The greatest war of history still rages

The Burghfield parish magazine reported on the numbers to join up in the parish, as well as those contributing at home.

The second War Christmas has come and gone; the Angels’ message of “Peace on earth” seemed strangely out of tune with actual facts when, instead of peace, the greatest war of history still rages and there is upon the earth “distress of nations with perplexity”. Yet it served to remind us once more of what we believe was the Divine intention for mankind, and of how far, alas! man has thwarted the good purposes of God. And yet there is a sense in which the beautiful story of Bethlehem and the “Peace that passeth all understanding” must have come home to many hearts this year…

We are all, I hope, beginning the new year seriously and hopefully. The solemn act in which we are called to join on the first Sunday in the year means – in the words of our archbishop – “nothing less than the rededication to God of our life as it is, in the firm belief that He will pardon and mend and strengthen us. We brace ourselves anew, soldiers and civilians, at home and abroad, to discharge the trust of so arming and fighting and conquering as to establish hereafter among the nations of the earth a simpler life, a simpler faith, a firmer fellowship, an enduring peace”.

War Hospital Supplies Association
(Officially recognised by the War Office)

A branch in connection with Holiday House was formed early in November. Mrs George, Mrs Gripper, and Mrs Kirkwood will be glad of all the help they can get. Up to date over 400 articles have been sent into the Reading Depot. Work parties meet on Mondays, at Miss Gripper’s, and on Fridays at Holiday House, where samples and materials will be supplied. Splints, bandages, towels, pillows, bed-jackets, etc are wanted in hundreds. Contributions of money are gladly received where personal service cannot be given; and an Entertainment in aid of the fund will be given in the New Schools, by the Holiday House Dramatic Society, at the end of January.

The “Roll of Honour” hanging on the inner doors of the church has grown steadily until it now contains more than 190 names of “Burghfield men” who either (a) are or have been actually serving during this war in some naval or military capacity, or (b) have offered themselves under Lord Derby’s Scheme, have been accepted, and are enlisted in the Reserve for service in due course. No doubt the Roll is not too exclusive. On the one hand, members of any well-known old Burghfield family have been treated as admissible (under certain conditions) for enrolment, though no longer living in the parish). And, on the other hand, it was impossible to leave out men who in fact had enlisted or been called up from the parish, although they were only temporary residents, e.g. migratory labourers, employees of private persons, etc.

But, allowing for extreme cases, it is still a goodly list; and if account is also taken of the men, numbering more than 40, who since the beginning of the war have definitely offered themselves, but have been rejected as medically unfit, and of the 20 or so who have served, but are past the age of useful service, the parish may well feel some patriotic pride, saddened though we may be by the recollection of those who have given up their lives for their country.

Mr Willink is very anxious to make the fullest and most accurate possible record; and he will be much obliged if anyone having near relations in the Navy or Army will send to him (unless they have already done so) exact particulars, in writing, of (1) full name, (2) rank, (3) number, (4) ship or regiment etc, with the title or number of the battalion, battery, or other unit concerned, (5) if abroad, where serving; if at home, the address. Corrections of mistakes in the Roll will be welcomed.

It is not possible yet to give an accurate account of the result of Lord Derby’s Scheme in Burghfield. Many men applied in Reading, where the books cannot be inspected. Some who promised to offer themselves have not yet reported the result of doing so, or whether they did in fact offer at all. Others, having been “accepted”, have supplied very inadequate information as to what they have joined, whether the Reserve or the Colours, and if the latter in what specific branch of the service. Mr Willink will be glad to receive written details of any doubtful cases.

Roughly speaking, out of 111 “Blue cards” the following is an approximately correct tabulated outcome:

Offered 70 (of whom over 30 rejected as medically unfit)
Promised, or willing but with obstacles Over 20
Removed 7
Unwilling (some not unreasonably) Less than a dozen

The number of single men who have definitely refused, without apparent reason, is very small indeed. It is too late for them now to offer themselves for “grouping” under the Scheme. But it remains open to them to take their stand by their fellows who have shown themselves willing to put their country’s safety before their own. They can always try to join the colours and help to shorten the war.

Note: The “Blue cards” contained the names of all men between the ages of 18 and 41 on the 15th August 1915, who were registered in this parish on that day, and who have not been “starred” or “badged”.

Burghfield parish magazine, January 1916 (D/EX725/3)

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