Why are people not praying in this time of peril?

The church at Theale was struggling financially due to smaller congregations since the war had started.

The Rector is very sorry to have to add the warning that the Churchwardens cannot hope to meet the necessary expenditure with the small congregations and small collections we are now having. The smallness of the collections creates a serious difficulty, but it is sadder still to have to acknowledge that in this time of the Country’s peril, and of stress and sorrow and anxiety in almost every home, not more, but fewer, of our people seem to feel the need of united prayer to God to help us through our troubles. And yet “God is our refuge and strength: A very present help in trouble.”

Theale parish magazine, November 1915 (D/P132B/28A/4)

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Captain with a capital C

Annie Ellen Phoebe Blackall (better known in later years under her married name Phoebe Cusden) was a young Post Office employee in Reading during the war. Later a leading local pacifist, at this stage in her life she was working with a Guide troop in support of the war effort. She wrote to her brother, who had joined up:

52 Beresford Road
Reading
30 Nov. 1915

My dear Hodge [nickname]

Here’s as merry a Christmas as circumstances permit. Guess it’s about the most novel one you’ve ever spent, eh?

My Guides are doing well – getting quite expert signallers besides learning first aid and other useful things. We hope to go to camp next year. I shall expect you to salute me when you come home, ‘cos I’m a Captain (with a capital C).

We have an OTC and a real live Sergeant Major drills us in the approved army style…

Best love and good luck old man
Your loving sister
Nell Blackall

(2 Cockney soldiers lent to a farmer to help with dairy work: one armed with milking stool and pail, other armed with gun, approaching cow). Man with gun: “It do seem a shime to kill the pore thing for the sike of a drop o’ milk.”

Letter from Annie Ellen Phoebe Blackall to her brother (D/EX1485/2/8)

Kashmir prays for British success

The parishioners of Reading St John had the chance to hear from three very different men affected by the war: their old vicar, Guy Rogers, serving as an army chaplain in France; a last letter from a young man in the army; and a view from the Empire.

The following is an extract from a letter received from the Vicar just as the Magazine goes to press:-

I am taking charge of the military church at the top of the hill and will live at the back of it as they do here, with an Army Scripture Reader as my curate. The room has to be furnished with a camp bed and shelves. There is nothing but the bare boards. I am getting camp carpenters to work to make a bed and shelves. I must rake up a table cloth if I can, and a few pictures and hangings for walls to make the place home-like. The we are going to turn the end of the church into a Reading Room for the soldiers. Would anyone undertake to collect a good supply of illustrated and weekly papers and send them regularly? The church has been built by subscriptions from home and belongs not to government but to us.

OUR OWN MISSIONARY
A letter has been received by the Vicar from the Rev. A. I. Kay, extracts from which we have permission to print:

[Kay had been on holiday in Kashmir]

I used to think New Zealand was the most beautiful country in the world, but it will have to take second place now to Kashmir…

On Friday (the Mohammedan Sabbath) I was amazed to see all the people pouring into Hazratbal all the morning… It looked like market day and there were crowds of people about. Most of them were praying in front of the Mosque… One was glad to think that one of the things they pray for is the victory of the British arms.

LETTER FROM THE FRONT.

There is a pathetic interest in this letter, as Lance-Corporal Bushell was killed in the advance just after its receipt:-

We have had two Church Parades since we arrived and I have enjoyed them very much. The first was the better of the two. It was absolutely the best Service I have had the pleasure to attend, for the Chaplain seemed to speak right to your heart, and I don’t believe any man on parade missed a word that he said, and from all sides the men were heard to say that they thoroughly enjoyed it, and for myself I hope I hear some more services like it before the time comes for me to meet my Maker….

I wish I had been confirmed when you offered me the chance, and I have regretted it many a time, and I wish I had remembered that old saying: ‘Never put off till to-morrow what can be done to-day.’ I am going to try and see our Chaplain and see if it can be arranged, for I think it can be at certain times when the Bishop is in our part.

W.BUSHELL.

Dear old Bushell! He was one of our very best at the Ronald Palmer Lads’ Club.

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

The complications of this Great War grow more and more serious

28 November 1915 was the first Sunday in Advent. The vicar of St Mary’s in Reading used the solemn occasion to encourage parishioners, and worshippers at the daughter churches of St Saviour and All Saints, to pray for the war.

The Vicars Notes

The season of advent, which begins at the end of this month, comes to us at a solemn time. As the complications of this Great War grow more and more serious, the more urgent is the need for deeper and more earnest prayer. Let us see to it that we rise to a higher and truer spiritual level all through the new Christian year.

We should all desire to wish “God’s-Speed” to the Rev. T. Guy Rogers, late Vicar of S. John’s, in his new work as chaplain to the forces at the front. We shall miss him very much in Reading, where he has always taken a strong and vigorous hand on behalf of the things that really matter. May his work among the troops be blessed in every way, and may he be brought back to the homeland once more safe and sound.

Roll Of Honour

Maurice Cooper, Arthur Goodall, Frank Shervall, George Hunt, George Absolom, Francis Russell, George Denton, Alfred Thorp, George Kemp, James Noakes, William Trussell, Frank Lunnon, Edward J. Humphreys, Frances Miles, Thomas Brooker, William Sawyer, Herbert Sawyer, Frederick Deadman.

R.I.P.
Edward Gregory.

S. Mary’s
Soldiers Christmas parcel Fund

Miss Wickham Legg hopes that it will again be possible to send Christmas Parcels to our brave men in the field or at sea. All contributions either in money or kind, should be sent to S. Mary’s Vicarage sometime this month.

All Saints’ District
Roll of Honour

The following additional names have been sent in for remembrance at the Altar.

William Jesse Baverstock, Aylmer Louis Elliot Fleet, Harry Gerald fox, Ronald Charles Jordan, Richard John Martin, Ernest William Martin, Reginald Francis West, Robert Douglas West, William Charles Wicks.

R.I.P.
Edward Worrell Carrington.

S. Saviours District
List of Honour

A kind friend has given a framed “List of Honour” to contain the names of all those who go out from S. Saviour’s to serve their King and Country. The list is in two parts, nicely written, and is placed in the Porch of the Church. Further names will be added from time to time as they are received.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, November 1915 (D/P98/28A/13)

The war shows we cannot serve two masters

Wargrave parish was keen that support for the war should not distract from their true purpose.

Knowl Hill

Collections for Foreign Missions (S.P.G) will be, as requested, on the 1st Sunday in Advent, November 28th. We must be on our guard lest our contribution for War purposes interfere with our support of the Gospel, on which the peace of the world depends. The War has manifested the impossibility of serving two masters – GOD and Mammon.

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

No peace or victory till the politicians have been exterminated

Maysie Wynne Finch wrote from Wales, where she and her wounded husband had taken refuge at his family home, to her brother Ralph Glyn. She was not impressed by British politicians, or by men trying to avoid service.

Sunday 28 Nov/15
Voelas
Bettws-y-Coed
N. Wales
My dear darling R.

No, I had not seen anything about attacks on Col Sykes – How scheming. All lies I am sure. Oh dear, these politicians, will they never be stamped out & exterminated, we shall have no peace or hope of victory till they are. How people can give presents to Miss Asquith & make it an occasion to tell lies about olf Asquith – God knows – & people like the Speaker too….

Col Toby Wickham … has been recalled from France & is waiting to hear what if anything he’s to do next. All his Yeomanry have been broken up into Div. Cav. & he’s been PM of Ypres for the last month. He’s miserable being home.

What a delightful couple the Harlechs are. She’s enchanting. He was busy trying to get recruits for Welsh Guards, of which he’s Colonel… Billy Gore is off any day, with his Yeomanry Brigade. They go east – where no one knows of course. They have been waiting to start over 10 days now….

John is having a rare lot of “shooting at something which can’t shoot back” as someone put it. At first it hurt his jaw rather, but now it doesn’t seem to often. His back hasn’t healed up even now. I had no idea it would take so long. Of course at the hospital they said it was one of the dirtiest little holes they’d seen. It only missed his spine by a nick too, you know! I expect you’ve heard the story but it was new to me, of the Sergeant to a frightened private under fire, “Now then my man, what’s the matter with you, they ain’t h’after you – you ain’t no blooming cathedral or bloody work of h’art”!! I love it.

Best love darling…
Your own loving Maysie

At last the brave yokels in this district are enlisting having made sure they must go or be fetched! They all try ASC of course!!

Letter from Maysie Wynne Finch to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

A call for cabbages

Burghfield gardeners were supporting the war effort by supplying homegrown produce to the local war hospitals.

VEGETABLES AND FRUIT FOR THE WAR HOSPITAL

The appeal for the above which was made early in the summer has been well responded to, and many acceptable gifts have reached the Hospital from Burghfield, some of which have been sent privately and others from the receiving depot (The Hatch Gate), where the hamper is called for every Saturday about 10 a.m. Any further offerings will be gladly received, and we hear that just now the humble cabbage would be very acceptable.

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

‘Abide with me’ sung by a large number of men in a cave, with the shells rattling overhead.

The Maidenhead parish magazine had a number of reports relating to the religious effects of the war.

Prebendary Carlile at the Front.

Prebendary Carlile, who has recently returned from a visit to France, where his special mission was to inspect the work of the Church Army near the Front, paid a high tribute to the devoted women who are working with the Royal Army Medical Corps and British Red Cross, and also to the clerical chauffeurs who are driving some of the Church Army ambulance cars. The tenderness and care of the wounded which they display came, he said, as a revelation to him. The same spirit of self-sacrifice for others was seen in the Church Army rest-huts and clubs. Before his return Dr. Carlile had the perhaps unique experience of standing between the Bishop of Birmingham and a Russian bishop and grasping a hand of each. This he hopes may be a symbol of the new knowledge and sympathy which has been aroused between the two countries and Churches.

The Sacrament in a “Dug-out.”

The parish magazine of St. Andrew’s, Plymouth, contains an interesting letter from the Rev. R. H. Fulford, who is acting as Chaplain to the Forces in the Dardanelles :-

“Services in the trenches,” he says, “are difficult to arrange, as we are under constant fire. Yet I have administered the Sacrament in my dug-out to as many as the place would comfortably hold, and have often spoken to men individually and in small groups in the firing-line itself, and, of course, at the fixed ambulance station. Here there is a large natural cave, and on Sunday evening it was good to hear ‘Abide with me’ sung by a large number of men, with the shells rattling overhead. We had a wonderful service in the dark just before landing on the Peninsula, and it gave us the greater courage to meet the heavy shell-fire which greeted us. Any day you may see men openly reading their New Testaments in the trenches and elsewhere, and many and earnest prayers are said from the heart. Last week I was burying a fellow, when the corporal told me that the fatigue party, of which the dead man had been one, after a heavy shelling had got under cover and gone down on their knees and thanked God for their escape. We live here upon the threshold of two worlds much more consciously than in ordinary life, and England will be the better for the return of her Army in its present spirit. Of course, there are dull and foolish ones even in the tightest corners; but, at any rate, the question of life and death has to be faced, and in most cases the religious answer carries conviction and comfort.”

Church Training Colleges and the War.

The recently issued Report of the National Society contained some striking figures with regard to the part played in the War by the Training Colleges of the Church of England. From these figures it would appear that there are some three thousand past and present students and members of the staffs of eleven Training Colleges serving with the Colours, of whom some 250 hold commissions. Even more striking, however, is the number of students who were called out on the mobilisation of the Territorial Force. These numbered over 800, and would doubles have exceeded 1,000 but for the fact that in the case of two Colleges difficulties arose when the old Volunteers were disbanded and the new Territorial Force was created.

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, November 1915 (D/P181/28A/24)

“Some corner of a foreign field”

Some of our parish magazines have published verse of limited literary value, although it clearly appealed to contemporary sentiments. Christ Church in Reading picked a new poem which is now regarded as a classic war poem, albeit an early one epitomising patriotism rather than the disillusionment of later poems by men like Wilfred Owen (who had been an undergraduate in Reading).

Some of our readers may be glad to read this sonnet written by Rupert Brooke who died of illness in the Dardanelles where he had gone with the Expeditionary Force. The sonnet is one of six bearing the title “1914” and is published in a small volume “1914 and other Poems”.

The Soldier
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Reading Christ Church parish magazine, November 1914 (D/P170/28A/24)

Watch Greece well

Florence Vansittart Neale was wary of our potential new ally.

25 November 1915
Hope Greece coming down, but do not trust her. Hope we shall watch her well.

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

A real sacrifice

Lady Mary Glyn wrote to her son Ralph with news of the service of various family friends and acquaintances.

Nov. 25, 1915
Overstone
Northampton
My darling Scraps

We had luncheon & tea with Mrs Guy & Mildred Stewart. Her husband is Staff Brigade Major with General Montgomery and she says they all adore Sir Henry Rawlinson, and all that was best in the Loos Battle was his work. And it was wonderful to hear all that Mrs Guy’s many sons are doing – all fighting, except Lasey who is in “Grandpapa’s Own”, the Inns of Court Battalion, and gets much chaffed.

Marmion was at the Suvla Bay landing & his Colonel Linton was killed just after the landing & when he had stood in water 6 hours, 4 ft 4 deep and more for the landing. Allan Guy has just gone as Private with Public Schools Battalion attached to Fusiliers, and the mother says that she thinks this means for him a real giving & sacrifice, for he has never been a soldier, & only schoolmastering. You will remember Mansel Bowly as Commander of the Fed. In Dardanelles.

I have no news to give you, for I have seen very few people lately, and the newspapers are not much good, for what is news today, is stale tomorrow in these days.

Own Mur
I am always thinking of you.

Letter from Lady Mary to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

“It makes all the difference when men have been constantly facing death and seeing their comrades fall at their side”

The experiences of an army chaplain were published in the Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine.

The Rev. W. W. Bowdon, C.F.

Cheery letters have been received from Mr. Bowdon, and the following will be of interest to many:-

No. 14 Stationary Hospital,
Wimereux,
Boulogne.

I crossed the water on Thursday, 30th September. There were a great crowd of officers and many hundreds of men crossing. It was rather weird on board with all lights out, not even the light of a cigarette allowed, and we were accompanied by destroyers. On arriving at Boulogne we were detailed off to various trains, and I soon found myself wedged in with half-a-dozen officers and piles of baggage in an unlighted 1st class carriage, bound for General Headquarters (it is not permitted to say where). I arrived in the small hours of the morning and, being too early to do anything else, turned in again and slept in a carriage on a siding, first making sure it wouldn’t be moving before I did. Then about 8 a.m. a rough toilet and le petit déjeuner at the station buffet. I then drove up to see my new chief, Bishop Gwyn, of Khartoum, Acting Chaplain-General, passing General French’s headquarters on the way.

I found myself appointed to this great hospital for infectious diseases at the base, so back I came. Wimereux is four miles from Boulogne, a pretty place, and in peace time a fashionable sea-side resort, now given over for hospital work. My hospital is situated right on the sea-shore, there is also a large compound of wooden huts near by and a canvas camp for convalescents in the fields at the back. I mess with the officers, all of whom are very nice. We have the General with us, a Colonel (our C.O.), two Majors, and the rest Captains and Lieutenants, to the number of about 25. I am put down as the Rev. Captain Bowdon, C.F., but they all call me ‘Padre,’ and we are very friendly and informal out here. Our mess rooms are delightful, in a separate house on the sea front and with charming views.

The work is, as I expected, pretty strenuous. I visit my patients for about five hours a day, take services when and where I can, run a recreation hut and canteen for the R.A.M.C. men, of whom we have some 1500 here, censor all the company’s letters, and do other odd jobs always cropping up.

One of my difficulties is that different classes of patients must not be mixed, and there are a choice variety of diseases – enteric and scarlet fever, with para-typhoid, meningitis, diphtheria, measles, mumps, whooping-cough, and some others. So at present instead of dodging the bullets I am dodging disease germs. I am wondering which are the more dangerous. I expect to be here some months and then to go ‘up the line’ (as we speak of going into the firing zone), but are always liable to be called up at a moment’s notice. One man was rushed off yesterday after being here but three days.

Of war alarms we have none. Our own air-craft are often about, but none of the enemy’s.

I find the men most responsive and so grateful for one’s ministrations that it is a pleasure to work amongst them. Nearly all my patients have been ‘up the line,’ and it makes all the difference when men have been constantly facing death and seeing their comrades fall at their side. I am inclined to think their experiences are making a very deep and permanently beneficial impression on the character of most of them.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, November 1915 (D/P120/28A/14)

A special pattern: sewing in Sulhamstead

Women in Sulhamstead were keen to help out by knitting and sewing clothing for the troops at the chilly Front.

THE WAR

Communications have been issued by the Lord Lieutenant and Mrs Benyon relative to the new scheme outlined by the War Office, for the supply of comforts for our soldiers and sailors during the forthcoming winter. One of these has been addressed to the Rectory, to Mrs Shepherd. There are many persons in the Parish anxious and eager to work, if materials can be supplied to them. If any such materials or gifts, with which to purchase them, are given to Mrs Shepherd, she will arrange for the workers to receive them.

The requirements are scheduled under six different headings:
British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John – Garments to be made to special pattern
War Office: Knitted scarves etc, of approved colours
Ladies’ Emergency Committee of the Navy League: Underclothing etc
Mine Sweepers: Warm underclothing, gloves and woollen garments
Lady Smith-Dorrien’s Depot for Bags for Soldiers: Bags of an approved pattern and materials

It is pleasing to the Parish to know that Sulhamstead House has again been opened by the kindness and generosity of Sir George and Lady Watson, for the reception of the wounded.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, November 1915 (D/EX725/3)

No books owing to the war

A prize day at a Slough school saw a quieter occasion than usual – and no real prizes for the pupils. Meanwhile, an Aldermaston teacher got a day off to see her soldier brother, home on leave.

Stoke Road School, Slough
November 22nd 1915

Annual Prize Distribution.

The following managers were present:- Mr Daw (Chairman) and the Revd Theo Cousens. The Revd PH Eliot, Mr McCormack and Mr Andrews signified their inability to attend. Mrs Allhusen was in France.

Mrs Cousens kindly distributed the certificates. The pupils were briefly addressed by the Chairmen and Mrs Cousens.

Mr Greenway R.A.M.C was present.

There were no book prizes owing to the War, certificates of merit being issued instead.

Aldermaston School
22nd November 1915

Miss Adams has been granted a leave of absence for today as her brother has returned from the trenches in France for a few days.

Stoke Road School, Slough: log book (89/SCH/28/1, p. 379); Aldermaston School log book (88/SCH3/3, p. 45)

The postman is going to Persia

Florence Vansittart Neale was still keeping busy working with the local ed Cross. Sydney Spencer was too busy now that he was training in the army to write much in his diary. But he occasionally found the time to write a few words. He was the perfect choice to run his battalion’s library.

Florence Vansittart Neale
22 November 1915

Went to meeting re Red X at Christine’s… Settled to keep money to go to meeting at Maidenhead. I to Park Place [for] a final “quilt” party…

Geoffrey (the postman) starting for Persia [now Iran]. Seems little more hope for Servia [sic].

Sydney Spencer
Nov 22nd [1915]

Battalion order 4. Library formed at 19 Northgate Street under 2nd Lt H E Loughton & S Spencer.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8); Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/12)