“The cost, already doubled since the war began, has lately again been raised 20 per cent”

The temporary organist at South Ascot was clearly a poor substitute for the man who had gone to war.

It has been with very evident welcome that our friend Mr D Clarke came back to us for his leave before going abroad. For two Sundays we had him at the organ, instilling into the choir his own enthusiasm and genius. Still it would be very ungracious not to add that we have been exceedingly fortunate in having Mr Drake available, and under him the music has been well kept up.

Our readers will understand if the Magazine is contracted to the minimum of parochial news. The cost, already doubled since the war began, has lately again been raised 20 per cent.

South Ascot Parochial Magazine, septnber 1918 (D/P186/28A/18)

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“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)

By reason of the war there are great difficulties in the railway transport of coal

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was common for parishes to set up voluntary societies where people on low wages paid in over the year and then could draw on the fund to purchase seasonal goods like winter fuel, thus spreading the cost through the year.

WINKFIELD FUEL FUND.

The Trustees have accepted the tender of Messrs. Drake & Mount, Ltd. The same quantity of coal will be distributed as last year, and, if possible by two deliveries. As by reason of the war there are great difficulties in the railway transport of coal, depositors must bear with patience any necessary delay in delivery. Messrs Drake & Mount may be relied upon to do their best in the difficult circumstances with which they have to contend.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, December 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/12)

Three of our “boys” home on leave

Some soldiers came home on leave to Spencers Wood.

Our Village Churches
Spencer’s Wood. Pastor: Mr H.E. Cole.

Home on Leave.

We are very pleased to see us amongst us three of our “boys” home on leave. Percy Double was home for ten days from France. Lce.-Cpl Harry Wheeler was home on hospital leave. Fred Norriss was home on his “last” leave. All these lads joined with us in worship on Sunday, August 26th. Percy Double and Fred Norris are now ”somewhere in France,” and they would like us to remember them in our prayers.

Sympathy.

Many of us at Spenser’s Wood learnt with deep sorrow of the death of Lieut. W.W. Drake. And we would like to express to Mrs. Drake our deepest sympathy.

Spencers Wood section of Trinity Congregational Magazine, October 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

So the war takes toll of England’s best

Tribute is paid to a fallen soldier from Reading, a young man with much to offer his community.

In Memoriam
Wilfred Wallace Drake.

The sad news that our loved friend and brother, Lieut. Wilfred Drake, had died on August 16th, from severe wounds received in action that day, has cast quite a gloom over Trinity. It came to all who knew him as a shock of personal and poignant grief. He was so essentially a vital part of the work here that, in his passing, we have sustained a grievous loss. He was perhaps the one to whom some of us were looking to come back into the Church life and, in his inimitable way, to infuse fresh life and vigour into its various activities. It is a great blow to feel that this cannot be.
In thinking over his life, three characteristics stand out in impressive prominence.

1. His Splendid Keenness.

With what tremendous energy and enthusiasm he threw himself into any job he undertook, great or small. Shall we ever forget the eagerness with which he championed the scheme for the entertaining of Kitchener’s Army in 1914-15, and with what joyful willingness he gave up many an evening to this work? Of him it may be truly said – “No duty could over task him, No need his will outrun; Or ever our lips could ask him, His hands the work had done.”

2. His Gentility.

He was of a particular happy disposition, and his spirits were so infectious a nature that he made everyone else interested and enthusiastic. Whether it were the Children’s Choir, the Eisteddfod, an Institute picnic or tennis tournament, it went if “Drake” had anything to do with it. So great was his influence that even his telegram of good wishes for the success of the Eisteddfod of 1916 gave fresh Zest to the proceedings.

3. His Earnestness.

With all his spirits, his deep thoughtfulness impressed all who were privileged with his close friendship. He scarcely ever missed attendance at the Institute Bible School, and was of enormous help getting in other young men to join. They came at first at his word and because he was there; they stopped because they liked it, again helped by his unconscious influence. He was a simple but strong faith; he did not say much but lived out what he believed.

His activities were many and in all he excelled. From its commencement the institute owed much to his initiative and enterprise. For four years he was the superintendent of the Band of Hope, where his bright personality made him the life and soul of every meeting. The training of the children’s choir was a truly great piece of work, and not only revealed his wonderful aptitude for teaching children, but was the means by which large sums were raised for charitable objects. And how the children loved him! They will long revere the memory of their good natured and painstaking conductor, to whose careful tuition many of them owe their musical powers to-day. In the Choir he was invaluable. Possessing a baritone voice of rare quality and resonance, he was a decided acquisition, and his attendance could always be relied upon. Again, his glad willing spirit readily undertook any required service.

Lieutenant Drake received his commission over two years ago, and had been in France since June, 1916. He came home on leave only a month before his death. How little did we, who so gladly welcomed his presence at church, think it was for the last time! He was attached to a Trench Mortar Battery. Numerous are the tributes which have been received showing the deep affection and profound esteem entertained for him.

Through the kindness of Mrs. Drake we are able to print two of them.

His Commanding Officer writes:-

“I have just heard that your husband has died of wounds. I cannot say how sorry we all were. Although he had been away with the trench mortars, he of course belonged to the Regiment, and had been with us for some time. He was one of the bravest and most promising of officer’s, and his loss is greatly felt in the Regiment. Please accept my deepest sympathy and that of all ranks of the Battalion in your great loss.”

The second is from A/Sergt.-Major Holmes, and it is signed by many of the of lieut. Drake’s own Battery. It is as follows:-

“I write to you these few lines of sympathy on behalf the loss of your husband, Lieutenant Drake was, who was an officer in our Battery, and I must say that he was very much liked indeed by all N.C.O’s. and men. It is now we miss him, and many a time I have heard my men say, ‘Isn’t it a pity we lost Mr. Drake?’ And I am sure it is also, for I, as well as all the others, was always fond of such a brave and noble officer as he proved himself to be.

The following are names of the N.C.O.’s and men who came out of the last action; they all asked me to write, and all send their deepest sympathy to you, the wife of a noble Officer of the British Army.”

So the war takes toll of England’s best, and when it claimed Wilfred Drake, it took one whose life would have enriched our land wherever it had been lived. Yet he is not dead, for that spirit cannot die. For us its memory will never fade, but will live as an inspiration to all who knew and loved it, and “the friendships thus made in God will grow through a;; eternity” till we meet before the great white throne and all “the shadows flee away.”

But what of his loss to his loved ones? To his young wife, whose joyful wedding lingers still in all memories, our hearts go out in tender thought, and to her and to his parents, mourning the loss of their only son, we offer our heartfelt sympathy, praying that God of all consolation may comfort their hearts.

On Sunday morning, August 26th, the choir sang very impressively “What are these?” (Stainer), and Mr. Goodenough played “O rest in the Lord. ”At the Bible School in the afternoon.” Mr Streeter made feeling reference to our great loss, and a vote of condolence with Mrs. Drake and the bereaved parents was passed. Mr. E.C. Croft gave a beautiful rendering of R.L. Stevenson’s “Requiem.”

Trinity Congregational Magazine, October 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

With the deepest sorrow

A Reading man was killed.

Sorrow

It is with the deepest sorrow that we record the death, on August 16th, of Lieut. Wilfred W. Drake from wounds received in action on that day.

We hope next month’s issue to give fuller expression of our appreciation and sympathy.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, September 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

Blinded soldiers turn to chicken rearing

Berkshire County Council and its committees dealt with several war related matters. One was the registration of the multitude of independent war charities which had sprung up.

Report of School Management Sub-committee, 14 October 1916

HEAD TEACHERS AND MILITARY SERVICE

The following Head Teachers have rejoined the Army since the last meeting: Mr Mills (Childrey), Mr Hunt (Cold Ash), Mr Bird (Priestwood), Mr Andrews (Mortimer St Mary’s) and Mr Verrall (Brimpton). Their places have been filled temporarily by the appointment of the Certificated Assistant (Woman) of their respective schools, or by the transfer of a teacher from another school.

Report of Smallholdings and Allotments Committee, 14 October 1916

COTTAGES AND LAND FOR BLINDED SOLDIERS, &C, FOR POULTRY FARMING

Enquiries were made on behalf of the Blinded Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Hostel, St Dunstan’s, as to whether any assistance could be given in finding locations near Reading for Blinded Soldiers who have been taught chicken rearing. They require a cottage and about an acre of ground at a rent not exceeding £30 per annum.

The agents in the Reading district were asked if they had any suitable properties available, but from the replies received it appeared that no suitable places were available for renting, and only three or four were put forward for sale.

It was stated by St Dunstan’s that at present only leasing could be considered.

Report of the War Charities Committee, 14 October 1916

The following applications for registration under the War Charities Act, 1916, have not been approved, and the Clerk instructed to issue certificates and to notify the Charity Commissioners: (more…)

Wedding bells

Trinity Congregational Church (no longer in existence) was in Queen’s Road, Reading. Like other local churches it had been entertaining locally billeted troops, and one of the performers had enjoyed a wartime romance with a fellow church member. Now they were getting married before he headed for the Front.

Wedding Bells

In spite of the inclement weather on December 4th, the wedding of Lieutenant W W Drake and Miss Gladys Baseden was one of the brightest and happiest ceremonies that have taken place at Trinity.

Much interest was centred in the event, for the bridegroom, until he accepted his military office, had always taken an unfailing interest in the Institute, had been the indefatigable conductor of the Children’s Choir, and secretary of the Church Choir. His bride, too, had given most valuable help to the Soldiers’ Committee in the musical entertainment of “Kitchener’s boys”, who nightly thronged our rooms last winter. Her delightful playing was a treat to all.

Trinity Congregational Church, Reading: church magazine, January 1916 (D/EX1237/1/11)

“One of the most wicked things ever used in warfare”

Parishioners of St John’s parish in east Reading got an insight into life at the front when the young men from the parish who had joined up wrote to the vicar. They shared their experiences of the trenches, hospitals just behind the lines, and being gassed.

Letters From The Front.

My Dear Vicar,
I have just received the good old Parish Magazine, sent to me by my mother. Well, throughout the numerous hardships I have endured, I am pleased to say I am still quite well and happy. At the time of writing I am out of the trenches with my regiment resting, which I think we all honestly deserve; you cannot imagine the hardships and endless duties we have to perform.

While in the trenches you are working throughout the whole night and practically all day. At night the first duty commences at 8 o’clock, that is two hours’ sentry, which is very monotonous and tiring to the eyes, having to rivet them on a certain object the whole time while the booming of the enemy’s guns is deafening and bullets whistle over your head. After two hours you are relieved, feeling tired and sometimes wet through; you wish you could enter your dug-out and have minutes’ sleep. But no! you are at once detailed to join either a working party or a ration-carrying party, there you keep on hard at work till day break.

Sometimes we are given the job of repairing the barbed wire between ours and the Germans’ trenches; my job one wet night was to climb over the parapet of our trench and crawl up within a few yards of the enemy’s lines and to lie down for four hours listening for any signs of an advance by them; I could hear them singing and talking quite plain. I can assure you I was very pleased when I had finished. At about 4.30 a.m. we partake of breakfast consisting of a piece of salt bacon about four inches square, a small piece of bread, and a mess-tin of tea (?). This meal is looked forward to as much by us as the school treat is by the children.

After this you at once enter your dug-out and snatch a few minutes’ sleep; you generally settle down and are at once told to leave your dug-out and ‘stand to arms’ as Fritz is sending over a few more ‘Whistling Willies.’ You can imagine how very tiring and strenuous this sort of business is day after day, but still we keep a stout heart, trust in God and pray for the time when we can return home victorious, with the knowledge that we have performed our duty both to God and to the nation.

While I have been out here I am pleased to say I have had the opportunity of partaking of Holy Communion. Last Sunday my pals and I walked about four miles to attend a very rough and ready celebration held by our Chaplain in an old stable.

Well, I must now close, hoping you will please excuse this hurried letter and to receive a line from you whenever opportunity afford.

I remain, Rev. Sir,
Yours very respectfully,
ALBERT J. BECKETT
(more…)

We are nothing better than worms – but mustn’t grumble!

Sunday 4 April 1915 was Easter Day. The parishioners of Reading St John (now the Polish Catholic Church) had sent Easter greetings to their young men at the Front. It resulted in a number of letters from the recipients describing their experiences.

Letters from the Front: replies to our Easter letters and cards.

Cards similar to those recently seen on the Church notice boards were sent with covering letters for Easter to some fifty men at the front at the request of their relatives. The following are extracts from some of the replies received by the Vicar:-

A Terrible War.
Here is a much-needed reminder of the seriousness of our task:
‘Two of my men I laid to rest yesterday, just put their heads too far over the parapet; of course killed instantly. It is a terrible business and we are nothing better than worms, dug in and stop there, but hope that happier times are in store and very soon. We all hope and pray for it every day. I don’t think the people at home quite realise what a gigantic task we have; but we mustn’t grumble, but do it.’- GILES AYRES.

Valued Cards.
‘I wish to thank you very much for the good thoughts and wishes of yourself and everyone who remembered us on Easter Day. Thank you very much for the card. I am sending it home to-day so that I shall not lose it.’- A. L. BLAKE.

‘The card you sent me I have hung on to the wall and it shall go where I go. I shall always remember Good Friday, the day I received it.’- D. CAMPBELL.

Neuve Chapelle.
Speaking of the welcome letter just received, the writer adds: ‘Just lately we have been engaged in a big battle at Neuve Chapelle, and it was something awful and also a terrible loss on the German side.’- L.H. CROOK. (more…)