Almost every available man has gone to this cruel war

Almost every man from Stratfield Mortimer and Mortimer West End who could realistically serve had answered the country’s call by June 1915, the parish magazine attested. Some had paid the ultimate price.

Men with the Colours

To the lists already published there should now be added: James Flitter and Harry White, K.R.R., Ernest Merrick, M.T., A.S.C., and Herbert West, Gunner R.F.A. The last named should have been on the original list; he is now, we regret to say, in hospital at Warrington, having been seriously wounded at Hill 60 in arms and legs during the first fierce fight for that position.

We cannot refrain from reprinting the following words of Mr. Raymond Asquith, the Prime Minister’s eldest son, on the subject of his training with the 16th City of London Regiment:

“We are trying very hard to fit ourselves in the shortest possible time to kill the largest number of Germans. After recent demonstrations of their ferocious and bestial cruelty, it must be most difficult for any man of suitable age and health to apply himself to any other purpose.”

West End

This cruel war is bringing home to us day by day the awful miseries and troubles which overtake the innocent as a result of the sins of men and nations. One of the very saddest ways in which our parish has come to learn it is in the death of Captain Field, and all our hearts go out in sympathy to his family, and especially to the mother, who through long months of wearing anxiety has given us an example of the pluck and courage which the mothers of England are showing everywhere to-day. It is a bitter end after being taken prisoner while tending the wounded. May his soul rest in peace and may we be given grace to follow his example in doing our duty to our neighbour and our country.

There are several names to be added to our Roll of Honour of those serving their King and Country and our parish may now be considered to have given up almost every available man.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, June 1915 (D/P120/28A/14)

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‘Out of five sons, three have been killed and one is a prisoner’

The June issue of the Longworth parish magazine reported on the latest news of local soldiers.


Walter Carter, Fred Carter and our morning postman, Albert W. Walker, have joined the Army during the last month. Several more did their best to join, but were rejected on the score of health or age.

George Painton was serving on H.M.S. Goliath, and his name is not among the list of survivors. There was not a more popular lad in the village than George, or a nicer one. We do most sincerely hope that even yet it may be found that he was rescued. His home is now in Cornwall, and we are deeply grieved for his wife and family in their anxiety. And every heart in the village, we have cause to know, goes out in sympathy to our neighbours, Captain and Mrs Loder-Symonds and their family. Out of five sons three have been killed in this war and one is a prisoner. We give below some words of great comfort, and hope from our Bishop’s paper on “Patriotism in the Bible” (Mowbray, 2d).

The courage and self-sacrifice of the soldiers is a magnificent and inspiring virtue, and we are thrilled with a kind of holy exultation in the quality of our soldiers and sailors. A great many of us who cannot be soldiers find ourselves envying them a road so direct and simple into the divine kingdom. They are ordinary Englishmen, most of them by no means saints. But we cherish the words, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ And we trust that, whatever their faults or vices, Christ can find in those who, so simply and unostentatiously, give their life for their country, that of which He can avail Himself, even in the world which lies beyond death, so that all that is inconsistent with the divine kingdom may be purged away, with the help of the prayers of all the Church, and those brave sons who have fallen in battle or died of their wounds may be fitted for an eternal fellowship with ‘the spirits of the just men made perfect.’

Longworth parish magazine, June 1915 (D/P83/28A/10/6)

Crushed in the trenches

Sulhamstead was one of the parishes which were seeing increasing numbers of their young men killed or wounded. The parish magazine tells us about two individuals associated with the parish:

We regret to hear that Henry Tuttle has been brought to England wounded. He was seriously crushed by the falling in of the trenches as the result of gunshot. He is being tended at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital London.


Deaths
We regret to record … [the death] of Lieut. Commander Robert E Thoyts, R. N, son of the Rev. and Mrs Frank Thoyts.
He had been put in command of a ship at the beginning of the war, but owing probably to the severe weather in the North Sea returned home seriously ill. No hope was given of his recovery, but he lingered until March 7th…
On the 7th inst at Woodspeen Grange, Newbury, from heart failure after pneumonia, Lieutenant-Commander Robert Elmhirst Thoyts, RN, son of Frank and Rosa Thoyts, and dearly-loved husband of Kathleen Thoyts, aged thirty-four.

BURIALS
Mar. 11th at St Mary’s Church. Robert Elmhurst Thoyts, Lieutenant Commander, RN.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, April 1914 (D/EX725/3)

Lieutenant Whittle killed

Lockinge-born William Hallam hears an old acquaintance has been killed in action.

19th April 1915

A fancy dress dance at Bradford Hall. It was in aid of Belgium Fund so I let our girls go, and wife went to look on. I didn’t go out.

Saw in casualty list Lieut. Whittle killed. He is only son of Harry Whittle & grandson of Mat. Whittle of Lockinge.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/23)

Greatly missed: Longworth mourns its dead – and Charney sees new recruits

Longworth and Charney remembered their soldiers:

The men from this village who are serving their country as sailors and soldiers are prayed for by name every Friday at the intercession service in church at 3:30. How glad we should be to have yet more of their friends join us there in prayer for them, and for our nation and all concerned.

ROLL OF HONOUR
Private Lewis Brooks – killed in action
Private Henry Timms – killed in action
Lewis Brooks has lived in Longworth all his life, and will be greatly missed. He and his wife were confirmed lately and made their communions in this Church in July, so short a time before he was recalled to his regiment.
Henry Timms had only been in the parish a short time, since his marriage. To both families we desire to express our most sincere sympathy.

Of Longworth men at the Front the following have been wounded: John Loader, Corporal W. Hutt, Albert Adams, Richard Painton, John Leach, but they are now either back at the Front or recovering at home. Albert Hobbs has been made Lance-corporal, and John Porter Colour-Sergeant, both in Kitchener’s Army. We shall be very glad of any further particulars for next month’s magazine.

CHARNEY
James Douglas (Territorial Reserves), Albert John Haines (Territorial Reserves) and William Sergeant (Army Service Corps) are among those who have recently joined the Army. Our prayers and good wishes go with them.

Longworth parish magazine, April 1915 (D/P83/28A/10/4)

We are nothing better than worms – but mustn’t grumble!

Sunday 4 April 1915 was Easter Day. The parishioners of Reading St John (now the Polish Catholic Church) had sent Easter greetings to their young men at the Front. It resulted in a number of letters from the recipients describing their experiences.

Letters from the Front: replies to our Easter letters and cards.

Cards similar to those recently seen on the Church notice boards were sent with covering letters for Easter to some fifty men at the front at the request of their relatives. The following are extracts from some of the replies received by the Vicar:-

A Terrible War.
Here is a much-needed reminder of the seriousness of our task:
‘Two of my men I laid to rest yesterday, just put their heads too far over the parapet; of course killed instantly. It is a terrible business and we are nothing better than worms, dug in and stop there, but hope that happier times are in store and very soon. We all hope and pray for it every day. I don’t think the people at home quite realise what a gigantic task we have; but we mustn’t grumble, but do it.’- GILES AYRES.

Valued Cards.
‘I wish to thank you very much for the good thoughts and wishes of yourself and everyone who remembered us on Easter Day. Thank you very much for the card. I am sending it home to-day so that I shall not lose it.’- A. L. BLAKE.

‘The card you sent me I have hung on to the wall and it shall go where I go. I shall always remember Good Friday, the day I received it.’- D. CAMPBELL.

Neuve Chapelle.
Speaking of the welcome letter just received, the writer adds: ‘Just lately we have been engaged in a big battle at Neuve Chapelle, and it was something awful and also a terrible loss on the German side.’- L.H. CROOK. (more…)

Only a few from Wokingham have not yet offered themselves

Increasing numbers of young men from Wokingham had joined the troops. Sadly, the parish of St Sebastian had seen its first loss. The parish magazine used this as a pointed reminder to those who had, they felt, shirked their duty:

On Service. Additional Names
Barnard, Kenneth, HMS [no ship name printed]
Brant, Charles
Chapman, Fred
Garrett, William, Grenadier Guards
Longley, Frank, Berks Yeomanry
Law, Arthur
Maynard, William, 1st Hants
Maynard, Percy, 2nd Hants
Norton, Isaac
Robins, Benjamin
Rocket, Benjamin

We are sure that many will wish to join in an expression of sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Barnard at the loss of their son, Dudley Barnard, (2nd Lieut. R.F.A.), who is the first from this parish to give up his life in his country’s service. In addition we may mention that Daniel Prater and William Maynard are prisoners of war, and that James Jewell was wounded but has returned to duty.

The friends and relations of those serving are specially asked to inform the Vicar of any alterations in or additions to the list.

We are glad to say that the number of those who could go, but who have not seen their way to offer themselves for service, is getting smaller and smaller, and we hope soon to be able to say that all those from the parish who were able to do so have offered their services.

Wokingham St Sebastian parish magazine, March 1915 (D/P154C/28A/1)

Horrible news from the Dardanelles

Admiralty official Henry Vansittart Neale and his wife Florence were both distressed by bad news from the Dardanelles campaign.

20 March 1915
Horrible news. 3 battleships sunk floating mines in Dardanelles. French “Bouset” lost whole crew. Ours most saved. Fear our casualties this last week 12,000!! Awful.

Poor H. much overcome [by] bad news about ships….

Wire to send Julian back. Sent him with Croxford to King Albert’s Hospital, Highgate. Bubs motored them in….

Called old North – ill with “flu”.

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

Shocked and depressed by war deaths

Florence Vansittart Neale noted down the latest war news. Lieutenant Colonel Guy du Maurier (1865-1915) was the uncle of the writer Daphne du Maurier. He was a distinguished officer who had served in the Boer War and was killed on active service in Flanders on 9 March 1915. Major George Newstead (1875-1915) had a similarly distinguished army career.

11 March 1915Saw Col. Guy Du Maurier died – dreadfully shocked, also George Newstead in Cameroons.

British victory – 1000 prisoners taken & guns….

Think Indian contingent also had victory. Feel dreadfully depressed.

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

Three brave young lives lost

Three young Burghfield men killed in action were honoured at a service in their home church on 14 February 1915.


OUR ROLL OF HONOUR
In the Parish Church on Sunday, February 14th, at both morning and evening service the Rector made a touching reference to the loss of three brave young lives from the parish which have been given in the service of King and Country. At the conclusion of Evensong the “Dead March in Saul” was played as a tribute to the memory of George Armstrong of HMS Bulwark, Stephen Bright and Joseph Chamberlain, both of the KRR. May they rest in peace. Much sympathy is felt by all with the sorrowing parents and relatives.

Burghfield parish magazine, March 1915 (D/EX725/3)

Few Belgian refugees settle in the countryside

The parishioners of Longworth and Charney Bassett continued to support the war effort:

We desire to express our deep sympathy with Mrs Timms, whose husband has been “killed in action,” and with Mrs Lewis Brooks and the whole family in their prolonged anxiety and suspense. Corporal W. Hutt, Privates Albert Adams and John Loder, who were wounded, have happily recovered, and are now, we believe, on their way back to the Front, where our prayers follow them. Some more men have volunteered for service but they have not yet (at the time of going to press) been passed, we will reserve their names for the February Magazine. We heartily congratulate them on their decision. It is a great pleasure to welcome back to Longworth from time to time, such of our recruits as are able to get leave. For the most part they look in excellent health and spirits.

Longworth has been anxious to do its duty towards the Belgium refugees. A meeting was called to discuss the matter. It was agreed that it would probably be better to offer to support a family in Oxford rather than to get one to live in Longworth. The following quotation from the Oxford Secretary’s letter will show that the decision was a wise one:-

Thank you very much for your kind offer from Longworth village to provide for a Belgium [sic] Family in Oxford. It is exactly the kind of offer we most appreciate. I am afraid you would find great difficulty in making a family happy in the country in the winter, all the Belgians appear to be townspeople, and very few settle down in the country here. We are having a great deal of rearranging and resettling families here just now, and your offer will help us very much with our plans.

It is proposed that we should undertake to provide for a family for three months. The time to be prolonged later if it is found advisable. Offers of help have been received ranging from 6d to £1 a week for this time. A paper will be put somewhere in the village on which further subscriptions and donations may be entered; or they may be sent direct to Miss Crum (who is acting as Treasurer) or to Mrs Illingworth. One of the boxes in Church will also be devoted to this purpose. Any sums, however small, will be most acceptable. Vegetables, fruit and flowers may be sent to the Oxford Belgian Relief Committee, Ruskin College.

CHARNEY
The school girls have worked a number of socks, mittens, cuffs and scarves for the benefit of the sailors on board H.M.S. Antrim which is in the North Sea. The school children have also subscribed the sum of 10s towards the Belgian Relief Fund.

Longworth parish magazine, January 1915 (D/P83/28A/10/1)

A hero’s death: who will follow his example?

One of the first Berkshire men to fall in the war was a regular soldier from Cookham Dean. He was killed at the First Battle of the Aisne which ended with stalemate. He was a private in the 1st Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment. The parish magazine gave the following tribute to him:

In Memoriam
On Sept. 14th, in the Battle of the Aisne, George Carter, of Hoveden Cottages, was killed in action. George Carter was a born soldier, he was only 23 years of age, and had served nine years in the army and had joined the Militia six months previously to entering the Regulars. He came home in February last from eight years’ service in India, the same bright cheery face greeting us as it used to do in old days when he was a boy in school. He was one of the first to be called up and went off waving his goodbyes to his many friends in the village early one morning at the beginning of August. He lies in a soldier’s grave in France, having died at the post of duty a hero’s death. His name will not be forgotten in Cookham Dean.

The list of all those who are on Active Service at the Front or who are on Home Defence or who have recently joined the Army as Recruits or who are otherwise in training will be found below. I hope it is accurate and complete; I have done my best to make it so; but it is only too possible that a mistake may have occurred here or there, if so, I hope my attention will be called to it, and that anyone concerned will kindly accept my apologies for it. It has been my earnest endeavour to avoid mistakes, and I have repeatedly asked for information, but scarcely anyone has responded to my request. Our daily prayers in Church are offered for these dear men and lads who have so nobly come forward at the call of duty. It is not too late for others to place their names on this roll of honour and there are some few whom I should be proud and pleased to see doing so. Is there no one who feels an ambition to take George Carter’s place?

Roll of Honour
The first list contains the names of those whose homes are in Cookham Dean, and who, it is believed, are actually serving at the Front or who are on Home Defence. The second list contains the names of those who have, since war was declared, joined either the Officers’ Training Corps or who are in training as recruits. On the third list are the names of some closely connected with Cookham Dean but not actually resident here.
(more…)

5000 wounded or missing

The first published list of casualties provided a sober check to the first fervour of patriotism. Florence Vansittart Neale continued to prepare Bisham Abbey for wounded soldiers.

2 September 1914
Chintz Room turned out. Kept cupboard in [it], other things to loft over stables….

Hugh Wild off to Egypt. Katie declares no truth about Russians here for the front!…

First casualty list. 37 officers killed & 95 missing. 4 or 5000 altogether wounded or missing. Line not broken tho’ still falling back. Recruiting getting on well.

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