“Very proud of this honour”

Members of the Broad Street Brotherhood, the men’s group at the Congregational Church, enjoyed some vicarious pride in the progress of Victor Smith, their leaders son, while another elderly official decided to devote his full attention to managing the hospitality the church offered to soldiers in Reading.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

Our first duty this month is to most cordially congratulate Captain L. Victor Smith, MC, on his well deserved promotion. We of the Brotherhood feel very proud of this honour which has been bestowed upon our President’s son.

Following on the visit of Miss Darker, the secretary of the War Savings Committee of Reading, the matter was again brought before our Brothers at a recent Sunday meeting, and an appeal for those who wished to form a War Saving Association on connection with the Brotherhood was made; but the response was not sufficient to warrant us starting one. Should any brothers wish to purchase War Savings Certificates, they can do so through the Savings Bank.

At the last General Committee, Brother W A Woolley tendered his resignation as secretary, explaining that he was obliged to give up this office on account of not enjoying such good health as he would wish, and to enable him to devote more time to the great work he has undertaken in connection with the Soldiers’ Welfare Committee.

The Soldiers’ Welfare Committee is catering for our wounded soldiers, and men and women in khaki, every afternoon and evening in the [Sunday] Schoolroom, and many of our brothers are helping in this good work; but still further help would be appreciated as the number of soldiers using the room is considerably increasing each day.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, November 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

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From Buckingham Palace to the Front

A Burghfield man was honoured.

Honours and Promotions
On the 7th November Captain G O W Willink received his MC at Buckingham Palace, at the hands of the King. He has returned to the Front.

Burghfield parish magazine, December 1917 (D/EX725/4)

Dead meat

The Caversham clergyman who had signed up as an army chaplain was sent to a hospital. He sent back this very graphic account of one patient’s appalling wounds – a trigger warning may be in order before you scroll down.

S. Andrew’s
Things seen in a hospital

I am glad they have made a Hospital Chaplain if only because it brings one into contact with such an amount of heroism, patience, and persevering industry. It is greater than anything I had ever dared to believe existed in this England of ours.

I was asked this morning to help with a dressing; a man had been badly smashed; there were other wounds as well; one in particular in the hip that was bad, but it was the arm that chiefly mattered. I say an arm but it looked to me almost like a piece of dead meat; for a moment I thought the hand had been amputated, but then I saw there were fingers, or what had once been fingers. I was asked to support the wrist and the elbow, and more skilful hands than mine directed me where I was to hold; there was nothing which gave any indication to me as to the position of the wrist and elbow. And then they began to examine, and I will try to remember wounds; there was one I know in the palm of the hand, but that could not be dressed then, time and the patient’s strength did not permit; there was one somewhere above the wrist; there was a gaping one where the elbow joint had been excised; there was another a little above that, and there was one on the back of the shoulder that was very difficult to reach.

He had only just come in to our Hospital though he had been four months wounded, and one tried to picture what that arm had been like at the beginning of the treatment which had gone on for those four months in that French Hospital. The wounds had not been dressed during the thirty-six hour s that he had been traveling, and they were dirty and very painful. The sister had not yet learnt how to handle him deftly nor the exact position of all the wounds, and in moving the arm and getting off the dressings she could not help causing him exquisite torture which he shewed by screwing up his face, but he never uttered a cry.

Meanwhile, partly to distract his attention from what was being done to him I asked him to tell me his story and he told me of all the long months during which the doctor in France had worked on his arm. The elbow had been excised as far back as May 1st; then there had come a time when the doctor had given up hope and decided to take the arm off, but it so chanced that the day on which it was to come off was the day that the King and Queen had chosen to visit the Hospital and there were no operations; then the next day there was a slight improvement and the doctor determined to try a little longer and the arm was saved. And now the order had gone out to empty all French hospitals to make room for fresh wounded and the doctor had sent his patient home to Blighty, just pinning on his army papers a brief note, “let us know how he goes on.” That was his reward for all the self-sacrificing work, just to know that it had not all been in vain.

And while the man was telling the story the dressing was going on and occasional spasms of pain shot across his face. The Sister was not too occupied to forget that he might be feeling faint and sent for some soda water. There was even time for merriment when she found ointment of some kind on his shoulder and laughingly remarked she was sure it was some doctor put that on. All doctors are supposed to love ointment, and most nurses hate it, chiefly, one suspect, because they have to get it off again.

It was all just an incident part of the daily routine of a base Hospital, but I wanted to hug everyone connected with it, doctors, nurses, patients and all. A pawkey Scottish private who was helping remarked that it was nothing, that when a corporal in his company had won the V.C. he had forty wounds, but only twenty-nine of them had been serious. I asked what had become of him, and he said, “Ah, he’s living yet; he lost an arm, and an eye, and some fingers of the other hand and I misremember whether he lost a leg or no, but he’s worth fifty dead ‘uns.”

Some of the men in another hospital were talking about the various military decorations; they talked of the men who had won the Military Medal and the Military Cross, but when it came to the Victoria Cross they said that a man was generally dead by the time he had won the Victoria Cross in the war.
THOS. BRANCKER.

Caversham parish magazine, November 1917 (D/P162/28A/7)

“We earnestly pray that our friend may be kept from all harm in the difficult and dangerous work in which he is engaged”

A former member of Broad Street Congregational Church had been reported killed, but there was better news from local hero Victor Smith.

We extend our sympathy, too, to the relatives of the late Sergeant A Middlemost, of the South African Contingent. Before emigrating to South Africa, Sergeant Middlemost was an active member of the Young Men’s Institute. In the early days of the war he joined up with the South African forces, and he has now paid the supreme sacrifice for his country. Those who knew him will ever cherish his memory with affection.

The many friends of Captain L. Victor Smith, MC, have been greatly pleased to hear of his recent promotion, and they would unite in heartiest congratulations to him and his parents – our esteemed friends Mr and Mrs Chas Steward Smith – and in good wishes for the future. Captain Smith is the first of our Broad Street representatives to win his captaincy in the present war, and he has done it in a remarkably short time. It is not long since we were rejoicing in the MC which he had won for conspicuous bravery, and now comes this further cause for gratification. We earnestly pray that our friend may be kept from all harm in the difficult and dangerous work in which he is engaged.

The way in which our schoolrooms are crowded each afternoon by wounded soldiers, and each evening by other men and women in khaki, gives ample proof of the need for such work as is now being efficiently done by the church. I [the minister] should like to thank the many ladies and gentlemen who have so readily come to our assistance in this matter. They need no assurance from me that it is abundantly worth while.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, November 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

The introduction of compulsory service has rather changed the situation

The parish of Burghfield was keeping track of local men serving in the war.

THE WAR

The Roll of Honour

A list kept by the Rector, of those Burghfield men who since the beginning of the war have laid down their lives for their country and the just cause of the Allies, hangs near the reading-desk in the Church.

The full Roll, including those who have offered and been accepted for immediate or deferred service, is kept up to date by Mr. Willink so far as possible, and hangs in the Church Porch. The introduction of compulsory service has rather changed the situation: but he will be glad to receive names of men not already on the Roll but actually serving, together with the exact title of their ship or unit, also notice of any honours or promotions, wounds or deaths.

The list of wounded is growing long. Happily most cases are light. But it should be known by everybody that any disabled man is entitled to free training, if necessary or possible in some trade, and to be helped in finding employment. Information can be obtained at any Post Office. In cases of delay or difficulty in this matter, or in regard to Pensions or Allowances, applications should be made to the Berkshire War Pensions Committee through Mr. or Mrs Willink, who are on the Reading Rural Sub Committee.

Honours

Colonel Sir Wyndham Murray, of Culverlands, formerly C.B whose distinguished services in past times are well known, has been made K.C.B. He has acted as King’s Messenger during the War, and has repeatedly visited the front. He and Lady Murray have also received certain Japanese decorations.

Captain G. O. W. Willink was mentioned in Despatches in May, and has just been awarded the Military Cross for distinguished conduct in August. He has commanded “A” Coy in the 2/4 R. Berks Regt. Since he went out in July 1916, and has seen service in many parts of the line in France and Flanders.

Burghfield parish magazine, October 1917 (D/EX725/4)

Khaki Socials have proved a great boon to very many

Soldiers and airmen were entertained weekly on Sunday evenings at Broad Street Church in Reading.

Now that the darker evenings are upon us, arrangements have been made to resume the “Khaki Socials”, which have been held every Sunday evening in the winter months since shortly after the war began. These Socials have proved a great boon to very many. Sunday, October 14th, is the day fixed for re-opening, and we shall hope to see then many of our old friends, and many new ones also.

The running of these Socials – seeing that light refreshments are provided free of cost – involves us in expense. But of this we shall have more to say in our next month’s issue.

The many friends of Lieut. Oswald Francis (son of our friends, Mr and Mrs Ernest Francis) will be glad to hear that he has been awarded the Military Cross “for exceptional valour and devotion to duty through the battles east of Ypres” in August. We heartily congratulate both Lieut. Francis and his parents on the honour which he has won, and we earnestly hope he may live for many years to enjoy it.

The aforementioned article appeared in the October church magazine. There was a follow up report in December:

KHAKI SOCIALS

The Khaki Socials which have proved such an interesting part of our winter programme since the war began, were resumed after the evening service on Sunday, October 14th. There was a very good attendance for the opening meeting, and the number has increased with each succeeding Sunday. There is no doubt about the popularity of these Socials, nor can there be any doubt of their usefulness. Quite apart from the number attending – which in itself is no mean testimony – we have the frequent expressions of gratitude from those who deeply appreciate what is being done. There is nothing stiff or formal about these gatherings, but a delightful homelike feeling which greatly appeals to our friends in khaki.

Music – vocal and instrumental – and recitations form the chief items in the weekly programme, and these are interspersed with hymns in which all present heartily join.

Members of the Royal Flying Corps have to leave us at 10 o’clock, but most of our other khaki friends remain for the family worship with which we close the proceedings at 9.30 pm.

We are sorry that owing to our limited accommodation we cannot invite more of our Broad Street friends to join us for these gatherings, but we can assure them that, in their name, a very helpful bit of work is being done by the ladies and gentlemen who gladly give their services week by week.

Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, October and December 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Remembered as a little boy

A soldier who had lived in Earley as a small child was awarded a major medal.

Our congratulations are offered to Leslie Shepherdson – who will be remembered here as a little boy in S Bartholomew’s Road, son of Mr and Mrs Shepherdson of Angmering, Sussex – on having won the Military Cross. Mr Leslie Shepherdson is now a 2nd Lieut. in the Durham Light Infantry.

Earley St Nicolas parish magazine October 1917 (D/P192/28A/14)

The wounded are mostly doing well

There was news for many Reading families.

The Vicar’s Notes
Intercessions

For God’s blessing on S. Mary’s Dedication Festival.
For all our fighting men (especially among the wounded), Charles Woodman (suffering from shell-shock), Alfred Stanbridge, and William Yellen.
For George Patrick Wickham Legg, who has just joined the Army.
For the fallen, especially Reginald Martin, one of the Bible class, killed by a sniper in France; Willie Healey (of Cherry Court), R.I.P.

Thanksgiving
For the granting of the Military Medal to Frederick Nunn (Hope Street)

S. Saviour’s District
Roll of Honour

The names of those from the district who have fallen in this War are now placed in the Church, on a framed roll kindly presented by Mrs Ward. Crucifix, brass candlesticks, vases for flowers, and all kind gifts, are placed with the roll of honour, on the prayer desk near the Chapel. John Warren Wells, one of the latest names, was killed on April 28th. He had been thrice wounded, and was granted the Military Cross posthumously.

Wounded

We regret to hear that George Jacobs has been obliged to have his left foot amputated. The operation fortunately seems to have been successful.

Among those recently wounded are Thomas Howarth, Albert William Shillingford, and Leonard Lee. We are glad to hear the wounded are mostly doing well.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, September 1917 (D/P98/28A/15)

Gallantry in the field

Men from the Bracknell area had mixed fortunes.

Ascot

We are sorry to hear of the loss of Wm. J. Hawthorn in the “Vanguard.”

Bracknell

It has been reported that 2nd Lieut. R. F. Needham is missing. He was in the fight on the dunes on the coast when the Northamptonshire and K.R. Regiments suffered so heavily. The deep sympathy of many friends is felt with Colonel and Mrs. Needham.

Winkfield

OUR MEN WHO ARE SERVING.

We are proud to be able to record this month the decoration of three more Winkfield men for gallantry in the field. Lieut. Cecil Hayes-Sadler, R.E, who has been serving lately with the French forces has been given the Croix de Guerre. Lieut. Wilfred Lloyd, R.E., has won the Military Cross, after having been recommended for it once before, and Corporal R. Nickless, 6th Royal Warwicks, has been awarded the Military Medal.

We regret to learn that Pte. Joseph Baker is ill in hospital with gas poisoning. He was able to write home himself, so we hope he will soon be completely recovered.

Signaller Fred Holmes has been invalided out of the Army. He was a member of our choir and one of the first Winkfield men to volunteer in August 1914, and he has seen a great deal of service at the front. We sincerely hope that he will soon obtain suitable work and in time completely recover his health.

Sergt. Leonard Tipper (Middlesex Regt), has lately gone out to France and we trust will be remembered in our prayers.

Winkfield District Magazine, August 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/8)

Gallant service since 1914

A veteran of the first days of the war and the Retreat from Mons was rewarded for his service.

The Military Cross

We tender our most sincere congratulations to Captain John Boyd, of the Coldstream Guards, on winning the Military Cross.

Captain Boyd was Lieutenant and Quartermaster in the Coldstream Guards when the War broke out in August 1914. He was immediately sent to France, and from the days of Mons to the present time he has been with his regiment at the Front. His many friends learn with the greatest of pleasure of this latest recognition of his gallant service.

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

“Shell shock rendered him unconscious for five days, and left him deaf and dumb for a time”

There was sad news for some Winkfield families, although other men had distinguished themselves.

OUR MEN WHO ARE SERVING.

We tender our heartfelt sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Thurmer, who have to mourn the loss of their son Fred (of the Royal Berks Regt.) killed in action. This is the third son they have lost in this War and all will earnestly hope that another son now at the Front will be spared to return home safely to them.

Much sympathy is also felt for Mr. and Mrs. Holloway, who soon after hearing of the death in action of the second son they have lost in the war, were informed that a third son, Charles, is missing and probably a prisoner of war.

Pte. F. Onion has been ill with trench fever but is now well on the way to recovery, and we are also glad that Pte. Albert Carter has quite recovered, and that Pte. John Carter is going on well. Pte. George Higgs has been ill in France, but is now convalescent.

Trooper Alfred Brant lately sailed to join the Mediterranean Force and his parents have just heard of his safe arrival in Egypt. Pte. Fred Johnson and Pte. Fred Blay have gone to France. We regret that inadvertently we omitted to mention that Lance-Corporal Frank Brant is now serving in France, and has been at the Front for some time.

We are delighted to hear that Lieut. Cecil Ferard has won the Military Cross at Salonika, and tender warm congratulations. We also heartily congratulate Pte. James Winnen who has been recommended for the Military Medal “for gallant conduct in the field on March 21st” (which happens to be his birthday). He hear the good news whilst in Hospital, suffering from shell shock which rendered him unconscious for five days, and left him deaf and dumb for a time; but he has, we are glad to hear now completely recovered and re-joined his regiment.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, July 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/7)

Conspicuous bravery

A member of Reading’s Broad Street Church was awarded a medal.

The news that our friend, 2nd Lieut. Victor Smith, had won the Military Cross for conspicuous bravery at the Battle of Arras, has caused considerable pleasure throughout our whole community. Lieut. Smith has a host of friends and well-wishers at Broad Street, who hold him in the highest regard for his own sake, as well as for his work’s sake. They rejoice in his new honour. I wish to offer heartiest possible congratulations to Lieut. Smith and our earnest hope and prayer that he may be spared for many years to enjoy his new distinction….

Sunday June 17th is the day fixed for the Annual Choir Festival this year, when special music will be rendered by the choir at both morning and evening worship…

For many years now the members of the choir have been entertained to a River Trip, the expenses incurred being met, in large part, by the collections taken at the Festival. This year, owing to the conditions brought about by the war, they have decided to forego this outing. Instead they propose to invite a number of wounded soldiers to a Garden Party at which tea will be served and a concert provided. The cost of this entertainment will be more than usual, as it will be impossible to invite friends to buy tickets and thus share the expense.

We feel sure that the congregation will appreciate this patriotic desire of the choir members, and encourage them in their good work by giving generously to the collections.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, June 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Fallen leading his men forward with the most devoted courage

Two young men from a Reading parish fought in the Battle of Arras. Their families received very different news as a result.

We shall all join in congratulating Lay-Reader Mr Pugh and Mrs Pugh on the honour won by their son Lieutenant M. Pugh, who has been awarded the Military Cross for his exceedingly gallant and skilful handling of his men in the great attack of Easter Monday. And while our hearts go out to them in their loss, we still cannot but congratulate our dear friends Mr and Mrs Francis Wright on their heroic son Melville, who fell in the same great battle, while leading his men forward with the most devoted courage.

ST JOHN’S WAR SAVINGS ASSOCIATION

A good start has been made, 17 members have been enrolled, and already 6 certificate have been purchased out of the subscriptions.

Reading St. John parish magazine, May 1917 (D/P172/28A/24)

A very gallant officer and gentleman, recklessly brave and a fine example of cool courage

The Old Boys of Reading School were distinguishing themselves at the Front.

O.R. NEWS.

Killed in Action.

2nd Lieut. Norman A. Howell, King’s Shropshire Light infantry. On December 23rd.

He is the second son of Mr. W. Roland Howell, architect, of this town. Born at Reading in April 1897, he was educated at Reading School and St. Laurence College, Ramsgate, and had been about a year in his father’s office before joining the Army in November, 1915. His cadet training at school and college enabled him to get his commission. He was posted to the King’s Shropshire’s, was ordered to the front at the end of June last, and has been in the thick of the Somme fighting for six months. Lieut. Norman Howell came home on his first leave on December 6th and returned on the 16th. Within a week he had made the great sacrifice.

His Commanding Officer wrote to Mr. Howell on December 24th:

“I deeply regret to report the death of your son, who was serving in my Battalion. Whilst going up to the front line trenches in charge of a party last night an enemy sniper shot him through the head, killing him instantly. This morning his body was buried by the Chaplain near where he fell, with military honours, officers and men attending.

“I had trench mortars and rifle grenades on the sniper’s post, patrols had reported 8 to 10 Huns there, none there now! On behalf of his comrades, officers, N.C.O.’s and men, I wish to convey to you our profound sympathy . He was loved and respected by all of us, and we mourn the loss of a very gallant officer and gentleman. To all of us he was known as recklessly brave and a fine example of cool courage, devoted to his duties, which he discharged most cheerfully under the most trying conditions.”

“I placed him in charge of the Lewis Gun detachment, on which he had set his heart and soul. He belonged to my own Headquarters’ mess, and I took particular interest in him. A cross has been put up on the grave near Les Boeufs.”

It will be remembered that in October, 1915, Mr. Howell’s elder son, 2nd Lieut. Roland Basil Howell, was reported “wounded and missing.” Nothing has since been heard of him, and any hopes of his being alive hangs on the very slenderest thread. On the 16th of last month the War Office wrote saying that they were now forced to believe he was killed.

Lieut. Basil Howell was born in October, 1895, and received his commission in the 4th North Staffordshire’s three months after the war started. He was attached to the Northumberland Fusiliers (the Fighting Fifth), and went to the front in May, 1915.

Reports received from the front show that on the night of October 1st-2nd, 1915, the battalion to which Lieut. Howell was attached were in severe action. After all the officers of the company had been killed he gallantly led a bombing party to attack a German trench, but was never seen again.

Every possible enquiry was made through the War Office, the American Embassy, the Red Cross, and the wounded men who returned to England. Many references were made by the latter to the respect and love they had for the brave young officer. Like his brother he was educated at Reading School and St Laurence College, and had started his training to follow in his father’s profession. For many years he was an enthusiastic scout, and took a big share in starting the South Reading Troop.

Lieut. Cedric Charles Okey Taylor, East Kent Regiment, attached to Trench Mortar Battery, only son of Mrs. Taylor, 39, Weltje Road, Ravenscroft Park, W., and of the late Mr. Charles Warmsley Taylor, of Reading. Further details are now to hand of Lieut. Taylor’s death.

He died for King and country on December 3rd, 1916, in his 22nd year. Young in years but old in endurance, he was in constant action for 15 months at Ypres in 1915 and on the Somme in 1916. He is laid to rest in the cemetery, at Faubourg d’Amiens, Arras.

2nd Lieut. W. Marsden Cooper, Worcestershires, only son of Mr. and Mrs. John Cooper, 107, London Street, Reading, aged 19.

Cooper was only 19 years of age and went out to the front in the Worcestershire’s about the middle of December, shortly after completing his course at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was educated at Reading School, where he gained a Council scholarship in 1909. His School career was unusually distinguished. In 1914 he gained a School Certificate followed the next year by a higher certificate.

In response to his country’s call, he decided to take a commission, and in the entrance examination for the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, held in February, 1916, he came out second on the list, gaining a Prize Cadetship. At Sandhurst his success was no less pronounced than at school, and he gained the position of Sergeant in his cadet unit, the highest position a cadet can obtain, before he left College. Not only did he have considerable intellectual gifts, as his record shows but he was a fine athlete as well. He was an excellent all round cricketer and his natural powers as a bowler would have enabled him to make his mark in really good company. As a Rugby Football player he showed great promise, and before he left school he had the distinction of being captain of football, captain of cricket and captain of the school. Yet he was never elated by success, and perhaps it was more than anything else his modesty which made him so popular with the boys and the masters alike. Those who have watched his career, for the last two years, and marked the way in which his development always seemed to keep pace with his new responsibilities feel a special grief that a young life so full of promise should have been brought thus prematurely to a close.
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“Every one of us has volunteered to go as an Army Chaplain”

The need for army chaplains was rising.

RECTOR’S LETTER (EXTRACT)

My Dear Friends,

As you are well aware the need of the moment is general enlistment for National Service. The Director-General treats the doctors and the clergy as special classes whose “services are required in particular directions.” The clergy have to make their offer of service through their Bishops. The Bishop of Oxford has sent a letter to his clergy in which he points out that “in the case of the clergy our national service is primarily that to which our ordination has pledged us.”

When the Bishop was here on the occasion of the Confirmation he informed me that there was great need of Army Chaplains, for though many clergy had volunteered, not all were considered suitable for the work. He also told me that he wanted one at least of the clergy working in this parish for service elsewhere. I am glad to say that every one of us has volunteered to go as an Army Chaplain or in fact do whatever the Bishop Requires. I have sent him our “forms of offer,” and he is going to select whichever of us he thinks is most suitable for the desired work and can be best spared from the parish.

I wish, however, to point out that since the war began we have been one short of the proper number of clergy for this parish, and Mr. Neison in consequence has been doing double work at S. John’s. When our staff is reduced still further it will be impossible to continue the number of services which have been somewhat lavishly provided in this parish, but if the laity have to an extra half mile to Church or get up somewhat earlier I hope they will do so cheerfully.

Pharaoh tried to make the Israelites supply an undiminished “tale of bricks,” after he had cut off the necessary provision of straw, but the final result was disastrous for Pharaoh, and I intend to profit from his example.

I regret to say that I omitted last month to include among the Honours won by Caversham men, the military cross bestowed upon the Rev. W.M. Austin for the part he played in helping to defeat the Prussian guard at the Thiepval on August last. Mr. Austin has now risen to the rank of acting Major in the 1st Wiltshire Regt., and has written to his mother expressing the grateful thanks of the men of his regiment for the socks (70 pairs), cigarettes and tobacco so kindly forwarded by friends.

Caversham parish magazine, March 1917 (D/P162/28A/7)