“I cannot but dread the wave of war-memorials in churches which we must expect after the war”

The Bishop of Oxford was concerned that the rush to commemorate the fallen should result in artistically undesirable monuments in churches.

The following extracts are from the Bishop’s Message in the April Diocesan Magazine:

You are asked specially to pray…

For all the troops in our towns and villages and camps, and those ministering to them.


With regard to the Retreats, I am very thankful that we shall have 600 of the parochial clergy in a full-time retreat. To accommodate them I have secured the use of Radley, Bradfield and (I hope) Wellington Colleges and Wycombe Abbey School for the first week in August (Monday to Friday or Tuesday to Saturday) and Queen’s College, Oxford, for the second week. I do not propose to issue any further instructions with regard to these retreats, nor finally arrange which of the places each of the clergy is to be directed, until the beginning of June.

I am relying entirely on the clergy to let it be known to all laymen and women, especially the most genuine churchpeople, that the Bishop of London, the Chairman of the Central Council of the Mission, will speak to us in Oxford, in the Sheldonian Theatre, at 3 pm on Wednesday, April 19th, and at Reading, in the Town Hall, on the same day at 8 pm.

I propose that St George’s Day, which falls on Easter Day, should this year be transferred to May 2nd… In any case I hope the clergy will not let the observance of St George’s Day intrude itself upon the observance of Easter Day…
But there is a local movement, I understand, to promote the observance of St George’s Day on Saturday, April 29th.

I cannot but dread the wave of war-memorials in churches which we must expect after the war. The notion of such memorials will be excellent: but will our venerable old churches be really the better in result or the worse? The age we live in is not one when taste in decoration is common. Of course we cannot expect the Chancellor, in granting faculties, to go into questions of art. But I hope to get some diocesan committee to work, with some men on it who will command respect, to advise all who will seek their advice about war memorials. Meanwhile I would earnestly ask the clergy in doubt about the suitableness of any proposed memorial to consult me. I may even now be able to help them to competent advice.


Earley St Peter parish magazine, April 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/4)

Is God really sitting on the fence?

Lady Mary Glyn, wife of the Bishop of Peterborough, wrote to her son Ralph. The Bishop was planning to retire in the near future, as he felt out of pace in the changing Church of England. The increased numbers of men being called up had led to a shortage of people willing to work in domestic service.

Sunday evening, March 5th 1916
My own darling blessing and own son and Scrappits

The Mission will bring the Bishop of London here on April 4th. He is made in his own words “Chief of Staff” and more & more I feel how trying these modern methods are for men of Dad’s age and experience – and “Chelmsford” has actually talked of “God, if I may say it with reverence(!) is sitting on the fence! – isn’t it inconceivable that a man can say such a thing as this with regard to the Almighty, & the victors in this war! If that is to be the tone of our leaders, Dad will be quite out of it!…

We have kept on Tuke, the chauffeur, after a month’s trial & have had to allow him to have wife (& 2 children) at the Lodge. She is very young & had a Zepp scare, & could not bear to be alone in London. We are not doing up the house, & she is only there till Easter; we find the furniture from here. she will then probably move into rooms – but as the married groups are being called up, it is most probable so young a man will have to go & we do not want to be involved in his family here. The whole question of servants will be very difficult, and we must do with as few as possible, and they must be able-bodied and “willing” to work, not watertight compartments refusing “menial” work one for another. A soldier man and his wife are my idea, but we must try to run at first with those who will stick to us….

I hear Aunt Syb has heard from the captain and chaplain [about her late son Ivar] as I think I told you, but I did not see her this time in London & get most of my news from Aunt Eve. Aunt Far tells me Frank sent for his sword which she mercifully insured before sending it in the Maloja….

Oswald is on some General’s Staff at Alexandria, but Meg does not know whose staff it is, & you must by this time know. Aunt Alice was full of talk about [illegible] and his work, of Harry busy in Soudan [sic] getting together 25,000 camels and provisioning Salonika from the Soudan, and she thinks Gordon must be singing Te Deums in Heaven over it. She was also full of information as to the gear of Belgians being bought and open to bribery by the Huns & need for much taking over.

And by the time you get this Verdun will be decided and how much else. It is wonderful to know France has won her soul and is able for such a crisis in calm fortitude to bear this tremendous shock and to await events with confidence. And I think the rumours everywhere of naval “liveliness” are reflected in Meg, as I think she is tremendously anxious & prepared to hear of some engagement.

Mr James said London was full of rumours yesterday & stories of prisoners brought to Leith, and they had anxious days with no letters last week and it was such a relief when one did come on Friday 3rd… Your dear letter of the 24th reached me in the morning and was under my pillow that night… I know you must have many blue moments in the strange sad searching of that desert world of departed aeons and of sunshine that is all too brazen! But yet I am thankful after Gallipoli you have this climate, and conditions in which “recuperation” after that time is made possible, but I do long for you unbearably…

France is a nightmare just now, & news has come to us through Maysie of Desmond FitzGerald’s death, an accident with a bomb which he was showing to the Colonel. One has to believe it was somehow to be, and he is saved from a suffering in some way by this tragic way of dying.

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)

“We shall need some adventurous courage”

The Bishop of Oxford was at best a grudging supporter of the proposals for a National Mission in response to the war.


We would call especial attention to the Bishop’s Message regarding the National Mission to be held in all parishes in October or November next; and also to our list of Lenten services which will be found inserted in this number of the magazine. Never has there been a time in the history of our nation when more prayer and self-denial were needed, and it is to be feared that this is by no means realized by a large majority of our countrymen; it behoves all Church people, therefore, to make an especial effort to keep the Lenten season.


The following extracts are from the Bishop’s message in the March Diocesan Magazine:

Your prayers are specially asked,
For the good hand of God upon us in the war.
For the spiritual enterprise of the National Mission,
That the clergy may prepare themselves,
That the faithful may be filled with zeal,
That expectation may be aroused,
That those who guide may be filled with wisdom and courage.


It has been decided by the Archbishops, after much consultation, and with the general consent of the Bishops, that there shall be held in October or November of this year “A National Mission of Repentance and Hope”, which will doubtless be commonly called “The National Mission”. Some of us have been somewhat critical of the proposal. But now that it has been decided to hold it, and a letter from the Archbishops has been issued, it behoves us all to arrest our critical faculties and to turn the opportunity to the best spiritual purpose.

What concerns the method of the mission and its details will in the main be left to each diocese and parish to determine. We shall all need to be adaptable, and we shall need some adventurous courage. But it is desired that the plan of each diocese and parish shall conform to this outline: that the earlier part of this year should be given to preparing spiritually the clergy and the faithful church people, men and women; and that the great effort of the prepared Church should be in October or November next, and should be devoted to the awakening to the call of God of all that great body of people who, with more or less reality of allegiance, belong to the Church. The Mission will be purely a Church Mission to those who belong to us. But it is anticipated that a similar effort will be made at the same time by other bodies of Christians.

Of the motives of the mission I said enough, perhaps, last month. By way of preparation for it, I am taking the following steps:

1. I am summoning the parochial clergy into Retreat in the first week of August, July 31st-August 4th, at Bradfield and Radley Colleges. In answer to many questions I would say that I hope to arrange that the assistant clergy (or those whom it is necessary to leave behind in the parishes) should come into Retreat in the following week.

2. I hereby ask each Rural Dean to form a Mission Committee of clergy, laymen, and laywomen in his Rural Deanery, and when they come to the Rural Deans’ meeting on May 8th to come ready with suggestions and to bring the names of one priest, one layman and one laywoman whom I can summon to whatever general meeting may prove to be necessary.

3. I am hoping that shortly before Easter the Bishop of London, the Chairman of the Central Council of the Mission, will come to address all those who can gather to listen to him in Oxford or Reading.

4. I am summoning the Society of Mission Clergy to take counsel on March 2nd.

5. I hope to get the main lines of our arrangements fixed at the Rural Dean’s meeting on May 8th.

6. I want all who will do so to say daily the Collect for the 4th Sunday in Advent or the 1st Sunday after Epiphany.


The nation is being called to thrift on grounds of public economy under the burden of war. This year, as every year, the church is calling us to fast in Lent. The two calls reinforce one another. Let us be serious this year in keeping Lent. I note in The Times of February 23, “Two more meatless days have been added to the Berlin regime, making four in all” (in the week). We could most of us, I think, observe three meatless days in Lent.


Whatever expedient we adopt to meet the requirements which the dangers of air raids at night have rendered necessary, I hope that we shall see to it that the spiritual profit of the people is provided for. An earlier Evensong in church and a later Mission service in the school might be profitable for the parish until the days gain their full length.

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

We can’t have a “good time” at home while the lads at the front go through Hell

A rousing message from the Bishop of London was passed on to the people of Stratfield Mortimer in their parish magazine:

“Pray, Repent, Serve, and Save.”

From the Bishop of London’s “Message to the people of London,” we extract the following:-

What are we doing at home? That is the question.

Why should the young do all the fighting and the dying, and offer the great sacrifice by themselves?

The sacrifice that is for all should be offered by all.

What one thing have we given up or done or tried to do to prevent England becoming a German province, or Kent and Middlesex being treated like Belgium and parts of France?

Have we been true to our manhood or womanhood in this Great Day of God on which is being decided the future of the world?

Is the message of Christ from the Cross to be the standard of mankind, or the modern German teaching that might is right? Nothing less than that is the issue before the world to-day.

“What can I do?” perhaps you ask.

1. First you can pray. If every one prayed, and prayed regularly, we should receive a spiritual force which would astonish the world.
2. But to pray properly we must repent. “There is none that doeth good – no, not one!” and if we are honest with ourselves, all have much selfishness and love of comfort, to say nothing of other sins, to lay penitently before God.
3. But prayer and penitence must lead up to service. “I am among you as He that serveth!” The lads at the front are doing their bit. What is my bit? And am I doing it?
4. But I must do more than serve, I must save. The nation has to save £1,000,000,000 a year to pay for the war, the Prime Minister tells us; then I must see there is no waste in my household. However small a sum it may be, I must save what I can and invest it in the War Loan to help my country. I cannot “have a good time” at home while the lads at the front go through what they truly call “a Hell.”

These seem to me the resolutions we are bound to make – “I will pray, I will repent, I will serve, I will save” – and it is that we may all have the grace to do this that I ask you to use daily the prayers which follow.
A.F. London.

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

Why should the young do all the fighting and the dying and offer the great sacrifice by themselves?

The people of Winkfield were urged to support the young men who were heading to the Front.



When you receive this Magazine we shall be nearing the completion of a year of War, and this fact cannot fail to solemnize in our minds and make us seriously consider whether we are one and all doing our duty in this supreme crisis of our Nation’s history.

The call to service and sacrifice has been answered by numbers of our young men – a list of whom is printed in this month’s Magazine – but have we who are unable to offer ourselves for active service contributed all we can and ought to the common cause? As the Bishop of London says, why should the young do all the fighting and the dying and offer the great sacrifice by themselves? The sacrifice that is for all should be offered by all, and all are bound to make the resolution “I will pray, I will repent, I will serve, I will save.”

And yet we must sorrowfully confess that the army of intercessors to offer prayer as sacrificial as the self-oblation of the millions of men who have offered themselves for war, has not been forthcoming; unlike France or Russia, out Churches have not been filled with men and women to pray for the men whose peril and blood is their shield, and I must confess to much heart sickness and disappointment that even our intercessory services in the second Sunday evenings and the last Sunday mornings in the month have not been better attended.

What is the explanation? It cannot be that we are indifferent to our country’s need or without love to our brothers at the Front; nor is it that England does not believe in God; there is enough love of our country and enough belief in God to crowd our Churches with earnest suppliants. What then is lacking? Is it not the belief in prayer and especially the belief in united supplication in God’s house? Is not the lack of this the reason why the men and women who ought to be in the praying line have not proved so steadfast as the men in the fighting line, who so greatly need our prayers, and surely have a right to expect them.

I sincerely hope therefore that large numbers will make a real and special effort to attend the special Intercession Services on Wednesday, August 4th and on Sunday, August 8th, of which notice is given in another column. The result of this war will depend very largely on the atmosphere of prayer which has been created, for prayer is the strongest force in the world, and as has been truly said, through prayer we bring our nation and our Allies into contact with Christ, and set the life of the whole Society as well as individuals in the stream of that purpose of redemptive love which can overrule even war for God.

Your sincere Friend and Vicar,


Lieut. Godfrey Loyd and Private Henry Hoptroff have just gone to the Front, and Privates Edwin Gray, Ernest Gray, Edward Holloway and Lance-Corporal Reginald Nickless are under orders to be in readiness to go immediately. We trust that they and their naturally anxious relatives will have a place in our prayers.

Much sympathy is felt for the family of Private John Williams (Royal Field Artillery) who died in hospital after a very long and distressing illness. He was buried with full military honours at Cosham Cemetery on July 1st, and special memorial prayers were said for him on Sunday, July 4th.


On Wednesday, 4th August, the anniversary of the declaration of war, a great service in St. Paul’s Cathedral has been arranged, when the King and all the leaders of the nation will attend to inaugurate the second year of the war be asking God’s help. In Winkfield Church, there will be Celebration of the Holy Communion at 8 a.m., and Litany and Intercession at 11 a.m. Also Evensong and Intercession at S. Mary the Less at 7.30 p.m.

On Sunday, August 8th, both morning and evening, there will be special services with Intercessions and Thanksgivings for the way in which the country has been preserved from many dangers.

The following is list of Winkfield men serving in His Majesty’s Forces at Home and Abroad.

A time to turn to God with fresh earnestness, after a year of war

As the anniversary of the start of the war approached, two Berkshire churches had special services on 1 August.

Reading St John

My Dear Friends,

We are approaching the Anniversary of the Declaration of War which is to be kept on Wednesday, August 4th, with all solemnity. You will be naturally interested to hear that what part we propose to take as a parish in this great event of our national life.

We are aiming at two things. First, we want to do something to help in preparing the mind of the town to enter worthily upon the observance of the day. In no spirit of self sufficiency or idle boasting but in sincere and humble dependence upon God we want to renew our vows to adhere to the high ideals with which we entered upon the war. If we are able to do this some thought and waiting upon God should precede the keeping of the day. With this in view a great Open Air Service is to be held on ‘S. John’s Lawn,’ 1, Victoria Square, on Sunday, August 1st, at 3 p.m.

The Mayor of Reading will preside, and addresses will be given by the Rev. Percy N. Harrison and myself. A large platform will be erected and the Mayor will be supported by many leading citizens who are deeply concerned in the religious life of the town. The Meeting will be widely advertised and will be open to people of all denominations or of no denomination. Seats will be provided for about 500, but practically any number can be accommodated standing or sitting. Service papers will be provided and the singing will be led by massed choirs and accompanied by a band. The main entrance will be from Victoria Square, but the ground may also be entered from Orts Road. If wet, the Service, which is to last one hour, will be held in S. John’s Hall. I would earnestly ask your prayers that God may direct the carrying out of these arrangements and give His own message to the speakers.



As the Rector reminded the congregations on the last Sunday in July, we are close to the first anniversary of the great War. All Christian people must feel that this is a time to turn to God with fresh earnestness. In the words of the Bishop of London, it calls upon us ‘to pray,’ ‘to repent,’ ‘to serve’ and ‘to save.’ It is a great opportunity to pray for Victory, and that we may be such as to deserve victory. Special Prayers and Intercessions will therefore be held in the Parish Church at the close of the Evening Service on Sunday, August 1st, to which the parishioners are earnestly invited. The Service will conclude with the singing of ‘God, Save the King.’

Reading St John parish magazine, August 1915 (D/P172/28A/24); Theale parish magazine, August 1915 (D/P132B/28A/4)

We are nothing better than worms – but mustn’t grumble!

Sunday 4 April 1915 was Easter Day. The parishioners of Reading St John (now the Polish Catholic Church) had sent Easter greetings to their young men at the Front. It resulted in a number of letters from the recipients describing their experiences.

Letters from the Front: replies to our Easter letters and cards.

Cards similar to those recently seen on the Church notice boards were sent with covering letters for Easter to some fifty men at the front at the request of their relatives. The following are extracts from some of the replies received by the Vicar:-

A Terrible War.
Here is a much-needed reminder of the seriousness of our task:
‘Two of my men I laid to rest yesterday, just put their heads too far over the parapet; of course killed instantly. It is a terrible business and we are nothing better than worms, dug in and stop there, but hope that happier times are in store and very soon. We all hope and pray for it every day. I don’t think the people at home quite realise what a gigantic task we have; but we mustn’t grumble, but do it.’- GILES AYRES.

Valued Cards.
‘I wish to thank you very much for the good thoughts and wishes of yourself and everyone who remembered us on Easter Day. Thank you very much for the card. I am sending it home to-day so that I shall not lose it.’- A. L. BLAKE.

‘The card you sent me I have hung on to the wall and it shall go where I go. I shall always remember Good Friday, the day I received it.’- D. CAMPBELL.

Neuve Chapelle.
Speaking of the welcome letter just received, the writer adds: ‘Just lately we have been engaged in a big battle at Neuve Chapelle, and it was something awful and also a terrible loss on the German side.’- L.H. CROOK. (more…)

Church parade, from a distance

Percy Spencer wrote from France to his sister Florence with details of his life over there. There are references to his artist brothers Stanley and Gilbert, and the latter’s susceptibility to a recruiting band. Percy felt that the artistic pair were unsuited to battle.

Mar. 29. 1915
Dear Florrie

Thank you for your letters.

Don’t send any more socks or linen out of any kind until I ask for some, as so far I have arranged laundry all right.

Today the Bishop of London held Church parade here for some of our men. I contented myself with a near view of his Lordship through field glasses and a more distant view of the band. It played very fairly through the opening hymn “When I survey the wondrous cross”. Somehow I always enjoy church music more as a listener. I’d much rather sit in the churchyard at home and listen to the service than take part in it.

I got your lovely parcel – its neatness was a marvel. You must have been hours packing it.

The guns have been very busy early today, but this afternoon there was nothing to hear but the hum of aeroplanes, of which quite a few have been over.

Your letters are not censored at all so far as I know – at least I’ve never heard of anything censored, so say on.

I think I told you we are quartered in a lovely house but the blinds have to be down to protect the tapestries! And that’s a shame in springtime. Anyway I doubt the supposed value of some of the tapestries. They appear to me to belong to a late and poor period, nothing like the beautiful specimens they have at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I should like to have Stan’s opinion on them. That reminds me, where is Ravenal’s place – it would be funny if I were in his chateau.

Gil tells me Jupp has taken a commission in the artillery, and writes of the effect of the recruiting bands upon him when he was at the National Gallery the other day. Don’t let him do anything foolish.

Yours ever

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/4/18-19)

The National Day of Intercession

The first Sunday of the new year was declared as a National Day of Intercession for solemn collective prayer for the country at this trying tie of war. The vicar of Sulhamstead was among the many clergy of Berkshire who commended the Day of Intercession to parishioners. He wrote in the December 1914 issue of the parish magazine:

My Parishioners and Friends

May I commend to you in this time of terrible stress when the war in the Western area hangs on without any decisive result and the fight to reach Calais has lasted for over a month with the respective positions of the two armies almost unchanged for very many weeks, the following lines from a letter in “The Guardian” of November 5th summoning a meeting for Confession, Intercession and Conference. The Bishop of London, Bishop Taylor Smith and many others had promised to take part.

“The continuance of this awful war, with its appalling loss of life, and without any decisive victory, suggest that something is hindering that manifest intervention of God on our behalf for which we long. There is indeed already much to be thankful for, but our side, which is the side of truth and right, has not yet prevailed. The hindrance may be in the Church, or in the nation, or in both. It may be that God still sees stiffneckedness in us, and His very delay in answering our prayers is a call to a more thorough repentance of our reliance upon Him”.

Since these words were written in “The Guardian”, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have summoned the Church to observe the first Sunday in the new year, January 3rd, as a day of Humble Prayer and Intercession to Almighty God on behalf of the cause entrusted to our King, our Empire, and our Allies, and on behalf of our men who are fighting for it on sea or land…
May I ask you to keep this day free for this solemn observance.

Yours sincerely
Alfred J P Shepherd

Ascot parishioners got a similar request:


The Archbishops of Canterbury and York desire to make public the following notice: The first Sunday in the New Year (January 3rd, 1915) will be observed as a Day of Humble Prayer and Intercession to Almighty God on behalf of the cause entrusted to our King, our Empire, and our Allies, and on behalf of the men who are fighting for it on sea or land. The Archbishop of Canterbury has been in communication with his majesty the King as to the observation of this day throughout the nation, and he has received the following letter:-

Buckingham Place, October 26th 1914.

My dear Archbishop –

The King has lately received numerous communications from different quarters urging upon his Majesty the necessity for a Day of National Humiliation and Prayer.

Personally the King is disinclined to advocate the use of any term which might plausibly be misinterpreted either at home or abroad.

At the same time his Majesty recognises the National Call for United Prayer, Intercession, Thanksgiving, and for remembrance of those who have fallen in their country’s cause.

It seems to the King that the beginning of the year would be a fitting season to be thus solemnised; and his Majesty thinks that Sunday, January 3rd, might well be the chosen day.- Yours very truly,


The Archbishops of Canterbury and York will when the time draws near address the members of the Church of England as to the manner of the observing of this call to prayer.