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)

Returning to France today

Slough and Chalvey British Infants’ School
June 4th 1917
Mrs Stewart is absent today as her husband is returning to France after leave.

Wokingham Wescott Road School
June 4th 1917

A memorial service for Mr Vickers was held at All Saints Church this afternoon at 4pm. It was specially arranged for the scholars, and 230 attended.

Slough and Chalvey British Infants’ School log book (C/EL123, p. 342); Wokingham Wescott Road School log book (C/EL87, p. 175)

“The villages have been ruthlessly pillaged, burnt, and razed to the ground”

A Reading man writes of his latest experiences at the front – and the death of a friend.

Our “Boys”

This terrible war has taken from us yet another of our brave soldier lads. Horace Pinker, who quite recently lost his brother and mother, was killed in France on the 5th of April. May the God of all comfort be very near to his father, sisters and brother – to console them in their keen sorrow!

The following extract from a letter sent by Eric Chapman to his mother is especially interesting, as it refers to the circumstances and death of his friend:-

“To return to my personal doings, it is unnecessary of course for me to allude to the German retirement on the western front, seeing that the papers are full of it. As you must have guessed, this has made a great difference to our lives, as we have had to be constantly hot on their heels. At times we come to close quarters with them, but on the whole they do not show much fight, and easily surrender or retire. The country over which we are advancing has been most thoroughly and diabolically destroyed. The villages have been ruthlessly pillaged, burnt, and razed to the ground. Not a thing of any value has been left behind by these barbarians. Even the young fruit trees have been deliberately maimed and rendered incapable of bearing fruit. Naturally this has made it most hard for us following in their tracks, as they intended it should, but we are able to overcome all difficulties and continue our victorious advance. There is not the slightest doubt we are winning by force of arms and smashing the Huns back to their own country. May the end come suddenly and speedily!

“Our battalion has just returned from a special attack, in which it distinguished itself, and about which the Colonel has given permission to write, so I am quite in order in relating a few facts without giving valuable information away. Our objective was a large village, fortified and held by the Huns. We commenced the attack in the early hours of the morning, and had to advance a distance of over 2,000 yards, before we came to grips with the enemy. It was snowing slightly at the time and a thin layer covered the ground as the men moved forward in waves to the attack. After we got fairly going I felt strangely exhilarated, and, much to my surprize quite unconcerned by the possibility of danger. The Huns yelled when they saw us coming, but our fellows yelled still louder, and never wavered a moment under the enemy’s fire. Barbed wire impeded our movements to a small extent, but in short time we had reached the village and were careering like mad through the streets. The Huns did not stand a ghost of a chance then, as our men paid back old scores, and in a few seconds they were doing their best to retreat. Many got back to tell the tale to Hindenburg, but I am thankful to say many not. It was not long before the whole village was in our hands, and after we had consolidated our gain we had some sport looking for souvenirs. The most interesting thing to us was the Germans’ rations which they left behind. Some of the men ate them, but although I am not dainty on this job, I did not have! The meat looked tempting enough, but had the undoubted characteristics of worn-out cab horse!

“I am glad to say our casualties on this occasion were comparatively few, although I regret to have to relate the death in action of Horace Pinker. He was killed by a bullet, and died before the stretcher–bearers could get him to the dressing station. It is very sad for his people, but they can have the satisfaction of knowing that he died bravely and nobly, and was accorded a decent burial.”

It has long been felt that we have not done all that we might for those of our numbers who are taking part in this bitter struggle. At Christmas our young people collected enough to send parcels to all on the Institute Roll of Honour. Now it is wished to do the same for the others, and the kind help and generous support of all our friends if asked. We feel confident that this appeal will not be made in vain! Contributions may be sent to Miss Gough, Mrs. Hamilton Moss, Mrs. Streeter, or Miss Austin.

Trinity Congregational magazine, May 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

“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)

“The soldiers are in dire need of comfort both physical and spiritual”

A Congregational minister from east Reading had spent the winter with the YMCA, working with British troops in France.

VISIT OF REV. LEONARD BROOKS

The minister of Park Congregational Church, Reading, paid us his first visit on the 23rd of May, when he gave to a splendid congregation part of the story of his experiences with the troops in France during the winter. Mr Brooks told the incidents with great feeling and force, and revealed to us in striking fashion the need there was for religion to be manifested as a very practical thing.

What we heard of his work among the relatives of the wounded and the dying was most interesting, and to many of us it was a section of YMCA enterprise of which no thought had ever been held. We imagine quite readily that the soldiers are in dire need of comfort both physical and spiritual, but that there should be poignant sorrow among the wives and mothers had very rarely occurred to us as calling for the special labours of the YM.

Mr Brooks did not dwell altogether on the grave side of the matter; there were tales of much merriment, of muddled recipes, failing lights, pilgrimages up and down long flights of steps, etc, which kept us from taking the more serious aspect of the war too seriously. We felt much indebted to Mr Brooks for coming over to open out to us a new side of things, as well as for going to France at all, and we hope that his labours over there are resulting in a greater acceptance of the higher things in which he ministered.

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, July 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

The harder the work, the greater the service: women are called to the land

There was a call out to women to work on the land during the war.

WOMEN!

Enrol for service on the land. Help to win the Victorious Peace.

Strong healthy Women are wanted for the land. Thousands of acres are ready for cultivation. Thousands of farms want: Field workers, Milkers, Plough Women, Carters, Cow Women, Market Gardeners. If you are healthy and willing, you can be taught, you can wear the uniform, you can earn the wages. We must have milk for the babies, bread for the children, food for the sailors and Soldiers.

These are the terms: Maintenance during instruction, one free outfit (high boots, breeches, two overalls, and hat), wages 18s. per week at least (or the wage rate of the district, whichever is the higher).

The land is calling for you. Your Country needs you. The harder the work, the greater the service. Sign at once. There is a form waiting for you at every Post Office. Don’t Delay – Read this and hand it to the woman who lives next door.

The Vicar’s Notes

Intercessions
For Sidney Reeves, one of our old bible Class Lads, wounded seriously in France.
For Walter George, fallen for his country after just a fortnight at the front.

Thanksgivings
For the entry of the United States of America on the side of right.
For the granting of the Military Medal to Stuart Collison, one of our servers.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, May1917 (D/P98/28A/15)

Pneumonia in France

There was good news for friends of an officer.

With great thankfulness we learn that Lieut. Hugh Kennedy, who lay for some while ill with pneumonia in hospital in France, is now decidedly improving.

Earley St Nicolas parish magazine (D/P192/28A/14)

“He feels it to be his duty to volunteer”

Two church workers from Newbury were headed to the front.

The Rev. H C Roberts has been accepted as a temporary Army Chaplain, and by this time will be in France. He will be much missed in the church for his thoughtful and direct sermons, and in the Day and Sunday Schools for his real power of teaching and interesting the children. We wish he could have been here longer with us, but he feels it to be his duty to volunteer, and we congratulate him on being so promptly accepted by the Authorities. We wish him every blessing and success in his new work, and a safe return home.

Mr G F Pyke has been called up, and is a severe loss to the CLB, which he Captained so well, and to the Boys’ School.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, May 1917 (D/P89/28A/13)

Hard fighting

There was fierce fighting at Fresnoy in France.

11 May 1917
We lost Fresnoy again but regained part next day. Hard fighting.

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

“An old French lady follows all soldiers’ coffins buried from this hospital, to represent the absent mothers”

A much loved Caversham teacher died after an attack of appendicitis at the front.

Sorrow.

It is with a keen sense of loss that we at Trinity heard of the death of yet another of our noble band of soldier heroes, Percy White who passed away 0n May 10th after an operation for appendicitis. The operation itself was most successful, and he rallied splendidly from it, seeming to be doing well, but later complications set in, and though he made a good fight, his strength was gone.

Percy enlisted in The Army Service Corps in October 1915, fully realising that by reason of long-standing delicacy, he thereby ran more risks than many men, but his action was prompted by a keen sense of duty and a desire above all things to do right. He was an able musician, and for a long time had been a much valued member of the choir. There his help has been greatly missed.
His happy nature, his unfailing good temper, and love of peace, won for him a high place in the regard of all that knew him. All who came in to contact with him felt his worth, and the memory of his quiet, good life will add fragrance to the many undying influences which cast a halo round these walls. As our Pastor said in a sympathetic reference on Sunday afternoon, “He was a musician to his very core, and he made music his life.”

He was a staunch friend, a good brother and a devoted son, and to those of his nearest and dearest called to bear this heavy blow we offer our deepest sympathy. Our hearts go out to them in tenderness, praying that the Father Himself will draw very near all strength and consolation.

One of his comrades in France (where he had been 15 months) writes: “I hardly know how to begin this letter. As I told you in my letter of the 9th, poor Percy was much improved that day, but he had a relapse about one in the morning of the 10th, and passed away about 9 a.m. I truly believe everything possible was done for him, he himself said so to me the last time I saw him. It was a great blow to us all, and we know by what he was to us who have only known him such a comparatively short time, what his loss must be to you. We are only plain men, and as such we offer our deepest sympathy. You knew your boy, we knew him. He lived a clean, honest, upright life, and will, I know, reap the rewards such a life merits. We laid him to rest this afternoon in the British cemetery in a soldier’s grave with full military honours, and it was all we could do for him. The whole section and all ranks attended, and he was followed by an old French lady who follows all soldiers’ coffins buried from this hospital. I believe she represents the absent mothers. She has done it all through this long winter in all weathers; it is a great task she has set herself, but surely a kind one. I can say no more except to repeat that we all mourn the loss of the best of comrades.”

The headmaster of the Caversham Council School, where his great ability as a teacher was much appreciated, gives his testimony: “We trust that the memory of Percy’s cheery disposition, high sense of duty, and good life, will bring some solace to you. I think I may truly say that Percy won the esteem of all those with whom he came in contact, and I know that, in the case of those who became more intimately acquainted with him, that esteem ripened quickly into real affection.”

A fellow-teacher also testifies: “To-day has been indeed a sad one at school, where we felt we all knew and loved him. His nobleness and character had endeared him to all. Working and talking with him as I did, I can say that his daily life was one that helped others to be strong, and I am sure those who were privileged to know him must feel as I do, that they have lost a friend. The children at school loved him.”

Several of our “Kitchener’s Men” have this month laid down their lives for King and county, among them Lance-Corporal W. Dewe, whom many of our friends will remember. He attended our rooms every night, and never forgot Trinity, being a faithful correspondent up to the last.

Trinity Congregational Church Magazine, June 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

Cambridge is crammed with cadets

The Image cats’ joy at the effect of food restrictions on their own diet, mentioned by John Maxwell Image on 13 February, inspired his wife Florence to write a comic article. It became her first publication when it appeared in Punch. Dr Image also noted sadly that all the new undergraduates were international students, all the British school leavers having joined up.

6 May 1917
My dearest old man

Cambridge is crammed with cadets. There are also youths in caps and gowns. I saw some in the Great Court when I dined last in Hall – alas not one English face above the white collars.

Your kind congratters on “Rations” pleased the Signora greatly. This morning she had a letter from her brother at the Front containing the compliments of the Mess to whom he had, dutifully, read it – and about three day ago another brother, in another part of France, vowed that the Punch so stuck out his pocket that he went about gingerly, fearing a reprimand for the misfit of his tunic. How fond the brothers are of her!

Tuissimus
JMI

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

To tea in a motor bike and trailer

The Austen-Leigh family were related to Jane Austen. Honor (1881-1970) was the daughter of Arthur Henry Austen-Leigh (1836-1917), who lived in Reading and was a former vicar of Wargrave.

4 May 1917

Phyllis heard she must go to Hospital Saturday….

Austen-Leighs to tea – in motor bike & trailer. Honor to go again to France. Phyllis & Gladys furious!!

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

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)

A very gallant officer and gentleman, recklessly brave and a fine example of cool courage

The Old Boys of Reading School were distinguishing themselves at the Front.

O.R. NEWS.

Killed in Action.

2nd Lieut. Norman A. Howell, King’s Shropshire Light infantry. On December 23rd.

He is the second son of Mr. W. Roland Howell, architect, of this town. Born at Reading in April 1897, he was educated at Reading School and St. Laurence College, Ramsgate, and had been about a year in his father’s office before joining the Army in November, 1915. His cadet training at school and college enabled him to get his commission. He was posted to the King’s Shropshire’s, was ordered to the front at the end of June last, and has been in the thick of the Somme fighting for six months. Lieut. Norman Howell came home on his first leave on December 6th and returned on the 16th. Within a week he had made the great sacrifice.

His Commanding Officer wrote to Mr. Howell on December 24th:

“I deeply regret to report the death of your son, who was serving in my Battalion. Whilst going up to the front line trenches in charge of a party last night an enemy sniper shot him through the head, killing him instantly. This morning his body was buried by the Chaplain near where he fell, with military honours, officers and men attending.

“I had trench mortars and rifle grenades on the sniper’s post, patrols had reported 8 to 10 Huns there, none there now! On behalf of his comrades, officers, N.C.O.’s and men, I wish to convey to you our profound sympathy . He was loved and respected by all of us, and we mourn the loss of a very gallant officer and gentleman. To all of us he was known as recklessly brave and a fine example of cool courage, devoted to his duties, which he discharged most cheerfully under the most trying conditions.”

“I placed him in charge of the Lewis Gun detachment, on which he had set his heart and soul. He belonged to my own Headquarters’ mess, and I took particular interest in him. A cross has been put up on the grave near Les Boeufs.”

It will be remembered that in October, 1915, Mr. Howell’s elder son, 2nd Lieut. Roland Basil Howell, was reported “wounded and missing.” Nothing has since been heard of him, and any hopes of his being alive hangs on the very slenderest thread. On the 16th of last month the War Office wrote saying that they were now forced to believe he was killed.

Lieut. Basil Howell was born in October, 1895, and received his commission in the 4th North Staffordshire’s three months after the war started. He was attached to the Northumberland Fusiliers (the Fighting Fifth), and went to the front in May, 1915.

Reports received from the front show that on the night of October 1st-2nd, 1915, the battalion to which Lieut. Howell was attached were in severe action. After all the officers of the company had been killed he gallantly led a bombing party to attack a German trench, but was never seen again.

Every possible enquiry was made through the War Office, the American Embassy, the Red Cross, and the wounded men who returned to England. Many references were made by the latter to the respect and love they had for the brave young officer. Like his brother he was educated at Reading School and St Laurence College, and had started his training to follow in his father’s profession. For many years he was an enthusiastic scout, and took a big share in starting the South Reading Troop.

Lieut. Cedric Charles Okey Taylor, East Kent Regiment, attached to Trench Mortar Battery, only son of Mrs. Taylor, 39, Weltje Road, Ravenscroft Park, W., and of the late Mr. Charles Warmsley Taylor, of Reading. Further details are now to hand of Lieut. Taylor’s death.

He died for King and country on December 3rd, 1916, in his 22nd year. Young in years but old in endurance, he was in constant action for 15 months at Ypres in 1915 and on the Somme in 1916. He is laid to rest in the cemetery, at Faubourg d’Amiens, Arras.

2nd Lieut. W. Marsden Cooper, Worcestershires, only son of Mr. and Mrs. John Cooper, 107, London Street, Reading, aged 19.

Cooper was only 19 years of age and went out to the front in the Worcestershire’s about the middle of December, shortly after completing his course at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was educated at Reading School, where he gained a Council scholarship in 1909. His School career was unusually distinguished. In 1914 he gained a School Certificate followed the next year by a higher certificate.

In response to his country’s call, he decided to take a commission, and in the entrance examination for the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, held in February, 1916, he came out second on the list, gaining a Prize Cadetship. At Sandhurst his success was no less pronounced than at school, and he gained the position of Sergeant in his cadet unit, the highest position a cadet can obtain, before he left College. Not only did he have considerable intellectual gifts, as his record shows but he was a fine athlete as well. He was an excellent all round cricketer and his natural powers as a bowler would have enabled him to make his mark in really good company. As a Rugby Football player he showed great promise, and before he left school he had the distinction of being captain of football, captain of cricket and captain of the school. Yet he was never elated by success, and perhaps it was more than anything else his modesty which made him so popular with the boys and the masters alike. Those who have watched his career, for the last two years, and marked the way in which his development always seemed to keep pace with his new responsibilities feel a special grief that a young life so full of promise should have been brought thus prematurely to a close.
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Valuable lectures on the culture of vegetables

Ascot people grew vegetables for the war, while one couple lent their big house for use as a hsopital.

THE MILITARY HOSPITAL is to be re-opened immediately after Easter at “Sandridge.” Mr. and Mrs. Ninian Elliot have, most generously, handed over their delightful house for the purpose.

LECTURES on the Culture of Vegetables (two of them in this parish) have been given in the neighbourhood during the past few weeks. Interesting and valuable in themselves, they have also been very well attended.

ERNEST MERRY, who was some time ago reported missing, has been killed in France. We deeply sympathise with his wife and little children.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, April 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/4)