It cannot be as other Christmases have been

It was clear that Christmas 1914 was not going to be the usual happy season.  Here are the thoughts of the vicar of Cookham Dean:

In thinking over what I am to say in my letter to you this month, it is very forcibly brought home to me how vastly different our circumstances are this December from any we have known. One has generally arranged one’s plans, in outline at least, for the Children’s Christmas Treat, and for the collection of the Choir Bonus, &c., &c., but I know I must not confidently rely, as in former years, on the help that has always so generously been given for these and other objects…

I shall quite understand if people feel that this year they cannot, or do not feel inclined to, contribute, but I do ask for a fairly prompt reply, so as to be saved the worry of uncertainty… I believe that the Choir intend to set apart a fair sum out of the amount given to them at the Carol Singing to send to one or other of the Christmas Funds that are being raised for the Royal Berkshire Regiment – our Regiment which, according to The Times of Nov. 27th, has so distinguished itself…

May our Christmas Festival in the village, if it cannot be as other Christmases have been, be holy, so that you may, in spite of sorrow and anxiety, be really happy. It may be that several of our brave lads will be allowed home on short leave; may I most earnestly beg of you not to tempt them – out of a false sense of good fellowship and wishing them luck – to drink? It is one of the cruellest things to do in such cases. They are enrolled in the Army or Navy to uphold their country’s honour, may I in all seriousness say for God’s sake never tempt them to dishonour themselves. Remember the words of Sir Owen Seamon that each of these men and lads, in their soldierly character and bearing, has ‘something dear to lose’- don’t let anyone of them have to feel ‘that they have lost it – thanks to you.’

The Berkshire Committee of the National Relief Fund met at Shire Hall on 1 December 1914, and also had thoughts about Christmas for soldiers’ families.

The Local Government Board Circular re American Xmas gifts to children was considered.

Mr Tottie reported that his Committee of the S&SFAssociation was prepared to collect & furnish to the Berks N R Committee by December 8th the numbers, ages & sex of children of soldiers in the Berkshire area covered by his Committee. Mr Melvill Davidson reported that his Committee would furnish the same regarding the remainder of the County. Resolved that the secretary should write to the District Committees and ask them to collect information regarding the children of Belgian soldiers in Berkshire, & that replies be requested not later than Dec 12th.

The secretary was further instructed to write to the Local Gov Bd & report these arrangements, & a letter to the Local Press was drafted & signed by the Chairman.

Applications for relief were reported.
Mrs Day, Wantage. Resolved that the grant of 6/6/ per week should be continued for 3 weeks from Nov 30th.
Symons, Maidenhead. Resolved that the applicant, being of suitable age for enlistment, is not eligible for the National Relief Fund.
Noakes, Woodley. Reported that the case had been relieved by the S&SFA.

Cookham Dean parish magazine, December 1914 (D/P43B/28A/11); National Relief Fund Berkshire Committee minutes (C/CL/C6/4/1)

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