The pressure of work caused by a chaplain’s absence with the troops in France

The CSJB Sisters’ Lenten preparations were disrupted due to the army chaplaincy of one of the clergymen who normally served them.

15 February 1918
Notice was given that the Warden would not give the usual course of Lenten lectures this year owing to the pressure of work caused by the Sub-Warden’s absence with the troops in France.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)


The difficulty of obtaining food

Food shortages meant the Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist could not have their regular retreat at the mother house in Clewer.

18 January 1918

Notice was sent to the Community from the Warden & Mother that the Sisters’ Retreat fixed to begin Jan. 28th must be indefinitely postponed owing to the difficulty of obtaining food for such a largely increased number.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

“The world-wide struggle for the triumph of right and liberty is entering upon its last and most difficult phase”

The first Sunday of the year was set aside for special prayers in every church.

The Kings Proclamation


The world-wide struggle for the triumph of right and liberty is entering upon its last and most difficult phase. The enemy is striving by desperate assault and subtle intrigue to perpetuate the wrongs already committed and stem the tide of a free civilization. We have yet to complete the great task to which, more than three years ago, we dedicated ourselves.

At such a time I would call upon you to devote a special day of prayer that we may have the clear-sightedness and strength necessary to the victory of our cause. This victory will be gained only if we steadfastly remember the responsibility that rests upon us, and in a spirit of reverent obedience ask the blessing of Almighty God upon our endeavours. With hearts grateful for the Divine guidance which has led us so far toward our goal, let us seek to be enlightened in our understanding and fortified in our courage in facing the sacrifices we may yet have to make before our work is done.

I therefore hereby appoint January 6th – the first Sunday of the year – to be set aside as a special day of prayer and thanksgiving in all Churches throughout my dominions and require that this Proclamation be read at the services held on that day.


Reading St Mary, January 1918

6th January 1918

We shall keep January 6th, though it be the Feast of the Epiphany, as a special day of prayer in connexion with the War. I hope all our people will observe it devoutly and reverently. We are passing through a particularly anxious time, and our own splendid men and our Allies want all the force of prayer and intercession to help them in the struggle.

Speenhamland, February 1918
The first Sunday in the Year was the Feast of the Epiphany. It was also chosen by the King as the Day of National Prayer and renewed resolution to win the war and a peace which shall be lasting….

The solemn Day of National Prayer, Sunday, January 6th (the Feast of the Epiphany), was well kept throughout the Parish. We all hope and pray that such a day may have strengthened our determination to persevere in carrying out the great ideals which we put before ourselves at the beginning of the War. The season of Lent, which starts on February 13th, will give us another opportunity in re-dedicating ourselves to God’s service in self-denial and self-discipline, not only for the good of our souls, but for the helping forward of our country and its Allies on their way to a lasting peace.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Church
Once more at the beginning of a New Year, I desire to send a message of good-will to all our readers. Twelve months ago we were hoping that by this time the war would be over, and that we should be rejoicing in the establishment of peace. That hope has been disappointed, and the outlook at the moment is anything but promising. Still we renew our hopes today that 1918 may see the end of this terrible war, and the realisation of those ideals for which we are struggling. In the meantime let us stand firm in our faith in God, and in the conviction that the cause of righteousness must ultimately prevail.

His Majesty the King has “appointed January 6th – the first Sunday of the year – to be set aside as a special day of prayer and thanksgiving in all the Churches”, and he calls upon all his people to devote the day to special prayer for the nation. We propose to respond to the call of His Majesty at Broad Street, and to observe the day in the way he requests. I would venture, therefore, to express the hope that every member of the congregation will endeavour to be in his or her place that day, so that we may all unite in the special intercession.

Reading St SaviourThe first Sunday in the Year was the Feast of the Epiphany. It was also chosen by the King as the day of National Prayer and renewed resolution to win the war and a peace which shall be long lasting.

Community of St John Baptist, Clewer
6 January 1918

Day appointed by the King for Prayer & Thanksgiving in connection with the war. At both celebrations of the Holy Eucharist the service was of the Epiphany, but at the second one, the King’s Proclamation was read after the Creed, followed by the “Bidding Prayer”. At Matins & Evensong, the special Psalms, Prayers etc appointed in the Form of Prayer put forth for the day were used.

Florence Vansittart Neale
6 January 1918

Crowded National Prayer & Thanksgiving.

King’s proclamation printed in Wargrave parish magazine, January 1918 (D/P145/28A/31); Speenhamland parish magazine, January and February 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2); Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, January 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14); St Saviour’s section of Reading St Mary parish magazine, February 1918 (D/P98/28A/13); Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5); Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

One of life’s failures

St Augustine’s Home was a home for boys in need in Clewer, run by the Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist. It was not strictly speaking an orphanage, as many of the lads had at least one parent living, but they were usually in dire circumstances, and the home gave them stability. Many of the Old Boys were now serving in the armed forces, while the current residents were making little jigsaw puzzles to send to PoWs and the wounded.

A Short Notice of St Augustine’s Home for Boys, Clewer, December 1917

Roll of Honour, 1917
On Active Service

Robert Annesley
Reginald Barber
Frank Berriman
Arthur Booker
Leonard Borman
John Brown
Frank Bungard
William Carter
Percy Cattle
Robert Chippington
George Collyer
Tom Corbett
Jack Corbett
Herbert Cousins
Thomas Cox
Francis Dawes
Charles Douglas
Wilfrid Eccles
Jack Ettall
Edward Farmer
James Frame
James Farmer
Charles Fisher
Wallis Fogg
George Finlay
George Gale
Stanley Graham
Robert Gosling
John Green
John Harrison
George Houston
Ernest Howells
Fred Hunt
Albert Hudson
Arthur Hudson
William Hobart
Albert Jarman
Reginald Jarman
Joseph Kelly
Edward Lewendon
Harry Macdonald
Eric Matthews
Harry Mott
Norman Neild
Alfred Newsome
Robert Parnell
Samuel Perry
Bennie Payne
William Potter
Charles Price
George Pitt
William Robert
Claude Roebuck
Alan Sim
George Simister
Thomas Small
William Smith
Thomas Squibb
Alfred Stroud
George Tate
Graham Taylor
Albert Turnham
Jack Ware
William White
Albert Wicks
Leonard Wicks
William Wicks
Harry Wilden
Edwin Williams
Albert Worth
Leslie Worters
Fred Wright
Seldon Williams

At Rest

Walter Bungard
Albert Braithwaite
Harry Clarke
Joseph Eaves
Russell Evans
Ernest Halford
Frank Lewis
Douglas Matthews
James Matthews
Harry Pardoe
Arthur Smith
Maurice Steer
Thomas Tuckwell
Harry Worsley

A Home for Boys has a special claim on the interest of all at this time, when so many are being left orphans as a result of the war, or who are temporarily without a father’s care and discipline, and letters come very frequently containing requests for information as to the admission and maintenance of boys at St Augustine’s….


Mass in a barn, no room at the inn

The Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist at Clewer had a quiet wartime Christmas, while their Sub-Warden, a clergyman who helped to see to their spiritual needs, was serving as an army chaplain.

25 December 1917

Christmas Day. Midnight Mass (plain) in the old chapel on account of necessity for screening lights at night.

The Sub-Warden

“Christmas Day. This morning my first Mass was said in a barn. The altar set up against a door, surrounded by straw, piled arms, etc. Again “there was no room for Him in the Inn”. The service over, I rode to a neighbouring village, my servant following on a bicycle with the bag of Sacred Vessels. There I had a whole Battalion in a hall & a band to play the hymns.”

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer, 25 December 1917 and 3 January 1918 (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

Jerusalem taken by the British

The Community of John Baptist was pleased to hear that Turkish-ruled Jerusalem had been captured.

11 December 1917
News came that Jerusalem had been taken by British troops.
Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

“It was all very suggestive of Bethlehem, except for the noise of the guns outside”

Another army chaplain reports his experiences leading services and planning social activities very close to the front line.

5 December 1917

The following extracts are from 2 letters which Mother received lately from the Sub-Warden with the troops in France.

“This morning, I had an hour’s walk through mud & trenches, delayed by the unwelcome attention of a German aeroplane for a while, but otherwise uneventful, & at last arrived at a certain dug out. There was a steep staircase down about 20 ft, then a square flat, and then 5 or 6 more steps to the right. On the square flat I arranged a little altar. Men all up & down the stairs crouching to one side so as to leave me room to pass to communicate them, and a few outside in the trench kneeling in the mud. At the bottom, a few Non-Conformist officers were very reverent & interested… I reminded them that our Lord chose a “dug out” when He first came to earth… It was all very suggestive of Bethlehem, except for the noise of the guns outside.”

“We have discovered a large cellar beneath ruins close to the lines. There is plenty of room for a canteen, reading rooms & a chapel. The chapel is to be dedicated to St John Baptist. I wonder if the Community would furnish the altar for us; the Pioneers would make the altar… I said Mass there this morning & 60 men came & were very reverent and appreciative.”

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

A priest called up for service as a chaplain

Magdalens were the ‘fallen women’ who had originally come to Clewer House of Mercy as Penitents. Most such women only stayed for two years before leaving for respectable jobs, but a few were inspired by the religious life and chose to take permanent vows similar to those of the full Sisters. Even their life was disrupted by the war.

20 November 1917
The Magdalens’ Retreat began, conducted by the Revd G B Budibent. The retreat had been postponed from the original date in October because the priest who was then to have taken it had been called up for service as Military Chaplain.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

Photos of soldiers and sailors in a place of honour

A Clewer church made sure that the faces of its servicemen were immediately before worshippers.

St. Agnes’, Clewer

We shall welcome still more photos of Sailors and Soldiers to put up with those which are already up in our War Corner in the Church.

Please write the name on the front of the photos before sending them to me. Of those already up most are in uniform, but some in civilian clothes: some are small, some large, and some cut out from a family group: and any photograph that you have of them has a place of honour waiting for it with all the rest among the Flags of the Allies around the Symbol of the Great Sacrifice.

Clewer parish magazine, November 1917 (D/P39/28A/9)

A great air raid

The Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist were relieved not to have suffered at the hands of the latest air raid.

31 October 1917
News came of a great air raid by the Germans on the eastern counties & London. No damage done in any of our Houses in London or at Folkestone either to the Sisters and those in their care, or to property. D. G. [Deo gratias – thanks be to God].

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

A brave man’s death for his King and Country

A bellringer at St Andrew’s Church, Clewer, was the latest to be reported killed.

In Memoriam: Henry Wetherall. R.I.P.

We desire to express our heartfelt sympathy with Mrs. Wetherall, who has lost her husband at the Front. Henry Wetherall was one of our Bellringers, and we could ill afford to lose him.

The Chaplain has written: –

“Your husband was killed in his dug-out by a shell. I know what a blow this will be to you, but I pray that God may show you that even in this ‘all things work together for good to those who love Him.’ You have the pride and the joy of knowing that he died a brave man’s death for his King and Country. I buried him on September 8, in the little village of Boeringhe, in Belgium, in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to Eternal Life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. He was buried alongside of some of his Comrades, and the Police, to whom he belonged, have erected a Cross over his grave. May God comfort and bless you in your great need.

F. W. HEAD, Chaplain of the Guards Division.

Clewer parish magazine, October 1917 (D/P39/28A/9)

A great success from the Patriotic as well as the Social point of view

A concert encouraged Clewer people to invest their savings in government funds aimed at helping with the war effort.

St Agnes’, Clewer

There is no doubt that we all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly at our War Savings Concert on October 30, and it was a great success from the Patriotic as well as the Social point of view. What with the varied selection of popular songs, the wonderful execution of a pianist, and the telling speech in which Mr. Weston advocated the advantages gained for our Country and for ourselves by joining the War Savings Association, it was an out and out star-performance.

No less than six new members were enrolled then and there, and others have joined up since. Payments (6d. and upwards) are made at the Mission Room any Monday between 4 and 5 o’clock. when the Hon. Secretary will gladly give information to all who will take this splendid opportunity of helping those at the Front, and at the same time, getting a good return for our money which we can always have out at any time if we should want it.

Clewer parish magazine, December 1917 (D/P39/28A/9)

“Days & nights in water and mud is very trying”

An army chaplain reported on his experiences with men just back from the front lines for a short break.

19 October 1917

Mother received a letter from the Sub-Warden on the 17th inst. from which the following are extracts:

“We have just emerged from a very uncomfortable and strenuous time, & are resting in a little French village. The men are splendid, but it was heart-breaking to see them all getting out of the train which brought them straight from the front…

With considerable difficulty we managed to have thin blankets for them all to get into and fall asleep. Already food and rest have changed them wonderfully, & their poor feet are better. Days & nights in water and mud is very trying.

I shall never forget a Mass in a crowded dugout the day before they went in. Halfway through the service, 2 officers managed to slip into the doorway; there was no other spot. I remember them so well crouching in a very uncomfortable position, and shutting out all of what little light could get in. Only the 2 candles on the altar. They made their Communion. It was their Viaticum. GOD rest their souls!”

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

The Russians are giving in

Florence Vansittart Neale was depressed by the war news, both at home and abroad – and concerned about new food restrictions on sugar.

3 September 1917

Raids at Chatham & Sheerness – 107 sailors killed…

Mr Austman still here. All down about Riga gone. Russians giving in.

Wrote for sugar for jam!

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

Meanwhile the Sub-Warden of Clewer House of Mercy was heading to France as an army chaplain.

3 September 1917

The Sub-Warden returned from Strensall Camp on short leave before reporting himself at the War Office previously to going to France.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

Special services

The day after the anniversary was commemorated.

5 August 1917

Anniversary of the beginning of the war. Special prayers at the first selebration of the Holy Eucharist and at Mattins. “GOD Save the King” sung at Evensong.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

5 August 1917

Special services for 4th [sic] anniversary of war.

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