Beautifully made shirts for soldiers

More young men from Earley had joined up, while the women left behind were supporting them as best they could by making them clothes.

Since last month we have received a supplementary list of soldiers and sailors, some of whom by this time are at the front:

Royal Navy

David Clark HMS Emperor of India
Harry Hunt (Telegraphist) HMS Sutley

Army on active service

William Henry Bishop Grenadier Guards
Charles Lucas RAMC
Arthur Stokes Northumberland Fusiliers
David Gerald Kennard Royal Berks Yeomanry
Herbert Edward Long Sherwood Rangers

On home service

H Allaway
Alfred Bishop (India) Royal Hampshire Regiment
Ronald Eric Brown Royal Berks Yeomanry
Noel Chapman Duke of York’s Light Infantry
Thomas Henry Hill R H Artillery
George William Giseltine Royal Berks Regt.
Arthur Henry Long Royal Berks Yeomanry
Albert Edward Lovegrove Army Ordnance Corps
Anthony Lax Maynard Hussars
Leonard Mitchell R Gloucester Regt.
William Stokes R Dorset Regiment
Reginald Wright R G A
Henry James Judges Royal Berks Regt.
Septimus James Hawkes Public School Corps
Arthur Fulcher Royal Berks Regt.
William Povey Pring

A Bible for a church’s ‘old boys’ at the Front

St John’s Church in Reading was anxious to provide spiritual sustenance for the young men it had sent off to war:

The War

We publish a further list of boys or ‘old boys’ connected with our congregations who are now in training or actually engaged in active service on behalf of the Empire. We are always glad to hear news of our boys and they are constantly remembered by us in prayer. George Townsend, Cyril Keatly, Alfred Richard Allum, Horace Arthur Church, Albert Stevens, William Ernest Charles Egan, Arthur John Robert Egan, Albert Fanstone, Ralph Shepherd, Sidney J Luker, Viney Flint, Percy Froude, William Grantham, Arthur Walters, J J Cooper, A Beckett, Walter Crane, Basil Sutton, Edmund Terry, John Edwin Hopcraft, Durward Sydney Hopcraft, James Lyons, William Lyons, – Allaway, A Blake, T J Blake, O L Stagg, W Phipps, A Phipps, Lionel Dymore-Brown, Hugh Dymore-Brown, Arthur Robotham, Arthur Richard Penson, E W Hunt, Victor Fowler, J H Cane.

The Clergy will be very glad to write to any of our lads and to enclose an attractive little copy of S. John’s gospel, which contains also hymns with their tunes and pictures, and Lord Roberts’ letter to the troops, if they are asked to do so. Will parents and friends please communicate with whichever of the clergy knew the young man, giving the full address on paper. In cases where the young man is unknown to the present staff the Vicar will be glad to write.”

Reading St John parish magazine, November 1914 (D/P172/28A/23, p. 4)

Cheerily planning to teach the Germans a lesson

The young men of Wargrave who had joined up were still pretty gung-ho about their prospects.

Wargrave Men at the Front

The Rev. B. S. Batty has received a large number of letters from Wargrave men at the front and serving on His Majesty’s ships, in which they express great gratitude to the people of Wargrave for the tobacco and cigarettes forwarded to them after the Harvest Festival. Most of them say what a great encouragement it is to them to receive such proof that those at home bear them in mind…

All honour to those of our young men who answered the call of King and Country to join the Army. The district has done its best, for nearly all those who answered to the recruiting standard have gone from amongst us to undergo the necessary training. From those we have heard from they are very cheery and full of confident expectation of being sent to the front “to teach the Germans a lesson.” We are sure they will render a good account of themselves. Let us not forget to pray for them and encourage them in every possible way we can. Some of our readers might like to use daily the following prayer: –

O Heavenly Father, we commit into Thy loving hands all the men who have dedicated themselves to the service of their Country, and especially those who have gone forth from this Parish. Let them cheerfully submit to work and discipline, as they prepare for war. Enable them to endure patiently, as good soldiers, and to persevere to the end. Let them not be afraid to profess Christ before their comrades and friends, and to fight manfully under His banner against all the temptations around them. Let them feel our prayers are ever following them. Guard them with a sense of the justice of their cause. Bid them be of good courage and bring them home in peace and safety when the victory is won. All this we ask in the Name and for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wargrave parish magazine, November 1914 (D/P145/28A/31)

Give up drinking during the war

The issue of temperance (abstention from alcohol) was linked to the war in the Reading St John parish magazine:

I sincerely hope that the ‘Emergency Pledge Campaign’ may be warmly taken up amongst us. Some of us are eagerly looking out for occasions of serving our country. Can we do better than seek by our protest and our example to deliver our nation from the sin of drunkenness? This is no time for wasting money. In the interests of economy, physical efficiency and patriotism the signing of the Total Abstinence Pledge for a period ‘as long as the war lasts’ may well approve itself to our consciences as a duty. The actual words run as follows: ‘ “For the sake of our homes and our heroes.” Emergency pledge in our time of war. I hereby undertake to abstain from all intoxicating drink from this date …………….. as long as our country is at war; And to endeavour to induce others to do the same.’

We have never been accustomed to think ourselves behind Russia in civilization or moral initiative, but in the realization of the urgent need of Temperance for a nation engaged in a great war we seem to lag somewhat behind. We know that the sale of vodka to the Russian troops has been forbidden since the war began, and Russia has been marching against her foes with a teetotal army, but now comes the great Ukase of the Czar: ‘I have decided to prohibit for ever in Russia the Government Sale of Alcohol.’ It is humiliating to see in the same newspaper on the same day on which this momentous announcement is made a letter from a Corporal in the Irish Guards which contains the following: ‘We are all very well treated out here and receive plenty of tobacco and rum but a lot of us hope to return soon and visit the – House and have another bottle of their famous double X.’

I shall be very glad to forward to any who may desire it a copy of the Emergency Pledge, and I hope that it may be possible to organize a demonstration on a large scale in our town on its behalf.

Reading St John parish magazine, November 1914 (D/P172/28A/23, p. 1)

Submarine attacks cargo ships

More war news from Florence Vansittart Neale.

28 November 1914
German submarine sunk 2 English cargo boats. Crew saved. Russian victory mentioned by Lord Kitchener.

Lance [Pope] came back for 9 days.

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

A warm welcome for the troops in Maidenhead

Maidenhead Congregational (now United Reformed) Church offered hospitality to troops from other parts of the country who were feeling far from home.  They used their school premises, and offered refreshments, entertainment and even free mending for the soldiers’ clothes.  Much of the work was down to the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Society, which in happier times organised outings and social events for local men.


When the Berkshire Battalion, comprising some 750 men, came into Maidenhead, the deacons offered our Infant Schoolroom as a place of recreation for the soldiers in the evenings. But when the men form the north swarmed down upon us to the number of about 3,000 more, we were compelled to throw open the larger room also. Many sorts of games, newspapers and magazines and writing materials, are provided free, and a refreshment department, which is admirably managed by the P.S.A. Society, offers tea, coffee, or cocoa at a half-penny cup, and food at very low prices. The whole cost is now being borne by the funds of the Soldiers’ Recreation Committee, of which the Mayor is treasurer, and Mr. Chamberlain chairman. A body of ladies, members of the B.W.T.A., are in attendance every evening from 6.30 to 7.30, to do whatever mending the soldiers’ garments may require, free of charge. Similar clubs are now springing up in many parts of the town, and every available room will be required for various military purposes this winter.

The United Temperance Council gave a tea and entertainment to the soldiers on November 28th, and was successful in taking quite a large number of pledges, some for the period of the war, and some for life.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, December 1914 (D/N33/12/1/4)

Steadiness, pluck and endurance

A Bracknell officer writes of the impressive fighting by the Royal Berkshire Regiment in the early months of the war.

From “The Times” of November 27th.

An officer just returned form the front writes:-

Every one who belongs to Berkshire will be intensely proud of their regiment when the history of the doings of the 1st Battalion during the past three moths comes to be written. They fought at Mons and during the subsequent retirement at Moroilles, and then they were in the advance and fought in the battles of the Marne and Aisne. For 32 days they were on the Aisne, and all but five days were spent in the trenches. They are making a great name for themselves, a name for steadiness under fire, pluck, and endurance. They have been out there from the beginning, have been in every battle, and always in the front line. Their example should be an inducement to all able-bodied men in Berkshire to enlist immediately.

The following copy of orders by Lieutenant-Colonel M. D. Graham, commanding 1st Batt. Royal Berkshire Regt., is exhibited at Reading Barracks: –

October 29th. – The commanding officer has been directed by the Major-General Commanding 2nd Division to convey to the battalion the very high appreciation of their attack on October 24, and of the determined manner in which they subsequently held their ground.

Bracknell section of Winkfield District Magazine, December 1914 (D/P151/28A/6/12)

Toys for Belgian children

Eastbury children spent some of their time making toys for Belgian refugees of their own age. The head teacher of Eastbury Church of England School recorded in the school log book, on 27 November 1914:

Mrs Fosbery visited on 25th also 26th accompanied by Mrs Ball of Donnington who came to see the toys made by our children to give to Belgian refugee children for Christmas.

Eastbury C.E. Primary, Lambourn: log book (D/P79B/28/2, p. 308)

Russian victory very decisive

More war news from Florence Vansittart Neale.

27 November 1914
Submarines struck two of our steamers. They in Channel. Russian victory very decisive. Army corps taken.

Heard Charlie 7 hours leave before going in winter quarters.

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

Much needed gifts for the Belgians via Harrods

People from Cranbourne and Chavey Down were generous in their gifts for our Belgian allies.

Chavey Down

The working party at Chavey Down have forwarded a nice parcel of very well made children’s clothes to the Belgian Refugees at Folkestone, where they are very much needed.


The HARVEST THANKSGIVING SERVICES were held on October 5th. Only the East end and the Font were decorated with flowers. The real decorations of the Church were gifts from the congregation for the distressed in Belgium. A really remarkable response was made to the appeal for these gifts. Nine cases (kindly given by Mr. Laird) were delivered to Messrs. Harrods for shipment to Belgium. The driver of the van said “I am going back to London with almost as much as I started with.”

* * *

The following are the names of those from this Parish who are serving in His Majesty’s Forces:

Creasy G., Midshipman H. M. S. Conqueror.
Creasy, R., 2nd Lieut. R. F. A.
Haig, J., Major, Westminster Dragoons.
Needham, E. J., Lieut, Northamptonshire Regiment.
Needham, R. P., 2nd Lieut, Northamptonshire Regiment.
Phillips, E. H., D. S. O, Major R. F. A.
Phillips, R. N., Captain, Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
Phillips, G. F., Captain, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.
Andrews, James, Hampshire Regiment.
Barratt, Archibald Richard, National Reserve.
Beasley, T.
Brant, Ernest Harold.
Bish, Walter George, Army Service Corps.
Boyde, Albert Ernest, Army Service Corps.
Boyde, Edward Joseph, Royal Navy.
Clarke, Wilfred Lawson, Royal Berks Regiment.
Cox, Amariah, Royal Berks Regiment.
Curtis, Eric, Seaforth Highlanders.
George, William, Royal Artillery.
Goodchild, Charles.
Greenough, Edward, Royal Engineers.
Herridge, John, Royal Engineers.
Herridge, William, Royal Engineers.
Harwood, Frederick, 12th Lancers.
Higgs, Herbert, Army Service Corps.
Holliday, Walter George, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
Harriss, Theodore William, Royal Berks Regiment.
Harriss, Frederick, Royal Engineers.
Hawthorn, George Albert, Royal Naval Flying Corps.
Hillyer, Tom, Canadian Contingent.
Mapp, Ernest, Royal Berks Regiment.
Pither, J. A., Royal Berks Regiment.
Pither, J., Enniskillen Dragoons.
Sarney, Albert Edward, Royal Navy.
Sarney, Francis, Grenadier Guards.
Searle, George, 2nd Life Guards.
Walls, Charles John, Royal Berks Regiment.
Walls, Leslie, Royal Berks Regiment.
Williams, R. F. Maxwell, Royal Naval Brigade.
Ward, Theodore Alfred, Royal Berks Regiment.
Weston, George.

* * *

C. E. M. S.
The annual business meeting was held on October 14th. After the Election of Officers and other business them embers and a few friends were shown some lantern slides illustrating the war in Belgium.

Chavey Down and Cranbourne sections of Winkfield District Magazine, November 1914 (D/P151/28A/6/11)

Cold wet evenings spur us to greater sacrifices

The vicar of Earley urged his flock not to forget the spiritual dimensions of the war.

My Dear People

There are two subjects in my mind upon which I should like to say a word this month. The first is the confirmation which the Bishop proposes to hold here on Nov 26th. In a time of war we can ill afford to dispense with or neglect the spiritual forces which the Almighty places at our disposal. The war in France too sadly reminds us there is always war, warfare between good and evil, right and wrong, the powers of Heaven and the powers of darkness. “There was,” and there is, “War in heaven” i.e. in those spiritual realms which we designate Heaven. “Michael and his angels making war with the dragon.” In this war we all have part. Let us not forget it. Rather let us stir up our young people and encourage them arm themselves and prepare for the contest. And to all, old and young, who are not confirmed, I would say – Here is a great opportunity: “Let us put on the whole armour of God” and use every means we have and know. Let us receive the Laying-on of hands, the consecration and confirmation of the Almighty.

Secondly, I trust you will not grow weary of our weekly Intercession service on Wednesdays. Here we are all of us “At the front”. It is all we can do; but let us see that we do it. There are no signs at present that we are tired out, but such is human frailty that we shall need in the months that are coming, all our resolution and determination to keep our place in the fighting line of unceasing prayer. This is no time of slackening our effort in any direction where duty points the way. Cold and wet evenings must spur us to greater sacrifices of comfort, remembering there are cold wet evenings (too many, alas!) in the battlefields of France.

These thoughts I commend to you, and remain

Your affectionate friend

E J Norris

Earley parish magazine, October 1914 (D/P192/28A/13)

A concert for refugees from heroic little Belgium

Yesterday we reported the upcoming concert at Reading Town Hall, now discover how it went:

As briefly reported in our December issue, the concert given under the auspices of our Church Choir and Brotherhood Choir on November 25th last proved a most gratifying success, all concerned, performers and audience alike doing their part in a manner worthy of the occasion, – the occasion being the raising of money towards a special Christmas Fund in aid of the Belgian refugees in the town. The Mayor (Mr Leonard Sutton, JP) graced the proceedings and at an interval in the programme delivered a short speech. His Worship said he would like to express the gratification all felt at the effort being made that evening on behalf of the unfortunate refugees from heroic little Belgium, and he assured the Belgians who had come to Reading, and of whom there were a good number in the hall that night, that no effort would be spared to make their stay in the town as happy as possible.
With characteristic generosity the conductor of the choirs (Mr F. W. Harvey) had arranged a programme of almost too ample proportions, but the audience evidently were out to enjoy themselves and few left before the close.
Dealing with the work of the choirs it may be said that the Church Choir well maintained its reputation, singing a number of part-songs in excellent style. “The Viking Song” (Coleridge-Taylor), “Hymn To Music” (Dudley Buck), and “The Vagabonds” and “Our Island Home” (Eaton Faning), all of the vigorous order, were rendered with expressive enthusiasm, and a tuneful part-song by Parry, “Sweet day, so cool”, a competition test piece for which the choir gained first prize at the Crystal Palace last year, was given in a very finished manner.

In spite of his wounds: George Faulkner of Sulhamstead saves lives at sea

Sulhamstead men at the Front faced death and injury. The parish magazine tells us about the heroic endeavours of a young naval officer George Faulkner, who saved the lives of others while himself wounded:

This special distinction has been conferred upon Sub-Lieutenant George H Faulkner, son of the Rev. T G Faulkner. He was serving in HMS Laertes in the famous Heligoland engagement. Early in the battle he was wounded and his gun was burst at the same time. In spite of his own wounds, he busied himself in binding up the wounds of some of the seamen who were seriously wounded. There was no surgeon and it is said he undoubtedly saved some of their lives. He continued this until he fainted from exhaustion. He was not only mentioned in despatches, but was promoted to be lieutenant for his conduct under fire.

It is with great regret that we have had the news of the death at the Front of two members of our “Roll of Honour.” On Nov 10th, Mr and Mrs Tuttle heard of the death of their son Alfred of the Grenadier Guards, and on Nov 26th, Mrs Walter Ryder had the news of her husband’s death. He was in the Hants A.C. Both of these have truly died for their country and in the gallant effort to prevent the invasion of England.

We also note with much sorrow the announcement of the death of Major Francis G G Thoyts, Somerset Light Infantry, second son of Colonel M B Thoyts on August 26th. The family have been in great anxiety for nearly three months as they had news that he was wounded, but could get no further information.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, January 1915 (D/EX723/3)

Awful news of HMS Bulwark

Florence Vansittart Neale and her Admiralty official husband Henry were distressed by the tragedy of HMS Bulwark, a British ship. It was not sunk by enemy action, but by the spontaneous combustion of armaments store too close to the ship’s boiler. Over 700 sailors were killed, with only a dozen survivors.

26 November 1914
Sent off scarves. H & I to Blue X concert Maidenhead. Not bad. Phyllis nursing exam. H & I to church & quiet evening – spoilt by bad news of “Bulwark”. Magazine exploded, 700 or 800! Gone down near Sheerness. Awful. Other news good. Russians real victory – almost German rout. We still holding our line.

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

If a man feels he ought to enlist, he must – or lose his manhood

Only part of this letter from Percy Spencer survives. He writes to his usual correspondent, sister Florence, about their younger brothers, art students Stanley and Gilbert. Both were in fact eventually to sign up as stretcher bearers. Stanley became one of the country’s most celebrated artists. after the war.

Belmont Hill
St Albans

Nov 26 – 14

Dear Florrie

Yesterday’s letter was a skimpy thing, so I’m now writing again.

The mufflers you offer – in fact any of the woolly things are very welcome to the men, and I can no doubt find men in need of them. But don’t give everything away in case Gil or Stan want things.
Yesterday I got a letter from Stanley, which I enclose and I have replied that if either of them wish to enlist in the Territorials; if either of them feels it his duty to enlist; then I hope he could do so. What I object to is young men being pushed into the business.

So I shan’t be surprised to hear that Gil & Stan, or both of them have enlisted in one of the regiments I mentioned to Stanley.

It’s a wretched affair, but if they feel they should enlist, it will be a source of misery to them always, if they do not do so.

If they enlist, I have suggested that they should do so for Home Defence in the first instance.
I can’t go into all this matter with you in writing, but I hope you will see with me that if a man feels he ought to enlist, then he must, or lose his manhood.

The other day a proud mother here rang up the General to recite her son’s exploits at the front.
Yesterday he was reported killed – poor lady.

Part of a letter from Percy Spencer to his sister Florence (D/EZ177/5/2/1)