“Their language is of the bluest, but their hearts are sound enough”

Percy Spencer reported on his experience in officer training. Most of his fellows had, like himself, been at the front in the other ranks, and been selected for promotion based on merit, rather than the traditional pre-war gentlemen only.

July 17, 1917
My dear WF

My address is No. S/4/087268 Sgt P J Spencer, ASC, Attd C Company, 58th TRB, Sergeants Mess, No 9 Camp, Kinmel Park, Rhyl. That’s all.
And really I think that sums up the horror of this place.

From my very short experience, it seems to be an exceedingly well organised place – the staff are pretty stiff on parade, but jolly good fellows off it.

Just how long I shall be here it is difficult to say. It depends apparently on the needs of Cadet units. Probably I shall not be here more than 2 ½ weeks. But I may be here 6 weeks.

I am told the War Office issues orders as to when and where men are to be sent. So I may possibly still go to Cambridge. Application to the GOC 13th Training Reserve Brigade from Col Ready might possibly be useful, but I don’t think so, as rumour hath it that we ASC people do a special course somewhere in this part of the world. There is also a rumour that some men get 4 days leave from here before joining their Cadet School.

There is an extraordinary mixture of men here. Their language is of the bluest, but their hearts are sound enough….

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/46-49)

Regular orders for definite hospitals

The Wargrave Surgical Dressings Emergency Society was now run on more organised lines.

Wargrave Surgical Dressings Emergency Society

Since April 25th, 1915 to January 9th, 1917, the Surgical Dressings Emergency Society has sent out from Wargrave Station – to Casualty Clearing Stations, Hospitals in France, in Gallipolli, Mesopotamia and Salonica,

344,866 Dressings
8,447 Comforts such as Shirts, Pyjamas, Shoes, Bed Jackets, Mufflers etc.

The Society is now working under the Director General of Voluntary Organizations (War Office) and he has somewhat changed the system of working.

We have now regular monthly orders for definite hospitals; a certain number of Dressings and Comforts to provide –

Dressing Gowns, Slippers, Bed Jackets, Handkerchiefs, Towels, and Socks are needed next month – besides the Dressings.

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

“The Germans may try to send poison to German Prisoners of war in order to contaminate water supplies”

Broadmoor, acting as a war hospital for metally ill PoWs, received the following warning. Was this ridiculous hysteria, or was there a genuine threat?

War Office
London SW1

20th June 1917

Sir,

I am commanded by the Army Council to inform you that information has been received from General Headquarters, British Armies in France, that the Germans may try to send poison to German Prisoners of war in order that the latter may contaminate water supplies etc.

I am to request that, in the event of any suspicious enclosures being found in parcels of Prisoners of War, the Commandant of the Prisoners of War Camp shall pass them to the Medical Officer for examination and analysis.

I am,
Sir,
Your obedient servant,
B B Cubitt

[to]
General Officers
Commanding-in-Chief at Home.
Copies to Commandants, Prisoners of War Camp.
Commandant, Crowthorne War Hospital, Wellington College.

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

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

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

June 11, 1917
My dear WF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours ever
Percy

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

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

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.
(more…)

“Much abuse of the manpower of the nation”

The Dodeka Club discussed government inefficiency in putting people’s skills to the best use.

The 283rd meeting of the Dodeka was held at Baynes’ on April 13th 1917.

Much interest was shown in the early part of the evening in Morris’s recent experiences with burglars, the full account of which was heard by many for the first time.

After refreshments the host called on Morris for the paper.

Morris, after explaining that he had been unable to prepare a paper suggested as material for discussion, the two topics had been prominently before the public during recent weeks, namely “Man Power” and “National Service”. The secretary, after some thought, concluded that the best title for Morris’s remarks would be (with apologies to Dickens), “The Art of Circumlocution, or How not to do it”.

Many instances were given of Navy business methods. Orders being sent for confirmation from Reading to Winchester, Winchester to Salisbury, Salisbury to the War Office, and being received back via the same route, thus wasting much valuable time. Instances were given of skilled mechanics being put to road making and men off the land being put to the work of mechanics, such as painting, etc. it was concluded that there was much abuse of the manpower of the nation, and that the War Office had no direct methods of dealing with any business.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

Worse cases than we have hitherto had will be sent to Mortimer

Some of the costs of the many voluntary hospitals which were treating wounded soldiers had to be met locally.

V.A.D. Hospital

This hospital was opened on October 24th, 1914, and became an Auxiliary Hospital attached to the 3rd Southern General Hospital at Oxford. On April 1st this year it was transferred to the No. 1 War Hospital at Reading. The following letter was received from Colonel Ranking:-

“To the Commandant V.A.D. Hospital, Mortimer, 30/3/17. Dear Miss Wyld. I have the honour to inform you that V.A.D. Hospital, Mortimer, will be transferred from this command to the War Hospital, Reading, on 1st April next. In relinquishing control of the above Hospital I wish to convey to yourself, the Medical Officer and Staff my very sincere thanks for the assistance rendered to me by the able and efficient manner in which the work of the Hospital has been carried out while in this command, and my best wishes for a successful future.
Yours sincerely, George Ranking, Lt.-Col. Administrator 3rd S.G. Hospital.”

At the request of Colonel Maurice, Administrator No. 1 War Hospital, Reading, the number of beds has been increased from 18 to 28, and in all probability worse cases than we have hitherto had will be sent. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking very heartily all the many kind friends who have generously helped in the past, both with money and other gifts. Any further help will be most gratefully accepted, for while the prices of everything are so enormously increased, the Government allowance of 3/- per diem per man remains the same, and it is not intended or expected that this allowance should cover all expenses in such Hospitals. Last year the expenses worked out at 4/7 per head. This was rather high, but for a long time we had very few patients and then the cost comes very heavy. The accounts are made up to December 31st, audited and sent through the Red Cross Committee to the War Office.

F. M. Wyld, Commandant.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, June 1917 (D/P120/28A/14)

“They wanted the beds badly, but were not in a position to provide the extra cost”

Newbury District Hospital was taking more and more wounded soldiers, and even had to build an extension at their own expense.

Annual General Meeting held at The Newbury District Hospital on Friday March 9th 1917

Committee’s Report

The record of the past 12 months may be told in a few words. Though the year 1916 has been in a sense an uneventful one, having been marked by no additions or alterations to the structure of the hospital, it shows an increase in the amount of work done amongst both civilians and soldiers over all former years. The resources of the hospital have been taxed to the full, as many as 74 beds having been occupied at one time. As in 1915, five convoys of wounded soldiers have been received from the Front. The total of civilian patients, amounting to 365 (not counting X-ray cases) exceeds the number of those treated in the previous year by 10, whilst 63 more soldiers have been treated than in 1915. Of these latter, there has been a considerably larger proportion of severe cases.

When the temporary annexe was put up at the end of 1914 for the reception of the wounded, there were not many who supposed that it would still be in use during a third winter. But the building, in spite of its light construction, has served its purpose well, and beyond some strengthening of the roof, has needed little repair. A sum of about £100 has been spent in painting the outside woodwork of the hospital and in completing the decoration of the Kerby Wing.

Military Hospital

A notice had been given that at the conclusion of the annual meeting a special meeting would be held to pass a resolution for the expenditure of a sum, not exceeding £300, of the capital funds of the Hospital, in providing further accommodation for military patients.

The Chairman, in introducing the subject, said the Medical Officer at Tidworth saw the Matron and asked her to provide further beds, as 25,000 wounded soldiers more would be placed in the Southern Command. It appeared to them that the one hospital especially suited was Newbury as being on the main line for Southampton. The matron pointed out to him the impossibility of further beds in the present building, and that the staff, which was sufficient for the present accommodation, would be too few for a different building. Miss Atkins brought the matter before the Chairman of the House Committee, and the House Committee referred to the Managing Committee.

It appeared at first that the Government might be induced to provide some, if not all of the money necessary. That was not received with enthusiasm by the authorities. The Managing Committee and Mr. Vollar went into the matter thoroughly, and decided that the Army appeal was of such a nature that they could not do otherwise than accept the proposal and the obligation involved. Efforts were made to get the Government to provide the additional cost of an annexe. The hon. Secretary interviewed the Medical Officer of the Southern Command, and he interviewed the War Office. The authorities’ attitude was that they wanted the beds badly, but were not in a position to provide the extra cost. It was pointed out that the hospital as arranged at present was sufficient for the needs of the neighbourhood, and that these extra buildings would only be used for the War Office. They had strong grounds therefore to ask for assistance, but it was definitely stated that they would get no money nor extra doctors or nurses. They decided to do their best. The conditions in the building trade made it difficult to get work done. At a special meeting it was arranged that Mr. Hitchman should do the work, and at once order the materials. He proposed that they authorise the expenditure of not more than £300 out of capital funds of the Hospital, and ratify the action the Managing Committee had taken before the meeting.

Mr. Savill said that he had been in communication with the Medical Colonel, and he could not promise any financial assistance. He did give one concession, and that was that formerly they had received 3s. 6d. per man per week; now it was suggested that 4s. would be paid. They would save £100 for beds and bedding, which would be supplied by Sir Richard Sutton. Mr. Hitchman had been able to get the galvanised iron. The cost would be £300, anything over that amount would have to be paid out of revenue.

Mr. Vollar said Mr. Hitchman had agreed to work on a five per cent profit. He would show his receipts. It was a very handsome and liberal offer on Mr. Hitchman’s part.

The resolution was passed, Mr. Peake seconding, and the meeting concluded.

Newbury District Hospital minutes (D/H4/3/2)

“A great want of confidence in Politicians, the War Office and the judgments of Tribunals”

Members of Reading’s Dodeka Club discussed the thorny question of conscription. The evening’s host was considering whether it was time for him to join up voluntarily.

The 282nd meeting of the club was held at Goodenough’s on March 2nd, 1917.

… Gibbons introduced a friend, Lt de Villiers…

…After refreshments the host suggested as a commencement for discussion the question of “National Service”, and pointed out that he personally was requiring advice as to the advisability of volunteering. The experience gained after the Military Service Act and the Derby Scheme gave one a great want of confidence in Politicians, the War Office and the judgments of Tribunals. The host feeling great doubt in his mind as to whether justice would be done to the great body of business men in the country.

Penfold started the ball rolling in the discussion, by asking if members were liable to prosecution under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, should any decision be arrived at, a military representative being present. Some discussion then took place regarding the action of Tribunals, the necessity or otherwise of National Service, compulsion and reduction of the number of shopkeepers. A very pleasant evening was concluded with some submarine stories of a rather fishy nature and a pun relating to Bagged Dads by Gibbons.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

War between Germany and the USA is in the balance

Will Spencer was still trying to find out news of young family friend Max Ohler, a German soldier reported missing. He was pleased to hear from younger brother Sydney, dong well in army training, but was now well settled in Swiss society. Back in England, Florence Vansittart Neale was keenly interested in the prospects of the US joining the war. Johann von Bernstorff was the German ambassador to America and had been involved in sabotage and intelligence work there, and had just been thrown out.

Will Spencer in Switzerland
12 February 1917

A letter from Sydney. Hopes that we may obtain news of Max Ohler from the War Office Prisoners of War Department, which can find out more than any single enquirer can. He enjoys reading my accounts of Switzerland. Has just passed the exam for “Marksman” with 135 points out of 160 (or something of that sort), none of the 28 men he took up with him scoring more than 113. (130 was required to pass.)…

At 5 I called again on Herrn Fursprecher Hodler (by appointement). My obtaining leave to declare a smaller amount of Kriegsteuer [war tax], after signing for 500 fr., dependent of goodwill of the official concerned, but I might make the attempt. An income of 4,800 fr. represents normally a capital of 120,000 francs, for which the tax would be (class 110,000-120,000) 275 francs. I handed in my short sketch of my career, & signed a declaration which he drew up, that military duty “[illegible word] meinem Falle nicht in Betracht” [is out of the question in my case].

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey
12 February 1917

Took dogs a walk again in afternoon – discussed War Savings & digging with Martin & Willie.

Bernstorff given safe conduct. So Gerard left Germany – war with US in the balance. Ag went to Boulogne.

We continually advancing on Somme & Avere. Constant raids.

Diaries of Will Spencer, 1917 (D/EX801/27); and Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

The needs of the Soldiers and Sailors and hospitals continue

Civilians in Bracknell continued to support the war effort.

THE WAR.-

We much regret to report that Lawrence Trodd died in France on December 11th. Much sympathy is felt for his wife and mother.

No official news has come from the War Office respecting George Fish, but there seems to be no doubt that he is missing.

THE SOLDIERS’ AND SAILORS’ CHRISTMAS PRESENTS.-

These were all despatched in good time an acknowledgment of their having been received has come from a good many. We hope none who are on active service have been omitted. The account of the fund will be made public when it has been made up.

THE WAR WORK DEPOT.-

We have been asked to make it known that more workers will be gladly welcomed at the Depot. The needs of the Soldiers and Sailors and hospitals continue, and all workers are urged to maintain their efforts.

Bracknell section of Winkfield District Magazine, January 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/1)

Sending dressings right out to the firing line

People in the villages of Wokingham Rural District gave their money generously, while those in Wargrave were proud to know that their handmade surgical dressings were being put to use at the front where they were most urgently needed.

Our Day

Very hearty congratulations and our best thanks are due to Mrs. Oliver Young and all her collectors, for the splendid contribution sent this year from the district to the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. The Cheque sent to the County Secretary from the Wokingham North District was for £168. 10s. 1d. and was made up as follows:-

£. s. d.
Wargrave per Mrs. Victor Rhodes: 19 3 2
Wargrave per Mrs Vickerman 36 0 0
Hare Hatch per Mrs. A. W. Young 20 7 2
Twyford per Mrs. F. C. Young 23 4 0
Remenham and Crazies Hill per Mrs. Noble 21 1 7
Mr. Noble per Mrs. Noble 20 0 0
Sonning per Miss Williams 13 0 0
Woodley per Miss Pantin 3 6 2
Hurst per Mrs. Roupell 12 8 0

£168 10 1

Wargrave Surgical Dressing Emergency Society

Since March 23rd, 1915 over 300 Bales of dressings and comforts have been sent to Casualty Clearing Stations in France, Malta, Egypt, Alexandria and Port Said. The Society is now approved by the War Office, and properly licensed under the New War Charity Act. In future it is intended to print the hospitals where dressings are sent every month, in the Parish Magazine, as it cannot fail to be a source of satisfaction to know that while the Hospital is doing all it can for the men who have come back, the Surgical Dressing Society is sending every month about 20 Bales right out to the Firing Line, for the use of the men who come out of the trenches on the field of Battle.

List of Hospitals for October and November:

B. Ex. F. France:
No. 5, Casualty Clearing Station
No. 27, Field Ambulance – 9th Scottish Section
No. 3, Canadian Casualty Clearing Station

Egypt:
No. 19 General Hospital, Alexandria
No. 31, General Hospital, Port Said

These Hospitals have 4 Bales of Dressings etc. each:
No. 21 Casualty Clearing Station
No. 5 Casualty Clearing Station
No. 2/2d London Casualty Clearing Station
No. 1/1 Midland D. Casualty Clearing Station
British Exped. Force, France.

4 Bales each.

By order of the Director General. Vol. Organizations
Scotland Yard.

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

Where is Max?

Will Spencer made enquiries on behalf of his German friends to see if the missing teenager Max Ohler had been taken prisoner.

28 December 1916

In the afternoon wrote a short letter to the War Office, enclosing an English translation of the particulars with regard to young Max Ohler. (His “last address” – Herr Max Ohler, Fahnen-junker-Unteroffizier, VIII Armeekorps”, etc, I of course gave without translating it. I addressed the letter HM War Office, Department: Prisoners of War, London). I afterwards began a letter to Sydney, to whom I am also sending the particulars as well as to Percy.

Diary of Will Spencer, 1916 (D/EX801/26)

“His parents have received no official report from the War Office”

There was news of the Winkfield men serving.

OUR MEN WHO ARE SERVING.

Our deep sympathy goes out to the parents and relations of Pte. John Lunn who was killed inaction in the beginning of November. At the time of writing his parents have received no official report from the War Office, but they heard the sad news from his Commanding Officer who, in a sympathetic letter speaks in high terms of their dead son and the regret felt at his loss.

Lieut. Cecil Hayes-Sadler, R.E., and Privates Albert Fletcher, George Higgs, Earnest Woodage have gone to the front in France, and Dr. Albert Jones has sailed for Salonika. Their names are added to our long list read out in Church, with the request for special prayer in our Intercessions on the second and last Sundays in the month.

We have just learnt that Pte. F. Street has recently joined the M.T.A.S.C.

We are glad to hear that Pte. C.E.Burt is now doing well after his relapse and is in Reading Hospital.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, December 1916 (D/P151/28A/12)

“There is a consolation in knowing that he did his duty fearlessly”

One man after another from Stratfield Mortimer was reported dead or missing. The toll was beginning to tell.

Garth Club

We have received with the greatest possible regret the news of the death of yet another member on the Field of Honour. When war broke out many members volunteered, and have been serving in most of the fighting zones, – in the Persian Gulf, in Egypt, at the Dardanelles, and Salonica, whilst a number have been in France in the thick of the fighting.

The first to give his life was Frank Goodchild, Pte., R.M.L.I. (enlisted 1913), who went down in the H.M.S. “Good Hope” when she was sunk in action off the Chilian Coast, November, 1914. He took a prominent part in all Club doings and entertainments, and was a general favourite – “one of the best,” and greatly missed.

Next came the sad news that Lance-Corp. Chas. Wickens, who joined on the 11th August, and was drafted to France in the 1st R. Berks the following November, was reported missing on the 15th-17th May, 1915. And it is since believed that he was amongst those killed at Festubert or Richebourg. In the long period of uncertainty the greatest sympathy has been felt with his family and his many friends. He earned his stripe very early in his training, and was a most promising young soldier.

Swiftly came the news of the death of Sidney Raggett, Pte. In the R. Montreal Regt., who also joined in August, 1914, and after three months in Canada came home to complete his training on Salisbury Plain. He went out in February, 1915, was wounded in April, but returned to his duty in May, and on the 21st was killed by a stray shot at Richebourg. His Sergeant wrote of him, “I was awfully sorry he was hit, as he was one of the best boys I had,” and Major-General Sir Sam Hughes, in a letter of condolence to his mother, says, “…there is a consolation in knowing that he did his duty fearlessly and well, and gave his life for the cause of liberty and the upbuilding of the Empire.”

Another period of anxiety has been the lot of Harry Steele’s family and of his wide circle of friends and chums. He, too, felt directly war broke out that it was his duty to join, and he and a friend enlisted in the 10th Hants, and had a long training in Ireland and England. He went in July to Gallipoli, and was in the great charge on the 20th-21st August. He was reported missing, and after many anxious months there seems a sad probability that he may have fallen in that heroic effort. But no details are as yet known. He was a regular and loyal member of the Choir and of St. Mary’s Bellringers, and will be long remembered in the village for his clever impersonation of Harry Lauder, and for his realistic acting at the Club entertainments.

Associated with him, and one of his close chums, was Pte. W. G. Neville, whose death we now mourn. He enlisted in the Hants Regt., and went out early in this year. After a long period of suspense, the War Office have now announced, with the usual message of condolence, and also one of sympathy from the King and Queen, that it is feared he was killed in the great advance on the 1st July last. He was a regular bellringer at St. Mary’s, and he also took a keen interest and a leading part in all Club affairs, and his topical songs and really clever acting were always enthusiastically received at our concerts. He, too, will be most affectionately remembered and greatly missed by his many friends.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, November 1916 (D/P120/28A/14)