A critical time

Reading churchgoers offered their prayers for the war.


For the entry of the British troops into Jericho.


For the spirit of self-sacrifice and perseverance in the nation.

For God’s blessing on Ireland at this critical time, especially on the Feast of S. Patrick (March 17th).

For the Russian people at this critical time in their history.

For all our fighting men and all suffering from the war, especially those in danger from air raids in London and on the East Coast.

For Horace Beesley, one of our altar-lads, just gone out to France as a volunteer carpenter.

For all the wounded, sick and prisoners on both sides.

For the fallen, especially Frederick Mott, Wine Place; John Hannon, Milman Road; William Mason, Stanley Street.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P98/28A/16)


Added to the prayer list

More Earley men were serving.

List of men serving in his Majesty’s forces

The following additional names have been added to our prayer list:-

John Bowden, Frederick Llott, Richard Polden, George Anderson, Alfred Parsons, Lawrence Parsons, Hugh Parsons, Cuthbert Parsons, Leonard Streak, Albert Fostekew, Stanley Tanner, George Roberts, Henry Attwood, Thomas Cloke.

In addition to those already mentioned we especially commend the following to your prayers:-

Sick: Harold Ballard. Killed: Ernest Shears.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P191/28A/25)

Strange sounds in the belfry

One effect of the war was the recruitment of unpracticed bellringers, who struggled with their new role.

The Bell Ringers

So many of our Ringers are away on service that it has been found necessary to get recruits of non-military age, and several young aspirants are training under the Foreman and Deputy Foreman. Hence the strange sounds which may occasionally be heard proceeding from the belfry, and which will, we hope, improve by degrees into the dear old well-known peal.

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

The clear, brave notes of the “Last Post” are heard again

There was news of a number of men from Burghfield.


Honours and Promotions

Captain Richard P Bullivant of the Mill House (County of London Yemanry) has been awarded the Military Cross for good service in Palestine, particularly in connection with the charge of dismounted Yeomanry near Jerusalem.

Mr George D Lake of Brookfield has received his commission as 2nd Lieutenant after OTC training, and is to join his unit (ASC, MT) in France on 1st March.

Ernest Wise (2/4th Royal Berks) has been made Provost-Sergeant of the Battalion.


B Hutchins (2/4th Royal Berks), wounded, a second time.


A C Lovelock (ASC, MT), ill health, Feb 1918.

Obituary Notice

Lance-Corporal R T Montagu (see last month’s magazine). Mr Montagu has received a letter from the captain of his son’s Company containing the words –

“Your son was in my platoon before I took over the command of the Company, and I gave him his lance stripe. He was a thoroughly good fellow, and a really fine soldier. The Company has lost a good man, and he will be greatly missed.”

He appears to have been killed by a shell while out on patrol early on the morning of the 8th January.

The death of Ernest Goddard is recorded with regret. He died at home on 12th February. He was called up from Reserve at outbreak of war, and posted to the 1st Royal Berks. Wounded in October 1915, he lost his right arm, and was discharged in June 1916. We all sympathize with his father and the family. The Depot of the Regiment sent a bearer party with a corporal and a bugler to his funeral on the 16th February; and the clear, brave notes of the “Last Post” were heard again in our quiet churchyard.

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

An internee enlists

Some internees gained a kind of freedom by volunteering for the British army.

Place of Internment
27th February 1918

E. Hodgkinson
30.9.16 S. of S. Order
Defence of the Realm Regn 14B


I have the honour to report, that in accordance with your letter numbered 282365/9, of the 13th inst: the above named, has this day been handed over to a conducting NCO for the purpose of enlistment in the British Army.

I have the honour to be

Your obedient servant
C M Morgan

[To] The Under Secretary of State
Home Office

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

“Orders have a way of descending from the blue and we may get ours at any moment”

Percy Spencer anticipated his return to the Front would come at any minute. The battle of Bourlon Wood had occurred at the end of 1917. Captain Walter Stone won a posthumous Victoria Cross for his heroics.

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

Feb 24. 1918

My dear WF

It seems ages since I wrote to or heard from you. So I’ve filled my pipe (my nicest & foulest one) with the fragrant Mr Fryers and sat myself down to write you a line.

My principal news is that I’m still here with no news of going. It occurs to me that the cadet course having been lengthened there should be a gap in home recruits which we may stay at home to fill for a few weeks. On the other hand orders have a way of descending from the blue and we may get ours at any moment, and incidentally a few days leave.

Did you read of the 47th at Bourlon Wood and the gallant fight put up by Capt. Stone & Lieut. Burgeery? The man next door to me was Capt. Stone’s CSM. I think he almost wishes he was with him, altho’ he would now be dead.

Well, I suppose we shall soon have another chance of doing real things, and none of us will be really sorry. Life here is frightfully destructive and only endurable by fighting for reforms. So far as I can see the main return a grateful country has obtained from me to date is the issue of overalls for mess orderlies.

We’re having pretty mixed weather. Thursday was glorious and I thoroughly enjoyed our route march – once away from the camp, the country is delicious.

I’ve had a letter from the red haired Australian (No. 6) and the cox; what’s happened to the rest, I don’t know.

With my dear love to you both

Yours ever

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/14-16)

An internee tries to join the army

Internee Rudolph Koch was admitted to Reading Prison in January 1916, aged 25. He was a lace agent born in London, but presumably of German parentage.

22nd Feby 1918
R Koch
2.10.15 S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regulation: Internment

The above named Alien was visited yesterday by Miss Doris Thain of 56 Gladstone Avenue, Wood Green, N.

The conversation was of personal and family matters. Prisoner told his visitor he had petitioned to join the Army, but had been informed his request could not be granted.

The Commissioners

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

On leave just before going to the Front, though well over military age

Winkfield men continued to serve – even the more mature who were not liable for conscription.


We much regret to report the death of Private William Tomlinson who died from wounds received in action, and we tender our deep sympathy to his relatives in Winkfield.

We are sorry to have to report that Privates W. Harwood and F. Onion are prisoners of war in Germany.

We are glad to welcome home on leave this month Private J. Winnen, M.M., Lance Corporal F. Beal, Private A. Beal, and Private E. Nicholas. The latter, though well over military age, was on leave just before going to the Front.

We have recived a large number of letters of thanks from our men for their Christmas parcels. All were pleased that they had not been forgotten by friends at home.

On January 6th, the Day of National Prayer, the congregations were good. The offertories, amounting to £10, were given to the Red Cross Prisoners of War Fund.

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

The pressure of work caused by a chaplain’s absence with the troops in France

The CSJB Sisters’ Lenten preparations were disrupted due to the army chaplaincy of one of the clergymen who normally served them.

15 February 1918
Notice was given that the Warden would not give the usual course of Lenten lectures this year owing to the pressure of work caused by the Sub-Warden’s absence with the troops in France.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

“He died gloriously doing glorious deeds during the course of our brilliant advance “

Tribute was paid to former students at Reading School who had fallen in recent months.

Killed in Action.

Central Ontario Regt. Pte. F.C.(Eric) Lawes, eldest son of Mr. F.J. laws., of 116, Hamilton Road, Reading, aged 22 years. On August 8th.

Captain Brain, Killed In Action.

The sympathy of the whole town will go out to Mr. and Mrs. Sydney Brain in the loss of their second son, Captain Frances Sydney Brain, Royal Berks Regiment, who was killed in action on the 3rd October. Born IN 1893, he was educated at Reading School and Leighton Park School, and in 1912 he obtained a scholarship at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. At the outbreak of the war he joined the Cambridge University O.T.C., and on February 26th, 1915, was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant, being promoted Lieutenant on July 29th, 1918. He proceeded to France in June, 1916, and was recently promoted Captain. The news of his death was received by his parents on Wednesday, and was contained in a letter from the chaplain of his regiment, who wrote as follows to Mr. and Mrs. Brain:-

“I am so grieved to have to tell you of the loss of your gallant son in action on the 3rd inst. He was hit on the head by a shell during the course of our brilliant advance and died instantly. I hope it will be of some little consolation to know that he died gloriously doing glorious deeds. He is a great loss to the regiment, as he was one of our most promising officers. In him I, too, had a friend, and more than a friend, for we were both of the same Varsity, and had mutual friends. I was able to get his body and bring it back to a little cemetery which we started here, where he lies with others of his regiment. We had the service of the Church of England, the last post and a funeral party. My prayers go up that the Almighty will give you strength to bear your sorrow.”

Lieut. H.M. Cook Killed.

Lieut. Howard Mortimer Cook, who was killed on August 8-9, would have been 29 September 1st had he lived. He was the elder son of Mr. John R. Cook, late of Lloyds Bank, Reading, and Mrs. Cook, and grandson of the late Town Clerk of Reading (Mr. Henry Day). He was educated at Reading School and St Edmunds Hall, Oxford, where he rowed in the eight. Although his original intention was to take Orders, at the outbreak of war he was on the point of leaving for Holland to take up teaching in schools, and his passport bore the date of August 4, 1914. He applied for a commission at once, having in the meantime joined a Public Schools Battalion as a private, and in November, 1914, he was gazetted to the 6th Royal Berkshire Regiment. He went to the front in February 1916, being attached to the 5th Battalion, and shortly afterwards was wounded in the head by shrapnel but after a few months at home he returned to the front. He and two other officers were especially mentioned in certain orders of the day as having accomplished some very good work at Cambrai, in which the 5th Berks played so prominent a part. In May last he was transferred to the machine-gun corps. He was killed by the explosion of a mine when taking his section into action during the night. His commanding officer wrote that although he had only been in his battalion a short time he was very popular and his death meant a sad loss to the regiment.


Previously reported missing, now known to have been killed in action on the 31st July, Captain John Waldron Mathews, F.A.F., of San Julian, Patagonia, elder son of E.J. Mathews and Mrs. Mathews, Brockley Combe, Weybridge, aged 28.

Death of Lieut. F.L. Hedgcock.

We greatly regret to record the death of Second Lieut. Frederick Leslie Hedgcock, M.G.C., who was killed in action on Sunday Sept, 29th, at the age of 20, after having served with his Regiment in France over seven months. He was educated at Reading School and Brighton College, and was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Hedgcock, of St. Margaret’s, Shinfield Road, Reading. Mr Hedgcock has two other sons serving in the Army, the eldest, Captain S.E. Hedgcock, now on the staff in Mesopotamia, and Lieut. S.D. Hedgcock, recently gazetted to the R.E. Both have been on active service, the eldest at Suvla Bay and the second son twice in France.

A brother officer writes: –

“we were fighting in a very important sector, and had done very well. Your son was shot through the heart, and was therefore instantly killed.”

His Major writes that he was killed while leading his men into action.

“On behalf of the officers and man of the company, I would tender you our heartfelt sympathy in your sad bereavement. We have lost an excellent officer and you have lost an excellent son.”

Pte. L.C. Shore

Pte. Leonard C. Shore, Lincolns, who died on August 19th of wounds received in action in France, was the son of Lance-Corpl. Shore and Mrs Shore, of 51, Francis Street, Reading, and was 19 years of age. He was educated at the Central School, and at Reading School, having won an entrance scholarship to the latter. Prior to joining up in April, 1917, he was in the office of the surveyor of taxes at Richmond (Surrey). His father, an old soldier, is serving with the Rifle Brigade in Egypt, where he has been for the past three years.

Funeral of Capt. S.J. Hawkes.

At St Bartholomew’s church, Reading, on Monday afternoon, a very large congregation assembled to pay their last tributes to Capt. Septimus J. Hawkes, Royal Berks Regt.

At St. Bartholomew’s Church, Reading, on Monday afternoon, a very large congregation assembled to pay their last tributes to Captain. Septimus J. Hawkes, Royal Berks Regt, who died suddenly in his barrack quarters at Dublin on the previous Wednesday. The Rev. T.J. Norris was the efficient clergyman, being assisted by the Revs. A.T. Gray, B. Mead and H. Elton Lury, C.F., the latter reading the lesson. The deceased officer was before the war, greatly in the boys of St. Bartholomew’s Church, and held this position of Scoutmaster of the St. Bartholomew’s Troup. Educated at Reading School, where he was a member of the Officers Training Corps and of the Rugby xv. He joined the University and Public Schools Brigade. Soon after the commencement of hostilities, and subsequently transferred to the Military College, Sandhurst, where he obtained his commission in the Royal Berks Regt. He soon went to France, and after serving there for some time was wounded and returned to England, and later, with the rank of Captain, went to Ireland. As recently as last month Capt. Hawkes was on leave in Reading on the occasion of the wedding of one of his brothers, at which ceremony he performed the duties of best man. A short time ago Capt. Hawkes successfully passed the difficult examination for the Royal Air Force to which he had transferred just prior to his death.

Reading School Magazine, December 1918 (SCH3/14/34)

“The collapse of our Boy Scout Department caused by the Leaders having been called up for service in HM’s Forces”

Youth work at a Reading church was suffering with so many of the young men serving abroad.


Report for 1917

We have much pleasure in printing below the report of work done in the Sunday School, which was read at the Annual Meeting of Church and Congregation on Thursday February 8th by the Hon. Sec., Mr D. A. Wilson.

The Senior Departments also have been carried on successfully – the YWBC under the leadership of Mrs Hendey and the YM’s Institute still under the leadership of our veteran friend Mr W. A. Swain, in spite of reduced numbers due to the war. This lack of numbers we have in a measure been able to remedy by drafting a dozen of our older scholars from the Intermediate Department to the Institute about a year earlier than we should have done in normal times.

This fact, together with what I may almost call the collapse of our Boy Scout Department caused by the Leaders having been called up for service in HM’s Forces, and through which I regret to say a number of boys have drifted away from the school, has caused our numbers in the General School to be fewer than usual.

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

Added to the Earley prayer list

More Earley men had gone to serve their country.

List of men serving in his Majesty’s forces

The following additional names have been added to our prayer list:-

Harry Seymour, Norman Swain, Sidney Oates, Frank Lloyd, John Blackman, George Clare, Richard Meadowcroft.

In addition to those already mentioned we especially commend the following to your prayers:-

Sick or Wounded. William Spratley, Harold Pocock, Gilbert Green, Frederick Winkworth.

Missing. Walter King, William Ellis.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, February 1918 (D/P191/28A/25)

“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.


“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)

“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.


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

A draft to France

Sydney Spencer was set to go overseas at last.

Jan 22nd [1918]

Battalion order 108. I am released from quarterly board at Brigade Headquarters. About 3.40 took a draft to France with Cubitt.

Diary of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/12)