‘A lot he could tell, only he wasn’t allowed to’

A serving sailor visited his old primary school in Reading while on leave. He took naval secrecy seriously, as this report in the parish magazine reveals:

It is delightful to see the way in which old scholars now serving in the Army and Navy find their way back to their Headmasters of their old day schools when they are on leave. Herbert Pendlebury of H.M.S. ‘Irresistible’ paid a welcome visit to S. Stephen’s School the other day to greet Mr. Hopcraft. He told us ‘there was a lot he could tell us only he wasn’t allowed to.’ It appears he was stationed at Sheerness at the time the ‘Bulwark’ blew up.

Another local man, who had joined the army before the war started, also made contact:

One of Mr Heaton’s lads, William Sawyer – (Mr. Heaton was the first Manager of the University College Lads’ Club in the parish) – writes thus to the Vicar from the front. The Vicar spent a night with the Club in camp years ago:-

‘I was attending a Field Service on Sunday last when I thought perhaps you would be pleased to hear from a Reading lad, as before I enlisted I lived in your parish. I have been in the service for nearly three years…

My mother informs me that us soldiers are always included in your prayers, which I think is very kind and thoughtful of you. This war is a very terrible thing, Sir, but I am sure, Sir, that the right will prevail in the end.’

Reading St John parish magazine, January 1915 (D/P172/28A/24)

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