Eternal rest

Three Ascot men were reported killed.

KILLED IN ACTION

“Greater love hath no man than this that a man lays down his life for his friend.”

Alfred Love.
George Selwyn.
Charles Tidbury.

“Grant them, O Lord, eternal rest.”

South Ascot Parochial Magazine, December 1917 (D/P186/28A/17)

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He “saved an officer’s life by carrying him on his back out of danger, under fire”

There was news of many Burghfield men, some of whom had performed acts of heroism at the front.

Honours and Promotions

We congratulate 2nd Lt Wheeler and his parents Mr and Mrs E C Wheeler on his promotion, he having been given a commission in the King’s Liverpool Regiment. His brother, T Wheeler, is now training as a Pilot in No 5 Cadet Wing, RFC. Cadet (ex Corporal) Alfred Searies is training in Scotland, having been recommended for a commission. He has been twice wounded, and has saved an officer’s life by carrying him on his back out of danger, under fire. The following are now Sergeants: E Cooke (5th R W Surrey), R J Turfrey (ASC< MT), E Wise (2/4th Royal Berks).

Casualties

E N Pike (killed in action), P C Layley (scalded), J Cummings, A Newman, and A Ware (wounded). W Butler, whose parents long lived in the parish, but have lately gone to Sulhamstead, is also wounded.

Discharges

Jos. West, ex 2nd Rifle Brigade (wounds); Herbert C Layley, ex 5th Royal Berks (wounds); Fred W Johnson, ex 2nd Royal Berks (heart); Isaac Slade, ex 4th Royal Berks and RE (heart); J D Whitburn, ex Royal Berks (rheumatism), just moved to Five Oaken. Arthur L Collins, in last magazine, should have been described as ex 5th Royal Berks.

Other War Items

Lieutenant Francis E Foster, RNVR, of Highwoods, who since the outbreak of war has been looking for trouble in the North Sea, has been rewarded by transfer to a quieter job further south, for the present. Lieutenant Geoffrey H B Chance, MG Corps (of the Shrubberies) is in hospital in Egypt, suffering from malaria.

Roll of Honour
Mr Willink thanks all who have given him information. He is always glad to receive more. It is difficult if not impossible, especially since the Military Service Act, to keep the Roll up to date.

Obituary Notices

The following death is recorded with regret.

Mr E N Pike, of Burghfield Hatch, son of Mrs Pike of Brook House, lost his life as above stated, for his country on 11th November, less than a week after returning to the front from a month’s leave which had been granted him to enable him to get in his fruit crop. An officer in his Battery writes: “In the short time that Gunner Pike has been in the Battery we have learned to appreciate him not only for his work but for the man he was”. He leaves a young widow and a little boy. He had good hopes of obtaining a commission in time.

Burghfield parish magazine, December 1917 (D/EX725/4)

May God in His great mercy bring this terrible war to an end before another year is through

There was a Christmas message for men from Reading St John.

TO SOLDIERS AND SAILORS ON ACTIVE SERVICE

Brothers,

Let me once again, in a few brief words, express to you all the cordial good wishes of your friends back here in the home parish. out of hearts full of affection and gratitude we send you our very warmest Christmas greetings. You may be sure that we shall be thinking of you on Christmas Day, and praying for you too. May God in His great mercy bring this terrible war to an end before another year is through, so that all the families now separated may be reunited, and the men now on the sea or in the trenches may spend next Christmas in peace under their own roof-tree.

Believe me,

Your very sincere friend and vicar

W. Britton

Reading St. John parish magazine, December 1917 (D/P172/28A/24)

“We none of us feel like Christmas festivities in these troubled days”

Soldiers stationed in Reading genuinely appreciated the socialising they were able to do at Broad Street Church – even more so once they had moved on to less congenial surroundings.

The opening of our rooms for the soldiers has necessitated the temporary suspension of the Ladies’ Sewing Meeting and the Women’s Social Hour. Before the arrangements were made the members of both these organisations were consulted, and they at once expressed their willingness to sacrifice their own interests in order that everything possible might be done for the men who have laid us under such a deep debt of obligation. Not only so, but most of the ladies who had been actively engaged in the work of thse organisations consented to transfer their services for the time being to our new undertaking. In this way it was possible to secure from the outset a band of willing and enthusiastic workers. I feel deeply grateful to the ladies who are giving such devoted service.

That the soldiers appreciate what is being done for them is constantly being proved to us. In another column will be found a letter from one of them. But letters of a similar kind have been received. In one of these letters the writer says: “I am getting on alright here, but we don’t ‘alf miss the Broad Street rooms. With all the YMCAs and others here there is none so comfortable as Broad Street.” Another of our former friends writes: “What a difference I find here. It seems terribly slow compared with Reading, and what makes it worse we are under canvas again. We are having wretched weather. Just imagine what it is like in tents. It would feel nice to drop into Broad Street again, I can assure you. Thanking you once again for your kindness to me.” And so the story continues.

We were all glad to see Lieut. Oswald Francis in our midst again looking so fit and well. During his time of leave Lieut. Francis was summoned to Buckingham Palace to receive his Military Cross at the hands of the King.

We were also glad to see 2nd AM FW Snell again on a recent Sunday, after a long absence with the RFC in France. We hope he may enjoy good health, and that he may be preserved from danger as he continues his arduous duties.

Private HS Hilliard, of the RMLI, son of our friends Mr and Mrs Hilliard of Watlington Street, has been severely wounded, and is now in hospital at Bury St Edmunds. We are glad to hear good reports of Private Hilliard, and we trust he may soon be restored to health and strength.

On Christmas Day we hope to have a service in the church as usual at 11 am. The service will last for about one hour, and we shall hope to have a good attendance. We none of us feel like Christmas festivities in these troubled days; but there is urgent need that we keep before our hearts and minds the things for which Christmas really stands.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, December 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“It is most difficult to obtain respectable lodgings in Reading”

Housing in Reading was in very short supply by this stage of the war. Applying for extra lodging allowance for warder Edward Hubbard, the governor wrote to the Commissioners:

It is most difficult to obtain respectable lodgings in Reading, owing to work and also the influx of people from London on account of the raids. People have their names down for many months to obtain a house.

25.12.17

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

“The only jarring feature was the never-ending noise of the guns”

Reading men at the front report on their Christmas experiences. Harrison’s Pomade was a treatment for lice, an unpleasant reality for men in the trenches. It was produced by a Reading chemist.

LETTERS FROM THE FRONT

The following extracts from letters from our men on service have been “in type” for several months, but they have had to be “held over” for lack of space. We now have pleasure in publishing them:

The fact there are friends at home who have not forgotten us out here is a very great consolation, and one’s odd moments are often filled with thoughts of those at home. Maybe this is one of the reasons why the time seems to go so quickly. We had a very good time on Xmas day considering the wildness and loneliness (except for troops) of the spot we are in…

The only jarring feature was the never-ending noise of the guns, but somehow even among that there seemed to be a feeling of peace. Certainly there was, and is, a great desire for it. Please convey to all friends my heartiest thanks, not only for the very useful gifts but for the spirit which prompted them.

L. H. N. (OS)

Thank you so very much for the parcel and message. I was so glad to be remembered by Broad St. The church and friends it embraces will always be one of my happiest memories; and memories mean so much when we are far away. It will be my first duty – and a very pleasant one – to look you all up when I come back. Until then letters will have to suffice, I’m afraid, for all we think and feel.
L. J. P. (OS)

I wish to thank you and Broad St Chapel for the parcel which only reached me yesterday. Fortunately the things were all securely packed and none the worse for the trying journey they must have had. Thank you very much…

Although one is of necessity away from home, one’s thoughts naturally are at home, especially at this time of year, and a parcel from the church where one really learnt the elementary lessons of life is always a pleasure to receive.

L. H. F. (OS)

It gave me very great pleasure when I received the parcel yesterday from my friends at Broad St Church, also your welcome letter and circular enclosed, so full of encouraging and cheering wishes. I assure you the contents of the parcel were very welcome both for physical and spiritual needs, and I hardly know how or what to say in thanks…

Often I sit and think of the times I have spent with the choir at Broad St and long to be back again. I shall be with them in spirit when “Merrie England” is being performed and they won’t miss me half as much as I shall miss the pleasure of being there.

W. H. D. (OS)

It was a big pleasant surprise to receive yesterday the splendid parcel from dear old Broad St. Please accept my sincerest thanks. Candles especially are very welcome, and Harrison’s Pomade is a gift which only those actually here can appreciate fully. I believe this is the third Xmas on which I have received this concrete evidence of your continued interest. I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say I sincerely trust that there won’t be a fourth – under such circumstances as these at all events….

My thoughts are often in Reading, and Broad St always fills a warm corner of my heart.

W. F. H. (OS)

I am writing to thank you for your kind Xmas wishes, and most useful parcel…

I spent a happy Xmas, and even enjoyed the luxury of turkey and pudding – quite a contrast to the previous year, when I spent the festive season between the trenches and sundry “Bairnsfather” barns with “bully” stew as a constant dinner companion. I received your parcel that year during a period in which we were occupying an old brewery cellar. Te building on top had long been demolished by shell fire, but the tall chimney persisted in standing, in spite of decapitation. Naturally with Herr Bosche busily amusing himself with his battered target we were glad to get downstairs. Nor do I remember that any teetotaller had any complaint to make on that occasion upon breweries in general, or brewery cellars in particular.

N. H. (OS)

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, September 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

An acceptable parcel for every man

The war’s effect on the economy limited Christmas gifts for soldiers this year.

Broad Street Congregational Church, Reading

For the Fund to provide Xmas Parcels for our men with the Naval and Military Forces, there was contributed (in addition to the many comforts and other gifts in kind) the sum of £33 7s 9d. The committee appointed for the purpose were thus enabled to send an acceptable parcel to every man who has gone out from the Church or Brotherhood, and they wish to thank the many friends who subscribed to the Fund, either in money or kind, or both, for their gifts. I should like to associate myself with that expression of gratitude, and I should like further to acknowledge a deep sense of indebtedness to Mr C Dalgleish (Hon. Sec.) and the members of the committee for the splendid service they rendered in making provision for, and despatching, the parcels.

Burghfield
Parcels

In accordance with the notice in the magazine, 58 Christmas parcels have been sent to all Burghfield men who are serving beyond seas. Owing to bad times, the subscriptions for the parish were not so large as last year, but the greeting from friends at Burghfield was written on a Xmas card in each parcel.

Burghfield parish magazine, January 1918 (D/EX725/4)

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, February 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“I expected to be home about Xmas, but instead I found myself in Italy”

Members of Broad Street Brotherhood were reminded of home at Christmas.

MESSAGES FROM BROTHERHOOD MEN

Below we give extracts from a few of the letters recently received from members of the Brotherhood who are serving with HM Forces. The writers of these – and many other – letters were most grateful for the Christmas parcels, but in making our extracts we have not thought it necessary to include their expressions of appreciation in every case.

Today I had a very pleasant surprise in receiving the parcel of very useful things you all had so kindly sent me. I thank you very much for your kind thoughts and wishes expressed in your helpful letter, and for all you have sent. What a splendid and helpful “Xmas Message” that is on the leaflet you enclose. I shall pass it on.
Stanley Gooch (OS)

Thank you so much for the parcel I received quite safely. It is good of you all to make our Xmas so bright by the splendid things that you sent along. I received the parcel on Xmas afternoon. I expected to be home about Xmas, but instead I found myself in Italy. But never mind. Let us hope that this terrible war will soon finish…

How I look forward to the time when I can sit in my old place in the choir and let rip our good old Brotherhood hymns…

I thought of Broad St and the Choir on Xmas Day when our Quartette Party sang “The Soldier’s Farewell”.

J E Graham (OS)

I beg to acknowledge the parcel that was so kindly forwarded to me from the Church and Brotherhood. Please convey my heartfelt thanks to all those who helped to add another kind expression of brotherly feeling to the absent ones. They can never know the pleasure it gives….

Although so far away it seems to bring us all right home to Broad St and the happy times we’ve had together…

I am sorry to say we have no Brotherhood here, but one of the Church Army Huts, which I can assure you is very acceptable to the boys at the Hospital. We have service morning and evening, and since I’ve been here I have not missed one. We have a Male Voice Choir of which I am a member, and I believe we could now put Broad Street M[ale] V[oice] Choir in a back seat. But please don’t tell the conductor this, as he might take it serious.

Herbert Tott (OS)

Will you kindly thank the members of the Church and Brotherhood who so kindly gave to the parcel you sent. I received it in the trenches…

I must thank God I have been spared to see another Xmas where there have been so many that have fallen. I have been very glad Mr Woolley ever induced me to join the Brotherhood…

We are having very cold weather, and the ground is thick with snow which makes it bad for getting about.

C Mills (OS)

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, April 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Mass in a barn, no room at the inn

The Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist at Clewer had a quiet wartime Christmas, while their Sub-Warden, a clergyman who helped to see to their spiritual needs, was serving as an army chaplain.

25 December 1917

Christmas Day. Midnight Mass (plain) in the old chapel on account of necessity for screening lights at night.

The Sub-Warden

“Christmas Day. This morning my first Mass was said in a barn. The altar set up against a door, surrounded by straw, piled arms, etc. Again “there was no room for Him in the Inn”. The service over, I rode to a neighbouring village, my servant following on a bicycle with the bag of Sacred Vessels. There I had a whole Battalion in a hall & a band to play the hymns.”

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer, 25 December 1917 and 3 January 1918 (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

No plum pudding

It was a festive Christmas at Bisham Abbey, although the family missed daughter Phyllis and son in law Leo “Boy” Paget, respectively nursing and fighting.

25 December 1917

Had soup, turkey and bread sauce!! No plum pudding, but omnibus with dates. Drank health absent ones, Phyllis & Boy, in champagne.

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

We lost a little more ground

Whiskey was in short supply.

William Hallam
24th December 1917

This morning I cleaned all my brass ornaments and nic nacs. Chopped up firewood, got in coal. In afternoon went for a walk with wife. Got my friend [in] the regt. at Draycott to bring me in a bottle of whisky from their mess. It is impossible to get any spirits in the town. Sold out weeks ago.

Florence Vansittart Neale
24 December 1917

We lost a little more ground. See Willie Packer’s death confirmed.

Diaries of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“While interned here he expressed the strongest pro-German sentiments”

Louis Claas, aged 21 when interned in 1916, was a motor mechanic born in Birmingham of foreign extraction. He said he was a Wesleyan Methodist. He escaped from Reading on 3 November 1917 – but now he was back.

24 Dec 1917

Louis Claas
26.8.16 S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regulation, Internment

The above named man who escaped from here last November and who while interned here expressed the strongest pro-German sentiments, called at the Prison yesterday wearing the uniform of a Private in the British Army and stated that he had been enlisted into the 30th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, stationed at Reading. He came nominally to enquire about some property – but probably in hopes of seeing other men.

He was not admitted to the Prison.

C M Morgan
[To] The Commissioner

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

“Our Belgian friends can now stand upon their own feet”

Belgian refugees in Maidenhead were doing well and optimistic that the end was in sight.

THE BELGIAN REFUGEES.

The Committee’s fund is now nearly exhausted, and our Belgian friends, whom we have helped for more than three years, can now stand upon their own feet, although in case of some unforeseen emergency we would all be willing to lend them a hand again.

The Secretary, Mrs. Hews, has received this letter:-

“14, Fairford Road, Dec. 24th, 1917.

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

Once more I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May this be the last year of this terrible war, and we sincerely hope that next Christmas will find you bright, merry, and happy as in years gone by. As for ourselves, we hope to be back in Belgium before then.

I remain, yours faithfully, J. Van Hoof.”

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, January 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“The woollen balaclava helmet was just about the only thing I wanted”

Men in the armed forces associated with Broad Street Congregational Church were grateful for their Christmas gifts, which really helped to boost morale.

EXPRESSIONS OF APPRECIATION

We have pleasure in giving below a number of extracts from the any letters from our men on service, in acknowledgement of the parcels sent out at Christmas. These are just a sample. We should have been glad, had space permitted, to give many more. The letters OS after the initials mean “on active service”.

My very best thanks to you and the kind folk at Broad St for again thinking of me this Christmas season, thoughts which I know are extended to us out here not only at Christmas time, but all the year round. The parcel arrived quite safely and in good condition. The woollen balaclava helmet was just about the only thing I wanted in the way of woollen stuff. I still have a lovely woollen scarf which was sent me last year. The rest of the contents were also quite “O.K.” I must also thank you for all the kind wishes, and also for the cheering, strengthening and encouraging Xmas message.
A. S. (OS)

Thank you and all at Broad St for your kind wishes and parcel which reached me on Christmas Eve, the latter in excellent condition and very welcome. One is greatly encouraged to know that one is always in the thoughts of the church at Broad St. it is the knowledge that one is constantly remembered in the prayers of those at home which makes us feel that in spite of occasional discomfort and discouragement, the job is worth doing after all.
C.Q. (OS)

It is very good of the Broad St Friends to think of us out here, and I know I am not only speaking for myself when I say that I am exceedingly grateful, not only for the parcel, but also for the good wishes. I am writing this from the bottom of a “dug-out” where the accommodation is not the best for writing in.
O. F. (OS)

I do indeed think it exceedingly kind of the members of Broad St and yourself to send us such useful things for Xmas. I think you must have secured expert advice as to “Tommy’s” need. Thank you very much indeed… My thoughts frequently wing their way to you, and on Sundays when things out here continue as on other days, there some strong yearnings to be present with you in our service at Broad St. still I am conscious that you think of us all, and pray that our true and deepest needs may be met.
J. H. P. (OS)

I wish to thank the friends at Broad St, who so kindly sent me the most useful parcel at Christmas. It reminded me of old friends and the happy hours spent both in Sunday School and Church…. Here I am bivouaced on the plain of Sharon near the Judean Hills, with nothing but eucalyptus, lemon and orange groves in sight, and practically speaking, within a stone’s throw of the Holy City, Jerusalem. It is a grand experience of which I have no doubt you envy me, and all the lads out here, but nevertheless let us all hope it will not be long before we are able to return home and get once more into the traces.
W. T. B. (OS)

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, April 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

An envelope to pass around the Christmas dinner table

Men blinded in the war might have dependants.

Sir Arthur Pearson makes a Christmas appeal for the Children of Blinded Soldiers. He asks that on Christmas Day an envelope will be passed round the Christmas dinner table for contributions. He hopes to collect £250,000 so as to provide a sum of five shillings per week for each child up to the age of sixteen years. These envelopes will be placed in church both on Christmas Day and the Sunday previous [23 December 1917]. They may be returned to the Vicar, or sent direct to Sir Arthur.

South Ascot Parochial Magazine, December 1917 (D/P186/28A/17)