“Many of us feel there is a reasonable hope of a termination of hostilities before Christmas”

An army chaplain with links to Mortimer shares details of his life in Normandy.

Mr Bowden writes:-

Dear Vicar,

It is a long time since I sent a contribution to the Magazine, not that I have forgotten Mortimer but I have so little of interest to relate. My work is now in the docks area – I have charge of No. 2 General Hospital, on the quay alongside which the hospital ships lie and take in the wounded direct from the trains to convey them to Southampton. Any cases which prove too bad for the boat journey we take in to our hospital which is directly over the railway station, and occasionally we get a train load for treatment at No. 2. We have three very fine, airy wards; and a broad balcony facing the sea runs the whole length of the hospital; in the summer we place many beds out there – the men love to be in the open air and watch the shipping and the aircraft. The hospital commands a fine view of the town on one side and the mouth of the Seine with Trouville and Honfleur on the other.

In addition to hospital work I have some 1,500 Army Ordnance and 650 Army Service Corps men to work amongst. These are busy on the docks all day long but can be seen in the Recreation Huts and in their billets in the evening and at meal times.

There are plenty of amusements provided for them – some sort of entertainment almost every night. We also have recently acquired a recreation ground for their use and a cricket ground as well as a tennis court for officers and N.C.O.’s.

It might be of interest if I give my Sunday programme – I start early with a Celebration of Holy Communion at 6 a.m. for the A.O.D. in a little chapel near their quarters – another celebration at 7 a.m. for the hospital staff in a hut on the quay. This is always followed by a series of private Communions to sick men and officers in the various wards and huts; [sic] then back to breakfast. I used to have a Parade Service at 10-30 for the R.A.M.C. but have dropped it as it was an inconvenient time for the men. At 11-30 we have a Parade Service for the A.O.D. in one of the warehouses on the docks – the men climb up on the boxes all round a space left for the purpose – we have a good choir, an hearty service, and then the men go straight off to their dinner at noon, or soon after.

Then I have nothing till 5-15 when I hold Ward Services in hospital – these are very much appreciated by the patients and are of an informal nature as all denominations join in. The men love singing hymns and the Sisters come and help form a choir. At 7 p.m. we are now having open-air services in the A.S.C. camp on the river front between the docks and hospital. Here the men are mostly getting on in years – I believe the average age is about 42 – All younger men have long since been sent “up the line.” Of course a large portion of both A.S.C. and A.O.D. men have done their bit at the front in various units and have been sent back to work at the Base owing to wounds or some physical disability rendering them unfit for the fighting line.

Sometimes my day ends here or I have a service at the Y.M.C.A. or in one of the other huts, in turn with other Padres.

We have many destroyers constantly alongside the quays, the escorts for hospital ships, transports, &c. I go aboard when I can but generally most of the sailors are sleeping as they are working all night and its [sic] not often possible to hold a Service for them, but one gets some interesting talks with men and officers.

Just now we have a Mortimer man in hospital – Sergt. Shackleford – he is doing very well. He is only the second man I have met from the parish since I joined the B.E.F. – the other being Frank Parsons.

We are all very cheerful about the position of things just now and many of us feel there is a reasonable hope of a termination of hostilities before Xmas.

With best wishes to all friends.

Yours very sincerely,

W. S. Bowden, C.F.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P120/28A/14)

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Impress upon the children the urgent need for the prevention of waste in food

Schools in Newbury were struggling thanks to the war.

Thursday, May 24th, 1917

Resignation of Teachers

Mr G H Keen, an assistant master at the Council Boys’ School, had been called up for military service on May 18th, and it is recommended that his appointment be kept open for him.

The secretary was instructed to press for the release from military service of one of the Authority’s teachers who since his enlistment had been medically classified as low as C3, and in the event of this teacher being discharged from the Army to appoint him temporarily to the Council Boys’ School.

It may be mentioned that there were eight Assistant Masters in the service of the Local Education Authority before the war; but now there are only two in the whole of the Borough Schools, and one of these is filling the position temporarily….

Food Economy

A letter was received from the Board of Education calling attention to the urgent need for economy in food and especially for saving in bread, and stating that information had reached the Food Controller that there was waste among the children who brought their midday meal to school. The Sub-committee were informed that the matter had been brought to the notice of the Authority’s Head Teachers, and that they had been asked to impress upon the children the urgent need for the prevention of waste in food.

The Sub-committee were also informed that “Empire Day”, Thursday May 24th, was made the occasion in the Borough Schools for giving the children a special lesson on the subject of Food Economy, and also that copies of the recent Proclamation of the King were distributed in the schools.

The Sub-committee considered the question of providing a Public Kitchen for the use of children who bring their midday meal to school, and the secretary was instructed to ascertain the number of these children in the Borough Schools, and to submit a report on the matter to the next meeting….

Finance, School Management and General Purposes Sub-committee of the Newbury Borough Education Committee (N/AC1/2/8)

Not strong enough for military service

The Sub-Warden of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer, decided to take a curate’s job to allow a younger, stronger clergyman to serve as an army chaplain.

13 April 1917

The Revd G H Warlow, who had offered himself for National Service, has arranged to go back as curate to his old parish (Bury Lane) to take the place of the curate who is now an Army Chaplain, Mr Warlow himself not being strong enough for military service.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

Constant watchfulness keeping camps healthy

The maintenance of the River Thames was surprisingly important during the war – it provided healthy drainage of army camps, and entertainment for wounded soldiers.

THE WAR

At the outbreak of war there were 435 men in the Conservators’ employ, of whom 317 were eligible for service as regards age. Only 16 men have been temporarily exempted, and no appeal has been made on behalf of any unmarried man. Of the employees on active service 10 have unfortunately lost their lives.

Much difficulty has been experienced in engaging suitable substitutes, but with the employment of men either over military age or medically rejected, and with a close co-ordination between the various Departments, it has been found possible to carry on the work for which the Board is responsible.

RIVER PURIFICATION

The large number of military camps and other establishments recently set up in the watershed have necessitated a constant watchfulness on the part of the outdoor staff for the purpose of ensuring that the drainage disposal systems are effective, and in cases where such systems have not yet had the effect of preventing pollution, representations have been made to the responsible Officers, with the result that measures have been, or are being, carried out to meet the Conservators’ requirements. In view of the constantly changing population of the camps, continuous inspections are necessary to obviate pollution by misuse of the surface water systems.

GENERAL

During the year the river has been extensively used by wounded soldiers, and the practice has again been followed of placing the Conservators’ launches, as opportunity offered, at the disposal of Hospital Authorities, who have written expressing appreciation of the Conservators’ action.

Report to BCC of their representative to the Thames Conservancy Board, 3 April 1917, in Berkshire County Council minutes, 1917 (C/CL/C1/1/20)

War between Germany and the USA is in the balance

Will Spencer was still trying to find out news of young family friend Max Ohler, a German soldier reported missing. He was pleased to hear from younger brother Sydney, dong well in army training, but was now well settled in Swiss society. Back in England, Florence Vansittart Neale was keenly interested in the prospects of the US joining the war. Johann von Bernstorff was the German ambassador to America and had been involved in sabotage and intelligence work there, and had just been thrown out.

Will Spencer in Switzerland
12 February 1917

A letter from Sydney. Hopes that we may obtain news of Max Ohler from the War Office Prisoners of War Department, which can find out more than any single enquirer can. He enjoys reading my accounts of Switzerland. Has just passed the exam for “Marksman” with 135 points out of 160 (or something of that sort), none of the 28 men he took up with him scoring more than 113. (130 was required to pass.)…

At 5 I called again on Herrn Fursprecher Hodler (by appointement). My obtaining leave to declare a smaller amount of Kriegsteuer [war tax], after signing for 500 fr., dependent of goodwill of the official concerned, but I might make the attempt. An income of 4,800 fr. represents normally a capital of 120,000 francs, for which the tax would be (class 110,000-120,000) 275 francs. I handed in my short sketch of my career, & signed a declaration which he drew up, that military duty “[illegible word] meinem Falle nicht in Betracht” [is out of the question in my case].

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey
12 February 1917

Took dogs a walk again in afternoon – discussed War Savings & digging with Martin & Willie.

Bernstorff given safe conduct. So Gerard left Germany – war with US in the balance. Ag went to Boulogne.

We continually advancing on Somme & Avere. Constant raids.

Diaries of Will Spencer, 1917 (D/EX801/27); and Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

A scholarship resumed

Various teachers were serving their countries. The Education Committee had to deal with their absence.

Report of Higher Education Sub-committee, 13 January 1917

SCHOLARSHIPS

Mr E H Austin, whose County Scholarship at University College, Reading, was held over during his service in the Army, has not been passed for general service and has obtained postponement of embodiment to enable him to continue his College course. He has therefore returned to his studies.

Report of School Management Sub-committee, 13 January 1917

STAFFING

The Sub-committee record with regret that Mr Dowell, Assistant Master of Cranborne [sic] Ranelagh School, has been killed in action; and that Mr Glastonbury, Head Master of Thatcham CE School, and Mr R V Weaving, Assistant Master at Hungerford Council School, have been officially reported as “missing”.

LOWER BASILDON

The Managers have notifed their willingness to release their Head master for service in a larger School. The Managers have also agreed to allow the character of their School to be altered for the period of the war, the elder children being conveyed to Upper Basildon School; and Infants and Standard I only being taken at Lower Basildon School in charge of a Supplementary Teacher. The change takes effect from the beginning of the present term.

Report of By-Laws and Attendance Sub-committee, 13 January 1917

LOWER BASILDON CE

The Sub-committee have agreed to convey the elder children from Lower Basildon to Upper Basildon School, and on wet days back to their homes in the evening.

ATTENDANCE OFFICERS

The Sub-committee have appointed Mr E I R Walter as temporary Attendance Officer in place of Mr G H Edwards on Military Service.

Report of Education Finance Sub-committee, 13 January 1917

Mr J S James, first class clerk in the Secretary’s department, has been called up for military service and the Sub-committee have approved the appointment of a substitute to fill the vacancy.

Reports to Berkshire Education Committee, 1917 (C/CL/C1/1/20)

Rejected for active service

A student (probably a pupil teacher) was rejected for the army, enabling him to go on to further education.

19th September 1916.
T.E.Turner was absent today to attend a medical inspection at Reading Barracks by order of the military authorities. He was however rejected for “active service” and will be able to proceed to college in October.

Aldermaston School log book (88/SCH/3/3)

Gone to live with relations

A head teacher who had left for the army returned after his health broke down, while some families had to move house due to the breadwinner father joining the army.

Yattendon CE School
1916
Sept 5th

I resume charge of the school having been discharged from the Army as physically unfit for further service, after several months with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.

E. Crook.

Alwyn Road School
September 5th 1916

School reopened this morning. Some few children have left consequent on fathers going into Army and mothers going to live elsewhere with relations.

Yattendon CE School log book (SCH37/8/3); Cookham Alwyn Road School log book (88/SCH/18/1)

A record of which Burghfield might be proud

The war’s anniversary was commemorated on the 5th of August in Burghfield. It was an opportunity to take stock of the impact of the war locally.

THE SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF THE DECLARATION OF WAR

On Saturday, 5th August, at the Handicraft Room, Mrs Bland’s School, a well-attended meeting was held to commemorate this anniversary. Sir Wyndham Murray, as chairman, opened the proceedings with a few patriotic remarks which were heartily received; and was succeeded by Brigadier General F. Bridgeman of Beech Hill, late Scots Guards, and formerly member for Bradford, who, in an excellent speech, drew a striking contrast between the great Duke of Wellington and our foe the Kaiser. The well-known inscription on the Duke’s monument at Strathfieldsaye [sic] records that “he was honoured abroad for in all the might of conquest he was always just, considerate, and humane” and “he was beloved at home because he had great power, and ever used it well”. Such a record could never truly be written of the Kaiser. In concluding he quoted the message given to Joshua when he became commander-in-chief of the army of Israel, “Have not I commanded thee, be strong and very courageous, be not afraid neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee wheresoever thou goest”. He moved the following resolution, “That this meeting of the parishioners of Burghfield expresses its inflexible determination to continue the struggle to a victorious end”.

Colonel A. Welby, late Scots Greys, Secretary of the Patriotic Fund, and formerly member for Taunton (who said that he remembered camping on Burghfield Common in 1872 at autumn manoeuvres), seconded. He gave a stirring account of the performances of our Army and Navy, and spoke hopefully of the war.

The resolution having been put, and carried unanimously, Mr Willink, in proposing a vote of thanks to the chairman and speakers, which was played by the parish in relation to the war, and particularly to the 240 names upon the Roll of Honour. These names were nearly all names of persons residing in Burghfield at the time of enrolment (not counting those rejected as medically unfit); some however were names of men who, though they had left the parish, had been born and bred in it, and were fairly entitled to be included. It was a record of which Burghfield might be proud. (Mr Willink hopes that parishioners will study from time to time the Roll of Honour, now hanging in the church porch, and will tell him of any omissions, or misdescriptions, or alterations, which ought to be attended to.) Mr Lousley, seconding, paid a warm tribute to the services of women in Burghfield, both on the land and in war work of various kinds. Nor were the Scouts forgotten, nor the 600 hospital appliances made on that very room, nor the eggs and vegetables sent to the hospitals in abundance.

The proceedings ended with the singing of the National Anthem. The resolution has been duly sent to the Committee for Patriotic Organisations, to be added to the numerous identical resolutions passed more or less simultaneously at similar meetings throughout the country.


Burghfield parish magazine, October 1916 (D/EX725/3)

One of Scott’s best men killed

Apsley Cherry-Garrard, a veteran of Scott’s Antarctic expedition, was now definitely declared unfit for further service. One of his companions in the Antarctic was naval officer Harry Pennell, a casualty of the Battle of Jutland in May 1916.

June 12, 1916

Lamer Park
Wheathampstead
Herts

Dear Farrer

I saw a specialist on Wed. He says he feels sure there is no alteration now inside me – but inflammation etc etc & that this will go on a very long time.

I am very gradually to get on my legs a bit & under a year I ought to be able to lead a fairly normal life, but the process will cause an increase of pain & sickness. That the Admiralty will not, & should not vex me again.

One of Scott’s best men, Pennell, went down with the Queen Mary.

Yours ever
ACG

Letter from Apsley Cherry-Garrard (D/EHR/Z9/61)

More useful at school than in the army

The headmaster of the church primary school in Warfield looked likely to escape military service, as he was not fit enough to go to the front.

10th May 1916

I was attested for military duty at Bracknell on December 10 and reported myself at Reading Barracks on May 6. The military doctor placed me in category 11 Field Service at Home. A letter from the Berkshire Education Committee received this morning says that the recruiting officer will not call me up without reference to the Board of Education Whitehall. It is the opinion of the military authorities that I am more useful at school than I would be if taken for Field Service at Home.

Warfield CE School log book (C/EL26/3, p. 342)

“I wish this — war was over”

Maysie Wynne-Finch was relieved her husband was still not fit enough to return to the trenches. The reference to Drino Battenberg is to Prince Alexander of Battenberg (1886-1960), a grandson of Queen Victoria and a cousin of the Czar. Barry Domvile was a respected naval officer during the First World War. His new wife, Alexandrina, was actually a naturalised British citizen of German ancestry, and Domvile was to become a notorious Nazi sympathiser in the Second World War.

April 16/16

Elgin Lodge
Windsor

My darling R.

Yours of 6th came today. Thank you so much. In spite of all your sorrows you must be warm, which is more than we are – it remains bitter & beastly here. You can imagine how thankful I was when the docs refused to pass John for France. They told him not for 3 months, however they’ve made his papers out apparently for two – so perhaps he’ll get out in June. Meantime tho’ we have plunged & taken a house here till July. I think I told you how sick we are at having to turn out of this one next week. You really should have made it your business to keep Pares in Egypt!! The tiresome man now only expects to get a few days leave apparently but insists on turning us out & carting his wife & family back here, she writes as annoyed as we are!

We’ve taken that big house, Essex Lodge, you may remember – the Follettes had last year. It’s ruinous & much too big – but it was that or a 4 roomed cottage, so we fell to it. It’s got a nice garden & tennis court which is nice.

We had M: Bovil here last Sunday, on the Sat we went all over the Royal Farm. It was most interesting, some fine animals. The most solid Scotch of bailiffs took us round, a beautiful person, who I discovered was a Morayshire man, & his accent reminded me of election days! He was with the Duke of R[ichmond] at Goodwood before.

HM comes down here on Thursday, the immediate result has been to fill every open space here with red & perspiring men being initiated into the more particular forms & mysteries of Guard mounting by blasphemous & heated NCOs.

We went up & stayed with Meg the night before John’s Board, as he was up to see Farmer the day before. We had great fun, Wisp & the Barry Domviles there, & we went on to the Empire. Quite agood show. The biograph of the troops in France most interesting. Sloper Mackenzie & his terrible wife sat just in front of us. She looks too evil. Young Drino Battenberg was with them. He is becoming most terribly like the C. Prince of Russia. Mrs Barry seems a very nice little thing, but has an awful voice – doubtless Barry being deaf does not notice this much….

Billy [Wynne-Finch] is ill, but refuses to tell anyone where or how he is. His colonel reported he’d gone sick with bronchitis & both lungs touched, but he continues to write as tho’ nothing’s the matter. He’s at some base hospital. Funny boy. I don’t fancy he can be really bad, I hope not, & just now people are safer anyhow than in the trenches, especially where they are. More wild & persistent rumours last week of a sea fight & as usual the Lion damaged – but I don’t hear any truth to it….

Too odd, we saw Geo. Steele last week, whose Brigade is right down the south of our line, & he said they do everything even to patrolling in punts! Meg showed me the MEF creed – how priceless. Who wrote it? The 1st are due in camp in the Park here next month, also some infantry division, they say…

Love from us both darling, and oh dear it seems a weary long time since Dad & I saw you off Oct 9th. I wish this — war was over.

Your ever loving Maysie

Letter from Maysie Wynne-Finch to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/4)

“If only there was a man at the Head with more heart, more imagination, & less astute worldly wiseman view of the Church and its interests!

Sybil Campbell wrote to her sister in law Lady Mary Glyn with exciting news of a shipwreck in the Inner Hebrides.

Ap. 10/16
Tiree

My dear M.

Tomorrow is mail day, & my daily Light is full of memorial dates. I am here for the Red Cross, & odds & ends. Rather a sad island, hating “the Tribunal”, & the compulsion. A really sad lot get off on physical defects, but of 19 attested, 13 had varicose veins, & other things speaking of inbreeding. But, the spirit is not of submission to the “will of God”.

We have had a shipwrecked crew on the island. The Admanton, 4000 ton coal for fleet from Cardiff, sent down by the fire of a submarine between Barra & Sherryvore, about 10 miles off us. Heavy firing was heard by many & the coast watchers were reporting, then at 2 a large ship’s boat of very exhausted men made for “Sahara”, the one port on the north side, & that a mere creek.

About 7, seeing nothing, they were fired at, the shot passing over the bridge, then a torpedo passed under the boat, but as she had discharged the cargo she was light & it passed under the bow. One German, knowing her unarmed, proceeded to finish her with shell. The men tumbled to their boats, the Germans left these alive, “behaving well as they could have shelled us under in no time”. It was a rough wild morning & a very frozen crew of 9 with the captain landed after battling from 7 a.m. to 2. The captain got a change & some tea from the township, & then drove over to Island House to report to the Admiralty & owners. They came from Cardiff, a little Welshman.

I happened to be at Island House as he drove up. It was curious to see & hear all 1st hand. They say that 7 have been destroyed lately on this line to the main fleet. MacD[onald?] a patrol captain in Oban, & to the Rear Admiral at Cromarty. The 2nd boat separated. She was seen further east & the captain thought she would get into Coll.

On Sunday a.m. the patrol boats came racing in here. The Oban one took off the crew, & were able to report the 2nd boat had been picked up off the kairns of Coll & taken to Tobermory. Several injured men in her, then a 2nd patrol boat is now stationed here, & cruises round. She has Marines on board,& they landed yesterday & were at various houses asking for a drink of milk, & getting it, & tho’ they offered money none would take it. I daresay the patrols are a little annoyed for an islander saw & reported the conning tower of a submarine between us & the Dutchman, & tho’ a patrol came, I fancy they were all a little incredulous.

We think this beat has not been enough patrolled, the patrols lying thick in & around Stornoway. This boat is to make Tiree its headquarters for a month. It is rough & bitter work for all concerned.
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Terribly sad – but a splendid ideal of self-sacrifice

A Newbury teacher left his school for the trenches, as two other young men were reported killed.

The Managers of the Schools have presented Miss Bell with a Bible, in recognition of the nearly twenty years’ service in the Boys School, which she finished last year; and have presented Mr Nicklen with a wrist watch, on his leaving the school for the Army, he having been a few months longer than Miss Bell a teacher at the School. Mr Nicklen also received a handsome case of pipes together with a pouch from the teachers and the boys. Mr G F Pyke is at present medically prevented from joining the Army, as he wished to do.

The Deanery Secretary of UMCA, Miss Howard, has been endeavouring to arrange for the Annual Meeting in the Oddfellows’ Hall, but it seems better to postpone the meeting to some date after Lent… In the meantime the Mission remains, as ever, in urgent need of prayer and assistance. We hope that the successful prosecution of the Campaign in East Africa will soon result in the setting free of the Missionaries imprisoned within.

We offer our sincerest sympathies to Mr and Mrs Brown, of 47 Northbrook Street, and Mr and Mrs Breach, of 13 Victoria Street, on their loss of a son at the War. It is terribly sad to think of all these fine young fellows being called away so suddenly, and of the great sorrow that is being caused in so many homes: but they are raising up for the Nation a splendid ideal of self-sacrifice.

Newbury parish magazine, April 1916 (D/P89/28A/13)

The greatest war of history still rages

The Burghfield parish magazine reported on the numbers to join up in the parish, as well as those contributing at home.

CHRISTMAS AND THE NEW YEAR
The second War Christmas has come and gone; the Angels’ message of “Peace on earth” seemed strangely out of tune with actual facts when, instead of peace, the greatest war of history still rages and there is upon the earth “distress of nations with perplexity”. Yet it served to remind us once more of what we believe was the Divine intention for mankind, and of how far, alas! man has thwarted the good purposes of God. And yet there is a sense in which the beautiful story of Bethlehem and the “Peace that passeth all understanding” must have come home to many hearts this year…

We are all, I hope, beginning the new year seriously and hopefully. The solemn act in which we are called to join on the first Sunday in the year means – in the words of our archbishop – “nothing less than the rededication to God of our life as it is, in the firm belief that He will pardon and mend and strengthen us. We brace ourselves anew, soldiers and civilians, at home and abroad, to discharge the trust of so arming and fighting and conquering as to establish hereafter among the nations of the earth a simpler life, a simpler faith, a firmer fellowship, an enduring peace”.

War Hospital Supplies Association
(Officially recognised by the War Office)

A branch in connection with Holiday House was formed early in November. Mrs George, Mrs Gripper, and Mrs Kirkwood will be glad of all the help they can get. Up to date over 400 articles have been sent into the Reading Depot. Work parties meet on Mondays, at Miss Gripper’s, and on Fridays at Holiday House, where samples and materials will be supplied. Splints, bandages, towels, pillows, bed-jackets, etc are wanted in hundreds. Contributions of money are gladly received where personal service cannot be given; and an Entertainment in aid of the fund will be given in the New Schools, by the Holiday House Dramatic Society, at the end of January.

BURGHFIELD AND THE WAR
The “Roll of Honour” hanging on the inner doors of the church has grown steadily until it now contains more than 190 names of “Burghfield men” who either (a) are or have been actually serving during this war in some naval or military capacity, or (b) have offered themselves under Lord Derby’s Scheme, have been accepted, and are enlisted in the Reserve for service in due course. No doubt the Roll is not too exclusive. On the one hand, members of any well-known old Burghfield family have been treated as admissible (under certain conditions) for enrolment, though no longer living in the parish). And, on the other hand, it was impossible to leave out men who in fact had enlisted or been called up from the parish, although they were only temporary residents, e.g. migratory labourers, employees of private persons, etc.

But, allowing for extreme cases, it is still a goodly list; and if account is also taken of the men, numbering more than 40, who since the beginning of the war have definitely offered themselves, but have been rejected as medically unfit, and of the 20 or so who have served, but are past the age of useful service, the parish may well feel some patriotic pride, saddened though we may be by the recollection of those who have given up their lives for their country.

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