“We shall pray most earnestly that the wisdom of God may show the nations what is still hidden from their eyes, the ways that may lead them into peace”

St John’s was just one of the Reading churches united in prayer for the war to end.

Letter from the vicar

I write this on the eve of starting for a short holiday in Devonshire. I am to return in time for Sunday, August 4th, when we shall celebrate the fifth anniversary of the entry of this country into the world war which is still raging. Following the lead given by our King and the civic authorities in the chief city of our Empire and in many others, we shall observe the day as a solemn day of prayer. In the churches of our own parish the services throughout the day will be of a specially devotional character. We shall remember before God the heroic dead, with gratitude for the inspiration of their lives and with prayer that we may not falter in devotion to the ideal for which their lives were laid down. We shall pray for the heroic living, still battling on land and sea, in the air, and under the sea, for the cause which we believe God has summoned us to uphold. We shall pray for ourselves that we may be saved from selfishness and sin, uplifted to self-sacrifice and steeled to endurance; and we shall pray most earnestly that the wisdom of God may show the nations what is still hidden from their eyes, the ways that may lead them into peace, and may incline all men’s hearts everywhere to do his will.

It is estimated that on the battlefields of Europe ten millions of men have already laid down their lives. Under the shadow of this great tragedy let us draw near to our God, who alone can bring us out of the darkness, and whose law of righteousness provides the only basis upon which any permanent peace can be established.

In the afternoon all the religious bodies at our end of town are uniting in a solemn service of intercession, to be held at 3.30 pm on St John’s Lawn. I hope that the afternoon will be fine and that the greatest crowd ever seen there will assemble on the Lawn….

Your sincere friend and vicar
W Britton

UNITED SERVICE OF INETRCESSION

It is hoped that all Christian people in the east end of the town will uinite in a service of intercession on St John’s Lawn at 3.30 o’clock on Sunday, August 4th. The following congregations have been invited to take part, and up to the time of writing this, most of them, through their ministers,have accepted:

Earley, St Bartholomew’s, St Luke’s, St John’s, St Stephen’s, Wycliffe, Trinity, Wesleyan, St Andrew’s Presbyterian, Anderson Memorial, Cumberland Road, Park, King’s Road. His Worship the Mayor has kindly signified his intention to be present.

Should the weather be wet, the service will be held in St John’s Hall.

CARE AND COMFORTS WORKING PARTY

The following gifts have been received during the month:

Miss Rebbeck 5/- and material for 64 face cloths, Miss Hewett 3/6, Mrs Bowyer 5/-, Mrs Dauncey 1/-, Mrs May 2/6, Miss Bradley 2/6, Mrs Morley 10/-. In addition the members of the working party subscribe one penny per week each.

The following things have been made, 3 white shirts, 5 pairs pants, 3 cushion covers, 20 sterilizing bags, 7 treasure bags. Total 3259.

The balance sheet shows an expenditure on materials for over 3000 pieces of work, of £37 11s 4d, and subscriptions amounting to £38 4s 2d, so that the funds in hand are in a very low state just now, and the treasurer appeals for donations, however small, so that a stock of woollen stuffs for the autumn work may be obtained as soon as possible. The workers meet in the Princes Street Mission Room on Wednesdays from 2.30 to 4.30 pm, and anyone who would like to visit them at that time will be welcome.

Donations should be sent to Miss Rundell, 7 Alexandra Road.

September 1918

Letter from vicar

We must all, I think, feel stronger for the solemn and helpful services of August 4th, as we are cheered by the good news which came to us from the Western Front the same week. There is, may we not believe, more than a coincidence in this sequence of events. God does answer prayer. If our people would but turn to Him and wait upon Him in the spirit of our Day of Remembrance continually, He will hear and answer the pleadings of a penitent people who call on Him day and night. Not the least impressive of our services was the great gathering for united intercession on St John’s Lawn, when we had the satisfaction of uniting with so many of our brother Christians of all denominations in earnest prayer to God for His blessing and help….

Reading St. John parish magazines, August and September 1918 (D/P172/28A/24)

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A gruesome war hospital

Lady Mary Glyn had news of various friends’ fates. Lt Marmion Ferrers Guy (1877-1953) had a half-French wife. He was a career officer in the Lancashire Fusiliers who had joined up in 1900. Craufurd Tait Ellison (1888-1942) was the grandson of Archibald Tait, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, and related to the Vansittart Neales of Bisham. Lady Mary was repelled by the use of a mental hospital for nursing the wounded.

Peter[borough]
March 26th

I like General Blunker so much, & his wife – one of the quiet Irishmen, and a man of great personality. I wonder if you came across him at the Suvla Bay time? They come here for Sunday April 3rd, and we shall have Mrs Guy here the same time. She is very proud of Marmion’s DSO for Dardanelles work. Crawford [sic] Ellison is doing Brigade Major there at Northampton, Johnny Ellison’s son, whose mother was Aggy Tait, and he is a young man with much side on, & swelled head, & no manners. He was badly wounded in the leg in the Aisne battle and will probably be always lame….

[In Northampton] I saw all the Institute people, nurses & Church Army & Red Cross Rooms, under Lilah Butler, and I went all over the new County War Hospital at Duston which the War Office are getting ready for 950 wounded. It is the pauper lunatic asylum, so we are not to call it Berrywood as the soldiers would not like the idea, but as they are keeping on some of the lunatics for farm work, & some are now about the dreary half built and half prepared place I thought it sufficiently gruesome, and I am sure the place cannot be ready for a long time, and I wonder if the War Office mean real business. It is a huge and most unsuitable place, and full of great inconveniences for Staff work. I thought the cubicle being prepared for the 150 nurses dreadful and uncomfortable; the kitchens far away. We went into the Bakery and a dreadful lunatic was crouching on one of the ovens! Another came & jibbered at me in an unexpected place, and the Matron (who was there when it was an asylum) has a sinister cast in her eye and quelled him with a look! She is Scotch and keeps on all the staff of “mental” trained nurses as probationers. It all seems to me to be a tricky affair. The Doctor Superintendent is to be the Chief Doctor, and he too keeps on his staff. I certainly would not care to be sent to Berrywood if I was a wounded Tommy, but it all may come right. It did not attract me….

Poor Pen Graeme, her husband’s death is a great heartbreak. He had just gone back, a stray shell in a back trench, and it was instantaneous. Old “Hoppy”, amazed at the calmness of his womenfolk is terribly upset, & has gone to Devonshire to see the old father whose life was wrapped up in this son. Pen & he had gone to their little cottage on Perthshire his last leave, so I am afraid the old people did not see him then….


Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to her son Ralph Glyn ((D/EGL/C2/3)

“Mother, mother, save me”

William Hallam relates a spooky story about a fallen soldier from Wantage, while Florence Vansittart Neale has more spy rumours.

William Hallam, 14th September 1915
Mrs Hallam came down from Wantage. She told us a strange thing. Young Bobby Lovegrove was killed in the Dardanelles the other Sunday. His mother was in Wantage Church and was seen to look ill and get up and leave the church, and when her friends asked her what was the matter she said she had heard her boy’s voice say quite distinctly – “Mother, Mother, save me”. This happened the same Sunday he was killed before she knew even he was in Gallipoli. Young Eady too was killed the same time.

Florence Vansittart Neale, 14 September 1915
Heard 2 submarines (Germans) sunk in Bristol Channel & one beached. Shaw also saw one being chased near Lundy, & was caught.

Hear submarine catch nets made at Appledore.

Hear now they have guns at Woolwich which can go 10 miles. Also that the man [who was?] head of our aeroplanes is a spy! All changed now!!!

Diaries of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24) and Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“Moderate” peace terms would allow an unweakened Germany “to begin afresh the utter destruction of England”

John Maxwell Image continued his letter from yesterday with more details of the war’s impact in Cambridge. he was unimpressed by pacifists’ suggestions of a generous peace treaty.

Thursday [18 March 1915], 11.30 am

Yesterday I sauntered as far as 2nd stone on the Barton Road – troops of cavalry or infantry on every road now! …

We are in the military gripe altogether. Officers are billeted in your College and in others. Whewells Courts hold privates by the hundreds: who believe the building to be a Board School! Their officers are in Caius new Court lining Rose Crescent – and the General in Caius proper (I haven’t set eyes on him).

King’s entertains the female Nurses. I see them … “swanking” down King’s Avenue and opening the garden Gate to pass to their labours in “the 1st Eastern Hospital”.

At the last Union debate — moved that “this House would welcome an offer by the Allies of moderate Terms of Peace”. He was good enough to explain these. “Moderate Terms exclude the hanging, shooting, or deportation of the German Emperor, the dismemberment of Germany and the interference from outside with the internal German Constitution. The handing over of the German fleet and the payment of an indemnity to the allies except Belgium, and the retention of the German colonies conquered by England would be excluded.” He wishes her to be left, practically unweakened, and with yet more unvenomed hatred, to begin afresh the utter destruction of England, having chosen a time when she is bereft of allies.

Is he merely a “superior person”?

And “the House adjourned without a division”!!

The Fellows of Trinity, who are of military age, nearly all are wearing khaki – Capstick, Cornford, Lucas, Stuart, Tatham, Littlewood, Holland, Robertson, Taylor, Hill, Woolf, Nicholas, Butler, Bragg, etc, etc.

I see the armed sentry at Whewell’s gate standing statuesque, growing gradually whitened with falling snow….

“Numbers only can annihilate”. That Nelsonian maxim is steadily carried out by Fisher, and, as the Dresden, the Falkland Isles, the Bluecher and her gang evince, it means an almost bloodless success to the crushers. What on earth did they risk the flimsy Amethyst in the narrows for?

There is a white cat overhead which has taken a huge fancy to me. It is mutual. Tell the Missis that she presented the staircase with two absolute little snowy angels two days ago. I was taken to admire them just 3 hours after their first appearance. Anything so tiny I should not have deemed possible. A rat’s litter must be bigger. Mary Ann was very affectionate – insisted on licking my hands and purring loudly as I hauled up the prodigies for inspection. She herself (they tell me) was scarcely bigger than her offspring last September. The owner, a young 2nd Lieut. Of Engineers, brought the basket down to my rooms for goodbye that evening: and yesterday at 8 am they all left for Devonshire.

Did you see that Keith Caldwell is wounded? I wrote to poor Mrs Hutchinson, but have received no reply. I hope this doesn’t imply a serious hurt.

Love to both.

Affettuosamenta

Bild [nickname]

Always keep me posted as to any Censorial interference.

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/1)

A wedding before seeing active service

Some young couples rushed into marriage because the bridegroom was in the armed forces. One such groom was Henry Benyon (1884-1959), heir of the Englefield estate. (He survived the war, and wnet on to follow his father as Lord Lieutenant of the county.) The Burghfield parish magazine tells us more:

The marriage of Lieut. Henry A Benyon, son and heir of the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire and of Mrs Benyon, to Miss Violet Eveline Peek, daughter of the late Sir Cuthbert Peek and of the Hon. Lady Peek, of Ronsden, Devon, took place at Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street, London, on March 10th.

It was originally intended that the wedding should be celebrated in Devonshire at a later date, but this arrangement had to be altered in consequence of the bridegroom’s regiment (the Berkshire Yeomanry) being ordered abroad.

Lieut. Benyon is so well known in Burghfield that we feel sure all our parishioners will unite in congratulating both him and his bride, and in wishing them long life and happiness.

Burghfield parish magazine, April 1915 (D/EX725/3)