“He was looking worn and depressed at his last leave”

There was news of a number of Maidenhead men, many wounded or ill. One had suffered a nervous breakdown.


Reginald Hill was able to pay a surprise visit of four days to his home, in the midst of his long and weary hospital experiences. He was looking well, considering all that he has borne, but he has one or two more operations yet to undergo. He spoke of a hope that he might be home shortly after Easter.

Ernest Bristow is progressing favourably, but the latest report that reached us spoke of another operation. He seems to be in excellent spirits.

Ben Gibbons is in hospital at Southall, suffering from debility. He was looking worn and depressed at his last leave, from which he had only got back to duty about a fortnight when he broke down and was sent to England, or rather (as we ought to say) Blighty.

Sydney Eastman is in hospital at Chatham, sent home for bronchitis. We may hope to see him shortly. The Medical Board decided that he could not stand the climate at the place where he was stationed.

W. Cleal is in hospital. No particulars known.

David Dalgliesh has received an appointment as Instructor at the Flying School at Winchester.

Hugh Lewis has been at home for a fortnight’s leave in excellent health.

Charles Catliff, too, has been home for his first leave; most of his time he spent at Bucklebury with his mother, who has been seriously ill.

Cyril Laker has had the thrilling experience of being torpedoed in the Mediterranean.

Herbert Brand has received a Commission, and when we last saw him was hoping to be attached to the 4th Berks.

Since the above was in type, a letter has been received from P.A. Eastman. He says:

“The mails where I came from have been very erratic, and some have been lost, including unfortunately the Christmas parcels. Davy Jones is now richer than all the other members of the great family of that name put together, to their and some other people’s impoverishment! ……

The medical authorities have thought it best to send me back after the first year out in the East; doubtless they have a reason. But I am glad to say I am now fairly fit, and hope to improve rapidly under the less trying conditions of English life. Very kind greetings to all West Street friends.”

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, March 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)


Marvellous recuperative powers

A young man from Earley was badly injured.

We greatly regret to say that Pte Walters, our cross-bearer, has been much more severely wounded than we at first supposed. After his Christmas leave he returned to France on Jan 7th and rejoined his regiment. On the 22nd he was struck by an exploding shell, and his leg was so shattered that it had to be removed above the knee.

His recuperative powers were so marvellous that he astonished both doctors and nurses and was able to reach London within three weeks of the operation. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to him and Mrs Walters under this blow.

Earley St Bartholomew parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P192/28A/15)

“This front is not so quiet as the papers would have you believe”

A member of Broad Street Brotherhood wrote home from service in a bleak part of the Balkans.

Somewhere in Macedonia
5th March 1918

I am taking the first opportunity of writing to thank you and the friends at Broad St for the nice Xmas parcel which arrived safely last week. It is indeed most kind of you all to think of me in this distant land, and I can assure you your kindness is keenly appreciated.

I must heartily congratulate whoever was responsible for the selection of the contents. They were just what I was in need of – especially the writing pad, toilet soap and cigarettes. These things are very difficult to obtain in our part of the line, which is in a most deserted and desolate area, far removed from any YMCA tent or EF canteen, and 50 or 60 miles from Salonica…

Of course I cannot give you any details of our doings out here, but I can assure, you, this front is not so quiet as the papers would have you believe. Praying that the Almighty’s richest blessing may crown all your efforts to brighten matters in “dear old Blighty”.

W J Dance (OS) [on active service]

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

“It is easier to imagine Biblical scenes than before we came out to Palestine”

A Reading soldier fighting in Palestine reported to his home church on the Holy Land as it was now.

Feb 22nd

On Xmas Eve, as I lay in my bivouac not very far from Bethlehem, I thought of the first Christmas and what happened then. I should dearly have loved to spend the Xmas-day in the Holy Place, but that was not to be. I hope I shall have the opportunity of visiting Bethlehem and Jerusalem and a few other places before I leave Palestine…

I went to a C. of E. service a few Sundays ago in a Greek Church in one of the many mud villages that lie amongst these hills. It was a building of just four bare walls, with a stone floor and no seats. Every man had to sit down on the hard cold stone, and, needless to say, soon felt stiff and cold. There were no lights except two electric ones that our own Res put up. These villages have no semblance of streets at all. One cannot walk two yards without having to step up or down big stones. There is no sign of any furniture in any of the huts – just a little straw packed away in a dark corner, presumably for a bed. The effluvium from these huts is often far from pleasant.

We enjoy at least one good thing out here, and that is the Jaffa oranges at ½ d each. Several times I have bought fifty at a time and polished them all off in about five days….

Flocks of sheep and goats can often be seen on the hills with a shepherd in charge, as of old. It is easier to imagine Biblical scenes than before we came out. The dress of natives is much the same as the Bible pictures represent.

G P Brant (OS)

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

“Some “Johnny Turk” thought it was time I had one”

A Reading man who had been wounded was back in the fray, fighting in the Middle East.

Feb 21st

You will be pleased to hear that I have quite recovered from my wound and that I am now back up the line once again amongst the boys, feeling absolutely in the best of health. We were in some very hot fighting about nine miles north of Jerusalem, on the 21st November, when some “Johnny Turk” thought it was time I had one. I was wounded in the left thigh and right hip, and was very fortunate to have no bones broken. I spent Xmas in hospital at Alexandria having a top-hole time, and went to a Convalescent Home just outside Alexandria the first day of this year….

We are some miles behind our new line doing some very hard training, but you can guess we do not mind that after the hard and rough times we had in the great advance…

W. Palmer (OS)

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

“All must have gained courage and great heartedness to face the privations and strain and sorrows of the year”

The vicar of Maidenhead St Luke’s latest thoughts on Christian responses to the war.

The Vicar’s Letter

Dear Friends and Parishioners, –

First I must say how encouraging was the response made by most Parishioners this year to the claims of God’s worship on Christmas Day and the National Day of Intercession. Many, I am sure, must have felt the joy of Christmas underlying the oppression of the War, and reassuring of the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of the Prince of Peace. And on January 6th all must have gained courage and great heartedness to face the privations and strain and sorrows of the year under the guidance of One who came to be a “Light to lighten the Nations, and to be the Glory of his people Israel,” and whose instrument in that work was the Cross…

Lastly may I urge upon you all the observance of Lent… This year it may not be easy to get many outside preachers, because of the shortage of Clergy and the difficulty of travel…

I remain, Your faithful friend and Vicar

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, February 1918 (D/P181/28A/27)

On leave just before going to the Front, though well over military age

Winkfield men continued to serve – even the more mature who were not liable for conscription.


We much regret to report the death of Private William Tomlinson who died from wounds received in action, and we tender our deep sympathy to his relatives in Winkfield.

We are sorry to have to report that Privates W. Harwood and F. Onion are prisoners of war in Germany.

We are glad to welcome home on leave this month Private J. Winnen, M.M., Lance Corporal F. Beal, Private A. Beal, and Private E. Nicholas. The latter, though well over military age, was on leave just before going to the Front.

We have recived a large number of letters of thanks from our men for their Christmas parcels. All were pleased that they had not been forgotten by friends at home.

On January 6th, the Day of National Prayer, the congregations were good. The offertories, amounting to £10, were given to the Red Cross Prisoners of War Fund.

Winkfield section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, February 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10)

“May I congratulate an unknown someone on the choice of shoelaces”

A man who had seen three Christmases on active service was grateful for the latest remembrance from his home church – even if it arrived closer to Easter.

My very best thanks for the kindly and helpful Xmas letter which reached me in about time for Ash Wednesday…

May I congratulate an unknown someone on the choice of things enclosed in the splendid little parcel. Please tell her (or him) that laces were a great idea. They form an excellent substitute for string in footwear without being what might be termed an essential in these days.

On this the third occasion may I return thanks…

C. A. G. (OS)

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

Progressing favourably in Egypt

Ascot churchgoers continued to think of their men in the services.

On Wednesdays there will be an address after Evensong and War Intercessions at 7.30 and also on Fridays at 11, after the Litany.

The following have written thanking the Men’s Committee for Christmas parcels safely received :–

M. Sumner, W. Roots, F. Swayne, R. Sensier, F. May, J. Nobbs, J. Siggins, J. Williams, S. Waite, E. Butler, G. Larkin, G. Andrews, A Barnard, F. Barton, H. Wilderspin, C. Berridge, G. White, E. Dunstan, G. Talbot, W. Jones.

We are very glad to hear that Fred Talbot, who was reported dangerously wounded, is now reported progressing favourably in Egypt.

The collection at Evensong on Christmas afternoon when carols were sung, amounted to £2 10s. 0d. fot St Dunstan’s Hospital for Blinded Soldiers.

Ascot section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, February 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10)

Stanley Spencer “thinks the training has made him fit”

Art student Stanley Spencer had served for some time in the Royal Army Medical Corps before transferring to the Royal Berkshire Regiment.

Will Spencer
6 February 1918

A letter for me from Mother. Enjoyed reading how we spent Christmas Day. Stanley is still at the base. Thinks the training has made him fit.

Florence Vansittart Neale
6 Feb 1918

Dot Mole & I had our rendezvous at the Bull Inn, Wargrave. Discussion on Ireland & Home Rule.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/28)

“We had just got back from a very rough time up the line, and a cake comes in very nice after one has been on biscuit and bully beef for some time.”

Christmas cake was much appreciated behind the front line.

The Vicar has received many letters from our men who are fighting for us or are in training. They all ask for their thanks to be conveyed to all their Cranbourne friends who joined in sending them the cake and Christmas card.

The following extracts from some of the letters may be of interest.

“Please convey my best thanks to my Cranbourne friends for their kindness in sending me the cake and Christmas card. I am sure the gift will be fully appreciated by all to whom it was sent.”

I appreciated the cake very much for it brought with it memories of the dear old village, where we all hope, if it is God’s will, to meet again and enjoy the benefits of an honourable and lasting peace. I offer to Cranbourne friends many thanks.”

“It is quite a treat to get something to remind one of Blighty.”

“It is nice to feel that one is not forgotten”

“The cake arrived in good condition and was quite a treat, for we don’t get many of those nowadays. It makes it seem like home to have one.”

“The cake was all the more welcome as it was so unexpected and came at a time when we had just got back from a very rough time up the line, and a cake comes in very nice after one has been on biscuit and bully beef for some time.”

We are sorry to hear that Rifleman Ernest Jones is ill in Hospital in Egypt and that Private Alfred Jones is a prisoner in Germany.

News has come that Private W.W. Goodchild previously reported missing is now “assumed killed in action” on the 28th of April, 1917. Our deep sympathy is with Mr. and Mrs. Goodchild in their sorrow.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, February 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10)

Naturally during the war it is impossible to arrange the annual Choir excursion

A church choir was not too disappointed to miss out on an annual outing yet again.


Naturally during the war it is impossible to arrange the annual Choir excursion, but instead, each member was given a Christmas box, a gift much appreciated by both men and boys.

Warfield section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, February 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10)

A generous response

A Carol Service was held after Evensong on January 30th and a collection made for the Blinded Soldiers and Sailors; it amounted to £2 7s. 6d.

The Services on the day of National Prayer and Thanksgiving were largely attended. The collections, as in former years, were for the Red Cross. £16 18s. 2d. was the generous response made.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, February 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10)

“We want every penny now to enable us to win peace through a final and decisive victory”

Several Reading families had heard the worst news, while sacrifices were being made at home.

In accordance with the directions of the Food Controller, there will be no Sunday School teas this Christmas season, but the usual prize-givings will be held, and though there will be no systematic collection throughout the Parish, any contributions sent to the Rev. W. J. Holloway will be added to the Prizes’ Fund…

I propose, too, to keep Sunday, January 27th, as a day for stimulating self-sacrifice of our people in the manner of War Saving. We want every penny now to enable us to win peace through a final and decisive victory.

Thanksgiving: For the entry of the British into Jerusalem – the Holy City.

Intercessions: For the troops on the Western Front this critical time. For the fallen – especially George Colvill and Edward Adbury, of Soho Street. R.I.P. For Leslie Allen, one of our Servers, ill in hospital of Salonika.

Our truest sympathies go out to Mr. Swain, one of our Sidesmen and the Foreman of our bellringers, and his wife, on the death of their son George, who was killed in action in Palestine on November 29th. George Swain was always the straightest of lads, and one of our most faithful and regular Altar-servers. God rest his soul.

Henry John Coggs has, we regret to hear, been killed in France. Our deep sympathy is with his parents and family. He leaves an orphan child.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, January 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2)

“I had thought poor old England was so hard up, that no one would be able to send to me”

Some of the Christmas parcels sent out by Broad Street Church in Reading arrived rather later – but were welcome nonetheless. One hopes they included nothing perishable. China had joined the British side on the war in August 1917.

Many, many thanks for the very nice parcel which I received safely last week (Jan. 27th). It was indeed a pleasant surprise. I had thought poor old England was so hard up, that no one would be able to send to me. Everything you sent was just it. As you say China is a long way from home. I have been here over two years, and I haven’t had a single weekend leave yet. If I were nearer England I might stand a chance of dropping in to the PSA one Sunday…

Please convey my thanks to the Brotherhood and say I long for the day when I can be back amongst them. Am afraid I shall be too old to blow the cornet when I get back, but perhaps I might pass for the choir.

J Burgess (OS) [on active service]

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