Molested by a soldier

Not all soldiers were heroes.

September 19th 1919

As five girls were coming to school this afternoon they were molested by a soldier who behaved in a grossly inappropriate fashion.

I immediately gave information to the police who took prompt action. I further reported the matter to the Education Committee and the Chairman.

Log book of Lower Sandhurst School (C/EL66/1, p. 482)

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Medals commemorating ‘peace’ and a portrait of Nurse Cavell

Edith Cavell was a British nurse based in Belgium, who heled a number of British and other soldiers to escape and was shot dead by the German occupying force. She is remembered for her words, “Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”

Wallingford Boys Council School
1919, 15 September

A portrait of Nurse Cavell, purchased by the boys, hung in the hall today.

Windsor Royal Free Boys’ School
15th September 1919

The whole of the boys attended the Town Hall this morning to receive medals commemorating ‘peace’.

Log books of Wallingford Boys Council School log book (SCH22/8/3, p. 76); and Windsor Royal Free Boys’ School (C/EL72/3, p. 214)

Experiences In France

War time experiences would continue to inform lives in peace time.

Circuit Quarterly Meeting held at Tilehurst, September 10th 1919

Rev. W. A. Parrott related some of his experiences in France, & told of how he had – at the urgent request of many men – baptized & administered the sacrament.

Minutes of Reading Wesleyan Methodist Circuit Quarterly Meeting (D/MC1/1A/1)

Detained as evidence at a forthcoming Field General Court Martial

We wonder what the court martial was for, almost a year after the war’s end.

9th September, 1919
L/c E Edwards, Labour Master

Letter from Captain F Paterson, DAPM, Rouen, read stating that L/c E Edwards is detained as evidence at a forthcoming Field General Court Martial and, that as soon as the Court is convened and settled, he would be released for demobilisation.

Windsor Board of Guardians minutes (G/WI1/26)

A bright spot in a time of need

A Reading church received news about the YMCA hut they had supported for soldiers behind the lines.

The “Trinity” Hut

Owing to the departure of many of the Y.M.C.A. Secretaries from the war area, it has been very difficult to get any definite information about our second Hut in France. Until just lately we believed this was erected at St. Omer, but now find that to be incorrect, as the following prove:
2nd July, 1919.

My Dear Mr. Harrison,

I went up this week to see Mr. McCowen as he was coming back from Germany on his way to London, and immediately took up the question of the allocation of your Hut with him. He well remembers the situation and says that your Hut was not actually in the St. Omer area, but it was at St. Malo-les-Bains, near Dunkirk, which after all is not so far away from St. Omer. He says this is the second Reading Hut. I have asked Mr. Sitters to send me a report as to the work of this Hut during the last few months, and also to see that the board saying it is the Reading Hut is still up in it. This Hut has served, during the past few months, thousands of men, who have been using Dunkirk as a demobilisation centre. Further particulars will be coming through, which I will send along. There is a possibility that the Navy may move the Hut to the mole at Zeebrugge, as there is a great need for an extension of our work at that place, but I will see that you are advised if this is done.

I am enclosing herewith the official receipt for the fifteen pounds which you so kindly sent. It was used in the Hut for Christmas festivities.

Yours sincerely,
(Signed) H.N.HOLMES.
Chief Secretary for France.

The report referred to is as follows:-

“The Reading (Malo) Hut was first erected in the Ypres centres, where it provided rest and recreation for countless numbers of men going in and coming out of the trenches. In it provision was made for reading, writing and games. Concerts and lectures were given from time to time, and services were held on Sundays. A refreshment counter where tea, cocoa and coffee, biscuits, cigarettes, etc., could be obtained, was greatly appreciated by those frequenting the Hut.

Later on, owing to the movement of troops, the sector was occupied by Belgian troops, who made considerable use of the Hut. One feature of their occupation was the excellent concerts given by officers and men of the Belgian army. On account of the Germans shelling the place very heavily it was found necessary to move the Hut to a more sheltered spot. It was dismantled, moved south two miles, near to the famous St. Sixthe Convent, re-erected, re-painted, and re-opened within seven days.

On the signing of the armistice the Hut was moved to Dunkirk, where it has provided accommodation for various units, including re-mounts, men being demobilised, and men returning from leave and going to Egypt. On its removal to Dunkirk it was beautifully re-decorated and fitted with electric light, and may now be considered one of the most attractive huts in France.

The subscribers, through whose generosity it has been possible for the Y.M.C.A. to meet the needs of so many men, will be happy to know that the Hut has been a bright spot in a time of need to thousands of the brave men who have been defending our country.”

Trinity Congregational Magazine, August 1919 (D/EX1237/1/12 )

“Our village is still like a battlefield”

The August issue of a Reading church magazine had news from a family of Belgian refugees who had now returned home.

Our Belgian Guests

Though we have now bidden good-bye to our Belgian family, they are not forgotten, and we gladly avail ourselves of Miss Hammond’s kind permission to print the following letter, (long held over through lack of space) telling of the return home.

Kelfs-Herent,
29TH March, 1919.
Dear Miss Hammond,

We reached home a fortnight ago, on the 15th of March, at half-past four in the afternoon. We found our house quite empty, for the Germans had stolen most of our things, and what they left others took. The doors and windows are broken, the walls both inside and out are damaged, and there is a large hole in the roof. The Germans did their cooking everywhere, leaving the house so dirty that it has taken me ten days to get it even a little clean! We must wait till next year for fresh wall-paper, it is still too dear.

Food is very scarce; there is hardly anything in the shops and everything is much dearer than in England. Meat costs 9-10 francs the Kilo, butter 15 franks, margarine 8.5 franks. A sack of flour costs 110 franks, and one cannot even then always get it. Every day we say that war for existence is now beginning, and happy are the people who live in the promised land of England or France. Our village is still like a battlefield; some of the houses have been re-built but not all. The people living next to us have so aged during these four years that we did not recognise them. We have no cow or horse, and they are so dear that we must wait a while before buying.

I hope that you will give our compliments to all the kind friends at your church, and thank them again for all they did for us during the four years of war.

Please accept the sincere respects of your grateful family.”

M. Van De Venne.
Elise De Kruster.

We are very grieved to hear that, since reaching home, our friends have sustained a very heavy loss in the death of their dear little girl, Elisa, on June 3rd, after an illness of three weeks. We shall all join in sympathetic remembrance of the sorrowing father and mother.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, August 1919 (D/EX1237/1/12 )

“An exact copy of the single crosses which are to be erected in France and Belgium will link up our churchyard with the resting places of our gallant men who have fallen out there”

Burghfield planned a simple yet effective war memorial.

The result of the collection for the Celebration Fund and the Memorial Fund is not yet known as we go to press.

Until the amount of the latter at their disposal is ascertained, the Committee can hardly consider how to spend it. At present, as regards the Cross, the only suggestion made is that it should be an exact copy of the single crosses which are to be erected in France and Belgium, one in each cemetery. It is argued that this will, as it were, link up our churchyard with the resting places of our gallant men who have fallen out there, and will not be inappropriate for those whose deaths occurred elsewhere.

Burghfield parish magazine, August 1919 (D/EX725/4)

Peace day festivities everywhere

Our diarists enjoyed the peace festivities despite poor weather.

Florence Vansittart Neale
19 July 1919

Gloomy looking morning. Rain about 12. Peace day. Festivities all over England. Grand procession of all troops. Navy & Army, [illegible], Air & WAACs & Wrens! through London. Pagets got seats [at] Admiralty. H, Edith & I to Bisham. Dinner in schools – very pretty. E & I lunch vicarage. Games & sports in Warren. Dinner to returned soldiers (49) – tea & sports for whole village. Everyone enjoyed it. Tea in schools & dancing after till 10.30. We went home after giving prizes.

[and at back of book:]

Peace day festivities everywhere. Big procession soldiers & sailors in London. In Bisham dinner for rehomed soldiers. Tea & sports for everyone. Dancing in evening. Had some rain but not bad! Meals & dancing in schools. Pagets got seats Admiralty from Mr Baddeley.

William Hallam
19th July 1919

I suppose I was tired out this week end for I didn’t wake till 10 past 8. Up, and got breakfast: Marjorie had to take her class of school children to the Theatre to the cinema part of their treat…

This afternoon it came on to rain but we all went round the town. It was the best show of decorations I’ve ever seen but the rain spoilt so much of it. A lot of people had decorated their fronts up with Chinese Lanterns to light at night and of course these were spoilt as it turned out a very wet night.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9); and William Hallam of Swindon (D/EX1415/25)

Soldiers throwing stones

Some people got a bit over-excited by the official end of the war.

Lower Sandhurst
July 4th 1919

Six or seven windows were broken by persons throwing stones on either Saturday or Sunday night. I am informed that soldiers belonging to the camp are the delinquents. Have written to the C.O. of the guard, and to the police.

Lower Basildon
4th July 1919

School closed on Friday afternoon, for a half holiday, on the occasion of the Signing of the Peace Treaty.

Boyne Hill
July 4th

On account of the Proclamation of Peace this morning, this afternoon is to be observed as a general holiday.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1); Lower Basildon CE School log book (C/EL7/2); Boyne Hill Girls’ CE School (C/EL121/3)

Peace is signed

The war was now officially over.

28 June 1919

Peace is signed. Just heard from Captain Kelly!

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

The final downfall of German militarism: the most epoch-making moment of the year nineteen hundred and nineteen

A woman who grew up in Windsor was present at the celebrations after the signing of the treaty which brought a formal end to the war.

The Peace of Versailles

Probably the most epoch-making moment of the year nineteen hundred and nineteen was that marked by Hermann Muller signing the Treaty of Peace in the name of the German Republic. We did not see that signature affixed. We reached the palace of Versailles as the first gun fired its signal to the waiting crowds. In fact, we were late, for motor cars had been sorely taxed, and we had come with a relay. But the rush in this car from the Arc-de-Triomphe in Paris to Versailles was full of vivid impressions.

Our route lay through the woods of Boulogne-sur-Seine and St Cloud, then in the full flush of their summer glory and lit by a warm sun. The road all the way was kept by French soldiers posted every hundred yards, and at every bend, and as our car dashed furiously along the clear road, people looked at us so curiously, that we felt we must be taken for late arrivals, who hoped at least to defer and perhaps to annul the Treaty.

At last we swung into the long straight avenue leading up to the Palace gates. On either side, dense lines of cavalry – chestnut mounts, azure blue uniforms and helmets overtopped with gleaming lances and red and white pennons, al in perfect alignment. As our late car approached, the whole formation, till then “at ease”, sprang to attention, and we felt we were very fraudulent, and quite undeserving of such salutes. We got out quickly, and as we reached the terrace beyond the Palace, the first gun told us that peace had been signed. The followed a great scene in a great setting: the long park front of the Bourbon’s home, the wide formal gardens of the terrace, the great fountains which play so seldom, and all of these were bathed in sunshine. The Republican Guard were much in evidence, the infantry in dark blue, with befeathered kepis, while the sun was reflected from the dazzling rows of the cuirassiers.

Whilst the German delegates were departing there was silence, but when the “Big Four” appeared, the assembled company on the terrace could restrain itself no longer, and their reception was immense, while the leading representatives of France and England, on making their way to the far edge of the terrace, were well-night carried off their feet by the crowd. The view which these leaders of the Congress had when they eventually reached their goal was unique – in the foreground, the steep slope of the formal gardens, then the high boundary rail, behind it and with the superb avenue and lake for background, the Parisian in his thousands, and with his wife and family all densely packed and cheering.

This was the picture which we left by a side entrance, to seek contrast in the solitude of the great park of Versailles, and there, buried in silent glades, or roaming amidst the artificial rusticity of the “hamlet” it was easy to see again as in a Watteau picture, the senseless but harmless frolics of the Court of Louis XV. Here we were free to muse upon the epochs of history which have had their opening and closing scenes in these surroundings. The revolutionary oath taken in the Tennis Court beyond the palace spelt doom to the regime of artificial shepherds and shepherdesses and all that they implied; from this a span of eighty-two years saw, in the Palais de Glace, the triumph of German militarism, and this day June 28th, 1919, after a further lapse of forty-eight years, had seen its downfall.

An Old Girl.


Clewer: St Stephen’s High School Magazine, 1920 (D/EX1675/6/2/2)

“They will have the consciousness that they have had a part in a most magnificent and wonderful piece of service”

Life back home was difficult for some.

OUR SOLDIERS.

The majority of our soldiers have now been demobilized , a few only remaining in the Service, in Germany and elsewhere. It is a great joy to see the men home again. Some of them do not find it very easy to discover exactly the post in civil life which will give them the start they want, but we hope that in a very short time they will all be in a right place, and be full steam ahead for a prosperous and useful life. They will have the consciousness that they have had a part in a most magnificent and wonderful piece of service, for which may God forgive us if we ever cease to be grateful.

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, June 1919 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“Everyone seems to be doing war work but myself”

Old Girls and teachers of St Stephen’s High School in Clewer had done war work of various kinds.

News of Old Girls

E. Truman is abroad, Army nursing.

St Stephen’s High School Building Fund

For some time the need of new premises for the High School has been urgent, and now that the war is over it is proposed to carry out the plans…

It is felt that the Old Girls and former members of staff would like to contribute a substantial sum towards the Building Fund in commemoration of the Declaration of Peace, and we, the undersigned, urge upon all the necessity of making a special effort to support it as liberally as possible.

Extract from letter from Mrs Salmon

Miss Gedge has stopped writing. Do you know anything of her? She was doing war work when last I heard. Everyone seems to be doing that but myself. I had the chance of doing a little last year in Zemba, and was glad of it. I was elected Chairwoman of “Our Day” Fund, and in six months we collected over £3,700, which we were quite proud of, as, apart from the troops, there are under 600 whites in Nyasaland! We got up dances, concerts, a play, etc, and ended with a Fancy fair, at which latter we made £1,200. It was a great success. We held it in the Zemba Gardens, and the stalls were so pretty-arranged among the trees, and tea tables dotted about in the shade. The Governor performed the opening ceremony, and then liberally patronised each stall. Patricia, as a Red Cross Nurse, collected £12 as a 1/- dip.

We left a few days later as Hugh has retired from the service, and we are now waiting for an opportunity to get over to Australia.

Mollie Salmon.

Clewer: St Stephen’s High School Magazine, 1919 (D/EX1675/6/2/2)

The war will not, strictly speaking, have “terminated”, until the peace terms have been duly ratified

The war had still not technically ended, as the treaties had not been signed. But peace celebrations were in full swing.

Peace Celebrations

At a second General Meeting, on 17th June, the recommendation of the Committee that these celebrations should take the form of a Tea, with games, etc, for the children of the parish, was approved. “Children” to include all ages up to 14, and any still attending school over that age. By the time this magazine appears it is hoped that the German Representatives will have signed the Peace Terms. But Austria, Turkey, and Bulgaria remain to be dealt with, and moreover the war will not, strictly speaking, have “terminated”, until the terms have been duly ratified by the proper representative assemblies. No doubt, however, an official Peace Celebration Day will be proclaimed before this has taken place in all the countries concerned.

Meanwhile, as announced at the Meeting, the Military Authorities are arranging central functions for those who have served overseas, and there will be a gathering and entertainment in Reading.

War Memorial

At the same Meeting, further recommendations of the Committee were adopted, viz:

(a) The erection of a Cross in the Churchyard in memory of those who have fallen;

(b) The improvement of the Parish Recreation Grounds, in connection with a Sports Club to be formed.

It was referred to the Committee to raise two separate funds for these two objects (Peace Celebrations and War Memorial), the latter fund to be applied first to the Cross, and secondly to Recreation Grounds, etc.

Burghfield parish magazine, July 1919 (D/EX725/4)

“War is dreadful, but Peace is terrible”

An army doctor was a leader in the temperance movement.

An Open-Air Meeting in connection with the St Luke’s Branch of the CETS was held in the Vicarage Garden, on Tuesday evening, June 10th, under the Presidency of the Rev. T H Thurland, the Vicar being away on holiday. The Chief Speaker was Dr Harford, General Secretary of the CETS, who first distributed the certificates, etc, won by the Band of Hope members, the handsome Challenge Banner for the Maidenhead Band of Hope competition having been won by North Town.

Dr Harford, in his address, spoke chiefly to interest the large number of juveniles present. He told them of his service for nearly four years as an eye specialist in France, and related many incidents and told of the scenes of destruction and military activities. He next quoted the remark of M. Clemenceau, French Prime Minister, that “War is dreadful, but Peace is terrible”. This meant that when at war we had got but one thing to do – to see we got it through; but in Peace everybody began to fight everybody else we had first to make a good Peace, not only in Paris, but also at home. He urged the young people to do all they could to fight against the evils caused by drink, one of the greatest curses of our land. The Doctor related an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury relative to the coming big campaign of the CETS, the “Merrie England” Movement, in which the Society would send cinemas and lecturers around the country to give an impetus to better housing and or enlightened action as to food, health and thrift. The Society was anxious that everybody should have happy homes – not only good, decent houses, but real happy homes. As to cooking, the Doctor had a severe shock when, on asking a little boy if he liked nice puddings, and taking for granted the inevitable “Yes”, the little boy frankly replied “No, sir!” The Doctor’s point was that if the wives would only give their husbands plenty of sweet puddings, the men would not care for so much beer, in which they found the sugary element. In the new homes of Merrie England the children must be taught to play games.

Dr Harford later told some experiences as a missionary for many years in West Africa, where he was nearly eaten by cannibals. An effort was being made to suppress the use of gin out there, this spirit being the buying and selling “coinage” of the country. – (Laughter). As part of the “Merrie England” Movement, every parish was being asked to arrange a little pageant play already published as part of the local Peace celebrations; and he hoped the Maidenhead CETS would carry this out.

Reprinted from The Maidenhead Advertiser.

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, July 1919 (D/P181/28A/28)