So ends another piece of the war-work

The YMCA Hut supported by a Reading church closed down as men returned home.

The “Trinity” Hut

Since publishing the interesting details in last month’s issue, information has been received that, owing to the rapidity of demobilization, the removal of out Hut to Zeebrugge as intended, will be advisable. It is proposed, therefore to dispose of it by auction sale as is being done with all other such huts. Removal to England is impossible on account of the high cost of freight and the unavoidable damage sustained in transit.

So ends another piece of the war-work, but no such bounds can be set to the good resulting from it. How far-reaching was that influence, Eternity alone will reveal!

Trinity Congregational Magazine, Sept 1919 (D/EX1237/1/12)

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A bright spot in a time of need

A Reading church received news about the YMCA hut they had supported for soldiers behind the lines.

The “Trinity” Hut

Owing to the departure of many of the Y.M.C.A. Secretaries from the war area, it has been very difficult to get any definite information about our second Hut in France. Until just lately we believed this was erected at St. Omer, but now find that to be incorrect, as the following prove:
2nd July, 1919.

My Dear Mr. Harrison,

I went up this week to see Mr. McCowen as he was coming back from Germany on his way to London, and immediately took up the question of the allocation of your Hut with him. He well remembers the situation and says that your Hut was not actually in the St. Omer area, but it was at St. Malo-les-Bains, near Dunkirk, which after all is not so far away from St. Omer. He says this is the second Reading Hut. I have asked Mr. Sitters to send me a report as to the work of this Hut during the last few months, and also to see that the board saying it is the Reading Hut is still up in it. This Hut has served, during the past few months, thousands of men, who have been using Dunkirk as a demobilisation centre. Further particulars will be coming through, which I will send along. There is a possibility that the Navy may move the Hut to the mole at Zeebrugge, as there is a great need for an extension of our work at that place, but I will see that you are advised if this is done.

I am enclosing herewith the official receipt for the fifteen pounds which you so kindly sent. It was used in the Hut for Christmas festivities.

Yours sincerely,
(Signed) H.N.HOLMES.
Chief Secretary for France.

The report referred to is as follows:-

“The Reading (Malo) Hut was first erected in the Ypres centres, where it provided rest and recreation for countless numbers of men going in and coming out of the trenches. In it provision was made for reading, writing and games. Concerts and lectures were given from time to time, and services were held on Sundays. A refreshment counter where tea, cocoa and coffee, biscuits, cigarettes, etc., could be obtained, was greatly appreciated by those frequenting the Hut.

Later on, owing to the movement of troops, the sector was occupied by Belgian troops, who made considerable use of the Hut. One feature of their occupation was the excellent concerts given by officers and men of the Belgian army. On account of the Germans shelling the place very heavily it was found necessary to move the Hut to a more sheltered spot. It was dismantled, moved south two miles, near to the famous St. Sixthe Convent, re-erected, re-painted, and re-opened within seven days.

On the signing of the armistice the Hut was moved to Dunkirk, where it has provided accommodation for various units, including re-mounts, men being demobilised, and men returning from leave and going to Egypt. On its removal to Dunkirk it was beautifully re-decorated and fitted with electric light, and may now be considered one of the most attractive huts in France.

The subscribers, through whose generosity it has been possible for the Y.M.C.A. to meet the needs of so many men, will be happy to know that the Hut has been a bright spot in a time of need to thousands of the brave men who have been defending our country.”

Trinity Congregational Magazine, August 1919 (D/EX1237/1/12 )

“Our village is still like a battlefield”

The August issue of a Reading church magazine had news from a family of Belgian refugees who had now returned home.

Our Belgian Guests

Though we have now bidden good-bye to our Belgian family, they are not forgotten, and we gladly avail ourselves of Miss Hammond’s kind permission to print the following letter, (long held over through lack of space) telling of the return home.

Kelfs-Herent,
29TH March, 1919.
Dear Miss Hammond,

We reached home a fortnight ago, on the 15th of March, at half-past four in the afternoon. We found our house quite empty, for the Germans had stolen most of our things, and what they left others took. The doors and windows are broken, the walls both inside and out are damaged, and there is a large hole in the roof. The Germans did their cooking everywhere, leaving the house so dirty that it has taken me ten days to get it even a little clean! We must wait till next year for fresh wall-paper, it is still too dear.

Food is very scarce; there is hardly anything in the shops and everything is much dearer than in England. Meat costs 9-10 francs the Kilo, butter 15 franks, margarine 8.5 franks. A sack of flour costs 110 franks, and one cannot even then always get it. Every day we say that war for existence is now beginning, and happy are the people who live in the promised land of England or France. Our village is still like a battlefield; some of the houses have been re-built but not all. The people living next to us have so aged during these four years that we did not recognise them. We have no cow or horse, and they are so dear that we must wait a while before buying.

I hope that you will give our compliments to all the kind friends at your church, and thank them again for all they did for us during the four years of war.

Please accept the sincere respects of your grateful family.”

M. Van De Venne.
Elise De Kruster.

We are very grieved to hear that, since reaching home, our friends have sustained a very heavy loss in the death of their dear little girl, Elisa, on June 3rd, after an illness of three weeks. We shall all join in sympathetic remembrance of the sorrowing father and mother.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, August 1919 (D/EX1237/1/12 )

Not a few of our brave lads have made the great sacrifice which helped to bring Peace to the Nations

Those who had not returned from the war were remembered in the midst of rejoicing.


The Sunday School

The Peace-time Picnic was greatly enjoyed at Beacon Hill, on Wednesday, 13th August. The day was very fine – the sun’s rays being tempered with a delightful breeze, and the sylvan beauties of the park with the glorious views from the downs were never before seen in such perfection by the majority of those present.

The last School Picnic at Highclere was held in July 1914 – almost on the eve of the great world tragedy of August 4th of that year – and not a few of our brave lads have made the great sacrifice which helped to bring Peace to the Nations. We bow our heads in reverent remembrance of them, and thank God for those who have been spared and have been enabled to take up their work again.

The work on this occasion was indeed joyous, as load after load of happy people of all ages, but mostly young, were discharged on the soft turf from the motor lorries provided by Messrs. Pass & Co. Three journeys were made each way, the first company starting at 1 o’clock and the last at 3.45 from the Lecture Hall and the return journeys were made, the first at 6.30 and the last at 9.15, thus giving all a fair average of time at the Hill.

The all important function of tea was celebrated on the slopes near the Lodge at 4.30. Mrs. F.C. Hopson and a willing band of helpers catered for the hungry throng, 300 strong, while Mr Henry Marshall eclipsed all his past efforts by the splendid brew he produced. All were unanimous in saying that the tea was an unqualified success. After the tea, sports and games, under the direction of Mr. H. Allen and Mr. Spalding, held in the field, and the first hoot of the lorry’s siren sounded all too soon.

The whole of the arrangements worked perfectly under the direction of the Superintendents of the School, and the result was a day of pure and unalloyed enjoyment. Mention must be made of the kind assistance rendered by Mr. Harris, who in the absence of our newly elected Minister, officiated at the tea, also of the numerous friends in the congregation who contributed so liberally towards the expenses, and are hereby tendered the grateful thanks of the Officers and Teachers.

It may be interesting to shew by way of contrast the cost of a pre-war picnic at Beacon Hill with that of a post-war expenditure for practically the same number.

1914
£ S d
Total expenditure 16 15 1

Less Tea and Rail Fares 3 4 6
Paid for by 43 friends at
1s 6d each
Net Cost £13 11s 7d

1919
£ S d
Total expenditure 17 17 8 ½

RECEIPTS

Balance previous treats 17 0
Contributions 11 3 9 ½
Provisions sold 1 9 2 ½ 13 10 0

Balance Due to Treas. £4 7s 8 ½ d

The cost of transit was the most expensive item this year owing to 50% increase of railway fares and the unsuitable times of the trains an expenditure of £9 had to be incurred for motor lorries. Leaving this item out of the account the other expenses work out to even less than the pre-war picnic.

The cost of tea, including the boiling of water and hire of crockery, was about 5⅓d. per head, inclusive of teachers and helpers – a wonderful result, which, in these days of high prices, reflects great credit on Mrs. F. C. Hopson and those helping her.

The Newbury and Thatcham Congregational Magazine, September 1919 (D/N32/12/1/1/1)

“It was nearly five years since we have sat on a roundabout”

Belgium rejoiced in its freedom, despite financial pressures.

THE BELGIANS

The subscribers to the Belgian Home Fund met in the Lecture Room, August 13th, wind up accounts. It was reported that the furniture and fittings not returnable had been sold and all liabilities met, and that £14 12s. 9d. remained in hand. Mrs. Lewis proposed that the amount be sent by banker’s draft to Mr. Van Hoof, at Boom, to be divided between the two girls, Jeanne and Eliza. Mrs. Hews seconded, and the proposition was carried unanimously. A hearty vote of thanks was passed to the Secretary and Treasurer for their services, and to Mr. A.T. Taylor for kindly acting as Honorary Auditor.

Mrs. Hews read a letter she had received from Jeanne Van Hoof, and we print an extract here for the benefit of those who were not present:-

“I hope you do not think we have forgotten you already. I know I have waited a long time before writing, but I have to do such an enormous amount of home work, that I scarcely find time to do anything else. Here in Boom everything is very much like before. We came home just on the day of the yearly Carnival, and the people are as merry as before. A fortnight after there was a big fair on the market place. Liza and I enjoyed ourselves immensely, because it was nearly five years since we have sat on a roundabout. There was a circus, three roundabouts, and a barracks where you could go and buy sweets. The food is at the present time dearer than when we first came. A two-pound loaf costs 8½d., meat 4s. a pound, and an egg is nearly as dear as a loaf. Shoes are scarcely obtainable, so that we sell those we have still left, and can’t get any new pairs……”

Jeanne made a lot of friends in Maidenhead, and we shall be glad to hear of her welfare, and that of the whole family, from time to time.”

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, September 1919 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Deferred from the preceding Wednesday in favour of Children’s Peace Celebrations

Tilehurst children enjoyed a rare day out as far away as Streatley.

SUNDAY SCHOOL OUTING

About 200 joined the party which journeyed to Streatley Hill on Wednesday, July 30th, on the occasion of the Tilehurst Congregational Church Sunday School Treat. This number included a most encouraging proportion of grown-up relatives of our scholars.

The outing, deferred from the preceding Wednesday in favour of Children’s Peace Celebrations, was fortunately on a worthier scale than has been possible since the war broke out…

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, September 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

The children have been very patient during the war

Tilehurst Congregational Church hoped to expand its horizons now that we were at peace.

The Annual [Sunday School] Treat will take place on the following Wednesday [23 July] – full details later, except that we would like to take the children further than Kentwood Hill this year. They have been very patient during the war.

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, July 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Peace celebrations keep youngsters up late

Peace celebrations kept children from other occasions.

The Sunday School Anniversary [20 July], 1919, will stand out in the memory of all our school workers for a very long while indeed (unless it be eclipsed!)…

It was unfortunate that the day followed that of the Peace Celebrations which had, no doubt, kept a lot of our youngsters up very late the night before. This thinned us in the morning, the number of scholars present being very disappointing…

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, August 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“Now that we are once again at peace we are glad to see this custom revived”

Park Place was actually in the Berkshire parish of Remenham.

CHOIR OUTING

Without any complaints, the members of our Choir have foregone their annual excursion during the years of war, and now that we are once again at peace we are glad to see this custom revived. On July 9th, at 9.30 am, a party, numbering 37, left the Tilehurst landing stage on board the steam-launch “Mystery”, bound for Park Place, Henley [sic].

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, August 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

The King’s Birthday Honours

Two Maidenhead soldiers were recognised.

DECORATIONS FOR SOLDIERS.

In the King’s Birthday List of Honours, there appear the names of John H. Bolton, who has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, and Percy Lewis, who receives the Order of the British Empire (Military Divn.).

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, July 1919 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“It is, indeed, a great inspiration and joy to have a big proportion of our soldier and sailor “boys” home for good”

Men were flocking back to their old lives.

DEMOBILISATION

This long word, which stands for so much to so many, is standing for a great deal in our church these days. It is, indeed, a great inspiration and joy to have a big proportion of our soldier and sailor “boys” home for good, and to see that their enthusiasm for their old church and [Sunday] school is undiminished. Their presence is giving a splendid fillip to some branches of our church work, notably the Young People’s Union. The strength of the men’s section of that youthful branch is now so strong that the other sections of that Union were recently entertained entirely by the men-folk, even to the preparation of a “supper”.

Tilehurst section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, June1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“They will have the consciousness that they have had a part in a most magnificent and wonderful piece of service”

Life back home was difficult for some.

OUR SOLDIERS.

The majority of our soldiers have now been demobilized , a few only remaining in the Service, in Germany and elsewhere. It is a great joy to see the men home again. Some of them do not find it very easy to discover exactly the post in civil life which will give them the start they want, but we hope that in a very short time they will all be in a right place, and be full steam ahead for a prosperous and useful life. They will have the consciousness that they have had a part in a most magnificent and wonderful piece of service, for which may God forgive us if we ever cease to be grateful.

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, June 1919 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“Various brothers gave some of their experiences during the time they were on active service”

More men were welcomed home.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

On Saturday, June 21st, we held the “Welcome Home Tea” to our Brothers who have been on active service, and are now demobilised. They numbered about 30, and a most pleasant evening was spent.

A meat tea was generously given by our President (C Steward Smith, Esq., JP) and afterwards various brothers gave some of their experiences during the time they were on active service. Musical items were rendered, and during the latter part of the evening coffee and sandwiches were served. It was really one of the best and most enjoyable evenings held in connection with the Brotherhood for many a day.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, July 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“We are truly sorry to lose from our midst one from whom we expected much in coming days”

After all the dangers of war it was illness which felled one returning soldier.

CONDOLENCE

We much regret to have to record the death of Mr Frank W. Snell of 22 Eldon Road. Our friend had not long been demobilised. He was on active service for a considerable time in France, and was seriously wounded in the head and face. There can be no doubt whatever that the brief illness to which he succumbed was due to this cause. We are truly sorry to lose from our midst one from whom we expected much in coming days, and we tender our sincerest sympathy to his parents, and the other members of his family, in their sore bereavement.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, June 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

A heartfelt “welcome back” to the men who had done and suffered so much for their country and for us

There was a warm welcome home for returning soldiers at Broad Street Chapel.

June

VARIOUS ANNOUNCEMENTS

It is proposed to give a “Welcome Home” to demobilised soldier and sailors connected with the church, in the Schoolroom, on Wednesday June 4th at 7 pm. A limited number of tickets for the tea and subsequent gathering will be sold to other friends at 1/6 each. Application for these tickets should be made to the Chapel-keeper or to any of the deacons.

July

“WELCOME HOME”

On Wednesday June 4th, members of the church and congregation assembled in the Schoolroom to give a cordial “Welcome Home” to men from the church and its various organisations who had been “demobilized”. About forty of these brethren attended, in response to the invitation which had been extended to them, and the whole proceedings were most enjoyable. At 7 o’clock the company sat down to a substantial tea which had been arranged by the wives of the deacons, and when the good things provided had been satisfactorily disposed of, the tables were cleared away for an informal meeting. Miss Vera Smith had very kindly arranged a capital programme of songs, recitations, etc, which were contributed by a number of her friends, and interspersed with the various items short speeches were delivered by several of the deacons.

The Minister was present, but owing to a relaxed throat, he was unable to speak. Mr Chas Steward Smith, JP, presided, and in fitting terms he gave a heartfelt “welcome back to Broad Street” to the men who had done and suffered so much for their country and for us. Other speakers in similar strain were Mr W. J. Brain, Mr Ernest Francis, Mr Swallow, and Mr Tibble. At the close, Mr W. J. Dance and Ex-Sergeant C. S. Stebbings voiced the gratitude of our guests for the welcome accorded them, and for the way in which the church had kept in touch with them by letters and parcels during their absence. The singing of “Auld Lang Syne” fittingly concluded a very happy gathering. Mr J Swallow was secretary, and Mr Tibble treasurer, of the committee which made arrangements for the function.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, June and July 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)