Comforts, recreation and refreshments for the troops

The parishioners of Wokingham St Sebastian wanted to support the armed forces. They planned to join those making clothing and comforts, while giving financial support to Church-sponsored social activities for soldiers based in the county which would not involve the demon drink.

War Requisites.

Many things are required by our soldiers and sailors and many of them can be made by us at home. It is hoped to hold meetings for this purpose. Particulars will be issued when the arrangements are completed.

The Oxford Branch of the Church of England Temperance Society is raising £1000 for the erection of a tent at Windsor and a building at Didcot for recreation and refreshment purposes for our soldiers. The Vicar will be glad to receive any contributions, however small, for this purpose.

Wokingham St Sebastian parish magazine, June 1915 (D/P154/28A/1)

Wounded in the retreat from Mons

There was bad news of several men associated with Bracknell.


It is feared that the name of Henry Hollingsworth, of the Royal Berks, must be added to the list of those who have fallen in the war. He was reported as missing as long ago as September last, and since then diligent enquiry has been made concerning him. Some time ago some of his comrades reported that he had been wounded in the retreat from Mons, and now definite information from one who saw him after he was wounded has come in with the further information that he has died of his wounds. Hollingsworth was formerly one of our Choir boys, but his family removed to Newbury, and it was only about a year ago that his mother returned to Bracknell. He was a widower and has left some little children in his mother’s care.

SIDNEY HARVEY, one of our postmen, Corporal in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, has been wounded in the head. He has been moved to England and is in a hospital in Rochester. We are thankful to think that he is going on well.

ALBERT REEVE, another Corporal in the same Regiment, has also been wounded in the arm, which is broken. He is at Woolwich, but we shall hope soon to see him in Bracknell.

JOHN SCOTT, who has many friends in Bracknell, has also been wounded, but is reported to be doing well.

LEONARD TAYLOR, of the Canadian Contingent, was engaged in the battle in which these troops so greatly distinguished themselves, after the enemy had driven back the French soldiers on their right by the use of poisonous gas. Thank God he was unhurt.

We continue to offer daily Intercessions in the Church for the War at 12 noon when the bell rings. On Monday, May 10th, one of the Rogation days, a Special Intercession Service was held at *p.m. This was well attended.

Bracknell section of Winkfield District Magazine, June 1915 (D/P151/28A/17/6)

The essential parts of a soldier

The Burghfield parish magazine for June was supporting a Belgian refugee’s attempts to earn a living. Meanwhile, political opponents were working together to raise money to help the wounded.

The daughters of Monsieur Laurent – our Belgian guests, who are still living at the Old school, Burghfield, are very anxious to give some lessons in French, chiefly conversational. They would be very glad to hear of any pupils: the terms would be very moderate. Applications to be made to Mademoiselle Laurent, at “The Old School”.

Arranged by the St John’s Ambulance and British Red Cross.

The collection amounted to &8. 15s.0d in Burghfield, and a letter was received from Mr Forster, expressing gratitude from the Central Committee to all who helped in so successful a result, adding that:

“While he was responsible for the organisation of the South Berks district, Mr Wright, the Liberal Agent, dealt with the Borough of Newbury, which fact ought to be mentioned to prevent any misapprehension, as there was no idea of making it a party matter in any sense.”

Mrs Willink takes this opportunity of thanking most heartily all those who helped so kindly and willingly in making the collection.


The following lines are by Philip Massinger, a dramatist of the 17th century. We shall agree that the qualities which merit “the noble name of Soldier” are the same in the 20th century as they were in the days of our forefathers – qualities which are conspicuous today in the conduct of thousands of our heroic officers and men at the Front.

If e’er my son
Follow the war, tell him it is a school,
Where all the principles tending to honour
Are taught, if truly follow’d: but for such
As repair thither, as a place in which
They do presume they may with licence practise
Their lusts and riots, they shall never merit
The noble name of soldiers. To dare boldly
In a fair cause, and, for their country’s safety,
To run upon the cannon’s mouth undaunted;
To obey their leaders, and shun mutinies;
To bear with patience the winter’s cold,
And summer’s scorching heat, and not to faint,
When plenty of provision fails, with hunger;
Are the essential parts make up a soldier,
Not swearing, dice, or drinking.

Philip Massinger

Burghfield parish magazine, June 1915 (D/EX725/3)

Pray for our enemies, despite their brutality

The church of St Peter’s in Earley encouraged prayer for the enemy, despite their horror at the reports of brutality. Meanwhile, even the very poor were offering up eggs for the wounded who could eat no solid food.

Prayers for the War.

‘That men ought always to pray and not to faint’ is a divine direction which we greatly need our prayers concerning the war, both public and private. The enemy has been behaving with incredible neglect of accepted international obligations, such as restrain brutality in warfare. We are exasperated and embittered. At home there has been a good deal of complaining and mutual recrimination. Our temper is strained, and our power of holding together. Whatever else the Christian Church can do, it ought to be importunate and urgent in prayer. Prayer is our true weapon, not bitterness nor mutual reviling. We need to pray with all our soul –

1. For our country, and all classes in it, that they may behave worthily and in a spirit of thorough self-sacrifice: and that the spirit of penitence for our common and personal sins may be deepened in our approach to God;
2. For the good hand of our God upon us in the areas of war, guiding our leaders, inspiring the men, protecting them in danger, granting us victory;
3. For the wounded, the prisoners and the bereaved;
4. For our enemies and especially for the German-speaking church, that it may open its heart to the Spirit of Christ.
5. Let us commend to God those who have fallen, that He will so deal with them in the unseen world that ‘they may find mercy of the Lord at the great Day.’

I am sure, increasingly sure, that the best method of public prayer is that of bidding to prayer – with sufficient deliberation of speech – at the Holy Eucharist, and from the pulpit after sermon at Evensong, getting the people to kneel down, and allowing pauses for silent prayer. There is no special prayer for prisoners of war put out by authority. But there is the prayer in the Litany ‘for all prisoners and captives’: and before beginning the Litany we can from time to time call attention to this clause, and make a pause after the response.

Notice as to weekday services.

The celebration of Holy Communion with special Intention for the War will, as usual, be at 7am on Tuesdays, and may we remind our readers that at this Service our list of men serving in His Majesty’s Forces is always read, special prayers offered on their behalf and the collection given to the Prince of Wales Fund.

National Egg Collection.

In connection with the above, a small start has been made in Earley Parish, and during the past two weeks nearly 250 eggs have been sent to the central authority. A notification has been received stating that the first 100 were sent direct to the wounded soldiers in our immediate neighbourhood. The total number of donors last week was 25, a noticeable feature being the single eggs received from quite poor people living in Reading, and who keep but a few fowls. The eggs are collected and sent away every Thursday. Anyone who would care to help in this most useful work please communicate with Mr. H. J. Wooldridge, Earley Schools, who has very kindly undertaken the work of receiving and despatching the eggs.

List of Men Serving in His Majesty’s Forces.

The following additional names have been added to our prayer list:- Charles Chesterman, Alfread Broad, Frederick Mears, Thomas Mears, Arthur Lailey, Reginald Hawes, Elliot King, Thomas Ilott, Reginald Waite, James Auger, William Barton, William May, Hubert Shorter, Samuel Gould, Charles Phillips Groome, Harry Ching, Frank Aust and Eric Cook.

In addition to those already mentioned we especially commend the following to your prayers:-
Killed – Arthur Robb and Ernest Nickes; Wounded – Alfred Broad; Sick – Walter Jerome and Benjamin Bosley (gas poisoning).

Earley St Peter parish magazine, June 1915 (D/P191/28A/22)

An unduly large number of young men of enlisting age in the police

Deputy Chief Constable Colonel Ricardo had been checking to see how the practice of calling up Reservists to the police was working out. He was generally pleased but thought some young men were using police work as an excuse for not joining the army.

Maidenhead Police Station

28th June 1915
To the Chief Constable of Berkshire

As Chief Organising Officer and Commandant of the Berkshire Police Special Reserve, I was naturally very anxious to ascertain by personal inspection the results of the organization which, in accordance with your request, I initiated in September last.
I therefore, with your sanction and approval, consulted the Divisional Officers as to the feasibility of holding Divisional Inspections during the months of May and June. I was much gratified with the interest shown in the suggestion, and am pleased to be able now to report that I have concluded my inspection of all the eight Divisions.

Admirable arrangements were made for these inspections in each case by Divisional Officers, assisted by the Superintendents of the several Police Divisions to whom much credit and thanks are due.

The result of the inspections may be looked upon as very satisfactory and the attendance parade highly praiseworthy, taking into consideration the inconvenience and difficulties which must have been experienced by a great many members of the Force, and the sacrifice of leisure which their attendance must have entailed.

Undoubtedly the organization of the Force generally has been attended with good results. As regards numbers, the Force, according to the latest returns rendered, has now a total strength of 3,298, which is numerically a falling off of about 800 from the returns rendered in November 1914, when the force attained its maximum strength of approximately 4,100. The decrease in numbers is due in a great measure to enlistment of members in His Majesty’s Military Forces, so cannot be looked upon otherwise than as advantageous, at all events from a National point of view.
Drill has been well carried out and the instruction imparted most creditable to the Drill Instructors.

I was much struck by the great steadiness in the ranks at inspections, and the physique of the men was quite up to expectations. In this respect I would specially mention the Wantage Division in which an exceptionally fine body of reservists has been enrolled.

I would also like to bring to favourable attention the Maidenhead Division, which I consider is deserving of praise for conspicuous steadiness on parade, and a general state of efficiency which is undoubtedly the product of very careful supervision.

I regret that I had to comment at one or two of my inspection parades upon the unduly large number of young men of enlisting age in the ranks. In most cases the explanations offered for their enrolment were satisfactory, but undoubtedly there have been instances of a want of rigid adherence to the instructions laid down in the Text Book which, with your approval, I compiled for general guidance when I commenced the organization of the Force.

I am glad to be assured that Rifle Drill and Musketry have been practised by a fair proportion of the men and that interest has been taken in the instruction of detachments in First Aid work.
A mounted detachment of 12 men has been formed in the Abingdon Division, and, judging from their appearance, equipments and equitation, I am confident they would be a very valuable addition to the Police Force on [sic] an emergency. I consider special credit is due to this detachment for the trouble and personal expense entailed in rendering themselves so efficient.

Reading Division

The presence of an unduly large number of men of enlisting age in the ranks was noticeable…

Maidenhead Division

It was brought to notice that about 64 men have quitted the Division to enlist in the Army, which is evidence of the fact that a proper sense of duty has been instilled into those members whose enrolment was in the first instance somewhat irregular.

Report of Deputy Chief Constable, in Standing Joint Committee minutes (C/CL/C2/1/5)

A thoroughly manly soldier takes a bride

The fears of war led many young people to hasten into marriage while they could. One Wargrave soldier got married on 28 June 1915.

On June 28th many well-wishers were present when the marriage of Ernest George Shaw and Charlotte Rose Fuller was solemnised. It was certainly an attractive ceremony. The Bridegroom looked a thoroughly manly soldier, and the Bride, with a beautiful bouquet and attendant Bride’s Maids, made a very pretty picture. The sacred Service was treated most reverently. We trust that a marriage thus well begun will be forever blessed.

Wargrave parish magazine, August 1915 (D/P145/28A/31)

The children of France at war

Percy Spencer wrote a quick letter to his sister Florence, with some frank if not too flattering comments on his French hosts.

June 28, 1915
Dear Florrie

Within a few hours we shall be moving again, so I take this opportunity to scribble you a few line, not knowing when I may have the next….

We strike some queer people in these peasant villages out here – immorality is fairly rife, and personal cleanliness rare; the houses and yards too are mostly in a filthy state, and our fellows think we are here to clean up the country. Well as I was saying we’ve struck some queer people here, but I never expected to strike so rare a youngster as Gladys the daughter of a French Canadian miner. She’s an opportunist – passing her door, she caught my hand and remarking I was “some soldier” in a pronounced American accent dragged me indoors, sat me down and began relating her family history, only pausing to tell her mother in French to give me a coffee. It seems after we had got very confidential and she had clambered onto my knee, that all she wanted in the world to make her happy was her brothers back from the war, a new skirt, a hair ribbon and some chocolate. She guessed I was pretty rich and would like to buy her a skirt. I assured her she’d guessed very badly. I came up to scratch on the matter of chocolate, a threepenny compass too staved her off for a while, but it’s a matter of Danegelt and I am thankful we’re moving, otherwise that skirt would be hers for I’m in love with the little elf – how wouldn’t I be, for she’s told me my eyes are blue and kind. About you she expresses no opinion, but Dot she insists is my fiancée and after a careful scrutiny declared her “some girl that”.

Adelaide was another of my flames, roguish and plump. Sadly we parted, sorrowfully she put up her cheek to be kissed. We were great friends – well, she let me look at her reliquary, though I must admit her trust in the British Army didn’t go as far as removing the chain from her neck.

Oh the kiddies! how I love them! At – it was screamingly funny to see the youngsters soldiering under shell fire. Drawn up in proper columns you’d see them marching along under the orders of their captain – a ragged curly headed lean limbed scamp; that youngster is a born commander. His orders were like pistol shots and his “men” jumped to obey them. However we all have weak spots. I regret to report that this sturdy body of citizens when paraded by their officer was utterly routed by a cigarette. A passing soldier was appealed to by OC [Officer in Charge] Ragamuffins for a souvenir. None was forthcoming and the ranks were unruffled. But a few yards further down the wind, the Tommy, repenting his churlishness, threw back one cigarette. In the race which followed, I’m sorry to say OC Ragamuffins won and returning with the [illegible] Woodbine stuck at a jaunty angle between his lips proceeded to take the necessary disciplinary actions to restore his ranks.

But for that incident I should mentally have marked that youngster down for at heart a Lieutenant Colonelcy. Now, who knows, he may be shot for depriving his country of his services at a critical moment.

I shall have to close this letter as I have a big job on hand. Madame desires an explanation or rather the production of some petit table. In vain have I assured her that it has only been borrowed by some excellent fellows and will be returned. I’ve got till quatorze heures [2 p.m.] now, and punctually at that hour I shall have to ward off another attack. So I must get down to the dictionary. Can you possibly let me know by 2 pm how you say with an air of assurance “it’s only just across the road”? If not I’m done and must fly.

Yours ever

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/4/36-37)

Doing battle till our foes become God’s footstool

The Church Lads’ Brigade continued to exercise teenage boys in Knowl Hill.

Knowl Hill

On June 27th there was a large muster of our Church Lads’ Brigade for the Morning Service at St Peter’s Church. We are very glad to see the young men there, and hope they will learn it is a right thing for them to join in the Public Worship of God; on whom we depend for all we are and have and in whose name it is our duty to do battle, till all His foes become His footstall.

The Vicar has been honoured with a Commission, dated from March 18, 1915, to cat as Chaplain in the Brigade. He hopes to be able to perform some of the duties of Chaplain, although he has felt it wise to ask the Vicar of Littlewick to take most of the active part of the work.

Wargrave parish magazine, August 1915 (D/P145/28A/31)

Wargrave’s roll of honour

Wargrave was one of many parishes to publish a list of men serving in the parish magazine. This allowed parishioners at home to pray for them all by name.

‘The Roll of Honor for the Parish of Wargrave

The Royal Navy
Bywater, Darol. Lieut. R.N.D
Grey, Thomas Robinson. Sub-Lieut., R.N.A.A.V.C.
Blackburn, Ernest. H.M.S. Glory
Bucker, J. H.M.S. Laurel
Carr, Joseph, Fireman. Transport
Clarke, William. H.M.S. Laconia
Coleman, Charles William. H.M.S. Glasgow
Doughty, Albert. H.M.S. Irresistible
Doughty, Arthur. H.M.S. Tartar
Doughty, Herbert. H.M.S. Queen Mary
Doughty, Horace. H.M.S. Donegal
Doughty, John. H.M.S. Hindustan
George, Walter. H.M.S. Agamemnon
Haskett, Bernard. H.M.S. Jason
Haycock, Charles William. H.M.S. Ajax
Hollis, Alfred John. H.M.S. Implacable
Jemmett, Leonard Oakley. H.M.S. Galatea
Mayne, Frederick. H.M.S. Britannia
Parritt, Edward. H.M.S. Defiance
Pauline, Leonard. H.M.S. Hebe
Payne, William. H.M.S. Britannia
Pugh, Charles. H.M.S. Hibernia
Sandleford, James. H.M.S. Mars
Waldron, Jesse. H.M.S. George V.
Waldron, William. H.M.S. Dido

George, William. Royal Marines, H.M.S. Agamemnon
Pugh, Herbert. Royal Marines, H.M.S. Prince George

Our heroes pay the great price: tragedies of this ghastly war

The death of George Shearwood, a young man originally from Reading, caused great distress at Broad Street Congregational Church. He was one of three heroic figures commemorated in the church magazine in June 1915.

The many friends of Mr George Shearwood were grieved to hear a few days ago that he had been killed in action in the Dardanelles. George Shearwood was the son of Mrs Shearwood of 323 London Road, one of our oldest church members. He emigrated to New Zealand some five years ago, but at the outbreak of the war he was in England on holiday. Like so many others he had no liking for war, but when the New Zealand Contingent was being raised, he felt it to be his duty to join his compatriots, and so he bravely made the great surrender. He was a splendid fellow in every sense of the word, and greatly esteemed by all who knew him. His death is one of the many tragedies of this ghastly war. Whilst we rejoice in the magnificent courage and devotion of our friend, we sincerely sympathize with his bereaved mother and the members of his family in the irreparable loss they have sustained. We pray that they may derive comfort from the thought that their loved one nobly gave his life for his King and Country.

We desire to express our deep sympathy, too, with Mrs Davis of 18 Swansea Road (a much esteemed member of our Women’s Social Hour) and her husband in the sad loss they have sustained in the death of their son. Thomas Davis was a very promising young fellow, with a bright career opening out before him. After serving a successful apprenticeship with Messrs Wellsteed he passed on to a large firm in Hackney; and there, when the war broke out, he joined the 4th Battalion City of London Royal Fusiliers. In due course he went out with his regiment to the front. He spent his 21st birthday in the trenches, and now, somewhere in France, he has paid the great price. He was formerly a member of our PSA Brotherhood, and an active worker in connection with the YMCA.

Another of our heroes, in a different way, was our late Brother George William Winterbourne. Brother Winterbourne did not join the army. For one thing he was too old. But he did his bit in that direction by helping to guard the Water Tanks at Tilehurst.

It was with sincere regret that the members of the Institute heard of the death of Mr George Shearwood while on active service in the East.

Previous to leaving Reading he was associated with the Institute for several years and won the esteem of all who knew him by his consistent Christian character and true manliness.

In the Institute there is a roll of honour giving the names of past and present members serving in His Majesty’s Army. Mr Shearwood is the first of these to give his life for his country, and while we mourn our loss we are cheered by the thought that he died doing his duty as a soldier of the King, and that he has now entered a higher service of the King of Kings.

Broad Street Church magazine, June 1915 (D/N11/12/1/14)

New enlistments in Maidenhead

The young men of Maidenhead Congregational Church continued to join up.


To the Church’s roll of honour must now be added:-

HUGH F. LEWIS Queen’s Westminters.

HARRY PARTLO Army Service Corps.


These additions now bring up our total to 31, and we believe yet others are impending.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, June 1915 (D/N33/12/1/5)

A plane over Bisham

It was an exciting moment for Florence Vansittart Neale when she saw a British aeroplane practicing in the skies above Bisham.

26 June 1915
Belgians & Lady Innes came. Stayed till 4 – rather enchanting…. Special Constables to tea. F & I saw aeroplane flying over house.

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

Tell the Italians everything in the Dardanelles is splendid

General Charles Callwell, Ralph Glyn’s boss at the War Office, gave him a special mission to the Dardanelles. General Walter Braithwaite was Chief of Staff for the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force at the Dardanelles, where Sir Ian Hamilton was in command. Also mentioned here are Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston, Edward Mabbott Woodward, William Birdwood, and General Charles Delme-Radcliffe, head of the Italian Military Mission.(D/EGL/C24)

War Office
26th June 1915

My dear Glyn

It is easier to give you your instructions in the form of a private letter than as a formal memorandum.

I want you to go out to the Dardanelles and to get back again as soon as you can, subject to fulfilling your mission effectually. In respect to points that you report on officially, please consult Braithwaite, or the CRE, or the QMG, or the principal authority concerned, as the case may be, because Lord K wants you to act as a channel and act as a source. There will no doubt be many other matters suitable for you to report on privately to me by letter, or when you get back. In any official report it is best to keep to individual subjects; ie, if there are ten things to report on make out ten reports.

I am writing to Braithwaite to let him know about you, but will also wire in a day or two, heralding your advent. Please give my respects to Sir Ian and my love to Braithwaite, Hunter Weston and Woodward; also if you see Birdwood please tell him how much I appreciate his letters – I have not time to write to him this week. You will of course see Cunninghame; tell him that he is doing admirably where he is.

On your way back I should like you to pay a flying visit to the Italian GHQ – at Bologna I think it is. You would be able to let the Italian General Staff know how things are progressing – of course saying that everything is splendid – and it would be a piece of civility. I will let Delme Radcliffe know of this and you should of course wire to him from Athens or Rome and make sure that you are expected. But I do not want you to go if it means delay in your getting back here beyond one, or at most two, days.

Yours sincerely

Chas E Callwell

Letter from General Charles Callwell to Ralph Glyn’s (D/EGL/C24)

Mortgaging a house to invest in the War Loan

William Hallam wanted to remortgage his house in order in invest in a patriotic war loan, but found an obstacle in his way. Things were easier for the wealthy Vansittart Neales of Bisham Abbey.

William Hallam
25th June 1915

No piece work balance to-day because of the dispute about piece work prices….

I went down to see Westlake the Sec of the Bldg Soc. About getting another mortgage on this house of 100£ which I could invest in the War Loan and re-pay the Bldg Soc in 12 years, but I find from him that I must complete this mortgage first, yet I only owe 3£ odd on it. The fact is I believe they suspect what you intend and don’t want you to invest your money elsewhere.

Florence Vansittart Neale
25 June 1915

To Marlow – put £50 in War Loan…. Edie, I & May to YMCA canteen.

Diaries of William Hallam (D/EX1415/23) and Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

The evidence of blood and tears

The rector of Theale preached on the war at a prestigious annual service at an Oxford College.

Friday, June 25th 1915

War As A World Judgment: St. John the Baptist Service at Magdalen.

Arrangements were yesterday made at Magdalen College for the service which is customarily held on St. John the Baptist’s Day in the quadrangle overlooked by the stone-canopied pulpit, a relic of the ancient Hospital of St. John the Baptist, but at the last moment owing to the rain it was necessary for the service to take place in the chapel. The preacher was the Rev. S. C. F. Angel-Smith (Hertford College), rector of Theale, Reading, and amongst those present were the Principal of Brasenose (Pro-Vice-Chancellor), the President of Magdalen (Sir Herbert Warren), the Senior and Junior Proctors, and a number of senior and junior members of the University.

The Rev. Angel-Smith took as his text St. Matthew III. 1-2 “In those days came John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, Repent ye, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” He urged them in this “dies irae,” when the world was plunged into the whirlpool of war, when

“Human sorrow fills the air,
Death is reigning everywhere.”

To try and read the secret of the world-tragedy, that they might catch, if it might be, a ray of hope for the world’s redemption. Let them pass from the Baptist’s message of “the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” to another kingdom the very contradiction of it. He reminded them of the temptation and the offer to Christ of the kingdoms of the world, and added the devil, discomfited by the Christ, had gained many a victory through the subsequent ages. In these last days could they fail to credit him with perhaps his most conspicuous success in the world’s history?