War was always unspeakably dreadful

A pupil at St Barthomolomew’s School imagined a future where war was unknown. It may be a creative writing exercise, but it shows the effect the war had on young people’s views of the world.

WAR.

Scene ——————– A room in a house
Time ——————— 2000 A.D.
Dramatis Personae — One sister, one small brother.

Small brother. Sissy, what does war mean? I read it in a book, something about the termination of war or something.

Sister. War, dear child, is the settlement of national quarrels by fighting.

When two or more nations had a quarrel, they used to fight each other till so many people on one side got killed or driven back, that they had to give in.

Sometimes nations just made war for greed because they thought they were stronger than their opponents, indeed this was nearly always the case.

Small brother. Please, what’s reponents?

Sister. Opponents, I said, it means enemies.

Small brother. O yes, I understand enemies; please sissy, why didn’t you say enemies if you meant enemies?

Sister. When you’re a little older, you’ll understand perhaps, but don’t fidget or I shall have to send you upstairs.

Small brother. Go on about war, sissy.

Sister. In the beginning war wasn’t quite so bad, although morally, of course, it was always unspeakably dreadful.

People used to fight hand to hand, and kill each other from quite near, with spears, long steel spikes and other weapons, then later, they shot with bows and arrows, you’ve heard of bows and arrows.

Well, everybody regarded it as a sort of game, with definite rules, particularly we English, who were always slow and stupid.

Small brother. Sissy!!

Sister.
Now don’t interrupt.

Well, people liked fighting very much really, or at any rate some did, they used to put on expensive armour and ride about on beautiful horses, and when there wasn’t a war, they went about saving fair maidens out of enchanted castles, and it was all very nice.

Everything went well, because all the countries used the same weapons, and fought in the same way, but gradually men began to invent more deadly weapons, and some of the countries invented the before their enemies knew anything about it, so of course they said it wasn’t fair and were very cross, and lots of them got killed.

Guns were invented, and other dreadful things, and people fought from a long way off. Nearly everybody fought, and they still had rules like in a game.

Things got worse and worse till the last war, that was about 1914, and then thousands of people got killed, and it was all like a very bad nightmare, men, women and children got killed and aeroplanes dropped bombs about in the town and no one was safe anywhere. After everybody had spent most of their money on the war and lost most of their sons, and had some of their houses knocked down, they got very tired of it, but it had to be finished, because a very wicked country called Germany was threatening the peace of the whole world, not that the whole world really wanted peace, mind you, because they didn’t, but they liked to think they did, and anyhow, they hated the Germans very much, and not without cause.

However, the people who were running the war for England began to see that it wasn’t a game any longer, because they didn’t get enough to each and their sons being killed; so when Germany invented clever things to kill people quicker, which weren’t allowed by the rules, they invented cleverer ones back and said nothing about it, and in the papers the people read all about the wicked things Germany was doing and thought Germany dishonourable for disobeying the rules, and some people say that the English people who were working the war for the English broke the rules first, but this isn’t certain, and anyway, the Germans were a greedy and unscrupulous people, much worse than us, though we were far from perfect, and they were beaten.

And people began to sit down and think a bit, which wasn’t often done in those days, and they came to the conclusion that war wasn’t a game any longer, and that they had better prevent its happening again, so they got together a kind of jury and they called it the League of Nations.

They talked for over a year; some said there must be no more fighting of any kind, and others said that the nature of man couldn’t exist without fighting, so they talked and talked until at last they came to a decision.

They decided to go back to the bow and arrow method, because it looked so nice and wasn’t as dangerous as the other methods, only bows, arrows and armour, were to be used, and directly anybody was wounded he would count as dead, and directly a quarter of the fighters on one side were dead, the other side would have won, and in case of any contravention of the rules, the whole world would punish the offender very severely, and since no country could ever be stronger than all the rest put together, the idea seemed practical and sound.

Well the next fight after the real war was between France and America, it was brought about by a difference of opinion as to whether Paris or New York should lead the fashions in ladies’ hats. It was, of course, a difficult problem, and the League of Nations discussed it for three months, at the end of this time there was a terrible hat strike, and women had to go about bare headed and many of them caught colds and died.

At last the League decided that France and America must figure it out.

The battle was arranged in Hyde Park, London, 100 men from Paris and 100 men from New York were chosen, the battlefield was railed around and people had to pay £20 to watch. The proceeds went to the society for stray cats.

Just before the battle began an Englishman invented an impregnable armour, so he sold the secret for a million pounds to the Paris men, and then got another million from the New York men for telling them, too.

So the first day’s fighting killed no one, and broke a lot of arrows, also it rained hard and the people who had paid £20 to come and watch were very sick about it.

On the second day someone invented an arrow which could pierce the armour, and both sides got hold of the secret, but everyone got to know of it before the battle, so they all wore double armour and again no one got killed, and still it rained, and the fighters sank up to their ankles in mud, because their armour was so heavy, and at the end of the day their friends had to pull them out with ropes.

Now this sort of thing went on for six days; each day better arrows were invented and thicker armour was worn to shield off the arrows, and as a result no one was killed and hundreds of arrows were broken, and still it rained very hard, and all the people who watched got wet and angry, and many died of chills.

And each day, the fighters sank deeper in the mud, because the ground got softer and their armour got heavier.

At last, on the seventh day, which was a Sunday, the situation seemed impossible, because the armed men knew that they couldn’t even get within range of each other; directly they stepped into Hyde Park they would get stuck, and since the rule was that each side should start at opposite ends of the park, it seemed hopeless.

However, a clever Englishman came to the rescue; he constructed two great rafts, and on these the fighters were to row out to the selected spot.

On a given signal they were to step off their rafts and fight as usual.

It cleared up a bit that day and the sun came out, so that heaps of people came to watch in boats and the stray cat’s shares went up seventy-two points.

The Lord Mayor came specially to give the signal for fighting to start.

Directly he blew the whistle the fighters stepped off the rafts, it was calculated by an American that each man weighed seven hundred pounds, anyhow they were never seen again, they sank right down through the each till they reached the centre of gravity and there they presumably remained.

So the question was never settled and everybody bought their hats in London.

Since then there have been no wars.

K.P.L.

The Newburian (magazine of St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury), April 1919 (N/D161/1/9)

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178,000 tons food a week for starving people in Germany

Germany’s surrender was complete.

15 March 1919

Germany accepted Allies’ terms – begin giving up merchant ships today, & to receive 178,000 tons food a week for starving people.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

Poignant news

The tragic news had not yet stopped.

TILEHURST

Mr and Mrs Cane have lost their boy Norman, who after only 2 days at home following on his discharge entered on his last illness. Mrs Warner has received the news of her husband’s passing away at one of the hospitals in Cologne, news which has much poignancy in view of the expectancy of early release.

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

The national unity which the war brought into being is dissolving again into fragments

The post-war world terrified many.

LENT, 1919.

Lent find us this year in the midst of an after-war reaction. The national unity which the war brought into being is dissolving again into fragments, and the national seriousness which deepened as the war dragged on seems to be giving way to an almost hectic frivolity. We are threatened again with the class war, we are living once again for pleasure or for merely selfish ends. Outside the borders of our own land the situation is far worse. The conditions in Russia, and to a less extent in Germany, put one in mind of a striking phrase in the Apocalypse, ‘The Devil is come down into the Earth, having great wrath, for his time is short.’ Evil unmitigated and unabashed seems actually to occupy the seat of power in Russia, and is seeking to extend its sway over all the world. In such days as these it is imperatively necessary that the Church, the Organ of God the Holy Spirit, should put itself on a war footing and organise itself for defensive and aggressive warfare. The powers of evil are gathering force and the Kingdom of Good may stand ever against the Kingdom of Evil in clearer definition, in intensified goodness and in energetic action.

Reading St. John parish magazine, March 1919 (D/P172/28A/24)

“Those who have fought for the victory we have obtained have reason to expect better civil life”

A Reading book club discussed social changes to be expected.

7 March 1919

The 298th meeting of the club was held at Soundy’s on Friday 7th March 1919…

The host had followed the old practice of the club (unfortunately too frequently not observed of late) & had prepared a paper. His subject was “Some Labour Problems”, & he commenced by referring to the two International Conferences now taking place in Paris, viz the Peace Conference & the International Labour Conference. The former has spent considerable time in discussing the formation of a League of Nations with a view to securing the Peace of the world so far as warfare is concerned, but Soundy pointed out that there is another Peace that is possibly even more to be desired & one that will have more important influence on the future of the nations, viz Peace in the Labour world, & this is being discussed at the International Labour Conference.

After referring to the cost of the war & to the question of the nations recovering from its effect, both financial & industrial, he stated that this can be done solely by securing peace and cooperation between the parties representing capital & labour. Relations between employers & employed must be improved. Germany has found out that might is not right & the same principle must be brought to the front in the labour market.

To re-establish our own financial position exports must be increased, & to achieve this, the rate of production must be increased. So long as this is done & is kept up the rate of increase in wages does not matter. He referred to the conditions of labour to apply in the future, which are being discussed at the Conference, & also to the evidence given by the Coal Commission in this country. Where the highest wages have been paid the cost of production has been lowest & vice versa. No man will do his best, when he feels he is underpaid, but workpeople must realise that to get better conditions they must become better workmen, & Trade Unions must make their members realise this.

Those who have fought for the victory we have obtained have reason to expect better civil life & to achieve this there must be a better understanding between employers & workpeople, & an effective peace between capital & labour.

An interesting discussion followed & it was unanimously felt that the thanks of the Club were due to the host for his most interesting paper & for having once again kept up the old traditions of the Club.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

Safe home again

Some men returned home safe at last; others did not.

We are glad to see Pte. Doel and A. Jones safe home again. Both of them have been prisoners in Germany.

Much sympathy has been expressed from Mrs. Yeo, who has received the sad news of her husband’s death from wounds.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield District Magazine, February 1919 (D/P 151/28A/11/2)

A thrilling escape

Philip Godsal, sone of a Welsh landowner, was captured early in the war, and eventually made a daring escape in 1917.

5 February 1919

Monthly Meeting

A most interesting lecture was given by Capt Philp Godsal on his experiences as a prisoner of war in various camps in Germany, and his thrilling escape to Holland.

Hurst WI minutes (D/EX1925/33/1/1)

“He speaks well on the whole of his treatment in the prisoners’ camp”

Cigarettes were this year’s Christmas gift for Maidenhead soldiers.

OUR SOLDIERS.

A letter of Christmas greeting was again sent to each of our soldiers, and a packet of cigarettes to those who were overseas. We hope that in a very short time the majority of them will be back amongst us. Robert Bolton and Alfred Isaac have already been discharged. Reginald Hill was at home for Christmas leave, looking quite recovered after his long hospital experiences. Wallace Mattingley and George Ayres are in Germany.

We are glad to hear that 2nd Lieut Edgar Jones, son of Rev. G H. Jones, of Marlow, who, after a few days in France was taken prisoner about 17 months ago, returned home in time for Christmas. He speaks well on the whole of his treatment in the prisoners’ camp.

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, January 1919 (D/N33/12/1/5)

In a prisoners’ hospital in Germany

Some PoWs were in a bad state.

We are glad to welcome home John Tidy, Richard Taylor and Percy Huxford, who have been prisoners of war, and to hear that Arthur Francis and Ben Ferns have arrived in England, though they are at present in hospital. Mrs. Ednie has heard that her son Victor is in a prisoners’ hospital in Germany, but he is expected to be moved home soon.

Winkfield District Magazine, January 1919 (D/P 151/28A/11)

At least we may hope that the bloodshed is past, and that the Peace terms may help to right the many wrongs committed

What would a post-war world look like, many wondered.

My dear friends,

We open our New Year with hearts relieved of the heavy anxiety which all of us felt at the dawn of the year past. At least we may hope that the bloodshed is past, and that the Peace terms may help to right the many wrongs committed.

But our victory, so largely brought about by the English speaking nations, lays upon those nations no light responsibility. How wide and how deep that responsibility will be, and into what spheres it will penetrate, is something one can more easily feel than formulate into words. We may take it for granted that things which had grown old are now becoming new, and that those things which were cast down are now being raised up; and that all things are returning to perfection, through Him from whom they took their origin.

Statesmen are of one accord that the world must be built up on new lines. Are they inspired with the truth that perfection cannot lie apart from Jesus Christ? We have seen a pagan efficiency brought down with a run. The years 1914-18 are pages of history which may well make Statebuilders think. Where Christ was banished, there lay already the germ of failure. The worship of power and wealth has brought a proud nation to its knees before a horror-struck and outraged world. Is this nothing to us who wield perhaps the greatest influence since the days of the old Roman Empire?

But it is more about matters at home I am concerned. If a league of nations is possible beyond our Empire, surely it is possible to be at home as a city at unity in itself. Class differences in outlook perhaps there always will be, but class antagonisms are mutually suicidal. If we could learn to respect each other’s outlook, and help that so far as the outlook is just and right, England could be a happier, more united country. God has given us such proof of His confidence that He has given us this victory. Let us begin by being at least just at home.

And it is in the spiritual sphere also that the consequences of victory is to be felt. We see the stirring of conscience in religious bodies that disunion and schism are not the Mind of Christ. These Bodies are not to be brought into unity piecemeal. The resulting bitterness of individual conversion only makes the antagonisms worse. I do not think we as Christians sufficiently realise the loss to Christ through conflicting Christianity; and we should be prepared to make any concession to those separated from us as does not involve a breach with the true Catholic Church of Christ. Just as prejudice is not to be allowed to stand in the way of England’s reconstruction, neither should it stand in the way of the reconstruction of the Church….
One fallacy which has been exploded by the war was that unity by command meant the sacrifice of national independence. We now know that diversity of effort meant playing into the enemy’s hand. The English army had its part to play, as the English Church will always have her part to play; and the English army suffered no loss of prestige or national self-determination because it correlated its effort with the armies of the allied forces under a supreme command. It has been a great lesson, and one which can be so pointedly applied…

The coming year must be full of matters of deep moment. I pray God that we may meet it under His guidance.

We owe a debt of thanks to Mr Self Fowles for the great help he has given as a temporary choirmaster. He has given himself heart and soul to the work, and has been loyally backed up by the choir. His heart is in the Church, and we hope that he may find a sphere as congenial to him as All Souls has been. Mr Clarke will resume his place at the organ at once, and he will receive a hearty welcome back from many old friends.

The cost of Magazines has again risen. We do not propose to raise the price, but we hope that those who can afford it will raise the sum they usually pay for the year. As the Magazine has been in existence for 23 years the vicar has determined to continue it; but it was after some hesitation.

Your affectionate priest and friend,

Barrington B. Murray

South Ascot Parochial magazine, January 1919 (D/P186/28A/19)

“The war is likely to be the most striking event of the 20th century”

Newbury Museum planned to remember the war and its impact.

Museum and Free Library Committee
Monday, January 19th, 1919


The Hon. Curator laid before the Committee the following report for the past quarter:

Borough of Newbury Museum

Typical Collection.

The war is likely to be the most striking event of the 20th century, and we shall probably not be wrong in devoting the 1 foot 6 inches of wall space allotted to the century almost, if not entirely, to war exhibits. In the table-case there should be nine small but choice objects illustrating the following regions: Britain; North Europe; the campaign in the Murmansk Region; Central Europe; Germany or Austria; Italy; The Balkan Peninsula; Gallipoli; Serbia or Salonika; Egypt; Western Asia; Palestine or Mesopotamia; India; Japan. These objects must be small, as the space at our disposal is very limited, but should be choice. An instructional sectional Mill’s No 5 hand-grenade, an iron cross, and a Turkish cannon-ball, and such-like objects, would be most suitable. Besides these we might exhibit a German shrapnel-helmet, a British gas mask, and a French 75 mm shell-case.

Local Collections

These might be placed in a special case to illustrate the effect of the war on Newbury, and the share in it taken by the Borough and neighbourhood. It would be interesting to collect a complete series of posters, circulars and notices issued by the Police, the County Council, the Borough Council, and the Rural District Council, and by officials and committees acting under their authority; also a complete set of the issue of the “Newbury Weekly News” from the declaration of war to the conclusion of the peace celebrations. These cannot be displayed upon the walls of the Museum owing to lack of space, and the Museum possesses no accommodation for storing them in such a way as to be accessible to students. Perhaps this part of the record could be undertaken by the Free Library.

The special Museum case might, however, contain: Badges of officers and men of the Berkshire regiments; badges and insignia of Newbury Special Constables; badges and arms of the Newbury Volunteers; shell-cases made by Newbury munition firms. These seem to be all that we shall find room for, and ought to be sufficient to show posterity how the war affected Newbury and its neighbourhood.

War Collection – the following special report by the Hon. Curator on a war collection was held before the Committee.:-

Report on War Collections

Now that hostilities have ceased, it is time that the Committee decided what steps should be taken by the Museum to put on record the chief features of the war. In considering this question it will be well to give the matter careful thought, and to make sure that it is approached with due regard to proportion. On the one hand we must avoid concluding that, as the war is an affair of yesterday, it should not be represented in our Historical Collections, still more is it well to remember that, though at the present moment it seems to overshadow in importance all other events, yet it must not occupy an undue amount of space in our cases, but must take its place with other events of a perhaps less dramatic nature. There are two ways in which the war may be considered part of the Museum: one as part of the general history of the Old World, as exhibited on our typical collection; and the other as part of the history of Newbury, as exemplified by our Local Collections.

The Hon. Curator’s report was adopted and efforts were to be made to secure suitable exhibits.


Newbury Borough Council minutes (N/AC1/2/9)

Good news

Happy news for Christmas.

It is good news to know that Mrs. Baigent has heard from her son, who was a prisoner of war in Germany.

Warfield section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, December 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/10)

A foretaste of the judgment of Christ falling upon a nation which would have none of Him

Celebrations at Ascot were not dimmed by the failure of the electric supply in the middle of the service.

Advent, 1918

My dear friends,

It is with the most profound relief that I am able this year to address to you the Advent letter with the good hope of restored peace. We must feel that Advent has taken on a new meaning for us. It has been in a very real sense that Christ has come to the world. We make a mistake if we relegate the word Advent to His Final Coming. We have watched amazed these last few months a foretaste of the judgment of Christ falling upon a nation which would have none of Him. Whatever causes writers of History may attribute to the dramatic collapse of our enemies, those of us who believe in the immediate Rule of Christ over the world he won for Himself will see in that collapse His judgment at work. It was in truth an Advent, a foretaste of what the Final Advent must mean.

But the Advent of Jesus is not just to destroy, it is to build anew. There lies before us a period of intense activity where without His Guidance our efforts can so easily go in the wrong channels. I say with the utmost deep conviction that man unaided is not sufficient for this opportunity. We must aid our statesmen by our prayers. Here at All Souls’ we shall begin Advent with the daily Eucharist restored to the Parish.

Our thanksgiving services were marked by a real heartfelt thankfulness on the part of our people. Both morning and evening we paid our debt of honour to all who have served their country on active service, and pleaded for the peace and joy of those who had shown the greatest love which man can show. In the morning the congregation with choir and wardens made a pilgrimage to the Shrine, and in the evening to the Rolls of Honour in the Church. In both cases the simple act of respect and honour proved deeply affecting and impressive. It was greatly appreciated by those who have beloved names on our rolls.

An upsetting incident occurred in the failure in the morning of the electric current which put the organ out of commission in the midst of a hymn. The choir, however, rose well to the occasion, and went on as steady as rocks supported by the congregation who sang with a heartiness we have never heard before. Fortunately, our practice piano was standing in the church, and Mr Fowles was able to keep the choir well supported till the current was restored. It was nevertheless a great day and one which no one will ever forget. The Church had touched the need of the people.

A generous benefaction of £100 has been given to the Parish by Mr F A Keating in memory of his son.

The victory was marked by the gift of a large St George’s Cross Banner to the Church by Lady Radnor. It waved bravely over the Church on Thanksgiving Day. It will enable us to express ourselves on great occasions in the future. It is a great addition to the Tower, and helped to hide its unfinished appearance.


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

PEACE! What a blessed word!

The Broad Street Brotherhood rejoiced at the end of the war.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

PEACE! What a blessed word! How often we have sung “In God’s good time there will be peace”.

And now after four years of awful slaughter, turmoil and anxiety, there is at hand that righteous and lasting peace for which we have so fervently prayed.

It is a time for great joy. Praise and prayer. But let us remember with proud and loving thankfulness those who have won us this great blessing by the sacrifice of all they had. God give us a real peace, peace amongst the nations, and peace at home.

Our heartiest congratulations are extended to our secretary, Brother A S Hampton, on being presented with the coveted Red Triangle by Princess Marie Louise, for his untiring zeal in connection with the YMCA.

We are sorry to learn that our Brother C. Saxby, well-known to the choir members, is still a prisoner of war in Germany, but we are hoping by the time these notes are out, that he will have been released.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, December 1918

The agony and sorrow and sacrifice through which we have passed

The Rector of Remenham had strong views about our defeated enemy, and about domestic politics.

Rector’s letter

Since I wrote last month events connected with the War have moved with startling, dramatic rapidity. Bulgaria, Turkey, Austria, had collapsed, and then on November 11 Germany, the last of our enemies and the worst, whose conduct has been stained with iniquity and brutality and loathsome disregard of the obligations of honourable warfare, was overwhelmed. And now hostilities have ceased, and we breathe freely once again. We trust that, when the actual terms of Peace are settled, the wrongdoers will be adequately and justly punished; and that the foundations of righteousness may be firmly laid among the nations of Europe. On Sunday November 17, we held our Thanksgiving Services to acknowledge the good hand of God upon us, and, while our hearts were lifted up to him in profound gratitude, the agony and sorrow and sacrifice through which we have passed solemnised and, I believe, hallowed our worship.

The country on December 14 will be faced with the responsibility of a general election, and for the first time women will have the parliamentary vote. Let us pray that they may exercise it wisely, and I believe they will. The present Coalition Government, composed of Unionists and Liberals, will appeal to the nation for a fresh mandate to empower them if returned to office, to negotiate the terms of Peace, and, after Peace, to grapple with the grave problems of reconstruction that await solution. Old party divisions will for this election be put aside, and the Government will ask the country to support the united Coalition. The forces opposed to them, as far as I can judge, will be independent Labour and Socialism, and as their interests are confessedly sectional, they are not likely to safeguard the well-being of the nation, at this critical juncture.


Remenham parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P99/28A/4)