“We have watched amazed these last few months a foretaste of the judgment of Christ falling upon a nation which would have none of Him”

A power cut caused disruption at the Ascot peace services.

Advent, 1918

My dear friends,

It is with the most profound relief that I am able this year to address to you the Advent letter with the good hope of restored peace. We must feel that Advent has taken on a new meaning for us. It has been in a very real sense that Christ has come to the world. We make a mistake if we relegate the word Advent to His Final Coming. We have watched amazed these last few months a foretaste of the judgment of Christ falling upon a nation which would have none of Him. Whatever causes writers of History may attribute to the dramatic collapse of our enemies, those of us who believe in the immediate Rule of Christ over the world he won for Himself will see in that collapse His judgment at work. It was in truth an Advent, a foretaste of what the Final Advent must mean.

But the Advent of Jesus is not just to destroy, it is to build anew. There lies before us a period of intense activity where without His Guidance our efforts can so easily go in the wrong channels. I say with the utmost deep conviction that man unaided is not sufficient for this opportunity. We must aid our statesmen by our prayers. Here at All Souls’ we shall begin Advent with the daily Eucharist restored to the Parish.

Our thanksgiving services were marked by a real heartfelt thankfulness on the part of our people. Both morning and evening we paid our debt of honour to all who have served their country on active service, and pleaded for the peace and joy of those who had shown the greatest love which man can show. In the morning the congregation with choir and wardens made a pilgrimage to the Shrine, and in the evening to the Rolls of Honour in the Church. In both cases the simple act of respect and honour proved deeply affecting and impressive. It was greatly appreciated by those who have beloved names on our rolls. An upsetting incident occurred in the failure in the morning of the electric current which put the organ out of commission in the midst of a hymn. The choir, however, rose well to the occasion, and went on as steady as rocks supported by the congregation who sang with a heartiness we have never heard before. Fortunately, our practice piano was standing in the church, and Mr Fowles was able to keep the choir well supported till the current was restored. It was nevertheless a great day and one which no one will ever forget. The Church had touched the need of the people.

A generous benefaction of £100 has been given to the Parish by Mr F A Keating in memory of his son.

The victory was marked by the gift of a large St George’s Cross Banner to the Church by Lady Radnor. It waved bravely over the Church on Thanksgiving Day. It will enable us to express ourselves on great occasions in the future. It is a great addition to the Tower, and helped to hide its unfinished appearance.

South Ascot Parochial Magazine, December 1918 (D/P186/28A/18)

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“Tommy from the line” thinks he should be able to buy “fags” at any hour of the day or night

Men on their way home for a spell of leave stopped off at a special camp. This is a first hand description from one of the helpers.

“LEAVES FROM A LEAVE CAMP.”

Mr Frampton, who is at Boulogne, sends us the following:-

“From the windows of the canteen where the writer is “doing his bit,” may be seen any evening a body of men with tin hats and rifles swinging along the road to the entrance of the “leave” camp. They are of many types, and it is most interesting to watch them file into the camp. One can see at a glance there are men from every walk of life, for the “khaki” does not cover a man so well that his former occupation cannot be shrewdly guessed.

As soon as they arrive in sight the canteen is at once closed. It has perhaps been open all the afternoon for the benefit of the staff attached to the camp, but it is necessary to close it now, for otherwise “Tommy” would make tracks for the counter in order to purchase “fags,” soap, towels, socks, and the numerous articles he is out of after a spell “up the line.” Of course, “Tommy” wishes to go to “Blighty” looking smart and clean, but he may not purchase just now. He is dealt with as follows:- Each man as he passes the gate is served with a ticket entitling him to an evening meal and breakfast in the morning. After all have enjoyed the evening meal, the canteen opens for an hour or two, and Tommy may make his purchases. Cigarettes and tobacco are an easy first, and the other articles sold are far too numerous to specify. Well, from say 7 to 9 o’clock he can buy what he needs, or play games in the canteen. Each canteen boasts a piano also. So much for his first few hours in the last camp before that journey to “Blighty” in the morning.

Lights out at 10 p.m., and “Tommy” is safely tucked up, sometimes twelve in a tent, till morning. It is a bit close, but it keeps them warm. Well, now, the morning arrives at last for “Tommy” who is “going home,” but it arrives too soon for the canteen hands, who were in all probability up at 4.30 the morning previous. However the canteen hands are often aroused at about 4 a.m. by some wakeful “Tommy,” who enquires in no uncertain voice, “When are you going to open?” The response is, “When you’ve all had breakfast.” Sometimes the conversation is not so short and sweet, but long and, truth to tell, “very lurid,” for “Tommy from the line” thinks he should be able to buy “fags” at any hour of the day or night, for, does he not work and fight day and night? And on the other hand the canteen hands consider that from 4.30 a.m. till 9 p.m. is a fair day’s work (with short breaks), and do not care to be roused at 3.30 a.m. by a strident voice shouting “What time do you open?”

Well, the canteen does eventually open, and you can imagine, say 1,000 men, making a sudden rush to the counter. They’ve had breakfast, and been supplied with their railway pass and ration cards for use in “Blighty,” and now they are about to spend on luxuries not so easily procured “higher up.” They are easily and quickly served with chocolate for the kiddies, postcards for mother, fancy handkerchiefs for “My dear sweetheart,” etc., etc. The articles mentioned are only samples, for “Tommy” is pleased to buy the best he can get, as a rule, for he has also got some arrears of pay in his pocket.

About two or three hours after breakfast he receives the order “Fall in.” It does not take long to “Fall in,” and the march is begun to the quay side. The first man, for instance, steps on board at say 10.30 a.m., and one hour later he realises that all are on board and he is actually leaving France behind for a short space of time. Two hours to ——- and two more in the train brings him to a London terminus, and if he is as lucky as the writer he will be “indoors” in five or six hours after leaving France. Again, if he is lucky he will have a splendid time in “Blighty” and return in better trim for “doing his bit.”

Of that return, more another time, for it has many a sad side to it, but as the writer is not now at camp where “Tommy” passes through on his return, perhaps he may never give you the impressions he gains by witnessing the return of so many fine men, whose hearts are doubtless very full of their own thoughts.

In conclusion, it may interest those at home to know that both “Tommy” and his officers are catered for by the “Expeditionary Force Canteen,” and the “Canteens” are an institution likely to remain very much in the foreground in the army when the great day of “Peace” shall arrive once more. May that day be not far distant!”

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, October 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“Tommy from the line” thinks he should be able to buy “fags” at any hour of the day or night

A colourful glimpse of soldiers on their way home for a leave.

“LEAVES FROM A LEAVE CAMP.”

Mr Frampton, who is at Boulogne, sends us the following:-

“From the windows of the canteen where the writer is “doing his bit,” may be seen any evening a body of men with tin hats and rifles swinging along the road to the entrance of the “leave” camp. They are of many types, and it is most interesting to watch them file into the camp. One can see at a glance there are men from every walk of life, for the “khaki” does not cover a man so well that his former occupation cannot be shrewdly guessed.

As soon as they arrive in sight the canteen is at once closed. It has perhaps been open all the afternoon for the benefit of the staff attached to the camp, but it is necessary to close it now, for otherwise “Tommy” would make tracks for the counter in order to purchase “fags,” soap, towels, socks, and the numerous articles he is out of after a spell “up the line.” Of course, “Tommy” wishes to go to “Blighty” looking smart and clean, but he may not purchase just now. He is dealt with as follows:-

Each man as he passes the gate is served with a ticket entitling him to an evening meal and breakfast in the morning. After all have enjoyed the evening meal, the canteen opens for an hour or two, and Tommy may make his purchases. Cigarettes and tobacco are an easy first, and the other articles sold are far too numerous to specify. Well, from say 7 to 9 o’clock he can buy what he needs, or play games in the canteen. Each canteen boasts a piano also. So much for his first few hours in the last camp before that journey to “Blighty” in the morning.

Lights out at 10 p.m., and “Tommy” is safely tucked up, sometimes twelve in a tent, till morning. It is a bit close, but it keeps them warm. Well, now, the morning arrives at last for “Tommy” who is “going home,” but it arrives too soon for the canteen hands, who were in all probability up at 4.30 the morning previous. However the canteen hands are often aroused at about 4 a.m. by some wakeful “Tommy,” who enquires in no uncertain voice, “When are you going to open?” The response is, “When you’ve all had breakfast.” Sometimes the conversation is not so short and sweet, but long and, truth to tell, “very lurid,” for “Tommy from the line” thinks he should be able to buy “fags” at any hour of the day or night, for, does he not work and fight day and night? And on the other hand the canteen hands consider that from 4.30 a.m. till 9 p.m. is a fair day’s work (with short breaks), and do not care to be roused at 3.30 a.m. by a strident voice shouting “What time do you open?”

Well, the canteen does eventually open, and you can imagine, say 1,000 men, making a sudden rush to the counter. They’ve had breakfast, and been supplied with their railway pass and ration cards for use in “Blighty,” and now they are about to spend on luxuries not so easily procured “higher up.” They are easily and quickly served with chocolate for the kiddies, postcards for mother, fancy handkerchiefs for “My dear sweetheart,” etc., etc. The articles mentioned are only samples, for “Tommy” is pleased to buy the best he can get, as a rule, for he has also got some arrears of pay in his pocket.

About two or three hours after breakfast he receives the order “Fall in.” It does not take long to “Fall in,” and the march is begun to the quay side. The first man, for instance, steps on board at say 10.30 a.m., and one hour later he realises that all are on board and he is actually leaving France behind for a short space of time. Two hours to ——- and two more in the train brings him to a London terminus, and if he is as lucky as the writer he will be “indoors” in five or six hours after leaving France. Again, if he is lucky he will have a splendid time in “Blighty” and return in better trim for “doing his bit.”

Of that return, more another time, for it has many a sad side to it, but as the writer is not now at camp where “Tommy” passes through on his return, perhaps he may never give you the impressions he gains by witnessing the return of so many fine men, whose hearts are doubtless very full of their own thoughts.

In conclusion, it may interest those at home to know that both “Tommy” and his officers are catered for by the “Expeditionary Force Canteen,” and the “Canteens” are an institution likely to remain very much in the foreground in the army when the great day of “Peace” shall arrive once more. May that day be not far distant!”

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, October 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“His services to the wounded in this respect during this and previous years have been simply priceless”

Wounded soldiers in Reading were treated to a lovely day out.

River Trip for Wounded Soldiers

On Friday afternoon, September 13th, our own particular River Outing for wounded soldiers, under the auspices of the Care and Comforts Committee, took place under perfectly ideal conditions. After several days of somewhat broken weather, we struck the one bright sunny afternoon when the river was at its best. The arrangements on the steamer had been made as usual, by Mr. Awmack, whose services to the wounded in this respect during this and previous years have been simply priceless.

The “Merry Mascots” Concert party provided just the right sort of musical entertainment, with the songs that our soldiers delight in, accompanied by piano, harp and violin. The tea would have been very good in ordinary times – under present conditions it was marvellous. And the abundant supply of cigarettes handed round by Mrs. A.T. Watkins and Miss Shorter was evidently appreciated to the full.

The goal of our journey was Park Place, the residence of Colonel Noble, and it was good to see the enjoyment of our guests as they made their way up the green slope and through the famous tunnel to the fine historic mansion, with its glorious views, and enchanting grotto, and gardens.

Our party include men from many distant parts of the Empire as well as from the Old Country – from Australia and South Africa, and the Rocky Mountains. By their words and their looks, they left us in no doubt that the object we all had in view was fully attained, and the expedition will long live in their memory, as in ours who were privileged to go with them.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, October 1918 (D/EX1237/1)

“In spite of dark hours of disappointment, all those on active service at home and abroad are looking for the dawn”

More and more men were being called up.

PERSONAL

The many friends of Cadet Douglas Baker, son of our esteemed Deacon, Mr Henry Baker, will be glad to hear that he has successfully passed all his examinations, and is now awaiting his commission as an officer in the RAF. We tender him our heartiest congratulations and good wishes. Our young friend has already several years of service to his credit, and a record of which he may justly feel proud.

We also desire to congratulate Sergeant C. S. Stebbings on his recent promotion. Sergeant Stebbings has served for more than 2 ½ years with the Royal Engineers in France, and he has just returned “on leave” with his three stripes. So far he has come through “safe and sound”. We earnestly hope that the like good fortune may be his in coming days.

Fred Warman writes very cheerily from his internment camp at Groningen, Holland. The supply of food, he tells us, is insufficient, but “by buying biscuits and chocolates, which are very dear, I manage to live fairly well and endeavour to keep up my health and strength.” He is learning to speak Dutch, and has made some good friends.

Private Gerald S. Hampton has been wounded in the right hand, and is now in a hospital at Warwick. We are not informed of the extent of his injury, but we hope it is not serious, and that he may have a speedy recovery.

SUNDAY SCHOOL NOTES

Our young friend, Mr Hedley Wyles, who for some time past has helped us as pianist in our morning school, has recently been called to the colours. We greatly regret this has become necessary, but our bets wishes go with him and we trust ‘ere long to have the pleasure of welcoming him back again safe and sound. Miss W. Quelch has very kindly undertaken to fill the post vacated by Mr Wyles.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

“O.A.S” [on active service]

It is a joy to receive letters from our Brothers abroad bearing this inscription, for right well we know they are on active service away on the battle fronts!

Whilst congratulating them on their sacrificial work out yonder, we at home are striving to deserve a similar title…

In spite of dark hours of disappointment, all those on active service at home and abroad are looking for the dawn, and with outstretched hand say to each other with faith and confidence:
“Hope on, the sun is rising, prepare for the coming day. God be with you till we meet again.”…

We are not forgetting our Brother on service. The number increases week by week, so that it has become almost impossible for Brother Woolley to write a personal letter to each member individually, so it is hoped that a special monthly message from the President with a reprint of these notes will be sent each month to brothers on service.

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

“If only Fritz would drop a bomb on it, it would save further argument”

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence to let her know how he was getting on. The following day he was to be wounded.

Aug 6, 1918
My dear WF

Almost I’ve forgotten how to write a letter. Lately I have been so busy picking up the threads and so on that I haven’t had time to write a line since July 14, I think it was – not even to write and wish you many happy returns of the 4th. However I’ll put the clock back a couple of days and do it now.

My diary has gone during the last few weeks and I’m racking my brain for news.

To go back, I finished my course on the 17th. My section, 4/7 of which was my Division, won the School cup. The runners up were also 4/7 my Division. So we set our caps at the Canadians, Australians & our friends from USA and swanked. Also individually my section scored highest marks in the examination. My own report read –
Qualifications Very good
Power of command Ditto
Keen

So there was much rejoicing and our [HLI?] instructor got very tipsy at our expense and insisted on singing all the Scotch songs ever written, and some which I believe had before scarcely escaped the boundaries of his “wee bit hoos ben” or some such foreign place.

After that I returned “here” – that’s interesting. From here I went up the line once or twice, and then went “there” and billeted the Battalion. With the aid of 200 men, made the area reasonably clean, and HQ habitable. There was even a piano and one evening we had our string trio over to play to us at mess, and afterwards the doctor (from USA) with a fine voice, sang to us and made us all homesick. And the adjutant begged for Raff’s [Cantina?] and got it, and wondered how I knew when I turned to him during the piece and said, “Your wife plays this”.

And then I came here again & the adjutant being inoculated & sick, I had to ride up the line and take over. And now I am here again (and it’s pouring with rain) in an abandoned cottage with an earth floor and leaky roof and really very comfortable. To a newcomer it would be startling to go round a battalion’s “billets” and hear our boys tell the visiting officer that they were quite comfortable in a tumbledown outhouse or barn. Someday again I expect we shall get luxurious again.

Had one very bad night here during an event I expect you are now reading about. Fritz bombed all night and generally played the devil. A few days before a billet of ours was gutted by fire due to another unit’s fault. Luckily overnight I had organised our people for such an event, and in 25 minutes we had it out and a large farm saved. The other unit having at last accepted liability, rebuilt the place. I remarked that if only Fritz would drop a bomb on it, it would save further argument. He did, but not till it had been rebuilt & occupied and the farmer was gloating over new buildings for old.

The CO has just turned up so I’ll close while I have the opportunity.
With my dear love to you both

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/58-60)

A good example of a good defensive position

Sydney Spencer and his men practiced tactics before meeting the locals.

Tuesday 16 July 1918

All the servants were very late this morning & we were not called until 7.55. It meant a rush! At nine on parade. Did a good morning’s work consisting of platoon drill, a very thorough inspection, I took the rifle bombers in cup discharge work, then we did a scheme from 11-1. Hervey took out his platoon to a hill with trenches. Kemp attacked. I was in reserve. A good example of how [sic] a good defensive position.

After lunch censored letters. Then went down to Kemp’s billet & played on an atrocious piano. A mademoiselle charmante [charming young lady] spoke pretty broken English, & prettier French. Madame gave me some flowers. Spent a pleasant evening – a really decent one. Acted as interpreter for a photographer who took our drums. The village crier, a pale looking youth with plaintive voice demanded after beating his drum that we should declare the boites de foin [haystacks] gathered in during the [illegible] in the morning.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

“Life keeps brightening all the way” with jokes and accordions

An army chaplain wrote to his friends in Reading with a description of his experiences. Ecumenicism took a step forward in the extreme situation of the war.

Letter from the Rev. R W Morley
YMCA
c/o The Town Major [sic]
1st Army Corps Railhead
1st January 1918
My dear Vicar,

I expect most of my friends know by now of the two huts that I have charge of out here, and the delightful Quiet Room with all its devotional helpfulness. Apropos of the last it might be of interest if I transcribed a phrase from my predecessor’s letter to me (he is a prominent Congregational Minister), “Nothing gave me pleasure than the introduction of the altar, reminding me as it did of Our Great High Priest and the priesthood of all believers”. There I have the joy of celebrating most Sundays at 8 am at the request of the Church of England Chaplains, and in their robes as I have none out here, nor have I vessels as mine were a little too small for the purpose. On Christmas Day I celebrated with a wine glass for chalice and glass cake dish for the bread, a saucer and another wine glass on a chair for the consecrated bread and wine, and with no robes. Once in every month I have an open Communion for “all who love the Lord in sincerity and truth”, to whatever church they belong. This follows our evening service instead of the usual prayer meeting, and I take it of course on very free lines, though including two or three lines out of our incomparable liturgy…

I take all the religious work here, i.e. two weekly services, one on Sunday evenings and one on Wednesday, and the nightly prayers in the hut. Also we have a Fellowship Meeting in the little room every evening, and I am taking the Saturday night every week myself with a discussion attached. I asked them what subject they would like, as I thought a course would be best. Imagine my delight and surprise when they all agreed on “The Fundamentals of the Christian Faith”. We had 35 last week, and they almost all stayed for discussion.

At the present time, should you come in and catch me unawares with a spare moment, you would probably find me endeavouring to pick out a hymn on an Italian accordion which I have just purchased, thinking it might help the singing at the meetings, as we have only one piano and that is in the service and concert hut. If I show signs of excelling (!) on the instrument I may startle your open-air service some Sunday evening with it should I be lucky enough to get a Sunday’s leave and bring it home in safety. However, I do not think there is much cause for alarm at my present rate of progression…

I only wish I could introduce you to some of the men I have met out here. And not least those I have had the joy of working with in this hut. Mr Hichens, a Church of England priest, who was and is unselfishness and charm itself, now, alas, transferred; Mr Cooper, full of cheerfulness, absolutely typical of that which he was when war broke out – a Cambridge undergraduate; and the orderlies too; the Sergeant, with his “Good mornin’” and his devotion to a certain gramophone record; Parry from Lancashire, where they know everything, with his talk about Fritz’s indiarubber gun and his many tales oft told; and Harman who revels in a practical joke especially if played on Mr Cooper. The French boys I hardly dare attempt. “Nosegay” (his name is really Julien; smokers will appreciate) and Georges and Marcel, with their smiling faces and their quaint patois, half English and half French. There they are, a real merry party. So life keeps brightening all the way..

Your sincere friend
R W Morley

Reading St. John parish magazine, Feburary 1918 (D/P172/28A/24)

A “fine display of assmanship” in Earley

Wounded soldiers being nursed in Reading were treated to a party in Earley, complete with a possibly rather overworked donkey.

21st June

The longest Day in summer was the occasion of the entertainment of about 40 wounded soldiers from two of the town hospitals to a garden party at the Vicarage. The hostesses were the members of the Girls’ Club. Of these, with others who were present to assist at the games, there were a goodly number, and although the party amounted to about 100 persons. The manager of Tramways was good enough to provide two cars without charge for the conveyance of the soldiers, and the home send off at 6.30 occasioned quite a flutter in the neighbouring windows.

The soldiers were received by Mrs Norris, as head of the club, and the members at 3pm; and the weather being all that could be wished proceedings opened quietly enough with skittles and bowls for the active, and a rest for such that were tired. But the spirit which moves between guests and hostesses who have not met hitherto, and which is especially welcome on these occasions had not yet arrived. His appearance, however, at a quarter to four was unmistakeable in the form of an ass harnessed to a barrel organ and guided by an Italian, arriving on the lawn suddenly in the midst of the company.

Henceforth the soberness of the games and the sweet music of Mr Cyphus at the piano gave way to donkey rides for nothing accompanied to the familiar airs associated with the streets, and until the tea bell sounded the bowls and the skittles lay idle on the grass. Earlier in the day the girls had decorated the Parish Hall with flags and flowers and had provided a sumptuous tea, of which all partook with great satisfaction. After which the Vicar, on behalf of the hostesses, offered a welcome to the guests of the afternoon. As was fitting he touched lightly both on the grave and gay sides of the occasion, and drew in response an excellent reply from the senior representative from Struan House Hospital which was concluded in much cheering.

The hundred then took up their position on the lawn and submitted themselves to the menacing eye of the camera, which doubtless will on this occasion make us all look beautiful. This ordeal over, and our brother the ass having been refreshed, moreover the courage of those who wished to ride and had no experience of it being quickened by the successful gallops of others – a fine display of assmanship was given especially when the fair rider was supported by footmen on either side: and all went as merry as wedding bells until the inexorable call of time at 6.30. So ended a memorable occasion.


Earley parish magazine, July 1916 (D/P192/28A/14)

“The war is doing us a lot of good”

Maysie Wynne-Finch wrote to her brother Ralph Glyn in Egypt with the news that she and her wounded husband were going to be based in Windsor until he was well enough to return to the Front. Their aunt Sybil was still receiving letters from her son Ivar, written before his recent death in action.

Feb 11/16
11 Bruton St W
Darlingest R.

I had a mysterious message from Meg’s house today saying Colonel Sykes had called leaving a small parcel from you, & saying he was just home from the Dardenelles [sic]. I had the said parcel brought here, & it is a couple of torch refills apparently unused from Stephenson. I must get hold of Colonel Sykes for an explanation.

Our plans are now fixed up to a point. The doctor, [dear?] man, said John was not to return to France for 3 months, this being so the regimental powers that be used much pressure to get him to reconsider his refusal of the 5th Battalion Adjutancy, & so after being told they won’t try & keep him after he’s fit for France, he has said yes. There is no doubt it’s good useful work for home service, if it has to be, & I am glad for him, though I suppose I shall now see little or nothing of him at all. He begins on Monday. He went house hunting on Tuesday – a depressing job, as there are hardly any houses to be had, & those one more beastly than the other! However – nothing matters – it’s just wonderful to be there at all. We shall take what we can & when we can – that’s all. The house we long for, but it’s not yet even furnished, is one, & a charming old house done up & owned by that old bore Arthur Leveson Gower, you remember the man, we met at the Hague, years ago. Tony has been ill again with Flu, the 2nd time this year…

We’ve just had tea with Aunt Syb. She got another letter from Ivar written Jan 1, last Friday. It’s awful for her, & yet I think there is most joy, rather than pain, the hopeless silence is for a moment filled, though but as it were by an echo. Joan looks pale & oh so sad. She’s wonderfully brave & unselfish to Aunt Syb. Poor little Joanie…

I hear Pelly’s opinion is that Kut must fall. London was filled with rumours of a naval engagement on Monday & Tues, but as far as I can make out without foundation.

I met Ad[miral] Mark Ker[r] in the street the other day, & we had a long talk. I fear he’s not improved – & I think very bitter at being out of it all. He was interesting over Greece etc, but there is so much “I” in all he says, one cannot help distrusting a great deal. He’s very upset as he was starting to return to Greece a week ago & at the very last moment was stopped, & now he’s simply kicking his heels, not knowing what’s going to happen next. “Tino” now is of course his idol & here – I feel a pig saying all this, as I do feel sorry for him, & he was most kind. Yesterday he asked us to lunch to meet Gwladys [sic] Cooper, Mrs Buckmaster, how lovely she is, & seems nice, almost dull John thought! We then went on to the matinee of her new play. Most amusing, she is delightful, & Hawtrey just himself…

As you can imagine air-defence & the want of it is now all the talk. One of our airships has taken to sailing over this house from west to east every morning at 8.30 am. I hear we broke up 6 aeroplanes & killed 3 men the night of the last raid. All leave is now stopped from France. We’ve just lunched with Laggs Gibbs, who came over a day before the order came out. He says it’s said to be because of some new training scheme we have & not because of any offensive either way.

John had a Med Board today, & narrowly escaped being given another 3 months sick leave apparently. They implored him to go to Brighton & said he was very below parr [sic] etc, however he bounced them into giving him home duty, & they’ve made it 3 months, & “no marching”, etc, tc, etc. Of course as Adjutant he wouldn’t have that anyhow.

We think we have got a house, but can’t get in for a fortnight.

Bless you darling
Your ever loving Maysie (more…)

Cheery soldiers and Serbian relief

Residents of Crazies Hill in the parish of Wargrave supported fundraising for our allies in Serbia.

Crazies Hill Notes: Servian Relief Fund

On Wednesday, February 2, a concert was given in the Village Hall on behalf of the above Fund. The performers came from Henley and the programme was arranged by Mr. Chillman of 10, Market Place, Henley. It is interesting to note that Mr. Chillman is a native of Crazies Hill, having been born in our village where he spent the early years of his life.

The concert was a success from every point of view. There must have been close upon two hundred people present, and all seemed to thoroughly enjoy the different items as they were proceeded with. The front rows of seats were reserved for the patients of Parkwood Hospital, and the cheery presence of the soldiers added to the evening’s enjoyment. Although all the performers were amateurs the talent exhibited was above the average. The Pianoforte Solos were listened to with attention. The Recitations of a lady were greatly appreciated; and a Baritone Singer with an exceptionally good voice was deservedly encored. Also a great favourite with the audience was a Soprano Soloist, who was vigorously applauded and repeatedly encored. Of course the comic element was very welcome and met with the reception it undoubtedly deserved. ‘The Funny Man’ produced much laughter. We are very grateful to all the performers. The result of the concert, £3 16s. 11d. has been forwarded to the Treasurer of the Fund.

Concert at Crazies Hill Village Hall,
On February 2nd, 1916

£ s. d.
Sale of Tickets 2 14 11
Taken at door 1 6 6
Sale of Programmes 0 8 0

Total 4 9 5

Hire of Hall 0 5 0
Refreshments for Performers 0 5 0
Cleaner 0 2 6
Handed over to Serbians’ Fund 3 16 11

Total 4 9 5.

Wargrave parish church magazine, March 1916 (D/P145/28A/31)

The calamity of war teaches us a lesson

Maidenhead Congregational Church was girding itself for another year of war.

SOLDIER GUESTS.

There seems every probability that Maidenhead will be again called upon to receive a number of soldiers in training, and that in consequence our Schoolroom may be again required for their entertainment in the evenings. If it be so, we will cheerfully face the disturbance to our own arrangements, and no doubt the willing workers of last winter will feel it a privilege to serve again.

A Word for the New Year

With what spirits are we going forward into this strange New Year? …

We move into the New Year with the calamity of war upon us, and we may calmly wait the issue, if we believe in God, and if we are sure that for us, yea and for all the nations too, even our enemies, the end of it will bring us nearer to the goal of all true civilization. God has always brought blessings out of calamities. He who knows nothing of surgery might denounce the cruelty of the surgeon’s knife, but wisdom is sure that the hand that holds it is mercy. National putrefaction is a worse thing than national sorrow, and when God’s judgments are written in flaming letters across the lands, many who could not have heard the lesson in any other way, begin to understand that there is a God in the earth.

The virtues of courage and endurance are everyone’s admiration just now, so magnificently are they exemplified by our khaki-clad heroes. Is there not room and occasion for them in the lives of us all?…
T F Lewis.

SOLDIER GUESTS.
There seems every probability that Maidenhead will be again called upon to receive a number of soldiers in training, and that in consequence our Schoolroom may be again required for their entertainment in the evenings. If it be so, we will cheerfully face the disturbance to our own arrangements, and no doubt the willing workers of last winter will feel it a privilege to serve again.”

OUR ROLL OF HEROES.
There are a few changes to make since our last record. Charles Hurrell has been discharged from the Navy, in consequence of a breakdown in health. Cyril Hews has left Newhaven, where he has been since August of last year, and expects to proceed to the front immediately. Thomas Mulford has left for Egypt. Horace Gibbons is still in hospital, but is going on well. Percy Lewis has been gazetted Captain, Hugh Lewis has received a Second Lieutenancy in the Royal Engineers, and is stationed at Northampton. No news has been received of Harold Fisher, reported missing on September 28th, but it has been ascertained that some of his Company were taken prisoners on that day, and we may hope that he is among them. Benjamin Gibbons and David Dalgliesh have gone with their regiments to the scene of action in France. John Bolton has been promoted Company Quarter-Master Sergeant. Robert Harris is on the point of crossing to France, perhaps has already crossed. Bert Plum has gone down the Mediterranean, destination unknown. May our Heavenly Father, to whose gracious care we lovingly commend all our lads, preserve and bless them, and enable them to be faithful to their duty and their God.

OUR SOLDIERS’ LETTERS

Many acknowledgements have been received of the Church’s letter: we quote extracts from two.

“I write to thank the Church for the very kind and thoughtful letter which I received last week. It brings to my mind the happy days I spent in the Sunday School, which I look back upon as days of sunshine. It gives me great satisfaction to know that yourself and the Church have not forgotten one who has been away from your midst for a few years.”

“Let me thank you, as our Church’s representative, for the very nice letter of greeting and good will which I received on the 18th November. It has been a great comfort to me on several occasions to remember that I am a member of the Church, and I was very much gratified to receive the kind message, and the assurance that God is on our side, and is always with us.”

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, December 1915 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Music and feasting for the soldiers in Maidenhead

Soldiers billeted in Maidenhead were making good use of the Congregational Church Sunday School premises in their spare time, and there was a party on Christmas Day.

THE SOLDIERS’ CLUB ROOM.
Our Schoolrooms are again at the disposal of the soldiers for recreation and letter writing. The kind friend who provided a piano last winter has renewed his generosity for the present need. We have borrowed a bagatelle table, and would be most grateful for the loan of another, or indeed of several others. The ladies of the B.W.T.A. have again undertaken to be in attendance every evening to mend clothing and to put on buttons, and the refreshment bar is once more in active operation. The rooms were highly decorated for the Christmas holidays, and on Christmas evening Lieut. Davies, of the 2/3 East Anglians R.E., gave his men a party therein with music and feasting.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, January 1915 (D/N33/12/1/5)

A sumptuous tea

Wounded soldiers invited to tea at Trinity Church in Queen’s Road contributed to their own entertainment.

Wounded Soldiers Tea

On December 15th we had the pleasure of entertaining about 45 patients from Redlands War Hospital. By the kindness of the Tramways Manager, a special car was provided, which brought our guests to Trinity soon after two o’clock.

Various games – cards, bagatelle, dominoes, draughts, were indulged in with evident enjoyment until 4.15, when we all sat down to a sumptuous tea. Soon, a very festive appearance was presented, as crackers were pulled, and soldiers and lady-helpers alike donned the fanciful headgear.

After tea, songs were contributed by various friends, and two most interesting turns were provided by Private Fielding, A.S.C, who, accompanied on the piano by Private Barraclough, A.S.C., played first with bones, and then upon the rather unusual instruments – four wine glasses.

Flowers, magazines, and fruit were given to the men as they left, to give to those in hospital who were unable to be present.

Trinity Congregational Church, Reading: church magazine, February 1916 (D/EX1237/1/11)

A real spirit of reverence: an army chaplain’s first Sunday at the Front

T Guy Rogers, former vicar of Reading St John, wrote back to his former parishioners to describe his new life as an army chaplain.

EXTRACT FROM A LETTER FROM Mr. ROGERS.

Dec. 6th

…My first Sunday at the front… I had several strenuous days trying to make arrangements, sometimes riding up and down a street or locality for about half an hour, trying to find a particular headquarters, or officer. My job was to arrange services for all units of the Division (as far as was humanly possible!) – quartered in my particular neighbourhood- the place where the dressing station is. That meant not only for my own Brigade (such part of it as would be out of the trenches) but engineering sections, pioneers, machine gunners, artillery and anything in the way of Divisional troops round me. No one seems to have had the job before, as the Guards have only recently come here. At any rate I was left to sink or swim. However, all my arrangements came through and I had a successful Sunday…

I started off at 8 a.m., with my servant, both walking, carrying communion bag, robes, hymn-books for the congregation etc. After about 20 minutes we reached a big barn, in the loft of which I was to take a parade service, followed by a celebration for a company of Engineers. When I arrived, men were sleeping and dressing, hanging up their clothes and sitting by the braziers making their breakfasts.
It was really rather an awful moment, but we soon got a fatigue party to sweep up the place. I got some forms, rather dirty I’m afraid, and fenced them round a rough table for communion rails; put on a white tablecloth and got ready. The bunks were pushed well back and we got a clear space, though rather a wet one, in the centre. Then the officers came in and we had a very happy little parade service of about 30 or 40. Everybody stood all the time. Of course we had no instrument but some of the men started some of the well known hymns. This was service number one. Then I took a short form of celebration for about 7 or 8. The surroundings were very odd, but there was a real spirit of reverence. (more…)