Fine clothes for wounded officers

Wargrave Surgical Dressings Emergency Society had been very productive, sending masses of bandages, clothing and bedding for the uses of the wounded. Note the class-related distinctions, with officers given better quality items.

Wargrave Surgical Dressings Emergency Society
Feb 22nd, 1917.

Fifteen Bales have left the Wargrave workrooms since January 5th, 1917, in answer to the requisitions of the Director General of Voluntary Organisations.

Six Bales have gone direct for the use of the troops at the Front containing:
564 pairs of Knitted Mittens
277 Knitted Mufflers
148 Knitted Helmets
226 pairs of Socks (heavy hand-knitted)
12 heavy long sleeved Cardigans
12 pair of knitted Gloves
5 dozen pieces of Soap.
And oddments of knitted Comforts.

These all went addressed to the A.M.F.O., Le Havre, France, for immediate distribution.

The other Nine Bales contained:

228 Pneumonia Jackets
308 treasure Bags
156 Long heavy operation Stockings
58 pairs of fine pyjamas for Officers
16 fine Flannel Shirts for Officers
156 Surgical Boots and Slippers
13 Pillows
24 Pillow Cases
36 Handkerchiefs
108 Knitted Washcloths
6 double-lined fine twill Flannel Dressing Gowns for Officers
8 fine flannel dressing jackets for Officers
6 pairs of soft grey flannel ward suits for Officers

Hospitals sent to:

C.O 11 General Hospital, B.E.F., France
Sister-in-Charge, 8 Ambulance Train, B.E.F., France
Military Orthopaedic Hospital, Duncane Road, Shepherd’s Bush
The Stewart Norfolk War Hospital for Officers, Thorpe, Norwich
The Matron 17 Park Lane, London (for Officers)
The Highland Casualty Clearing Station, B.E.F., France
Military Hospital, Park Hall Camp, Owestry (Urgent).

Wargrave parish magazine, March 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

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The wounded keep pouring down from the front

The latest news from the Revd W S Bowdon, an army chaplain, saw him based at a hospital well back from the front line.

Rev. W. S. Bowdon, C.F. – The most recent news from Mr. Bowdon includes the following:-

No. 1 General Hospital,
Etretat – Havre Base.

I have left the front and come to work at this base where nothing very exciting ever happens. At a base there is regular work every day, and at a time like the present when the wounded keep pouring down from the front the work is endless. Also to my mind the opportunities are greater and results more satisfactory.

Since my arrival here we have had about a trainload of wounded per week, i.e., some 400 men, half of whom are generally stretcher cases. Such a supply keeps everyone as hard at it as it is possible to be. While the ‘great push’ continues so, I suppose, will this state of things, but when winter begins we hope to be rather freer and to get more time to ourselves.

We have some 1000 beds here. Once, I believe, they had over 1200 cases in the hospital, but we have not had more than 600 cases at once since I arrived. There are four building for men and one for officers. We occupy nearly all the hotels and a good many private houses besides; but it is a small place and very compact, so not difficult to work.

Besides the hospital here I also have 600 men working at the docks at Fécamp to look after. So have to run over there periodically for services and Bible classes, and as it is ten miles away it is difficult to fit things in. Havre is 20 miles in the other direction.

With all best wishes to friends at Mortimer.

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

“His passing-on brings the realities of war close to home”

The people of Ascot supported the war in multiple ways.

THE WAR.

We deeply regret to have to record the death of Pte. Harry Freeman, killed in France. His family is so well known and respected in Ascot, and he himself, as one of our old School boys, and in the Choir, so familiar a figure among us in the past years, that his passing-on brings the realities of war close to home. His parents and sisters have our deepest sympathy.

Pte. Jack Jones, having recovered from his wound, has been at home for a week, and is now stationed at Portsmouth for a short time. He is one of the 9 survivors out of 25 engaged in digging a trench in the open.

Another of our wounded, Archibald Grimmett, is doing fairly well, we are thankful to say, but has not yet recovered the use of his side. He is now at Southbourne.

Percy Huxford and Richard Taylor are prisoners of war in Germany.

Our other wounded are doing well.

TWO SPECIAL INTERCESSIONS SERVICES will be held during Advent, on Tuesday, December 7th, at 7.30 p.m., in the Parish Room, when the names of all those at the Front whose homes are in the Brookside District of the Parish will be specially remembered before GOD; and on Monday, December 13th, at 7.30 p.m. in the Church, for those whose homes are in the London Road and High Street Districts. It is earnestly hoped that the near relatives of our Ascot lads, in each case, will be present at one or other of these prayer meetings, so that, all together, we may unite in prayer to our Father in Heaven for those whom it is our bounden duty to pray.

A “PRISONERS OF WAR” box is placed inside the Church, for which offerings are invited. We hope to send out to our prisoners Christmas parcels: and we look forward, if the offering allow, to send them further parcels from time to time.

WAR HOSPITAL STORES DEPOT.

It may interest those of our readers who are working at the Ascot War Hospital Stores Depôt to know that over 46,000 articles have been sent to the Hospitals abroad since the depôt opened on June 22nd last. The work is continuing at full swing, though more helpers will be gladly welcomed by Lady Susan Dawnay at the depôt room above the Military Hospital at any time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Thursdays from 10 a.m. till dark. 28 crates and 3 bales have already been sent to the following Hospitals:

21st British General Hospital, Alexandria, 2 crates
French Military Hospital, Ducey, France, 2 crates
Belgian Military Hospital, Calais, 2 crates
British General Hospital, Havre, 2 crates
British General Hospital, Lemnos, 5 crates
“Entente Cordiale” Hospital, Mentone [Menton, France], 3 crates
Belgian Field Hospital, Dunkirk, 2 crates
“Border” (British) Hospital for French Soldiers, France, 2 crates
French Hospital, Château du Franc Port, Compiègne, 1 crate
Ascot Military Hospital, 1 crate
Italian Field Hospital on Austrian Frontier, 1 crate and 1 bale
No. 12 British General Hospital, Rouen, 2 bales
Belgian Hospital (c/o Belgian Soldiers Fund) 2 crates

“Two crates” contain approximately the following articles :
1000 bandages, 24 many-tailed bandages, 24 T-bandages, 24 slings, 24 knee many-tailed bandages, 24 head or stump bandages, 12 chin bandages, 50 pairs of splints, 1000 puff swabs, 1 gross Turkish towelling swabs, 1 gross eye swabs, 1 gross solid gauze swabs, 1 gross gauze and wool swabs, 1000 flat swabs, 1000 plugs, 12 pillows, 6 pairs of crutches, 24 pairs of socks, 24 pyjamas or night shirts, 12 bed jackets, 24 shirts. Consignments of blanket shave also been sent.

BELGIAN SOLDIERS FUND. £6 9s 0d. has been sent to the above Fund from Ascot Parish.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, December 1915 (D/P151/28A/7/12)

The things which matter most: an army chaplain competes with the cavalry horses

The vicar of Reading St John had left his parish for the tougher life of an army chaplaincy. He reported on his early experiences:

Military Church,
Camp No. 8,
Le Havre
November 17th, 1915
My dear friends,

I almost feel as if I had been given a new parish, for I find my present work running partly on parochial lines – only it is all men with whom I have to deal, and the help of women workers and the charm of children’s work is denied me. My greatest problem is the problem of five thousand horses which occupy the time of the men that I want to reach. Grooming and cleaning and exercising seem to go on all day, and it is not possible to make much difference on Sunday. Like the cows in the country that ask to be milked on Sunday with no regard for the Sabbath rest, our horses here refuse to accommodate themselves to any ideal of a day of rest. We bear a special grudge against the good people in the English port from which they are shipped, who get rid of as many as they can on Saturday morning (no doubt with a view to their own Sunday rest!) and dump them down on us for a Sunday treat.

Still it is very ungrateful of me to complain of the patient beasts. If the horse in the aggregate constitute my problem, the individual horse is my delight. I have taken to riding, and am already sufficiently far advanced in the gentle art to go for a rousing gallop in the neighbouring woods. A “Padre” who could not ride in camps where horses churn the mud you tread on, make the work you grumble at, and supply the topics you discuss, would be out of place – a sort of anachronism or misfit! There was nothing for it, then, but to face the preliminary pains and penalties, and the reward afr outweighs the trouble caused by the jolting of old bones; and no doubt later on when I am moved to other and stranger places, I may find as others have done, that the knowledge gained is invaluable.

The little vestry in which I live (for I think you all know that I am in charge of a military church placed in the middle of five camps on the plateau above Harfleur), which was once nothing but bare boards, has now grown quite comfortable. I have a camp bed and a straw palliasse; I have even a wonderful green curtain which hides my clothes when they hang up; and, greatest treasure of all, a little oil stove which, even if it does smell sometimes, is a good friend on these November days. I am popularly supposed to sleep with thirteen blankets over me, but the story is a base libel. The origin of the myth is as follows: I applied to the Quartermaster for six blankets (two more than I am entitled to, but that goes for nothing) and got them; later on, when we converted part of the church into a reading room and wanted a temporary curtain, I applied to the Quartermaster for seven more. There was considerable hesitation about using them, as the weight of thirteen army blankets on one bed would crush an elephant, and finally the Quartermaster demanded an interview with the new kind of creature which made such an extraordinary application. I got the blankets in the end, but I think the Quartermaster has still a lurking suspicion that I take them down at night and pile them on my bed. He is quite prepared to believe that it takes more to crush an Irishman than an elephant!
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Miles of tents and thousands of men

When T. Guy Rogers, former vicar of Reading St John, became an army chaplain, he did not forget his old flock. On his first day behind the lines, he wrote to the parish with his first impressions – including a meeting with some men from the Royal Berkshire Regiment.

S.12. A.P.O.,
British Field Force,
Havre,
October 18th.

Dear Friends,

After much travelling and several nights spent in strange places I am settled down at my first job in the great Reinforcement Camps at the base. There are miles of tents in the valley and on the hill and thousands of men to work amongst. There is splendid equipment too in the shape of big Y.M.C.A huts and two fine wooden churches of which any mission district might be proud. Our ‘parish’ is made up of innumerable drafts going to the front, sick and wounded soldiers convalescing, and a large permanent staff.

As I have only arrived to-day I cannot speak more fully of the work, but within a couple of hours of my arrival I discovered some of the Berkshires who gave me a welcome and showed me the Reading papers (which I had not seen) giving an account of my dismissal. It did us all good to talk over home together. I hope to tell you more next month. Meanwhile I shall value your letters, if you will be kind enough to bear with my probable inability to reply. I hope and expect to be very busy. Letters from home, however, as all the men tell me, just make all the difference.

Thank you for all your wonderful kindness to me when leaving. I can never forget it. I build daily on your prayers.

Your sincere friend and fellow worker,

T. GUY ROGERS.

Reading St John parish magazine, November 1915 (D/P172/28A/24)

Uniforms allocated according to height

Sydney Spencer was beginning to get accustomed to military drill, when he met an old acquaintance from his YMCA work at the start of the war:

27 January 1915
This morning’s drilling was much more satisfactory. The Sergeant made us so several new motions which go under several terms which I recognise when I hear them but which I cannot yet remember apart. At 10 o’clock we went to the OTC headquarters and there we were measured for our overcoats. Not a careful examination, but according to height. I am 5’5”. After Latin Prose I went to Shepherds with Loughton & we were both measured for our OTC uniforms. We are to be fitted on Saturday. I met two people whom I knew. One was, of all people on earth, Hayes of Merton, with whom I worked at Harwich (YMCA work). He is staying at No. 41, only just a few yards down. He has been doing YMCA work at Havre for some time & has left his studies at Edinburgh for a time. The other person I met was the Rev. Demans of Hedsor.

We won’t be hearing from Sydney for a couple of months, as he was too busy with his new activities to write in his diary.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/14)

Thousands of Belgians flee to England

Florence Vansittart Neale’s diary mentions the influx of refugees from a Belgium overrun by the German army.

14 October 1914
Germans marching to Ostend. Thousands of Belgians come [to] England. Belgian Government moved to Havre.

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

News from France at last

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham had been very frustrated with the lack of news from the Front. At last there was some news. Meanwhile Florence continued making preparations for her home, Bisham Abbey, to be used as a war hospital. There is an interesting reference to a nurse from India (the now obsolete term ‘Eurasian’ was the Colonial word for people of mixed Indian and European ancestry).

19 August 1914
At last account of troops in France & Belgium. All carried out in secrecy. Boulogne, Havre, etc. Poor Dan as youngest officer [must] stay in England [to] train recruits from Colchester.

Lorna & lady came in morning; also Eurasian nurse. Made washing flannels [for the hospital].

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