“Many of us feel there is a reasonable hope of a termination of hostilities before Christmas”

An army chaplain with links to Mortimer shares details of his life in Normandy.

Mr Bowden writes:-

Dear Vicar,

It is a long time since I sent a contribution to the Magazine, not that I have forgotten Mortimer but I have so little of interest to relate. My work is now in the docks area – I have charge of No. 2 General Hospital, on the quay alongside which the hospital ships lie and take in the wounded direct from the trains to convey them to Southampton. Any cases which prove too bad for the boat journey we take in to our hospital which is directly over the railway station, and occasionally we get a train load for treatment at No. 2. We have three very fine, airy wards; and a broad balcony facing the sea runs the whole length of the hospital; in the summer we place many beds out there – the men love to be in the open air and watch the shipping and the aircraft. The hospital commands a fine view of the town on one side and the mouth of the Seine with Trouville and Honfleur on the other.

In addition to hospital work I have some 1,500 Army Ordnance and 650 Army Service Corps men to work amongst. These are busy on the docks all day long but can be seen in the Recreation Huts and in their billets in the evening and at meal times.

There are plenty of amusements provided for them – some sort of entertainment almost every night. We also have recently acquired a recreation ground for their use and a cricket ground as well as a tennis court for officers and N.C.O.’s.

It might be of interest if I give my Sunday programme – I start early with a Celebration of Holy Communion at 6 a.m. for the A.O.D. in a little chapel near their quarters – another celebration at 7 a.m. for the hospital staff in a hut on the quay. This is always followed by a series of private Communions to sick men and officers in the various wards and huts; [sic] then back to breakfast. I used to have a Parade Service at 10-30 for the R.A.M.C. but have dropped it as it was an inconvenient time for the men. At 11-30 we have a Parade Service for the A.O.D. in one of the warehouses on the docks – the men climb up on the boxes all round a space left for the purpose – we have a good choir, an hearty service, and then the men go straight off to their dinner at noon, or soon after.

Then I have nothing till 5-15 when I hold Ward Services in hospital – these are very much appreciated by the patients and are of an informal nature as all denominations join in. The men love singing hymns and the Sisters come and help form a choir. At 7 p.m. we are now having open-air services in the A.S.C. camp on the river front between the docks and hospital. Here the men are mostly getting on in years – I believe the average age is about 42 – All younger men have long since been sent “up the line.” Of course a large portion of both A.S.C. and A.O.D. men have done their bit at the front in various units and have been sent back to work at the Base owing to wounds or some physical disability rendering them unfit for the fighting line.

Sometimes my day ends here or I have a service at the Y.M.C.A. or in one of the other huts, in turn with other Padres.

We have many destroyers constantly alongside the quays, the escorts for hospital ships, transports, &c. I go aboard when I can but generally most of the sailors are sleeping as they are working all night and its [sic] not often possible to hold a Service for them, but one gets some interesting talks with men and officers.

Just now we have a Mortimer man in hospital – Sergt. Shackleford – he is doing very well. He is only the second man I have met from the parish since I joined the B.E.F. – the other being Frank Parsons.

We are all very cheerful about the position of things just now and many of us feel there is a reasonable hope of a termination of hostilities before Xmas.

With best wishes to all friends.

Yours very sincerely,

W. S. Bowden, C.F.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P120/28A/14)

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This awful anniversary – the end is not yet in sight

The third anniversary of the start of the war was a time for reflection.

Reading St Giles
August

Saturday, August the 4th, will be the 3rd Anniversary of the declaration of the War, and the beginning of a 4TH Year. There will be celebrations of the Eucharist at 6.45, 7.30& 8 a.m. I hope that a great many will endeavour to be present to pray and intercede.
I propose on the following day, Sunday the 5th, to have a solemn requiem at 11a.m. for the fallen in the War. If any relatives or friends wish for the mention of names will they please send them into me by August 4th. At evensong, on Sunday the 5th, the special form of intercession put forth by the Archbishop will be used.

September

I was very thankful to see in August 4th, the 3rd Anniversary of the war, so many present at the Eucharist to intercede for our sailors and soldiers, and to pray for Victory and a righteous peace. The number of communions made was nearly four times as large as last year.

Broad Street Congregational Church

AUGUST THE FOURTH

Saturday, August 4th, will bring the third anniversary of the declaration of war, and in this connection a service arranged by the Reading Free Church Council will be held in our church beginning at 3 p.m. The service will be largely intercessory, and it will be conducted by ministers representing the various Free Churches in the town, those having promised to take part being the Rev. J A Alderson (President of the Council), Rev. T W Beck (Wesleyan), Rev. J Carter (Primitive Methodist), Rev. W C King (Baptist), Rev. J Mitchell (Presbyterian), and Rev. E J Perry, BD (Congregational).

Both last year and the year before similar services were held, and they were attended by large congregations. We hope it may be the same again this year.

Wargrave
August 4th and 5th, 1917:

These are days to be much observed with prayer being the third Anniversary of the declaration of War.

Saturday, August 4th, Holy Communion at the Parish Church 8.a.m. Mattins 10.a.m. Evensong 7.p.m. Special forms of prayer.

Sunday, August 5th, Services as usual: Special forms of prayer.

Cranbourne

In connection with the third Anniversary of the Declaration of War the special Forms of Prayer issued by the Archbishops were said in Church, and also at a united Service held in the Sunday School after Evensong. To this service our Wesleyan friends came in large numbers, and the address was given by the Rev. J.S. Hollingworth.

Earley St Peter

The Vicar’s Letter

My dear friends,

On August 4th we shall have reached the third anniversary of the commencement of the war, and we hope that all will observe it on Sunday, August 5th, and make the day a time for earnest prayer that peace may be restored. Three years ago there were comparatively few thought that it would have lasted so long. We feel as sure as ever that our cause will finally triumph, but the end is not yet in sight, and we have still to go on working and enduring, with a full trust that all will come right in God’s good time. It is true that as the writer of the Book of Proverbs says, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick”; but we forget the second half of the verse, “but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life” – that desire with us is a just and secure peace, under which we pray that the world will be restored and revivified; but we must each do our part.

From a secular point of view there are not many who are not working for their country and doing their best, but can we say that the nation as a whole is doing its best from a spiritual point of view, as a profesedly Christian nation? Are there not many among ourselves who, though deeply sincere at first, have gradually fallen back into the ruts of carelessness and indifference, and ought not what our Bishop calls this “awful anniversary” to give us cause to think very seriously on our position nationally and individually?

Your friend and vicar,
W W Fowler.

THE BISHOP’S MESSAGE

The following extracts are from the Bishop’s message in the August Diocesan Magazine:

Your prayers are specially asked

For our country and our allies, and for the whole world at the beginning of the fourth year of the war.
For victory and peace.
For a settlement in Ireland…

THE OBSERVANCE OF AUGUST 4-5

Before the Magazine reaches you, you will have in your hands the prayers and suggestions for prayer put out by the archbishops, with the consent of the diocesan bishops, for this awful anniversary. I have not anything to add to what is there suggested, there is abundant need that we should call to prayer all who believe in its power – that is all who believe in our Lord. And there is abundant need also that we should do all that lies in our power to maintain the spirit of our nation at its best level, at the level at which it can pray to God as we Christians have been taught to believe in Him.

A PRAYER FOR GIRLS WORKING IN MUNITIONS AND ON THE LAND

O most merciful Father, we beseech Thee to bless and protect the Girls, who have gone to work in the Munition Factories and on the land. Preserve them from all evil. Keep them in good health. Comfort them with Thy presence when they are lonely, and homesick, and tired. Grant that their influence may be for good, and that by their lives they may lead others nearer to Thee. Very specially we ask for a blessing on the work of the Church among them. Grant that we at home may realise how much there is to do, and that we may not fail in sacrifice, and work, and prayer. For Jesus Christ’s sake.
Amen.

C. OXON.

Reading St Giles parish magazines, August and September 1917 (D/P96/28A/32); Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, August 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14); Wargrave parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P145/28A/31); Cranbourne section of Winkfield District Magazine, September 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/9)Earley St Peter parish magazines, 1917 (D/P191/28A/24)

A church in a hut, and quite a parish!

An army chaplain from Newbury writes on his work:

The Rev. H C Roberts writes to the Rector from the Front as follows:

“I was very pleased to get your letter and to hear some of the Newbury news. It was forwarded on to me, as I have moved on from my last station, and am now at Garrison Mess, APOS 19. It doesn’t convey much, does it? This is a very much bigger place than where I was last, and I am in charge of this part. We have a very nice church in a hut all fitted out with an altar, reading desk, etc. I believe it is about the only one of its kind out here – it holds about 170 men, and at the voluntary evening service it gets quite full. We have two early services on Sundays, 6.15 and 7.15, and an evening communion on the last Sunday of the month. More men we find are able to make their communions in the evening owing to work, so it gives them the opportunity. Here too we have a CEMS Meeting one night in the week, and last time we had about 15 present. Of course work varies very much according to district, etc. In that way this is very much better than my last place. In addition we have various parade services on Sunday too. So you see it is quite a parish!! and, as you may imagine, a pretty big one too…

We are having some very hot weeks again (this was written in July, ED) now, but for one or two nights it turned quite cold. I am sorry I can’t tell you much of the place or work, but of course we are allowed to say very little in our letters, and all mention of places, kind of work, visits, etc, is prohibited, and I can imagine quite rightly.”

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

Beginning military service as a chaplain

The Community of St John Baptist said goodbye to their warden, who was starting his service as an army chaplain.

21 June 1917

The Sub-Warden went away to begin his military service as Chaplain at Strensall Camp near York. The 7 am celebration [of Holy Communion] was at the High Altar followed by the Travellers’ Service.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

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)

Shot in cold blood, and now “beyond the reach of human injustice and incompetence”

Cambridge don John Maxwell Image was excited by the new tanks rolling into action; philosophical about air raids – and horrified by first-hand stories of the executions of young men for cowardice or desertion.

29 Barton Road
[Cambridge]

23 Sept. ‘16

Mon Ami!

I share your views about the ghastly War. With its slaughters and its expenditure, where shall we be left after it is over. Any peace that leaves Germany still united – united for evil – is a fool madness that deserves the new War it will render a certainty.

I am in a fever to see the photograph of a Tank in action. I can’t imagine its appearance. I don’t believe them lengthy like caterpillars – but more like mammoths, Behemoths – “painted in venomous reptilian colours” for invisibility – and “waddling on” over trenches.

Today’s paper speaks of a seaplane over Dover yesterday. This is the very general prelude to a Zepp raid: and we expect one accordingly tonight, if their courage hasn’t oozed out. There is a Flying Camp near here – at Thetford, I believe. Daily, Planes soar over us – a sight I view every time with fresh pleasure. Twice we have had an Airship – huge, but not like the pictures of the German Zepps. I may as well tell you of our own experience on Saturday 3 weeks ago. Peaceful and unsuspecting, we were sitting in the drawing room at 10.30 when suddenly the electric lights went down and left the house in darkness. This is the official warning of Zepps. So we went out into Barton Rd. Not a glimmer, nor a sound. Quite unimpressive.

We turned in to bed – all standing (in Navy language) – and I into the deepest slumber, from which I was eventually shaken to hear an agitated voice, “they’re here”. I bundled out, lit a match and read on my watch 2.50. There was no mistaking – a thunderous drone, such as I had never heard before – and, seemingly, exactly overhead. We hurried down into the road. The roar grew fainter, and then began – deep and dignified – the guns. I guessed them to be on the Gogmagogs – then sharp explosions, which we took for bombs, thrown haphazard by the Zepp which was undoubtedly fleeing for the coast.

Robinson’s Zepp had come to earth at 2.30. Possibly ours was the wounded bird, which dropped a gondola or something in Norfolk when making its escape?

At 4.5 our electric lights went up again, and we to bed. Decorous night-rails, this time.

The Signora has a wee aluminium fragment from the Zepp that was brought down at Salonica. It was picked up by a young soldier who had been in her Sunday School Class. We had a sudden visit from her youngest brother, Gilbert, home on 6 days leave from Salonica. You have heard me speak of him as the rising artist who at 20 years of age sold a picture for £100, and is now a Tommy at 1/- a day. I fell in love with him on the spot. So simple, so lovable, – above all, such a child – going about the world unprotected!

By the way Gilbert saw the Zepp come down in flames at Salonica.
He had many yarns. The one that most made me shudder was of the announcement at a morning parade, “Sergeant So-and-so of the Connaught Rangers was shot this morning by sentence of a Court Martial for refusing to obey an order”. Just that! I have heard of these shootings in cold blood, several times, at the Front in France. Always they made me feel sick. A boy (on one occasion) of 17 ½, who had fought magnificently at Hill 60: and then lost his nerve, when his 2 brothers were killed in the trench at his side. Pym (our TCC [Trinity College, Cambridge] chaplain) sat with him all night and gave him the Sacrament. He

“could only feel what a real comfort it was to know that the boy was now beyond the reach of human injustice and incompetence”.

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

Guns as thick as blackberries in September

Army chaplain T Guy Rogers reported his latest experiences to his old friends in Reading.

LETTER FROM T. GUY ROGERS.

August 15th, 1916.
My Dear Friends,

I wish I could give you some idea of all the wonderful sights one see on the march. It is true one only sees under difficulties. Great clouds of dust half blind and choke us as we go. The blazing sun makes even the hardiest warrior droop his head a little as we traverse the rolling hills. Sometimes we become too preoccupied with mopping our faces to do any justice to the landscape. But when the ten minutes’ halt comes- ten minutes to the hour – when ranks are broken, and we lie down on the bank, or in the ditch, or on the heap of stones by the road, we find ourselves in more observant mood. Perhaps we have halted near some bivouacs and see hundreds of naked forms bathing in some tiny stream which would have been utterly despised in days of peace. The British soldier is not proud like Naaman! If he cannot find Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, he is content with any trickling or shallow Jordan which come his way.

Perhaps we have halted near some batteries and admire the cleverness with which they have been screened from aeroplane observation. The whole country is stiff with guns. Though there may be good reason to smile at some statements made by politicians, believe all that you hear about the guns. They are as thick as ‘leaves in Vallombrosa’ or blackberries in September. Whole batteries of – spring up like mushrooms in a night; our old eighteen pounders are, like silver in the days of the great King Solomon, ‘nothing accounted of’ for their number.

I wish too, I could repeat for you some of the stories I have heard of the tremendous fighting of the last six weeks. All honour to the armies we call by the name of the great Kitchener. To-day I hear of a boy under age for military service, who, with a handful of men, has held a position for three days against German attacks, when the rest of their Company was killed. The deeds of heroism are without number. Alas we say for those who have fallen. Such sad news comes to me from home of our brave fellows from S. John’s who have laid down their lives in the great advance. But our last word must not be ‘Alas.’ I like that custom of the French Government which consists in congratulating as well as commiserating with the relatives of the fallen. And even though from constant reiteration those fine phrases ‘The Last Debt,’ ‘The Supreme Sacrifice’ may have lost something of their pristine glory, the simple testimony still remains, ‘Greater love hath no man than this- that a man lay down his life for his friend.’

My own life is full of the kaleidoscopic changes of an army in motion. This evening I am in a chateau with ample grounds. I lunched (is the word permissible?) to the roar of a 9-inch gun. Last night I slept in a cellar, full of empty wine bottles, and most inconveniently damp; another night a little farther back in a dug-out in the front line, after burying some poor bodies lying out upon a recent battlefield.

Nearly all my services of late have been in the open air. I can recall so many which could not but touch the least sentimental, and which leave behind unforgettable memories – memories of men kneeling on the slopes of a hillside in the early morning to receive the sacrament, memories of services held between long aisles of waving pines, and on the tops of downs swept by the evening breeze.
Amidst all the sadness – and there is much – when friends (and one has so many now) are struck down by shot or shell, there is an uplifting sense of God’s presence, and we can feel it even in the valley of the shadow. And even if called upon to face sterner ordeals in the immediate future, ‘out of the depths’ shall we still praise our God.

Your sincere friend,

T. GUY ROGERS.

Reading St. John parish magazine, September 1916 (D/P172/28A/24)

Comfort, hope and peace for the living and the departed

A Cookham Dean man fell in action. The church comforted his grieving family.

We grieve to record the death of 2nd. Lieut Frank Saxon Snell, killed in action on July 11th:- the only son of Churchwarden and Mrs. Snell aged 29. Words cannot express what so many of us have felt for those near and dear to him in their hour of sorrow. A Requiem Celebration of Holy Communion was held in Church on Saturday, July, 22nd, at 10.45 a.m.: a Service we believe, of comfort and hope and peace, both for the living and the departed.

Cookham Dean parish magazine, August 1916 (D/P43B/28A/11)

“God is on our side”

A number of Reading soldiers wrote home with their experiences of religious services at the front. The following were printed in the St John’s parish magazine:

EASTER CARDS

The letters that have come from the Front in response to our Easter cards shew how they were appreciated, and many men seem to have found encouragement in the thought that we were praying for them at our Easter Communion. A few entries from the letters will shew how much the cards were valued:

I need hardly say how welcome the card was, it seemed to bring me nearer to the good old Church which I have known so long… I do not think I enjoyed the service so much before as when I was last home on leave last February. It was the Rev. T. Guy Rogers who gave the sermon in the evening, and the words he spoke are in my mind to this very moment. I had heard hundreds of sermons before but not one of them had appealed to me so much as that one.
SJ

I am pleased indeed to tell you I was one of many in our regiment who attended Holy Communion in the pleasant little church although many shells had pierced its roof. Our Chaplain made a splendid Table from which we partook of the Holy Sacrament. I must say our Chaplain is a very hard worker indeed, he is very often with us in the trenches…

Your words are most encouraging, I am sure, but it is nothing but an Englishman’s duty, although there are so many hardships, but God is on our side, therefore all of us must look to Him as our leader, not only in the time of danger but always.
WJK

I feel I must write and thank you for the splendid Easter card which I received from St John’s parish a day or two before Easter Sunday. I think the subject of the card was most inspiring and helpful. I thought of St Stephen’s on Easter Sunday, and especially at the Communion Service which I was able to attend.
AFC

I feel as others do that we are greatly in debt to those at home who never seem to forget us.
ALB.

It seemed quite a treat to know that those who have been in the parish and are now fighting for their King and Country were being remembered at your Easter Communion.
RH.

Reading St John parish magazine, June 1916 (D/P172/28A/24)

“A time when every man and woman in the country must surely feel the need for God”

Easter Day 1916 fell on 23 April. The vicar of Wargrave hoped, writing in the parish magazine for April, that people would attend the Easter services:

Easter Communion

We pray to GOD that the heart of every confirmed person in the parish may be touched and that everyone will come to GOD’s Altar on Easter Day [23 April], not only in obedience to solemn duty but with eager thankful hearts to receive the Gift their Saviour died to give.

Work, and more work, is the desire of everyone; for work is felt to be the condition of any peace of mind when the nation is at war and the country needs the strength of all, each in his place. So we may look forward to our Easter Communion as a consecration of life to renewed labour. And the thought may bring a new peace to the heart. For life thus dedicated is stripped of selfish ambition, unworthy motives, pride of place or hope of gain: It is given to GOD. Henceforth He sets the work: His calling gives to labour its dignity and assurance: His Presence makes the task a joy. And henceforth we feel our brotherhood, even in our small part, with those great ones who bear the burden and heat of the day; for ‘duty’ is God’s will for each, and no man or woman can do more. So with all the household of faith, as members of one great family, consecrated to a common task, the advance of His Kingdom, we may gather to the feast to which we are so lovingly called and bidden. For ‘Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel’.

The next issue included a follow-up report:

Easter Services

The Easter Services in all parts of the Parish were well attended. There were 395 communicants. Numbers will always vary a good deal in a riverside place where there are sometimes many visitors; but the total is 40 more than last year and it is satisfactory that the numbers should thus be well maintained when there has been no Confirmation in the Parish and so many are away from home on the King’s service. It is indeed a time when every man and woman in the Country must surely feel his need and seek to God for help. “And those that seek Me early shall find Me.”

Wargrave parish magazines, April-May 1916 (D/P145/28A/31)

“The Chaplain is a good sort and not a funk”

A Stratfield Mortimer man reports on the experience of attending a religious service under fire:

Extracts from a letter from one of Mortimer’s C.E.M.S. members from “somewhere in France”

We have been out here now nearly a twelve-month, and have been up at the line since the 8th day after landing. We have had some pretty rough times, but still we keep smiling, and hope for the best. We get very few services out here, but I have attended some very unique ones since landing. One I shall always remember: it was a celebration of Holy Communion, about 1,000 yards behind the line, and everything seemed pretty quiet, except for a rifle shot or two and the rattle of the machine guns. The service was about halfway through when our neighbour Fritz started throwing iron rations about, some falling quite close to where we were standing. The Chaplain took no notice, but went straight on with the service, and I think our fellows took more notice of that than anything else. Since that day you always hear that the Chaplain is a good sort and not a funk.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, April 1916 (D/P120/28A/14)

The dugout canteen does a roaring trade

The Revd T Guy Rogers was now running a canteen for soldiers in a dugout as well as continuing his religious work.

April 10th

The canteen is successfully opened, and is doing a roaring trade. We started at 5 p.m. on Saturday (just after the men had been paid), and sold 200 frs. worth in a couple of hours… you should have seen the crowd trying to get into the very small quarters. I tried to give them a start by helping to sell behind the counter, but I soon get hopelessly muddled trying to calculate how much chocolate I should sell for 90 centimetres at 15 centimetres a bar! My arithmetic was never strong – I found a R.A.M.C sergeant, whose father had been a shopkeeper, and put him on it while I sat by aghast at the speed with which he calculated to the uttermost farthing. We have now got three men told off to the job, one of whom is quite good and understands shop-dressing. He has made the stacks of tinned fruits look so fetching, you cannot choose but buy.

The place itself is just a dug-out made of sand bags under the ramparts. We have pinched an old door and are getting a lock and key by the less interesting method of purchase! There is a great demand for candles. Soap, too, comes high in the list of articles which ‘Tommy’ feels the need of…

I never found it so easy to make my Sunday arrangements. This is because I have a comparatively small area to cover. On the other hand the Sundays are tiring for we have to take a great number of small Services. The work is quite fascinating though, and the deeper one gets – how shall I put it? into the perils of the firing line, the more the men seem to want what one has to give them…

I had a series of short Services in the morning from 9-12.30, celebrating three times – once in the bowels of the earth, once in a cellar. In the last place I had 18 Communicants crammed into a very small space. I had to disperse with kneeling, except at the actual partaking… Then in the afternoon three more services, 3, 4, and 6 p.m. Then some funerals. I do not finish till about 9.30.

Reading St. John parish magazine, May 1916 (D/P172/28A/24)

A more serious view of life when facing death

Some wounded soldiers recuperating at Stratfield Mortimer made a religious commitment. The Right Reverend Charles Corfe (1843-1921) was the retired Anglican Bishop of Korea, and had previously spent 20 years as a Naval chaplain.

A Soldier’s Confirmation

Four of the wounded in our V.A.D. Hospital, having been prepared for Confirmation by the Vicar during many weeks, and the probability of their departure, convalescent, before the arranged date of the usual Confirmation rendering it necessary for some immediate step to be taken, a special service was arranged at a moment’s notice, Bishop Corfe most kindly coming from London for the purpose on Monday, February 28th. Unfortunately it was not possible to make the service known, as the Bishop’s wire was only received during the morning. The congregation consequently was small, but it was a most impressive service: first, the Baptism of one of the wounded and one of our own lads (the Vicar officiating), and then the Laying-on of Hands by Bishop Corfe on the five persons.

Two days later a special Holy Communion Service was held at the Parish Church at 8 a.m., when the newly confirmed men received the Blessed Sacrament together before going on leave.

The whole thing is one more token of the more serious view of life and its responsibilities which is felt by those who are called upon to face death at any moment in the war.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, April 1916 (D/P120/28A/14)

The kingdom neither shot nor shell can destroy

More from the Revd T Guy Rogers on his life as an army chaplain:

April 3rd.

I have been resting this beautiful morning, sitting outside my dug-out… Tired, but only in a sound and healthy way. I got through eight services in the course of yesterday – then found I had funerals at night in two different places some way apart. I had long waits between and then got back at 11.30…. The services were exceedingly helpful – I might almost say romantic too. Deep down in the caverns of the earth we sang ‘O God our help in ages past.’ It was fine in one ruined building through which we could see the blue sky over-head, to hear the men singing that favourite hymn of praise to God, ‘Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty.’

I had two Services in the open air, hidden as best we could beneath ramparts, but we found the anxiety of hostile aeroplanes rather distracting. On the whole those underground were the best… The Brigadier gave me the use of the Brigade Office for a Celebration of the Holy Communion at 8 a.m… I preached on ‘The House not made with hands’; the kingdom that cannot be shaken; the incorruptible possessions which neither shot not shell can destroy- you can picture the illustrations to hand.

Reading St. John parish magazine, May 1916 (D/P172/28A/24)

A friend in khaki

A soldier told Clewer, Windsor and Eton members of the Church of England Men’s Society that soldiers should get more opportunities to receive the Holy Sacrament.

CEMS
A combined meeting of members of the Windsor, Eton and Clewer branches was held at the Church Rooms on March 9th, when the Rev. G D Nicholas, Vicar of Clewer St Stephen, read a paper entitled “Religion and Amusements”.… Mr Nicholas took a broad view of the subject, and spoke strongly in favour of amusements, provided they were harmless, and free from betting and gambling. He was not averse to recreation on a Sunday, if it did not entail work on others, and if the day commenced with worship, especially at the Lord’s own service. A good discussion ensued, in which many took part, including a friend in khaki, the latter expressing an opinion that more opportunity should be given to soldiers to attend the Holy Communion.

New Windsor St John the Baptist parish magazine, April 1916 (D/P149/28A/21/2)