More wounded men arrive in Windsor

King Edward VII Hospital in Windsor was continuing to receive patients.

3 May 1917
Wounded soldiers

It was reported that since the last meeting, 9 soldiers had been discharged to Woolwich and on April 14th, 29 more wounded had been received from Southampton, bringing the total number in Hospital to 52.

King Edward VII Hospital Committee minutes, pp. 397-398 (DH6/2/4)

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Armed ships on the Thames

Even the River Thames was now regarded as a dangerous place.

10 December 1916

Mrs Martin tells me her niece tells her, whose husband works in Woolwich, all merchant ships go down the Thames now as mid guns each end.

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

A ghastly pantomime

John Maxwell Image wrote to his friend W F Smith with news of a visit from a distinguished former pupil; reactions to a threatened air raid; and a book he had read by ‘Ian Hay’ (the pseudonym of a serving officer).

29 Barton Road, [Cambridge]
3 April ‘16
My most dear old man

That was a tumultuous week just passed. Tuesday’s blizzard came on in an undreamed of fury. We were delightedly entertaining an old pupil – now CE and General Commanding a Brigade of Cavalry, who passing thro’ C[ambridge] on the day previous, had learnt my marriage, and came off at once with his congratulations and the remembrances he was charged with by his brother – another pupil and now Colonel of an Infantry Battalion and DSO. It was a happy meeting. Florence apologised for having to put his teacup in a writing table in our tiny drawing room, because we had not yet set up one of those cunning nests of teatables. Next day arrived a beauty from him, begging we would accept it as a belated wedding present. A day later, and he was ordered away again: but the flying call was such a delicious whiff out of the early past.

I never saw such blinding snow before, and oh the prostrate treeboles next day – like spillikins on the grass. I counted 50 khakis labouring on their trunks in our paddocks, and at least as many in St John’s…

On Friday evening I was finishing a letter when suddenly the electric light went down, then rose, then sank – three times altogether, and left us with the faintest glimmer, just shewing enough that someone else was in the room. The official C. warning of Zepps. We packed the servants in snug armchairs by the kitchen fire: and ourselves went out into Barton Rd, where were sundry residents, chattering under the stars, – and a Trinity friend of mine in khaki, stopping all cyclists and compelling them to put out their lights. The sharp military “Halt” in the dark made at least one fellow tumble off his bike in terror! People said they heard bombs. I heard nothing, not even the drone of a Zeppelin – though one or more did pass over C – but innocuous. The Berlin news claims, I see, C among its victims.

Yesterday, at 11 pm, I was pulling off my trousers for bed, when down once more went the ghastly pantomime of the lowered lights and I had to rouse those integuments and go forth to see what was to be seen. On both nights the lights were kept down till 4 am. This morning the sudden raised flash woke me up from the sweetest slumber.

I hear from our carpenter that much damage has been done at Woolwich, where he has a couple of sons. Not a hint of this is suffered to appear in the Press….

“In Germany the devil’s forge at Essen was roaring night and day: in Great Britain Trades Union bosses were carefully adjusting the respective claims of patriotism and personal dignity before taking their coats off.

Out here we are reasonable men, and we realise that it requires some time to devise a system for supplying munitions which shall hurt the feelings of no pacifist, which shall interfere with no man’s holiday or glass of beer, which shall insult no honest toiler by compelling him to work side by side with those who are not of his industrial tabernacle, and which shall imperil no statesman’s seat in parliament.”

Read “The First Hundred Thousand” by Ian Hay (of Joh.[St John’s College]. I Hay (I forget his patronymic) is at the Front and describes the training and subsequent war experiences of a Kitchener’s Battalion so graphically that I have never seen it better done.

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

Three days without food in a forgotten trench

More Earley men (and a woman) joined up in the war’s second autumn. Others had suffered the vicissitudes of war.

Yet another of our choirmen, Mr F C Goodson, has gone forth to the war and carries with him our good wishes. Mr Goodson has joined the Army Service Corps (19th Labour Company) and will be employed in France, probably at one of the landing stages. On Sept 7th we heard of his safe arrival on the French coast, and the Vicar heard from him on the 20th.

Mr Stanley Hayward, who for many years has served both in the choir and as principal server, has also gone. Mr Hayward offered his services as clerk to the Army Ordnance Corps, and left home to report himself to Woolwich on Sept. 8th. He, too, carries with him our best wishes.

Mr William Stevens, of 119 Grange Ave, private 2nd Battalion of the Royal Warwicks (which played a gallant part in the first battle of Ypres in Oct, and later on took part in the battle of Neuve Chapelle) has been home and amongst us. Pte Stevens was wounded in the back and buried by a bursting shell in the trenches, and was subsequently dug out. Among his other experiences, he was left with 11 others in an advanced trench for three days without food, as the order to retire failed to reach them. On this occasion he was officially reported “missing”. He has now recovered his health, and sailed on Sept. 2nd to rejoin his regiment. His two brothers are serving, one in the Persian Gulf; the other is in the Royal Navy and shortly expected home on sick leave.

We regret to learn that Mr Herbert E Long, of 40 St Bartholomew’s Road, trooper in the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, has been wounded at the Dardanelles. Fortunately the wounds appear to have been slight. Like Mr W Stevens, he too has two brothers serving in the Army, one with the Army Service Corps in Egypt and one presently in England.

Miss Hilda Sturgess, one of our Sunday School teachers, sailed on Sept 10th for Egypt in company with about 100 nurses. Miss Sturgess reluctantly gave up her class at the beginning of the War and joined the nursing staff at St Luke’s Red Cross Hospital for the wounded. After many months work there the War Office requested her to undertake work in one of the hospitals, presumably Cairo or Alexandria, and she accepted the call. It is a courageous action to go out with strangers into a strange country without hope of return for at least six months. It seems to us a true and honourable service to one’s country and deserving of every commendation.

Mr Reginald Sturgess, another of our old choir leaders, has left England for the Dardanelles. He joined the West Kent Yeomanry about a year ago. They have been quartered near Canterbury these many months wondering whether they would be sent abroad or not. Orders came last month, and they are now either in Egypt or, more probably, at the front in Gallipoli. Mr Reginald Sturgess has won considerable distinction in machine gunnery, and will without doubt prove himself an efficient and capable soldier.

The Rev. J W Blencowe, whose lectures on the Melanesian Mission have been greatly appreciated here, has resigned his curacy at Wokingham and been appointed Chaplain to HM Forces in the Dardanelles. By a curious coincidence Mr Blencowe will go out with the West Kent Yeomanry to which Mr Reginald Sturgess belongs. At the time of writing we have no other information than that Mr Blencowe was ordered to be ready on Monday the 20th ult. If he sails with the West Kents, the chaplain and one of the troopers will begin their friendship with a good deal in common.

Earley parish magazine, October 1915 (D/P192/28A/13)

“Mother, mother, save me”

William Hallam relates a spooky story about a fallen soldier from Wantage, while Florence Vansittart Neale has more spy rumours.

William Hallam, 14th September 1915
Mrs Hallam came down from Wantage. She told us a strange thing. Young Bobby Lovegrove was killed in the Dardanelles the other Sunday. His mother was in Wantage Church and was seen to look ill and get up and leave the church, and when her friends asked her what was the matter she said she had heard her boy’s voice say quite distinctly – “Mother, Mother, save me”. This happened the same Sunday he was killed before she knew even he was in Gallipoli. Young Eady too was killed the same time.

Florence Vansittart Neale, 14 September 1915
Heard 2 submarines (Germans) sunk in Bristol Channel & one beached. Shaw also saw one being chased near Lundy, & was caught.

Hear submarine catch nets made at Appledore.

Hear now they have guns at Woolwich which can go 10 miles. Also that the man [who was?] head of our aeroplanes is a spy! All changed now!!!

Diaries of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24) and Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“The bomb went into a water tank”

Florence Vansittart Neale was excited by the news of a near miss for St Paul’s Cathedral – and a related spy scare.

3 September 1915

Heard Liverpool St Station a ruin by Zep. raid Sep. 3rd but instead now hear the bomb went into water tank & did no harm. Just escaped St Paul’s.

Hear signalling seen close [to] Woolwich Arsenal during raid. House located & people all caught.

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

Wounded in the retreat from Mons

There was bad news of several men associated with Bracknell.

THE ROLL OF HONOUR.

It is feared that the name of Henry Hollingsworth, of the Royal Berks, must be added to the list of those who have fallen in the war. He was reported as missing as long ago as September last, and since then diligent enquiry has been made concerning him. Some time ago some of his comrades reported that he had been wounded in the retreat from Mons, and now definite information from one who saw him after he was wounded has come in with the further information that he has died of his wounds. Hollingsworth was formerly one of our Choir boys, but his family removed to Newbury, and it was only about a year ago that his mother returned to Bracknell. He was a widower and has left some little children in his mother’s care.

SIDNEY HARVEY, one of our postmen, Corporal in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, has been wounded in the head. He has been moved to England and is in a hospital in Rochester. We are thankful to think that he is going on well.

ALBERT REEVE, another Corporal in the same Regiment, has also been wounded in the arm, which is broken. He is at Woolwich, but we shall hope soon to see him in Bracknell.

JOHN SCOTT, who has many friends in Bracknell, has also been wounded, but is reported to be doing well.

LEONARD TAYLOR, of the Canadian Contingent, was engaged in the battle in which these troops so greatly distinguished themselves, after the enemy had driven back the French soldiers on their right by the use of poisonous gas. Thank God he was unhurt.

We continue to offer daily Intercessions in the Church for the War at 12 noon when the bell rings. On Monday, May 10th, one of the Rogation days, a Special Intercession Service was held at *p.m. This was well attended.

Bracknell section of Winkfield District Magazine, June 1915 (D/P151/28A/17/6)

Spicy news about spies

Florence Vansittart Neale in Bisham was excited by the war news, including spy stories, while William Hallam in Swindon scoffed at rumours that the war was causing bad weather.

Florence Vansittart Neale
7 June 1915

More Zeppelin raids (Gravesend). Our aviator brought one down in Belgium….

Mr Courtney [came] with very spicy news – spies here!!

I hear spy told about ship full of explosives at Gravesend. Zeppelin came, but did not hit it. Demolished a whole street, & according to the Maidenhead tailor, soldiers got out 15 of hand & shot 15 of Zeppelin crew (but I don’t think we got it in England!!)

Hear that Selfridge is full of explosives!!

Hear much damage done at Woolwich arsenal by Zeppelin.

William Hallam
7th June 1915

Very hot and dry again yet according to some – a good many in fact – foolish people, we should have had it wet all the time this war lasts, for a time ago when it was so wet they said it was caused by so much heavy gun fire. Very hot to-night.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8) and William Hallam (D/EX1415/23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With best wishes for your health and well-being.

I am, sir, yours faithfully,

AUGUSTUS T. TURNER.”

* *

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

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

“In death, they were not divided”

The people of Ascot mourned the death of some of their sons who had lost their lives at the Front – including two brothers, a soldier and a sailor, killed on the same day. They also had a military hospital in the village, and contact with well-wishers in Japan (which was an ally of the British).

Roll of Honour
Oscar William Tottie R.I.P.
Eric Harold Tottie R.I.P.
Alfred Harry Tidbury R.I.P.
Bernhard Pratt-Barlow R.I.P.

A REQUIEM EUCHARIST for our Sailors and Soldiers is celebrated on Saturdays, in All Saints Church, at 8 a.m.

THOSE AT THE FRONT.

We have to add the following names to our List in the October Magazine.

NAVY – William Walter Paxford, Stephen John Waite, Egbert Arthur Tidbury.

ARMY – Sydney George Sumner, Charles John Walls, Ernest Monk, James Johnston, George Lappage, Ernest Oram, Harry Bonnard, Matthew O’Connor, Thomas John Minns, William Brown, Paul Meakin, John Henry Baker, Robert Waight Sensier.

LIEUTENANT ERIC TOTTIE, Northumberland Fusiliers, was wounded at the Front on Sunday, September 20th, and expired in the base Hospital on the 22nd, being the same day on which his brother Lieutenant Oscar Tottie lost his life on H.M.S. Aboukir. “In death they were not divided.” We can only repeat what we ventured to say last month in regard to the elder brother. We pray that GOD will comfort the father and mother of two noble lads. R.I.P.

A Memorial Service for the two young officers was held at All Saints Church on Tuesday, October 6th. It was largely attended.

“THE SUGGESTION” in last month’s Magazine has met with a most generous response, and a family of Belgian Refugees is happily installed at Easton Villa, Kennel Ride – resting after their sad flight on foot from Antwerp a short time ago. We know they will soon have many friends, for we feel sure that all who go to see them will want to go again. Anyone wishing to pay his or her subscription direct to Mrs. Elliot and “Sandridge” will find a box on her front door on Sundays, from 10.45 a.m. to 12 noon, and from 2.45 p.m. to 4 p.m. Envelopes to contain the subscriptions (on which the Donors names must be written) will be given on application to Mrs. Elliot – who is the Hon. Treasurer for all monies subscribed for the purpose.

THE ASCOT MILITARY HOSPITAL is, at the time that we write, full to overflowing with wounded and sick Soldiers. They seem happy in their quarters; and in many cases, what with Ascot air and good treatment, their convalescence has been rapid. Already several patients have sufficiently recovered to be dismissed.
(more…)

‘Just the clothes we stood up in’

On the 18th of September Percy wrote to his sister Florence, anticipating his transfer to his boss’s Territorial regiment. He was quite cheerful about current conditions although remaining critical of the earlier shambles. No doubt his brother Sydney would have been touched by the praise of the YNCA, for whom he was working at another camp.

Sep 18.14

My dear Florrie

Today it is glorious, but I am a wanderer, attached to no Company and without a roof until tonight. All my chums left yesterday for Woolwich. I remain here pending my transfer, but they are all so busy here, I doubt if I get it for a few days.

The instructors and other kind people are frequently distributing pipes, tobacco, shirts, socks and so forth among the men.

Practically all of us, acting on the advice of the recruiting sergeants, came away in just the clothes we stood up in, and our discomforts would have been very much relieved, if we had been warned to come better prepared.

All the men are improving in appearance – the hard work and diet is pulling up the slackers, and there is nothing to complain of the men going away for their course of training at Woolwich. A week here is doing wonders with them.

The YMCA people are the salvation of the camp. God knows what the fellows would do if they were left to their own resources.

The townspeople are very good to us; we are given apples and things on march, and we always come in for a cheer or two.

If I am transferred I hope I shall be able to do my drills and musketry course, and I hope too we shall see some service, as it is fairly certain that if I remained with the Gloucesters, I should see service, and I don’t want to be out of it.

Yours ever
Percy

The same day he chased up that elusive transfer request again with Captain Holliday

Horfield YMCA
opposite Barracks
Bristol

18 Sept 1914

Staff Capt R J Holliday

Dear Sir

I have just seen the orderly sergeant in reference to my transfer, and he informs me that there is no form I can fill up as the matter is unusual, and it will be necessary for you to apply to the War Office for a special order. I hope you will not have much difficulty in doing this, as I am afraid you have already been put to a lot of trouble on my behalf.

Major Trench and Major Spragget here, and other officers, seemed to see no difficulty – only the NCOs.

My term of service is the same as everyone else’s in Kitchener’s Army – three years, if the war lasts as long, but we are all to be discharged with the utmost speed at the conclusion of the war, so I do not see why there should be any difficulty in my transferring to your regiment, which I believe is also a general service regiment for the duration of the war.

I hope you will be able to arrange my transfer, as I should of course be glad to be serving under you.

Yours faithfully
Percy J Spencer

Letters from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/3/7 and 7/12/4)

A most uncomfortable time – but the men are transformed

Percy Spencer was keen to arrange his transfer. He spoke frankly about army life and the shocking conditions for new recruits in a letter to his father in Cookham. He had also met some of the survivors of the retreat from Mons.

Private Spencer
No: 11814
The Gloucester Regiment
YMCA Tent
Horfield Camp
Bristol
Sep. 17.14

Dear Father

But for the fact that I shall probably get my transfer, I should today have been off with my company to Woolwich. Under the circumstances, I shall probably be here another four days, now.

We were a merry party, wet through or dry, penniless or flush, we saw the fun in everything, and when there was no fun, one of us made it.

My chums of a week have gone and you wouldn’t believe how lonely I felt looking round our empty tent. If I don’t get my transfer, I am after them; they may not be good enough for a dinner party but the sort of men I should like to fight with.

We lost a lot of men at Mons, and some of the wounded are here, fine earnest looking fellows, all anxious to get back again. All the men here who have seen service, have a wonderfully straight, stern look.

I have been very chatty with the officers this last day or two about my transfer. They are a fine body of men, sympathetic and anxious to relieve our conditions if possible. Practically active service conditions, to quote the press, are very trying to untrained men, and it would sicken your heart to see the fellows going down all over the ground at first parade. But I am told that when a few days ago. Men were sleeping on the grass without cover (luckily I have at least escaped that), the Colonel would walk round after midnight, and see that every man at least had a blanket.

Yesterday I saw Major Trench about my transfer. He thought I should get it, and told me to see the CO this morning. I made my first salute, turned right about and went flying over some tent rope. Today, amongst 500 men in the YMCA tent, he remembered my face, and stopped to ask me how I had fared, and expressed the hope that I should get my transfer. A wonderful man, with eyes like electric drills but so kind. He made a rattling good speech to us the other day – nothing silly, just earnest and sincere. None of the claptrap we had served up to us in London.

Your loving son
Percy

On the same day Percy wrote to his peacetime boss, Captain Holliday, to try to move things along, with a brief comment on life in the camp. (more…)

“One poor fool has cut his throat” – difficult conditions for the recruits

No sooner had he joined the army than Percy Spencer began to have second thoughts. Conditions at the camp he was assigned to were dreadful, with one suicide. His former boss, Reginald Holliday, had a staff post in the Territorial Army, and was keen for Percy to join him. But would this be possible faced with army bureaucracy? A lengthy struggle kicked off with this letter.

No. 3 Company
Gloucester Regiment
YMCA Tent
Horfield Barracks
Bristol
Sep. 13, 14

Dear Sir

Thank you so much for your letter – I’m very glad you think I’ve done the right thing.

I should like nothing better than to be with you in this business, so if you think I should be useful to you, I shall be more than glad if you can arrange a transfer as you are good enough to suggest.
I sincerely hope you will be able to do this, but in fairness to you, must point out that I am the rawest of recruits – a four days soldier, without uniform or kit. Moreover we have all been badly mauled by some OTC youngsters here.

But you will know whether I should be up to the work you require me to do, and, needless to say, I would do my utmost not to disappoint you, sir.

Today I have been transferred to No. 3 Company, and believe I shall get my number tomorrow when it is rumoured that we are to go to Tidworth, Aldershot or Woolwich. If we are moved, I will advise you at once.

Conditions are very bad here, and men are sneaking off, and one poor fool has cut his throat. But the camp is well situated in glorious country, and the staff here are undoubtedly doing their utmost to deal with an unprecedented situation.

Yours faithfully
Percy J Spencer
To –
Staff Captain R J Holliday
6th London Infantry Brigade

Letter from Percy Spencer to Captain Holliday (D/EZ177/7/12/1)