Wounded soldiers get a space for reading, writing and social intercourse

Broad Street Congregational Church’s latest effort was to offer organised entertainment to wounded soldiers who had been aimlessly wandering the streets.

HOSPITALITY TO SOLDIERS

On Monday October 15th, a new movement was inaugurated in our Schoolroom. For some time previously various members of the congregation has been impressed with the idea that something should be done for the Wounded Soldiers who gather each afternoon in Broad Street, and who appeared to need a place where they could rest (particularly in wet weather), play games, and be able to obtain light refreshments. It was felt that there was need of something of the same sort being done for other men and women in khaki in the town in the evening. These matters were considered by the Church members, and ultimately it was decided that an attempt should be made to meet the needs referred to, and a Committee immediately got to work, with the result that the Schoolroom and two adjoining rooms were ready for occupation by the soldiers on the 15th.

Subsequent events have proved that the needs were even greater than we thought. From the very first the undertaking has been a success. The various Military Hospitals and billeting places had been informed, by printed handbill, of our arrangements, and this was all that was necessary. Almost as soon as the doors were opened, our wounded friends began to arrive, and every afternoon since they have been coming to Broad Street in large numbers. Each evening, too, there is a good attendance of men and women in khaki. Our visitors are allowed to amuse themselves in the way they deem best. Some make good use of the writing room, in which writing-paper and envelopes are provided without cost; whilst others join in one or other of the various games. Magazines and papers are supplied for those who care to read them; and the piano is in almost constant use by those who enliven the whole proceedings. The original intention was to try the experiment for a month, but the success was such that it has now been decided to continue indefinitely. It has also been decided to meet a further need by opening the rooms for reading, writing and social intercourse each Sunday afternoon from 4 to 6.15 pm.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, December 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

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A lovely day at Bisham

More recuperating wounded soldiers had a lovely day out at Bisham Abbey.

14 May 1917
Soldiers here (16) – played croquet, bowls & boated. Mr Noble brought officers. Very lovely day.

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

Once again are the rooms at Trinity thrown open to the boys in “Khaki”

Reading was once again a centre for soldiers in training. They found a warm wecome in local churches.

The Soldiers Club

Once again are the rooms at Trinity thrown open to the boys in “Khaki,” and so familiar is the scene that it is hard to realise that an interval of eighteen months lies between the two occasions.
This time, even more strongly than before, was the doubt of actual need expressed a doubt which has long ago dispelled, not only by the attendance, but by the very words of the men. It was arranged that the rooms should be open at six o’clock, but long before that time many men arrived eager to enjoy the comforts of the washing accommodation. Here they can have an unlimited supply of hot water a luxury more appreciated than anything else and they can shave, clean their shoes, and polish their buttons. The writing room is well patronised, crowded on Sundays, and the post-box provided, which is cleared at intervals corresponding to the town collections, has proved a great convenience.

The scene in the schoolroom itself is of a homely character, which evidently attracts the men we desire to help. In fact, we are told that among Trinity is designated as “Home,” and the following conversation is common: “Where are you going to-night? “Oh to the little home. I’ll see you there.” Could one wish for any higher appreciation.

The billiard table is the great attraction, and never without players, whilst draughts, bagatelle, chess, and cards are freely indulged in. Our Pastor frequently gives up his valuable time to play chess with our guests, and his visits are always appreciated by the men. Many of the men are musical, and an evening rarely passes without music of some sort, often an excellent repertoire. Other quieter spirits find enjoyment in a perusal of the magazines and papers provided, or in a chat round the fire.

On two occasions a whist-drive has given great pleasure, and once a very successful concert was arranged by a party of our soldier friends.

The refreshment canteen is a very attractive feature; the men much enjoyed the good things provided, and hailing with special delight anything “home-made.”

Incidentally, ministering to sore throats and heavy colds, bandaging fingers, and repairing clothes, promotes the home feeling so much appreciated, and makes the men realise they are among friends who desire to meet every want as far as lies in their power.

On Sunday the schoolroom (in order not to disorganize the Sunday school work) is closed to the men until four o’clock. At that hour they eagerly troop in, arrange themselves in little groups, and chat or read until 4.20, when tea is served at a charge of 4d, followed by cigarettes. It is good to see their evident enjoyment of the fare provided, and to hear their expressions of thanks. Many respond to the invitation to join in the evening service, after which there is usually a short concert and a free supper of coffee, cakes, pastries, etc.

Our grateful thanks are tendered to all who so kindly send cakes, papers, etc., or who contribute to the musical programme, and we would welcome additions to their number. This article closes with a letter sent by one of our guests after leaving for another camp, which is a striking testimony to the place Trinity has in their memories.

Halton Camp West.

Dear Mr. Maggs,

I do hope you will not think me unkind for not writing before, but I have been shifting about all over this Camp. We are still waiting to be posted away; some of the boys have gone, some to York and New Forest and various other stations. We are about four miles from Tring; the Rothschilds have a fine place there, and today we have been over the private museum of animals, fishes, etc., of every description. But our one great loss is our kind friends at Reading, of whom we are never tired of talking. The kindness you all showed to me and the happy evenings I spent at Trinity will always be to me one of my most treasured memories, and I am quite sure that the example and the spirit which prompts it can only come from the true love of Christ.
Please remember me to all my kind friends, and may God bless you all in your noble work, and again thanking you for all you did for me,

I remain,

Your affectionate friend,

F. White.

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

The finest, cosiest, and prettiest place in the whole Second Army Area

A Reading church sponsored a place of recreation for soldiers at the front.

“Words Fail Us.”

Such are the words used on a Christmas card by the Y.M.C.A. to convey their deep gratitude to all who have helped in the erection of Huts in France and elsewhere. The words may be even more fittingly used to emphasise the desperate need for these buildings, and we rejoice in having been privileged to take part in this good work. It will be remembered that soon after our pastor’s return from France in March of last year, he announced his wish to erect a Y.M.C.A. hut, and was met by so gratifying a response from his many friends in Trinity and elsewhere that, by the end of August it was being used by our fighting men on the Western “Front.” This month, by the help of the above-mentioned Christmas card, we are able to show our readers a picture of our own hut.

It is situated La Clytte, about 4.5 miles south-west of Ypres and within three miles of the front firing-line very, very near danger. It is by the side of a road, along which is passing a continual stream of men to and from the trenches. Near by is a rest camp, into which the men are drafted after having served a certain time actually in the line. Hence our Hut, capable of accommodating from two hundred to three hundred men, meets the very real need of a large number of men actually in “the thick of it.”

The picture represents its actual appearance from outside, which resembles many other Y.M. Huts, but the interior is most beautifully and artistically decorated with about 250 coloured pictures, with the result that Mr. Holmes (Sec. Y.M.C.A. 2nd Army) pronounces it to be the finest, cosiest, and prettiest place in the whole Second Army Area. For this proud distinction we must thank its present leader, Mr Cecil Dunford, who is an artist, and so in touch with colour-printing firms. To him, too, we are indebted to him for our picture. His helpers are the Rev. Eric Farrar, son of Dean Farrar a most interesting fact and the Rev. Herbert Brown, Chaplain to the Embassy at Madrid.

At Christmas-time, our thoughts flew naturally to the men in our Hut, and Mr Harrison, anticipating our wishes, telegraphed that a sum of £20 was to be spent on festivities. It will interest all to hear what was done.

On Christmas Eve a Carol service took place, assisted by a regimental band, followed by a distribution of free gifts and cake. On Christmas Day the Hut was crowded for service at 10 a.m., and 45 men present at Holy Communion. From 12-1 a free distribution of cakes and tea was enjoyed. An afternoon concert was held, after which the men were again supplied with tea and cakes. At 6.30 p.m. a very informal concert was held, interspersed with games and amusing competitions ducking for apples bobbing in a pail of water, drawing in to the mouth a piece of toffee tied to a long string held between the teeth, pinning blindfold a moustache to the Kaiser’s portrait, etc. Free drinks and tobacco were again distributed, and after three hearty cheers for the people of Reading, the National Anthem brought a memorable day to a close.

To the men this day was a bright spot in their cheerless, dangerous life, and their enjoyment is depicted by Mr Dunford in some clever sketches one of a man straight from the line, in a tin helmet and with pack on his back, beaming happily at a steaming mug of cocoa, and murmuring “Good ‘ealth to the Y.M.”; another man, whose swelled cheek testifies to the huge mouthful of sandwich (evidently “tres bon!” in quality and quantity), wittily designated “an attach in force on the salient.” To the helpers the Christmas festivities evidently proved exhausting as shown by two laughable sketches of utter collapse, one worker clinging feebly to a post, the other being dragged along the floor to a place of rest. Yet we venture to think that even they, with us, rejoice to do something to brighten the lot of our brave boys in khaki.


Trinity Congregational Church, Reading: magazine, February 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

A “fine display of assmanship” in Earley

Wounded soldiers being nursed in Reading were treated to a party in Earley, complete with a possibly rather overworked donkey.

21st June

The longest Day in summer was the occasion of the entertainment of about 40 wounded soldiers from two of the town hospitals to a garden party at the Vicarage. The hostesses were the members of the Girls’ Club. Of these, with others who were present to assist at the games, there were a goodly number, and although the party amounted to about 100 persons. The manager of Tramways was good enough to provide two cars without charge for the conveyance of the soldiers, and the home send off at 6.30 occasioned quite a flutter in the neighbouring windows.

The soldiers were received by Mrs Norris, as head of the club, and the members at 3pm; and the weather being all that could be wished proceedings opened quietly enough with skittles and bowls for the active, and a rest for such that were tired. But the spirit which moves between guests and hostesses who have not met hitherto, and which is especially welcome on these occasions had not yet arrived. His appearance, however, at a quarter to four was unmistakeable in the form of an ass harnessed to a barrel organ and guided by an Italian, arriving on the lawn suddenly in the midst of the company.

Henceforth the soberness of the games and the sweet music of Mr Cyphus at the piano gave way to donkey rides for nothing accompanied to the familiar airs associated with the streets, and until the tea bell sounded the bowls and the skittles lay idle on the grass. Earlier in the day the girls had decorated the Parish Hall with flags and flowers and had provided a sumptuous tea, of which all partook with great satisfaction. After which the Vicar, on behalf of the hostesses, offered a welcome to the guests of the afternoon. As was fitting he touched lightly both on the grave and gay sides of the occasion, and drew in response an excellent reply from the senior representative from Struan House Hospital which was concluded in much cheering.

The hundred then took up their position on the lawn and submitted themselves to the menacing eye of the camera, which doubtless will on this occasion make us all look beautiful. This ordeal over, and our brother the ass having been refreshed, moreover the courage of those who wished to ride and had no experience of it being quickened by the successful gallops of others – a fine display of assmanship was given especially when the fair rider was supported by footmen on either side: and all went as merry as wedding bells until the inexorable call of time at 6.30. So ended a memorable occasion.


Earley parish magazine, July 1916 (D/P192/28A/14)

A very merry tea for the soldier-lads

Those wounded soldiers well enough to move were invited for a day out from temporary war hospitals in east Reading.

On January 22nd another invitation was given to the inmates of Redlands Hospital, and extended to those of St. Luke’s Hospital. Unfortunately, many of the men were confined to bed, so our numbers were rather smaller than we had anticipated.

Games again proved a source of much pleasure, during which Mr. Mobbs, a true friend of “the soldier-lads,” gave much pleasure with his gramophone.

After a very merry tea of sandwiches, cakes, fruit, etc., an entertainment was provided by the “Birds of the Air” Concert party. This clever and novel performance, consisting of songs, dances, etc., was greatly appreciated by the men, and called forth tremendous applause. The performers were the Misses Morris, Mr. Streeter, and Mr. Walford Knowles. Mr. J.A. Brain, home on leave, also delighted the audience with his comic songs, as did Private Scott with his witty stories.

Cigars and cigarettes were generously provided, and before our guests left, one of their number thanked us for the very enjoyable afternoon and started his comrades’ volley of ringing cheers.

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

“By far the best entertainment our wounded heroes get in the district”

The parish of Earley St Peter made something of a speciality of entertaining wounded soldiers.

EARLEY “WOUNDED SOLDIERS” ENTERTAINMENT FUND

In continuation of my account dated 25th November last, I am glad to report that there seems to be no lack of interest shewn by our friends and helpers in this deserving cause, nor in appreciation of our efforts by those whom we have been privileged to entertain.

Fifty-five guests were entertained on the 1st inst. and 55 on the 15th, and it needs but little time to be spent amongst them to find out how pleased they are with the form of entertainment provided. Presents of fruit, flowers, smokes, sweets, cakes, &c, continue to be given, whilst additional games have been introduced; three especially good ones, “Fishing” and “Bombardo”, kindly introduced by Miss Joel, and Parlour Bagatelle by Mrs Helps, having proved a great attraction. The hat-trimming, hairdressing, bowling and other competitions continue in great favour, and the evergreen sketch, “Mixed Pickles”, by the Misses Hayward and E. Francis and Messrs Edwin and Maurice Love creates much amusement, in fact we now have the credit of providing by far the best entertainment our wounded heroes get in the district.

I regret the Editor cannot allow this report to stand over for the special event we hope to provide on Wednesday, the 29th instant. On that date we are arranging to give dinner to 60 at 12.45, followed by the usual amusements: and promises of joints, puddings, mince pies and other good things have already been provided, so that an excellent repast is certain, and the only difficulty we are likely to have to face will be the provision of motors. In regard to this branch of helpers we have had the assistance of Mr Friedlander, Mrs Joel (bus and car), Mr Ed. Heelas, Lieut. Usmar, Mr D. Helps, Mr Richard Lea, Mr O. Dixon, [and] Mr A. C. Jordan, and to them our grateful thanks are due.

It is impossible to write to all who may wish to contribute to this Fund, but our hon secretary, Mr Love, or myself, will be glad to receive any additional gifts at any time. Since my last report the following further gifts have been received. Our Lady Subscribers have been good enough to attend and give valuable help.

Chas. J Howlett, Hon. Treasurer
16 December, 1915

DONATIONS

Miss George (further donation) 2s.6d
Mrs Lily 5s
Mrs Jordan (further donation) 5s
Mr E. D. Heelas £1
Heelas, Sons & Co., Ltd 5s
Anon (further donation) 2s.6d
Miss Montizambert (further donation) 10s
Mr and Miss Jordan (donation, prizes) 1s.6d
Miss Maurice 10s

GIFTS IN KIND
Miss Eileen Joel, Cakes and Cigarettes
Mrs A. C. Jordan, Cakes
Mrs Friedlander, Fruit
Mrs Marshall, Cigarettes
Mrs Wooldridge, Flowers and Fruit
Miss Jordan, Prizes
Mrs Bright, Cakes
Mrs Masser, Cigarettes
Mr A. C. Jordan, Chocolates and Cigars
Lieut. Usmar, Cigarettes
Mrs Murton, Cigarettes
Miss L. Goodwin, Cakes
The Misses Beauchamp, Cakes
Miss Lea, Cakes

Earley St Peter parish magazine, January 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/1)

A sumptuous tea

Wounded soldiers invited to tea at Trinity Church in Queen’s Road contributed to their own entertainment.

Wounded Soldiers Tea

On December 15th we had the pleasure of entertaining about 45 patients from Redlands War Hospital. By the kindness of the Tramways Manager, a special car was provided, which brought our guests to Trinity soon after two o’clock.

Various games – cards, bagatelle, dominoes, draughts, were indulged in with evident enjoyment until 4.15, when we all sat down to a sumptuous tea. Soon, a very festive appearance was presented, as crackers were pulled, and soldiers and lady-helpers alike donned the fanciful headgear.

After tea, songs were contributed by various friends, and two most interesting turns were provided by Private Fielding, A.S.C, who, accompanied on the piano by Private Barraclough, A.S.C., played first with bones, and then upon the rather unusual instruments – four wine glasses.

Flowers, magazines, and fruit were given to the men as they left, to give to those in hospital who were unable to be present.

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

“Ill and frightened in a strange land”

A Bracknell woman who had the opportunity to visit her seriously ill soldier husband was full of praise for the medical staff and volunteers caring for the sick and wounded.

THE WAR

Our readers will be glad to know that Corporal Michael Fox who has been very ill indeed with pneumonia in France is now on the high road to complete recovery. The following account of his wife’s visit to him will be read with interest:

“I feel I must let the people know of the great kindness shown towards me while I was in France. I was sent for a visit to my husband who was dangerously ill. I started away at once; on getting off the boat, feeling very ill and frightened in a strange land, to my surprise a gentleman came to me and took my luggage and papers and saw me through the signing of them, and through to the Customs, and then put me in a motor, and I asked him if I could go straight to the hospital, although it was very late then, he said ‘certainly you shall go at once.’

When I got there Matron and Nurses told me all about my husband, then took me in to see him. He was unconscious and did not know me. I went away, the Matron telling me to return early in the morning. Then the kind gentleman who had waited for me took me to the Y.M.C.A. Rooms. There a lady welcomed me as though I was a sister, also the gentlemen of the Y.M.C.A. My husband was like that for three days and I sat with him three or four times each day; all the time the Nurses and men of the Medical Corps bringing me refreshments.

If only people could see what the Nurses, Doctors and the Medical men are doing! They never get impatient and a smile is on their faces all day even when they are on the go hour after hour. I cannot say enough of all they do, and did for me and mine. All the ladies out there, in the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Rest Home, do all sorts of dirty work, washing up cups and dishes, cleaning up the places, and one lady I saw, her hands are worse than mine who have had to work for my living all my life. She does all this in the morning, then in the afternoon visits the hospital and gives to the Soldiers games, English papers, cigarettes, note paper and envelopes, and is always cheering them up and doing all she can for them. There are many more who do the same. How they must miss all the comforts they have been used to!

Then there are the Red Cross Nurses waiting about the harbour to rescue any poor soul who has been missed off the boat, in the rain and snow all hours of the night, and then take them to the Y.M.C.A. where the gentlemen make them comfortable. The ladies and gentlemen of the Y.M.C.A. never get a minute’s rest, even when they are having their meals they are called away to attend to someone. I think the work out there is splendid.

When my pass for the seven days was up the doctor would not let me return, so he extended my pass for another five days, he said I was doing my husband such a lot of good. The kindness I received over there overwhelmed me, and I feel I must let everyone know what the Nurses and Medical men and Ladies are doing for our Soldiers and Sailors, and I am unable to express my thanks enough, also to all the ladies who are making the wadding jackets for the sick, my husband had one up to his chin, which he said was a comfort to him.”

Bracknell section of Winkfield District Magazine, December 1915 (D/P151/28A/7/12)