It is hoped that the attendances at the Intercession Services will be as large and the progress as real as during the last four anxious years

The war might be over, but there was still plenty to pray for.


For four years the first Sunday in the year has been observed as a Day of Intercession for our cause in the Great War. This year the Archbishops have requested the Church to observe the day as one of Prayer for the Nation and our Allies, and to devote the offertories at all services to the Red Cross Society and the Order of St John of Jerusalem. It is hoped that the attendances at the Intercession Services will be as large and the progress as real as during the last four anxious years.

11.0 a.m St Mary’s Church, Morning Service.
11.45 a.m. St Mary’s Church, Holy Communion.
3.30 p.m. St Michael’s Church, Evening Service.
6.0 p.m. Rector’s Room, Evening Service.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, January 1919 (D/EX725/4)

“All must have gained courage and great heartedness to face the privations and strain and sorrows of the year”

The vicar of Maidenhead St Luke’s latest thoughts on Christian responses to the war.

The Vicar’s Letter

Dear Friends and Parishioners, –

First I must say how encouraging was the response made by most Parishioners this year to the claims of God’s worship on Christmas Day and the National Day of Intercession. Many, I am sure, must have felt the joy of Christmas underlying the oppression of the War, and reassuring of the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of the Prince of Peace. And on January 6th all must have gained courage and great heartedness to face the privations and strain and sorrows of the year under the guidance of One who came to be a “Light to lighten the Nations, and to be the Glory of his people Israel,” and whose instrument in that work was the Cross…

Lastly may I urge upon you all the observance of Lent… This year it may not be easy to get many outside preachers, because of the shortage of Clergy and the difficulty of travel…

I remain, Your faithful friend and Vicar

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

A generous response

A Carol Service was held after Evensong on January 30th and a collection made for the Blinded Soldiers and Sailors; it amounted to £2 7s. 6d.

The Services on the day of National Prayer and Thanksgiving were largely attended. The collections, as in former years, were for the Red Cross. £16 18s. 2d. was the generous response made.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, February 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10)

“Our soldiers, sailors and flying men need our prayers

New Year’s Eve was set to be the first of three special days of national prayer for the war. Several Berkshire parishes give us their slant on it. The vicar of All Saints, Dedworth also had a story from the Front about attitudes to the enemy.

All Saints’, Dedworth

The year 1916 still sees us engaged in a war even more terrible than the beginning of 1915. The Nation is bidden by its spiritual leaders, the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church to keep Friday, December 31st, as a day of special prayer and intercession. Saturday, January 1st, is to be a day of preparation for Communion, which all are asked to make on Sunday, January 2nd. The duty of the Church is to carry on the fight against the World, Flesh and Devil, and it is the duty of the Church’s officers to lead in that fight. The response at times to that call seems small, it may be larger than it looks, but at any rate it makes the work as hard, if not harder, to carry on than other warfare. How grand has been the response to carry arms for King and Country, but the real victory for which we are fighting will not be won unless at the end we are a Nation nearer to God; having shown to the world that Christianity is the greatest power in war and peace.

Mr. Begbie narrates the following from behind the English lines in France:-

“The other day a doctor fell in with a British soldier whose blood was maddened by what he had seen of the German treatment of our wounded men. ‘Do you know what I mean to do,’ he demanded, ‘when I come across one of their wounded? I mean to put my boot in his ugly face.’ The doctor replied, ‘No you won’t; it’s not your nature. I’ll tell you what you will do – you’ll give him a drink out of your water-bottle.’ To which the soldier after a pause, in which he searched the doctor’s face, made grumbling and regretful answer, ‘Well, may be I shall.’”

Reading St John

Mr Rogers has now been moved up to the Front. He is where he wished to be when he offered for service as a Chaplain, and where he will have the opportunity of speaking to men at the most solemn moment of their lives of the things that matter eternally. We shall continue to be much in prayer for him, that he may be kept from all harm, and that his messages may be with great power.

Now may I commend to your very careful notice the arrangements which have been made to enable you to observe the last day of December and the first two days of January as our King and our Archbishops and Bishops desire that they should be observed. We stand on the threshold of a year that promises to be fateful beyond any in our previous history, a year that will probably test severely our fortitude, our courage and our faith.


‘Quiet, unemotional and simple’: impressions of the National Day of Intercession

Theology student and aspiring clergyman Sydney Spencer offers a personal reflection on the Day of Intercession.

3 January 1915
Today was the day set apart by the churches of the allied countries, & even of some neutral countries such as America, for universal prayer for peace in this time of warfare. The form of service used was I think a very nice one. Special prayers were used at each of the services at the Holy Communion, at Mattins and at Evensong. In the morning sermon there was a sort of homily which was given in the form of the sermon & which was used by the Vicar, Mr Wrenford, from the pulpit. The service was then quite different to the usual C of England service, being a sort of “Litany”. The wording of the prayers was so quiet and unemotional & simple, that it surely must have appealed to everyone who was at all in earnest. I went to the three services & enjoyed them all.

We should have gone for a walk but the weather was too dreadful to think of it. The armies abroad must be having a fearful time of it with this weather. I have written to Captain – about my present circumstances, but have not yet heard from him. Will and Flo were supposed to be coming out to tea today, but as Will was in London, doing I know not what, they have put off coming till Monday.

Florence Vansittart Neale, chatelaine of Bisham Abbey, had a calmer response to the day:

Early church – Intercession Day. Nice service…
Heard Eleanor & Jack gone to see John – wounded at Boulogne – just escaped heart.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/14) and Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

The National Day of Intercession

The first Sunday of the new year was declared as a National Day of Intercession for solemn collective prayer for the country at this trying tie of war. The vicar of Sulhamstead was among the many clergy of Berkshire who commended the Day of Intercession to parishioners. He wrote in the December 1914 issue of the parish magazine:

My Parishioners and Friends

May I commend to you in this time of terrible stress when the war in the Western area hangs on without any decisive result and the fight to reach Calais has lasted for over a month with the respective positions of the two armies almost unchanged for very many weeks, the following lines from a letter in “The Guardian” of November 5th summoning a meeting for Confession, Intercession and Conference. The Bishop of London, Bishop Taylor Smith and many others had promised to take part.

“The continuance of this awful war, with its appalling loss of life, and without any decisive victory, suggest that something is hindering that manifest intervention of God on our behalf for which we long. There is indeed already much to be thankful for, but our side, which is the side of truth and right, has not yet prevailed. The hindrance may be in the Church, or in the nation, or in both. It may be that God still sees stiffneckedness in us, and His very delay in answering our prayers is a call to a more thorough repentance of our reliance upon Him”.

Since these words were written in “The Guardian”, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have summoned the Church to observe the first Sunday in the new year, January 3rd, as a day of Humble Prayer and Intercession to Almighty God on behalf of the cause entrusted to our King, our Empire, and our Allies, and on behalf of our men who are fighting for it on sea or land…
May I ask you to keep this day free for this solemn observance.

Yours sincerely
Alfred J P Shepherd

Ascot parishioners got a similar request:


The Archbishops of Canterbury and York desire to make public the following notice: The first Sunday in the New Year (January 3rd, 1915) will be observed as a Day of Humble Prayer and Intercession to Almighty God on behalf of the cause entrusted to our King, our Empire, and our Allies, and on behalf of the men who are fighting for it on sea or land. The Archbishop of Canterbury has been in communication with his majesty the King as to the observation of this day throughout the nation, and he has received the following letter:-

Buckingham Place, October 26th 1914.

My dear Archbishop –

The King has lately received numerous communications from different quarters urging upon his Majesty the necessity for a Day of National Humiliation and Prayer.

Personally the King is disinclined to advocate the use of any term which might plausibly be misinterpreted either at home or abroad.

At the same time his Majesty recognises the National Call for United Prayer, Intercession, Thanksgiving, and for remembrance of those who have fallen in their country’s cause.

It seems to the King that the beginning of the year would be a fitting season to be thus solemnised; and his Majesty thinks that Sunday, January 3rd, might well be the chosen day.- Yours very truly,


The Archbishops of Canterbury and York will when the time draws near address the members of the Church of England as to the manner of the observing of this call to prayer.

Bracknell supports the war

Bracknell was another parish which responded to the war with a combination of prayer, financial support, and needlework, with some preparing to take on nursing work:

The collections in Church both at Holy Trinity and at St. Martin’s on Sunday, August 16th , and on Friday, 21st, were given to the Prince of Wales Relief Fund, and together with what was sent afterwards amounted to £12 9s. 9d.

After Morning and Evening Service on alternate Sundays, and after Evensong on Wednesdays, Special Services of Intercession are being held, and at all Services special prayers for our sailors and soldiers are being used.

The Church bell is being rung every day at 12, and it is hoped that this will remind all who hear it to offer up a short prayer wherever they may be, and so to join with those who can come to Church then for a short Intercessory Service.

Friday, August 21st, was appointed to be observed as a day of Solemn Prayer, and Intercession in the present crisis. Holy Communion was celebrated at 8 a.m., and besides Morning and Evening Prayer, two Special Services were held at noon and 8 p.m.

The call to prayer received a response in some ways satisfactory, but which can still be increased.

Intercession Services have been held twice a week, at 4 p.m. and at 7.30p.m. There was a fair attendance at the Holy Communion on Friday, August 21st.

By the time this appears it is hoped that a sewing party will have been organised and will have sent up garments for our wounded troops. The meetings will be held on Tuesdays in the Parish Room at 2.30p.m.

The work is progressing steadily. Mrs. Sheppee, Mrs. Sargeant and Mrs. Fielden have held working parties, the latter being the head of the needlework. Many are working at home as well. The Women’s V.A.D. are attending practices and lectures, kindly given by Mrs Leggatt, of Binfield, and the men are training new assistants in stretcher work.

Ascot, Bracknell, Cranbourne and Winkfield District magazine, Seeptember 1914 (D/P151/28A/6)

Penitence must precede peace

The vicar of Warfield was another Berkshire clergyman to guide his flock. He blamed the war on England’s lack of true religion and morality.



Since the publication of our last issue, the continent of Europe has entered into such a crisis as it has never known before; in all that is so dark around us at present we can lift our hearts in thanksgiving to God for the wonderful re-union it has brought about in our own Islands and Colonies. We are mindful of the righteousness of the cause which we have espoused, upholding the bond that had been signed by the great powers of Europe, yet we ourselves have much reason for humiliation before God. Our national law in many points is at variance with God’s law, irreligion abounds all round and about us, God’s Holy Name and His Word have been lightly esteemed. In seeking mercy, we must recognise that we deserve punishment. This point is rightly emphasised by the Archbishops in providing a shortened form of the Communion Service for public use at this time. It is a Divine rule that penitence must always precede peace. Let us see to it that we realise at this time of great heart-searching and take courage that Christ is never so near as to those of a contrite spirit. All sense of self-righteousness must be put away at this time, and fully conscious of our own failings let us make supplications unto God.
Ever yours affectionately in Christ,

The additional Services in Church during the war are as follows:- Sundays, Intercession immediately after Evensong. Tuesdays, Holy Communion 7.30. Fridays, Litany at 12. In addition every day at 12 noon the Tenor Bell is tolled 50 strokes in deference to the wishes of the Archbishop and the Chaplain of the Forces to remind people to pray wherever they may be a short silent prayer for the restoration of peace. On Friday, August 21st the Special Day of Intercession, there were 30 communicants at the two early celebrations and between 250 and 300 at the various services during the day, which were 7.30, 8.30, 10, 12, 6 and 8. A perpetual Intercession was kept in the Church from 7.30 till the last service undertaken in periods of half an hour by various parishioners. For this and many other blessings, thanks be to God.

Ascot, Bracknell, Cranbourne and Winkfield District magazine, Seeptember 1914 (D/P151/28A/6)

Our hearts are beating with one impulse

The vicar of Bracknell was, like many of the clergy, on his summer holidays when the war broke out. He wrote home to the parish with his thoughts about the justice of the war and the way it had brought all classes together:

22nd August 1914

My dear Friends,

It has been a great distress to me not to be at home during these anxious days, but as my house was let and as I could not be at home, I have arranged, though indeed I can feel in no heart for a holiday in such times as these, and I am ready to return at any moment if I am wanted.

I have heard constantly from Bracknell, – almost every day, – and have been glad to hear that many are doing what they can to help their country. I rejoice to hear of more people attending the daily services, for this is certainly an occasion when earnest prayer should be made for God’s help and mercy. There have been times in old days when a great war has occasioned many misgivings as to its righteousness, but now we cannot but feel that our cause is a cause that God would bless if in humbleness of spirit, confessing our many sins, we come to Him to seek His help. Our Statesmen strove for peace with all their might. We are not fighting for our own aims but to keep our plighted word, to help our Allies when they were subjected to unprovoked attack, and preserve the gallant Belgian people from oppression, and to guard our own country. Our cause then is a just one, and we can call upon the God of justice to help us.

Suffering there must be, – and how great that suffering may be we know not, – but it may well be that God, who knows all, wills that through suffering the world may be purified and righteousness may triumph. Our Lord has taught us by the prayer He uttered in the great crisis of His Agony that the cup of suffering must sometimes be drunk in order that Salvation may come. I therefore am most thankful when I hear of more people gathering for prayer. I was an inspiring thought to me as I joined here yesterday on the day of Intercession to think that in all the countless cities and villages between this and Bracknell (500 miles) there were earnest congregations sending up on high their supplications to God, praying that He would guide the Counsels of our Rulers, strengthen the hearts of our Sailors and Soldiers, comfort the mourners, heal the wounded, and in His own good time send to us once more the Blessings of peace.

One thing we can indeed be thankful for. This terrible war, this grat National anxiety, has joined us into one people. All controversy is hushed, all disputes are put to one side; rich and poor, old and young are united and the hearts of all are beating with one great impulse, and sending us forward to carry on this great controversy as a united people.

I am,
Your faithful friend,

Ascot, Bracknell, Cranbourne and Winkfield District magazine, September 1914 (D/P151/28A/6)

Lessons in washing patients

Florence Vansittart Neale continued to prepare Bisham Abbey for use as a hospital while her husband Henry worked at the Admiralty. The women from the village who had volunteered to help out at the Abbey (which had a limited domestic staff) came in for some basic training.

21 August 1914
National Intercession Day. Eclipse of sun….

Worked on screens. H to London about Admiralty work. Sister Barlton came for night….

Brussels occupied by Germans. French took 24 guns in Alsace. Not know yet whether our troops at work. Bisham contingent & up the hill came for lesson in bedmaking & washing patients – quite good.

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