Conspicuous bravery

A member of Reading’s Broad Street Church was awarded a medal.

The news that our friend, 2nd Lieut. Victor Smith, had won the Military Cross for conspicuous bravery at the Battle of Arras, has caused considerable pleasure throughout our whole community. Lieut. Smith has a host of friends and well-wishers at Broad Street, who hold him in the highest regard for his own sake, as well as for his work’s sake. They rejoice in his new honour. I wish to offer heartiest possible congratulations to Lieut. Smith and our earnest hope and prayer that he may be spared for many years to enjoy his new distinction….

Sunday June 17th is the day fixed for the Annual Choir Festival this year, when special music will be rendered by the choir at both morning and evening worship…

For many years now the members of the choir have been entertained to a River Trip, the expenses incurred being met, in large part, by the collections taken at the Festival. This year, owing to the conditions brought about by the war, they have decided to forego this outing. Instead they propose to invite a number of wounded soldiers to a Garden Party at which tea will be served and a concert provided. The cost of this entertainment will be more than usual, as it will be impossible to invite friends to buy tickets and thus share the expense.

We feel sure that the congregation will appreciate this patriotic desire of the choir members, and encourage them in their good work by giving generously to the collections.

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

A pill for the Kaiser

The pro-German King Constantine of Greece was forced to abdicate by the Allies and his own government, in favour of his younger son Prince Alexander (1893-1920), passing over the elder boy, Prince George. The king and his wife Sophia, sister of the Kaiser, went into exile. Florence Vansittart Neale rejoiced.

14 June 1917
Tino gone! & family & suite leaving P. Alex to take his place. Pill for the Kaiser.

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

Cancelling the Sunday School tea is helping their country to some small extent

Food shortages meant that the usual summer tea party for children attending the Sunday School at St John’s Church in east Reading had to be called off. Instead, the children were to be given a war savings certificate.

SUNDAY SCHOOL TREAT.

This has always been a very great event in the lives of our Sunday Schools, but this year it will be deprived of its most attractive feature, for in view of the very clear instructions of the Food Controller we cannot give the children a tea. The Sunday School Committee has gone carefully into the question of the form the Treat should take this year so as to give the children a good time and also to give them some compensation for the loss of their tea.

They have decided that the children shall march out to some field as in former years, and that they shall be refreshed with whatever fruit is in season and available, and also that there shall be given to each child a sixpenny War Savings Stamp. They feel that in this way the children will be given a real and lasting equivalent for their tea; those who already belong, as very many of them do, to a War Savings Association will be encouraged to continue, those who do not will be stimulated to join up.

At the same time contributors to the treat will feel that they are helping their country to some small extent, and the children to a very real extent, and will be relieved of the uncomfortable feeling that owing to the embargo on the tea, they are saving their own pockets at the expense of the children.

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

Anterhinums instead of vegetables

The head gardener at Bisham Abbey made the mistake of thinking the flower garden should be defended against vegetables. Meanwhile General John Pershing (1860-1948) made a visit.

9 June 1917

Martin had planted anterhinums instead of vegetables! Has to take them up….

American General & staff arrived – General Pershing.

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

“Doing our best to be worthy of being the cadets of one of the most famous regiments in His Majesty’s Army”

The Church Lads’ Brigade offered training for teenage boys which in many cases led to heroic actions as adults at the Front.

CHURCH LADS’ BRIGADE CADETS

We had a very good Field Day at Streatley on Whit-Monday. The Battalion turned up in good strength, and some useful skirmishing practice was got through on the Downs, an ideal spot for such work.
On Saturday, June 9th, the Annual Battalion Marching Competition was held. By kind permission of the Headmaster of Reading School, the various Companies assembled in the School Quad, and under the management of Sergeant-Major Green, were quickly got into due order for inspection. Colonel Melville, RAMC, very kindly came over from Aldershot to judge the competition, and expressed himself as quite astonished at the efficiency of the lads and highly delighted with the whole arrangements and the esprit de corps displayed by the teams. We congratulate our friends the Caversham Company on winning the Shield, our Earley lads were a very close third.

The arrangements for Whit-Monday and the Marching Competition were very ably carried out by the Acting Adjutant, Capt. H A Smith-Masters, who has just received his commission as a Chaplain in the Army. We congratulate him, and shall miss his help very much. He is the fourth Adjutant we have had since the war began, and all four are now serving in the Forces.

Our Captain, Corporal C J O’Leary, MTASC, received some rather severe scalds while rescuing a comrade from a motor which went wrong, and has been in hospital in France, but we are glad to say he is now much better again.

The following Army Order has filled us with pleasure and determination to try and do our best to be worthy of being the cadets of one of the most famous regiments in His Majesty’s Army:

“ARMY ORDER 128, 1917.

The Army Orders for April contain one of the most epoch-making which has ever been issued in respect of the CLB. It runs thus:

‘The recognised Cadet Battalions of the Church Lads’ Brigade are affiliated to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.’

We hope that every member of the CLB will appreciate the honour of belonging to the famous 60th, and that this will be one more incentive to obtain even a higher standard than the CLB has ever attained before.

The great fact is accomplished, and we hope by it the future of the CLB is assured, and that an adequate safeguard of all its religious training and ideal is achieved.”

Having passed the required examinations, the following lads have been promoted as stated: Corporals F Ansell and C Downham to be Sergeants; Private M Smith to be Lance-Corporal.

The body of one of our old members, Frank Snellgrove, who has been missing for months, has been discovered by a Chaplain in France, and reverently buried with full Christian rites. We offer our deepest sympathy to his people, who have thus lost their only son.

H. Wardley King [the curate]

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

Maintain unity of spirit and the will of sacrifice in the allied nations

The Bishop asked Berkshire churchgoers to pray for the war to end successfully.

THE BISHOP’S MESSAGE

The following extracts are from the Bishop’s message in the June Diocesan Magazine:

Your prayers are specially asked

For the maintenance in the allied nations of unity of spirit and the will of sacrifice.

For the prosecution and ending of the war in the Name of God, and of Liberty.

For the chaplains, doctors, nurses, the RAMC and the ASC…

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

“If we waste bread, we are helping the Germans to win the war”

Newbury people were urged not to waste food, particularly bread.

The King has issued a Proclamation on food saving, which is being read, by Royal Command, in Church, but it would perhaps be also as well to put the case in plain language:

1. The stock of bread in the country is not sufficient.

2. The German submarines may make it still more in-sufficient.

3. Therefore we must save all the bread we can.

4. We must not catch horses with bread.

5. We must not give crusts to birds or pigs.

6. We must not throw bread into the street, canal, or dust-bin.

7. We must not cut the crusts off toast.

8. We must eat as little bread as is consistent with health.

9. If we do otherwise, we are helping the Germans to win the war.

The Soldiers’ Club is moving on June 2nd, to “the King’s Arms” in the Market Place. This Hostel must now resign itself to the provision of temperance drinks only. The ladies in charge will be glad of any help in money or kind.

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

“The villages have been ruthlessly pillaged, burnt, and razed to the ground”

A Reading man writes of his latest experiences at the front – and the death of a friend.

Our “Boys”

This terrible war has taken from us yet another of our brave soldier lads. Horace Pinker, who quite recently lost his brother and mother, was killed in France on the 5th of April. May the God of all comfort be very near to his father, sisters and brother – to console them in their keen sorrow!

The following extract from a letter sent by Eric Chapman to his mother is especially interesting, as it refers to the circumstances and death of his friend:-

“To return to my personal doings, it is unnecessary of course for me to allude to the German retirement on the western front, seeing that the papers are full of it. As you must have guessed, this has made a great difference to our lives, as we have had to be constantly hot on their heels. At times we come to close quarters with them, but on the whole they do not show much fight, and easily surrender or retire. The country over which we are advancing has been most thoroughly and diabolically destroyed. The villages have been ruthlessly pillaged, burnt, and razed to the ground. Not a thing of any value has been left behind by these barbarians. Even the young fruit trees have been deliberately maimed and rendered incapable of bearing fruit. Naturally this has made it most hard for us following in their tracks, as they intended it should, but we are able to overcome all difficulties and continue our victorious advance. There is not the slightest doubt we are winning by force of arms and smashing the Huns back to their own country. May the end come suddenly and speedily!

“Our battalion has just returned from a special attack, in which it distinguished itself, and about which the Colonel has given permission to write, so I am quite in order in relating a few facts without giving valuable information away. Our objective was a large village, fortified and held by the Huns. We commenced the attack in the early hours of the morning, and had to advance a distance of over 2,000 yards, before we came to grips with the enemy. It was snowing slightly at the time and a thin layer covered the ground as the men moved forward in waves to the attack. After we got fairly going I felt strangely exhilarated, and, much to my surprize quite unconcerned by the possibility of danger. The Huns yelled when they saw us coming, but our fellows yelled still louder, and never wavered a moment under the enemy’s fire. Barbed wire impeded our movements to a small extent, but in short time we had reached the village and were careering like mad through the streets. The Huns did not stand a ghost of a chance then, as our men paid back old scores, and in a few seconds they were doing their best to retreat. Many got back to tell the tale to Hindenburg, but I am thankful to say many not. It was not long before the whole village was in our hands, and after we had consolidated our gain we had some sport looking for souvenirs. The most interesting thing to us was the Germans’ rations which they left behind. Some of the men ate them, but although I am not dainty on this job, I did not have! The meat looked tempting enough, but had the undoubted characteristics of worn-out cab horse!

“I am glad to say our casualties on this occasion were comparatively few, although I regret to have to relate the death in action of Horace Pinker. He was killed by a bullet, and died before the stretcher–bearers could get him to the dressing station. It is very sad for his people, but they can have the satisfaction of knowing that he died bravely and nobly, and was accorded a decent burial.”

It has long been felt that we have not done all that we might for those of our numbers who are taking part in this bitter struggle. At Christmas our young people collected enough to send parcels to all on the Institute Roll of Honour. Now it is wished to do the same for the others, and the kind help and generous support of all our friends if asked. We feel confident that this appeal will not be made in vain! Contributions may be sent to Miss Gough, Mrs. Hamilton Moss, Mrs. Streeter, or Miss Austin.

Trinity Congregational magazine, May 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

A splendid address on Duty and Patriotism that even the tiniest could understand

Empire Day was the focus for patriotic expressions in schools across the county.

Piggott Schools, Wargrave
Empire Day

The children of the Piggott Schools celebrated Empire Day (May 24th) in right loyal fashion. They assembled at the School, and with flags flying, marched down to Church where a short service was held. The Vicar gave an appropriate address. Re-assembling on the Church Green they proceeded to the Schools and took their places round the flag pole from which the Union Jack was flying. A good number of parents and friends of the children with many of the soldiers from the hospital were waiting their return. As the boys passed the soldiers they gave them a salute in recognition of what they had done for their country.

The National Anthem was sung, and the flag saluted, and Miss. E. Sinclair gave a splendid address on Duty and Patriotism in such a way that even the tiniest could understand it. Capt. Bird proposed a vote of thanks to Miss Sinclair and hearty cheers were given in which the soldiers joined. Three Patriotic and Empire Songs were sung by the children, the Vicar called for cheers for the Teachers, and Mr. Coleby announced that Mrs. Cain had most kindly provided buns and sweets for all as they left the grounds. Hearty cheers were given her for her thoughtfulness. Cheers for the King concluded the proceedings.

Alwyn Road School, Cookham
May 24th 1917

Empire Day was celebrated today. The Headmaster addressed the children assembled in the Hall, and the National Anthem was sung. The children then went to their classrooms and ordinary lessons proceeded till 11 o’clock. Each class teacher then gave a lesson on “Empire” and kindred subjects till 11.30. This was followed by a Writing Lesson when some of the important facts were taken down.

The school assembled in the Hall again at 11.55 and after a few more remarks by the Headmaster the national Anthem was again sung and the children dismissed.

Opportunity was taken of this morning’s addresses to instil into the children’s minds the necessity of economising in the use of all food stuffs, and more especially of bread and flour.

A holiday was granted in the afternoon. (more…)

Impress upon the children the urgent need for the prevention of waste in food

Schools in Newbury were struggling thanks to the war.

Thursday, May 24th, 1917

Resignation of Teachers

Mr G H Keen, an assistant master at the Council Boys’ School, had been called up for military service on May 18th, and it is recommended that his appointment be kept open for him.

The secretary was instructed to press for the release from military service of one of the Authority’s teachers who since his enlistment had been medically classified as low as C3, and in the event of this teacher being discharged from the Army to appoint him temporarily to the Council Boys’ School.

It may be mentioned that there were eight Assistant Masters in the service of the Local Education Authority before the war; but now there are only two in the whole of the Borough Schools, and one of these is filling the position temporarily….

Food Economy

A letter was received from the Board of Education calling attention to the urgent need for economy in food and especially for saving in bread, and stating that information had reached the Food Controller that there was waste among the children who brought their midday meal to school. The Sub-committee were informed that the matter had been brought to the notice of the Authority’s Head Teachers, and that they had been asked to impress upon the children the urgent need for the prevention of waste in food.

The Sub-committee were also informed that “Empire Day”, Thursday May 24th, was made the occasion in the Borough Schools for giving the children a special lesson on the subject of Food Economy, and also that copies of the recent Proclamation of the King were distributed in the schools.

The Sub-committee considered the question of providing a Public Kitchen for the use of children who bring their midday meal to school, and the secretary was instructed to ascertain the number of these children in the Borough Schools, and to submit a report on the matter to the next meeting….

Finance, School Management and General Purposes Sub-committee of the Newbury Borough Education Committee (N/AC1/2/8)

The harder the work, the greater the service: women are called to the land

There was a call out to women to work on the land during the war.

WOMEN!

Enrol for service on the land. Help to win the Victorious Peace.

Strong healthy Women are wanted for the land. Thousands of acres are ready for cultivation. Thousands of farms want: Field workers, Milkers, Plough Women, Carters, Cow Women, Market Gardeners. If you are healthy and willing, you can be taught, you can wear the uniform, you can earn the wages. We must have milk for the babies, bread for the children, food for the sailors and Soldiers.

These are the terms: Maintenance during instruction, one free outfit (high boots, breeches, two overalls, and hat), wages 18s. per week at least (or the wage rate of the district, whichever is the higher).

The land is calling for you. Your Country needs you. The harder the work, the greater the service. Sign at once. There is a form waiting for you at every Post Office. Don’t Delay – Read this and hand it to the woman who lives next door.

The Vicar’s Notes

Intercessions
For Sidney Reeves, one of our old bible Class Lads, wounded seriously in France.
For Walter George, fallen for his country after just a fortnight at the front.

Thanksgivings
For the entry of the United States of America on the side of right.
For the granting of the Military Medal to Stuart Collison, one of our servers.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, May1917 (D/P98/28A/15)

“We shall all do our best to keep our end up until the happy day when he can once more return”

The leader of the Church Lads’ Brigade in Earley, a wounded soldier, had recovered sufficiently to join the Army Service Corps, while some of the group’s former members had been killed or wounded.

CLB

We are once again – let us hope for only a short time – losing our Adjutant, Captain C J O’Leary, who has joined the MTASC.

Since his discharge after being wounded at the Battle of the Aisne, Captain O’Leary has thrown himself wholeheartedly into the work of the Battalion, as well as working up his own St Peter’s Earley Company to a high state of efficiency, and we shall miss him terribly. Our very best wishes will go with him wherever he may be sent, and we shall all do our best to keep our end up until the happy day when he can once more return to us.

We greatly regret to say that two more of our first members have been killed in action, Leonard Leaver and Charles Bolton, and we would express our deepest sympathy with their relatives in their sorrow. RIP.

We tender our heartiest congratulations on being awarded the Military Medal. As we are going to press we hear that Sergeant Seely is seriously wounded and are anxiously awaiting further news.

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

A very gallant officer and gentleman, recklessly brave and a fine example of cool courage

The Old Boys of Reading School were distinguishing themselves at the Front.

O.R. NEWS.

Killed in Action.

2nd Lieut. Norman A. Howell, King’s Shropshire Light infantry. On December 23rd.

He is the second son of Mr. W. Roland Howell, architect, of this town. Born at Reading in April 1897, he was educated at Reading School and St. Laurence College, Ramsgate, and had been about a year in his father’s office before joining the Army in November, 1915. His cadet training at school and college enabled him to get his commission. He was posted to the King’s Shropshire’s, was ordered to the front at the end of June last, and has been in the thick of the Somme fighting for six months. Lieut. Norman Howell came home on his first leave on December 6th and returned on the 16th. Within a week he had made the great sacrifice.

His Commanding Officer wrote to Mr. Howell on December 24th:

“I deeply regret to report the death of your son, who was serving in my Battalion. Whilst going up to the front line trenches in charge of a party last night an enemy sniper shot him through the head, killing him instantly. This morning his body was buried by the Chaplain near where he fell, with military honours, officers and men attending.

“I had trench mortars and rifle grenades on the sniper’s post, patrols had reported 8 to 10 Huns there, none there now! On behalf of his comrades, officers, N.C.O.’s and men, I wish to convey to you our profound sympathy . He was loved and respected by all of us, and we mourn the loss of a very gallant officer and gentleman. To all of us he was known as recklessly brave and a fine example of cool courage, devoted to his duties, which he discharged most cheerfully under the most trying conditions.”

“I placed him in charge of the Lewis Gun detachment, on which he had set his heart and soul. He belonged to my own Headquarters’ mess, and I took particular interest in him. A cross has been put up on the grave near Les Boeufs.”

It will be remembered that in October, 1915, Mr. Howell’s elder son, 2nd Lieut. Roland Basil Howell, was reported “wounded and missing.” Nothing has since been heard of him, and any hopes of his being alive hangs on the very slenderest thread. On the 16th of last month the War Office wrote saying that they were now forced to believe he was killed.

Lieut. Basil Howell was born in October, 1895, and received his commission in the 4th North Staffordshire’s three months after the war started. He was attached to the Northumberland Fusiliers (the Fighting Fifth), and went to the front in May, 1915.

Reports received from the front show that on the night of October 1st-2nd, 1915, the battalion to which Lieut. Howell was attached were in severe action. After all the officers of the company had been killed he gallantly led a bombing party to attack a German trench, but was never seen again.

Every possible enquiry was made through the War Office, the American Embassy, the Red Cross, and the wounded men who returned to England. Many references were made by the latter to the respect and love they had for the brave young officer. Like his brother he was educated at Reading School and St Laurence College, and had started his training to follow in his father’s profession. For many years he was an enthusiastic scout, and took a big share in starting the South Reading Troop.

Lieut. Cedric Charles Okey Taylor, East Kent Regiment, attached to Trench Mortar Battery, only son of Mrs. Taylor, 39, Weltje Road, Ravenscroft Park, W., and of the late Mr. Charles Warmsley Taylor, of Reading. Further details are now to hand of Lieut. Taylor’s death.

He died for King and country on December 3rd, 1916, in his 22nd year. Young in years but old in endurance, he was in constant action for 15 months at Ypres in 1915 and on the Somme in 1916. He is laid to rest in the cemetery, at Faubourg d’Amiens, Arras.

2nd Lieut. W. Marsden Cooper, Worcestershires, only son of Mr. and Mrs. John Cooper, 107, London Street, Reading, aged 19.

Cooper was only 19 years of age and went out to the front in the Worcestershire’s about the middle of December, shortly after completing his course at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was educated at Reading School, where he gained a Council scholarship in 1909. His School career was unusually distinguished. In 1914 he gained a School Certificate followed the next year by a higher certificate.

In response to his country’s call, he decided to take a commission, and in the entrance examination for the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, held in February, 1916, he came out second on the list, gaining a Prize Cadetship. At Sandhurst his success was no less pronounced than at school, and he gained the position of Sergeant in his cadet unit, the highest position a cadet can obtain, before he left College. Not only did he have considerable intellectual gifts, as his record shows but he was a fine athlete as well. He was an excellent all round cricketer and his natural powers as a bowler would have enabled him to make his mark in really good company. As a Rugby Football player he showed great promise, and before he left school he had the distinction of being captain of football, captain of cricket and captain of the school. Yet he was never elated by success, and perhaps it was more than anything else his modesty which made him so popular with the boys and the masters alike. Those who have watched his career, for the last two years, and marked the way in which his development always seemed to keep pace with his new responsibilities feel a special grief that a young life so full of promise should have been brought thus prematurely to a close.
(more…)

“Our hearts and prayers go out to these dear lads, confident that the day is not far away now when they will come back to us”

There was news from some of the young men from Spencers Wood.

Our Soldier Lads.

Two more of our young men have been wounded in recent engagements: Pte. Fred Norris and Pte. William Povey. Fred has been in France for two and a half years and has been wonderfully fortunate. He is now in a Bristol hospital and going on well. Pte. Povey has been twice wounded, the first time about eighteen months ago at Loos. Both lads were regular in their attendance at our little church.

Cheering letters come from Harry Wheeler, Percy and Chappie Double, who are all so far well, although Harry has suffered from trench feet. Our hearts and prayers go out to these dear lads, confident that the day is not far away now when they will come back to us. God bless them!

Spencers Wood section of Trinity Congregational Magazine, April 1917 (D/EX1237/1/12)

We shall all share in the blessings of Victory as we should all share in the Miseries of Defeat

A rousing call to arms, or rather to joining in the National Service Scheme to help out on the home front.

Twelve good Reasons

1. BECAUSE the Greatest War the World has ever seen is nearing its climax, when we and our Allies must either conquer or be conquered.

2. BECAUSE Victory will mean the preservation of our homes, our lives, our liberties and all we hold dear, while Defeat will mean the loss of all these things and triumph of a Despotic Military System which seeks to destroy the British Empire and impose itself on the whole world.

3. BECAUSE having passed laws to compel men of certain ages to fight it is the bounded duty not of one man or one set of men, but every man to see that the Army and Navy are provide with everything they need to secure Victory, and to help to that end as far as possible.

4. BECAUSE our food supplies from abroad being threatened or reduced, and many agriculturists at home having been called up, men are urgently required to maintain and if possible to increase, our home supplies.

5. BECAUSE we cannot do these things unless all the manpower of the country is available and is properly organized, for which purpose the National Service Department has been formed.

6. BECAUSE our enemies the Germans are already organizing every man, woman and child for a similar purpose, but by the much less desirable method of Industrial Compulsion, which we are especially anxious to avoid.

7. BECAUSE if everyone helps who can , the war will be shortened, thereby saving at least six million pounds per day in money, and what is of infinite greater importance the lives, limbs and health of human beings, including in many cases our own relatives and friends.

8. BECAUSE every right-minded and patriotic man desires to help, but many do not know how or where to begin. Like an untrained and undisciplined Army, we are helpless without organization.

9. BECAUSE the National Service Department provides this organization, and when it has the names and qualifications of every one between the ages of 18 and 61, it will be able to supply man power where it is most needed, and to prevent the waste of it by putting “round men into round holes and square men into square holes” the right man in the right place.

10. BECAUSE certain occupations are essential while others are non-essential, and at any cost to ourselves or our comfort, the former should not want for a moment for labour which can be supplied by those engaged in the latter, or by those who are not engaged in either.

11. BECAUSE we shall all share in the blessings of Victory as we should all share in the Miseries of Defeat and it is therefore “up to” everyone of us to offer our services, whether they are accepted or not. To take part in civil occupations of National Importance involves little sacrifice when compared with that which we call upon our Soldiers and Sailors to make.

12. BECAUSE every man who enrols will be able, with a clear conscience, to reflect that in the hour of the Nation’s peril, he offered “to do his bit” by placing himself at the service of his country.

Note. If you agree that the above reasons are good reasons why all should enrol, go to the nearest Post Office, National Service Office or Employment Exchange and get a free form of application , fill it up (whether you are engaged already in work of National Importance or not) and post it (unstamped) to the Director General of National Service.

Reading St Mark section of Reading St Mary parish magazine, April 1917 (D/P98/28A/15)