Details of the last moments of a friend are wonderfully precious

Sydney Spencer’s good friend and army comrade Henry Loughton shared in the general grief at his death.

2/5th Norfolk Regiment
49TDS
Royal Air Force
Catterick
Yorks

23 Oct. 18

Dear Mrs Image

I convey to you my heartfelt sympathy at this time as you mourn the loss of your brother Sydney.

I am very grateful for the kindliness which prompted your letter. Details of the last moments of a friend are wonderfully precious and especially so when the noble courage they define is so truly typical, and of the essence of the life into which I am proud to have memory for me.

I am immeasurably thankful that he desired me to possess a memento.

I am at present attached for training to a long distance bombing and reconnaissance squadron and hope to be in France in a month or so.

Believe me,
Yours very sincerely

Henry E Loughton

2/5th Norfolk Regiment
49TDS
Riyal Air Force
Catterick
Yorks
23 Oct. 18

Letter of sympathy to Florence Image on the death of her brother Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/81)

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A very big business lying in abeyance owing to owner’s internment

In a follow up to a letter of 22 March, the prison authorities had investigated the past of a German internee – which sheds light on the history of dolls.

From further information I have obtained from Stichl today it appears that he ran two sets of business – and his history seems to be:

Some years ago a German Jew named Ephraison started a business in Bradford making dolls’ hair out of wool – before that the hair on dolls was obtained from China & was human hair – often from deceased persons – before that again imitation hair was simply painted on the doll’s head. Stichl saw that Ephraison (who died in 1915) made a good thing out of it – so improved on the invention & started the work himself – as well as being a wool merchant.

The German Firm at Sonnenberg that he started made dolls’ hair only – there is no wool trade there – and the profits were very big – 50% and sometimes 100%, and it became a very big business. It is this part – dolls’ hair – that he disposed of to Mr Guy, both at home and at Sonnenberg – not the wool portion which in Stichl’s case is lying in abeyance owing to his internment. He was a wool merchant not manufacturer.

I will send in Mr Guy’s letter with special note to it – if he replies.

C M Morgan
Gov.

8.8.18

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

“Of course no English branch of the business can be carried on now War exists”

A suspicious letter from a former business contact in Germany led the authorities to take a look at an internee in Reading. His business used Yorkshire wool to make hair for dolls in toymaking centre Sonnenberg.

Re letter of G Stichl March 18th 1918
Attention should be drawn to this letter from the Mrs D to whom he refers and to say who he is and how he knows her.
J F W 20/3

Papers returned with many thanks. Doms’ connection with Wm Guy & Sons is on record here, but it is not known that the latter firm acquired Stichl’s business or that the branch at Fonneberg had not been interfered with by the Germans; letter posted.

22 March 1918
G Stichl and Mr Doms
20.8.15 S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regn, Internment

Stichl states:

He had a wool and dolls hair business in Bradford and at Sonneberg (near Coburg). About 1890 he advertised in Yorkshire for a correspondent – received a reply from Mr Doms, who was correspondent in spinning machine maker’s office, Messrs Wild & Co, Leicester. Engaged him and found him useful – a German speaking perfect English and other languages. Was trained by Stichl at Bradford from about 1890-1896 and then became Stichl’s managing clerk at Sonneberg – used to come to Bradford to see Stichl, and Stichl visited him frequently to examine books &c.

Mrs Doms. Cannot remember her maiden name – was a German woman who was his book keeper at Sonneberg. She married the managing clerk Doms. Does not know that she was ever in England. Cannot speak English. Frequently saw her.

About 6 or 8 years ago the business both at home & abroad was disposed of by Stichl to Mr Guy, under the name of Guy & Sons, Doms and Mrs Doms remaining as before, but Mr Doms severed term… [too faint to read].. to see Mr Guy.

States that Mr Guy still has the business and that from letter he has received from Mrs Doms, business is still carried on successfully and has not been interfered with by the Germans – but of course no English branch of the business can be carried on now War exists.

Mr Doms joined the German Army and he now learns from Mrs Doms has been made prisoner by the British Army.

C M Morgan
Governor
[to] The Commissioners

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

“The doctor called it ‘Influenza’, but I called it things in much less mild language!”

Training in Yorkshire, Sydney Spencer contracted influenza, the scourge which would end up killing more people than the war. He gives a graphic description.

Warmsworth Hall
Doncaster
Sunday March 3rd 1918
My Dearest Sister

Do you imagine for a single moment what happened last Tuesday? I fell suddenly & grieviously sick! What of? I know not. The doctor called it ‘Influenza’, but I called it things in much less mild language! I had a fearful headache which nearly blinded me & a swollen throat which resulted when I ate in my having a fearfully exciting & incessant sort of steeplechase going on in my throat, ie the food ran along my tongue, paused in mute horror, took breath, gathered itself up carefully like a cat does before jumping, took a flying leap at the small breach left where my throat once was, landed gasping on the brink & then I did the rest by a spasmodic system of gulps. And that’s the only amusement I got out of it! Well, my sickness left me yesterday as suddenly as it came!

The joke of the matter is that a man in this house was discovered to be the proud possessor of a throat which for days past had been dip (no I dare not spell it!) – let us just call it dipth—ia! Furthermore since the aforesaid man was batman to Capt. Fitch who sleeps opposite me, well by the time Thursday came, when I was feeling much less alive than dead, I was having a fairly cheerful outlook on life.

I gargled with ‘lysol’ & that killed whatever germs had attacked my throat & I am as well as possible again.

What do you think of that for a bloodcurdling tale?

Dear old Rowell, commonly known as ‘Pongo’, is now writing his one letter a week to “his Muzzie” as he puts it. He is a sailor by profession, frank & open, but a very blasphemous young man (not really but he bluffs it). He can scarcely spell his own name but is a gentleman by birth & education. He has so far asked me how to spell Warmsworth, the date of the day, & ‘week’, in one minute I shall have to give him my undivided attention, bless him. (Yes, Pongo, UPSET does spell upset, & been spells been & not bean!)

All love to you both, & my humble respects to the kings among feline races.

Your affectionate Brer
Sydney

Letter from Sydney Spencer to his sister Florence Image (D/EZ177/8/3/7)

Learning to ride in the army

Sydney Spencer was training at Doncaster, and receiving riding lessons, a traditional officer’s skill.

Nov 7th [1916]
By order 1804 I am detailed with Ferrier, Brierly & Clemence to join Lt Col Simpson’s (Yorkshire Dragoons) equitation classes on Fisher Park on Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays.

Florence Vansittart Neale
7 November 1916

Our submarine hit 2 dreadnaughts.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); diary of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/12)

Satisfactory results on the Howitzer course

Sydney Spencer excelled at his howitzer training course.

1916
Sept 15th

By order 1493, Otley. The undermentioned who attended the 2nd Howitzer course Sept 4th to 9th obtained marks as under.

Lt S Spencer – 93. 3084 Sergeant Harrod 67.

The GOC Brigade wishes to congratulate Lt Spencer, The Commanding Officer thinks the results are very satisfactory & congratulates both officer & NCO.

Diary of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/12)

Seeing the draft off

Sydney Spencer said goodbye to some of the soldiers he had trained, off to the front lines, wile yet again, he remained behind.

August 16, 1916
I go to Ripon, & return late to see draft off. Sleep in waiting room with Archdale & return Ripon by 7 am train on 17th.

Diary of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/12)

How to throw bombs

Sydney Spencer was sent for training throwing grenades.

Aug 15 [1916]

Battalion 1296. Lieut Spencer will proceed to Ripon tomorrow to arrange for throwing of bombs by men of this Battalion at present at Ripon.

Diary of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/12)