Our hopes of having a peaceful Christmas this year have been dashed to the ground

Reading people were encouraged to place their savings in the hands of the war effort as another Christmas approached.

The Vicar’s Notes

We are still at War, and our hopes of having a peaceful Christmas this year have been dashed to the ground; but this great Festival always brings a message of comfort and hope, never more so than at such a time as this: so I still venture to wish all the people of S. Mary’s Parish a happy Christmas.

The War Savings’ Campaign has begun again. I hope we will all back it up to the utmost of our power. Information can be obtained at the bureau, 6 Broad Street. A big meeting for stirring up interest will also be held at an early date. Meanwhile let those of us who have received the special letter from the Mayor and other leading townsmen, do what we can to follow out its suggestions.

Nothing can ever really repay the incalculable debt we owe to our Seamen especially at this time: so let us do our best to support the Flag Day of the Missions to Seamen, which is to be held on Dec 1st.

Intercessions

For the newly confirmed, who are making their first communion at Christmas.

For all our allies, especially the Italians and Russians.

For all our fighting men and more particularly for the sick, wounded and prisoners.

For the fallen, especially George and Hanbury Kekewich; also for Sir Stanley Maude, the victor of Bagdad [sic].

Thanksgivings

For success granted to our arms in France and in the Holy Land.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, December 1917 (D/P98/28A/15)

Advertisements

“Hearing of the death of her husband”

A married teacher had the news she would have dreaded since her husband joined up.

26th November 1917
Mrs Concannon excused this afternoon, on account of hearing of the death of her husband, killed at the front.

Newbury St Nicolas CE (Boys) School log book (90/SCH/5/3, p.39)

Almost ludicrous if not so horrible

Opposition to the war had led to revolution in Russia, and the fear of getting drawn in caused riots in neutral Switzerland.

Florence Vansittart Neale
19 November 1917

Russia almost ludicrous if not so horrible. A subaltern made Commander in Chief.

Will Spencer
19 November 1917

News that a policeman & two other men had been killed in “anti-military” riots in Zurich on Saturday night…. After dinner I read the account of the Zurich riots on Friday & Saturday. (They began on Thursday.)

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/26)

A good comrade who always played the game

Among the Reading men reported killed were two decorated heroes.

All Saints’ District
The War
R.I.P.

Last month we offered our congratulations to Pte, F.R. Johnson of the Machine Gun Corps, and a member of the Choir, on being awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallant conduct on July 31st. It is with great sorrow that we have to chronicle the fact that a few days later he was killed in action. He rendered excellent service in the Choir and leaves behind him a good record as a soldier. That he was appreciated and highly esteemed by his comrades is shown in the following extract from one of the several letters written by them which we have been privileged to read: –

“I know quite well from every man in the company would agree with me when I say that we always found him a good comrade and a loyal friend; to put it shortly, he was ‘a white man,’ and always ‘played the game.’”

Such words are a great testimonial to personal character. He was an only child, and our deepest sympathy will go to his sorrowing parents.

We also have to record the death of Pte Arthur James Purchell, of the Royal Berks Regt., whom also was congratulated some time ago on being awarded the Military Medal. He was severely wounded in action and died shortly afterwards.

News has also just arrived of the death of Gunner Frederick Edward Stowell, of the Salonika Force, and of Pt. William Warren Goddard, of the Machine Gun Corps, who died in France of meningitis. To the relatives and friends who are mourning their loss we shall give our sincerest sympathy.

All Saints section of Reading St Mary parish magazine, November 1917 (D/P98/28A/15)

Italy going backwards

Florence Vansittart Neale was disheartened by the latest war news.

9 November 1917

Italy still going back. Hope Allied troops there.

Depressing.

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

Clothing prisoners

Dr John Baker, Superintendent of Broadmoor Hospital, which doubled as Crowthorne War Hospital for mentally ill PoWs, wanted to make sure that men leaving his care were warmly dressed for their winter journey home. Following this letter, they were issued with coats, underwear, braces and neck comforters.

Crowthorne War Hospital
Berks
5th November 1917

From Officer i/c Crowthorne War Hospital
To DDMS Aldershot

Seven insane German Prisoners of War have been recommended for repatriation. I understand that they will be removed shortly. The clothing in which some of these Prisoners arrived at the Hospital was in some cases either bad or defective. I shall be glad to be favoured with any instructions that may exist with regard to the clothing of Prisoners on repatriation or some guidance in the matter especially as to whether deficiencies may be made good from Hospital stock or otherwise.

[File copy not signed]

Letter from Dr Baker, Broadmoor correspondence file (D/H14/A6/2/51)

Ploughing up a lawn

The pressure was on to maximise the country’s food supply by ensuring unused land was sown with crops. Florence Vansittart Neale was distraught at the thought of losing part of the glorious lawn at Bisham Abbey, which was technically a field but had not been used as such for generations.

3 November 1917
Hear they want all Long Walk Field to be ploughed up!

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

The quality and price of “Government Beer”

The Dodeka Club talked about various matters to do with food and drink. The members were mostly associated with a local Congregational Church, hence the reference to some being deacons, who held a position of some responsibility. The government had just introduced legislation weakening the strength of beer, while increasing taxes on it.

The 287th meeting of the Dodeka was held at Penfold’s on Nov 2nd 1917.

In the early part of the evening some considerable amount of discussion took place with regard to the quality and price of “Government Beer”. The secretary notices that the Deacon members took an animated part, and it was finally described as “Arms & Legs”.

Despite the restrictions of the Food Controller and other difficulties, the host provided very excellent refreshments…

The host having stated that sufficient notice of the meeting had not been given for him to provide a paper, a discussion took place regarding Government Methods, more particularly with regard to the Sugar Ration.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

Zeppelins get lost

Florence Vansittart Neale rejoiced at the misadventure of some enemy Zeppelins.

21 October 1917

5 Zeppelins down in France, lost their way.

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

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)

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)

Pray for Reading men

Prayers were asked for Reading men who had gone to war.

Notes from the Vicar

Intercessions: 2nd Lieut. Cuthbert J. Wollaston Trendell, 8th Norfolks; P.F.O. Mervyn H. Wollaston Trendell, R.N.A.S.

Sick and Wounded: Gunner Goulden; Sapper Chambers.

Departed: Private H.C. Cowley; Rifleman Leonard Smith; Private C. Clarke, Royal Berks Regt.; Gunner S. Crewes, Royal Field Artillery.
R.I.P.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, October 1917 (D/P96/28A/32)

“He went out to hold service on the battlefield, and found all the wounded killed”

The striking figure of an army chaplain who had studied with the rector of Sulhamstead prior to taking Holy Orders is remembered.

There must still be many in the parish who remember Mr Eli Cobham, a pupil at the Rectory. They will recall his great height, 6 feet 2 inches, and his capabilities in the cricket and football field. It was with great sorrow that we heard of his death last year, in German East Africa. Many incidents of a short but adventurous life were given in the “Greater Britain Messenger”, from which we take some of the following facts.

After much hesitation concerning his own unworthiness, he was ordained to a curacy at All saints, Fishponds. In this post he accepted no stipend. Canon Welchman says that there were few who knew his liberality [generosity]. The lectern was his anonymous gift, and the inscription he chose was “His dominion shall be from sea to sea”. He was afterwards vicar of All Saints, Fishponds.

From here he went to America, and worked his way back as a trimmer in the stoke-hold of a steamer, so as to get experience of what the men had to do and endure. Strong as he was, he found the labour almost beyond his powers.

In 1913 he resigned his living to work in East Africa, where he had 16 centres for service, in some of which he could only hold a service once or twice a year. He enlisted directly the war broke out, and used what time he had from soldiering to act as a Chaplain. He relates how he went out to hold service on the battlefield, and found all the wounded killed. Details of his death are not known, but the bare announcement states that on September 19th, 1917, the Rev. Elijah Cobham died from “wounds received while carrying in the wounded, somewhere in German East Africa”. He was a man of deep spirituality, and when discussing even trifling details, his invariable remark was “Let’s pray about it first”.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, April 1918 (D/EX725/4)

“There must be a certain satisfaction to know he died bravely for his King and Country”

There was sad news of several men from Sunninghill.

The Vicar’s Letter

Again I am sorry to have to record the death of two more Sunninghill men. Pte. H. F. Simmonds, who was missing for some weeks, must now be regarded as having been killed. His Commanding Officer writes to say that there can be but little doubt about it, as a shell fell between three men, one of whom was Pte. Simmonds. Our sincerest sympathy is given to Mr. and Mrs. Simmonds in their great bereavement. Pte. Simmonds was in the Civil Service Rifles.

Pte. Gilbert Norris, of the Australian Imperial Forces has also been killed. Though he has not been seen here for some time, he was a native of Sunninghill, and we ask his widow, relations, and friends to accept our condolences.

Corporal Dalton, I am glad to say, is progressing satisfactorily after having been wounded in the leg.

Cheapside News

The fortunes of our soldiers serving at the various Fronts are the chief subjects of interest in Cheapside, as elsewhere, at present.

Mrs. Beale received a letter from the Major of the Battalion in which her son William was serving at the time of his death. He wrote:

“He was a splendid man, and highly thought of by all who came in contact with him. Allow me to express to you my heartfelt sympathy, but at the same time there must be a certain satisfaction to know he died bravely for his King and Country.”

Cecil Godwin has been wounded and is in hospital, but reports himself able to walk about, so it is hoped that it is not serious.

Sunninghill parish magazine, September 1917 (D/P126/28A/1)

War in Russia

The Russian Revolution was turning into civil war.

11 September 1917
War in Russia – troops marching on Petrograd.

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