Sgt Sawyer Spence 1 Queen's Westminster Rifles 1910 - 1921

Photographs donated by Jon Spence (Grandson)

  • 1QWR Sawyer
    Sawyer Champion Stanley Spence (born 10 September 1892, died 19 November 1973).
  • QWR Dovercamp 1911
    This is the summer camp of the Queen's Westminster Rifles at Dover (the castle can be seen in the background), taken in 1911. This was my Grandfather's second annual camp. The first was at Minster, on the Isle of Sheppey. He joined the QWR on 18 January 1910. His 'Soldiers Pay Book : For Use on Active Service' gives his age on enlistment as 18. In fact, he was born on 10 September 1892 and was only 17. We also have a parchment certificate recording my Great Grandfather's date of enlistment to the 108th Regiment of Foot on 24 December 1867, also "aged 18". He was born on 26 September 1851, making him only 16 on enlistment. Like father, like son. You just couldn't hold them back!
  • QWR Abergavenny, 1913
    Following Dover in 1911 (see earlier post), the Queen's Westminster Rifles held the 1912 summer camp at Frith Hill, near Bisley in Gloucestershire and in 1913 were in Abergavenny in Wales. This was to be the last summer camp of its type.

    On Sunday 2 August 1914 the 1st Battalion of the QWR boarded a train at Paddington Station on route to the annual camp on Perham Down, Salisbury Plain. The camp would not be held. That evening the whole of the 2nd London Division was ordered to return to London, amidst rumours of imminent mobilisation. By the early hours of the Monday morning the Battalion was back at Paddington. German had declared war on Russia on the previous day. Britain declared war on Germany on Tuesday 4 August.
  • QWR Abergavenny, 1913-1
    Soldiers from the Queen's Westminster Rifles at one of their pre-War annual camps, Abergavenny in 1913. The QWR can trace their history back to the groups of volunteers raised in the city to defend the country against the threat of invasion during the Napoleonic wars. In 1860, these volunteers were known as The Queen's (Westminster) Rifle Volunteers and they served with distinction in the Boer War in South Africa in 1900-1902. With the formation of the Territorial Army in 1908, they became the 16th (County of London) Battalion, London Regiment (Queen's Westminster Rifles). Perhaps as a result of these annual camps, the QWR was one of the few territorial regiments thought fit for overseas service at the outbreak of war in August 1914.
  • 1QWR The Borrowed Hat
    My Grandfather (bottom right), his brother Bert (left, in the borrowed hat), and two friends from the Queen's Westminster Rifles (one without his hat). Taken in 1914 or 1915.
  • QWR Bathtime Leverstockgreen August1914
  • QWR Leverstockgreen August1914
  • 1QWR Family Group October1914
    Here's a picture taken in October 1914 of my Grandfather and his family before he left for war at the beginning of November. On the back is written "25.12.14, taken Oct 14", which suggests that my Grandfather was sent the photo for Christmas, with a package of gifts. His Regiment, the Queen's Westminster Rifles were in the front-line trenches at Christmas 1914 and so involved in the famous Christmas Day truce when the German troops sang carols across from their trenches and when the opposing sides met in No-Man's Land to exchange gifts and to bury their dead.
  • 1st Bn QWR 1914
    Sawyer Spence (my Grandfather) is third row from the front, fourth from the left. He joined the QWR on 18 January 1910.
  • 1QWR Mother and Son 1915
    My Great Grandmother, Marian, and Grandfather, Sawyer.
  • In The Studio 1915
    My grandfather is on the right in the back row. I don't know when this was taken. My grandfather was promoted to Sergeant on 10 February 1915, but his three stripes are different to those of his fellow NCOs. Perhaps they were a temporary "do-it-yourself" job, pending the availability of some proper stripes. So the photo could have been taken in 1915.
  • 1QWR 1915
    My grandfather is second from the right in the first (standing) row.
  • QWR All's Well 17may1915
    Postcard addressed to Mrs Spence [my Great Grandmother], 8 Albemarle Gdns, New Malden, Surrey, England.

    Postmarked Field Post Office 17 May 1915 and bearing the red triangular stamp 'Passed by Censor'. On the picture side of the card, you can see where the censor has scratched out the location of the photo.

    The message reads 'all's well, Sawyer'. Since 26 December 1914, the Queen's Westminster Rifles had been in the Houplines sector near the France-Belgium border. The 1st Battalion relieved the Sherwood Foresters in the front-line trenches on 7 May and were relieved after a week by the West Yorks. There were no casualties during this week, so my Grandfather's "all's well" message, was (relatively speaking) about right.
  • 1QWR Ecole Communale 1915
    Addressed to Mrs Spence (my great-grandmother), 8 Albemarle Gardens, New Malden, Surrey, England. Post-marked Field Post Office 1 JU 15. The message reads "have moved from the old position marching Friday night and continuing again 4.30 am this morning Saturday. All's well, heaps of love Sawyer 31.5.15"

    The Queen's Westminster Rifles had been in the Houplines sector of the front line since December 1914. On 30 May 1915, they marched with the 18th Infantry Brigade from Bailleul to Poperinghe in the Ypres salient. On the following day, they marched through Ypres, which was still smouldering as the result of a bombardment the week earlier, and relieved the 9th Infantry Brigade.
  • 1QWR Armentières 1915
    Postmarked 'Field Post Office 5 JU 15'

    To Mrs Spence (my great-grandmother) from Sawyer (my grandfather).

    "Have moved further left along the line, country very much prettier, terribly hot weather, all's well with the boy. Heaps of love Sawyer. P.S. should like plenty of lemonade powder, weather very trying".

    According to the regimental history "on June 4th there was a severe bombardment of the support trenches with H.E. shells. Much damage was done and 9 men were killed and 12 wounded".

    The picture is titled "[name of town scratched out for security] - Rue des Murets - L'Octroi'.

    The small building in the foreground is signed 'L'Octroi d'Amentières'; Octroi being a tax post and Armentières being close to Houpline where, until recently, my grandfather had been stationed. "Mademoiselle from Armentières" was a song that was sung during World War I, also known as "Hinky Dinky Parley Voo".
  • 1QWR Remembrance Sunday 1915
    My grandfather outside an artfully camouflaged shed, perhaps an out house to a house or farmhouse where he was billeted.
  • 1QWR Houghtons Ensignette
    Most of the pictures from the Great War that I have been posted are postcards or "official" photographs. However, my grandfather took his own camera to war and this is it. This is a Houghtons "Ensignette", made in London, patent 1907. It folds up to the size of a modern digital compact though, with its robust metal construction, is much heavier. The previous and following photos were both probably taken with this camera.
  • 1QWR In the trenches
  • 1QWR Shellshock 1916
    Madam, I regret to have to inform that a report has this day been received from the War Office to the effect that No 1165 Sgt Spence S.C.S. 16th London Regt is ill at General Hospital Le Treport suffering from Disordered action of heart 22.06.16. Any further information received in this office as to his condition or progress will be at once notified to you. I am Madam your obedient servant G.T. Bartlet May. On 20 June, the Queen’s Westminster Rifles’ Medical Officer had reported that “1165 Sergt Spence S. is suffering from a nervous breakdown, the result of being shelled. Until now he has always been very healthy and anything but nervous, but seems now to have quite broken down. He is extraordinarily nervous and has lost confidence in himself and in my opinion requires a good rest”. Lt-Colonel Rupert Shoolbred, commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, Queen’s Westminster Rifles wrote – “I desire to add to my M.O.’s letter about 1165 Sgt S.C.S. Spence that this N.C.O. came out to this country in Nov, 1914 with the Battalion and has done good service the whole time. He is a good N.C.O. and a good soldier and I am extremely sorry that the long strain has told on him. I only hope that with a good rest he will be quite well again and I shall then welcome him back to the battalion". And so, my Grandfather returned to England with “shell shock”, so avoiding the Battle of the Somme.
  • 1QWR Lastmanstanding (date unknown)
    My grandfather, Sawyer (Stanley) Spence taken during the Great War. He's the one standing at the back. He doesn't look happy. Perhaps because he was the only one without a chair!
  • 1QWR Waac 1917
    Members of the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), recently established in 1917. I think this picture was probably taken in Richmond Park, where my grandfather was training cadets, between recovering from shell-shock and returning to the War.
  • 1QWR Richmond Park 1917
    My Grandfather was sent home from France in July 1916, having suffered a nervous breakdown/"shell-shock". He was discharged from Mount Vernon Hospital in Hampstead in December 1916 and spent three months at Seaford Guard Convalescence Home.

    He then went to London, where he was employed as a Sergeant Instructor of Officers to the Cadet Corps. Initially he slept in tents in Richmond Park, later moving to billets in Wimbledon, where he carried out a similar job instructing cadets to be officers.

    This picture was probably taken in Richmond Park during that period. These are members of the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), recently established in 1917.

    Sawyer returned to France in 1918. Because the Queen's Westminster Rifles had a surfeit of Sergeants, he was transferred to the 6th London Regiment, which had a shortage. Sawyer returned to France in 1918. Because the Queen's Westminster Rifles had a surfeit of Sergeants, he was transferred to the 6th London Regiment, which had a shortage.
  • QWR Cadets 1917
  • 1QWR Sgt Spence
    My grandfather, Sawyer Champion Stanley Spence, is second from the left in the middle row
  • 1QWR Sgts 1918
    my grandfather, seated, third from the left, with a group of Sergeants from the Queen's Westminster Rifles
  • Armistice Day
    Most of the group photographs in our family collection are of the Queen's Westminster Rifles, but this group seems to include a variety of regiments, including French and Scottish soldiers. My grandfather, fourth from the left, second row from the back, doesn't have a QWR badge on his cap. Having been on active service from November 1914 to June 1916, he returned home with shell shock. He returned to the war in 1918, but with the 6th London, who were short of Sergeants, the QWR having a full complement. Perhaps, this photo was taken on his return to war in 1918.
  • World War 1
    My grandfather my have taken this photo with his Houghtons Ensignette
1QWR Sawyer
1QWR Sawyer
Sawyer Champion Stanley Spence (born 10 September 1892, died 19 November 1973).