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)

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“This neighbourhood is becoming unhealthy for Zepps”

Apsley Cherry-Garrard, Berkshire and Hertfordshire landowner and former Antarctic explorer, witnessed an air raid at close quarters.

Lamer, Oct 2, [1916]
Dear Farrer

I confess my heart stood still for about ½ minute last night as a Zepp passed over the top of the house fairly low. She dropped some 30-40 bombs later & I got a good view of her coming down in flames – so vivid that I fancied I could feel the heat coming from her. This neighbourhood is becoming unhealthy for Zepps; from the course this one took I should say that it intended to avenge the one that was brought down at Cuffley – when we had 3 of them here. …

Yours very sincerely

Apsley Cherry-Garrard

Letter from Apsley Cherry-Garrard (D/EHR/Z9/74)

A Zeppelin is brought down in flames

The First World War was the first air war, and raids terrified the civilian population. So the first Zeppelin to be downed was a cause of celebration.

3 September 1916
Zeppelin brought down in flames at Cuffley by Com. Robinson, a Canadian – he given VC.

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

One of Scott’s best men killed

Apsley Cherry-Garrard, a veteran of Scott’s Antarctic expedition, was now definitely declared unfit for further service. One of his companions in the Antarctic was naval officer Harry Pennell, a casualty of the Battle of Jutland in May 1916.

June 12, 1916

Lamer Park
Wheathampstead
Herts

Dear Farrer

I saw a specialist on Wed. He says he feels sure there is no alteration now inside me – but inflammation etc etc & that this will go on a very long time.

I am very gradually to get on my legs a bit & under a year I ought to be able to lead a fairly normal life, but the process will cause an increase of pain & sickness. That the Admiralty will not, & should not vex me again.

One of Scott’s best men, Pennell, went down with the Queen Mary.

Yours ever
ACG

Letter from Apsley Cherry-Garrard (D/EHR/Z9/61)

Overstimulated for three years

Apsley Cherry-Garrard had been forced by illness to return home to England from the front. He was now exercised by the financial effects of the war on his income.

May 24 1916
Lamer Park
Wheathampstead
Herts

Dear Farrer

I make out that I am paying taxes on something like £2240 supposed income direct from agricultural land & the buildings here, while I am lucky if two or three hundred (after paying garden wages) sees Hoare’s Bank!

I see that the Times Leader this morning proposes that all men used on such gardens etc should be placed on the land. How about the capital loss to the long suffering estate owner?

I’ve had a lot more sickness etc etc … I had a long talk with the doctor yesterday. He says he does not think there is very much wrong with the actual wall of the intestine now, but that the strain through which it has gone has so overstimulated everything for some 3 years that it will take a long time perhaps to get right….

Yours very sincerely
Apsley Cherry-Garrard

Letter from Apsley Cherry-Garrard (D/EHR/Z9/55)

“In the event of an invasion”

We last heard from Apsley Cherry-Garrard in 1914. Now in 1916 he was back home at Lamer again, unwell, his health having broken down under the stress of the war. He wrote to his lawyer on 28 April on financial matter, including a reference to a friend’s role in home defences.

Lamer Park Wheathampstead
Herts

Dear Farrer

R Smith has just finished drilling at Arundel & has been told off to 3rd line trenches in the event of invasion.

Yours very sincerely
Apsley Cherry-Garrard

April 28 [1916]

Letters from Apsley Cherry-Garrard (D/EHR/Z9/47)

“England is worth dying for” – and Winston Churchill is the devil on earth

Meg Meade let her brother Ralph know the details of the last moments of their cousin Ivar Campbell, together with news of various friends and relations – plus her very unflattering views of Winston Churchill. Ralph had political ambitions, and subsequently became a Conservative MP. The controversial Noel Pemberton Billing, mentioned here, had just won a by-election standing as an Independent, but his political career (perhaps fortunately) lasted only a few years.

March 16th [1916]
Peter[borough]

My darling Ralph

I hear Wisp is coming to London as he has six weeks leave, lucky thing, but the reason is he has had such a bad dose of flu he has lost a stone! Jim says lots of them have had it in the north. If it produced leave on that scale, & Jim doesn’t catch it, I shall have to send him a bottled germ of it!

I posted my last letter to you from London when I went up to see Arthur. He was looking very well indeed, he says the English soldiers have invented a sort of pidgeon French which is now used by the French soldiers to make themselves understood by the English & vice versa, & it’s frightfully difficult to understand. One day Arthur came out & found his servant looking up into his horse’s face & saying “Comprennie? Comprennie?” He said Frenchwomen always come to him about every conceivable thing, even to if they are going to have a baby, & one had highstrikes [sic] in his office the other day.

I hear that Bertie is convalescent on crutches now & they are trying to prevent his being sent home to England on account of his health.

Poor old Mrs Hopkinson came in here today, broken hearted; for Pen’s husband, Colonel Graeme, was killed in France last Friday behind the lines by a stray shell. Killed outright mercifully. But oh dear, how sad one is at these ceaseless sorrows, and all the broken hearted people all round one. “But England is worth dying for” as Noel Skelton wrote to Aunt Syb about Ivar. I dined with Aunt Syb the night I was in London. She is so wonderful, so is Joan, but it has told hard on both of them. Aunt S has aged & Joan carries the mark in her face too…

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“He gave his life nobly, for what he conceived to be a righteous cause”

A family from Broad Street Congregational Church in Reading had to face the loss of their only son in action.

IN MEMORIAM PTE GEO. KEENE
Just about the time that we were going to press a month ago, Pte Geo. H Keene, 1st Batt. Herts Regiment, was laying down his life for his country. Our friend was killed instantaneously, as he was being relieved from duty in the trenches, “somewhere in France”, on Tuesday October 26th, but the news did not reach Reading until the following Sunday [30 Oct]. George Keene was a very promising young fellow, 24 years of age, and with, as it seemed, a bright and prosperous future before him. For some time he had held a responsible position with a firm of solicitors in Ware, Hertfordshire, and he had earned the confidence and esteem of his employers, as indeed he had done of all others with whom he had been brought into contact. As secretary of our Young Men’s Bible Class, he was well known, and highly respected, at Broad Street.

We all deeply sympathise with his relatives in their sad loss. Especially would we express our grief for his parents – Mr and Mrs Keene, 6 Manchester Street, very old members of our church – in the loss of their only son, and with his sisters, in being thus deprived of the comradeship of a devoted brother. They all have one great source of comfort, in the thought that their loved one gave his life nobly, for what he conceived to be a righteous cause.

Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, December 1915 (D/N11/12/1/14)