So ends another piece of the war-work

The YMCA Hut supported by a Reading church closed down as men returned home.

The “Trinity” Hut

Since publishing the interesting details in last month’s issue, information has been received that, owing to the rapidity of demobilization, the removal of out Hut to Zeebrugge as intended, will be advisable. It is proposed, therefore to dispose of it by auction sale as is being done with all other such huts. Removal to England is impossible on account of the high cost of freight and the unavoidable damage sustained in transit.

So ends another piece of the war-work, but no such bounds can be set to the good resulting from it. How far-reaching was that influence, Eternity alone will reveal!

Trinity Congregational Magazine, Sept 1919 (D/EX1237/1/12)

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A bright spot in a time of need

A Reading church received news about the YMCA hut they had supported for soldiers behind the lines.

The “Trinity” Hut

Owing to the departure of many of the Y.M.C.A. Secretaries from the war area, it has been very difficult to get any definite information about our second Hut in France. Until just lately we believed this was erected at St. Omer, but now find that to be incorrect, as the following prove:
2nd July, 1919.

My Dear Mr. Harrison,

I went up this week to see Mr. McCowen as he was coming back from Germany on his way to London, and immediately took up the question of the allocation of your Hut with him. He well remembers the situation and says that your Hut was not actually in the St. Omer area, but it was at St. Malo-les-Bains, near Dunkirk, which after all is not so far away from St. Omer. He says this is the second Reading Hut. I have asked Mr. Sitters to send me a report as to the work of this Hut during the last few months, and also to see that the board saying it is the Reading Hut is still up in it. This Hut has served, during the past few months, thousands of men, who have been using Dunkirk as a demobilisation centre. Further particulars will be coming through, which I will send along. There is a possibility that the Navy may move the Hut to the mole at Zeebrugge, as there is a great need for an extension of our work at that place, but I will see that you are advised if this is done.

I am enclosing herewith the official receipt for the fifteen pounds which you so kindly sent. It was used in the Hut for Christmas festivities.

Yours sincerely,
(Signed) H.N.HOLMES.
Chief Secretary for France.

The report referred to is as follows:-

“The Reading (Malo) Hut was first erected in the Ypres centres, where it provided rest and recreation for countless numbers of men going in and coming out of the trenches. In it provision was made for reading, writing and games. Concerts and lectures were given from time to time, and services were held on Sundays. A refreshment counter where tea, cocoa and coffee, biscuits, cigarettes, etc., could be obtained, was greatly appreciated by those frequenting the Hut.

Later on, owing to the movement of troops, the sector was occupied by Belgian troops, who made considerable use of the Hut. One feature of their occupation was the excellent concerts given by officers and men of the Belgian army. On account of the Germans shelling the place very heavily it was found necessary to move the Hut to a more sheltered spot. It was dismantled, moved south two miles, near to the famous St. Sixthe Convent, re-erected, re-painted, and re-opened within seven days.

On the signing of the armistice the Hut was moved to Dunkirk, where it has provided accommodation for various units, including re-mounts, men being demobilised, and men returning from leave and going to Egypt. On its removal to Dunkirk it was beautifully re-decorated and fitted with electric light, and may now be considered one of the most attractive huts in France.

The subscribers, through whose generosity it has been possible for the Y.M.C.A. to meet the needs of so many men, will be happy to know that the Hut has been a bright spot in a time of need to thousands of the brave men who have been defending our country.”

Trinity Congregational Magazine, August 1919 (D/EX1237/1/12 )

A club for ex sailors and soldiers on similar lines to the Recreation Huts so popular overseas

Ascot wanted to continue supporting servicemen after their return home.

The concert arranged by the R.A.F. in the Cinema on December 11th, in aid of our Christmas Presents for Men in the Navy and those serving overseas, was a great success. The ladies of the “Some Concert Party,” gave an excellent Entertainment to a crowded audience, and the receipts, after deduction of entertainment tax and expenses amounted to £37. Donations to the Fund, chiefly forwarded by Miss Tydd, came to over £8, making a total of over £46.

Some time before the performance 135 parcel presents had been despatched by registered letter post at an average cost of 5/- each. It has been suggested that the balance remaining in the hands of the Committee might well be transferred to a new fund for providing a club for ex sailors and soldiers in the parish, run on similar lines to the Recreation Huts so popular overseas.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, January 1919 (D/P 151/28A/11/1)

The interest and attraction of the work

A Wargrave curate who had volunteered as an army chaplain was enjoying his new life.

Crazies Hill Notes

The Rev. W.G. Smylie is now working in a Church Army Hut for the benefit of the soldiers in the Inkerman Barracks, Woking, Surrey. He writes very happily about the interest and attraction of the work. He may soon go to France.

Mr Smylie is much missed by his friends at Crazies Hill and the best wishes of all will follow him in his new work.

Wargrave parish magazine, October 1918 (D/P145/28A/31)

“One pitch-dark night, about half-past twelve, a shell dropped in the entrance of the dug-out, smashing it up and setting fire to its contents”

Noncombatant workers behind the lines were also at terrible risk.

Trinity Hut

It is now pretty well known by members of the Church and congregation that our Trinity Y.M.C.A. Hut at La Clytte is no more. It was completely destroyed during the fighting in Flanders towards the end of March, and the young Y.M.C.A. Worker, Mr. L. Hutchinson, who took charge there soon after I left, was himself severely wounded, and is now in hospital at Chelsea. I called on him there recently, and learned from him some particulars which must not be published, and some others that will be of interest to all members and friends of Trinity.

The first accident that happened to the Hut was the bursting of a big shell a few yards away, which riddled the little cabin known as Hotel de la Paix, where I used to sleep, and wrecked some 40 feet of the main hut on that side. This was quickly patched up, and the work was continued until the military authorities decided that it was necessary to close the Hut. Then our workers obtained the use of a large dug-out in the vicinity holding about a dozen at a time, and carried on the canteen work there, sleeping in a smaller dug-out nearby. Finally one pitch-dark night, about half-past twelve, a shell dropped in the entrance of the smaller dug-out, smashing it up, setting fire to its contents, and badly wounding my friend Mr. Hutchinson just above the knee.
His colleagues, one of whom was slightly hurt, succeeded with some difficulty in extricating him from the wreckage, but it was more than an hour before an ambulance and medical aid was forthcoming. It was found necessary to amputate the injured lag. I am glad to say that my friend is now making excellent progress towards recovery.

Since the general facts became known to us, I have been asked by a good many of our friends, “What are we going to do about it?” and the desire has been expressed from many quarters first that we should do something practical to show our sympathy with this young worker who held the fort so faithfully to the very last in our hut, and our appreciation of all that he did as to that extent our representative; and in the second place that we should endeavour in some form or other to replace the Hut erected as a memorial to those of our boys who have made the supreme sacrifice during the war.

To rebuild the Hut as it was would of course cost a great deal more than the original £500. Nor is the Y.M.C.A. putting up so many buildings of that type in the battle area. A less expensive type of Hut, of which a number are now being set up in France, costs £300, and even this would be a great deal to ask of our people as things are at present.

Many who might fully sympathise with the object may be so placed that other pressing claims made it impossible for them to take part in any such effort as this, and I do not intend to put them in the position of having to say so. I shall not therefore be making any immediate public appeal from the pulpit, nor any personal appeal to individual members of the Church congregation. But on the other hand, I know that many of our members are not only able and willing, but eager to do something in this direction. I am therefore making it known in this way, with the consent of the Deacons, that I shall be very glad to give further information to any who ask for it, and to forward any gifts that may be entrusted to me for this purpose. At the time of writing I have already gifts and promises amounting to £85. If it should not prove possible to for us to find enough for a Hut, it may still be within our reach to provide a marquee in which the same type of work could be carried on. The more we can raise, the more can be done. But I do hope and believe that before very long we may have the satisfaction of knowing that somewhere at the Front some bit of work is again being done by the Trinity, in the Master’s Name, for those brave men who are facing such hardships and dangers on our account. P.N.H.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, August 1918 (D/EX1237/1)

“We have no traitors in our midst worse than the so-called “pacifists,” who want peace at any price and, in many cases, are simply enemy agents.”

The fourth anniversary of the start of the war was commemorated soberly in churches throughout the county.

Sulhamstead

THE WAR

WAR COMMEMORATION

Sunday, August 4th, has been set apart for the purpose of commemorating our entry into this terrible war. We shall remind ourselves that it was impossible so long as we maintained honour, righteousness and justice to hold back. We took our place by the side of France and Belgium, not from any desire to increase our own power or raise our position in the world, but simply to prevent wrong and to work righteousness. Our objects are still the same. There is no hope for the world until the gigantic military despotism of Germany is destroyed. There will be services of Intercession at 11 a.m., St Mary’s Church, followed by the Holy Communion; 6 p.m., St Michael’s Church.

There were good attendances at the church on Sunday, August 4th, for Thanksgiving and Intercession. The offertories for the fund for assisting Prisoners of war belonging to the Royal Berks Regiment amounted to:

11 a.m. £3 11s 0 ½ d
6 p.m. £1 13s 1 ½ d
Total £5 4s 2d

Earley St Peter

August 4th

The anniversary of the proclamation of war (August4th) will this year fall on a Sunday. I do not know whether any special Order of Prayer will be issued. For myself I consider that the forms of Prayer for use in the time of War (by authority, S.P.C.K., 1S.) Contains sufficient material. But I hope all the clergy will prepare well beforehand to stimulate and satisfy the spiritual needs of their people. The collect, Epistle and Gospel for the Sunday (x. after Trinity) might well be used. Otherwise the order suggested for the last year may be used again (Forms of prayer, P. 87 FF.) with necessary changes.

My Dear Friends

The first Sunday of this month, August the 4th, is the anniversary of the war. I wonder what we should all have felt if on August 4th 1914, we had thought it would have continued up to this time. Lord Kitchener indeed said three years and enrolled his army for that time, but such is a contingency seemed impossible to the generality of our countrymen, many of whom thought that the first battle of the Marne was the beginning of the end.

Who then dreamt of the collapse of Russia, or of the entry of America into the war? Who for a moment imagined that Germany would descend to the depths of degradation to which she has sunk in the eyes of the world by her false dealings and her barbarities. Who had any conception of the miseries, the losses, the bereavements, of the greatest war that the world has ever seen? (more…)

Balance sheets are delightful things now-a-days

Newbury’s clergymen were rejected for war work, while the parish magazine was at risk.

THE WAR

There are reported Missing – Alfred Dennis, William Smith, Mr Barlow, and Mr Marshall; Wounded – Ernest Giggs; Gassed – Jack Smart; Prisoners – Jack Cooke and William Selwyn. We offer our sympathy to the relatives and friends.

The clergy of the diocese have received a Form from the Bishop on which they could offer for War Service. The Rector stated on his Form that he would be prepared to go to a Church Army Hut for several months if the work of the Parish could be provided for; and he has received the following reply through the Bishop’s Secretary: “The Bishop says stay where you are”.

Mr Marle offered to go to a YMCA Hut for four months, but received the reply: “The Bishop certainly thinks that you should stay where you are”.

As with our food, our clothes, and our boots, so with our paper. We are continually being faced with a new situation. After urging our readers to continue to take in the Parish Magazine, we have received a communication from the publishers of the Dawn of Day [insert] that there is serious shortage of paper, or that there will be, asking us to cut down our number of copies. However, it appears that our circulation has been so far reduced that we shall not have to ask any of our subscribers not to subscribe; but whether we shall be able to make both ends meet at the end of the year is doubtful. Balance sheets are delightful things now-a-days.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, June 1918(D/P89/28A/13)

Quite an effective war shrine

All Saints’ Church in Reading was the latest to have a special shrine in the church for war related prayer.

Church Army Hut Fund

Lenten savings for the Church Army Hut Fund should be sent in at once.

War Shrine

The list and Roll of Honour have been fixed between the Chapel and the south door, and form quite an effective shrine, surmounted by The Union Jack, the kind gift of Miss Ward.

An oak bracket for flowers, etc., has also been fixed, kindly given by Mrs. Ward. We are grateful to Mr. Moss for kindly fixing up the lists of honour. We hope that the shrine will be dedicated at our Dedication Festival.

All Saints section of Reading St Mary parish magazine, April 1918 (D/P98/28A/13)

Savings for the Church Army Hut Fund

The parish of Reading St Mary devoted Lent collections to the Church Army’s work with soldiers behind the lines.

Lenten Savings for the Church Army Hut Fund should be sent in to the Priest-in-Charge at the Vestry at any of the services about Easter time. The boxes provided are much too large to go into the alms bags. Of course, any who prefer to give paper money or cheques may enclose them in envelopes and place them in the alms bags as usual, with the words “Church Army Hut Fund” written on the outside.

Reading St Mary parish magazine (D/P116B/28A/2)

The Wokingham Tent

Wokingham churchgoers were asked to support work with soldiers at the Front.

Church Army Tent.

It is proposed to raise sufficient money in Wokingham to provide a Church Army Tent for our Soldiers at the Front. It will be called ‘The Wokingham Tent,’ and will serve the same purpose as a Hut. The cost will be £300, of which £250 has already been given. I feel sure that many in this parish will wish to do their part, possibly we might manage the remaining £50 required. Will you help? Donations may be sent to the Vicar or to Mrs. Ker, Thornbury, Crowthorne.

Wokingham St Sebastian parish magazine, February 1918 (D/P154C/28A/1)

The happy faces of the Tommies

Reading churchgoers’ support made all the difference for men at the front.

Church News
An Echo from “Our Hut”

The following letter of unsolicited appreciation from one frequenter of the Trinity Y.M.C.A. Hut will be read with interested by all. It was sent to our Church Secretary, Mr. Brain. December 9th, 1917.

“Dear Sir

“I Feel I should like to express and I know my comrades here will share the same sentiments with me, my appreciation of your kindness in providing the Y.M.C.A. hut for us. Your congregation cannot realise to the full extent the great boon and blessing it proves to our men out here. It is a great convenience to be able to go in the hut of an evening and have a chat and a cup of cocoa. It breaks the monotony of the life out here.

Concerts are frequently held in the hut, which on such occasions is always packed. Last night’s concert was packed to overflowing, and the cigarettes, cocoa and biscuits which were provided through the generosity of the members of your congregation were greatly appreciated, they came as a surprise, and if the donors could have seen the happy faces of the Tommies, they would be more than compensated for their kindness.

“Mr Harrison who has proved a most popular leader and who has always been kindness itself will be telling you in more forceful language than mine, the benefits of the hut, so wishing all your members a most happy Christmas and prosperous New Year,

“Believe me, yours gratefully,

“Jas. W. Waters,

“No. 165,208, 88th Brigade,
“R.F.A.”

Trinity Congregational Magazine, February 1918 (D/EX1237/1)

YMCA experiences with the troops

A YMCA worker told Tilehurst people about his work with the troops.

Mr Alex. Brown, District Secretary of the Band of Hope Union, visited us on January 31st, giving two very interesting lectures on his “YMCA Experiences with the Troops at Home and in France”. The first lecture was given to children, our schoolroom being crammed to the doors with an enthusiastic and attentive congregation. The second was also very well attended, being appreciated just as highly by adults. Eighty slides illustrated Mr Brown’s racy remarks, Mr Bromley manipulating the lantern. A collection was taken for YMCA Hut work at each lecture – the total amount being £2 11s 0d.

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Broad Street Congregational Magazine, March 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

A strenuous time with tanks

There was news of several soldiers associated with Broad Street Church in Reading, while the men’s group was trying to help displaced civilians in France.

PERSONAL

Captain L. Victor Smith, MC, has many friends and well-wishers at Broad Street, and they were all delighted to see him once more when he was recently home on furlough. Captain Smith had been having a most strenuous time with his tanks, and we were all glad to know that he had come safely through many perils “without a scratch”. We pray that God’s protecting care may continually be about him. During his stay he was summoned to Buckingham Palace to receive his Military Cross at the hands of the King.

News has been received that Air-Mechanic Fred W. Warman, of the RNAS (eldest son of our friends Mr and Mrs Warman) is interned in Holland. He was in an air-ship which “came down” there a few days ago. Whilst we deeply regret this misfortune, we rejoice to know that our young friend’s life has been spared, and we trust he may be as happy as circumstances permit. We all sympathise with his parents in their anxiety.

At the time of writing, 2nd Lieut. Leslie Pocock is on his way to India, and the thoughts and prayers of many at Broad Street go with him. We trust he may have a safe journey, that he may come safely through every experience, and that some day in the not distant future we may have the joy of welcoming him home. He will be missed in many branches of our church work.

Quite a number of our “men in training” have been home recently for a short furlough. We refrain from mentioning names for fear lest some should be overlooked. It is always a pleasure to see them at the services, and we take this opportunity of telling them so. The Minister is not always able, as he would wish, to speak to them. They get away too soon. He wishes they would “stay behind” for a few moments at the close of the service so that he might have opportunity for a word of greeting.

We should like to join our Brotherhood Correspondent in his appreciation of the generosity of Mr Tyrrell. At the conclusion of the Brotherhood meeting at the Palace Theatre, Mr Tyrrell promised £40 to provide one of the huts which the Brotherhood National Council propose to erect for destitute families in the devastated districts of France. Mr Tyrrell requested that his name should not be publicly mentioned in the matter. He wished the money to go from Broad Street Brotherhood. But seeing that someone “gave away the secret” to the local press, there is no reason now why the name should be withheld. We hope this generous lead will inspire the Brotherhood Committee to renewed efforts on behalf of their distressed brethren in Northern France.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, January 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

£30 for the Church Army Huts

Bracknell people supported providing relaxation facilities for the troops.

Mr. Capper’s entertainment, which was arranged to January 15th, afforded much amusement to the audience and resulted in a sum of £30 for the Church Army Huts.

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

“Life keeps brightening all the way” with jokes and accordions

An army chaplain wrote to his friends in Reading with a description of his experiences. Ecumenicism took a step forward in the extreme situation of the war.

Letter from the Rev. R W Morley
YMCA
c/o The Town Major [sic]
1st Army Corps Railhead
1st January 1918
My dear Vicar,

I expect most of my friends know by now of the two huts that I have charge of out here, and the delightful Quiet Room with all its devotional helpfulness. Apropos of the last it might be of interest if I transcribed a phrase from my predecessor’s letter to me (he is a prominent Congregational Minister), “Nothing gave me pleasure than the introduction of the altar, reminding me as it did of Our Great High Priest and the priesthood of all believers”. There I have the joy of celebrating most Sundays at 8 am at the request of the Church of England Chaplains, and in their robes as I have none out here, nor have I vessels as mine were a little too small for the purpose. On Christmas Day I celebrated with a wine glass for chalice and glass cake dish for the bread, a saucer and another wine glass on a chair for the consecrated bread and wine, and with no robes. Once in every month I have an open Communion for “all who love the Lord in sincerity and truth”, to whatever church they belong. This follows our evening service instead of the usual prayer meeting, and I take it of course on very free lines, though including two or three lines out of our incomparable liturgy…

I take all the religious work here, i.e. two weekly services, one on Sunday evenings and one on Wednesday, and the nightly prayers in the hut. Also we have a Fellowship Meeting in the little room every evening, and I am taking the Saturday night every week myself with a discussion attached. I asked them what subject they would like, as I thought a course would be best. Imagine my delight and surprise when they all agreed on “The Fundamentals of the Christian Faith”. We had 35 last week, and they almost all stayed for discussion.

At the present time, should you come in and catch me unawares with a spare moment, you would probably find me endeavouring to pick out a hymn on an Italian accordion which I have just purchased, thinking it might help the singing at the meetings, as we have only one piano and that is in the service and concert hut. If I show signs of excelling (!) on the instrument I may startle your open-air service some Sunday evening with it should I be lucky enough to get a Sunday’s leave and bring it home in safety. However, I do not think there is much cause for alarm at my present rate of progression…

I only wish I could introduce you to some of the men I have met out here. And not least those I have had the joy of working with in this hut. Mr Hichens, a Church of England priest, who was and is unselfishness and charm itself, now, alas, transferred; Mr Cooper, full of cheerfulness, absolutely typical of that which he was when war broke out – a Cambridge undergraduate; and the orderlies too; the Sergeant, with his “Good mornin’” and his devotion to a certain gramophone record; Parry from Lancashire, where they know everything, with his talk about Fritz’s indiarubber gun and his many tales oft told; and Harman who revels in a practical joke especially if played on Mr Cooper. The French boys I hardly dare attempt. “Nosegay” (his name is really Julien; smokers will appreciate) and Georges and Marcel, with their smiling faces and their quaint patois, half English and half French. There they are, a real merry party. So life keeps brightening all the way..

Your sincere friend
R W Morley

Reading St. John parish magazine, Feburary 1918 (D/P172/28A/24)