King and county, among them Lance-Corporal W. Dewe, whom many of our friends will remember. He attended our rooms every night, and never forgot Trinity, being a faithful correspondent up to the last.

Trinity Congregational Church Magazine, June 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

A very gallant officer and gentleman, recklessly brave and a fine example of cool courage

The Old Boys of Reading School were distinguishing themselves at the Front.

O.R. NEWS.

Killed in Action.

2nd Lieut. Norman A. Howell, King’s Shropshire Light infantry. On December 23rd.

He is the second son of Mr. W. Roland Howell, architect, of this town. Born at Reading in April 1897, he was educated at Reading School and St. Laurence College, Ramsgate, and had been about a year in his father’s office before joining the Army in November, 1915. His cadet training at school and college enabled him to get his commission. He was posted to the King’s Shropshire’s, was ordered to the front at the end of June last, and has been in the thick of the Somme fighting for six months. Lieut. Norman Howell came home on his first leave on December 6th and returned on the 16th. Within a week he had made the great sacrifice.

His Commanding Officer wrote to Mr. Howell on December 24th:

“I deeply regret to report the death of your son, who was serving in my Battalion. Whilst going up to the front line trenches in charge of a party last night an enemy sniper shot him through the head, killing him instantly. This morning his body was buried by the Chaplain near where he fell, with military honours, officers and men attending.

“I had trench mortars and rifle grenades on the sniper’s post, patrols had reported 8 to 10 Huns there, none there now! On behalf of his comrades, officers, N.C.O.’s and men, I wish to convey to you our profound sympathy . He was loved and respected by all of us, and we mourn the loss of a very gallant officer and gentleman. To all of us he was known as recklessly brave and a fine example of cool courage, devoted to his duties, which he discharged most cheerfully under the most trying conditions.”

“I placed him in charge of the Lewis Gun detachment, on which he had set his heart and soul. He belonged to my own Headquarters’ mess, and I took particular interest in him. A cross has been put up on the grave near Les Boeufs.”

It will be remembered that in October, 1915, Mr. Howell’s elder son, 2nd Lieut. Roland Basil Howell, was reported “wounded and missing.” Nothing has since been heard of him, and any hopes of his being alive hangs on the very slenderest thread. On the 16th of last month the War Office wrote saying that they were now forced to believe he was killed.

Lieut. Basil Howell was born in October, 1895, and received his commission in the 4th North Staffordshire’s three months after the war started. He was attached to the Northumberland Fusiliers (the Fighting Fifth), and went to the front in May, 1915.

Reports received from the front show that on the night of October 1st-2nd, 1915, the battalion to which Lieut. Howell was attached were in severe action. After all the officers of the company had been killed he gallantly led a bombing party to attack a German trench, but was never seen again.

Every possible enquiry was made through the War Office, the American Embassy, the Red Cross, and the wounded men who returned to England. Many references were made by the latter to the respect and love they had for the brave young officer. Like his brother he was educated at Reading School and St Laurence College, and had started his training to follow in his father’s profession. For many years he was an enthusiastic scout, and took a big share in starting the South Reading Troop.

Lieut. Cedric Charles Okey Taylor, East Kent Regiment, attached to Trench Mortar Battery, only son of Mrs. Taylor, 39, Weltje Road, Ravenscroft Park, W., and of the late Mr. Charles Warmsley Taylor, of Reading. Further details are now to hand of Lieut. Taylor’s death.

He died for King and country on December 3rd, 1916, in his 22nd year. Young in years but old in endurance, he was in constant action for 15 months at Ypres in 1915 and on the Somme in 1916. He is laid to rest in the cemetery, at Faubourg d’Amiens, Arras.

2nd Lieut. W. Marsden Cooper, Worcestershires, only son of Mr. and Mrs. John Cooper, 107, London Street, Reading, aged 19.

Cooper was only 19 years of age and went out to the front in the Worcestershire’s about the middle of December, shortly after completing his course at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was educated at Reading School, where he gained a Council scholarship in 1909. His School career was unusually distinguished. In 1914 he gained a School Certificate followed the next year by a higher certificate.

In response to his country’s call, he decided to take a commission, and in the entrance examination for the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, held in February, 1916, he came out second on the list, gaining a Prize Cadetship. At Sandhurst his success was no less pronounced than at school, and he gained the position of Sergeant in his cadet unit, the highest position a cadet can obtain, before he left College. Not only did he have considerable intellectual gifts, as his record shows but he was a fine athlete as well. He was an excellent all round cricketer and his natural powers as a bowler would have enabled him to make his mark in really good company. As a Rugby Football player he showed great promise, and before he left school he had the distinction of being captain of football, captain of cricket and captain of the school. Yet he was never elated by success, and perhaps it was more than anything else his modesty which made him so popular with the boys and the masters alike. Those who have watched his career, for the last two years, and marked the way in which his development always seemed to keep pace with his new responsibilities feel a special grief that a young life so full of promise should have been brought thus prematurely to a close.
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It would be a comfort to find his grave

The Spencer family was trying to help Will’s German friends discover the fate of their missing son.

5 March 1917

A letter for me from Florrie. Percy gets my letters, but thinks I do not get his. (If he has written any letter to me since last April, I haven’t received it.) He has therefore written to Florrie to say that he has handed in an enquiry in respect of Max Ohler to the British Graves Commission, & begged that it may be passed on to the French authorities. If we hear nothing, it may add to the hope that he is alive, but if we do hear, Percy said it will even be “some comfort to know that at best the boy has been buried, & his grave registered.”

Diary of Will Spencer (D/EX801/27)