A veil for the flagship

One of the minor works of the Community of St John Baptist was the Church Needlework Room in London, which mainly made surplices and embroidered altar frontals. They had an unusual commission from a Navy chaplain for a burse and veil, a bag and cloth to be used for Holy Communion on board ship.

31 December 1915

A little while before this we had been asked to provide a white Burse & Veil for the flag ship – Iron Duke – now somewhere in the North Sea.

Sister Mary Elizabeth was able to send them off in time for Christmas, & a most grateful & appreciative letter of thanks was written by the chaplain.

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

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An American Spiritualist’s presence of mind saves the dispatches

Ralph Glyn’s sister Meg Meade wrote to him optimistically after a disappointing Christmas. She had seen one of the patriotic/propaganda films which were circulating, and also had a remarkable story to tell about the American woman who saved British secret papers when the ship she was travelling on was captured. Charlotte Herbine was a leading Spiritualist – a phenomenon of the period in Britain and the US. Although she was a neutral American, her sympathies were firmly pro-British, and she sponsored a war hospital in London named for her “spirit guide”, Dr Coulter, which was next door to the American Embassy. She was clearly a lady of great resolve and character. Perhaps her experience running seances had developed a gift in misdirection which helped on this occasion.

Dec 29th [1915]
23 Wilton Place

My own darling Ralph

I wonder if this can reach you to wish you a very happy New Year darling, & all the best things in the world for 1916. Today I feel that victory must be in sight now that the Government have really faced that we must have conscription, & it is splendid, isn’t it? Xmas wasn’t Xmas this year, but a dismal caricature. On the very day I was to have taken the babies to Peter[borough], Mother sent me a telephone message to say her kitchenmaid has just developed measles so of course we couldn’t go, & I did feel miserable…

John went to a Medical Board on Dec. 23rd who found that the holes in his back are no better now than when he left hospital in the end of October! So they gave him another month. But it doesn’t prevent him from shooting every day, & they are having a happy time together….

The great bit of news in the Meade family circle is that Cecil is going Commander in Chief at Portsmouth next March! He came to London 23rd to 28th Dec. to fix it up, & he returned to “Madeira” till the end of Feb. when he comes south again for a month’s leave before taking on Portsmouth on March 5th. Of course he is quite inconsolable that he is not afloat but still I am so glad he’s got the billet if it’s only for the sake of Addie & the boys. But of course he’ll find it difficult to collect the cheery sort of Staff that he’ll want, because all the best men are afloat, & naturally wish to remain so…

Aubrey Smith took me this afternoon to a Cinematograph show at the Empire, all about soldiers training to start with, & then there was an interval during which Arthur Balfour came on the stage & began his speech by saying “Though I am unaccustomed to this stage of operations”, loud laughter & applause, & he went on to explain what the being of the Grand Fleet meant to everyone, & put it very well, & then followed a wonderful show of portions of the Grand Fleet at sea, & the sea was rough in some! Queen Elizabeth came in for a lion’s share, the photographer must have lived on board, & then we saw a lot of the Iron Duke too, & light cruisers, destroyers, mine sweepers etc etc.

I was very amused at your indignation about Mr Jack Wilson having been collared on the Greek boat by the Huns. All sorts of rumours flew about London about that adventure. First we heard that the bag of important despatches had only “been saved by the resource & presence of mind of an American lady”. Lucky that skirts are wide nowadays! And it turns out that the American lady is no other than the great Mrs Herbine! Does that convey anything to you? Perhaps as you don’t live in such proper spirituelle circles as I do! her fame may not have reached you. Mrs Herbine is the medium of Dr Coulter, who is the spirit of 10 combined famous Americans! (Some spirit!) A large “circle” attend her weekly sceances [sic] when Dr Coulter will only communicate if the circle sit round a table with the white tablecloth & fruit on the table, also flowers! Lord Sandwich is a prominent figure in the circle.

Apparently the King of Greece is also a member of the circle, & Mrs Herbine had just been to Athens to tell Tino from Dr Coulter that he must do whatever the Allies wanted him to do! & she was returning to England on the same Greek boat that carried Mr Wilson & the dispatch bags. Mrs Herbine was on deck when the submarine was sighted. She hurried down to Mr Wilson & said, If you give me the bag of important dispatches, I will see that they reach the War Office in London alright. She also told him to write out some false cipher telegrams, put them in his other bag, & throw it overboard so that it should float, & when the Huns collared it they should think that it was the one & only important bag he carried! This was all done & the Germans duly duped & they never searched the boat or Mrs Herbine for another bag! Mrs Herbine then discovered someone on board who had passports which would bring him to London a week earlier than she could arrive, so she gave him the bag which was safely delivered. The WO say they can’t publicly thank Mrs Herbine, as being an American subject, she really infringed the laws of American neutrality. It’s a comic story, but what foundation of truth it has I’m not prepared to say, though it [is] generally believed to be true.

…Your ever loving
Meg

Letter from Meg Meade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

Soldiers and sailors from Earley

The roll of honour of Earley parish was quite an impressive one even this early in the war.

The following are the names of the sailors and soldiers on the roll of this parish. A note of interrogation signifies that the name of the regiment or ship has not been furnished us.

On Active Service

Albert Ernest Allnutt HMS Iron Duke
Arthur Sidney Allnutt
James Allen Royal Berks. Regiment
Ernest Brown Ryl Oxfordshire Regt.
Edward Brown HMS Weymouth
George Bond Royal Berks. Regiment
Cecil Caulfield Royal Scottish Rifles
Herbert Collier Ryl Oxfordshire Regt.
Alfred Eyres Royal Berks. Regiment
Edward Fisher Grenadier Guards
Thomas Fullbrook HMS Blake
Stephen Gibbons ?
Alfred Gibbings Royal Navy
Sydney George Gough HMS Glasgow
Charles Samuel Gough HMS Larne
William Golding Royal Field Artillery
William Grace Life Guards
Edgar Robert Gunningham HMS Amphitrite
Ernest Holton (Surgeon) HMS Goliath
James Hussey Royal Berks. Regiment
Percy Walter Hewett HMS Fearless
Ernest Albert King Rifle Brigade
William James Kinchin Royal Berks. Regiment
Leonard Love Royal Horse Artillery
William Walter Love HMS Venerable
Thomas Pilkington Norris Royal Engineers
Edward Parvin HMS Tiger
William Henry Pomeroy HMS Magnificent
William Poffley Grenadier Guards
Ralph Pusey Grenadier Guards
Albert Povey Royal Berks. Regiment
Edward Price Royal Berks. Regiment
George William Rixon HMS Euryalus
Francis Harry Stevens HMS Euryalus
William Davis Stevens Ryl. Warwickshire Regt.
Lieut. Robert Sturgess HMS Exmouth
Lieut. Austin Charlewood Turner Connaught Rangers (P.O.W)
Joseph Tull Rifle Brigade
Harry Wise Argyll and Sutherland
Highlanders (wounded)
Charles Henry White Royal Berks. Regiment
Frederick Charles Edwards HMS Bramble on service in
China
(more…)