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)

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“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)

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)

A chaplain begins his spiritual work in an army camp

The Community of St John Baptist heard how their former Warden was getting on as an army chaplain.

13 July 1917

Notice was sent that Mother had received news from the Sub-Warden of the beginnings of his spiritual work amongst the soldiers in Strensall Camp.

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

Beginning military service as a chaplain

The Community of St John Baptist said goodbye to their warden, who was starting his service as an army chaplain.

21 June 1917

The Sub-Warden went away to begin his military service as Chaplain at Strensall Camp near York. The 7 am celebration [of Holy Communion] was at the High Altar followed by the Travellers’ Service.

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

Meat now easier to obtain


The food situation was becoming a little easier.


9 June 1917

The Sub-Warden received orders on the 5th June to report himself to Strensall Camp, York, on the 21st inst.

Instructions have been received with regard to mails to India, which are now to go fortnightly instead of weekly. The first mail under the new system will leave here June 13.

Notice was given that, owing to meat being now easier to obtain, the 2nd meatless day in the week would be given up.

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

Mercifully preserved from an air raid

The Clewer-based Commnity of St John Baptist had a big convalescent home in Folkestone on the Kent coast, and also did mission work in the town. They faced the danger of an air raid in May 1917.

25 May 1917

A bad air raid took place at Folkestone in the evening. About 60 killed and many more injured. Our 3 houses, and all our Sisters, patients & workers mercifully preserved from any injury, for which special thanksgiving was made afterwards at the altar.

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

No unnecessary travelling

Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist had their holidays constricted by the financial effects of the war, and the order’s chaplain offered himself to work with the troops.

11 May 1917

Notice sent to all the [daughter] Houses that in consequence of directions issued by Government that there should be no unnecessary travelling, and also because of the increased expense of journeys, the rests must not be broken up, but each Sister must take hers all at the same time, and so far as possible in one place.

The Chaplain has been accepted as Military Chaplain, and may be called up for service abroad or in England any time after the 15th inst.

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

Not strong enough for military service

The Sub-Warden of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer, decided to take a curate’s job to allow a younger, stronger clergyman to serve as an army chaplain.

13 April 1917

The Revd G H Warlow, who had offered himself for National Service, has arranged to go back as curate to his old parish (Bury Lane) to take the place of the curate who is now an Army Chaplain, Mr Warlow himself not being strong enough for military service.

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

“The difficulty of the supply of meat”

The Community of St John Baptist decided to cut down on meat consumption during the war.

5 April 1917

Maundy Thursday.

Notice was sent to all the Houses that a second meatless day (ordinarily Tuesday) would be kept each week owing to the difficulty of the supply of meat in consequence of the war. Rogation & Ember Days & Vigils would be kept as usual, and in the weeks when these occurred they would take the place of the second meatless day.

Permission was given for afternoon cups of tea on Easter day, Low Sunday, Ascension Day, Whitsunday, Corpus Christi and St John Baptist Day.

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