Up to your eyes in mud and water – or a howling wilderness of desert sand

Reading men at the front write home with more news of their experiences, and hopes for the longed-for period after the war.

We still manage to keep smiling, with the hope that this war will soon come to an end. We are now (March 16th) at work loading and unloading material, and taking it up the line on the light railways. We have exciting times some days. I hope to have a leave before long, if all goes well. It is just on 12 months since I crossed the Herring Pond…

The weather out here has been like summer these last few days, but of course it is very cold in the early morning. It’s rotten out here when it is wet. The least drop of rain, and you are up to your eyes in mud and water…

G. Thatcher (OS)

I wonder if you have the same crush into your Soldiers’ Club as there is in all such places out here in the camp where I am working. At the YMCA here it is the usual thing to have half an hour queue wait to get a cup of cocoa in the evenings. All religious services on Sundays are full to overflowing three quarters of an hour before starting time, and it is advisable to get there an hour before time to get a seat. Needless to say concerts and lectures are as bad. I hope the Brotherhood is still flourishing. The attendance is, I magine, largely of greybeards – the old faithfuls. The choir is, I suppose, practically defunct for the present – awaiting a glorious resurrection when the boys come home…

With best wishes to all at Broad St.
Chas A. Grigg (OS)

I should just love to visit a place such as you have (the Soldiers’ Room) but my place at present is a howling wilderness of desert sand. We have done great work, the boys of the Berkshire Battery, for which we have been praised – also the Yeomanry, too…

This week we have had a very bad time for rain and wind. I have changed three times today (Feb 19th) owing to getting wet through. The towel you send me came into use directly I opened the parcel; and the other contents I can honestly say came in extremely useful. I am writing you the first letter out of the writing pad you also were good enough to send me…

Please give my fondest regards to the Brothers…

God bless and keep you all.

A. W. Slatter (OS)

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


Subjects closely connected with the War

Food shortages had led to a soup kitchen for children in Ascot.

The Lantern Services in the Parish Room on Fridays at 7 p.m. are being taken by the Rector and deal with subjects closely connected with the War. There was a very fair attendance at the first service, and it is hoped that it will increase as the services become more generally known.

By the effort of the Teachers a Soup Kitchen is being started as the Schools for the benefit of the children, and we are sure many parents will be most grateful for this help in this difficult days. The Managers have made a small grant towards utensils, and gifts of vegetables, or offers of personal help will be welcomed by the Teachers ….

At a War Savings Conference held at the Reading Rooms, Sunninghill, on Wednesday, February 20th, it was resolve to form a local War Savings Committee for the district to be known as “The Sunningdale and Ascot District War Savings Committee”, its chief object being to establish as many new Associations as possible in the neighbourhood, the ladies and gentlemaen elected being Mr. Percy Crutchley (Chairman), Messrs. H. J. Whitehead and A.J. Merton (Hon. Secretaries), Col. Blackburn, (Hon. Treasurer), Mrs. Ninian Elliott, the Hon. Miss Gordon, Mr. E. Wolseley, Heresy Marchioness of Linthgow, Mr. G. J. Francis, Mr. F. J. Patton, Mr. C.W. Searle, Mr. J.W. Abbott, Mrs. Trotter, Mr T.A. Woods. The Committee was given power to add to its number, and it was intimated that if Sunningdale cared to join up with this Committee, the inclusion of this parish would be cordially welcomed.

The Ascot War Savings Association has just completed one year’s working. The total number of certificates sold during that time being nearly 1000.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, March 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/3)

Torpedoed but able to land!

A hospital ship was attacked.

15 March 1918
Glenart Castle torpedoed but able to land! All saved I think.

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

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)

Some comfort in memories so full of sadness

A Sulhamstead family who had lost their son were invited to take pride in his heroism.


Mr and Mrs Leake have received the following letter from the War Office. It is indeed to be hoped that the gratifying appreciation of the services of Captain G E A Leake, DSO, may be of some comfort in memories so full of sadness:

“I have it in command from His Majesty the King to inform you, as next of kin of the late Second Lieutenant (Acting Captain) George Ernest Arthur Leake, DSO, of the London Regiment, that this Officer was mentioned in a Despatch from Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, dated 7th November, 1917, and published in the third supplement to the ‘London Gazette’ of the 21st, dated 24th December, 1917, for gallant and distinguished service in the Field.

I am to express to you the King’s high appreciation of these services, and to add that His Majesty trusts that their public acknowledgement may be of some consolation in your bereavement.

G Leake, Esq.,

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

Old clothes for distressed people in Europe

Members of the Broad Street Brotherhood wanted to help families in areas in France and Belgium occupied, and devastated, by the enemy.


The final result of the Mass Meeting held in the Palace Theatre enabled the society to remit a cheque for £49 8s 0d to the National Federation [of Brotherhoods], on behalf of the distressed people in the countries on the continent. This was a good bit of work, but Brother William Ward wished further efforts to be made in the direction of collecting old clothes.

A small sub-committee met to consider this matter, and they decided it would be a good thing to do. But to ensure success it would be absolutely necessary to have a body of at least 40 or 50 willing helpers, who would systematically visit the various houses in the town, leave literature, and call and ascertain if gifts of old clothes can be spared.

To bring this particular object before the whole body of our members, an open meeting for men and women is to be held on Sunday March 3rd, at which a special speaker will address the meeting. After that it is intended to ask for subscriptions for initial expenses, and also for the names of helpers.

If both subscriptions and helpers are forthcoming, then the committee intend to go forward with this very necessary bit of work; but they feel that they cannot possibly do this unless they are well backed up by the whole body of the Brotherhood.

It has been decided to send to all our brothers on service – whether at home or abroad – a copy of the Broad Street Magazine in the future, instead of the Brotherhood Journal, as a wish has been expressed for a paper with more local news in it. Brother A. T. Doe has again undertaken to do the work of addressing and dispatching these, month by month.

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

Till we meet again


Private Charles Holloway has long been reported missing, and the War Office has now sent an intimation that he must be “assumed killed in action.” Our deep sympathy is with his widow, and his parents, who have now lost three sons in this war.

Lance-Corporal Leonard Cox has been wounded and is now in hospital in England and is progressing favourably.

We were glad to welcome home on leave this month Privates Broadbent, F. Johnson, and J. Sumner.

The Vicar has received the sum of £1 from sale of waste paper collected in the parish, and this money has been devoted to providing comforts for our two prisoners of war in Germany, Privates W. Harwood and F. Onion.

We hope to send to all our men who are serving an Easter card of greeting with the message “May the Risen Christ, who left His home for us, have you in His keeping till we meet again”; and the assurance that we shall be remembering them at our Easter Communion.

Winkfield section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, March 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/3)

An aeroplane came down

Children at an east Berkshire school were far too excited to be expected to do any school work.

March 13th 1918

The last two lessons this afternoon were omitted as an aeroplane came down in a field near the school. All the children with the exception of the Infants went to see it and stayed until it went up again.

Littlewick C.E. School log book (85/SCH/5/2, p. 195)

The fall of Odessa

The short-lived Bolshevik Soviet Republic of Odessa in southern Ukraine had been founded in January 1918. It came to an ignominious end following the conquest by the Germans.

13 March 1918
Odessa entered by Germans.

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

Experimental baking

The impact of food shortages is reflected in the new recipes for bread tried at Reading Prison.

9th March 1918
Circular No. 41 – 15.2.18

Referring to the above on the subject of the use of potatoes in breadmaking, I have to report that a new supply of Government Regulation flour has this week been obtained from a local firm, Messrs S M Soundy & Son, and an experimental bake produced. The percentage of only 23 per cent. With previous flour 24 was [used?].

Noted – No doubt the percentage of grain will vary with the flour.
Is the bread otherwise satisfactory?
[Illegible signature]

Yes, the bread is now quite good, we tried adding more water to make a larger percentage, but the flour would not take it up, and the result was bad.
C M Morgan

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

The King offers congratulations and sympathy

A bereaved Newbury mother received a medal on her son’s behalf from King George V himself.

Mrs George, of The Wharf, has been honoured by receiving personally from His Majesty the King, on March 12th, at Reading, the Military Medal for bravery awarded posthumously to her son, Albert Jacob. The King shook hands with her, and spoke words of congratulation on her son’s bravery and sympathy with her in her loss, and we feel proud to think that one of our old National School and CLB boys should have done so splendidly. The account of Pte George’s act may be read in the Newbury Weekly News of March 14th.

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

Flag waving children greet the Royal Family

Reading children were excited to witness a royal visit.

George Palmer Boys’ School
12th March 1918

Visit to Reading of H.M. King George & H.M. Queen Mary. Assembled school at 9.30 and marched along Elgar Rd, Field Road, Carey St. & Howard St to Oxford Road, lining the street between the premises of Messrs Callas, Sons & May Ltd, and Messrs Dunlops Ltd. The royal party was seen on its way to No.1 War Hospital & on its return. Flags were kindly lent to the boys by Mr Drew, proprietor R.F.S.C.

St Giles Boys’ School, Reading
12th March 1918

Boys were allowed to go to Jackson’s Corner to see HM the King and his Queen. They returned to school.

Battle Infants School
15th March 1918

The Head Mistress was not in school till 1.50 o’clock on Tuesday [12 March] as permission was granted to witness the ceremony of the reception of representative inhabitants and war workers of the town, by their Majesties, the King and Queen, in the Town Hall.

Redlands Boys’ School, Reading
March 12th 1918
The School marched to Broad Street marching at 1.55, in order to see the King and Queen passing the factory. At 3.30 the Scholars returned and were dismissed when close to the School.

Alfred Sutton Primary School, Reading
12th March 1918

The Infants’ school is very small on account of the King’s visit, the Junior pupils are being taken by the teachers to see the procession.

Sonning CE Girls and Infants
12th March 1918

School closed for children to see the King in Reading.

Lower Sandhurst School
March 12th 1918

I was absent from school during the latter part of the afternoon as I was attending a War Savings Conference at Wellington.

Log books of George Palmer Boys’ School (89/SCH/8/1, p. 149); Reading St Giles Boys School (R/ES2/9, p. 259); Reading: Battle Infants School (SCH20/8/2, p. 312); Redlands Boys’ School, Reading (86/SCH/3/30, p. 335)Alfred Sutton Primary School log book (89/SCH/37/1, p. 246); Sonning CE Girls and Infants’ School (89/SCH/1/4, p. 284); Lower Sandhurst School (C/EL66/1, p. 429)

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)

He lied wholesale

[Internee Max Stephan had been found to be corresponding illicitlywas duly warned he would not be allowed to write or receive letters any more if he tried again to contact anyone secretly.]

11th March 1918
M. Stephan
Order 4.10.17 Defence of the Realm Regulation, Internment.

The attached letter from Mr Snowden is forwarded to the Commissioners.

No letter to Mr Snowden has passed through my hands, and I interviewd Stephan this morning. He lied wholesale. First he stated he had never written to Mr Snowden. Afterwards he stated, on being cross-examined, that he wrote to his solicitor, Messrs Rowe & Maw, Amberly House, Norfolk St, Strand, and that the letter was written before he came here. I told him he was lying. He then said the letter was written 10th Feby from here to his solicitor, asking them to acquaint Mr Snowden. I again told him he was lying. Eventually he admitted that he wrote the letter himself and that it was taken out by a prisoner.

Three men – Hasse 22nd Feby, Hodgkinson 27th Feby, Whisperry 5th March, are possible men. Later prisoner practically admitted that it was Hasse or Whisperry, by stating that the man had left this country. From my knowledge of the men, I should say Hasse. All three men were searched upon leaving, but with the large amount of luggage they possess – clothing &c – it would be most difficult to detect a letter.

At present I have directed that all his letters are to be stopped, but I think he should forfeit them for a long period.

It is difficult to punish him beyond this, as he can only forfeit privileges if removed to the reception cells away from other men, and two days ago the Commissioners directed that he should be specially placed under observation on account of suicidal and depressed state of mind.

C M Morgan

[To] The Commissioners

Prisoner does not know Mr Snowden’s letter is to him, but believes it is to me.

Prisoner also has since the above was written, admitted that it was Hasse – and further that he did not take the letter from here, but removed it – wrote it outside and signed Stephan’s name to it by Stephan. [sic?]

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

Re-kindling our interest in Serbia

There were Serbian child refugees in Reading.

Miss Parkinson’s lecture on Serbia should go far towards re-kindling our interest in Serbia, and especially in the Serbian boys living amongst us here in Reading. There will be special collections for the local work of the Serbian Relief Fund at S. Mary’s on Sunday, March 10th.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2)