Public Drumhead Service in memory of those fallen in the war

A military-style drumhead service in Reading commemorated the fallen.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

All brothers will agree the best course was taken to abandon our meeting of the 24th [August] in favour of the Public Drumhead Service, in memory of those fallen in the war; it proved a most impressive meeting.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, September 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Donkeys and drums

Some clergy had reservations about the unbridled nature of the peace celebrations.

July 1919

Vicar’s Letter

The Signing of the Peace will naturally turn the thoughts of many towards the ‘Peace Celebrations,’ proposed to be held on Saturday, July 19th. I do not think I can do better than quote a few sentences from a letter written by the Bishop of Norwich, which was published in The Times on Saturday, June 28th. With regard to organised festivities in connection with the Celebration of Peace, the Bishop fears lest these should bring out the poorer and not the nobler side of a natural outburst of high spirits, and he says:

‘We do not wish to substitute mere excitement for that quiet sense of fellowship with the living and the dead and that sober thanks-giving which ought to be the real notes of such a day. At this time we have to think not only of peace abroad, but also of true peace and good will at home, and no stimulated and unrestrained merrymaking helps to give us these. The expression of our joy should not be inappropriate to the tender and solemn remembrance of those who have fallen in the war, nor regardless of those who are mourning for the desolation of their homes. This is, indeed, an occasion for joy, but elaborated celebrations are costly, and the country is in no financial position, and many chastened people in no frame of mind, to spend large sums on extravagant exhibitions of rejoicing. Much sacrifice has gone before the day of thanks giving, and much sacrifice must follow it if the Peace is to be as great as the war. I venture to suggest that we should concentrate our efforts on giving the children a happy day, as many of us do at Christmas time when we commemorate the birth of the Prince of Peace. This, I believe, while shielding us from the risks of orgies protracted into the night, would evoke what is best in the hearts of all classes, and would make a memorable occasion for the boys and girls upon whom will eventually rest the task of fully working out the problems of the new age which the Peace has brought with it.’

No words could I think express better my own feelings with regard to the ‘Peace Celebrations,’ and I hope they will equally commend themselves to you all.

August 1919

The Vicar’s Letter

I feel that my first duty is to thank most heartily the Members of the Committee, and all others, who rendered such very efficient help in collecting funds, arranging and cutting up for the tea, and in superintending and devising the capital Sports, etc., which gave so much pleasure to our young guests on the occasion of the Peace Celebration. If only it had been a really fine day! The dampness of the unpleasant drizzle had no apparent effect on the spirits and excellent conduct of the children, yet we all felt it would have been so much brighter had the sun shone out. Provision for the tea was ample and much appreciated. The donkeys were quite up-to-date, and behaved as donkeys have ever done at a Children’s Fête! Most grateful were we to Mrs. Young, Mr Reynolds and Mr. Stretch for the loan of them; they were quite a feature in the programme. And what shall be told of the glory of the bonfire, which apparently surpassed in brilliance any other that could be seen far or near! As soon as the gentleman with the drum was satisfied that he had done enough in celebrating Peace, one was able to get to bed about 1.30 a.m.! thankful that all concerned had had a happy day, and may God grant that the occasion for keeping such a day shall never occur again during the life-time of the youngest of those who were present with us!

Cookham Dean parish magazine, July and August 1919 (D/P43B/28A/11)

A good example of a good defensive position

Sydney Spencer and his men practiced tactics before meeting the locals.

Tuesday 16 July 1918

All the servants were very late this morning & we were not called until 7.55. It meant a rush! At nine on parade. Did a good morning’s work consisting of platoon drill, a very thorough inspection, I took the rifle bombers in cup discharge work, then we did a scheme from 11-1. Hervey took out his platoon to a hill with trenches. Kemp attacked. I was in reserve. A good example of how [sic] a good defensive position.

After lunch censored letters. Then went down to Kemp’s billet & played on an atrocious piano. A mademoiselle charmante [charming young lady] spoke pretty broken English, & prettier French. Madame gave me some flowers. Spent a pleasant evening – a really decent one. Acted as interpreter for a photographer who took our drums. The village crier, a pale looking youth with plaintive voice demanded after beating his drum that we should declare the boites de foin [haystacks] gathered in during the [illegible] in the morning.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

Beaucoup wound up about a move

There was tension in the air when expecting a move to the front line.

Saturday 13 July 1918

Beaucoup wound up about a move but nothing had happened yet. 10.45 am. We are now wearing SBRs for an hour. After lunch we had a good rest. I read & lay down for a time but did not sleep.

After tea a conference. I went down to my platoon & arranged things for tomorrow. Trench stores etc. I then went to church for ½ an hour. I am so grateful to the Roman Catholic Church for at least supplying a form of service in which I can take part without feeling that I am not wanted.

Ferrier came into dinner. After dinner packed & to bed at 10. Talked with Kemp about Catholicism until 11.15 & then to sleep.

Saw an old French man with blue trousers & a drum, who stood at street corners & after performing on his drum gave out much important mayoral news to the villagers.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

Two bugles and a drum

The semi-military boys’ group, the Church Lads’ Brigade, was doing well in Wargrave.

The following report on the Church Lads Brigade has been sent for publication:

The usual routine has been somewhat interfered with during the month because of the outbreak of fever. The Church Parades have been as usual, but only fairly well attended. There has been no Bible Class. The Company has now received the two bugles and a drum.

Wargrave parish magazine, September 1915 (D/P145/28A/31)

Bibles and rifles for boys in Wargrave

Teenage boys in Knowl Hill and Wargrave were inspired by the war to join the Church Lads’ Brigade, a youth organisation which drew inspiration from both military and religious ethoses. They attended Bibles study classes, but also practised drill – with real guns. The Wargrave parish magazine reports:

St Peter’s Church Lads’ Brigade

Now that the Company of the Church Lads’ Brigade formed in connection with our Church has been duly enrolled and recognized as Company 3184, 4th Battalion, Oxford Regiment, something definite can be said about the work.

The Company, now some 30 strong, has been some time in getting together, as recruiting was slow at the beginning and, generally, the Headquarters only allow 24 as the minimum for a new Company except in small Parishes.

Some recruits have been accepted from other parishes where there is no Company and now matters seem in a very healthy condition.

The object is to give the boys from 13 to 19, a military training and encourage attendance at Church and Bible Class. A Bible Class is now held on Sunday mornings except when there is a Church Parade.

The boys have to be provided with equipment which is the property of the boy only so long as he is a member of the Company.

Each signs an agreement to give up the same when requested to do so. After six months they must be provided with carbines which cost only the nominal sum of 2/- each. (The carbines are only used for drill and parade purposes and are kept at Headquarters). These two are necessary for the carrying on of the Company.

Other requirements which can only be obtained as fund allow, are Bugles, Side-drums, two ordinary Rifles and a range for teaching the boys to fire correctly.

Anyone who feels disposed to give either Bugles, Drums, etc. will be helping on a worthy cause.

The Captain will be only too pleased to see any kind of donor and give any further particulars with regard to work.

To the many who have made it possible to provide equipment the Company offer their sincerest thanks, especially when so many have urgent calls upon them in other ways.

It is expected that the equipment which is on order will be here for Easter.

So far £9. 0s. 6d. has been received in subscriptions. The boys (who pay 1/6 Entrance Fee and 1d. per week) have contributed £2. 7s. 6d.

The equipment has cost £7. 10s. 8d.

All accounts, Stock Books, etc., are inspected by an officer appointed by Headquarters and are open for inspection to Financial Committee consisting of six members of Company and six others.

In closing this report the officers hope that every one will do a little towards making the Company a success.

Signed
T. Butterworth, Capt.
F. C. Barham, Incumbent Chaplain.’

Knowl Hill
The Vestry Meeting on April 6th was attended by 12 of the Parishioners… The Vicar … referred to the terrible war and the noble way in which very many of the young men in the Parish had responded to the call of duty. The Church Lads Brigade who attended Church for the first time on Easter Day, promise well for the future.

Wargrave parish magazine, April and May 1915 (D/P145/28A/31)

“Salutes make me feel silly”

Modest Sydney Spencer still felt out of place as a young officer in training, and awkward when soldiers saluted him. He was to be embarrassed by an encounter with an army band while out on a walk:

1 April 1915
Today has been another lovely day although it has promised rain most of the day. I hoped that this morning’s walk through Weston Woods was to be as magnificent as Tuesday’s walk was. A lamentable tale I have to tell however. Just when I got to the nice woody part near my bay, after having left parades & ugly rock gardens behind, gardens plentifully bespattered with tommies who of course must needs get up & salute & make me feel silly, just when I had got through all this & I was turning my thoughts to a little book of poetry in my pocket, the air was split by the sound of drum & fife. I fled down a side path to escape the ordeal of passing a whole company of men looking curiously at me wondering whether I was tommy or officer. I waited – they didn’t come so I dared the matter out & marched on my way. To my horror I found it was a half company of men seated on either side of the road, practising bugle calls & drumming. I prayed the fates that the sergeant shouldn’t do anything silly but he did. As I approached he brought the lot to their feet & to attention and I had of course to make graceful acknowledgement! Of course the walk after that was a fiasco.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/14)

This was Sydney’s last diary entry for some time, as army life began to occupy almost all his waking hours. Luckily, we’ll still hear from Sydney via his letters.

A nice Highland Colonel shows the Vansittart Neales around Aldershot

The Vansittart Neale ladies of Bisham Abbey had an outing to see an army camp, at Aldershot.

27 October 1914
I, Edith & Bubs went to Aldershot. Found 33 camp at Rushmoor after some difficulty. Very nice Colonel Scott & Captain Macgregor, Gordon Highlanders, showed us all. Pipe Major exhibited the pipes & drums.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)