“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)


Up to your eyes in mud and water – or a howling wilderness of desert sand

Reading men at the front write home with more news of their experiences, and hopes for the longed-for period after the war.

We still manage to keep smiling, with the hope that this war will soon come to an end. We are now (March 16th) at work loading and unloading material, and taking it up the line on the light railways. We have exciting times some days. I hope to have a leave before long, if all goes well. It is just on 12 months since I crossed the Herring Pond…

The weather out here has been like summer these last few days, but of course it is very cold in the early morning. It’s rotten out here when it is wet. The least drop of rain, and you are up to your eyes in mud and water…

G. Thatcher (OS)

I wonder if you have the same crush into your Soldiers’ Club as there is in all such places out here in the camp where I am working. At the YMCA here it is the usual thing to have half an hour queue wait to get a cup of cocoa in the evenings. All religious services on Sundays are full to overflowing three quarters of an hour before starting time, and it is advisable to get there an hour before time to get a seat. Needless to say concerts and lectures are as bad. I hope the Brotherhood is still flourishing. The attendance is, I magine, largely of greybeards – the old faithfuls. The choir is, I suppose, practically defunct for the present – awaiting a glorious resurrection when the boys come home…

With best wishes to all at Broad St.
Chas A. Grigg (OS)

I should just love to visit a place such as you have (the Soldiers’ Room) but my place at present is a howling wilderness of desert sand. We have done great work, the boys of the Berkshire Battery, for which we have been praised – also the Yeomanry, too…

This week we have had a very bad time for rain and wind. I have changed three times today (Feb 19th) owing to getting wet through. The towel you send me came into use directly I opened the parcel; and the other contents I can honestly say came in extremely useful. I am writing you the first letter out of the writing pad you also were good enough to send me…

Please give my fondest regards to the Brothers…

God bless and keep you all.

A. W. Slatter (OS)

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

Old clothes for distressed people in Europe

Members of the Broad Street Brotherhood wanted to help families in areas in France and Belgium occupied, and devastated, by the enemy.


The final result of the Mass Meeting held in the Palace Theatre enabled the society to remit a cheque for £49 8s 0d to the National Federation [of Brotherhoods], on behalf of the distressed people in the countries on the continent. This was a good bit of work, but Brother William Ward wished further efforts to be made in the direction of collecting old clothes.

A small sub-committee met to consider this matter, and they decided it would be a good thing to do. But to ensure success it would be absolutely necessary to have a body of at least 40 or 50 willing helpers, who would systematically visit the various houses in the town, leave literature, and call and ascertain if gifts of old clothes can be spared.

To bring this particular object before the whole body of our members, an open meeting for men and women is to be held on Sunday March 3rd, at which a special speaker will address the meeting. After that it is intended to ask for subscriptions for initial expenses, and also for the names of helpers.

If both subscriptions and helpers are forthcoming, then the committee intend to go forward with this very necessary bit of work; but they feel that they cannot possibly do this unless they are well backed up by the whole body of the Brotherhood.

It has been decided to send to all our brothers on service – whether at home or abroad – a copy of the Broad Street Magazine in the future, instead of the Brotherhood Journal, as a wish has been expressed for a paper with more local news in it. Brother A. T. Doe has again undertaken to do the work of addressing and dispatching these, month by month.

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

The wounded soldiers are no longer able to get the cup of tea in the afternoon which they so much enjoyed

The Broad Street Chapel premises had been hosting soldiers since the start of the war. But shortages of food – and, worse, tea – were putting a dampener on things.

Our work amongst the soldiers has been somewhat interrupted by a new Army Regulation which precludes the provision of refreshments to soldiers, except between the hours of 6.30 and 9.0 pm. This means that the wounded soldiers are no longer able to get the cup of tea in the afternoon which they so much enjoyed. Nor can they be supplied with food of any kind. Coffee and cocoa may still be served; but these are not regarded as a satisfactory substitute for the “cup which cheers, etc”. Consequently we have very few men in the rooms which formerly were crowded.

We have to admit that the regulation is reasonable in view of the food shortage, and we can only hope that our wounded friends will soon get accustomed to the near [mistake for new?] conditions, and that we shall have them back again.

Men and women in khaki still crowd the rooms each evening, though they are now strictly rationed.

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

“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)

The happy faces of the Tommies

Reading churchgoers’ support made all the difference for men at the front.

Church News
An Echo from “Our Hut”

The following letter of unsolicited appreciation from one frequenter of the Trinity Y.M.C.A. Hut will be read with interested by all. It was sent to our Church Secretary, Mr. Brain. December 9th, 1917.

“Dear Sir

“I Feel I should like to express and I know my comrades here will share the same sentiments with me, my appreciation of your kindness in providing the Y.M.C.A. hut for us. Your congregation cannot realise to the full extent the great boon and blessing it proves to our men out here. It is a great convenience to be able to go in the hut of an evening and have a chat and a cup of cocoa. It breaks the monotony of the life out here.

Concerts are frequently held in the hut, which on such occasions is always packed. Last night’s concert was packed to overflowing, and the cigarettes, cocoa and biscuits which were provided through the generosity of the members of your congregation were greatly appreciated, they came as a surprise, and if the donors could have seen the happy faces of the Tommies, they would be more than compensated for their kindness.

“Mr Harrison who has proved a most popular leader and who has always been kindness itself will be telling you in more forceful language than mine, the benefits of the hut, so wishing all your members a most happy Christmas and prosperous New Year,

“Believe me, yours gratefully,

“Jas. W. Waters,

“No. 165,208, 88th Brigade,

Trinity Congregational Magazine, February 1918 (D/EX1237/1)

“We think of them very often”

Tilehurst men were sharing their experiences with those at home.

It has been delightful to receive letters from some of the men in khaki, or in navy blue, since writing the last set of notes, especially because those fellows show such unmistakeable signs of their appreciation of church life here in the earlier days. The stories of their experiences – religious and much otherwise! – are full of interest, and any of our friends who might have relatives formerly within our circle might let them know how a few lines would be appreciated. We think of them very often, and wish them the best.

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, February 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

The thoughts of many people are turned in the direction of the Red Cross work in this special year

Broad Street Church hoped that concern for the wounded soldiers did not detract from other needs internationally.

The week beginning Sunday February 10th and ending Sunday February 17th is to be observed as “L.M.S. Hospital Week”, when the gifts of our friends are asked for the valuable Medical Missionary work of the London Missionary Society….

It is hoped that in this special year, when the thoughts of many people are turned in the direction of the Red Cross work being undertaken on behalf of our own wounded and those of other countries, there may be a great increase in practical sympathy with the needy sick and suffering throughout the world.

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

“The collapse of our Boy Scout Department caused by the Leaders having been called up for service in HM’s Forces”

Youth work at a Reading church was suffering with so many of the young men serving abroad.


Report for 1917

We have much pleasure in printing below the report of work done in the Sunday School, which was read at the Annual Meeting of Church and Congregation on Thursday February 8th by the Hon. Sec., Mr D. A. Wilson.

The Senior Departments also have been carried on successfully – the YWBC under the leadership of Mrs Hendey and the YM’s Institute still under the leadership of our veteran friend Mr W. A. Swain, in spite of reduced numbers due to the war. This lack of numbers we have in a measure been able to remedy by drafting a dozen of our older scholars from the Intermediate Department to the Institute about a year earlier than we should have done in normal times.

This fact, together with what I may almost call the collapse of our Boy Scout Department caused by the Leaders having been called up for service in HM’s Forces, and through which I regret to say a number of boys have drifted away from the school, has caused our numbers in the General School to be fewer than usual.

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

A marvellous escape from an airship crash

Broad Street Church kept in contact with all its men who had joined up.

News has now been received from Air-Mechanic Fred W. Warman to the effect that he is interned at Croningen in Holland. He was acting as wireless-operator in the air-ship which came down there, and had a marvellous escape. We are glad to know that he writes in a bright and cheerful strain, and that he is trying to make the best of things.

Flight Sub-Lieut W. R. Taper of the RNAS has been appointed for duty in Malta. It has been a pleasure to see him frequently in our midst in recent weeks. The good wishes of many friends at Broad Street will go with him as he takes up his new duties.


Brother Woolley has consented to continue his good services by acting as correspondent with our members on service. This [is] a quiet piece of work which is bound to have its good results when things are normal again.


The list of our men who have responded to the call of God and King and Country. (more…)

“For twelve hours on end we were serving men who had just come out alive, though not unscarred, from one of the most terrible battles of this most terrible of all wars”

An account of life at one of the YMCA Huts close to the front lines.

“Four Months in Trinity Hut.”

My second period of service with the Y.M.C.A. at the front is now a thing of the past, and I can never say enough to express my gratitude to the friends who made it possible for me to answer the clearest call that ever yet came to me. Looking back on those four months there is no doubt in my mind that they held what was in many ways the greatest experience and supreme opportunity of my life up to now.

It is of course out of the question for me to convey here an adequate idea or connected account of those experiences. Apart from the limited space, very strict regulations forbid me to print anything of a military or even semi-military character. But in my two lectures at Park [Congregational Church, Reading] on January 9th and 16th, and on Sunday afternoons at the Institute I was able to say something about the ordinary workaday life and work at Trinity Hut, and also about sundry adventures that befell me out there.

Speaking quite generally, this visit was from my point of view far and away more satisfactory than was even my last. There was much less in proportion of the mere manual drudgery, such as could be done as well or better by orderlies. As leader of our own hut, one had of course far more initiative, and fuller opportunities for the kind of service that one was most anxious to render. The chief of these were those afforded by our Sunday evening services which will remain with me as priceless memory so long as I live, those and the many chances of quiet personal talks with the men who are bearing the brunt of the present conflict.

It was a very great delight to see and welcome quite a number of our Trinity boys. In this respect my one great disappointment was quickly merged into something far deeper – the sense of irreparable loss and personal sorrow on Learning that the meeting with Wilfred Drake, to which we had looked forward so eagerly, was not to be. He was taken from us on the very day of my arrival at Trinity Hut, not more than three miles or so from its doors; and there are many of us for whom Trinity will never be quite the same, without his bright smile and cheery voice and loyal comradeship in all good things.

Where every day was packed with work and events of the most absorbing interest, it is not easy to make a selection for special reference; but perhaps the most outstanding feature of all was our work among the wounded. During the September fighting we opened a large marquee half-a-mile or so from the hut, at a dressing station in the village. There many hundreds of walking wounded passed through our hands on their way back to the Hospitals behind the lines, in the base towns, or (the lucky ones) in “dear old Blighty.” I shall never forget those days, still less those nights, when sometimes for twelve hours on end we were serving men who had just come out alive, though not unscarred, from one of the most terrible battles of this most terrible of all wars.

I am glad to be able to reproduce on the adjoining page some sketches and outlines drawn by Mr. Cecil Dunford – the first leader of our Hut – which will convey a better of its general shape and proportions than any mere verbal description. The original will, I hope, be framed and hung up in due course somewhere on Church premises.

And now glad as I am to have that priceless experience, I am no less glad to be home again, and back at work which lies so near my heart and among the friends to whose loyalty and patience I owe so much. May God help us all be brave and faithful in these great, stern, tragic, faithful times. To Him let us commit ourselves and our sacred cause, putting all our trust in him, and praying for fulfilment in us of the ancient promise, “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”

Trinity Congregational Magazine, February 1918 (D/EX1237/1)

YMCA experiences with the troops

A YMCA worker told Tilehurst people about his work with the troops.

Mr Alex. Brown, District Secretary of the Band of Hope Union, visited us on January 31st, giving two very interesting lectures on his “YMCA Experiences with the Troops at Home and in France”. The first lecture was given to children, our schoolroom being crammed to the doors with an enthusiastic and attentive congregation. The second was also very well attended, being appreciated just as highly by adults. Eighty slides illustrated Mr Brown’s racy remarks, Mr Bromley manipulating the lantern. A collection was taken for YMCA Hut work at each lecture – the total amount being £2 11s 0d.

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Broad Street Congregational Magazine, March 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

A strenuous time with tanks

There was news of several soldiers associated with Broad Street Church in Reading, while the men’s group was trying to help displaced civilians in France.


Captain L. Victor Smith, MC, has many friends and well-wishers at Broad Street, and they were all delighted to see him once more when he was recently home on furlough. Captain Smith had been having a most strenuous time with his tanks, and we were all glad to know that he had come safely through many perils “without a scratch”. We pray that God’s protecting care may continually be about him. During his stay he was summoned to Buckingham Palace to receive his Military Cross at the hands of the King.

News has been received that Air-Mechanic Fred W. Warman, of the RNAS (eldest son of our friends Mr and Mrs Warman) is interned in Holland. He was in an air-ship which “came down” there a few days ago. Whilst we deeply regret this misfortune, we rejoice to know that our young friend’s life has been spared, and we trust he may be as happy as circumstances permit. We all sympathise with his parents in their anxiety.

At the time of writing, 2nd Lieut. Leslie Pocock is on his way to India, and the thoughts and prayers of many at Broad Street go with him. We trust he may have a safe journey, that he may come safely through every experience, and that some day in the not distant future we may have the joy of welcoming him home. He will be missed in many branches of our church work.

Quite a number of our “men in training” have been home recently for a short furlough. We refrain from mentioning names for fear lest some should be overlooked. It is always a pleasure to see them at the services, and we take this opportunity of telling them so. The Minister is not always able, as he would wish, to speak to them. They get away too soon. He wishes they would “stay behind” for a few moments at the close of the service so that he might have opportunity for a word of greeting.

We should like to join our Brotherhood Correspondent in his appreciation of the generosity of Mr Tyrrell. At the conclusion of the Brotherhood meeting at the Palace Theatre, Mr Tyrrell promised £40 to provide one of the huts which the Brotherhood National Council propose to erect for destitute families in the devastated districts of France. Mr Tyrrell requested that his name should not be publicly mentioned in the matter. He wished the money to go from Broad Street Brotherhood. But seeing that someone “gave away the secret” to the local press, there is no reason now why the name should be withheld. We hope this generous lead will inspire the Brotherhood Committee to renewed efforts on behalf of their distressed brethren in Northern France.

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

“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)