“I could not say there was accommodation enough for a pig (much less a man) anywhere except in the cellars of ruined houses”

Civilians in wartorn northern France and Belgium suffered terribly due to the war.

Movement in Reading in aid of the Relief of Sufferers by the War in France and Belgium.

Friends at Trinity will no doubt be interested to know that a movement in the above direction has been initiated by the Reading Broad Street Brotherhood. The objective is to supplement the efforts now being made in other towns and in the colonies, and in continuation of efforts already made which have abundantly testified to the Christian sympathy which exists towards those who have suffered so acutely through no fault of their own. A relief fund of £20,000 is contemplated, a very large part of which has already been subscribed by Canadians, by London and other cities, towards which also many small towns have contributed nobly and generously.

It is supposed that the good lead of Basingstoke with its generous promise of £100 in cash, besides clothing, &C., Reading will not wish to be excluded from taking part.

It is proposed to collect both in cash and kind, as in some of the large townships in France (Lille in particular, which is the Manchester of France), the civil population – men, women and children – are in rags, not having had any opportunity of purchasing clothing and boots for 2.5 years (since the German occupation).

Clothing (cast-off and new) will therefore prove most acceptable, also boots.

Those who have seen tell us that the homes of the people in the country towns and villages are ruined-walls broken and roofs fallen. A witness on the spot says:

“In a large town it was my orders to report how many houses were fit for billeting British soldiers, and after visiting with a comrade every house in the place (about the size of Reading) there was not a single house with an unbroken roof, and I could not say there was accommodation enough for a pig (much less a man) anywhere except in the cellars of ruined houses such as I and my comrades occupied.”

Wood houses are already being prepared in sections in this country to be despatched to Northern France and Belgium directly the way opens-facilities having been promised for this purpose as soon as possible by our own Government. A wood house thus prepared can be erected by a few men within a day of arrival, and it cost would be about £40. Seed for gardens, food, flour, blankets, &c will also be despatched.

Interested readers can secure further information by sending two penny stamps to the national Brotherhood Offices, 37, Norfolk Street, London, W.C., when they will be supplied with a pamphlet entitled “The Story of Lille, and its associations with the Brotherhood Movement,” and which describes the Brotherhood Crusade of 1909 A.D. and the practical relief already given.

Locally, every Church, adult School, and Christian Society in Reading will later on be invited to join hands with the Relief Committee connected with Broad Street Men’s Brotherhood, the secretary being Mr. A. Woolley, 85, Oxford Street, Reading.

Further information may also be obtained from J. Harper, “Chelmarsh,” 42, Crown Street, Reading.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, October 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

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Dandelions and devastation

Members of the Broad Street Brotherhood, the men’s group at Broad Street Congregational Church in Reading were supporting the war effort in whatever ways they could; and also helping civilians in the devastated occupied regions. Regional rivalry came into play, with the men not wanting to show up poorly in comparison with Basingstoke.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

Some of our members have intimated a desire to start a War Savings Association in connection with our Brotherhood, similar to what is being done at other Brotherhoods and churches up and down the country.

The matter has been carefully considered by a small sub-committee, and it is felt that it is hardly necessary to open a fresh savings department, but any member can purchase these War Savings Certificates through our already existing Savings Bank.

We most strongly recommend these war savings certificates to the earnest attention of every member as not only are they financially sound, but each one purchased is directly helping our country to victory.

Brother Hendey will be pleased to give particulars and carry through any transaction.

We take this opportunity of thanking many of our brothers who have during the past months loyally and painstakingly worked to keep the allotments in order for the brothers who are at the Front.

This has been a fine example of practical brotherhood work.

It is our sad duty to have to record the death of our Brother Frank Ward, who made the supreme sacrifice for us in France just recently.

He is the fourth member of our Brotherhood who has given his life for his country.

BROTHERHOOD CONTINENTAL RELIEF

Our constituency will no doubt be interested in the movement in Reading in aid of sufferers by the war in France and Belgium, which has been initiated by the Broad Street Brotherhood.

Their object is to supplement the efforts now being made in other towns, and in the colonies (and in continuation of efforts previously made) to express the Christian sympathy which exists towards those victims who, although innocent, have suffered acutely through the war. The National Brotherhood Council are aiming at a contemplated relief fund of £20, 000, a very large part of which has already been subscribed. The Brotherhoods of Canada have sent large sums, as well as London and the great centres of industrial life in England. It is believed that Reading will not want to take second position to Basingstoke, where the generous promise of £100 in cash, besides clothing, books, etc, has been made. It is proposed to collect both in cash and kind.

In several of the large townships of Northern France and Belgium the civil population is in rags. For instance Lille (the Manchester of France), having been in the occupation of Germany for 2 ½ years, has had no chance whatever of providing her people with clothing, even if they had the means to purchase. Clothing, boots (cast off or new), seeds, blankets, or anything of portable, useful and lasting character will be acceptable, and later on fruit trees.

A witness on the spot (Near the Somme) says “the fruit trees, large and small, are ruined; but little remains of pleasing appearance except dandelions, and they cover desolation almost everywhere.” A large town (about the size of Reading) had not a roof left whole upon any one building. In a report given to headquarters he said there was no accommodation for men whatsoever (not even for a pig) except in the cellars of ruined houses, such as he then lived (slept) in personally.

The country people, who crowded into the towns, had to hurriedly vacate their homes which were in the path of the then advancing enemy, and could only carry what they stood upright in. They have had no chance, many of them, since to return; and if they had done so they would have found (as some did) that not a tree in the garden, not a vestige of furniture or other property, and a ruin of the actual building. The writer of the foregoing testimony says that for 9 weeks he never saw a civilian (man, woman or child) although frequently on the move, and for long distances.

Wood houses are being prepared in sections in this country for the purpose of being despatched to Northern France and Belgium directly the way opens, and facilities for this purpose have been promised by the governments of Great Britain and France as soon as possible. A wood house thus prepared can be erected by a few men, within a day, upon arrival at its destination, and its total cost would be about £40. Who will buy one for “La belle France”?

Interested readers can secure further information by sending two penny stamps to The National Brotherhood Offices, 37 Norfolk Street, London WC2, when they should ask for a pamphlet entitled “The story of Lille and its associations with the Brotherhood Movement”. This pamphlet describes the Brotherhood Crusade of 1909 AD and the practical relief already given. Locally, every church, adult school and Christian Society in Reading will be asked later on to join hands with the relief committee connected with Broad Street Men’s Brotherhood, whose secretary, Mr WA Woolley, 85 Oxford Road, Reading, is associated with Bros Mitchell, Hendey and Harper in this great work.

Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, September 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Cheering details from the front

An evening for soldiers’ loved ones in Stratfield Mortimer was a positive occasion.

The War Supper

We call it this for want of a better title. For the third year Mr. and Mrs. Wallis most kindly entertained the fathers and mothers and wives of all the men of the Parish now serving in H.M. Forces. The event took place at the Parish Room, on January 3rd and, happily, there was just room to get everyone in, though the numbers have increased each year.

After a splendid supper the toast of the King was proposed by Mr. Wallis together with that of his Forces, after which the Vicar proposed the toast of our host and hostess and expressed the thanks of the company for the enjoyable evening. For the entertainment that followed, Mr. Wallis’ relations from Basingstoke are responsible, and one can only say that it would be difficult to get together any company which could have given more pleasure. Want of space forbids a description of all the items which formed a programme full of attraction, and it must suffice to say that most of us are seldom privileged to hear such first-class singing as we heard that night.

During a short interval Captain Wallis, who had arrived from France that morning, gave us some cheering details about the state of things at the Front.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, February 1917 (D/P120/28A/14)

Empire Day celebrated with earnestness

On 24 May 1916 Berkshire schools celebrated Empire Day and used it to encourage pupils’ patriotism – except in Bracknell, where they were stymied by a storm.

Bracknell

We were unable to keep any public celebration of Empire Day at the School. This was partly because in the recent gales our flag staff was blown down and broken. Is there any patriotic person who would come forward and present us with a new one? The flag is an important feature in the celebration of Empire Day, and we really need to be able to fly our flag on suitable occasions. What shall we do on the happy day when Peace is declared if we have no flag staff?

Winkfield

EMPIRE DAY was observed as usual at our Schools. In the presence of the Managers and a few friends the children sang very sweetly a song saluting the flag and the infants gave a very credible patriotic recitation.

The Vicar spoke on briefly on the importance of all – children as well as grown up people – “doing their bit” in the way of sacrifice, if we are to win this war and help write a great and glorious chapter in our History, and he gave each child a leaflet entitled “What you can do for your Country” in which children are reminded that if our Empire is to continue great, it will be through the character and sense of duty of those still at school.

Alwyn Road School, Cookham
May 24th 1916
Empire Day.

The School was opened this morning with prayer as usual, but instead of Hymn, the National Anthem was sung.

The Headmaster then gave an address to the children on “Empire Day” and this was amplified later in the Classrooms by the Class Teachers, who gave addresses on Empire, Our Colonies, The Union Jack, The Army and Navy.

Composition and Transcription Exercises were given bearing on the subjects taught in the lesson.

At 11.20 the children assembled again in the Hall, the National Flag was saluted and Patriotic songs were sung.

At 12 o’clock the school closed for the day.

Warfield CE School
24th May 1916

Empire Day was celebrated today with earnestness after an address on the unity of the allies. Special war prayers form a part of the proceedings the national anthem was sung, the scholars marched and saluted the flag and seemed to realise the act of patriotism and the need of gratitude to god for the unity of the nations, the combined efforts of both soldiers, sailors and workers, and the need for their weekly act of self sacrifice by which we are able to send our boys in the war. A small token on festivals we sent 15/6 to the overseas club for food for our prisoners in Germany.

All Saint’s Infant School, Reading
24th May 1916

The Time Table was not adhered to this morning. The children assembled in the playground, saluted the flag and sang patriotic songs. Many parents came to see them. A half holiday was given in the afternoon.

Reading ChristChurch CE Infants School
24th May 1916

Being Empire Day, the National Anthem was sung this morning, and the flag saluted, by all the children, many of whom wore the colours. The lessons during the morning were on Empire Day.

St Michael’s CE Mixed School, Sunninghill
24th May 1916

Empire Day. Empire Lessons given & flags saluted. No holiday, on account of the War.

Crazies Hill CE School, Wargrave

Empire Day was observed as usual by the Day School. The children assembled in Church, at 9.30, and after the service gave a performance of drill in the Recreation ground. They then returned to the School House where patriotic songs were sung and a short address was delivered. The saluting of the Union Jack and distribution of buns concluded the proceedings.

Basildon CE School
24th May 1916

The children bought their pennies for the Over Seas Club which provided tobacco and cigarettes for the troops.

Bracknell and Winkfield sections of Winkfield District Magazine, June 1916 (D/P151/28A/6); Cookham Alwyn Road School log book (88/SCH/18/1, p. 273); Warfield CE School log book (C/EL26/3, p. 343); Reading: All Saints Infant School log book (89/SCH/19/2, p. 208); Reading ChristChurch CE Infants School log book (89/SCH/7/6, p. 178); Sunninghill: St Michael’s CE Mixed School log book (88/SCH/32/3); Wargrave parish magazine, June 1916 (D/P145/28A/31); Basildon CE School log book (90/SCH/16/1, p. 414)

New terms too humiliating

Florence and Henry Vansittart Neale travelled south to visit their daughter.

20 January 1916

Henry & I started in heavy rain to Southampton by motor. Stopped soon – then quite sunny. New way to Basingstoke by Hurst and Wokingham. Reached Winchester 1.10. Lunch at the George, left at 3. Got to Phyllis’s hospital at 3.40. She just starting an operation, so did not come till past 6. H & I walked down to pier, then had tea in town. Unpacked. P & I talked. She dined here. Rather priceless company – she played Chopin! Patience – bed early.

Hear new terms too humiliating. Montenegro continuing war!

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

E20 feared sunk

Bisham Abbey had just had electric lighting installed. Phyllis Vansittart Neale visited her childhood home to see the exciting results, but her mother’s main concerns were still with the war news.

13 November 1915
Miss Massey to lunch, she in motor to fetch Phyllis & Miss Philpotts from Basingstoke. Phyllis all round house seeing electric light. Maisie and Mrs Seward dined here. Discussed our Red X funds.

Submarine E.20 fear sunk in Sea of Marmora. Some saved & prisoners.

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

Marching troops stir up patriotism as well as roads

A soldiers’ march through the village of Mortimer West End stirred up the population, and made them think of civilians in the war zone, as the parish magazine reports.

West End
There is very little to write about this month, as our parish life has been comparatively uneventful, except for the visit of the troops from Basingstoke, who stirred up our patriotism as well as our roads. Many a day’s ironing was done very late in the week that week, and few indeed were the children who condescended to come to school. It all gave us a dim idea of what the countryside in France must look like, and though we who ride our bicycles may complain of the effect of the roads upon our tyres we must all be very thankful that our beautiful woods and gardens are not destroyed by shells and bombs as they are in so many regions on the continent.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, July 1915 (D/P120/28A/14)