YMCA experiences with the troops

A YMCA worker told Tilehurst people about his work with the troops.

Mr Alex. Brown, District Secretary of the Band of Hope Union, visited us on January 31st, giving two very interesting lectures on his “YMCA Experiences with the Troops at Home and in France”. The first lecture was given to children, our schoolroom being crammed to the doors with an enthusiastic and attentive congregation. The second was also very well attended, being appreciated just as highly by adults. Eighty slides illustrated Mr Brown’s racy remarks, Mr Bromley manipulating the lantern. A collection was taken for YMCA Hut work at each lecture – the total amount being £2 11s 0d.

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Broad Street Congregational Magazine, March 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“Nothing has been farther from our thoughts than for the club to be a shelter for unpatriotic or conchies”

Datchet Working Men’s Club was a little defensive about its contribution to the comfort of noncombatants.

31.1.18

“Life is mostly froth & bubble
Two things stand like stone
Kindness in another’s trouble
Courage in our own”

Worthy President, Vice Presidents and fellow members,

Such words as these came into my mind after the last years meeting, and as I am sure such a feeling as I had must have taken possession of those present, as each one looked upon the Club’s troubles as his own, and was determined to take courage. We screwed that courage to the sticking point and a successful year was the result. Facts are stubborn things and we are proud that our Wisdom knows no more – We have been through the refining fire, and we are all the better because the dross of “not taking heed lest we fall” has disappeared.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria more

We bow our heads in silence, and connect earth to heaven when in contemplation of our fallen heroes (one this year) who have fought the good fight of justice and honour for the love of home and the Motherland.

Our “Beacon Light” the President is still guiding us and may his flame never dim, and so lead us on amidst encircling gloom and over crags and torrents….

We have not kept open for selfish motives for nearly everyone is assisting in his country’s needs in some form or other. We have been criticized rather unfairly but nothing has been farther from our thoughts than for the club to be a shelter for unpatriotic or conchies. Moreover in addition to our other sacrifices we shall find that the club has been a centre of good, for not only has the Village Hall been let free for everything pertaining to the Nation’s welfare, but “Drivers” have been frequent for the benefit of various Institutions that are doing such magnificent work for our wounded sailors and soldiers, whose every pain seems to cry out to us – To be bemoaning all day long renders that murid, sluggish, and there is wanted a tonic of cheerfulness to keep it working normally – much more abnormally – the club has been a rendezvous for our Boys home from the front, and we have welcomed them these and have had together many a shake hand and a conversation, as have done our hearts good and given us pleasant reminiscences for all times.

We had 51 paying members last year for the whole or part of the year, and there were only 2 who were not actually doing Government work in the strict sense of the word. These were over military ages, and their work had been greatly increased by shortage of labour, so it cannot be said that we have not done our bit. Moreover from the preceding year 12 entered the Service, and about 30 the year previous to that. Therefore the “Fiery Cross” has been responded to and may “Toujours Prêt” ever be our motto in responder to the calls from our “Isles of honour and bravery.”

In conclusion, my fervent gratitude is due to my fellow members, who have oiled my whereto of energy increasingly and thus enabled me to move in every way so as to surmount the difficulties encumbrances and friction.

“Lives of great men all remind us,
We can make our lives sublime
And departing leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of Time.”

E.W. Page
Hon: Sec.

Datchet Working Men’s Club annual report (D/EX2481/1/5)

A generous response

A Carol Service was held after Evensong on January 30th and a collection made for the Blinded Soldiers and Sailors; it amounted to £2 7s. 6d.

The Services on the day of National Prayer and Thanksgiving were largely attended. The collections, as in former years, were for the Red Cross. £16 18s. 2d. was the generous response made.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, February 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10)

Appeal to the children to do their duty in helping to end the War

The National War Aims Committee, and its local affiliates, were a new venture in 1917 to bolster patriotic fervour and commitment to the war effort.

30th January 1918
Messers Forster and Wright, joint secretaries of the South Berks War Aims Committee called this morning, and distributed a number of leaflets bearing on their work and appealed to the children to do their duty in helping to end the War.

Aldermaston School log book (88/SCH/3/3, p. 81)

The Goeben has nine lives!

SMS Goeben was a German-built ship which was the Ottoman (Turkish) Navy’s flagship. It had been damaged by both mines and bombs in January 1918, but went on in service until 1950, and was not scrapped until the 1970s.

30 January 1918

Hear Goeben refloated back in Dardanelles!! It has 9 lives!

Henry long day at Maidenhead. District C 2 meetings. Food & Agricultural & National Party at 6.

Another raid but stopped on outskirts. Papers did not come till 12.

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

“The teachers might be trusted to give all necessary instruction”

On 4 January the Newbury Borough Education Committee had agreed to let the government’s new propaganda body talk to Newbury schoolchildren. But it proved to be controversial.

January 29 1918

Food Control Meat Ration

The Mayor mentioned the work of the Local Food Control Committee and the necessity which had arisen for restricting the supply of meat to 1 lb per head per week for all persons over 9 years of age, and ½ lb for those under that age, to be supplied on the production of the sugar tickets.

Education Committee

Alderman Rankin moved the adoption of the report of the 4th January, but expressed his disagreement with the clause in the report with reference to the sending by the South Berks Committee of the National War Aims Committee of a speaker to address the children of the Newbury Elementary Schools on the subject of National War Aims, seconded by Councillor Parfitt.

Alderman Rankin withdrew his motion for the adoption of the report, which was then moved by Councillor Stradling. Seconded by Councillor Parfitt.

Alderman Rankin then moved as an amendment,

“That the paragraph in the Education Committee’s report re War Aims Committee’s request be altered to read as follows: That when the proposed leaflet has been approved by the Education Committee, the Education Committee empowers them to recommend the teachers to explain to the Senior boys the War Aims as lately defined by the Prime Minister and President Wilson.

Seconded by Councillor Pratt.

Alderman Lucas supported the motion, and considered that the teachers might be trusted to give all necessary instruction to the children attending the schools. Councillors Geater and Parfitt opposed the amendment, which on being put, was carried, and the report as amended was then put and carried.

Newbury Borough Council minutes (N/AC1/2/9)

Many casualties as air raid shelter bombed

Air raids were continuing to take a heavy toll.

29 January 1918
Raid last night – shelters in Long Acre bombed, many casualties.

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

Time is on our side for a chance of lasting peace and assured freedom

Bad news for Caversham people was countered by hopes that the end was in sight.

“THE END IS NOT YET”

The Archbishop of York, in his new year’s letter to his Diocese after reviewing the military and economic situation to-day, says that all shows as clearly as ever that time is on our side. Therefore it is a question of steadfast endurance. Accordingly, the enemy is busy everywhere encouraging the belief that the time has come to negotiate for peace. For he knows that an inconclusive peace would leave his military system and prestige able to hold up its head and prepare for another day. Let us not fall into his trap. We want a peace that will endure.

But, continues the archbishop, I still believe what I said last year that “to negotiate about peace when the ‘will to war’ (the Prussian Spirit) is still able to vaunt its strength, would only be to give it time to renew its power and prolong its menace”….

If we are hereafter to say of war “never again” I cannot tell how I would shrink from this conclusion when I think of the sorrows and sacrifices, many of which I cannot share, which it involves. But we seem to be drawn to it by all that we owe to the memories of the past and the hopes of the future. These, then, seem to be the alternatives between which 1918 must decide – either faltering of spirit with its attendant divisions and recriminations, and as a result some kind of inconclusive peace, or firmness of spirit with its attendant unity and trust. And as its ultimate result, a decision which will give the world a chance of lasting peace and assured freedom.

REV.T. BRANCKER

It is with very much regret that we announce that Mr. Brancker has been invalided home, and will probably have to resign his Chaplaincy. On leaving here he was at first appointed a chaplain to a Military Hospital at Sheffield. After some months there he was sent to France, but he had not been abroad more than a few weeks when an attack of his old enemy gastritis caused him to be sent back home to a hospital in England, but this time as a patient. He is now undergoing treatment at his home, but it will be some months at least before he is able once more to undertake ordinary Parish work. We all extend to him our sincerest sympathy and wish him a speedy and complete recovery.

Parish Church (St. Peter’s)
Notes

The war continues to take its dreadful toll of human lives, and among them is that of L./Cpl. A.G.W. Gibbons (Artists’ Rifles), of 33, South View Avenue, on July 16th. The only son of one of our most devoted Church Families, a server and Sunday School Teacher; he gave high promise of future usefulness. And therefore, there is more than ordinary sorrow at his death, and more than ordinary sympathy with his bereaved parents. – R.I.P.

Caversham parish magazine, January 1918 (D/P162/28A/7)

Missing, wounded and dead

There was bad news for several Reading families.

Notes from the Vicar

Intercession list.

Missing: Leman John Cross (Berks Yeomanry);

Wounded: Private Charles Edward Pearce, Royal Berks Regt.;

Departed: Private Forrest (one of our old C.L.B. boys); Edwin Wilson. R.I.P.

Reading St Giles parish magazines, January 1918 (D/P96/28A/34)

A strenuous time with tanks

There was news of several soldiers associated with Broad Street Church in Reading, while the men’s group was trying to help displaced civilians in France.

PERSONAL

Captain L. Victor Smith, MC, has many friends and well-wishers at Broad Street, and they were all delighted to see him once more when he was recently home on furlough. Captain Smith had been having a most strenuous time with his tanks, and we were all glad to know that he had come safely through many perils “without a scratch”. We pray that God’s protecting care may continually be about him. During his stay he was summoned to Buckingham Palace to receive his Military Cross at the hands of the King.

News has been received that Air-Mechanic Fred W. Warman, of the RNAS (eldest son of our friends Mr and Mrs Warman) is interned in Holland. He was in an air-ship which “came down” there a few days ago. Whilst we deeply regret this misfortune, we rejoice to know that our young friend’s life has been spared, and we trust he may be as happy as circumstances permit. We all sympathise with his parents in their anxiety.

At the time of writing, 2nd Lieut. Leslie Pocock is on his way to India, and the thoughts and prayers of many at Broad Street go with him. We trust he may have a safe journey, that he may come safely through every experience, and that some day in the not distant future we may have the joy of welcoming him home. He will be missed in many branches of our church work.

Quite a number of our “men in training” have been home recently for a short furlough. We refrain from mentioning names for fear lest some should be overlooked. It is always a pleasure to see them at the services, and we take this opportunity of telling them so. The Minister is not always able, as he would wish, to speak to them. They get away too soon. He wishes they would “stay behind” for a few moments at the close of the service so that he might have opportunity for a word of greeting.

We should like to join our Brotherhood Correspondent in his appreciation of the generosity of Mr Tyrrell. At the conclusion of the Brotherhood meeting at the Palace Theatre, Mr Tyrrell promised £40 to provide one of the huts which the Brotherhood National Council propose to erect for destitute families in the devastated districts of France. Mr Tyrrell requested that his name should not be publicly mentioned in the matter. He wished the money to go from Broad Street Brotherhood. But seeing that someone “gave away the secret” to the local press, there is no reason now why the name should be withheld. We hope this generous lead will inspire the Brotherhood Committee to renewed efforts on behalf of their distressed brethren in Northern France.

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

“We want every penny now to enable us to win peace through a final and decisive victory”

Several Reading families had heard the worst news, while sacrifices were being made at home.

In accordance with the directions of the Food Controller, there will be no Sunday School teas this Christmas season, but the usual prize-givings will be held, and though there will be no systematic collection throughout the Parish, any contributions sent to the Rev. W. J. Holloway will be added to the Prizes’ Fund…

I propose, too, to keep Sunday, January 27th, as a day for stimulating self-sacrifice of our people in the manner of War Saving. We want every penny now to enable us to win peace through a final and decisive victory.

Thanksgiving: For the entry of the British into Jerusalem – the Holy City.

Intercessions: For the troops on the Western Front this critical time. For the fallen – especially George Colvill and Edward Adbury, of Soho Street. R.I.P. For Leslie Allen, one of our Servers, ill in hospital of Salonika.

Our truest sympathies go out to Mr. Swain, one of our Sidesmen and the Foreman of our bellringers, and his wife, on the death of their son George, who was killed in action in Palestine on November 29th. George Swain was always the straightest of lads, and one of our most faithful and regular Altar-servers. God rest his soul.

Henry John Coggs has, we regret to hear, been killed in France. Our deep sympathy is with his parents and family. He leaves an orphan child.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, January 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2)

“I had thought poor old England was so hard up, that no one would be able to send to me”

Some of the Christmas parcels sent out by Broad Street Church in Reading arrived rather later – but were welcome nonetheless. One hopes they included nothing perishable. China had joined the British side on the war in August 1917.

Many, many thanks for the very nice parcel which I received safely last week (Jan. 27th). It was indeed a pleasant surprise. I had thought poor old England was so hard up, that no one would be able to send to me. Everything you sent was just it. As you say China is a long way from home. I have been here over two years, and I haven’t had a single weekend leave yet. If I were nearer England I might stand a chance of dropping in to the PSA one Sunday…

Please convey my thanks to the Brotherhood and say I long for the day when I can be back amongst them. Am afraid I shall be too old to blow the cornet when I get back, but perhaps I might pass for the choir.

J Burgess (OS) [on active service]

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

“It’s entirely up to you whether you have an easy or hard time”

Percy Spencer had a few more trenchant comments on his experiences as a trainee officer.

21st (Res) Battalion London Regiment
G Lines
Chiseldon Camp
Nr Swindon

Jan 27th, 1918

My dear WF

I’m still here and finding life pretty strenuous, it’s entirely up to you whether you have an easy or hard time, but the man who can sit down and let things rip isn’t much account.

Today I held the finals of my platoon boxing competition. They were gory affairs but fought out in good spirit and with plenty of spirit. For the moment I’m frightfully popular. Tomorrow at inspection time they won’t like me a little bit.

Tonight I’ve again been to the little church of Lyddington. It is so restful to get away to real village life and the walk back again in the moonlight through scattered groups of white rubble, thatched cottages and farmsteads a happy recollection.

Yesterday the subalterns were instructed by the senior subaltern in mess etiquette. The meeting was too funny, as, without prejudice, the boot is on the other leg, and a good many of us weren’t afraid to say so. Altogether I think the meeting did good inasmuch as it cleared the air.

And now I’m smoking my pipe and writing a few letters – and don’t I wish it was in the cosy drawing room at 29 [Florence’s house]. Der Tag!

With all my love to you both

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/9-10)

“A terrible blow to his parents”

Tribute is paid to Burghfield men whose deaths had been reported.

THE WAR

Casualties
C Searle (killed)
Sidney Cooper (wounded and missing, reported killed)
Ernest F Bunce (died of wounds)

Discharge
R Jordan (wounded)

Obituary Notices

Lance-Corporal Ernest Bunce is reported as having died from wounds received on the 18th November; he was on 1/1st Berks Yeomanry in Palestine during General Allenby’s victorious advance. No news except the telegram of his death has reached his parents, deepest sympathy is felt for them and his twin sister Elsie in their great sorrow. They wish to return grateful thanks for many kind messages.

Christopher Searle of the Royal West Surrey was killed on October 4th in France. His Commanding Officer writes of him that he had just gone through an attack with his Battalion safely, and on going to fetch some water, a shell burst close to him, and he was killed instantly.

“The Company all regret him, he did his work well and was very popular.”

It is a terrible blow to his parents, he was their only son, but he was a brave lad, and they must feel very proud of him.

Sidney Cooper, 2nd Royal Berks, of Pinge Wood, was reported as “wounded and missing” some time ago, he is now believed to have been killed.

Fred W Fisher died in hospital at Brighton on December 6th after a long sad illness partly due to a kick from a mule. He enlisted in the ASC in March 1916, and was fit for duty for only a few months.

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

“Folks don’t cry out about the millions that’s being spent every day in killing our boys and smashing up all the beautiful churches and buildings in France”

It may be fiction – and intended as political propaganda – but this story, written by Phoebe Blackall (later Cusden) does shed some light on some working class attitudes to the war’s impact on local schools.

Mrs Higgs Speaks Her Mind
IV – On Schooling

“Drat them children! What’s the use o’ me slaving myself to a skelington to keep the place decent when the young baggages keeps rampagin’ over my clean floor and makin’ enough noise to wake the dead?”

Mrs Higgs stood with her hands on her hips, ruefully surveying several muddy footprints …

“But there! What’s the goodo’ blaming the kids? They must let off steam somehow, else they’ll bust. It’s all along o’ this ‘alf-time schoolin’… ‘alf time school – ‘’alf their chance of learning gone – that leaves ‘em wi’ about a quarter of what the rich folks’ children gets …

I know they wants hospitals for the wounded soldiers – bless ‘em – but there’s plenty of other places they could turn into hospitals without taking our schools. I haven’t heard that the big country mansions, what’s only used for weekends, have been given up to the wounded, nor the big hotels and public buildings where they does nothing but waste public money by paying big salaries to people who don’t know nothing about the job they’re supposed to be doin’…

Ame old tale – when they wants cannon-fodder or money or munitions or buildings, they always looks round to see what else they can take away from the working folks, first they takes our men-folk, then they asks us for our savings – lumme! I should like to see some! – and when they wants hospitals they takes the Council Schools…

We never ought to have let ‘em have our schools, and if this war’s going to last much longer, they ought to let us have ‘em back.

Cost a lot? Course it would; but folks don’t cry out about the millions that’s being spent every day in killing our boys and smashing up all the beautiful churches and buildings in France.

A.P.E.B.

The Reading Worker: The Official Journal of Organised Labour in Reading and District, no. 13, January 1918 (D/EX1485/10/1/1)