Chosen to go to America to train men there in “sniping”

A local man was picked to train American recruits.

Warfield

Pte. A. Beal and J. Harwood have recently joined His Majesty’s Forces.

We were glad to welcome home on leave this month Privates L. Cox, F. Fancourt, N. Nickless, T. Nickless, G. Nichols, H. Ottaway, A. Shefford, also A. Cartland, who has just obtained a commission in the R.F.C., and who we heartily congratulate.

We congratulate Corporal Edwin Gray on his promotion to Sergeant and on the fact he has been chosen to go to America to train men there in “sniping.” Sergt. Gray began his career as a marksman at the Winkfield Miniature Rifle Range.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, December 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/12)

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“We have all been made happy by the news of the entry of the British troops and their Allies into the holy city of Jerusalem”

Berkshire clergymen were delighted by the capture of Jerusalem from the Ottomans.


Reading St Mary
The Vicar’s Notes

The best wish that I can send to the people of St Mary’s Parish for 1918 is that it may be a year of Peace. God grant that it may be so.

We have all been made happy by the news of the entry of the British troops and their Allies into the holy city of Jerusalem. This great event was commemorated by a “Te Deum” at St Mary’s at both services on Sunday, December 16th.

An interesting letter appeared in the Times of December 12th from the Archdeacon of Northampton, in which he pointed out that it was at Reading on March 17th, 1185, that Heraclius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, gave to Henry II the keys of Jerusalem and of the Holy Sepulchre with the words: “In thee alone after God do the people of the land put their trust.” And the King’s answer was: “May our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Power, be the defender of His people, and we will be His fellow-workers to the utmost of our power.” Could we have a happier inspiration that these words, or a happier time for the possession of Jerusalem than just before the Festival of our Lord’s Nativity?

Cranbourne

The taking of Jerusalem was celebrated on Sunday, December 16th by a Te Deum sung in procession, and by special psalms, lessons and hymns.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, January 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2); Cranbourne section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, January 1918 (D/P 151/281/10)

An air of sadness as nature reclaims the countryside

Percy Spencer shared his sense of an abandoned countryside with expat brother Will.

15 December 1917

A letter from Percy to us both, which I read to Johanna in the verandah after breakfast. After telling us about his rowing experiences [in Cambridge while training as an officer there], he continues:

“At the moment I am on [sic] a loose end, but expect to be in France or elsewhere by the middle of January. Cookham is very empty & silent. There is some compensation in the re-asserted claims of nature in the quiet corners of the earth as man’s claims have slackened, but altogether there is an air of sadness about the countryside, very depressing. I feel the water rat would much prefer to plop hastily into the water at your approach & the moorhen to scuttle jerkily into the reeds, than to feed unmolested & fearless of disturbance.”

So Percy feels that the water rat & the moorhen wish too, that the old times were back. In this feeling that the wild creatures must feel the same as he does, Percy not only shows a deep love of nature & of man, but also something of the imagination of a poet.

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

A ship in the Irish Sea

Florence Vansittart Neale’s nephew Paul Eddis was back in the swing of things after his daring escape from Denmark.

13 December 1917

Paul has got ship in Irish Sea.

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

“The populace gave us a tremendous welcome”

A Reading soldier was involved in the conquest of Jerusalem, and reported on the triumphant entry into the city.

THE TAKING OF JERUSALEM

We are pleased to be able to give below an extract from a letter received by our friends Mr and Mrs Ernest Francis from their son, Private E. Layton Francis of the London Scottish Regiment. Private Layton Francis has many friends at Broad Street and they will rejoice to know that in spite of many trying experiences, he is safe and well.

Egyptian Expeditionary Force
12-12-17

Since writing my last letter home I have been through another attack and a unique experience, and have much to be thankful for that I have been kept safely through so much. After we left our last position, we marched all night – over a twelve hours’ march – and attacked in the early morning. Doubtless you will have seen from the papers that Jerusalem has fallen, and that to our Division has been given the credit of taking it.

Our triumphal entry into the city was an experience worth living for, and the populace gave us a tremendous welcome. The city is full of well dressed and apparently well educated people, many of whom can speak English perfectly, and were very anxious to speak with us. An Armenian – quite a nice looking old chap of English appearance – joyfully told us that “Now there will be a happy Christmas for all good Christians.”

I hope this letter will reach you as it is, as I do not think myself it contains anything of “Military Importance”. Anyhow I shall have a tremendous lot to tell you once I get home again. It is almost impossible to realise that we have been fighting and marching where Jesus Christ was born and crucified, and that we must have actually been over the same hills were He has passed…

It is bitterly cold where we are just now at night time and heavy frosts are quite frequent, although I expect it is still hot in the canal zone.

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

Jerusalem taken by the British

The Community of John Baptist was pleased to hear that Turkish-ruled Jerusalem had been captured.

11 December 1917
News came that Jerusalem had been taken by British troops.
Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

Marching into Jerusalem tomorrow

The Allies were doing better in the Levant.

10 December 1917

Jerusalem surrendered. Our troops, some French & Italians, marching in tomorrow.

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

A present to each of our men in the Navy and Army

It was time to remember the troops at Christmas again.

CHRISTMAS PRESENTS TO SOLDIERS.

It is proposed to send a present to each of our men in the Navy and Army. The Vicar will be glad if the relations of our men will give him at once their present address.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield District Magazine, December 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/12)

Awful explosion in ships

The explosion of a French ship carrying munitions in Canada has been called the worst manmade explosion before the invention of nuclear weapons.

8 December 1917

Awful explosion in ships at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Town almost destroyed! Roumania [sic] having truce….

Wrote to prisoners. Mrs Pack & Mr Rich [visited]. His son died of wounds. My Bubs to start for Paris 4 pm via Southampton & Havre.

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

Germans massing in Flanders

There was ominous news from the Front.

7 December 1917

Germans massing in Flanders. Rumours of Roumania [sic] joining Armistice.

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

“Amidst this hell on earth God is with us”

A Wargrave soldier reminded friends at home of the dangers he and his comrades were facing.

Harvest Festival Gifts

Many letters have come to us from the men at the Front to say how much the tobacco and cigarettes have been appreciated and to convey thanks to the congregation for the gifts, one writes:-

“It is cheering to know that we are remembered by friends in the homeland, but what we value most, Sir, is your prayers. Pray without ceasing for us, Sir. God is very real to us out here, for He has delivered us several times from certain death, which is in answer to the prayers offered up to our Heavenly Father on our behalf in the dear old Church at Wargrave. One often thinks of home.

It was last Sunday while up the line at work between ten and eleven o’clock while the guns were booming and the shells bursting around that I was lost in thought. I thought I heard the bells pealing from out the old tower and the congregation singing the Psalms and the good old hymns, so dear to us Tommies. While thus lost in thought God spoke to me through His word, “Lo I am with you always”. What a blessing, Sir, to be able to realize that amidst this hell on earth God is with us, another answer to your prayers.”

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

15 more German divisions coming from Russian front!

With revolutionary Russia out of the war, many German troops were freed up to face the Allies.

6 December 1917

Heard of our giving up Bourlon Wood. Very bad, but 15 more German divisions coming from Russian front!!

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

Shot at dawn for “cowardice” caused by shell shock

John Maxwell Image wrote to his friend W F Smith, who was staying at Hindhead in south west Surrey, not far from the big army camp at Aldershot. Normally very gung-ho in support of the war, Image’s compassion had been aroused by stories of court martials and teenagers shot at dawn. The Revd Thomas Pym (1885-1945), in peacetime the chaplain at Image’s college, was serving as an army chaplain.

29 Barton Rd
6 Dec. ‘17
My very dear old man

The military cars to and fro Aldershot must surely be more or less an interesting sight.

The poor Tommy comes under this [?not clear] penalty quite frequently. Not often from cowardice, poor boy. Most often (I believe) it is from slinking off to some girl in the rear which is called “desertion”, tho’ he would have returned right enough.

Just before I was married there was shown to me a letter from a young Trin. Officer at the Front, describing a visit from one of our Trin. Chaplains, begging this young friend of his to “pray for him”, for he had to pass the night with a boy of 18 who was to be shot at dawn. Pym spoke then of a night with another poor child (of 17!) who had been shot the previous week, for what the CM was pleased to style Cowardice – though he had twice behaved with exceptional bravery, and it was only after seeing his two brothers killed at his side that on this occasion his nerve broke down. In an officer it would have been called “shell-shock”, and the interesting sufferer sent home to a cushy job in England. I know of 2 thus treated. Pym’s words brought the tears to my eyes. I see that he has told the story (slightly altered) in a book that has recently come out by him, Characteristics of the Army in Flanders.

Sir Arthur Yapp at the Guildhall last Friday. The Signora went (non ego) and returned enthusiastic – she and her Cook – over the great man’s dignity and sweetness. That evening he lectured the students (and I believe also them of Girton) in Newnham College – and left by the 9.9 for London.

One remark of his: “The vessels sunk by the U-boats during the week ending Nov. 24 (I forget how many that was) might have carried enough bread to feed Cambridge for nearly 7 years, or enough meat for 8 ½ years, or enough sugar for 64 years.”

He said that Food Tickets have changed Germany to a nation of forgers. He dreaded the like fate for England.

Yours ever
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

Farms willing to have women workers

Florence Vansittart Neale and Miss Dane continued to work on the initiative to get more women in farmwork.

5 December 1917

Miss Dane & I dropped Henry at Maidenhead, then on to Holyport. Miss Coatt saw nice old farmer – no good. Then visited our farms about women on the land – all willing to have them. Home for lunch. Sent Miss D. to Hurley farmers after lunch.

America declares war on Austria.

Russian terms for Armistice!!

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

“It was all very suggestive of Bethlehem, except for the noise of the guns outside”

Another army chaplain reports his experiences leading services and planning social activities very close to the front line.

5 December 1917

The following extracts are from 2 letters which Mother received lately from the Sub-Warden with the troops in France.

“This morning, I had an hour’s walk through mud & trenches, delayed by the unwelcome attention of a German aeroplane for a while, but otherwise uneventful, & at last arrived at a certain dug out. There was a steep staircase down about 20 ft, then a square flat, and then 5 or 6 more steps to the right. On the square flat I arranged a little altar. Men all up & down the stairs crouching to one side so as to leave me room to pass to communicate them, and a few outside in the trench kneeling in the mud. At the bottom, a few Non-Conformist officers were very reverent & interested… I reminded them that our Lord chose a “dug out” when He first came to earth… It was all very suggestive of Bethlehem, except for the noise of the guns outside.”

“We have discovered a large cellar beneath ruins close to the lines. There is plenty of room for a canteen, reading rooms & a chapel. The chapel is to be dedicated to St John Baptist. I wonder if the Community would furnish the altar for us; the Pioneers would make the altar… I said Mass there this morning & 60 men came & were very reverent and appreciative.”

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