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.


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].


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

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


Mesopotamia had a bad name, but things are greatly improved

Some of the surgical dressings made by volunteers in Wargrave were put to use on a hospital boat in what is now Iraq.

Surgical Dressing Emergency Society, Wargrave, Berks

The Society is now sending regular Monthly Bales as follows:
To the 2nd New Zealand Hospital, Walton-on-Thames, Requisition 18856:

24 Handkerchiefs
24 Limb Pillows and Pillow Cases
12 Towels
30 Pairs of Carpet Slippers with Firm Soles
(Due on the 6th, of each month)

To the 25th, General Hospital B.E.F. France Requistion 23,111.

100 Hospital Treasure Bags
200 Capeline Bandages
500 Roller Bandages
50 Triangular Bandages
6 Flannel Dressing Gowns
25 Bed Jackets
12 Pairs of Flannel Pyjamas
50 Slings
12 Pairs of Carpet Slippers
12 Paris of Surgical Slippers or Boots
500 Gauze Dressings (Small)
500 Gauze Dressings (Large)
200 Medical Swabs
200 Round Swabs
500 Operation Swabs
And a quantity of old Linen.

To the 30th, General Hospital, Requisition 20519, B.E.F. France.

100 Abdominal Many Tail Bandages
50 Knee Bandages
100 Shoulder Bandages
50 Capeline Bandages
500 Roller Bandages
100 T Shaped Bandages
50 Triangular Bandages
500 Large Gauze Dressings
500 Medium Gauze Dressings
20 Pairs of Operation Stockings
500 Operation Swabs
500 Round Swabs

A good many other Bales are being sent out also, containing all kinds of comforts – one very beautiful present of 18 fine white winsey pyjamas.

We are glad to receive comforts to send out, especially knitted socks, for which there will be a great sudden demand in September and October.

A River Boat
April 12th, 1917.
Dear Madam,

This is to inform you that a bale of dressings from your Society was opened by me a few days ago. The contents will be most useful and they were just what we needed. We are employed in conveying the sick and sounded from places up the line, down to Basra. Boats, such as this, travel up and down the Tigris. The hot weather has now arrived so we expect more sick than sounded, especially now that the fighting here is almost over. You will of course have read in the paper of the splendid advance and capture of Bagdad [sic] a few weeks ago.

Yours faithfully,

J…. T…. R.A.M.C.

P.S. Mesopotamia had a bad name, but after six months here, I can say that things are greatly improved.

Wargrave parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

The capture of Baghdad

Warfield children heard about the progress of the war in the Middle East.

13th March 1917

The savings association connected with the school is doing well and has reached 100 members who pay regularly each Tuesday.

I gave a lesson to all the school on the capture of Baghdad.

Warfield CE School log book (C/EL26/3, p. 366)

Baghdad has fallen

Florence Vansittart Neale was pleased with the news from the Middle East.

12 March 1917

Heard Bagdad [sic] had fallen!! Good news.

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

“A great want of confidence in Politicians, the War Office and the judgments of Tribunals”

Members of Reading’s Dodeka Club discussed the thorny question of conscription. The evening’s host was considering whether it was time for him to join up voluntarily.

The 282nd meeting of the club was held at Goodenough’s on March 2nd, 1917.

… Gibbons introduced a friend, Lt de Villiers…

…After refreshments the host suggested as a commencement for discussion the question of “National Service”, and pointed out that he personally was requiring advice as to the advisability of volunteering. The experience gained after the Military Service Act and the Derby Scheme gave one a great want of confidence in Politicians, the War Office and the judgments of Tribunals. The host feeling great doubt in his mind as to whether justice would be done to the great body of business men in the country.

Penfold started the ball rolling in the discussion, by asking if members were liable to prosecution under the Defence of the Realm Regulations, should any decision be arrived at, a military representative being present. Some discussion then took place regarding the action of Tribunals, the necessity or otherwise of National Service, compulsion and reduction of the number of shopkeepers. A very pleasant evening was concluded with some submarine stories of a rather fishy nature and a pun relating to Bagged Dads by Gibbons.

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

The Germans’ well laid plans

Ralph Glyn’s parents both wrote to him in Egypt after a visit to the Wake family at Courteenhall, whose father had just died. Joan (1884-1974), one of the sisters of Sir Hereward (1876-1963) mentioned here, was to become a pioneering archivist. One of the Wakes claimed to have evidence that the German invasion of Belgium had been long planned in advance. The Enver referred to is Ismail Enver Pasha (1881-1922), the Turkish Minister of War who had led that country into alliance with Germany and was responsible for the Armenian Holocaust of 1915.

March 21st 1916

Yesterday we went to Courteenhall and had a cosy hour & more with the dear people. It is good to know that Hereward wishes his mother & sisters to remain on. He has bought a house in London, & is now going back to the front as Lt Colonel, on OGS 1st Grade & will be with General Mackenzie’s Division. He goes about end of April, & he is now at Aldershot taking up his new work. Ida is to be his agent for Northants property, assisted by a good bailiff, & he has secured a good man for the Essex property who can always advise Ida when necessary. Phyllis is back at work nursing at Abbeville. Joan is at home helping all round. Lady Wake pays rent, & keeps up the house…

There is a most interesting & amusing nephew of Lady Wake’s in this Hotel, a Major Wake who has seen all sorts of service in E Africa, Egypt and Ulster!! And in between a recruiting job at home & Ulster he fought [for?] Turk against Italy! While so employed he shared a tent with 3 German officers who told him their well laid plans exactly! Even to the breaking through Belgium to destroy France, knowing her Vosges defences were too strong for other swift accomplishment of victory – but France destroyed, they would take us and Holland on – no wish to destroy either as all Teutonic peoples should come into the Zollverein which would then rule the world. Our practicality was required to wed with their “idealism”, & when this union was complete “we” would together be invincible. They said they liked us, but as long as we were separate they could not do anything, & must always come up against us. They expected all their colonies to be taken, but then at the crisis our Fleet was to be destroyed, & then they would regain their colonies & seize all ours. All this was described with perfect freedom to the English soldiers, and the answer to his enquiry “What do you wish to do with us”. They said this was all open unconcealed knowledge, and that we had such a wretched Government we would never fight, & though our Govt knew they would not prepare, so the thing was “fait accompli”. (more…)

“I hate the press” – it prints anything, true or false, as long as it sells

Lady Mary Glyn, wife of the Bishop of Peterborough, wrote again to her son Ralph with news from home. She loathed the British press, particularly the empire of Lord Harmsworth.

Monday Dec 6th

Dad … had the Service of Intercession in the Chapel at 3. Many come to it most regularly and one gets to know who are in the one comradeship of these days.

The Baghdad news is sore reading and I think of Syb and all the dread anxiety for her.

We hear little or nothing here, and perhaps it is as well. The “WJ” is the only cheering paper today – it gives an account of conditions which show why the Bosch is anxious to make peace, & the Reserves they are calling up. Rumania [sic] & the ships is the other news, & I have no light on it. It will be known when you get this….

It looks very like Conscription today. Thomas speaks up as to the shortage under Lord Derby’s Scheme & calls for a great last effort.

A good letter from “Wounded” in the Times almost makes me believe the Harmsworth Press to be not so evil as I now think it is. But I always hate the press and its ways, and greed for “copy” and for sale of news, good or bad, true or false, if only it sells – & pays…
There is to be a great Memorial Service in St Martin’s Leicester for the 4th Leicesters on Friday, and I hope to go with Dad. He is to preach, & I hope will only say a few calm strong words & not preach a sermon…

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to her son Ralph (D/EGL/C2/2)

“Arab treachery” in Mesoptamia

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey continued to be worried about the war news from the east. Mesopotamia, now in Iraq, was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire which had joined the war on the side of the Germans.

5 December 1915
Greece still uncertain, also Roumania [sic]. Meanwhile we landing troops at Salonika.

Bad setback in Mesopotamia. General Townshend had to retreat 80 miles from Bagdad [sic]. Treachery of Arabs. Chris wounded in it.

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