“Rarely, if ever, before, have we been called upon to mourn the loss of so many of our friends, in such a short time as during the past month”

Broad Street Church had endured many sad losses through the war, and the toll was not yet over.

CONDOLENCES

It is our sad duty to report from time to time the death of members of the church and congregation. But rarely, if ever, before, have we been called upon to mourn the loss of so many of our friends, in such a short time as during the past month….

Private Ernest Layton Francis, son of our esteemed Deacon, Mr Ernest Francis, and Mrs Francis, was well known and greatly beloved at Broad Street. Up to the time of his enlistment in the London Scottish Regiment he was a most faithful teacher in the Sunday School, and he exerted a powerful influence for good over his boys. Both teachers and scholars alike bear testimony to his patient and enduring work, and they all deplore his loss.

Mr Witcombe, Chief Warder at Reading Gaol, had been a loyal member of the church since 1911. During the whole of the war period he has given unstinted and devoted service in the work for men and women in khaki attending our rooms, and his cheery presence was always an inspiration. His early and unexpected death from pneumonia has fallen as a sad blow upon his wife and family.

Mr Harry Haydon was, in early days, a loyal worker in connection with the C[hristian] E[ndeavour] Society and Sunday School… a few months ago he had to join the army, but, as he was never strong, the period of training proved too great a strain on his constitution, and the influenza scourge found in him a victim. He leaves a wife and two young children to mourn his loss…

[Miss Rosa Millard and Miss Christina Codiferre are also named as among those dying of influenza.]

The influenza epidemic, which has been raging throughout the country lately, seems to have been worse in Reading than in most places. For several weeks the Sunday School had to be closed. So, too, had the Soldiers’ Rooms. Very many of or Broad Street homes have been visited, and some, unfortunately, with fatal results. It is a relief to know that the evil is now abating, and we trust that those friends who are still suffering may speedily be restored to health.

PTE E. LAYTON FRANCIS

The deepest sympathy has gone out from our whole community to Mr and Mrs Ernest Francis and their family, in the sad loss they have sustained through the death of their second son, Private E. Layton Francis. Layton Francis was a fine type of strong, intelligent, upright manhood, and his passing is deeply regretted by all who knew him.

When the war broke out he was anxious to volunteer at once for active service, but he was prevailed upon to complete his course of training as a Chartered Accountant before doing so. After successfully passing his final examination, he voluntarily joined up in the London Scottish Regiment, and saw much active service in France, Macedonia and Palestine. Readers of the magazine will remember the interesting descriptions he sent of various places in the Holy Land.

At Es Salt, on May 1st, 1918, he was seriously wounded in the right arm. After undergoing treatment in several Military Hospitals abroad, he ultimately reached England and was taken to the Military Hospital at Napsbury, near St Albans. Here, unfortunately, he was seized with influenza, and, pneumonia supervening, his weakened constitution was unequal to the strain.

We give below a couple of extracts from the many letters received by his parents. They testify to the very high regard in which he was universally held:

From a school friend:

“To me Layton was the best chum I ever had, or can hope to have. In fact he was more than a friend, he held the place of a brother. He was a real gentleman, and the life that God has taken will always be a great example and ideal for me to live up to.”

From a friend and former worshipper at Broad Street:

“Although I was considerably older than Layton you know what friends he and I were whilst I was at Reading. It was a friendship of which I was proud. He was the finest boy I have known. He was such a splendid combination of strong character, high principle and lofty ideals. He was absolutely straight – too great a character either to tell a lie or to harbour a mean thought. He was a fine example of young muscular Christianity.”

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

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“He has had the good fortune to be drafted to Reading for treatment”

There was news of several of the soldiers from Reading’s Broad Street Congregational Church.

PERSONAL

We should like to offer our somewhat belated, but very sincere, congratulations to Captain Horace Beer of the RAF on his promotion. Captain Beer obtained his captaincy, it appears, several months ago; but it was only recently that the news reached us. He is now serving at the headquarters of the RAF and he has our best wishes for the future.

News has been received that Private E. Layton Francis has been wounded. He was serving with the London Scottish in Palestine, and many of our readers have enjoyed his vivid descriptions of places and people, which have appeared from time to time in these pages. Private Francis is now in one of the Stationary Hospitals in Gaza, suffering from a gunshot wound in his right arm. Beyond this there is no further information at the moment. We hope, however, that the wound is not serious, and that our friend may have a speedy recovery. Meanwhile we express our sympathy with Mr and Mrs Ernest Francis and their family in their anxiety.

Private F. W. Snell has been seriously wounded in the head and face while fighting in France. He has had the good fortune to be drafted to Reading for treatment and is now lying in No. 1 War Hospital. He is making good progress. We earnestly hope it may continue, and that before long we may see him back in our midst.

We are glad to see our young friend, Private George Hathaway, back at Broad Street. Private Hathaway was training with the Royal Warwicks, but he has been on the sick list for some time, and has now obtained his discharge. We trust that before long he may be restored to health.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

We deeply regret to have to report the death of Brother Ernest Ward of Westfield Road, Caversham, who recently died of wounds….

Our musical director and choirmaster, Brother Wynton-Turner, will have commenced his military duties by the time these notes are in the hands of our readers. We wish him every success.

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

We must continually pray for victory in this the greatest battle in the history of the World

There was more sad news for Newbury families.

We have had more losses among our old boys in the War.

Lieut. Nathaniel Gordon Burgess, RNR, serving in His Majesty’s Navy, was lost at sea on March 6th, after doing splendidly in the Service, and being clearly marked out for further promotion.

Sapper R J Drewell, one of the old CLB lads, was killed in action at Clery in France on March 23rd. His Commanding Officer writes –

“He had behaved splendidly… he will be missed by everyone”.

Mr and Mrs Wyllie have lost their only son.

There have been wounded Frederick Winkworth, Frederick Charles Darby, Percy Robert Styles, Philip Webb, a son of Mrs Tillett, a son of Mr Smart, and a late-comer into the town – Mr Hann. Several are reported missing. We offer our sincere sympathy to the relatives who are in sorrow or anxiety. We must continually pray for victory in this the greatest battle in the history of the World.

ROLL OF HONOUR [nb reno 68-79]

Copied and supplied to the Parish Magazine by J W H Kemp.
(Continued from last month.)

68. Pte Albert Corderoy, 26954, Herts Regt, killed in action in France, 22nd Sept., 1917.
69. Pte R Mason, 1st Royal Berks, killed in France, Sept. 25th, 1916.
70. Pte G Mason, Oxford Light Infantry, killed in action May 16th, 1915.
71. Killed at sea Lieut. Robert Morton Bridges Liddle, RN, December 23rd, 1917.
72. Benjamin Williams, ASC, drowned in the sinking of the SS Arragon Dec. 30th, 1917.
73. Sidney James Hughes, 1st Coldstream Guards, killed January 25th, 1915, at Quinchy, France, aged 23.
74. Pte Thomas Henry Harden Perring, aged 36, killed in action in Palestine, Nov. 13th, 1917.
75. Frederick George Hayward, 2/4 Royal Berks Transport, killed June 6th, 1917, at Tilloy Wood, France. RIP.
76. Pte E B Pounds, London Scottish, son of Mr H Pounds, 3, Enborne Road, killed in action in Palestine Dec. 27th, 1917, aged 21.
77. William James Quintin, killed in action in France, 1917.
78. Pte Albert James Geater, A Co. 1/4 Royal Berks Regt, killed in action August 16th, 1917. RIP.
79. Albert Deacon, 1st Class Steward HMS Marlborough, drowned at sea January 12th, 1918.


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

“One of the monks described to us how unbearable life was under the Turks, and how glad he was to see the British enter Jerusalem”

A Reading soldier describes his experiences in Palestine.

MORE ABOUT PALESTINE

By the kindness of Mr Ernest Francis we are able to give further interesting extracts from letters recently received from our friend Private E. Layton Francis of the London Scottish Regiment.
Writing from somewhere in Palestine our friend says:

“I have much of interest to describe to you again, as during my travels I have visited Bethlehem and been on guard in the Church of the Holy Nativity. Bethlehem is situated on a hillside about six miles from Jerusalem. The streets are very narrow and covered with cobbles, and in many places beams run across the street overhead to stop the houses falling in.

The entrance to the Church is just a small hole in what appears to be a castle wall. Inside there is a huge hall like the body of a church; the roof is supported with forty four pillars, and numerous highly coloured lamps hang from it. The whole building, which covers an immense area, and is evidently very old, comprises three churches – Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek. The Roman Catholic church is about the same size as St John’s [presumably Reading St John, now the Polish Catholic Church, in Watlington Street]. It is a beautiful church and has a very fine organ. The actual spot in which it is said that Jesus Christ was born is, as is usual out here in the East, a cave below the level of the church. It is cut out of the natural rock, and a cavity is shown where the wooden manger used to lay. The manger itself was supposed to have been sent to Rome. Of course there is a lot of valuable tapestry round this spot and several very beautiful pictures. There are numerous lamps hanging from the roof filled with olive oil and with floating wicks, some of the lamps always being alight. One of our posts was by the side of the manger, and here I used to sit for two hours at a time. There is so much here of interest to describe, and it is all so wonderful that a letter is not sufficient. I long for the time when I can tell all about it myself.

Since we commenced this stunt last October, I have been right through the Judean Hills and down on the plains below. The Judean Hills end abruptly and there is no gradual sloping away, but like cliffs, with a fertile plain stretching away to the Mountains of Moab, and the Jordan rushing madly on its career into the Dead Sea. The banks of the Jordan are very steep, and the stream is tremendously strong. The Dead Sea stretches away looking as calm and smooth as a pond.

Seen from a distance Jericho looks a pretty little lace with white houses and red roofs, with the white minarets showing through the green trees. Having seen this part of the country one can understand such terms as “The Promised Land” and a “Land flowing with milk and honey”. Halfway down one of the hillsides overlooking the plain, there is a beautiful monastery built into the rock. This is the Monastery of the Temptation, and the hill is the traditional spot where Christ was tempted of [sic] the devil. Some excavations at Jericho have laid bare the foundation of the old walls and the ruins of some of the houses.

Another place of interest I have seen in the Pool of Bethesda. This is considered one of the most authentic spots in the Holy City. The Pool is some way down, and is reached by a flight of stone steps. Above the Pool there are the remains of an old Crusaders’ Church, with the porchway, altar and crypt still standing, although in ruins. One of the actual pillars of the five porches, which at the time of our Lord gave entrance to the Pool, is still to be seen. The story of the miracle is written up in 75 different languages including Welsh, and Irish and Scottish Gaelic. Near by is a very beautiful Roman Catholic church, the Church of St Anne. The church belongs to some order of White Monks. One of the monks, who spoke very good English, described to us how unbearable life was under the Turks, and how glad he was to see the British enter Jerusalem.”

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

A marvellous escape from an airship crash

Broad Street Church kept in contact with all its men who had joined up.

News has now been received from Air-Mechanic Fred W. Warman to the effect that he is interned at Croningen in Holland. He was acting as wireless-operator in the air-ship which came down there, and had a marvellous escape. We are glad to know that he writes in a bright and cheerful strain, and that he is trying to make the best of things.

Flight Sub-Lieut W. R. Taper of the RNAS has been appointed for duty in Malta. It has been a pleasure to see him frequently in our midst in recent weeks. The good wishes of many friends at Broad Street will go with him as he takes up his new duties.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

Brother Woolley has consented to continue his good services by acting as correspondent with our members on service. This [is] a quiet piece of work which is bound to have its good results when things are normal again.

THE ROLL OF HONOUR

The list of our men who have responded to the call of God and King and Country. (more…)

“Freedom, Freedom at last!”

The Reading soldier we heard from a few days home after the entry into Jerusalem wrote home again with his impressions of the city at the end of the Ottoman era.

MORE ABOUT JERUSALEM

By the kindness of our friends Mr and Mrs Ernest Francis we are enabled to give another extract from a letter recently received from their son Private E. Layton Francis, of the London Scottish Regiment. We feel sure it will prove interesting to many at Broad Street, where Private Layton Francis is so highly regarded.

Egyptian Expeditionary Force
17/12/17

It is most awfully interesting here, and the experience is worth much. There are all manner of conditions of men here – Natives who adhere to the customs and dress of our Lord’s time, Mahomedans [sic] of every description, and highly educated native Jews. One Jew told me he had lived in London and Cardiff for some years, and showed me his business cards. He was immensely relieved at our advance, and said we “kicked Johnny out like a football”. Another American Jew was overjoyed at seeing us, and he kept repeating “Freedom, Freedom at last!”

The building we are billeted in appears to have been built for a school. We are on the first floor. There are several small rooms opening on one side, and on the other side there is one tremendous window made up of small panes about one foot square. The weather is still very cold, but we have overcoats now, and so are better able to cope with it. This afternoon (18th December) I had the great privilege of going over the old “Holy City” of Jerusalem. I should explain that there is the New City of Jerusalem and the old Holy City.

The Holy City is surrounded by walls entirely, and entrance is through the various gates. We entered by the Jaffa gate, and passed through St Stephen’s Gate and saw several of the others. The first place of interest is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Here is a slab of marble which is claimed to cover the spot where the body of Jesus laid before He was buried. Then there is the Hill Calvary, just outside the City walls. This is not a green hill, now at any rate, but is very stony, and it is quite a small hill too. The Garden of Gethsemane is full of cypress and olive trees, and is at the foot of the Mount of Olives, quite near to the city wall. The site of the Old Temple is located, but the Moslems have built a magnificent mosque almost on the spot. The mosque is the Mosque of St Omar [sic], and it is a most wonderful building, the base being of inlaid marble, and the rest beautiful mosaic work. The Jews will not walk on the site of the Temple as they believe the Ark of the Covenant to be buried there. But nearby is the “Jews’ wailing place”, a huge wall made up of the original stones of the Temple, and here every Sabbath the Jews pray for the restoration of the Temple, and of their land. Then there is the Golden Gate. This gate is entirely walled in, and the Jews believe it will not be opened until the Messiah comes.

The streets of Jerusalem are very narrow, the houses from the opposite sides almost touching one another. Many streets are like arcades, or to describe them better, like tunnels through solid stone. The shops are just holes in the side of the tunnel.

I must close now although there is much more to say – later on.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, Marc h1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“The populace gave us a tremendous welcome”

A Reading soldier was involved in the conquest of Jerusalem, and reported on the triumphant entry into the city.

THE TAKING OF JERUSALEM

We are pleased to be able to give below an extract from a letter received by our friends Mr and Mrs Ernest Francis from their son, Private E. Layton Francis of the London Scottish Regiment. Private Layton Francis has many friends at Broad Street and they will rejoice to know that in spite of many trying experiences, he is safe and well.

Egyptian Expeditionary Force
12-12-17

Since writing my last letter home I have been through another attack and a unique experience, and have much to be thankful for that I have been kept safely through so much. After we left our last position, we marched all night – over a twelve hours’ march – and attacked in the early morning. Doubtless you will have seen from the papers that Jerusalem has fallen, and that to our Division has been given the credit of taking it.

Our triumphal entry into the city was an experience worth living for, and the populace gave us a tremendous welcome. The city is full of well dressed and apparently well educated people, many of whom can speak English perfectly, and were very anxious to speak with us. An Armenian – quite a nice looking old chap of English appearance – joyfully told us that “Now there will be a happy Christmas for all good Christians.”

I hope this letter will reach you as it is, as I do not think myself it contains anything of “Military Importance”. Anyhow I shall have a tremendous lot to tell you once I get home again. It is almost impossible to realise that we have been fighting and marching where Jesus Christ was born and crucified, and that we must have actually been over the same hills were He has passed…

It is bitterly cold where we are just now at night time and heavy frosts are quite frequent, although I expect it is still hot in the canal zone.

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

“I am quite happy and enjoy life immensely, wouldn’t have missed it for anything”

Several men from Reading St Giles had fallen in the war. The vicar pays a personal tribute to their heroism:

NOTE FROM THE VICAR

Hearty congratulations to Sergt. S.W. White, 1/4th R. Berks, on winning the D.M.C. I believe he is the first of the old C.L.B. boys to obtain honours in the war.

To the list of the fallen in the war is a long one this month, and it contains some names closely connected with the work of the church (Reginald Golder, Herbert Day, Harry Walker, Leonard Smith), they all played their part bravely and have died gloriously, and I am sure we shall not forget them nor their good work here. All four were splendid types of the real patriot who thought no sacrifice too great for England: all four loved the church they worshipped in and, as I know well, did not forget the lessons they were taught in it.

Reginald Golder was a very special friend of mine, he rarely missed coming to see me each ‘leave’ and his devotion to his Grandfather in the days gone by was something to admire. His final words in his last letter to me, written a few days before the final action in which he was taken prisoner:

“I am quite happy and enjoy life immensely, wouldn’t have missed it for anything.”

It was a letter showing his deep interest in the things and persons connected with S. Giles’. To the parents and relatives of all these brave men we give our heartfelt sympathy. For them we give our prayers and our affection: they have won a great reward.

To be added to the intercessions list: Private E.F. Mundy, 11th Labour Batt, Royal Berks Regt,; Lieut Frank Moore, 22nd Batt King’s Royal Rifles; Cpl. C.V. Pyke, R.F.C. ; George Biles, 3rd Batt,. Royal Berks Regt.; Geoffrey Church ; Lieut. Boston; Private A.T. Henton, 9th Royal Berks Regt,; Private W. Clare, A.S.C. ; Private S. Watson, Grenadier Guards; Private J. Gibbons, 6th Batt. R.I.F.; Private T.B. Mills, London Scottish.

Sick and Wounded: Private S.J. Tugwell, D.C.L.I.; L, Cpl. Mark Seymour, R.E.; Private W Hart; Private G.F. Stroud, A.S.C.; C.S.M.L. Goodenough 1/4 Royal Berks Regt.; Private E. Wilson, 24th London R.; Gunner H.G. West,R.F.A; L. Cpl. A Harris, Royal Berks Regiment.; Private Redstone, Private G.W. Holloway, 3rd Gloucester Regt.

Prisoners: Private H. Guttridge, Private James Smith. ¼ Royal Berks Regt.

Missing: Private Albert Langford, ¼ Royal Berks Regt.; L.Cpl. Jack Foulger, West Kents; Private Frederick Long, 6th Batt. Royal Berks Regt.; L. Cpl. H. Goldstone, R.W. Surry Regt.

Departed: Private Davey, L. Cpl Herbert Dray, Sergt. Reginald Golder, 2/4 Royal Berks Regt.; Private R. Morris, Private S. Land, Private H.V. Walker, ¼ Royal Berks Regiment,; Private A. Josey. 2nd Hants; Private J. Miles, Oxford and Bucks Lt. Infantry; Private Arthur T. Knott, Private T. Seymour, Royal Berks Regt.; Private Edward Rogers, 8th Batt. Royal Berks Regt.; Private John Simmonds, 6thBatt. Royal Berks Regt.; Private H. Leonard West, Canadian Cont.; Driver Rodney Lock, A.S.C.; Sergt Clement Perrin, 1/4 Royal Berks Regt.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, October 1916 (D/P96/28A/34)

Awful, awful slaughter

The London Scottish Regiment was the first Territorial unit to see action in the war, on the Messines ridge as part of the 1st Battle of Ypres. Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham was appalled by the losses they faced. The Lucas-Tooth family (wealthy brewers) was one which was to see all its sons lost in the war.

4 November 1914
Foggy. Train ½ hour late. I & girls to London… All trains left London with blinds down till 10 miles outside.

Charlie we believe in the trenches. London Scottish gallant charges. See another Lucas-Tooth dead. Awful awful slaughter….

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