“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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“I am hopeful that the next few weeks will see us very near the end of the war”

A chaplain told his Maidenhead friends about his experiences with our Serbian allies.

Letter from Rev. J. Sellors

Dear Friends,-

To-day we have had some excellent news which will be old by the time you read this. We have just heard that Bulgaria has signed an unconditional peace, and I am hopeful that the next few weeks will see us very near the end of the war. At this stage I am allowed to say that part of my work was to visit a British battery on the part of the front where the Allies – Serbs and French – first broke through the Bulgar lines. It was in the sector between Monastir and the Vardar, comprising the Moglena range of mountains, which rise abruptly from a plain to a height of anything from 4,000 to 6,000 feet, bounded on the left by Mount Kaimachalan, over 8,000 feet high. When crossing the plain I could see the Bulgar lines near the crest of the mountains, and knew that from their observation posts in the direction of Vetrenick and Kozyak they could see my car approaching, and I rather sympathised with the rabbit (the wild one, not Mr. Chevasse’s variety) which knows there is a man with a gun in the neighbourhood, and wonders when he is going to fire, and if he is a good shot. However, I was fortunate enough to escape any shelling, although the roads and villages en route were on several occasions shelled shortly before or after I had passed by.

The enemy positions seemed absolutely impregnable, and we felt here the Allies had little chance of success if the Bulgars made a very determined resistance. We were immensely pleased and cheered to hear that after an intense bombardment of only seven minutes, an attack was made which broke right through the lines held by the very dazed surviving Bulgars, overcame all resistance offered in reserve trenches, and never stopped till the enemy cried for peace. The Serbs were simply magnificent. They bounded forward at the rate of some 40 kilometres (about 25 miles) a day. The enemy was given no chance to reorganize; a great part of his whole army was thrown into absolute chaos, and having lost practically the whole of its supplies, food, ammunition, guns etc., with a fortnight it acknowledged itself as beaten. Personally I do not think that without the Serbs the Allied victory would have been so speedy and complete. They are wonderful fighters, and charming, simple people. I see a good deal of them, as I am chaplain to the British units attached to the Serbian army and have my headquarters at a hospital for Serbs (37th General Serbian Hospital, Salonika Forces).

As I write, the units are scattered all over the country, but my parish used to extend about 50 miles of front and lines of communication, and I visited a battery, a number of transport companies, hospitals, etc., and had to use a motor car for the performance of my duties. (Don’t imagine me riding about in great comfort. The car was really a small Ford van, generally used for carrying shells and supplies, and we had to travel along very uneven roads, sometimes mere cart tracks, and owing to the consequent bumping, the intense heat of the sun, and that rising from the engine, together with the dust, riding was often the reverse of pleasant.)

I find that on the whole the “padre’s” work is very much appreciated, and one is constantly receiving proof that man instinctively wants God and reverences Christ, and it is a great privilege to take part in the work of proclaiming God to others and seeking to drawn men to Him. Men out here have been torn away from all the things which hitherto filled their loves, and I think this enforced detachment from normal pursuits has led many who previously luke-warm Christians to find that their religion alone in such times of stress can comfort, strengthen, inspire and sustain them. Thus I think the war will have the effect of deepening the religious life of many, even if it does not lead the indifferent man to faith in God through Christ.

I trust before many months have passed I shall be with you again in Maidenhead for a short time.

With prayers for you all, especially those in sorrow or anxiety,

Yours sincerely,

J. SELLORS, C.F.

Macedonia, Sept. 30th, 1918

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, November 1918 (D/P181/28A/27)

“This front is not so quiet as the papers would have you believe”

A member of Broad Street Brotherhood wrote home from service in a bleak part of the Balkans.

Somewhere in Macedonia
5th March 1918

I am taking the first opportunity of writing to thank you and the friends at Broad St for the nice Xmas parcel which arrived safely last week. It is indeed most kind of you all to think of me in this distant land, and I can assure you your kindness is keenly appreciated.

I must heartily congratulate whoever was responsible for the selection of the contents. They were just what I was in need of – especially the writing pad, toilet soap and cigarettes. These things are very difficult to obtain in our part of the line, which is in a most deserted and desolate area, far removed from any YMCA tent or EF canteen, and 50 or 60 miles from Salonica…

Of course I cannot give you any details of our doings out here, but I can assure, you, this front is not so quiet as the papers would have you believe. Praying that the Almighty’s richest blessing may crown all your efforts to brighten matters in “dear old Blighty”.

W J Dance (OS) [on active service]

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

Italian Intelligence methods are “totally different to ours & in my humble opinion rather unintelligent”

An Intelligence officer contact of Ralph Glyn’s trying to work out how the Austrian army was deployed was unimpressed by his Italian counterparts.

MI2C
War Office
Whitehall
SW

3.V.16

My dear Glyn

Many thanks for your two last letters & the paper on artillery. I’m just back from a visit to the Comande Supremo, where I had a chance of seeing the Italian Intelligence at work. Their methods are totally different to ours & in my humble opinion rather unintelligent. However of that more when we meet again.

Since your last letter of 25/4/16, the Italians claim to have identified the 57th, 59th Divs & 10th Mountain Brigade from Albania in the Trentino. The 57th & 59th Divs appear to form an VIIIth Corps (not an XVIIIth, as they previously swore). I don’t think much if anything has gone to Macedonia from Albania. The containing force there at the moment appears to be 47th Div (probably keeping order in Montenegro), 53rd Div & 10th, 14th, 17th Mountain Bdes, two of which may be incorporated in the 62nd Div, if it still exists.

The only artillery unit I can definitely locate in Balkans is the 2nd Howitzer Bg of the 10th Mountain Artillery regiment (from intercepted correspondence of interned Austrian!) with the 103rd German Div. There are certainly many more Austrian artillery units there, but Lord alone knows which they are. The Italians won’t dish up the enemy artillery on their front other than in terms of guns – never by numbered regiments, batteries, etc, as the normal GS does, & information from Russia, seeing that the Intelligence mission is at Petrograd dependent for its information on Russian War Office, & not at GHQ, is correspondingly scanty & inaccurate.

The composition of units in the AH [Austro-Hungarian] army changes so rapidly that any attempt to reduce it to cut & dried book form in watertight compartments (as you can with the Boche army) seems foredoomed. The book as soon as written is found to be out of date.

However everyone here is anxious that I should carry on with it; and it certainly has been useful here in many ways, so I am going to produce it eventually. But it is awful work, so little reliable information being forthcoming, & so much being left to pure conjecture, that I sometimes give up all hope of making anything out of it.

I had a very interesting visit to the Italian front, of which I will tell you something; it was a welcome change after all the months of unrelieved monotony I had had at the WO.

No time for more
Yours

E M B Ingram

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/34)

Serbia must not be annihilated

French Marshal Joseph Joffre (1852-1931) was Commander in Chief of the French Army. He visited London briefly in October/November 1915 to confer with the British.

1 November 1915
Joffre’s visit ended. Supposed to have arranged Balkan policy. Help Servia [sic]. Must not be annihilated. Allies there now & Russians coming by Macedonia.

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

Senior French army delegation “jabbering French like monkeys and wasting our time”

Ralph Glyn’s mentor General Charles Callwell was not very impressed with our French allies.

War Office
Whitehall
SW

20/10/15

My dear Ralph

I thank you very much for your letter and for your useful notes. I will see what I can do with regard to improving the communication between you and this part of the world. I have already spoken frequently about this to Brade. I shall also suggest that there should be some system of liason between you and Salonika and Athens, organising a main base at Alexandria for both the Medforce and the Salonika force under Ellison may perhaps improve matters.

I have just come back from a visit to France and I would much liked to have had you with me as on the last occasion. Archie Murray and I went to see General Joffre at Chantilly about this Macedonian affair and when we got through we found he was starting the same evening for this country to talk matters over with our Government. The nett result of it all is that we are let in for sending additional troops to Salonika and for undertaking what looks to me like a serious campaign. The French idea was to snap up the troops from the Dardanelles and to pop them down at Salonika, but I think I succeeded in choking them off this and they now realise that the force for these new operations must come from France. All this, as you will understand, gives us a lot of work here at present, especially as Joffre and his party have been here to-day; the party jabbering French like monkeys and wasting our time. However, they have all gone off this evening and been got rid of.

The question of the Arabs is extraordinarily important and we are taking it up here very thoroughly. It is a matter that Lord K fully understands and is much interested in, but the Arabs are opening their mouths rather wide and the question of Syria is to some extent involved, which brings us against the French. Were it not for them we could fix them up in no time.

No time for more.

Yours sincerely
Chas E Callwell

PS I hope you are very fit, and think you should go to Salonika now and help there unless you are required at Mudros. I will mention this to Bell in my next letter.

Letter from General Callwell to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C24)