Personal help given to the Belgian refugees & soldiers during the war

Two of the Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist were recognised for their caring work with wounded soldiers and Belgian refugees.

28 June 1918

Notice was sent out that Sister Edith Katharine had had the “medaille de la reine Elisabeth” bestowed upon her by the King of the Belgians, in recognition of personal help given to the Belgian refugees & soldiers during the war. Also that among the King’s Birthday Honours, Sister Mary Victoria has the Kaisar-i-Hind Medal bestowed upon her.

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

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Workmen “called up” for the war

A printer could not fulfil his firm’s orders due to losing most of his employees to the war.

10 May 1918

Office Papers could not be sent as usual for the week because the printer had not been able to send the forms which had been ordered some time before, owing to lack of workers, his workmen “called up” for the war.

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

In open boats for about 2 hours in a rough sea

Three Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist had a terrifying experience as they travelled home from India.

20 April 1918

Sister Alexandrina, Sister Marion Edith and Sister Edith Helen, who had left Calcutta March 9th, arrived safely after an adventurous voyage. They had only been allowed to travel with special permission from the Government of India on account of Sister Alexandrina’s state of health, which made it necessary for her to leave India.

Their ship was torpedoed by an enemy sub-marine in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Africa. Then passengers were transferred to the ship’s boats and all were saved. They were in open boats for about 2 hours in a rough sea. The Sisters & their companions were picked up by a British sloop-of-war and landed at Bizerta, where they remained for 4 days. Then they were taken on board a French mail boat carrying troops and were safely landed at Marseilles after a very uncomfortable voyage owing to the crowded condition of the steamer.

From Marseilles they travelled by train to Paris & Havre, & from thence crossed to Southampton.

Owing to rationing orders limiting the quantity to each House of certain articles of food, & the scarcity of others, the Sisters from the other Houses cannot for the present come to the House of Mercy for tea on Sundays, as has been the custom, nor have their meals there when having day’s retreats.

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

“The bomb passed through the bows, exploding on the other side”

Three of the Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist, whose base was at Clewer, were shipwrecked on their way home from India thanks to enemy action.

April, 1918
My dear Associates

You will all be interested to hear that we have just welcomed home from Calcutta Sister Alexandrina, Sister Marion Edith and Sister Edith Helen after a really perilous voyage. The only route available was via Colombo, which they reached by train from Calcutta. The first part of the voyage through the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea was very enjoyable, smooth and lovely weather.

Good Friday was spent in the harbour of Suez, and Port Said was reached on Sunday morning. Along the banks of the Suez Canal they saw many races of the recent fighting in Egypt – deserted trenches and dug-outs, and in one place a camp of a considerable size, but their own course was perfectly uneventful.

After waiting four days at Port Said, their steamer joined a large convoy of vessels bound for England, protected by several destroyers and sloops. All went well during the first six days, and then, at 7 a.m. on a date I am not allowed to mention, the ship was struck by a torpedo. Mercifully no one was seriously injured, the bomb having passed through the bows, exploding on the other side.

Fearing another attack, the Captain immediately transferred all the passengers to the boats, and after rowing about on a rough sea for two hours, a sloop picked them up, and conveyed them to Bizerta, a French town on the coast of North Africa, the actual site of ancient Carthage, about four hours by rail from Tunis. At once everything was done on a most generous scale for their comfort and protection, and four days later a mail boat from Tunis conveyed all the passengers to Marseilles, and from there the homeward journey was continued via Paris, Havre and Southampton….

Letters to Associates of the Community of St John Baptist (D/EX1675/1/24/6)

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 general condition of strain consequent on the war

The Anglican Community of St John Baptist, whose headquarters was at Clewer, always fasted during Lent. But the food shortages meant they had to impose a different regime this year.

10 February 1918

The following directions were sent to all the Houses of the Community with reference to the rule of fasting to be observed during the coming Lent this year.

“In consequence of the general condition of strain consequent on the war, the Warden & Mother feel that the usual Lenten rule cannot be kept this year.

There will be dry bread for breakfast only on Wednesdays & Fridays for the first 4 weeks.

The second meatless day will be observed according to the rules of the Government (i.e. according to the days on which the Government prohibits meat to be sold in different places.)

There will be some kind of plain pudding every day.

The regulation as to no pastry being used must be in abeyance (because it has been found necessary sometimes to use pastry to make the meat allowance sufficient).

At breakfast and tea whatever can be most easily obtained should be provided, such as porridge, marmalade, jam, margarine, etc.

On Ash Wednesday there should be dry bread for breakfast & tea as usual, the rest of the food as on meatless days.”

The mitigation of the usual Lenten Rule has been sanctioned by the Bishop, whom the Warden consulted on the subject.

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

TO MY PEOPLE-

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.

GEORGE R.I.

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
MINISTER’S JOTTINGS
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
RIP

..
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….

(more…)

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)

Nursing the convalescent

The Community of St John Baptist had been taking in wounded soldiers at their convalescent home by the sea in Kent.

2 November 1917

Notice sent that the Royal Red Cross decoration had been awarded by the King to Sister Laura Jane as Sister Superior, St Andrew’s Home, Folkestone, where convalescent wounded soldiers have been nursed since the beginning of the war.

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

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)

“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)