The evidence of blood and tears

The rector of Theale preached on the war at a prestigious annual service at an Oxford College.

Friday, June 25th 1915

War As A World Judgment: St. John the Baptist Service at Magdalen.

Arrangements were yesterday made at Magdalen College for the service which is customarily held on St. John the Baptist’s Day in the quadrangle overlooked by the stone-canopied pulpit, a relic of the ancient Hospital of St. John the Baptist, but at the last moment owing to the rain it was necessary for the service to take place in the chapel. The preacher was the Rev. S. C. F. Angel-Smith (Hertford College), rector of Theale, Reading, and amongst those present were the Principal of Brasenose (Pro-Vice-Chancellor), the President of Magdalen (Sir Herbert Warren), the Senior and Junior Proctors, and a number of senior and junior members of the University.

The Rev. Angel-Smith took as his text St. Matthew III. 1-2 “In those days came John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, Repent ye, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” He urged them in this “dies irae,” when the world was plunged into the whirlpool of war, when

“Human sorrow fills the air,
Death is reigning everywhere.”

To try and read the secret of the world-tragedy, that they might catch, if it might be, a ray of hope for the world’s redemption. Let them pass from the Baptist’s message of “the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” to another kingdom the very contradiction of it. He reminded them of the temptation and the offer to Christ of the kingdoms of the world, and added the devil, discomfited by the Christ, had gained many a victory through the subsequent ages. In these last days could they fail to credit him with perhaps his most conspicuous success in the world’s history?
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Wait, work and pray at ‘the base’ while loved ones fight

Many of the women who belonged to Theale Mothers’ Union, a church-based group, were enduring the anxiety of having a husband or son at the Front. The May issue of the parish magazine announced a special meeting to address their special concerns:

THE MOTHERS’ UNION
Arrangements will be made, it is hoped, for a meeting of the members of our Branch on Thursday, May 20th. A short Service will be held in Church, with an address by the Rectory, at 3.30 p.m., to be followed by Tea in the Parish Room. Due notice will be given in Church, and by the District Visitors to the members individually. A Meeting for Prayer is particularly called for now that the husbands and sons of so many members are serving their King and Country, and in peril in the War.

FOR KING AND COUNTRY
Ezra East, of Calcot … Army Service Corps.
The Rector will be glad to receive further names.

The following month reported on the success of this meeting:

SPECIAL SERVICE OF INTERCESSION
The members of the Mothers’ Union, and the wives and mothers of all in the parish serving their King and Country, were invited to a Service in the Parish Church on Thursday, May 20th, at 3.30 p.m. The congregation numbered about 50. After the Whitsuntide Collect, the Mothers’ Union Prayer, etc. Psalm 91 was said, and was followed by the special Lesson, Romans VIII, 19 to 28. In his address the Rector said that the sacredness of Marriage was the root-principle of the Mothers’ Union, and the bond that united families, when our sailors and soldiers had gone forth to do their duty to their King and Country. Their wives and mothers were at ‘the base,’ where they had to wait and work and pray.

The Rector besought them in times of anxiety and depression not to regret that they had let their husbands and sons go forth, but to let the consciousness that they had done right comfort them, and hearten them to bear any sacrifice. They had also done their best for them. It was true of many a one who had responded to the high call, that it had made a man of him, it had made a Christian of him, it had made a hero of him. In this time of trial and anxiety may all seek the help of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.

The names on the Roll of Honour, to the number of 67, were read out. Hymns 207 and 595 were sung, and a collection was made for the County Red Cross Society, amounting to £1 1s 6d. A receipt for this sum has been received from Mr. Haviland, Hon. Treasurer. After the service, those present were entertained at tea in the Parish Room, for which arrangements had kindly been made by Mrs. Snelling, Mrs. Forrester, Mrs. Rudd and Mrs. Charles Blatch, assisted at the tea itself by Mrs. Walford, Miss Bunce, Mrs. Angel-Smith and other ladies.

Theale parish magazines, May and June 1915 (D/P132B/28A/4)

Christmas presents from America for soldiers’ children

Christmas was never likely to be a happy one for the children whose fathers had volunteered to serve. Not only did they fear for their father’s safety, but money might well be in shorter supply than usual. Happily well wishers in America (still neutral) sent a selection of gifts.

GIFTS FOR SAILORS’ & SOLDIERS’ CHILDREN.
Presents have been sent from America, and were added to by the ‘Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families’ Association’, for the children of those in this Country engaged in War. The numbers of such children in this parish were given by the Rector to Mrs. Benyon, who very kindly sent a box of gifts for them. These were distributed by the Rector and Mrs. Angel-Smith in the Parish Room on Saturday, January 30th. The Mothers who received for their children are: Mrs. Bedford, Mrs. Burgess, Mrs. Butler, Mrs. William Cox, Mrs. Day, Mrs. Dyer, Mrs. Pusey and Mrs. Van Veen.

Theale parish magazine, February 1915 (D/P132B/28A/4)

As happy a sojourn as possible in the sad circumstances of exile

One lucky Belgian family arrived in Theale to take possession of the house which local well-wishers were renting for them. They even furnished it for the refugees, who had of course (less luckily) had to leave all their own possessions behind.

On Monday, November 9th, our Belgian guests, Monsieur and Madame Remonchamps, and four relatives arrived at Theale at 5.13 p.m. Mr Herbert Blatch and Mrs. D. M. Davies, on behalf of the Committee, kindly escorted them from London, and they were welcomed at the station by the Rector and Mrs. Angel-Smith, and Mr. D. M. Davies. The Committee have taken Dr. Carter’s house for the remainder of his lease at a reduced rent, and it has been furnished almost entirely by gifts, and the ladies of the Committee and others worked hard for several days in getting it ready. We trust that our Belgian guests find themselves comfortable there, and will have as happy a sojourn among us as the sad circumstances of their exile permit.

Theale parish magazine, December 1914 (D/P132B/28A/4)

A home for ‘better class’ Belgians in Theale

On 26 October a public meeting was held in Theale to discuss the problem of the Belgian refugees in the area:

Belgian Refugees
A Public Meeting Of Parishioners & Neighbours of Theale, will be held in the Parish Room, On Monday, October 26th, 1914 At 7 p.m.

I. To discuss the suggestion of providing a Home in Theale for a Belgian family.
II. If adopted, to appoint Committees to raise a fund, and make the necessary arrangements.

Signed –
Stuart C. F. Angel-Smith, Rector.
F. G. Steel, Congregational Minister.
D. H. Davies, Chairman of Theale Parish Council.

The parish magazine subsequently reported on the decision made to provide free housing for a family of Belgians (of the better class only).

BELGIAN REFUGEES.
A well-attended and business-like meeting was held in the Parish Room on Monday, October 26th. The Rector presided and opened the Meeting with Prayer. In his introductory remarks the Chairman said that we in Theale wanted to take a part, however small, in discharging the debt that England and France especially owed to Belgium and her heroic Army. We wished to provide a Home for a party of Belgian Refugees. A house must be provided, rent free, and furnished. Much of the furniture would be lent. We must raise a fund for preliminary expenses, and another fund of weekly contributions for maintenance of the guests. Mr. Herbert Blatch, in an interesting and informing speech, thought we should do well to choose a party of better-class Belgians. Te Rev. F. G. Steel proposed a resolution pledging the meeting to support the scheme. This was carried unanimously. Mr. D. M. Davies then proposed the names of several ladies and men to form a Committee, with power to add to their number, meanwhile papers were handed to the audience, on which to put down their contributions to the Starting Fund, and weekly maintenance fund. Promises to the first came to £14 3s. 6d., to the second to £1 18s. 0d. The Rector then announced that he had received, through Miss Blatch, the promise of a donation of £5 from her eldest sister, Mrs. Parlett. This generous gift was much appreciated.

The Committee then met for a short time, and the Rector was elected Chairman, the Rev. F. G. Steel, Vice-Chairman, Mr. D. M. Davies, Hon Secretary, and Mr A. C. Phillips, Hon. Treasurer. The question of choosing a house arising, the Chairman proposed that Mr. Herbert Blatch, Mr. Davies and Mr. Cumber for a Sub-Committee to negotiate for an appropriate house. This was passed.

The parish is to be heartily congratulated on the unanimity with which this good work has been inaugurated, and on the generous support given to the first appeal for subscriptions. Many more offers will doubtless come from those not present at the Meeting.

Theale parish magazine, November 1914, and flier (D/P132B/28A/4)