Carols for blind soldiers – a cause we all must have at heart

Blind Soldiers.

Sir Arthur Pearson, who has done so much for the Blind, has invited Choirs to go round singing Carols at Christmas-tide and to give any proceeds to the cause which he and all of us must have at heart. Our own Choir is proposing to take a part in this scheme and will, we feel sure, get a liberal welcome. Further details will be issued shortly.

Wokingham St Sebastian parish magazine, December 1917 (D/P154C/28A/1)

Advertisements

“My thoughts are with my country”

The exit of Russia from the war led expat Will Spencer to worry for the future of Britain.

1 December 1917

Have serious thoughts with regard to what the present defection of Russia may mean for the Entente, & particularly for my country. According to the papers, peace negotiations between Russia & Germany are to begin tomorrow.

Felt that my letter to Father, finished last night, talking chiefly about my new pupil, Pastor Burri, & about the beauty of, & my affection for Wimmis, was a strange one to have written under the circumstances. Was glad that I had just room to add the following postscript:

“I refrain from speaking about the war in my letters. I can only say that my thoughts are with my country & with you all.”

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/26)

“We do not want to reconstruct with a pair of scissors, or with a paste-pot and a lump of putty, but with a pick-axe!”

Reading leftwingers hoped for a big change in life after the war.

Reading Branch ILP

We have held one good meeting at Workers’ Hall on Sunday, November 25, when W N Ewer gave an interesting and useful address on “The Work of the ILP during the coming period of Reconstruction”. The speaker was careful to point out that “Reconstruction” does not mean the methods of hedging and trimming generally associated with the two political parties, but a real system of “Revolution”; or, as he put it, we do not want to reconstruct with a pair of scissors, or with a paste-pot and a lump of putty, but with a pick-axe!…

At our branch meetings we have discussed many subjects including “Fusion of the ILP and BSP”, “Militarism in the Schools”, “Food Profiteering”, “Trade Unionism at the Cross Roads”, and the “Censorship of Leaflets”.

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

We shall be very glad when Peace comes and things return to their normal conditions

The curate at Maidenhead St Luke was going to become an army chaplain, while the organist was too busy working in a munitions factory to rehearse the choir.

The Vicar’s Letter

Dear Friends and Parishioners,-

This November again brings us the Confirmation. I hope all are remembering in their prayers those who are preparing for Confirmation. It should be one of the great turning points in a boy’s or girl’s, or man’s or woman’s, life. Just now, with all the concomitant disturbance and upheaval of the War, it is difficult for any, old or young, to find much time for quiet, and the making of great resolves. All the more honour is due, and the more help should be given, to those who have the courage to try and serve God in this way. I hope that all god-parents, parents and friends of the Candidates, who can possibly be present, will attend the Confirmation on Sunday, November 25th, at 3.30 pm.

Alas! after the Confirmation, we are to lose Mr. Sellors, who has been posted as an Army Chaplain from November 26th, though his actual departure may be a little later. We cannot grudge him his War Service; but I am sure that on behalf of the whole parish I ought to say how much he has endeared himself to us all since he first came among us in June, 1916… We pray God he may return safe, to work among us again, if the War do not last too long, or, if it do, to visit us before he shall take up work in the Foreign Mission Field.

There has been some re-arrangement in the matter of the Musical Services at St. Luke’s, temporarily owing to the War.

The ever-growing claims of Munitions now prevents Mr. Garrett Cox from taking the Friday night practices of the Choir. He can still play on Sundays, except on some evenings.

Mr. King-Gill has kindly undertaken to act as Choir-Master and Precentor for the time being, and I am sure in his hands the Choir will maintain its reputation for good and reverent singing. Mr. Sinkins is most generously helping us on those Sunday nights when Mr. Garrett Cox is away, and at other times, too. And we are still fortunate in getting help from Mr. Snow and Mr. Goolden, and occasionally from Mr. Chavasse and Mr. Sellors.

I feel that a word of public thanks is also due to Mr Chas King for the great help he gave us in Choir training while Mr Garrett Cox had to be making shells; we all much appreciate the work he did for us. We shall, of course, be very glad when Peace comes and things return to their normal conditions, but thanks to our many good friends we have done wonderfully well at St Luke’s in a very trying time…

I remain, Your faithful friend and Vicar

C.E.M. FRY

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, November 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

Russia governed by Leninites!!

As the gardens of Bisham Abbey were ploughed up, Florence Vansittart Neale continued to be appalled by the news from Russia.

20 November 1917

Have ploughman & horses sent us to plough up Long Walk & Moors into arable (15 acres in all)….

Russia governed by Leninites!! We & Allies have nothing to do with it – propose Armistice of all powers!!

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

The provision of light employment for discharged partially disabled men incapable of doing a full day’s work

The Disablements Sub-committee of the Berkshire War Pensions Committee reported on training programmes for disabled ex-soldiers, who faced an uncertain future.

The Disablements Sub-committee beg to report that the two schemes for training at Basildon and Windsor have now been approved by the Pensions Minister, with the exception of boot-making at Basildon, which is only provisionally sanctioned. The gardening course at Windsor has been extended from six to twelve months for suitable cases. Both schemes are now in full operation. Since the last meeting the Royal Warrant of April 1917 for treatment and training has come into force, payments being made under it as from 23 July 1917.

A list of hospitals throughout the county where treatment can be obtained for discharged men has been sent forward for approval to the Pensions Minister, also a special application for further necessary accommodation for out-patient treatment at King Edward VII Hospital, Windsor, to enable the authorities of that hospital to provide orthopaedic treatment for discharged disabled men within a radius of ten miles of that hospital. A special request was also put forward as regards the lack of hospital facilities in parts of North Berkshire, especially in the Wallingford District. It is proposed to formulate a scheme to include all facilities and arrangements for medical treatment and submit it as a whole for the approval of the Pensions Minister.

The National Health Insurance Commissioners have made new arrangements in respect of medical benefit for all discharged soldiers and sailors invalided from the Service, and have included those whose incomes do not exceed £160 per annum. Medical Practitioners are required to report to the Insurance Committee as to any special treatment to be provided by the Disablements Committee under the arrangements above alluded to. The scheme will also provide for any treatment recommended by a medical board for a man after his discharge, or for any man for whom treatment is recommended at the time of his discharge from the service by his invaliding board.

Instructions having been received from the Pensions Minister that discharged men who are not in receipt of a pension owing to the disability for which they were discharged not being considered attributable or aggravated by war service have now been afforded facilities for appealing against this decision. Instructions have been issued to all Sub-committees that such cases should be referred to this Committee. Three cases for appeal are coming up shortly for consideration.

The provision of light employment for discharged partially disabled men who are incapable of doing a full day’s work has been considered. A joint public appeal with the County Borough of Reading Committee has been issued through the Press to employers throughout the county for help in this important matter…

During the last three months 643 cases have been entered on the Register, making a total of 1,513 cases. In addition 325 cases (approximately) are being investigated. 512 new cases have been sent out to the various Sub-committees as follows:

Abingdon 34
Easthampstead 20
Faringdon 20
Hungerford 13
Lambourn 5
Maidenhead 72
Newbury 84
Reading Rural 43
Wallingford 27
Wantage 27
Windsor 95
Wokingham 52

220 cases have been considered by the Disablements Committee, treatment in hospital has been arranged for 62 cases, Sanatorium treatment for 7 cases, special training for 23 cases, and a number of men have been placed in employment.

12 November 1917

Berkshire County Council minutes, 1917 (C/CL1/1/21)

“This must be done before the war is over and the war-work dropped”

The Church of England hoped to use the groundswell of voluntary work supporting the war effort as a springboard for religious purposes at a later date.

OXFORD DIOCESAN BOARD OF MISSIONS

The autumn effort in relation to the war.

In some ways this is a bad time for a Missionary Effort, but not in all ways. In order to point out one advantage of making the Effort before the end of the war the Executive Committee has unanimously passed the following Resolution:

The main aim of the Autumn Missionary Effort must be so to influence members of the Church that the services they are now rendering to King and Country (in prayer, gifts and in personal work), shall after the war be as far as possible conserved and transformed to service for the extension of God’s Kingdom.”

ILLUSTRATIONS

1. Prayer. One Deanery has already decided that War Intercession Services shall be continued after the war as Intercession Services on behalf of the Church Overseas.

2. Gifts. Regular or occasional subscriptions to war Funds (Red Cross, Belgian Relief, etc, would naturally cease after the war. The Autumn effort should encourage resolutions to continue such subscriptions (in part at least) after the war, for the unceasing frontier warfare of the Church.

3. Personal Service. Not a few Territorials in India who have visited Missions there, mean after the war to give themselves to missionary work. In some cases Red Cross and other Working Parties have already decided to continue to meet after the war, in support of Medical Missions. How many of our Nurses might put their trained experience at the disposal of Medical Missions!

The opportunity is great. If quite a small fraction of the voluntary war-work now being done were by-and-by transferred to the cause of Missions, the help given to the Church overseas would be multiplied many times!

Would it not be well for the parochial clergy earnestly to consider how best to bring this thought before each of their parishioners? Only this must be done before the war is over and the war-work dropped.

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, October 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

Peace at any price?

The church of St John in Reading was willing to challenge its worshippers – and managed to cause a local controversy.

THE MEN’S SERVICE.

Our subject for last month, as announced on the posters, was ‘Peace at any Price,’ and it seems to have caused a certain amount of displeasure, especially to the soldiers in our neighbourhood. We would like therefore to explain that owing to a mistake a mark of interrogation was left out from the end of the title, which should have read, ‘Peace at any Price?’ The soldiers if they had turned up would not have heard a pacifist sermon, but alas they did not take the trouble to come, but contented themselves with illtreating one or two of our posters.

All the same we had a fine turn-up in spite of the absence of khaki, and the general feeling seemed to be in favour of the Vicar as he declared for ‘Peace at any Price,’ saying that no price is too great to pay, not for a mere armistice, but for real genuine and permanent peace, and the price that the nation has to pay just now is to go on fighting. And the spiritual application was listened to as intently as the remarks on the war.

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

A new readiness to face a new world

The Bishop of Oxford observed the terrible toll the war was taking at home, but had hopes for a brighter future.

THE BISHOP’S MESSAGE

The following extracts are from the Bishop’s message in the October Diocesan magazine:

Your prayers are specially asked…
For the work among the munition workers…
For peace in Ireland and the Irish Conference.
With regard to the European war, for victory and peace, and for the maintenance of the spirit of the nation.

We are settling down to our winter’s work with the horror of the war still upon us and no speedy prospect of relief. Besides the grave anxiety of the war, we have manifold discouragements which specially affect the country clergy. The population of the villages is, in most cases, even disastrously reduced; the number of children we have to deal with so much smaller; the young and middle-aged men almost all absent at the war. Then prices are very high and means slender. In vicarage after vicarage, all the household and garden work falls upon the Vicar and his family, and perhaps they are not used to it….

But behind all these causes of anxiety and depression, we should be able to discern a purpose of God… The great ideas of human fellowship and mutual service are taking firmer root – fellowship and mutual service among nations and classes and individuals. The minds of men are moving with unusual rapidity. There is quite a new readiness to face a new world. It ought to stir us to a profound thankfulness to believe that we can help in the reconstruction of our country and the world; all the more that what is wanted in nothing else whatever but the bringing out into prominence and effect of the root ideas of Christianity about human life….

And surely nowhere is the necessity for social reconstruction and re-equipment more manifold than in the villages. I do not think it is too much to say that in the replenishing of the villages, and the lifting of the life there on to the new level of spiritual and social equality of consideration, independence and brotherhood, lies the only hope for the country…

Depend upon it we shall be really wanted in the exciting days that are coming…

C. OXON.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, October 1917 (D/P191/28A/24)

“The attempt of our enemies to starve us has practically failed”

In Earley people were grateful for good weather, which looked set to relieve the pressure on the food supply.

The Vicar’s Letter

My dear friends

Autumn is drawing on apace, and we have again reached the time for our Harvest Thanksgiving, which is fixed for Sunday, October 7th.

This year we ought to be especially thankful. At one time our outlook as regards food appeared to be far from satisfactory, but God has blessed us during the past month with such weather that in most districts the greater part of the harvest has been gathered in without much damage, and the attempt of our enemies to starve us by unrestricted submarine warfare, though still serious, has practically failed. Surely we ought to join together in our thanksgivings, and especially at Holy Communion, with a deepened sense of what we owe to God for our nation and for ourselves.

And while we are thanking God for our material harvest, let us all think of those fields which are ripe for the spiritual harvest in India, Canada, South Africa, and throughout the world… Do we realise as we ought the enormous responsibility that will rest upon our country after the war for the spiritual harvest of the world?

Your friend and Vicar
W W Fowler.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, October 1917 (D/P191/28A/24)

Meeting the needs of sailors and soldiers on demobilisation

The County Council – like many others across the country – was giving some thought to what the country could offer the men who had served the country once they had returned home for good. Offering land to set up as small farmers was one proposal.

LOANS

A letter has been received from the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries stating that the President has been in communication with the Treasury with a view to securing some relaxation of the existing restrictions on the issue of loans from the Local Loans Fund to County Councils … in view of a strong desire on the part of many County Councils to prepare schemes for providing holdings for meeting the needs of sailors and soldiers on demobilisation…

CONVERSION OF PASTURE

Applications have been received from the Berks War Agricultural Committee for the Council’s consent as owners to certain pasture land being converted to arable.

Berkshire County Council: Smallholdings and Allotments Committee report, 3 October 1917 (C/CL/C1/1/20)

Dandelions and devastation

Members of the Broad Street Brotherhood, the men’s group at Broad Street Congregational Church in Reading were supporting the war effort in whatever ways they could; and also helping civilians in the devastated occupied regions. Regional rivalry came into play, with the men not wanting to show up poorly in comparison with Basingstoke.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

Some of our members have intimated a desire to start a War Savings Association in connection with our Brotherhood, similar to what is being done at other Brotherhoods and churches up and down the country.

The matter has been carefully considered by a small sub-committee, and it is felt that it is hardly necessary to open a fresh savings department, but any member can purchase these War Savings Certificates through our already existing Savings Bank.

We most strongly recommend these war savings certificates to the earnest attention of every member as not only are they financially sound, but each one purchased is directly helping our country to victory.

Brother Hendey will be pleased to give particulars and carry through any transaction.

We take this opportunity of thanking many of our brothers who have during the past months loyally and painstakingly worked to keep the allotments in order for the brothers who are at the Front.

This has been a fine example of practical brotherhood work.

It is our sad duty to have to record the death of our Brother Frank Ward, who made the supreme sacrifice for us in France just recently.

He is the fourth member of our Brotherhood who has given his life for his country.

BROTHERHOOD CONTINENTAL RELIEF

Our constituency will no doubt be interested in the movement in Reading in aid of sufferers by the war in France and Belgium, which has been initiated by the Broad Street Brotherhood.

Their object is to supplement the efforts now being made in other towns, and in the colonies (and in continuation of efforts previously made) to express the Christian sympathy which exists towards those victims who, although innocent, have suffered acutely through the war. The National Brotherhood Council are aiming at a contemplated relief fund of £20, 000, a very large part of which has already been subscribed. The Brotherhoods of Canada have sent large sums, as well as London and the great centres of industrial life in England. It is believed that Reading will not want to take second position to Basingstoke, where the generous promise of £100 in cash, besides clothing, books, etc, has been made. It is proposed to collect both in cash and kind.

In several of the large townships of Northern France and Belgium the civil population is in rags. For instance Lille (the Manchester of France), having been in the occupation of Germany for 2 ½ years, has had no chance whatever of providing her people with clothing, even if they had the means to purchase. Clothing, boots (cast off or new), seeds, blankets, or anything of portable, useful and lasting character will be acceptable, and later on fruit trees.

A witness on the spot (Near the Somme) says “the fruit trees, large and small, are ruined; but little remains of pleasing appearance except dandelions, and they cover desolation almost everywhere.” A large town (about the size of Reading) had not a roof left whole upon any one building. In a report given to headquarters he said there was no accommodation for men whatsoever (not even for a pig) except in the cellars of ruined houses, such as he then lived (slept) in personally.

The country people, who crowded into the towns, had to hurriedly vacate their homes which were in the path of the then advancing enemy, and could only carry what they stood upright in. They have had no chance, many of them, since to return; and if they had done so they would have found (as some did) that not a tree in the garden, not a vestige of furniture or other property, and a ruin of the actual building. The writer of the foregoing testimony says that for 9 weeks he never saw a civilian (man, woman or child) although frequently on the move, and for long distances.

Wood houses are being prepared in sections in this country for the purpose of being despatched to Northern France and Belgium directly the way opens, and facilities for this purpose have been promised by the governments of Great Britain and France as soon as possible. A wood house thus prepared can be erected by a few men, within a day, upon arrival at its destination, and its total cost would be about £40. Who will buy one for “La belle France”?

Interested readers can secure further information by sending two penny stamps to The National Brotherhood Offices, 37 Norfolk Street, London WC2, when they should ask for a pamphlet entitled “The story of Lille and its associations with the Brotherhood Movement”. This pamphlet describes the Brotherhood Crusade of 1909 AD and the practical relief already given. Locally, every church, adult school and Christian Society in Reading will be asked later on to join hands with the relief committee connected with Broad Street Men’s Brotherhood, whose secretary, Mr WA Woolley, 85 Oxford Road, Reading, is associated with Bros Mitchell, Hendey and Harper in this great work.

Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, September 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“Confident that they would all be back from the Front to sing an anthem at Christmas”

There were mixed views as to how much longer the war would last.

We convey our congratulations to our bell-ringers who in spite of the absence of so many of our ringers at the Front, still manage to make a brave show with the bells. It is only about two Sundays that two bells have been chimed, but as a rule we get from four to six. The Choir has also got somewhat thin from the same cause, but we have dropped nothing except anthems on Festivals for the last year. However, the Vicar had a letter from one of the Choirmen at the Front who appeared confident that they would all be back to sing an anthem at Christmas! We all hope his idea is correct.

Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild needs as much support as ever, as the war is not yet over. There are a certain number of them who do not get “weary in well-doing.” It is wonderful how one may encourage another, and also how an irregular member may deter another.

Many have asked “What about the Coal?” Well, that was the matter over which Warfield Charities Committee sat on August 8th, and the Coal Merchants could give us no quotations. So til the middle of September we must “wait and see.” Most probably the saw-mills will be busy this winter.

Warfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, September 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/9)

One more name must be added to the roll of immortal honour on which is recorded the names of men who loved peace, but who loved righteousness and truth better

A reluctant but determined soldier, son of a Congregational minister, paid the ultimate price.

After many months of anxious waiting, definite news has come of the death in action, on November 13th, 1916, at Beaumont Hamel, of Mr. Philip G Steer, and so one more name must be added to the roll of immortal honour on which is recorded the names of men who loved peace, but who loved righteousness and truth better. Phil Steer was a son of a manse, and all who knew him looked forward to a great future for him. Combined with a charming manner, he had great qualities of mind. After leaving school he took his B.A. degree, and before he was 21 he was already in the responsible position of assistant master in a public school. The writer well remembers his 21st birthday, for it occurred during our second Trinity Young Peoples Camp in the Isle of Wight, and it was during that delightful fortnight’s companionship that some of us learned the qualities of our friend.

He joined up immediately war broke out, and went through hard fighting in France. When he was promoted on the field for gallantry. He was badly wounded, but recovered quickly and was soon back in France again. Now he has gone, and to those of us who still hoped against hope that he might be a prisoner, the news of his death has come as a great sorrow, and our special sympathy and affection go out to his family in the terrible loss which has come to them. So the great War takes its heavy toll of our best, and we owe it to them who have willingly laid down their lives for a great cause that we carry on their fight till our enemies confess that might is not right, and a true and lasting peace can be achieved.

Trinity Congregational Church magazine, September 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

The war will be followed by a revolution

A soldier home on leave envisaged potential revolution after the war.

THE ENGLISH REVOLUTION

No very penetrating observation of the signs of the times is necessary to discover that in all probability the war will be followed in England by disturbances which may amount to a revolution. If many people are unaware of the urgency of this peril it is because the greater part of labour is still inarticulate and because, in response to the demand for an appearance of unity at all costs, labour is at present willing to wait till the war should be ended before it makes its demands known.

Many factors will combine to precipitate the crisis. The days before the war were full of a growing industrial unrest on the one hand, and the example of threatened civil war on the other. The Irish rebellion, the growth of Sinn Fein, and, above all, the Russian Revolution, have had influences greater almost than can be imagined. Sources of irritation and distrust are to be found in the conduct of the war itself. Finally, the end of the war will leave society in a state of flux in which all who were discontented with the old state of things will see a condition propitious for change. And they will have learned the use of bayonets ….

It will always be surprising to some people that any radical change should be thought desirable in “free England”; still more so that a revolution should be deemed necessary to bring it about. But they forget that political freedom, even when it exists, does not imply an economic equivalent. They hardly realise that millions of the men and women of “free England” are condemned by our economic system to spend their lives in joyless drudgery for a wage which hardly permits mere physical efficieny. Such conditions are strangulation to the spiritual in man; and the very danger lies in this. It is not ideals that make revolutions; it is empty stomachs and empty souls, and hunger may desperately clutch the wrong things and content itself with the purely material.

What remedy, then, can we offer? The placid politicians who propose mere goodwill can have no idea of the acuteness of the situation.

Russell Brain

Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, September 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)