Happy evenings

Soldiers training at home were grateful for the hospitality shown by Reading people.

Our Soldiers’ Club

This is now well established and a steady increase in the attendance testifies to the appreciation of the comforts provided. Though only open a fortnight, the following letter is the grateful testimony of one who came every night and looked on the Club as “home”:- Reading 20/10/17.

Dear Mr. Stevens, –

You no doubt will be surprised to learn that I am leaving Reading this afternoon for Tidworth. It came very unexpectedly. I cannot let this occasion pass without tendering very heartfelt thanks for the way that I have received and the kindness shown to me by various gentlemen of the soldiers’ club. In fact, I will always look back upon the happy evenings which I spent there with very pleasant memories. I cannot tell you how I feel in leaving Reading, but will always maintain that the Trinity Congregational Church Soldiers Club is worthy of the highest credit which it thoroughly deserves, and I sincerely hope and trust that the good work will continue and that Miss Austin will sell the refreshments better than ever.

Again thanking you one and all,

Believe me, I remain,

Yours Sincerely,

John J. Kingdom.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, November 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

Advertisements

A pretty wedding at Bisham

Nurse Elizabeth Vansittart Neale, co-heiress of Bisham Abbey, had enjoyed a wartime romance with 27 year old officer Leo Paget, and today was their wedding day – at Bisham Church. Mother Florence’s diary entry was brief:

20 October 1917

Bubs’ wedding day.

However, she went into more detail in another book she kept.

20th October 1917
Elizabeth married Capt Leo Paget – Rifle Brigade. Wedding took place in Bisham Church – very pretty – good music with Dr. Bath at organ & Marlow choir boys to reinforce ours.

Over 60 guests at luncheon, almost all relations.

Bridal pair repaired [?] to Reading to Malets Cottage at Norcot–Lynton [?].

Young Paget came over on leave from the front in France – he arrived the day before the wedding- he had 2 weeks leave (4 days extra for marriage).

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); Bisham estate memorandum book (D/EX73/1/8/2, p. 222)

The introduction of compulsory service has rather changed the situation

The parish of Burghfield was keeping track of local men serving in the war.

THE WAR

The Roll of Honour

A list kept by the Rector, of those Burghfield men who since the beginning of the war have laid down their lives for their country and the just cause of the Allies, hangs near the reading-desk in the Church.

The full Roll, including those who have offered and been accepted for immediate or deferred service, is kept up to date by Mr. Willink so far as possible, and hangs in the Church Porch. The introduction of compulsory service has rather changed the situation: but he will be glad to receive names of men not already on the Roll but actually serving, together with the exact title of their ship or unit, also notice of any honours or promotions, wounds or deaths.

The list of wounded is growing long. Happily most cases are light. But it should be known by everybody that any disabled man is entitled to free training, if necessary or possible in some trade, and to be helped in finding employment. Information can be obtained at any Post Office. In cases of delay or difficulty in this matter, or in regard to Pensions or Allowances, applications should be made to the Berkshire War Pensions Committee through Mr. or Mrs Willink, who are on the Reading Rural Sub Committee.

Honours

Colonel Sir Wyndham Murray, of Culverlands, formerly C.B whose distinguished services in past times are well known, has been made K.C.B. He has acted as King’s Messenger during the War, and has repeatedly visited the front. He and Lady Murray have also received certain Japanese decorations.

Captain G. O. W. Willink was mentioned in Despatches in May, and has just been awarded the Military Cross for distinguished conduct in August. He has commanded “A” Coy in the 2/4 R. Berks Regt. Since he went out in July 1916, and has seen service in many parts of the line in France and Flanders.

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

Is anyone willing to be kind to the Canadians with no friends in England?

Soldiers from Canada often had nowhere to go when on leave.

“Woodclyffe” Auxiliary Hospital, Wargrave

Miss Sinclair has been made “Visitor” (someone specially to look after and care for the wounded Canadians) by the Canadian Red Cross Society with the consent of the Commandant. She will be glad to hear of Americans or Canadians, who would like to take any interest in the men. Many of them have no friends in England and come back to Wargrave for their leave, because the Hospital is the only Home they know. Anyone willing to be kind to the men, please write to Miss Sinclair, Wargrave Aux. Hospital.

Wargrave parish magazine, October 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

People ask “Why does the War go on?” – “Is there a God?” and other equally futile questions

The Newbury parish magazine was critical of social change.

One of the most disquieting signs of today is the widespread neglect of Public Worship and indifference to spiritual things…

It is for instance a very melancholy thing to see women drinking in public as they do today quite shamelessly, and as they would never have thought of doing a few years ago, and neglecting their children and their homes; while there are some wives and mothers who are leading vile and disgraceful lives.

And then people ask “Why does the War go on?” – “Is there a God?” and other equally futile questions. Yes, there is a God, and He is the same God as He has always been, and He will punish wickedness and vice, and careless indifference as He has always punished them; nor is it reasonable to suppose that God will give the victory where victory is not deserved.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, October 1917 (D/P89/28A/13)

Wounded soldiers get a space for reading, writing and social intercourse

Broad Street Congregational Church’s latest effort was to offer organised entertainment to wounded soldiers who had been aimlessly wandering the streets.

HOSPITALITY TO SOLDIERS

On Monday October 15th, a new movement was inaugurated in our Schoolroom. For some time previously various members of the congregation has been impressed with the idea that something should be done for the Wounded Soldiers who gather each afternoon in Broad Street, and who appeared to need a place where they could rest (particularly in wet weather), play games, and be able to obtain light refreshments. It was felt that there was need of something of the same sort being done for other men and women in khaki in the town in the evening. These matters were considered by the Church members, and ultimately it was decided that an attempt should be made to meet the needs referred to, and a Committee immediately got to work, with the result that the Schoolroom and two adjoining rooms were ready for occupation by the soldiers on the 15th.

Subsequent events have proved that the needs were even greater than we thought. From the very first the undertaking has been a success. The various Military Hospitals and billeting places had been informed, by printed handbill, of our arrangements, and this was all that was necessary. Almost as soon as the doors were opened, our wounded friends began to arrive, and every afternoon since they have been coming to Broad Street in large numbers. Each evening, too, there is a good attendance of men and women in khaki. Our visitors are allowed to amuse themselves in the way they deem best. Some make good use of the writing room, in which writing-paper and envelopes are provided without cost; whilst others join in one or other of the various games. Magazines and papers are supplied for those who care to read them; and the piano is in almost constant use by those who enliven the whole proceedings. The original intention was to try the experiment for a month, but the success was such that it has now been decided to continue indefinitely. It has also been decided to meet a further need by opening the rooms for reading, writing and social intercourse each Sunday afternoon from 4 to 6.15 pm.

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

Khaki Socials have proved a great boon to very many

Soldiers and airmen were entertained weekly on Sunday evenings at Broad Street Church in Reading.

Now that the darker evenings are upon us, arrangements have been made to resume the “Khaki Socials”, which have been held every Sunday evening in the winter months since shortly after the war began. These Socials have proved a great boon to very many. Sunday, October 14th, is the day fixed for re-opening, and we shall hope to see then many of our old friends, and many new ones also.

The running of these Socials – seeing that light refreshments are provided free of cost – involves us in expense. But of this we shall have more to say in our next month’s issue.

The many friends of Lieut. Oswald Francis (son of our friends, Mr and Mrs Ernest Francis) will be glad to hear that he has been awarded the Military Cross “for exceptional valour and devotion to duty through the battles east of Ypres” in August. We heartily congratulate both Lieut. Francis and his parents on the honour which he has won, and we earnestly hope he may live for many years to enjoy it.

The aforementioned article appeared in the October church magazine. There was a follow up report in December:

KHAKI SOCIALS

The Khaki Socials which have proved such an interesting part of our winter programme since the war began, were resumed after the evening service on Sunday, October 14th. There was a very good attendance for the opening meeting, and the number has increased with each succeeding Sunday. There is no doubt about the popularity of these Socials, nor can there be any doubt of their usefulness. Quite apart from the number attending – which in itself is no mean testimony – we have the frequent expressions of gratitude from those who deeply appreciate what is being done. There is nothing stiff or formal about these gatherings, but a delightful homelike feeling which greatly appeals to our friends in khaki.

Music – vocal and instrumental – and recitations form the chief items in the weekly programme, and these are interspersed with hymns in which all present heartily join.

Members of the Royal Flying Corps have to leave us at 10 o’clock, but most of our other khaki friends remain for the family worship with which we close the proceedings at 9.30 pm.

We are sorry that owing to our limited accommodation we cannot invite more of our Broad Street friends to join us for these gatherings, but we can assure them that, in their name, a very helpful bit of work is being done by the ladies and gentlemen who gladly give their services week by week.

Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, October and December 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

A great blessing to the hospitals

The work of women and children in Cookham Dean was gratefully received.

Cookham Dean War Working Party.

The Vicar has been asked to make the following known, through the Magazine:

From June 6th to Ocober 25th the undermentioned work has been sent out:

(A) To the Surgical Emergency Dressing Society at Maidenhead, 571 ‘T’ bandages, 14 flannel bed jackets, four nightingales, eight flannel shirts, 10 pairs of socks, 13 mufflers, 14 pairs of mittens, four helmets, 244 capelines;

(B) To Lady Smith-Dorrien, 68 hospital bags. The total number of articles being 950.

Mrs. Hunt and Miss Hawkes desire to thank all workers who have so kindly contributed to the result; those who have attended the working party; those who have done work in their own home; and last, but not least, the children in the mixed school who have given up their playtime, and who have helped on the work so willingly…

The following letter has been received from Miss R. Bulkeley:

Redcroft, Maidenhead, October 11th, 1917.

Dear Mrs Hunt, Miss Hawkes has sent me from your War Working Party such splendid hospital and other comforts, and I do not know how to thank you all enough. They are so beautifully made, and will be a great blessing to the Hospitals and Units to which they are sent.

In answer to their appeal yout ‘T’ bandages and capelines go regularly on the 6th of every month to No.2 New Zealand General Hospital, and they say they are just what they like.

Many, many thanks again for all your generous help.

Yours sincerely, Ruby Bulkeley.

Cookham Dean parish magazine nov 1917 (D/P43B/28A/11)

Arrived from the front

A Pangbourne teacher welcomed a brother home on leave, while the Datchet children’s collections from the hedgerows for the troops diversified.

Pangbourne
9th October, 1917

Miss Drury, at her own request, given a day’s leave of absence to see her brother who has arrived from the front.

Datchet
9 October 1917

I have sent several boys for horse chestnuts while the weather is dry.

The children went a blackberrying.

Datchet National Mixed School log book (SCH30/8/3, p. 401)

Pangbourne Primary School log book (C/EL78/2, p. 62)

Letters from sailors

Florence Vansittart Neale was encouraged by a British success.

8 October 1917

Went to schools to read letters to school children from sailors. Drenching afternoon. Soldiers came…

Battle of Broodseinde – very good.

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

Delays in forms for war allowances

Administrative red tape and confusion over parish boundaries caused problems for some families.

It often happens that a delay occurs in attending to the many forms, which have to be filled up in connection with Soldiers’ allowances, pensions, &c., owing to persons giving “Winkfield” as their Parish. “Winkfield” is the proper Postal address, but for persons living in this Parish it should be stated that they live in the Parish of Cranbourne, and not Winkfield.

Privates P. Wye, F. Douglas, and H. Edmonds have been home on leave. We hear that Stanley Stratfull has been made a Corporal.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield District Magazine, October 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/10)

Parish magazines are especially valuable now

Paper shortages and price rises had meant at least one parish magazine had to stop publication in 1917. But by the autumn it was decided to make the effort to revive it – if only to keep in touch with soldiers from the village.

After 6 months’ interval, the Magazine appears again. Expenses however will be heavier than formerly, and all who approve this revival of our Parish record are invited to support it according to their means. The selling price will be 1d per copy; and donations towards the expenses will be welcome. It must be remembered that a Parish magazine is useful not only as a record of past events, and a mean of giving notice of future ones, but as a channel of communication between all parishioners who can properly avail themselves of it: and that it may be especially valuable now, during the war, for sending local news in compact form to our gallant Burghfield men on active service at home or abroad. Donations and subscriptions may be sent to the Editors, Mr and Mrs Willink, at Hillfields; who will also be glad to receive for publication, extracts from letters by men at sea or land “fronts”, or other written matter of local interest…

HGW & MGW.

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

Help through these sad days of anxiety and perplexity

Broad Street Congregational Church offered to keep up the spirits of local women, many of whom would have had loved ones at the front.

WOMEN’S SOCIAL HOUR

The meetings of the Women’s Social Hour will be resumed on Monday, October 1st, at 2.45. The meetings are greatly appreciated by those who attend week by week, and it is hoped that in the coming session many new members may take advantage of this little break in the commonplace routine of daily life. A great variety of speakers is arranged, and all bring a message of cheer and uplifting to help through these sad days of anxiety and perplexity. There is so much that is grey in the lives of most just now that it is wise to avail oneself of any opportunity which offers of friendly intercourse, that, to both, give and gain the sympathetic understanding which helps to smooth so many of the rough places.

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

Bright moon, bad air raids

The Vansittart Neale girls were both home for the first time since they started nursing the troops.

28 September 1917
Waited [at Maidenhead station] for both girls who had been to London for day’s shopping. All motored home. First time we all 4 together. Bad air raid nearly every night this week – bright moon.

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

Fresh push on

The news from the front was good, but there were still casualties. Nurse Phyllis Vansittart Neale had her anticipated leave cut because she was so busy with the influx.

20 September 1917

Fresh push on – quite successful – over 2000 prisoners.

Heard Phyllis could not get full week now, so taking 4 days from 26th.

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