Do the German hear our starlight singing in their distant trenches?

There was much news of soldiers from Maidenhead Congregational Church.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We are glad to be able to report that Reginald Hill is so far improving, that he has been able to sit up a little each day. Thomas S. Russell has been called up, and is in training with the Motor Transport Section of the A.S.C. G.C. Frampton after about two hours drill was considered advanced enough for foreign service, and left England for France on May 18th. He is gone into Military Canteen work.

An interesting letter has come to hand from Sidney Eastman, which may justly be described as lengthy, for it is written upon a piece of paper some seven or eight feet long, and covers both sides. It is mostly occupied with a description of his travels and of the sights he has seen, and we are glad to gather that he is in good health and spirits.

G.C. Frampton has been unpatriotic enough to take German measles, and is in Hospital at Etaples. We hope to learn very shortly that he is quite well again.

Alfred Vardy, after a severe bout of pneumonia, caught on his way to the Front in France, is now at a Convalescent Camp in Thetford, gaining strength before returning to duty.

Wilfrid Collins is in hospital at Reading, suffering from heart weakness following upon a severe attack of “Trench fever.”

Reginald Hill has been out of bed for an hour, and is going on satisfactorily, though slowly.

Cyril Hews had a somewhat narrow escape recently. He was out with his motor-bicycle upon a French road during a thunderstorm, when the lightning struck a tree by the road-side, and a large branch fell upon the handlebars of the machine, providentially leaving the rider untouched.

Alfred Lane, after more than a year’s training in the Home Counties’ Engineers at Maidenhead, has been sent over with a draft to France.

Harry Baldwin, having attained the age of 18, and being called up, has elected to enter the Navy, and will probably enter a Training School.

One of our young men, who took an active part in the Messines victory, writes:

“Rather a good sight yesterday. I attended with my men a very large open-air drum-head Church Parade Service, as a sort of Thanksgiving Service for our recent great victory. A large number of Welshmen were present, and it really was great to hear these fellows sing “Aberystwith” and “St. Mary,” accompanied by a band.”

The papers, by the way, have been recently telling us that in all the Welsh regiments there are “glee parties,” who sing under the stars, until the Germans must hear and perhaps wonder, in their more or less distant trenches.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, June 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“May blossoms and war seem as though they ought to be impossible in the same world”

The minister of Maidenhead Congregational Church tried to encourage members to look on the bright side of life despite all the horrors and losses of the war.

May blossoms and war seem as though they ought to be impossible in the same world. The dreadful mud in the midst of which our soldiers have been living is more congruous with the spirit of warfare than sweet grass and hawthorn buds. Many letters from the front have spoken of the start of surprise with which a lark’s song is heard over the trenches. We have all, when some sorrow is heavy upon us, felt a sort of astonishment that the sun should go on shining, and the birds twittering, and passers by smiling, as though nothing had happened. But the worst of sorrows cannot cover the whole sky. We want taking out of ourselves at times. Evils won’t bear brooding over, we only make them worse. We shall be able to bear “the strain of toil, the fret of care” better, if we make rich use of the ministry of the blossoms.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We are glad to hear that Reginald Hill is progressing, though slowly. He has had several operations, and probably must undergo two or three more. The doctors think he may have to be in bed for at least three months yet, but they hope he will make quite a good recovery.

We regret deeply to have to record that John Boyd, formerly the Caretaker of the Chapel, was killed in action on March 29th. He enlisted in the 2nd Berks. In June 1916, and was sent to France on Sept. 22nd. He was a most genial and kind-hearted man, and had a wide circle of friends among whom he was very popular. We offer our Christian sympathy to Mrs. Boyd and her family.

It is distressing too to hear that Stephen Harris is returned as “missing.” The Captain of his Company has written to Mr. and Mrs. Harris that he has made all possible inquiries and can gain no information. The best that can be hoped for is that he may be a prisoner in German hands. Robert Harris was killed in July last. May God grant His patience and consolation to the distressed parents.

Wallace Mattingly has been admitted to Sandhurst Military College for eight months’ training. G. Frampton is expecting to be called up immediately. We are glad to see Cyril Hews at home again on leave, looking in the pink of health. P.S. Eastman writes in good spirits from “somewhere in the East.”

He says, “I have not yet left for the special work for which I was sent out, but may do so any day now. In the meantime I have had quite a variety of work, until at present I find myself in the C.O.’s office. Yesterday I had a line from Frank Pigg, who is with the R.F.C in Salonica; may be one of these days I shall be able to pay him a visit.”

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, May 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Cheer him in his pain and solitude

Members of Maidenhead Congregational Church were serving in various fields. One man was having a nice break in Malta on his way to the east, while another was suffering with a severe wound.

OUR SOLDIERS.

Sidney Eastman sent us a message announcing his arrival at Malta. He says,

“A line of greeting from an isle of sunshine and blossoms! The brilliant blue of sea and sky, white sails and grey giants, sandstone rocks and golden architecture, vividly focussed by the eyes of an enthusiast, convey to the chambers of memory a mental masterpiece in the producing of which nature and man work hand in hand – nature gives light while man gives shade. I am very fit now, and much enjoying a day or two of respite here.”

Evidently the “sunshine and blossoms” have got into our deacon’s soul.

Reginald Hill has been rather badly wounded and is at the Wharncliff War Hospital at Sheffield. We may be quite sure that letters from any of his old friends of the West Street Church would cheer him in his pain and solitude, and would be joyfully welcomed. Letters should be addressed, “17 Ward, 6 Block.” We are glad to know that his doctors anticipate that he will probably make quite a good recovery.

Ernest Bristow is in Hospital in France, suffering from influenza.

Alfred Vardy was married on March 8th to Miss Coxhead, and is now on active service in France.

We were glad to see Ernest Mead on Sunday last looking quite fit and well.

W.H. Clark has arrived at Salonika.

A. Lane has been transferred with his section to Marlow.

Charles Catliffe is with a Signal section at a Camp near Bedford.

MILITARY MOVEMENTS.

Most of the Engineers who have been for some months in training at Maidenhead have been removed elsewhere, and at least an equal number have been brought to our town to take their place. The new-comers seem to appreciate the comforts of the Clubroom more than their predecessors, and use it in much larger numbers. But the Free Church parade service has suffered. So far, only a few attend, instead of the eighty or more of recent months. Perhaps the organization has been at fault, and we will yet hope for better things.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, April 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“The Cook Islanders march magnificently, and make an impressive spectacle”

Men from across the British Emoire, including those of non-European descent, answered Britain’s call during the First World War. Several hundred men in all came from the Cook Islands.

THE L.M.S. AND THE EMPIRE

Not only have many sons of the L.M.S. missionaries answered the call of the Empire, but also many “sons of the L.M.S.” from far off Rarotonga and its sister isles of the Cook group in the South Pacific two contingents of the young cook islanders, trained in New Zealand and associated with the famous Anzacs, have found their way to the battle fronts of Europe. In 1915 a first contingent of 50 or more young men left Rarotonga for training. Of these some have already fallen in action “somewhere in France.” The second contingent of 120 odd left Rarotonga in July of 1916, and after training in New Zealand were sent on to Europe recently. Special services were held for these men before they left their island home, and several of them became seekers of “the Pearl of Great Price.” These sons of the Mission have gone forth not only as soldiers of the Empire, but as soldiers of the Empire of Christ.

The Rev. G.H. Eastman, of Rarotonga, communicated with the Congregational ministers of Auckland, New Zealand, and with other friends there, who gave the young Cook Islanders a warm welcome, and made arrangements for their spiritual welfare while in camp. The friends of the Devonport Congregational Church in particular went out of their way to help these “missionary children”, and the following extracts are from a letter received by Mr. Eastman from one of the deacons of the church.

“…The Narrow Neck Camp where the men are training is only a few minutes’ walk from my home, and we see a lot of them under all sorts of conditions; everyone is loud in their praise the men are all that could be desired in behaviour, in smart appearance, and show intense interest in their work. We have had the great pleasure of seeing some 90 men Sunday by Sunday at our church for the morning service.

“The men march magnificently, and make an impressive spectacle. We have a service suitable to the Cook Islanders in the morning, being only too happy to waive our regular procedure to any extent needed. The reading of the lessons is first in English and then in the native tongue. We usually have two hymns sung by our friends, and they are the soul of the music. The sermon is translated in the usual way, and in this particularly we are indebted to Sergeant Beni, he is a most intelligent chap and does wonders. We shall miss these men when they go, they are quite one with us, and we feel we quite love them.

“Words fail me when I think of the work that has been done at the Cook Islands that such a magnificent example of missionary ‘children’ should come to our shores, their behaviour and attention during service is truly wonderful. I wish the L.M.S. Authorities in London could step in to our church one Sunday morning and see them.”

Trinity Congregational Magazine, April 1917 (D/EX1237/1/12)

The army continues to make its demands upon our young men

Maidenhead Congregational Church had news of its young men serving their country.

OUR SOLDIER LADS.

The army continues to make its demands upon our young men. George Ayres has joined the ranks of the London Electrical Engineers, and his friend Harry Baldwin is on the point of assuming khaki. P.S. Eastman sailed for the East on February 13th, and was delighted to discover Arthur Ada upon the same boat. Robert Bolton is in the R. M. Light Infantry. Arthur Rolfe has been promoted to corporal. Alfred Vardy has been moved to Southampton. Ernest Bristow went over to France at the end of January. Cecil Meade has arrived at Salonika.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, March 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

The more we feel that a cloud of sorrow is upon our land the more grateful should we be for the message of Christmas

Maidenhead Congregational Church thought the country needed to celebrate Christmas differently under war conditions.

We are approaching our third War-Christmas, and the duty of rightly celebrating the season of “Peace and Goodwill” is becoming heavier. Probably few of us will find much difficulty in heeding the call to cut down the usual expenditure in Christmas fare. At the best of times it has seemed to cool observers a strange way of celebrating the coming of the Son of God to earth, to indulge in an orgy of eating and drinking. But the custom seems to have the sanction of the centuries. Long before the Conquest those in authority took pains at this season of the year to lead the fashion in gluttonous eating and drinking. Even in more stately Plantagenet times Christmas extravagance was recognised as the correct thing. At the opening of the Hundred Years’ War, when Edward III put his foot down on all kinds of luxurious expenditure, he made an exception of the principal Church feasts, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And Dickens stirred us up in this matter in fine style, until we almost came to regard gorging at Christmas as a sacred duty.

But this year at least, we must modify our ideas in these matters. Food is not abundant, and it is dear, and if we are not careful now, there may not be enough to go round presently. Nevertheless, there ought to be no diminution of Christmas joy. The more we feel that a cloud of sorrow is upon our land the more grateful should we be for the message of a King of righteousness and peace. Our laughter may be checked, but for gratitude and joy there is perhaps more reason than usual. For God has given us a great part to play in the cause of National Righteousness, and the work we are doing and the sorrows we are bearing will result in a new era for humanity.

And though in many a household we shall miss our sons and brothers and husbands, our hearts will swell with a new pride in them. The noblest manhood in them has come out, they are inside the secret of life, we thrill to recognise that they are capable of heroisms. They have no fighting instincts to gratify. They have nothing of the born-soldier in them. They have freely gone into this thing out of devotion to a high cause, in the spirit of pure sacrifice, against the natural grain. Therefore they, and the families to which they belong, and the Church to which they are attached, and the town from which they set out, and the nation of which they are a part, shall be of nobler life and purer vision for their act of sacrifice. May the blessing of heaven be upon them everyone!”

FOR OUR SOLDIERS.

The small Committee appointed to send greetings and gifts at Christmastide to our soldiers has got the matter well in hand. The parcels to Salonika and Egypt are already on their way, those to France will shortly be posted. To those who are still in training in this country, as well as to those abroad, a letter from the Church will be sent, in which we say, among other things,

“We are sure that your faith in God will help you to be good soldiers of the British Army. You will not be behind any of your comrades in pluck and purity, in high ideals and self-control, in heroism and devotion. We speak to our absent boys and pray for them constantly. We want you to know how much we are with you, how deeply we feel you are representing us and fighting for us, and we hope to do our part at home, to maintain a high standard of Church life until you come back again. The Church does not seem the same without its young men. At every point we miss you.”

THE LATEST INFORMATION.

Reginald Hill has been gassed, and is in Hospital. Percy Pigg is back at Aldershot for a time. Cecil Mead is on the point of leaving for Salonika. Percy Lewis has been home for a fortnight’s leave. Hugh Lewis has been transferred to the 1/4 London R.E., and is in France. Sidney Eastman is stationed for the present at Chingford, and Mrs. Eastman has taken apartments for awhile in that neighbourhood. Benjamin Gibbons has been promoted Lance-Corporal.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, December 1916 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Our soldiers – and our conscientious objector

There was news of the varying destinations of various men associated with Maidenhead Congregational Church. One was even a conscientious objector.

OUR SOLDIERS.

David Dalgliesh, at the conclusion of his training, has received a Commission in the Royal Flying Corps, and is at present at Hendon. Frank Pigg has departed for Salonika and John Boyd for France. Our Deacon, P.S. Eastman, has been compelled to leave the doors of his business closed and is in training for the Royal Naval Air Service at the Crystal Palace. He will probably be engaged in photographic work. Percy Lewis has been placed in charge of the Mobile X-ray Unit of the 1st Army. Reginald Hill has gone over with his regiment to France. Archibald Fraser has enlisted in the Army Service Corps, and is at present stationed at Lee. F. Kempster, who is a “conscientious objector,” has gone to take up farm work in the south of England. Herbert G. Wood is in British East Africa.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, October 1916 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Pinups of the First World War

Maidenhead Congregational Church found an enterprising way to raise funds for the benefit of the Belgian refugees they were supporting: by selling photographs of the beneficiaries. Perhaps a modern equivalent would be to issue a calendar.

OUR BELGIAN REFUGEES.
Mr. Eastman has taken a very excellent portrait-group of the ten refugees whom we have under our care at Fairford Road. Copies may be had at a shilling each, at the studios, Queen Street. They will serve as memorials of a most interesting chapter in our Church history.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, August 1915 (D/N33/12/1/5)

South Sea islanders’ condemnation of the war reported to Maidenhead churchgoers

Members of Maidenhead Congregational (now United Reformed Church) heard first-hand about how the war was affecting distant parts of the world thanks to their support of mission work overseas.  The December 1914 church magazine reprinted letters from the missionaries they supported in the South Pacific and Morocco. Both had been affected by the war in different ways, and the South Sea Islanders had an uncomfortable message for the west:

OUR MISSIONARY

Mr. Eastman’s latest letter contains an interesting account of his work in the village chapels of Raratonga. He appeals for rolls of Sunday School pictures, small picture cards or leaflets, or other illustrations of Bible subjects. The war has its effect even among the South Sea Islands. Mr. Eastman says,

Our mail service has been disorganized, and there are rumours that our own mission ship has been commandeered for government service between Samoa and Fiji, so that we may not receive our expected supplies and stores. German cruisers have bombarded Papeetè in the neighbouring island of Tahiti, and have attempted to intercept the mail steamers which call here.…

Our people here find it hard to understand how it is the great so-called Christian nations should be engaged in such terrible strife. One man said to me the other day that “the white men have no pity”; another said the Christians had become like heathen.

OUR OTHER MISSIONARY

Miss Wilkinson has been living since July last at Arzila in Morocco, with her cousin, Miss Jennings, who is a missionary in the service of the North African Mission, and is not only rejoicing in the pure air and interesting surroundings, but is also helping strenuously in the work of the mission. In a letter enclosing a contribution to the Thanksgiving Fund, Miss Wilkinson says,

We happened to be in Tangier when the German Consulate was seized by native troops under the command of the French, and the consul and his staff marched down to the port, and put on board a man-of-war.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, December 1914 (D/N33/12/1/4)