Do the German hear our starlight singing in their distant trenches?

There was much news of soldiers from Maidenhead Congregational Church.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We are glad to be able to report that Reginald Hill is so far improving, that he has been able to sit up a little each day. Thomas S. Russell has been called up, and is in training with the Motor Transport Section of the A.S.C. G.C. Frampton after about two hours drill was considered advanced enough for foreign service, and left England for France on May 18th. He is gone into Military Canteen work.

An interesting letter has come to hand from Sidney Eastman, which may justly be described as lengthy, for it is written upon a piece of paper some seven or eight feet long, and covers both sides. It is mostly occupied with a description of his travels and of the sights he has seen, and we are glad to gather that he is in good health and spirits.

G.C. Frampton has been unpatriotic enough to take German measles, and is in Hospital at Etaples. We hope to learn very shortly that he is quite well again.

Alfred Vardy, after a severe bout of pneumonia, caught on his way to the Front in France, is now at a Convalescent Camp in Thetford, gaining strength before returning to duty.

Wilfrid Collins is in hospital at Reading, suffering from heart weakness following upon a severe attack of “Trench fever.”

Reginald Hill has been out of bed for an hour, and is going on satisfactorily, though slowly.

Cyril Hews had a somewhat narrow escape recently. He was out with his motor-bicycle upon a French road during a thunderstorm, when the lightning struck a tree by the road-side, and a large branch fell upon the handlebars of the machine, providentially leaving the rider untouched.

Alfred Lane, after more than a year’s training in the Home Counties’ Engineers at Maidenhead, has been sent over with a draft to France.

Harry Baldwin, having attained the age of 18, and being called up, has elected to enter the Navy, and will probably enter a Training School.

One of our young men, who took an active part in the Messines victory, writes:

“Rather a good sight yesterday. I attended with my men a very large open-air drum-head Church Parade Service, as a sort of Thanksgiving Service for our recent great victory. A large number of Welshmen were present, and it really was great to hear these fellows sing “Aberystwith” and “St. Mary,” accompanied by a band.”

The papers, by the way, have been recently telling us that in all the Welsh regiments there are “glee parties,” who sing under the stars, until the Germans must hear and perhaps wonder, in their more or less distant trenches.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, June 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

The spiritual welfare of those who are so ready to give their lives in the great cause

Reading churchgoers were asked to contribute towards the cost of building a chapel at the closest army camp.

The Vicar’s Notes
Best greetings and blessings to all the parish for the New Year. There seem to be real signs at last of the prospect of peace. God grant that, when it comes, it may be real and lasting.

The Following Appeal comes from the Bishop of Buckingham.

Halton Camp.

With the approach of winter the problem of holding the church parade Services for this large camp has become acute. The accommodation provided by the Churches in the immediate neighbourhood, and by the Y.M.C.A. huts (which are readily lent for the purpose, and which are doing such excellent work), is quite insufficient for the purpose. With the present accommodation it would require many more parades than are possible every Sunday to take in all the troops attending Church.

It is proposed therefore to erect a large wooden building capable of holding 1,000 to 1,500 men, such has been found suitable in other large camps. The primary objective would be to make provision for the Church services during the winter, but the building would also be available for other purposes. It is estimated that the cost of such a building would be £1,000. Voluntary help would be given by qualified architects among the troops and Royal Engineers.

This is the only large camp in the Diocese of Oxford, and we feel that the Church people of the Diocese will be desirous of showing their interest in the spiritual welfare of those who are so ready to give their lives in the great cause by making by making a prompt and adequate answer to this appeal. It is most desirable that the matter should be put in hand at once, before the severe weather sets in.

The scheme has the hearty approval of the General Officer Commanding and the Bishop of Oxford and the Bishop of Buckingham.

Subscriptions will be thankfully received by the Senior Chaplain, the Rev. P.W.N. Shirley, Halton Camp, Bucks, or by the Bishop of Buckingham, Beaconsfield.

Sympathy

During the past month there has been an exceptional amount of sickness and a large number of deaths. Our deepest sympathy is given to all those who have suffered the loss of those near and dear to them. May the divine comforter bring them every consolation and support in their time of sorrow.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, January 1917 (D/P96/28A/15)

“This is a time when every man, who is not otherwise serving, should join this force”

The Volunteer Training Corps was a home defence militia for older men – a precursor to the “Dad’s Army” Home Guard of the Second World War.

We were pleased to welcome at Church Parade the Officers and Men of the Newbury Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Berks Volunteer Regiment [sic], on the 3rd [December 1916]. This is a time when every man, who is not otherwise serving, should join this force. The volunteers may yet have a very important part to play in the war.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, January 1917 (D/P89/28A/13)

“A rotten job”

More news about the impact of the war in British India and also independent Iran comes from the missionary sponsored by St John’s Church, Reading.

EXTRACTS FROM A LETTER TO THE VICAR FROM THE REV. A.I. KAY, dated June 1st, 1916.

Miss Biggs left Amritsar on April 2nd and according to the newspapers the British party reached Ispahan [now Isfahan, Iran] on May 16th and received a great ovation and welcome from the Russians and the populace. It was a very plucky thing for Miss Biggs and Miss Stuart to return so soon to Ispahan, and it was with considerable anxiety that their friends watched their return. However, their safe arrival has justified their confidence and although no other Persian Missionaries are returning to Persia from the Punjab at present, yet events in Persia seem to be going against the Germans and Turks and before long we hope the whole country will once again be open to Missionary work…

I must not close without referring to what is after all my main work now. At the beginning of April I became Acting Chaplain once again for Amritsar. I enjoy this work very much though the hot weather is not a time when a padre’s heart may be rejoiced by large congregations. Instead of getting the soldiers to Church for the Parade Service we arrange Services in the Barracks and the Fort, and early on Sunday mornings there is a good turn-out of men in shirt sleeves, who take a hearty share in the short Services.

I have the greatest admiration for the present garrison troops in India. They are on a rotten job; they would all like to be at the Front; instead they have to put up with a monotonous life which is at times made well nigh intolerable by the heat. In Amritsar a detachment of the 23rd Batt[alion] of the Rifle Brigade is stationed at present. They are all old men, most of them with sons at the Front; some of them over 50 and a few over 60 years of age. When the men come back from war, I hope the garrison troops of India will march side by side with the men from the Front, for many of them have suffered and some have died.

Reading St John parish magazine, August 1916 (D/P172/28A/24)

“Every man in uniform (or in bits, alas)”

Maysie Wynne-Finch wrote to her brother Ralph from her temporary home in Windsor, with more details of the tragic accident which killed their friend Desmond FitzGerald (1888-1916). Desmond was the younger brother and heir apparent of the Duke of Leinster, Ireland’s leading peer, a mentally ill bachelor. Youngest brother Edward (1892-1976), who eventually succeeded to the title in 1922, had rashly married a chorus girl. Maysie had also recently met a number of friends on leave. Their mother Lady Mary Glyn also wrote to Ralph with the story of a new recruit.

March 20/16
Elgin Lodge
Windsor

My darling R.

Yes wasn’t Desmond [FitzGerald]’s death tragic. He’s a real loss from every point of view, it seems too one of those ghastly unnecessary things. The RC parson – one Lane Fox, incidentally poor General Pereira’s brother in law, he is too, was playing about with these bombs. Some say it was his fault, others a pure accident no one could have avoided, but the thing went off, killing Desmond & 2 or 3 men, & wounded others including young Nugent, a desperate body wound. He’s had a fearful operation, but they say will live. The wretched man himself has had ½ his face blown away & ½ his hand. A gastly [sic] thing. Poor old Freddy. They say master Edward is already bitterly regretting his wife who is a perfect terror & drinks. However I doubt her letting him divorce her now that he must be a Duke. It’s too dreadful.

We went to London for Sat night & to the Hippodrome. Really a funny show. Harry Tate being sea-sick too priceless, it nearly makes one sick too. Rather to my surprise we met Arthur & Amy there. He went back yesterday after a week’s special leave, he looks ill… We also saw old Wisp. He looks pretty well & I saw no signs of the lost stone – which he’s reported to have lost as a result of Flu – but he’s got 6 weeks leave, which is nice for him. John saw Jerry Sturt yesterday. Poor boy – he’s no better apparently, though they still say he will be. He can’t even stand yet though. He showed John an interesting letter he’d had from Beeky. In it he says the French at Verdun put all their Colonial troops in front & their losses were heavy, also at the 1st push they ran, which gave that 1st small Hun advance, but since then they have been alright. He also said Master Bosch used no gun smaller than a 5 pt 7 during all that fighting – no one seems to know why, unless to save their smaller ammunition for the “advance”.

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Whizz! Bang! Life is too dangerous under fire to be pleasant

An army chaplain with links to Stratfield Mortimer wrote to the vicar with more news of his work in France. He was now right at the Front in constant danger.

25th Brigade,
8th Division, B.E.F.
22nd February, 1916.

Dear Vicar,

With much regret I have had to leave my work at Wimereux to come ‘up the line’ right to the battle front to minister to two battalions of regulars of the 1st Army – one from our own county. And also to look after the patients at an advanced Field Ambulance. I am now continuously in the danger zone, and my work takes me into the trenches, and to the reserve billets just behind the lines. I spent a week with the General at Brigade Headquarters, but now have a billet of my own nearer the hospital, but still under shell fire, indeed my room is rather unpleasantly situated, being just between the railway station, a large ordnance workshop, and a battery of 6-in. guns, all of which are being constantly shelled. Last Sunday afternoon I was lying down for half-an-hour after a strenuous morning – a Celebration and four Parade Services, all at different places – when twelve shells roared over my billet, I could tell by the noise and vibration that they were fairly low down, so thought I had better get a move on. I had just stepped into the street when whizz! bang!! and a 4.9 shell burst almost under my nose, making a huge hole in the roadway, and bowling over two Frenchmen who were passing – fortunately for me the whole force of the explosion was away from me, so I escaped without a scratch, but it was a near thing! A little further along another shell dropped, while overhead 16 aeroplanes were straffing [sic] one another, and as some of us were gazing upwards watching the fighting a Bosche let loose two bombs which exploded with a terrific noise near by, but didn’t hurt anyone. They were shelled out of the hospital, which has been evacuated, and the patients taken to a farm further back. A man was being operated on when a shell burst over the roof of the building, and patient, doctor and sisters were smothered with glass and debris, but none were badly hurt.

This sort of thing goes on more or less every day, and the noise of the guns is hardly ever out of one’s ears. I am continually in the saddle and often get into warm places, one never knows where the shells are going to drop next, so it is little use trying to dodge them. Nearer the lines one has to go on foot, and it is well to go along with an eye open for grassy hollows into which to tumble if a shell comes too close or the bullets begin to fly around. The other day a Colonel, with his 2nd in Command, found themselves in the way of a shell and promptly rolled into a ditch by the roadside, unfortunately, it was full of water, and very cold, and they rather regretted they hadn’t taken their chances of being blown into a warmer clime.

Life is very rough and comfortless up here, but there are opportunities for us which make it all worth while, and certainly the Padres always find a warm welcome from both officers and men. I hold services wherever and whenever I can – in barns and dug-outs and tumbledown houses, often with the guns booming and shells falling all around. Funerals are the worst part of our duties – apart from the sadness of them, there is always a most unpleasant amount of risk as the cemeteries are close to the lines and often very exposed – we wait for nightfall when possible, but often they have to be taken in broad daylight and in full view of the Huns’ observers. Life is very exciting and interesting, but too dangerous and nerve-racking to be pleasant. I often wish myself back in the comparative security and quiet of Wimereux.

I mustn’t close without a word about the Cinematograph. I spent a couple of days of my week’s leave in buzzing around the cinema firms, got the whole apparatus together and brought it out with me on the leave boat, by special permission of the War Office. It should be in full swing by now, but I haven’t yet had word to that effect from my successor at the Hut at Wimereux. I applied for permission to remain till I had it all fixed up and working, but was told that senior men were badly needed at the front, so felt I couldn’t press my claim.

With best wishes to all friends at Mortimer.
Yours very sincerely,
W.S. Bowdon, C.F.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, April 1916 (D/P120/28A/14)

“The men are thoroughly in earnest”

The villagers of Knowl Hill were contributing to the war effort in various ways.

Knowl Hill

Collections for the Waifs and Strays Society on Christmas Day and the 26th.

Ought we not to try earnestly to make as good a present of ourselves to our Lord in Holy Eucharist at Christmas, and thus shew we greatly value the new Birth for mankind, which was so greatly needed: The Incarnate Son of God – once a Waif and Stray.

The Waifs and Strays Society is doing excellent work for Orphans of Soldiers killed in the war.

Berkshire Volunteer Defence Reg: Maidenhead Battalion, Littlewick and Knowl Hill Section

The drills in connection with the above have been very well attended and the men are thoroughly in earnest in their work. On the 8th and 22nd November paraded with the Battalion at Maidenhead to proceed to Didcot to assist in loading and unloading the railway trucks at the A.O.C. Depot there. A Church Parade was held on the 15th and was well attended. The section is still open for recruits.

Drills. Wednesday, 7 Recruits
7.30 Section
Thursday 8.15 Section

Knowl Hill Church Lads’ Brigade

The usual drills have been held but have not been very well attended.

The Church Parade to Knowl Hill was only poorly attended on account of the weather; the one to Littlewick Church was fairly well attended.

It is hoped that the drills will be more regularly attended even if the nights are dark.

It is thought possible to change the Company into a Cadet Corps still under the government of the C.L.B.

Mr Butterworth will be glad to receive the names of all the men of the Parish serving, wounded, missing, etc., so that a complete list may be drawn up for Roll of Honour.

Wargrave parish magazine, December 1915 (D/P145/28A/31)

A real spirit of reverence: an army chaplain’s first Sunday at the Front

T Guy Rogers, former vicar of Reading St John, wrote back to his former parishioners to describe his new life as an army chaplain.

EXTRACT FROM A LETTER FROM Mr. ROGERS.

Dec. 6th

…My first Sunday at the front… I had several strenuous days trying to make arrangements, sometimes riding up and down a street or locality for about half an hour, trying to find a particular headquarters, or officer. My job was to arrange services for all units of the Division (as far as was humanly possible!) – quartered in my particular neighbourhood- the place where the dressing station is. That meant not only for my own Brigade (such part of it as would be out of the trenches) but engineering sections, pioneers, machine gunners, artillery and anything in the way of Divisional troops round me. No one seems to have had the job before, as the Guards have only recently come here. At any rate I was left to sink or swim. However, all my arrangements came through and I had a successful Sunday…

I started off at 8 a.m., with my servant, both walking, carrying communion bag, robes, hymn-books for the congregation etc. After about 20 minutes we reached a big barn, in the loft of which I was to take a parade service, followed by a celebration for a company of Engineers. When I arrived, men were sleeping and dressing, hanging up their clothes and sitting by the braziers making their breakfasts.
It was really rather an awful moment, but we soon got a fatigue party to sweep up the place. I got some forms, rather dirty I’m afraid, and fenced them round a rough table for communion rails; put on a white tablecloth and got ready. The bunks were pushed well back and we got a clear space, though rather a wet one, in the centre. Then the officers came in and we had a very happy little parade service of about 30 or 40. Everybody stood all the time. Of course we had no instrument but some of the men started some of the well known hymns. This was service number one. Then I took a short form of celebration for about 7 or 8. The surroundings were very odd, but there was a real spirit of reverence. (more…)

Kashmir prays for British success

The parishioners of Reading St John had the chance to hear from three very different men affected by the war: their old vicar, Guy Rogers, serving as an army chaplain in France; a last letter from a young man in the army; and a view from the Empire.

The following is an extract from a letter received from the Vicar just as the Magazine goes to press:-

I am taking charge of the military church at the top of the hill and will live at the back of it as they do here, with an Army Scripture Reader as my curate. The room has to be furnished with a camp bed and shelves. There is nothing but the bare boards. I am getting camp carpenters to work to make a bed and shelves. I must rake up a table cloth if I can, and a few pictures and hangings for walls to make the place home-like. The we are going to turn the end of the church into a Reading Room for the soldiers. Would anyone undertake to collect a good supply of illustrated and weekly papers and send them regularly? The church has been built by subscriptions from home and belongs not to government but to us.

OUR OWN MISSIONARY
A letter has been received by the Vicar from the Rev. A. I. Kay, extracts from which we have permission to print:

[Kay had been on holiday in Kashmir]

I used to think New Zealand was the most beautiful country in the world, but it will have to take second place now to Kashmir…

On Friday (the Mohammedan Sabbath) I was amazed to see all the people pouring into Hazratbal all the morning… It looked like market day and there were crowds of people about. Most of them were praying in front of the Mosque… One was glad to think that one of the things they pray for is the victory of the British arms.

LETTER FROM THE FRONT.

There is a pathetic interest in this letter, as Lance-Corporal Bushell was killed in the advance just after its receipt:-

We have had two Church Parades since we arrived and I have enjoyed them very much. The first was the better of the two. It was absolutely the best Service I have had the pleasure to attend, for the Chaplain seemed to speak right to your heart, and I don’t believe any man on parade missed a word that he said, and from all sides the men were heard to say that they thoroughly enjoyed it, and for myself I hope I hear some more services like it before the time comes for me to meet my Maker….

I wish I had been confirmed when you offered me the chance, and I have regretted it many a time, and I wish I had remembered that old saying: ‘Never put off till to-morrow what can be done to-day.’ I am going to try and see our Chaplain and see if it can be arranged, for I think it can be at certain times when the Bishop is in our part.

W.BUSHELL.

Dear old Bushell! He was one of our very best at the Ronald Palmer Lads’ Club.

Reading St John parish magazine, November 1915 (D/P172/28A/24)

A service in a cornfield: more impact than churches at home

Soldiers from Reading St John (the Newtown area) reported on their experiences in a selection of letters home, while those left behind continued making clothes and bandages for the wounded.

Letters from the front

“I was hoping to be able to see a good deal of Missionary work while out here but it is hardly possible for us Tommies to do so. Jubbulpore [now Jabalpur] is a purely native city of about 90,000 inhabitants and is 3 miles away from the Cantonments, but it is out of bounds for the troops…

Some months back I went over the compound of a training school for native teachers. This is in the European quarter and is supported by an American Church. Practically all the students were married and had families; each family had its own ‘house’ consisting of two small muttie built rooms. Of course I couldn’t talk to them, neither could they understand me, so it was not so interesting as otherwise it might have been, and again a soldier in uniform is about the last person in the world to get the slightest confidence from a native…
F.T.”

“We have just come from Church Parade; the Chaplain that takes it is a fine fellow. We had the service in a corn-field. He preached a fine sermon. The men take a lot more notice out here than what they did in England. In all the villages and towns that you go through on the march you see the Image of Christ on the Cross in cemeteries and places on the wall, some life-size and some smaller; the people here are very religious but nearly all are in black. There are only women and children, very few men about. We have been in the firing line, but are now resting in a small village a short way behind. We are expecting to go back very shortly….
J. Pym.”

THE HORTICULTURAL SHOW
One of our keenest exhibitors now serving in the trenches writes:

“Fancy they are not going to have a show at St John’s this year. I suspect they have not got any one to take the Prize money away now I am not there!”

“CARE AND COMFORTS” WORKING PARTY
Further subscriptions received: Mr Peto 5/-; Mrs Peto 5/-. Fewer articles have been sent to the Depot during September as our All Day Working Party [for missionaries] claimed one Wednesday, and, for the time being, there was not the demand. The following, however, were sent: nightshirts, 6; bed jackets, 6; many-tailed bandages, 10; locker and tray cloths, 15; face washers, 40; slippers, 3 pairs; socks, 2 pairs; bed socks, 1 pair; total with those already sent, 890.

Reading St John parish magazine, October 1915 (D/P172/28A/24)

Two bugles and a drum

The semi-military boys’ group, the Church Lads’ Brigade, was doing well in Wargrave.

The following report on the Church Lads Brigade has been sent for publication:

The usual routine has been somewhat interfered with during the month because of the outbreak of fever. The Church Parades have been as usual, but only fairly well attended. There has been no Bible Class. The Company has now received the two bugles and a drum.

Wargrave parish magazine, September 1915 (D/P145/28A/31)

Both sides are thoroughly weary of the war

The Newbury parish magazine reports a wearied mood regarding the war. Little did they know how much more they would have to endure.

The War still goes on, and it would be true to say that both sides are thoroughly weary of it. Still we must try to be patient, and trust in persevering prayer, not that we may attempt to make our will prevail, but in order that we may bring ourselves and our Nation to a right state of mind, and that means a state of penitence and of love for God. And let us trust Him to work His Purposes out in His own wide way. The services on August 4th were pretty well attended, there being 59 communicants at the Celebrations, but we must keep on praying and must be very regular at our devotions, both private and public.

The War Litany continues to be said at the Church on Thursdays at noon, and we should like to see more present there, and at the Celebrations during the week, which afford a special opportunity for intercession. There is also a weekly litany at St Hilda’s Mission Room on Tuesday nights at 8 pm, at which we have a small but regular congregation.

We are having just now a congregation of 300 or more men at our Church Parade Service, and the SPCK Soldiers’ Service Books, authorised for use by the Chaplain General, have been kindly lent us by Major C Abbot-Brown, Commanding ASC. It is grand to see so many men together at Church.

The Rector has had another letter from Mr Streatfeild at the Front: he is not allowed to publish these, but may say that they give interesting details of a Chaplain’s work – and they may remind us that the Clergy at the Seat of War, as well as the men whom they serve, stand in constant need of our prayers in their all-important duties. The last letter was written “under a waggon shelter waiting for the rain to stop”.

We should like to express our sincerest sympathy with Mrs S Payne of 2 Bartholomew Place, in the very severe loss of two of her sons through the war. A third son has been badly wounded, and a fourth has been given a Commission, while she has also two step-sons serving. In addition to this Mr S Payne himself has gone out to the seat of war to dig trenches. This is a remarkable record of loyalty, and well worthy of imitation.

We are glad to know that the Soldiers’ Club at St George’s continues to flourish, and is much appreciated by the men who use it, as is shown by the gratitude which they express personally, and in letters after they have left. At the Church Parade Service one Sunday a collection was made for the expenses of the Club.

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

“One of the most wicked things ever used in warfare”

Parishioners of St John’s parish in east Reading got an insight into life at the front when the young men from the parish who had joined up wrote to the vicar. They shared their experiences of the trenches, hospitals just behind the lines, and being gassed.

Letters From The Front.

My Dear Vicar,
I have just received the good old Parish Magazine, sent to me by my mother. Well, throughout the numerous hardships I have endured, I am pleased to say I am still quite well and happy. At the time of writing I am out of the trenches with my regiment resting, which I think we all honestly deserve; you cannot imagine the hardships and endless duties we have to perform.

While in the trenches you are working throughout the whole night and practically all day. At night the first duty commences at 8 o’clock, that is two hours’ sentry, which is very monotonous and tiring to the eyes, having to rivet them on a certain object the whole time while the booming of the enemy’s guns is deafening and bullets whistle over your head. After two hours you are relieved, feeling tired and sometimes wet through; you wish you could enter your dug-out and have minutes’ sleep. But no! you are at once detailed to join either a working party or a ration-carrying party, there you keep on hard at work till day break.

Sometimes we are given the job of repairing the barbed wire between ours and the Germans’ trenches; my job one wet night was to climb over the parapet of our trench and crawl up within a few yards of the enemy’s lines and to lie down for four hours listening for any signs of an advance by them; I could hear them singing and talking quite plain. I can assure you I was very pleased when I had finished. At about 4.30 a.m. we partake of breakfast consisting of a piece of salt bacon about four inches square, a small piece of bread, and a mess-tin of tea (?). This meal is looked forward to as much by us as the school treat is by the children.

After this you at once enter your dug-out and snatch a few minutes’ sleep; you generally settle down and are at once told to leave your dug-out and ‘stand to arms’ as Fritz is sending over a few more ‘Whistling Willies.’ You can imagine how very tiring and strenuous this sort of business is day after day, but still we keep a stout heart, trust in God and pray for the time when we can return home victorious, with the knowledge that we have performed our duty both to God and to the nation.

While I have been out here I am pleased to say I have had the opportunity of partaking of Holy Communion. Last Sunday my pals and I walked about four miles to attend a very rough and ready celebration held by our Chaplain in an old stable.

Well, I must now close, hoping you will please excuse this hurried letter and to receive a line from you whenever opportunity afford.

I remain, Rev. Sir,
Yours very respectfully,
ALBERT J. BECKETT
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Some hustle training recruits

New recruit and trainee gunner Harold Blackall wrote to his sister Annie Ellen Phoebe Blackall, describing his experiences as part of the great war machine.

17.8.15
17 Battery
13 Hut
Topsham Barracks
Exeter
Dear Nell

I have been inoculated this morning & have 48 hours sick leave… Recruits’ drill starts 9 am, drill through 11 am. They are rushing them through here with some hustle. Sunday Church Parade at 8 am, parade at 6.15 pm again at 8 am for church at 11 am for ordinary drill 6.15 to 5 & sometimes 7 pm, every day, Sunday & week day. They reckon a man is fit for active service in 2 months or less if he has brains. No leave. The War Office grant leave from Thursday night till Wed morning & free railway warrant once after he’s passed out as a gunner to enable him to go home once before going to the Front, so if you would be so kind as to take this on for me (of course you will have a free hand), I should be very much obliged when you write to me again, put the number 102277 under my name as I have only just got your letter because they said there was no number, only officers are allowed to have their letters sent with no number – we are only parts of the gun. The postmark obliterated the number you sent because it was over my name.

They send about 50 from here every week so you see there is as I said some hustle.

Some say the RFA are catching it hot out there, others say it is for an enormous bust up for Kaiser Bill, anyhow the fact remains all the RFA Depots in the country are bunging ‘em out there….

Your loving bro, H Blackall

Letter from Harold Blackall to his sister (D/EX1485/2/9/4)

Festivity is out of place while our brave men are fighting

Two wounded soldiers from the village of Hare Hatch were on the road to recovery.

Hare Hatch Notes

From what we saw of Church Lads’ Brigade from St Peter’s, Knowl Hill, on Sunday, July 4th, when they attended the Mission Church for their Church Parade, we can safely say that their aim is efficiency. Considering they are but a newly formed Company, they made a very smart appearance and great credit is due to Capt. Butterworth; their steadiness on parade won the praises of those who welcomed them. Special mention must be made of their reverence and marked interest during the Service. The whole service was a reminder of our Baptismal promises. We trust that they will come again in the near future…

It is with pleasure that we record the home-coming of Pte. Harry Bennett, who was badly wounded at Hill 60. After spending some time in Chatham Hospital he was went to West Malling. We hope that he will soon be well enough to return to The Front again.

We are glad to hear that Corporal Arthur Talbot, now in Epsom Hospital, is out of danger, we wish him a speedy recovery.

The Sunday School Tea will take place on Wednesday, August 4th, by kind invitation of Mrs. M. C. Young. The Children will assemble in the School-room, at 3 p.m. We shall follow the same arrangements as last year. After Tea a combined Service of Parents and Scholars will be held in the Mission Church at 6 p.m. The Collection will be for the sick and wounded soldiers.

Owing to the war and in keeping with the National spirit there will be no Mothers’ Tea. Festivity is out of place whilst so many of our brave men are away fighting our battles. With this, we believe, all our Members will heartily agree.

Wargrave parish magazine, August 1915 (D/P145/28A/31)