“One of the monks described to us how unbearable life was under the Turks, and how glad he was to see the British enter Jerusalem”

A Reading soldier describes his experiences in Palestine.


By the kindness of Mr Ernest Francis we are able to give further interesting extracts from letters recently received from our friend Private E. Layton Francis of the London Scottish Regiment.
Writing from somewhere in Palestine our friend says:

“I have much of interest to describe to you again, as during my travels I have visited Bethlehem and been on guard in the Church of the Holy Nativity. Bethlehem is situated on a hillside about six miles from Jerusalem. The streets are very narrow and covered with cobbles, and in many places beams run across the street overhead to stop the houses falling in.

The entrance to the Church is just a small hole in what appears to be a castle wall. Inside there is a huge hall like the body of a church; the roof is supported with forty four pillars, and numerous highly coloured lamps hang from it. The whole building, which covers an immense area, and is evidently very old, comprises three churches – Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek. The Roman Catholic church is about the same size as St John’s [presumably Reading St John, now the Polish Catholic Church, in Watlington Street]. It is a beautiful church and has a very fine organ. The actual spot in which it is said that Jesus Christ was born is, as is usual out here in the East, a cave below the level of the church. It is cut out of the natural rock, and a cavity is shown where the wooden manger used to lay. The manger itself was supposed to have been sent to Rome. Of course there is a lot of valuable tapestry round this spot and several very beautiful pictures. There are numerous lamps hanging from the roof filled with olive oil and with floating wicks, some of the lamps always being alight. One of our posts was by the side of the manger, and here I used to sit for two hours at a time. There is so much here of interest to describe, and it is all so wonderful that a letter is not sufficient. I long for the time when I can tell all about it myself.

Since we commenced this stunt last October, I have been right through the Judean Hills and down on the plains below. The Judean Hills end abruptly and there is no gradual sloping away, but like cliffs, with a fertile plain stretching away to the Mountains of Moab, and the Jordan rushing madly on its career into the Dead Sea. The banks of the Jordan are very steep, and the stream is tremendously strong. The Dead Sea stretches away looking as calm and smooth as a pond.

Seen from a distance Jericho looks a pretty little lace with white houses and red roofs, with the white minarets showing through the green trees. Having seen this part of the country one can understand such terms as “The Promised Land” and a “Land flowing with milk and honey”. Halfway down one of the hillsides overlooking the plain, there is a beautiful monastery built into the rock. This is the Monastery of the Temptation, and the hill is the traditional spot where Christ was tempted of [sic] the devil. Some excavations at Jericho have laid bare the foundation of the old walls and the ruins of some of the houses.

Another place of interest I have seen in the Pool of Bethesda. This is considered one of the most authentic spots in the Holy City. The Pool is some way down, and is reached by a flight of stone steps. Above the Pool there are the remains of an old Crusaders’ Church, with the porchway, altar and crypt still standing, although in ruins. One of the actual pillars of the five porches, which at the time of our Lord gave entrance to the Pool, is still to be seen. The story of the miracle is written up in 75 different languages including Welsh, and Irish and Scottish Gaelic. Near by is a very beautiful Roman Catholic church, the Church of St Anne. The church belongs to some order of White Monks. One of the monks, who spoke very good English, described to us how unbearable life was under the Turks, and how glad he was to see the British enter Jerusalem.”

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

He went up the trenches and 48 hours later had died of wounds

Reading churchgoers were encouraged to pray for our oppressed allies.

S. Mary’s (Lent 1918)

In connection with the war

Sundays The gaining of a permanent peace.
Mondays Our own sailors, soldiers and Airmen.
Tuesdays All war workers, men and women at home and abroad.
Wednesdays The sick, wounded and prisoners, and anxious and bereaved on both sides.
Thursdays Our allies, and more particularly the oppressed nationalities of Belgium, Serbia, Roumania, Montenegro, Poland, Armenia and the populations of occupied territories of France and Italy.
Fridays Our enemies.
Saturdays The fallen.

Our heartiest congratulations to Lady Carrington, whose second son Lieut. C. W. Carrington of the Grenadier Guards has recently been awarded the Distinguished Service Order. It will be remembered that her eldest son also gained the D.S.O. and the youngest son the Military Cross.

Our deepest sympathy has been given to Mrs Montague Brown, on the death of her husband. He went up the trenches on a certain date, and news came forty eight hours later that he had died of wounds. May the God of all comfort console those who are mourning his loss!

S. Saviours District
Our hearty congratulations to Lieut. Fred White on gaining the Military Cross and to Corporal Will Taylor on gaining the D.C.M., and being now out of Hospital.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, February 1918 (D/P98/28A/13)

“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.


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

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)

Offerings for the Armenian Refugees Fund

Winkfield churchgoers wanted to help the Armenians, victims of genocide in Turkey.

We are glad to be able to state that the offertory on Sunday, February 4th, for the Armenian Refugees Fund, amounted to £7 16s. 7d.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, March 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/3)

Our growing debt to Foreigners

The vicar of Reading St Mary urged parishioners to save money and support the war effort.

The Vicar’s Notes
The War

For the hope of the speedy liberation of the oppressed Armenian people from the tyranny of the Turk.

For the hastening of the day of victory, and of peace.
For God’s Blessing upon our preparation for the National Mission of Repentance and Hope.
For the spirit of thrift amongst our people.

Three Reasons Why We Should Save now!

It is now the duty of every citizen to save as much as he possibly can, because of,

1. The huge cost of War.
The expenditure which has to be met from the public Exchequer which has to be met from the public Exchequer of the nations is estimated at nearly £5,000,000 a day, or £1,825,000,000 a year.
Except to the extent that we can borrow, or sell securities, abroad (which we cannot rely on doing beyond some 400 millions a year) we must find this sum in this country by saving it and handing it over to the government either in tax payments or in subscriptions to loans.

£1,400,000,000 at least must therefore be found this way. Before the War, we paid less than £200,000,000 a year in taxes, and we were estimated to be saving and investing about £400,000,000 a year. So that we have to make a great effort, everyone of us, if the remaining £800,000,000 is to be found.

2. The scarcity of labour.
It is not only a question of finding money. If that were all, the government could print notes and it would be done. It is goods and services that are needed for the War, directly or indirectly, and these can only be provided if we go without them. The nation’s power to produce them is limited, and every article and every service that we buy for our own use makes goods and services dearer and more difficult to get for the Government. When every worker is wanted to make things for the War or for export, so as to pay for things brought abroad. We have no right to ask people to work for us, except for supplying our barest needs for life and health.

3. Our growing debt to Foreigners.
Owing to our workshops being occupied on war tasks, we are buying much more, and selling much less, abroad than before and so we are piling up a debt to other peoples which is a danger to our financial position. By saving and going without things we help to correct this.

If we go without imported things we decrease this debt directly. If we go without things of British make we decrease it likewise, because we set free our labour that worked for us, to work for export, or to work for the war and so save imports. Everything that we can go without helps.

All Saint’s District.

Roll of Honour

The following additional names have been sent in for remembrance at the Altar.

John Childs, George Stanley Childs.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, May 1916 (D/P98/28A/13)

“Housewives – you can help your country in this hour of need”

The vicar of Reading St Mary outlined a programme of prayer for our allies, and encouraged women to respond to the Food Economy Campaign.

The Vicar’s Notes
The week-day Eucharist’s suggested intercessions

1. In connection with the War. Prayers for our Allies.
Mondays. The Serbians and Montenegrins.
Tuesdays. The Belgians.
Wednesday. The French.
Thursday. The Russians.
Friday. The Italians.
Saturday. The Japanese.

On Fridays, intercessions will also be offered
1. For all the wounded, the prisoners, and the sick.
2. For all the suffering nationalities, e.g. the Armenians, etc.
3. For our enemies, that their hearts may be turned, and that our own hearts may be renewed.

S. Mary’s
Save the food of the Nation

To the Housewives of Great Britain and to all who are responsible for the buying and cooking of food. You can help your country in this hour of need. No one too rich or too poor to help. You are asked to save food so that those who are destitute though the War may be fed. Do this wisely and your family will be better fed.

Under the auspices of the Reading Health Society and National Food Economy League, Four Demonstration Lectures in Food Economy will be given in the Reading Gas Company’s Lecture room on Fridays, March 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th. Morning Lectures, 11-1, for mistresses and cooks, Course Tickets, 2/6. Afternoon Penny lectures, 3-5, for working woman. Tickets may be had from Mrs. Childs, Principal’s Lodge, Upper Redlands Road; Mrs. Coleman, Muttusmore, Castle Hill. Ask for the Handbook for Housewifes, price 1d.

All Saint’s District
Roll of Honour

Walter James Banten, Richard John Darvall, F. H. Hill, Charlie Morgan, Robert John West Saunders, William John Saunders, Frederick Taylor.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, March 1916 (D/P98/28A/13)

Awful persecution of the Armenians

The vicar of Cookham Dean urged his parishioners to remember the Armenians. The genocidal attacks on the Armenian community in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 are sometimes called the Armenian Holocaust.

I think we cannot give our Lent self-denial offerings to a better object than to the fund for assisting the Armenian Refugees who have been (and I fear are being) subjected to such awful persecution by the Turks connived at, one must fear, by the Germans. I hope to circulate a little paper which will give some particulars of the objects of this fund, and I do trust that we may have an offering at the end of Lent worthy of being sent up by Cookham Dean. When we think how very little inconvenience we have had to put up with in connection with the war, and save in very few instances no suffering of any kind, may we not try to do something for our fellow Christians in Armenia in the time of their awful distress as a thankoffering to God for undeserved mercies to us here.

Cookham Dean parish magazine, March 1916 (D/P43B/28A/11)

Only part of the church has been insured against air raids

A Reading vicar encouraged parishioners to pray for the Armenian victims of genocide in Turkey.

Contributions are still urgently needed towards the fund for protecting our churches and buildings in the parish against possible attacks from hostile Air-craft. As the Rector I have already insured the Chancel of S. Mary’s, but the Nave is not yet insured. I hope all parishioners may be able to send some donation, however small, to the Treasurer of their particular Church.

We are trying to carry out loyally the new lighting, or rather darkening orders in our Churches, and it is to be hoped our efforts have been successful.

1. For the persecuted Armenians.
2. For success to be granted this year to the various operations of the Allies.
3. For the preservation of our country from hostile air-craft.
4. For unity of will and purpose amongst the people of our nation and Empire.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, February 1916 (D/P98/28A/13)

“A crime which in scale and horror has probably no parallel in the history of the world”

The ethnic cleansing and mass slaughter of Armenians in Turkey shocked the west.


In accordance with the expressed desire of the Archbishop of Canterbury, it is to be hoped that on Sunday, February 6th (5th Sunday after Epiphany) Intercessions may be made in the churches on behalf of the Armenian and Assyrian peoples in their dire extremity – for those brought to degradation and slavery or left without protection or support in Turkey, for those who are refugees in the Russian Caucasus and elsewhere; and also that collections may be taken, wherever possible, for the relief of these survivors of Turkish barbarity.

The Archbishop’s Appeal is as follows:


“The massacre of Armenian and Assyrian Christians in the Turkish Empire is a crime which in scale and horror has probably no parallel in the history of the world, and the sufferings baffle description which are now being endured by the rapidly dwindling number of hunted and persecuted survivors. To these people in their dire distress Christian aid should flow ungrudgingly. In many churches arrangements are already being made for collections on their behalf on Sunday, February 6th, and I venture to hope that on that or one of the succeeding Sundays there may be a wide-spread effort to alleviate distresses which are literally unspeakable. The money should be sent to the Secretary of the Armenian Refugees (Lord Mayor’s) Fund, 96, Victoria Street, Westminster, SW.”

Note: The collections on Sunday, February 6th in St Peter’s Church will be given to the above fund.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, February 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/1)

Pray for a deepened sense of national unity

The Mayor of Newbury (Frank Bazett, a local solicitor) led the way in volunteering for the armed forces as the war’s second Christmas approached.

It is rather difficult this year to look forward as we ought to do to Christmas: there is so much to sadden the gladness of the festival…

The following subjects for Intercession are taken from the Bishop’s Message in the November number of the Diocesan Magazine.

Your prayers are specially asked:

For our country and our government in the present crisis.
For the maintenance of our courage and faith.
For a deepened sense of national unity and mutual understanding between capital and labour.
For those from the Diocese who are serving as chaplains in the Fleet and the Army.
For the remnant of the Armenian nation….

May we be permitted to congratulate the Mayor of Newbury for his patriotic action in joining His Majesty’s Forces, and that at considerable sacrifice, thus setting a good example for other men to follow.

Lord Derby’s recruiting scheme has resulted in a number of young men enlisting from Newbury, and doubtless there are others who will go. Among those who have been accepted are Mr G P Hopson, Mr A Hill, Mr L Cramp, and Mr R J Drewell, four of our servers, and Mr Winkworth, a member of the Men’s Bible Class. Mr G L Pyke has been rejected on account of his eyes, his brother, Mr Cecil Pyke, one of our Sunday School teachers, has been accepted for service at home, and Mr R Bell has been rejected. All honour to those who have tried as well as to those who have been accepted, for they have shown their willingness to serve their country in her need.

May we ask relatives for any interesting news about men at the Front, for insertion in the Parish Magazine.

Newbury parish magazine, December 1915 (D/P89/28A/13)