War was always unspeakably dreadful

A pupil at St Barthomolomew’s School imagined a future where war was unknown. It may be a creative writing exercise, but it shows the effect the war had on young people’s views of the world.

WAR.

Scene ——————– A room in a house
Time ——————— 2000 A.D.
Dramatis Personae — One sister, one small brother.

Small brother. Sissy, what does war mean? I read it in a book, something about the termination of war or something.

Sister. War, dear child, is the settlement of national quarrels by fighting.

When two or more nations had a quarrel, they used to fight each other till so many people on one side got killed or driven back, that they had to give in.

Sometimes nations just made war for greed because they thought they were stronger than their opponents, indeed this was nearly always the case.

Small brother. Please, what’s reponents?

Sister. Opponents, I said, it means enemies.

Small brother. O yes, I understand enemies; please sissy, why didn’t you say enemies if you meant enemies?

Sister. When you’re a little older, you’ll understand perhaps, but don’t fidget or I shall have to send you upstairs.

Small brother. Go on about war, sissy.

Sister. In the beginning war wasn’t quite so bad, although morally, of course, it was always unspeakably dreadful.

People used to fight hand to hand, and kill each other from quite near, with spears, long steel spikes and other weapons, then later, they shot with bows and arrows, you’ve heard of bows and arrows.

Well, everybody regarded it as a sort of game, with definite rules, particularly we English, who were always slow and stupid.

Small brother. Sissy!!

Sister.
Now don’t interrupt.

Well, people liked fighting very much really, or at any rate some did, they used to put on expensive armour and ride about on beautiful horses, and when there wasn’t a war, they went about saving fair maidens out of enchanted castles, and it was all very nice.

Everything went well, because all the countries used the same weapons, and fought in the same way, but gradually men began to invent more deadly weapons, and some of the countries invented the before their enemies knew anything about it, so of course they said it wasn’t fair and were very cross, and lots of them got killed.

Guns were invented, and other dreadful things, and people fought from a long way off. Nearly everybody fought, and they still had rules like in a game.

Things got worse and worse till the last war, that was about 1914, and then thousands of people got killed, and it was all like a very bad nightmare, men, women and children got killed and aeroplanes dropped bombs about in the town and no one was safe anywhere. After everybody had spent most of their money on the war and lost most of their sons, and had some of their houses knocked down, they got very tired of it, but it had to be finished, because a very wicked country called Germany was threatening the peace of the whole world, not that the whole world really wanted peace, mind you, because they didn’t, but they liked to think they did, and anyhow, they hated the Germans very much, and not without cause.

However, the people who were running the war for England began to see that it wasn’t a game any longer, because they didn’t get enough to each and their sons being killed; so when Germany invented clever things to kill people quicker, which weren’t allowed by the rules, they invented cleverer ones back and said nothing about it, and in the papers the people read all about the wicked things Germany was doing and thought Germany dishonourable for disobeying the rules, and some people say that the English people who were working the war for the English broke the rules first, but this isn’t certain, and anyway, the Germans were a greedy and unscrupulous people, much worse than us, though we were far from perfect, and they were beaten.

And people began to sit down and think a bit, which wasn’t often done in those days, and they came to the conclusion that war wasn’t a game any longer, and that they had better prevent its happening again, so they got together a kind of jury and they called it the League of Nations.

They talked for over a year; some said there must be no more fighting of any kind, and others said that the nature of man couldn’t exist without fighting, so they talked and talked until at last they came to a decision.

They decided to go back to the bow and arrow method, because it looked so nice and wasn’t as dangerous as the other methods, only bows, arrows and armour, were to be used, and directly anybody was wounded he would count as dead, and directly a quarter of the fighters on one side were dead, the other side would have won, and in case of any contravention of the rules, the whole world would punish the offender very severely, and since no country could ever be stronger than all the rest put together, the idea seemed practical and sound.

Well the next fight after the real war was between France and America, it was brought about by a difference of opinion as to whether Paris or New York should lead the fashions in ladies’ hats. It was, of course, a difficult problem, and the League of Nations discussed it for three months, at the end of this time there was a terrible hat strike, and women had to go about bare headed and many of them caught colds and died.

At last the League decided that France and America must figure it out.

The battle was arranged in Hyde Park, London, 100 men from Paris and 100 men from New York were chosen, the battlefield was railed around and people had to pay £20 to watch. The proceeds went to the society for stray cats.

Just before the battle began an Englishman invented an impregnable armour, so he sold the secret for a million pounds to the Paris men, and then got another million from the New York men for telling them, too.

So the first day’s fighting killed no one, and broke a lot of arrows, also it rained hard and the people who had paid £20 to come and watch were very sick about it.

On the second day someone invented an arrow which could pierce the armour, and both sides got hold of the secret, but everyone got to know of it before the battle, so they all wore double armour and again no one got killed, and still it rained, and the fighters sank up to their ankles in mud, because their armour was so heavy, and at the end of the day their friends had to pull them out with ropes.

Now this sort of thing went on for six days; each day better arrows were invented and thicker armour was worn to shield off the arrows, and as a result no one was killed and hundreds of arrows were broken, and still it rained very hard, and all the people who watched got wet and angry, and many died of chills.

And each day, the fighters sank deeper in the mud, because the ground got softer and their armour got heavier.

At last, on the seventh day, which was a Sunday, the situation seemed impossible, because the armed men knew that they couldn’t even get within range of each other; directly they stepped into Hyde Park they would get stuck, and since the rule was that each side should start at opposite ends of the park, it seemed hopeless.

However, a clever Englishman came to the rescue; he constructed two great rafts, and on these the fighters were to row out to the selected spot.

On a given signal they were to step off their rafts and fight as usual.

It cleared up a bit that day and the sun came out, so that heaps of people came to watch in boats and the stray cat’s shares went up seventy-two points.

The Lord Mayor came specially to give the signal for fighting to start.

Directly he blew the whistle the fighters stepped off the rafts, it was calculated by an American that each man weighed seven hundred pounds, anyhow they were never seen again, they sank right down through the each till they reached the centre of gravity and there they presumably remained.

So the question was never settled and everybody bought their hats in London.

Since then there have been no wars.

K.P.L.

The Newburian (magazine of St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury), April 1919 (N/D161/1/9)

There is still a very stiff bit of road to be travelled before the desired end can be reached

Some now wanted to move forward instead of looking back at the war.

MINISTER’S JOTTINGS

Without the slightest misgiving I can most cordially wish every reader of these notes a very glad and happy New Year. It is a great joy to be able to do this once more. During the past four years of strife and bloodshed it has not been possible; but we are now at the dawning of a brighter and better day. We thank God for the answer to our many prayers, and we take courage. There is still a very stiff bit of road to be travelled before the desired end can be reached. But the future is bright with promise, and we shall earnestly pray that the terms of the peace, which we eagerly anticipate, may be such as shall make all war impossible in future.

Meantime, we must get to work to set our house in order. During the time of war we have been compelled to suspend several of our ordinary activities. The time has now come when we must begin to think about renewing them. Though our energies have been diverted from the usual channels they have not been wasted. Far from it. Excellent work has been done in providing hospitality for the men and women in khaki in our midst, and we cannot be too grateful to the splendid band of helpers who have carried the work through so successfully. But with the coming of peace the necessity for this service will be gone. Reconstruction is the word which is on all lips in these days. Let us seriously tackle our own problems of reconstruction, and thus help to ensure the happy future for which we pray.

BROTHERHOOD

Again we are at the beginning of a new year, and at this time there is a tendency to look backward, when we cannot help remembering the terrible tragedy of the last four years. But turning and looking forward, we see a brighter time coming for the whole world.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, January 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Let us pray that peace may be arranged on such terms as shall make war impossible in future

The minister at Broad Street Chapel had a sober view of the end of the war.

MINISTER’S JOTTINGS

The great event of the past month has been the signing of the Armistice and the consequent cessation of hostilities. Monday, November 11th, will long be remembered as the day on which the war cloud lifted, and people began to breathe freely again. It was a day for which we had long prayed, and it brought relief to many a troubled heart. Our petitions were suddenly changed into great and glad thanksgivings.

There was great rejoicing in the streets – especially in Broad Street – and people gave themselves up to the excitement of the moment. But after four long years of repression, it was perhaps only natural that pent up feeling should find a vent in this way, and we may congratulate ourselves upon the fact that things were not carried to greater lengths than they were. The shorter hours for the opening of public houses proved a great blessing.

Many felt, however, that it was a time for thanksgiving to Almighty God rather than empty merry-making; and they flocked to the various churches in which Thanksgiving Services were hastily arranged. At Broad Street we held a special service of this kind on Thursday evening, November 14th, and in spite of the difficulty of making it known, it was largely attended. We were drawn together by a common desire to pour out our hearts in praise and thanksgiving.

With the coming of peace we shall have to face grave new problems, both in the national life and in our church life. Let us earnestly pray for Divine wisdom and strength, so that we may be able to tackle them with brave hearts and undaunted spirits. Let us also pray that peace may be arranged on such terms as shall make war impossible in future.

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

Down with Capitalism, Militarism, and War!

Advertisements for local left wing parties reveal a lesser known aspect to local life including attitudes to the war.

The Independent Labour Party
is an International Socialist Party. Down with Capitalism, Militarism, and War! Up with Socialism and the Brotherhood of all nations!

National Socialist Party, Reading branch.

All unattached SOCIALISTS are invited to join the above branch, the members of which recognise the necessity of the success of the Allied Forces in the present struggle to ensure the early realisation of Democracy and Socialism.

British Socialist Party
is opposed to Imperialism, Capitalism, and war, and is working for an immediate peoples’ peace.

The Voice of Labour Is like one crying in the wilderness. It is crying out against High Prices: it is crying out for more wages by which to pay the high prices: it is crying out against the people who are making the prices high. These people do not heed the cry, they meet the demand for more wages then just put a little more on the goods than they have paid in extra wages.

Give up crying out and do something!

The people must –

Control raw material.
Control production.
Control prices,

For the benefit of the whole community.

The only way – join the Co-Op.
The Stores that are owned and controlled by the Members, and do your duty.

The National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers
125 Friar Street

The Reading Branch, in conjunction with many others, is demanding that the Government shall increase the separation allowance to soldiers’ and sailors’ wives and their dependants owing to the increased cost of living; also that discharged men should be more fully represented on Pension Committees and other bodies dealing with such matters. Lord Rhondda on his death-bed sent this message to the Natioanl Baby Week. “The care of the children is a sacred duty.” How can the wives left at home to keep the home fires burning feed and clothe the babies on the present miserable allowance? We want all discharged men to join us to help us in this good work. Also to wake up the Pensions Ministry. A member speaking in the House of Commons said, “There are 2000 clerks at Chelsea dealing with 12000 pension cases weekly. That means one case per day for each clerk, yet it often takes twelve to fourteen months to get a man’s case settled.” Come along to help us to get a move on.

The Reading Worker: The Official Journal of Organised Labour in Reading and District, no. 21, September 1918 (D/EX1485/10/1/2)

Internees “are as tricky as monkeys and use any means to try to gain their ends”

Reading Prison officials got into hot water when they accidentally stopped an MP from communicating with an internee. Fred Jowett (1864-1944) was a Labour MP who was opposed to the war.

Letter & enclosure withdrawn & issued.

It was not known that Mr Jowett was an MP but the letter appeared peculiar & attention was drawn. It was only when this letter was received that it was considered that Mr Jowett might be an MP & reference to Whitaker’s Almanac confirmed it & the Commissioners were told.

No man is allowed to communicate with an MP if it is known – these men are as tricky as monkeys and use any means to try to gain their ends.

C M Morgan
Gov

14-4-18

Enclosing:
April 11th 1918

G Stichl
S of S Order 20.8.16 Internment

Special attention is drawn to this letter.

On 8.10.17 a letter addressed to Mr Jowett was submitted to the Commissioners, special attention being drawn. It was passed and posted by them 11.10.17.

On 17.10.17 an answer to this letter arrived from Mr Jowett. It was submitted to the Commissioners same day and retained by them.
On 3.4.18 a letter addressed to Mr Jowett by Stichl was submitted to the Commissioners and posted by them 4.4.18. The letter now submitted appears to be the answer to this last letter.

C M Morgan
Gov

I am informed that Mr Jowett is a Member of Parliament.

[in new hand:]
The letter may be given to Jowett, but any attempt to write Mr Jowett again should be specially brought to the notice of the Commissioners or to any MP. The letter of 3-4-18 was passed on the fact that he was MP was not recognised. The one passed of 8-10-17 was allowed as a special case, through a misunderstanding.
JW 13-4-18

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

“A Pacifist peace means Armageddon for our children”

Cambridge don John Maxwell Image struggled with the newly implemented food rationing. John Rawlinson, an Old Etoniam and alumnus of Image’s college, Trinity, was MP for Cambridge University (a constituency specifically to represent graduates across the country). A former international footballer, he was patriotically dieting.

29 Barton Road
25 March ‘18

This morning have arrived our Food Tickets. Oh, I gape! Florence professes to understand them. All I can utter is ‘Pests’. Cnspuez Rhondda!

Yesterday, in the Bowling Green, we met Rawlinson, MP, who vowed that he had for weeks been existing on a hebdomadal 1/3 of meat (so at least, he seems to say), and that he found the Fellows far too fat and well liking to have been loyal.

A Pacifist peace means Armageddon for our children. Who in honesty denies that?

Veni sancta Columbia.

And you prefer Margarine to Butter? I haven’t yet, to my knowledge, tried it. Devonshire Butter I count the noblest relish on earth. We can’t get Cheese, off which I regularly used to lunch.


Ever yours
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

The risk of prosecution for distributing pacifist leaflets

The Reading branch of the Women’s Peace Crusade had been formed in August 1917 by representatives of groups including the Quakers, and suffrage and left wing organisations. The chair was Phoebe Blackall. The group distributed pacifist leaflets, delivered by hand to homes in Reading and handed to worshippers outside churches. Lord Lansdowne’s letter was a proposal for peace, which was not well rrceived by the British public.

Dec 5th 1917

A discussion took place re leaflets, it being finally decided to suspend distribution of same, for the time being, owing to the risk of Prosecution.

Mrs Tyser raised the question of Lord Lansdowne’s letter, suggesting the sending of a resolution approving of his action.

Proposed by Mrs Coppuck, seconded by Mrs Stansfield and Carried.

Minutes of the Women’s Peace Crusade: Reading branch (D/EX1485/24/1)

Almost ludicrous if not so horrible

Opposition to the war had led to revolution in Russia, and the fear of getting drawn in caused riots in neutral Switzerland.

Florence Vansittart Neale
19 November 1917

Russia almost ludicrous if not so horrible. A subaltern made Commander in Chief.

Will Spencer
19 November 1917

News that a policeman & two other men had been killed in “anti-military” riots in Zurich on Saturday night…. After dinner I read the account of the Zurich riots on Friday & Saturday. (They began on Thursday.)

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/26)

One more name must be added to the roll of immortal honour on which is recorded the names of men who loved peace, but who loved righteousness and truth better

A reluctant but determined soldier, son of a Congregational minister, paid the ultimate price.

After many months of anxious waiting, definite news has come of the death in action, on November 13th, 1916, at Beaumont Hamel, of Mr. Philip G Steer, and so one more name must be added to the roll of immortal honour on which is recorded the names of men who loved peace, but who loved righteousness and truth better. Phil Steer was a son of a manse, and all who knew him looked forward to a great future for him. Combined with a charming manner, he had great qualities of mind. After leaving school he took his B.A. degree, and before he was 21 he was already in the responsible position of assistant master in a public school. The writer well remembers his 21st birthday, for it occurred during our second Trinity Young Peoples Camp in the Isle of Wight, and it was during that delightful fortnight’s companionship that some of us learned the qualities of our friend.

He joined up immediately war broke out, and went through hard fighting in France. When he was promoted on the field for gallantry. He was badly wounded, but recovered quickly and was soon back in France again. Now he has gone, and to those of us who still hoped against hope that he might be a prisoner, the news of his death has come as a great sorrow, and our special sympathy and affection go out to his family in the terrible loss which has come to them. So the great War takes its heavy toll of our best, and we owe it to them who have willingly laid down their lives for a great cause that we carry on their fight till our enemies confess that might is not right, and a true and lasting peace can be achieved.

Trinity Congregational Church magazine, September 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

“One never heard a voice of protest against the excesses of this war”

After he had an operation in early June, British expat Will Spencer went to Meiringen in the Bernese Oberland. A Swiss acquaintance expressed strong views against war in general.

29 June 1917
After dinner Herr Nachenius remained chatting with me on the terrace for a little while. He is against retaliatory measures, & that not only because he believes that to refrain from them has the best effect in the long run, but on higher grounds. By this it was clear to me that he meant that men should strive to act in accordance with what they believe to be their highest instincts, without regarding the consequences. He regretted that one never heard a voice of protest against the excesses of this war, a voice such as Gladstone’s in the past. (This to me alone as I was walking with him towards the chalet.)

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/27)

A ‘League of Peace’

The members of the Dodeka book club in Reading had a particularly spirited debate on the idea of a post-war league of nations.

The 278th meting of the club was held at Baynes’ on Nov 3, 1916.

The host opened a spirited discussion on a ‘League of Peace’, the meeting becoming so interested that it did not break up until past its proper hour.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

The daily harvest of the best and most promising

John Maxwell Image wrote to his friend W F Smith with his latest thoughts on the tragedy of the war and his Trinity colleague, Bertrand Russell, the famous philosopher who was preaching pacifism.

29 Barton Road
[Cambridge]
Wednesday 30 Aug. ‘16

My very dear old man

Monday I was at War Work!…

[Today] the Signora is away in Cats working swabs for the wounded…

Our whole young manhood is forced to the Front, and it is the best and the most promising of their lives that the by no means “blind” Fury slits. It sickens me to read her choices, and to know that the daily harvest goes on and on and on.

Bertrand Russell has taken his name off the Trinity boards, and sold by auction the furniture of his rooms – but he is refused permission to cross to USA and preach mischief there – as I hear did Norman Angell at an earlier period….

Letter from John Maxwell Image to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

“I often wonder why I joined up”

Many young men who before the war had belonged to the Broad Street Brotherhood Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Society, a semi-religious social group connected with the Congregational Church in the centre of Reading, kept in contact with their old friends.

GREETINGS AND APPRECIATIONS

We give below a few extracts from the letters received during the last week or two, from members of the Brotherhood. The many Broad Street friends, who, by their generosity, made possible the sending of the Christmas parcels will find these notes interesting. The letters are so good, and so full of appreciation an thanks, that it has been difficult to make the selections. The “O.S.” means “On Seervice”.
W A Woolley

Thank you for the splendid letters of comfort. It does me good to know I have such faithful friends in the P.S.A. I shall be glad, when we have defeated our enemy, and settled down again, to take up the same old seat at Broad Street as before the war.
H. J. R. – “O.S.”

Thanks for letters and parcels from the Broad Street friends. It is very kind of you all to think of us soldier boys. Please convey to the Brothers my best wishes. Though some distance away, I always remember the meetings at the Brotherhood on Sunday afternoon, and I think of the good times spent at Broad Street. Kindest regards.
E. G. – “O. S.”

It’s nice to think one is not forgotten, although as a member I never took a prominent part. It was very good of the Presidents, and you, to write to me. But there! – what does the Brotherhood stand for, if not for mutual and spiritual help to its members, even though we are sometimes apart. This is my first Christmas away from home, and receiving that parcel and letters has done me more good than many a sermon.
A. C. E. – “O.S.”

I want to wish you all at the Brotherhood a happy Christmas; and I hope the New Year will be brighter than the past. I am thinking of the happy times spent with the choir. I trust you at home will spare a thought for those who are on active service, and those doing garrison duty in foreign lands.
H. J. M – “O.S.”

I shall be unable to answer my name at the “Roll Call”, as duty still calls. I hope you will have a jolly good time. I often think of the helpful times I have spent at the P.S.A., and am looking forward to the time to be back with you again. Best wishes for continued success.
E.G.B. – “O.S.”

Many thanks for letters and parcel received safely. Everything in the parcel was a soldier’s want. Am so glad you thought of me. It makes the Brotherhood more real than ever I thought it. I shall never forget the happy expressions in the letters.
W. P. – “O.S.”

I hardly need say how very pleased I was to get your welcome letters and parcel. I shall carry the letters about with me, to help keep me cheerful and bright. No! I cannot be with you on January 2nd, but shall be thinking of you all. I have been “out here” fifteen months, and have seen some heart-rending sights, and have been among some stupefying scenes and horrors. But thank God I am quite as well as when I left you all. With my kindest regards to you all.
H. E. – “O. S.”

Deeply regret being unable to be at the “Roll Call”. Thanks for letters and parcel. It is nice to think that while away, one is not forgotten. Give my best wishes to the brothers, also to the Chairman and Mr Rawlinson.
E.S. – “O. S.”

Best thanks for the Brotherhood letters, and also that part of the parcel which was the result of the members’ generosity. Sorry I shall not be present AT “Roll Call”. May all your efforts result in a great fillip to the Brotherhood movement. The Brotherhood ideals carried out consistently and thoroughly will go a tremendous long way towards minimising the awful effects of this war. With best wishes to all.
C. A. G. – “O. S.”

I am in France so cannot be with you to shout “Here”. Shall be thinking of you all on January 2nd. I have been a soldier just twelve months. I often wonder why I joined up, fighting being quite contradictory to my belief; but I came to the conclusion that to come out here, and share the burden of my fellows, is sufficient argument in my favour for doing so. Many thanks for kind wishes contained in letters. Hope you will all have a happy time.
E. C. P. – “O. S.”

Just a line to thank you for the letters and parcel. The garments were very useful indeed, and I put them on at once. The text on the card enclosed in parcel was “When the outlook is bad, look up”. It seemed to cheer me up, because at the time there was a lot of shelling going on. I hope you will have a good time at the “Roll Call”, and a happy New Year. Greetings to you all.
W. L. – “O. S.”

Just a card from France to wish you a Happy New Year. I wish it would bring Peace on Earth. I wish the Brotherhood could finish this awful war. Hope to be with you when I get my leave. Best wishes to all,
B. M. – “O. S.”

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

The first Sunday in the New Year [2 January] was a red letter day in the history of our Society; for on that day we held our first “Roll Call”… No less than 227 brothers personally answered to their names, whilst 44 (23 of whom were on active service) sent written greetings.

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

“Truth, honour, humanity are dead”

The Union of Democratic Control was a movement opposed to many aspects of the war. It was obviously very controversial, as John Maxwell Image reports from Cambridge. Opponents included the classicist Henry Jackson, Vice-Master of Trinity College, a very distinguished academic who was among those who brought about the admission of women students at Cambridge.

29 Barton Road
23 January ‘16
My dearest S[mith]

Are you troubled in Malvern by the UDC? Union of Democratic Control? Well, last term they publicly advertised a Meeting to be held in the rooms of one of the Fellows. The Council read the Advertisements and prohibited the Meeting. Thereupon 14 of these demanded a College Meeting on the subject. It was held yesterday. 42 Fellows present. Virtually, it was of course to elicit a vote of want of confidence in the Council: that, and nothing less. But with Asquithian cunning, their motion in virgin innocence professed merely that a Fellow should have the right to entertain in his own rooms meetings upon any subject, not illegal or immoral. Illegality is best handled by the police, rather than the Council; and no crimes are so atrocious as those committed in the veil of morality. Quantum religio, et cetera.

The Meeting was opened in a speech of nearly one hour’s duration: under cover of defence of liberty of speech, for he professed dissociation from the UDC. The speech was platitudinously irrelevant and when, towards the close of his hour, he unexpectedly aid, “To come to the point”, listeners tittered. Oratory on all sides frothed and fumed. Idle amendments were proposed – and carried! At last one sound head – who had travelled up from London got up and proposed. “I move that the Question be not put.” He was instantly seconded – and his motion carried by a thumping majority! Delighted, we broke up after 2 ¾ hours of tub thumping.

The odd thing is that at a meeting – a Caucus – to oppose the UDC’s proposal, on the previous Saturday, when the universal feeling appeared that the case demanded a vote on a straight issue and no timid amendments, this very thing was moved, “that the Question be not put” – and only 3 men (of whom Bild was one) voted for it. One week later it was carried by 2 to 1.

The most painful thing to me was when dear old Jackson (who is so deaf that he can have heard nothing of the oratory) suddenly arose and delivered his soul. I had never heard accents so loud, or language so downright. He dared to say exactly what honest men universally are feeling, about German warfare. “Truth, honour, humanity are dead. The War is not ending, it is going on. I hope it will go on until after I am dead.” U.s.w. Oh how I wish I had the memory to recall the actual words. Quid si ipsam tumantem audiisses!

I thought poorly of Grey and his Barsalong talk. I heard the whole story, soon after it had happened, from the Captain of a British destroyer.

All affectionate wished for the New Year from us both to you and die Madame.

Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

Putrid bodies and foul vapours: “I have really seen the horrors of war”

Sydney Langford Jones (nickname Jonah) was a young artist and conscientious objector with deep seated religious objections to war. He was to spend time in prison as a result of this. However, his close friend Reginald Pearson, another artist, did join up. His frank letter to Sydney gives some of the most graphic details of the horrors of war we have seen, things which may well have been omitted from letters to sisters and churches.

Postmarked 14 June 1915

B Company 1st Bat. Lincolnshire Regiment
British Exp. Force

My dear friend Jonah

How I wish I could have seen more of you and I even wanted to turn back that Saturday night and catch you up to say goodbye again.
Since then I have really seen the horrors of war such as I never dreamed possible, marching at midnight with a lovely moon through the famous old town you have heard so much of, flaming all over the place and not a single house untouched. Stones, bricks, paving stones in what was once the roads, putrid bodies under the heaps of broken bricks once houses, and furniture blown out of the windows.

The old Cathedral and Hall as big as the Doges’ Palace and once very fine I should think now but a skeleton of ragged bones rapidly growing less and less, and the cemetery, no longer sacred, is blown to atoms with holes in it 40 yards round without the slightest exaggeration, for I measured one, and hemispherical shape, and the whole town a collection of foul vapours, still being shelled, shelled, shelled.

From there we were marched to a wood full of dugouts where we remained all next day being shelled, losing many men.

About 4 o’clock the whole lot fixed bayonets and travelled through the wood arriving at a communication trench by dark, full of mud up to the men’s thighs, hundreds of shots fired over it to catch as many as possible who happened to get out.

Along this [wading?] trench about 6’ deep and so narrow the men struggled passing those who were coming out, and eventually I found myself in the most extraordinary position ever created, but which I must not mention though I could draw you a perfect map from memory.

Trenches scarcely 3’ deep, parapets and bullet proof, strobing over dead men, bullets, bullets everywhere and the next 3 days cannot be spoken of. Trenches blown in beyond all recognition, and the first thing I saw when down broke was a dragoon with a little cat on his lap, which he had been stroking, lying both dead right across the trench, horrible, horrible, horrible.

I lost 18 wounded, 3 killed and 1 officer seriously wounded and here was I for the 1st time in charge of nearly a Company in the worst position ever held. Strategically bad, too few men, and for every German shell which came intermittently, every 20 I ought to say, we acquired a little pill in return.

9 miles march 3 days – the trenches 9 miles out with no sleep, little food and small shot, would offend the nostrils of death himself, leave men a bit fatigued, and so my first experience of war is passed and as a matter of fact I did well.

So much for my troubles for at present I sit in an orchard where we are bivouacked, resting.

The God of all the men we love is with me, I know, and this wonderful help and guidance are seared on my brain.

I am too tired to write much and so I must say goodbye.
God bless you always
Your dear friend
RO

Letter from Reginald Oswald Pearson to Sydney Langford Jones (D/EX1795/1/5/2)