War was always unspeakably dreadful

A pupil at St Barthomolomew’s School imagined a future where war was unknown. It may be a creative writing exercise, but it shows the effect the war had on young people’s views of the world.

WAR.

Scene ——————– A room in a house
Time ——————— 2000 A.D.
Dramatis Personae — One sister, one small brother.

Small brother. Sissy, what does war mean? I read it in a book, something about the termination of war or something.

Sister. War, dear child, is the settlement of national quarrels by fighting.

When two or more nations had a quarrel, they used to fight each other till so many people on one side got killed or driven back, that they had to give in.

Sometimes nations just made war for greed because they thought they were stronger than their opponents, indeed this was nearly always the case.

Small brother. Please, what’s reponents?

Sister. Opponents, I said, it means enemies.

Small brother. O yes, I understand enemies; please sissy, why didn’t you say enemies if you meant enemies?

Sister. When you’re a little older, you’ll understand perhaps, but don’t fidget or I shall have to send you upstairs.

Small brother. Go on about war, sissy.

Sister. In the beginning war wasn’t quite so bad, although morally, of course, it was always unspeakably dreadful.

People used to fight hand to hand, and kill each other from quite near, with spears, long steel spikes and other weapons, then later, they shot with bows and arrows, you’ve heard of bows and arrows.

Well, everybody regarded it as a sort of game, with definite rules, particularly we English, who were always slow and stupid.

Small brother. Sissy!!

Sister.
Now don’t interrupt.

Well, people liked fighting very much really, or at any rate some did, they used to put on expensive armour and ride about on beautiful horses, and when there wasn’t a war, they went about saving fair maidens out of enchanted castles, and it was all very nice.

Everything went well, because all the countries used the same weapons, and fought in the same way, but gradually men began to invent more deadly weapons, and some of the countries invented the before their enemies knew anything about it, so of course they said it wasn’t fair and were very cross, and lots of them got killed.

Guns were invented, and other dreadful things, and people fought from a long way off. Nearly everybody fought, and they still had rules like in a game.

Things got worse and worse till the last war, that was about 1914, and then thousands of people got killed, and it was all like a very bad nightmare, men, women and children got killed and aeroplanes dropped bombs about in the town and no one was safe anywhere. After everybody had spent most of their money on the war and lost most of their sons, and had some of their houses knocked down, they got very tired of it, but it had to be finished, because a very wicked country called Germany was threatening the peace of the whole world, not that the whole world really wanted peace, mind you, because they didn’t, but they liked to think they did, and anyhow, they hated the Germans very much, and not without cause.

However, the people who were running the war for England began to see that it wasn’t a game any longer, because they didn’t get enough to each and their sons being killed; so when Germany invented clever things to kill people quicker, which weren’t allowed by the rules, they invented cleverer ones back and said nothing about it, and in the papers the people read all about the wicked things Germany was doing and thought Germany dishonourable for disobeying the rules, and some people say that the English people who were working the war for the English broke the rules first, but this isn’t certain, and anyway, the Germans were a greedy and unscrupulous people, much worse than us, though we were far from perfect, and they were beaten.

And people began to sit down and think a bit, which wasn’t often done in those days, and they came to the conclusion that war wasn’t a game any longer, and that they had better prevent its happening again, so they got together a kind of jury and they called it the League of Nations.

They talked for over a year; some said there must be no more fighting of any kind, and others said that the nature of man couldn’t exist without fighting, so they talked and talked until at last they came to a decision.

They decided to go back to the bow and arrow method, because it looked so nice and wasn’t as dangerous as the other methods, only bows, arrows and armour, were to be used, and directly anybody was wounded he would count as dead, and directly a quarter of the fighters on one side were dead, the other side would have won, and in case of any contravention of the rules, the whole world would punish the offender very severely, and since no country could ever be stronger than all the rest put together, the idea seemed practical and sound.

Well the next fight after the real war was between France and America, it was brought about by a difference of opinion as to whether Paris or New York should lead the fashions in ladies’ hats. It was, of course, a difficult problem, and the League of Nations discussed it for three months, at the end of this time there was a terrible hat strike, and women had to go about bare headed and many of them caught colds and died.

At last the League decided that France and America must figure it out.

The battle was arranged in Hyde Park, London, 100 men from Paris and 100 men from New York were chosen, the battlefield was railed around and people had to pay £20 to watch. The proceeds went to the society for stray cats.

Just before the battle began an Englishman invented an impregnable armour, so he sold the secret for a million pounds to the Paris men, and then got another million from the New York men for telling them, too.

So the first day’s fighting killed no one, and broke a lot of arrows, also it rained hard and the people who had paid £20 to come and watch were very sick about it.

On the second day someone invented an arrow which could pierce the armour, and both sides got hold of the secret, but everyone got to know of it before the battle, so they all wore double armour and again no one got killed, and still it rained, and the fighters sank up to their ankles in mud, because their armour was so heavy, and at the end of the day their friends had to pull them out with ropes.

Now this sort of thing went on for six days; each day better arrows were invented and thicker armour was worn to shield off the arrows, and as a result no one was killed and hundreds of arrows were broken, and still it rained very hard, and all the people who watched got wet and angry, and many died of chills.

And each day, the fighters sank deeper in the mud, because the ground got softer and their armour got heavier.

At last, on the seventh day, which was a Sunday, the situation seemed impossible, because the armed men knew that they couldn’t even get within range of each other; directly they stepped into Hyde Park they would get stuck, and since the rule was that each side should start at opposite ends of the park, it seemed hopeless.

However, a clever Englishman came to the rescue; he constructed two great rafts, and on these the fighters were to row out to the selected spot.

On a given signal they were to step off their rafts and fight as usual.

It cleared up a bit that day and the sun came out, so that heaps of people came to watch in boats and the stray cat’s shares went up seventy-two points.

The Lord Mayor came specially to give the signal for fighting to start.

Directly he blew the whistle the fighters stepped off the rafts, it was calculated by an American that each man weighed seven hundred pounds, anyhow they were never seen again, they sank right down through the each till they reached the centre of gravity and there they presumably remained.

So the question was never settled and everybody bought their hats in London.

Since then there have been no wars.

K.P.L.

The Newburian (magazine of St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury), April 1919 (N/D161/1/9)

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“Those who have fought for the victory we have obtained have reason to expect better civil life”

A Reading book club discussed social changes to be expected.

7 March 1919

The 298th meeting of the club was held at Soundy’s on Friday 7th March 1919…

The host had followed the old practice of the club (unfortunately too frequently not observed of late) & had prepared a paper. His subject was “Some Labour Problems”, & he commenced by referring to the two International Conferences now taking place in Paris, viz the Peace Conference & the International Labour Conference. The former has spent considerable time in discussing the formation of a League of Nations with a view to securing the Peace of the world so far as warfare is concerned, but Soundy pointed out that there is another Peace that is possibly even more to be desired & one that will have more important influence on the future of the nations, viz Peace in the Labour world, & this is being discussed at the International Labour Conference.

After referring to the cost of the war & to the question of the nations recovering from its effect, both financial & industrial, he stated that this can be done solely by securing peace and cooperation between the parties representing capital & labour. Relations between employers & employed must be improved. Germany has found out that might is not right & the same principle must be brought to the front in the labour market.

To re-establish our own financial position exports must be increased, & to achieve this, the rate of production must be increased. So long as this is done & is kept up the rate of increase in wages does not matter. He referred to the conditions of labour to apply in the future, which are being discussed at the Conference, & also to the evidence given by the Coal Commission in this country. Where the highest wages have been paid the cost of production has been lowest & vice versa. No man will do his best, when he feels he is underpaid, but workpeople must realise that to get better conditions they must become better workmen, & Trade Unions must make their members realise this.

Those who have fought for the victory we have obtained have reason to expect better civil life & to achieve this there must be a better understanding between employers & workpeople, & an effective peace between capital & labour.

An interesting discussion followed & it was unanimously felt that the thanks of the Club were due to the host for his most interesting paper & for having once again kept up the old traditions of the Club.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

The new year opens bright with hope, like a glorious morning after the night of darkness and storm

Churchgoers in Warfield and Winkfield rejoiced.

Warfield

It is suggested by the Archbishops that special thanksgiving for Victory, and special prayer for the statesmen of the world assembled in the Peace Conference, should be offered on the first Sunday in the new year, January 5th. The new year opens bright with hope, like a glorious morning after the night of darkness and storm. Clouds are still in the sky, but they are broken and the sun shines through. May we render thanks and glory to God in the Highest; and pray Him to inspire men with His own Spirit of Good-will, for good-will alone can bring true and lasting peace to homes, to nations and to all mankind.

It is hoped to hold a meeting during January, to consider the raising of a War Memorial in the Parish.

Winkfield

On the first Sunday, (January 5th) in the new year, which we trust will bring us the blessing of a just and lasting Peace, it is indeed fitting that we should join with other parishes all over the land in special Thanksgivings for Victory and deliverance from our enemies, and also pray specially for our Rulers and the Statesmen of the world, that the coming Peace Conference they may be enabled to lay the foundation of the effective establishment of a League of Nations which will prevent the horrors of war in the future.

Winkfield District Magazine, January 1919 (D/P 151/28A/11)

Never a better moment for preaching the Christmas message of “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace, goodwill towards men”

Reading men were to be welcomed home.

My dear Friends…

I have received a letter from the Bishop bringing to my notice his own and the Archbishops’ suggestions for the observance of the Christmas season. He says, “As to Christmas itself, there was never a better moment for preaching the Christmas message of “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace, goodwill towards men”. I trust that in this connection you will lead your people in earnest prayer for the effective establishment of a League of Nations to secure a just and permanent peace.

On December 29th we are recommended by the Archbishops to make united, reverent and thankful commemoration of those who have died in the War. Sunday, January 5th, it is suggested that we should offer special thanksgiving for victory and special prayer for the statesmen assembled in the Peace Conference.’ I propose to act on these suggestions; accordingly the list of those belonging to us who have fallen in the war will be read out at Morning and Evening Prayer on the last Sunday of the year and special thanksgiving and prayer on the lines indicated will be offered on the following Sunday. The Bishop speaks also of the need of securing a hearty and religious welcome for every one of the returning soldiers in all parishes. This can only be done by the co-operation of the people. I shall be most grateful for information as to the return of soldiers and sailors, such as shall enable me to call and offer each man a personal welcome back to the parish. …

Your sincere friend and vicar,

W. Britton

Reading St. John parish magazine, January 1919 (D/P172/28A/24)

No government has ever had to face a greater task than that which will now come to power

The suffragan Bishop of Buckingham warned there was still a great deal of work to do.

The Bishop’s Message

The war is over and we cannot find words to express our feelings: only in our thanksgiving to Almighty God can we give utterance to the thoughts of our hearts.

The war is over, but the stupendous task remains of repairing the breaches, building up the waste places, and restoring the paths to dwell in. This can be done only if the same spirit is maintained-the unity of effort, the subordination of selfish interests, the wise leadership, the loyal co-operation, the self-sacrifice, the organization, the discipline which has brought us to victory – if this is preserved in peace. The spiritual forces of the whole world must be moved in action. The League of Nations is not a fancy of visionaries; it is a practical possibility which can be realized if Christians unite to bring it about. It is not enough to wish for it, or even to pray for it, we must work for it. Surely here the Church must make its influence felt and not be daunted by difficulties in the way.


The Marriage Laws

We have reason to be devoutly thankful that the Divorce Bill was defeated in the House of Lords, but there are strong forces at work and we must be watchful. It is indeed distressing that at such a time as this there should be such persistent efforts to lower the moral standard – for that must be the effect in spite of the specious arguments. We owe a debt to Lord Parmoor for his vigorous leading.

The General Election

No government has ever had to face a greater task than that which will now come to power. The election will be a great test of the nation’s purpose. Can we put aside all petty issues and party bitterness and selfish aims and unitedly undertake the great work of reconstruction in a manner worthy of a people that has proved itself so great? The prayers which have been such a power in the war can be no less effective in gaining the victories of peace. Here are some questions on which we hope the church may speak with a united voice, for example, the immediate need of dealing with the housing of the people, the improved standard of Wages, the Education question, and the retention of control of the liquor trade. We render humble and hearty thanks to Almighty God fo0r the great and glorious victory, and for the fidelity, courage and devotion of the allied forces.

We pray

For the great Council of the nations which shall determine the conditions of peace.

For the ministry of the crown and those upon whom rests the duty of leadership in restoring conditions of peace in all countries.

For all those who profess and call themselves Christians, that they may act accordingly to their profession.

For the Church, that it may, by wise action, have due influence in the counsels of the nation.

For our troops, that they may be strong to resist the special temptations to which they are exposed.

For the soldiers who are prepared to take Holy Orders.

For the General Election.

For the Central Board of Finance, and for success in the promotion of the Central Fund of the Church of England.

For the revival of Missionary work which has been hindered by the war.

For the Diocesan Board of Missions.

For the C.E.T.S.

For the Diocesan Inspectors.

E.D. BUCKINGHAM.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, November 1918 (D/P191/28A/25)

Joy in victory is clouded by the thought of those whose fidelity unto death helped to win that victory

A Reading vicar rejoiced at the end of the war.

MY DEAR FRIENDS

None of us are ever likely to forget the month that is ended. We have lived through tremendous days, apocalyptic days, when the judgements of God have been manifest in all the earth, when his voice has been heard saying to them that rose up against Him, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Witnessing the utter downfall, the complete humiliation and final ruin of the Germanic Alliance, we are driven again to the great poetry of the psalms for words adequate to describe the things we have seen, and we find them in the second psalm, ‘The Kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against His anointed… He that dwelleth in Heaven shall laugh them to scorn, the Lord shall have them in derision… Thou shalt bruise them with a rod of iron and break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ And from the same psalm we draw the moral for ourselves, ‘Serve the Lord in peace and rejoice unto Him with reverence.’ Reverence was the most marked feature of those wonderful Services of Thanksgiving wherein on Monday evening and on the following Sunday we thanked God for His deliverance and for the victory which we attribute only to His help- reverence and a solemn awe. A new devotion to God’s service and a new oath of allegiance to the divine King must be our permanent response to our God thus made manifest in judgement and in mercy.’ This God is our God for ever and ever. He shall be our guide even unto death.’

In the midst of our rejoicings our loving sympathy goes out to those whose joy in victory is clouded by the thought of those whose fidelity unto death helped to win that victory. May the knowledge that the sacrifice has not been in vain comfort the hearts of all whose dear ones’ names are entered on our Roll of Honour for the fallen and must in due time be permanently engraved upon the walls of our Church.

The news of the signing of the armistice came to us in the midst of the severe epidemic of influenza which has claimed many victims among soldiers and civilians alike….

We pray that God may bring comfort to the parents of soldiers who have died of pneumonia following on influenza, among whom we would mention Privates Aliban and Church, old boys of St John’s and St Stephen’s respectively. Lastly, we offer respectful sympathy to the family and friends of Frank Fisher, old boy and chorister of St Stephen’s, killed in battle in the last month of the war….

The sermon and preaching arrangements for Advent will be found in the Calendar. I propose on Sunday mornings at St John’s to speak from the Christian standpoint on certain important ideas which are at present occupying the minds of thoughtful people, under the general title of “Issues of the Great War”. My subjects each Sunday will be:

Dec. 1 The War to end War
Dec. 8 The World Safe for Democracy
Dec. 15 The League of Free Nations
Dec. 22 The Re-union of Christendom…

I wish you all a very happy Christmas. The birthday of the Prince of Peace will be celebrated this year by a world at peace at last after 4 ½ years of war. Let us celebrate it with glad thanksgiving and with the earnest prayer that the hearts of all men everywhere may be inclined to do His Will, so that there be permanent peace on earth, among men of good will.

Your sincere friend and vicar,

W. Britton.

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

Our economic policy has borne the heat & burden of 3 years strain

The thoughtful members of the Dodeka Bok Club in Reading discussed the possible post-war economy.

The 289th meeting of the club was held on Feb 2. 18 at Cresswell’s…
Cresswell then introduced as a topic for discussion, “Our prewar and postwar fiscal policy”, & in the course of his remarks asked – Does our prewar policy stand condemned? & stated that our general policy, although with defects, had borne the heat & burden of 3 years strain – not only in keeping our industries going, but making large advances to our allies, & London continued to remain the centre of the world’s finance, whilst other countries had had to alter or reverse their pre-war methods, & that our present difficulties were the direct result of war conditions, & would continue more or less acute until the war was over.

Our efforts should therefore be directed to finding out our defects & remedying such as far as possible.

He held the opinion also that as an island country we could not owing to climatic reasons become self-contained or produce all raw material necessary – nor did he agree with the idea of an economic boycott of Germany after the war, even if possible. Especially as each nation has, can & will continue to specialise in its own way & power.

It might be necessary to protect certain industries after the war from unfair competition, but not to the extent that some manufacturers have now, in order that the public should be exploited as they are today.

He confessed to the idea of a “League of Nations” appealing to him very strongly – but this to be effective should include all nations, & thought that such a League the best means to avoid an economic war in the near future. On the whole a too hasty reversal of our pre-war policy would appear to be unnecessary & unwise, & the superplan, he considered, would be to continue as we were in our general policy with an open mind & details could be adjusted from time to time as reason & need arose. A spirited & animated discussion followed.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

A ‘League of Peace’

The members of the Dodeka book club in Reading had a particularly spirited debate on the idea of a post-war league of nations.

The 278th meting of the club was held at Baynes’ on Nov 3, 1916.

The host opened a spirited discussion on a ‘League of Peace’, the meeting becoming so interested that it did not break up until past its proper hour.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)