“One can’t do too much to make these young colonials comfortable”

Florence Vansittart Neale despaired of the situation on the Russian Front, while William Hallam and his wife offered some home comforts to Australian soldiers.

Florence Vansittart Neale
29 July 1917

Russia hopelessly rotten. Retreating all along.

William Hallam
29th July 1917

Up at 10 past 5 and to work. How I am getting fed up with this week and work. Home at ¼ past 1 to dinner. Our Tasmanian came in to dinner and tea with his two chums Gordon Inglis and Percy Crane from Hobart. They are certainly 3 of the nicest fellows I’ve ever met and I feel one can’t do too much to make these young colonials comfortable and give them a home comfort when we can. Very wet, raining hard.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

“Personally, my hopes lie in the Constituent Assembly choosing a Constitutional Monarchy” in Russia

Customary insistence that churchgoers should wear their Sunday best had gone by the wayside.

Dear Friends and Parishioners,-

This short line comes to greet you in the midst of what I hope will be pleasant summer weather. The very beauty of Nature around us must make us in our green Island think of the goodness of God’s bounty to us all ; and it must in our thankfulness suggest to us how great our sympathy should be with all those of our kith and kin, who in weariness too often, in hardship too frequent, are on our behalf in the shell-scarred, dusty, noisome trenches of many foreign lands.

I would not exhort, as Vicar, for just now we are all very ready to stir each other up to action, but I would rather beg of you as a fellow worshipper, that we should try not to grow weary or fainthearted in our prayers for those we love, whether at home or in Church. St Luke’s Church is open always from 8 am to 6 pm, later on Fridays and Sundays; St Peter’s is open, too. Those who cannot find a quiet corner at home, can find one there. Working clothes do not matter; God wants our hearts, not fine clothes.

There is, too, the War Shrine to provide a centre for our prayers. And many could come to the weekly Friday Intercession Service. We have to remember that life is not the only boon we can ask for those we love but that honour, purity, and straightforwardness are even greater things. I think we are all doing this pretty well; but I suppose we could none of us honestly say we could not do a great deal better…

Now may I say one ward as regards Treats, etc. The War certainly imposes on us the need for great economy. All expenses should, so far as possible, be cut down. But the War has already lasted nearly three years, and owing to the Republican disorder in Russia, the hope of an early Peace has faded away; though the entry of the United States into the War has made more certain than ever before a full and final victory. We must all hope for a speedy settlement in the land of our great Russian Ally; personally, my hopes lie in the Constituent Assembly choosing a Constitutional Monarchy.

So, many children are fast growing up without much memory of the peaceful days before the War. For them there should be, I think, very simple and economic Treats. I hope those who agree with me will support our Sunday School Fund during this month. I feel that the Mothers are another class who should have some little outing, as cheap as possible, of course, still a little change from the daily work and anxiety…

I remain, Your faithful friend and Vicar

C.E.M. FRY

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, July 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

“Our prayers are needed for the people of Russia, that they may be united in their new liberty”

The parish of Newbury feared the Russian Revolution would make the war longer.

The War still drags on, and the Revolution in Russia has not tended towards making it shorter: our prayers are needed for the people of Russia, that they may be united in their new liberty, and may stand firm against the enemy.

The War has lately claimed two more of our men, and we offer our sincere sympathy to Mrs Cox, of 6, Rosemary Terrace, and Mrs Preston, of 3, Rosemary Terrace, on the loss of their husbands. Several of our CLB lads have lately had to join up. There is still urgent need for economy in the matter of our food, and a food economy exhibition has lately been held in the Corn Exchange.

It is most unfortunate that, just as new and most suitable premises had been secured for the Soldiers’ Club, all the soldiers should disappear from Newbury: and the committee are accordingly left in a difficulty as to what to do. At this moment the club is furnished, but is not open, and we cannot hear of any more soldiers coming. The Secretary and Treasurer of the Club is Miss Godding, and the Committee are Mrs S A Hawker, Mrs O’Farrell, Mrs H Hollands, Mrs Palmer, and Miss A Boyer. These ladies have made the Club a great success by their hard work, and with the assistance of other helpers.

Newbury St Nicolas parish magazine, July 1917 (D/P89/28A/13)

Russia “too awful”

Florence Vansittart Neale was depressed by the latest news of the Russian Revolution and its impact on the country’s war effort. Alexander Kerensky (1881-1970) was one of the leaders of the February Revolution, but would fall from power later in the year.

22 July 1917
Russia too awful. All army deserting, giving up all fight. Kerensky made Prime Minister.

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

The walls between races are being done away

The Bishop of Oxford saw the war breaking down barriers of racism, and wanted to spur churchgoers into thinking about mission work after the war.

THE BISHOP’S MESSAGE

The following extracts are from the Bishop’s message in the July Diocesan Magazine:

Your prayers are asked
For the country and our allies, especially for Russia, and for the cause in which we are fighting…

THE AUTUMN EFFORT

There is to be an “effort” in the autumn to stimulate prayer and interest and self-sacrifice for the overseas work of the church. It is certain that the great war will put in a new light both the obligation and the opportunity of world-wide evangelization. In particular, America and England will be confronted with professions about human brotherhood and consequent obligations to races whose skins are not of our colour which we cannot possibly disown. But the more deeply we think about the Brotherhood of Nations, the more we are driven back upon Christianity. There is no other religion which can aver make a reasonable claim to be a catholic religion. There only can it be even claimed that the middle walls of partition between race and race are done away.

Well, this moment, with our men away at the war – just the men we want to get to listen – is the last moment for a Missionary Crusade. Nut we who stay at home must be preparing our message. And I want every parish priest, every parochial study and prayer circle, every ruri-decanal committee for overseas work, to see to it that, by whatever method, some real effort is made this autumn to make our people realise (1) the vast obligation – as the situation arising out of the war will present it afresh – which lies on us to evangelize the world; (2) the immense needs of a missionary field denuded of even its normal equipment, short as that always was; (3) the call of Christ upon young men and women for a sacrifice in the cause of the Kingdom of Christ corresponding to the sacrifice evoked by the war.

C. OXON.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, July 1917 (D/P191/28A/24)

Wise dealing with the Liquor question

The Bishop asked Berkshire churchgoers to pray for Russia, our ally in the throes of revolution, and for the question of alcohol restrictions at home.

THE BISHOP’S MESSAGE

The following extracts are from the Bishop’s message in the May Diocesan Magazine:

Your prayers are specially asked

For the Russian people and Government and Church

For the Chaplains to the troops, especially those who have gone from this diocese.

For parishes whence clergy have gone on National service, that their spiritual interests may not suffer.

For wise dealing by the Government with the Liquor question…


Earley St Peter parish magazine, May 1917 (D/P191/28A/24)

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

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

O.R. NEWS.

Killed in Action.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading people offered prayers for the Russian Revolution and for Serbian refugees who had come to Reading.

The Vicar’s Notes
Intercessions

For Russia in her time of crisis.
For Serbia and the Serbians now living in our midst in Reading.
For all the operations of the allies this spring.
For all those lately confirmed.
For the Dedication Festival at S. Saviour’s that the War-shrine may be a real spiritual help to the Parish.

Thanksgiving

For Successes granted to our arms in Mesopotamia and France.

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

Pray that we may receive in safety the things which we need from beyond the seas

The Bishop of Oxford shared a prayer for the protection of the food supply, while being concerned for Russia following the revolution.

THE BISHOP’S MESSAGE

The following extracts are from the Bishop’s message in the April Diocesan magazine:

Your prayers are specially asked

For the Russian people and Government and the Russian Church…

The following prayer for the maintenance of our food supplies is recommended for use and may be used in church:

O GOD, Heavenly Father, Who by Thy Son Jesus Christ hast promised to all them that seek Thy Kingdom and the Righteousness thereof, all things necessary to their bodily sustenance; teach us so to seek Thy Kingdom and Righteousness that we may be worthy to claim Thy Promise. Bless the use of the land for the provision of food, and grant to us abundant crops: and of Thy great mercy, protect, we humbly pray Thee, our merchant ships, and those of our Allies, and of the neutral nations, against the attacks of our enemies; that so we may receive in safety the things which we need from beyond the seas; and may praise Thee always for Thy goodness and loving kindness towards us: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

C. OXON.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, April 1917 (D/P191/28A/24)

Fears of a separate peace

James Louis Garvin, the influential editor of The Observer, warned of the potential impact on the war of the revolution in Russia.

18 March 1917

Harold back on leave. Hopes to get job in France soon….

Garvin’s account of Russia very interesting. Find fears of separate peace justified.

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

Extraordinary news from Russia

The Russian Revolution came as a complete shock in England.

16 March 1917

Extraordinary news from Russia. Revolution & Tzar [sic] abdicated in favour of his brother.

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

Excellent war pictures

People in Mortimer attended an illustrated lecture on various fronts of the war.

War Pictures
On Mar. 12th S. John’s Hall was crammed from end to end with a responsive audience for Colonel Lynden-Bell’s lecture on the Somme, Russian, and Mesopotamia fronts. The pictures were excellent, the lecturer most interesting: the only flaw was the failure of the supply of hydrogen at about half time. But the lecturer has kindly offered to come again and finish his programme. £4 15s. 6d. was given at the door – for the Russian Red Cross. It was a pleasure to have Colonel W. P. Nash in the chair.

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

“Surely the Almighty God, does not intend this was to be just a hideous fracas, a bloody, drunken orgy”

Admiral David Beatty (1871-1936) was a leading naval officer.

THE VICAR’S LETTER

MY DEAR FRIENDS AND PARISHIONERS,

There is but one absorbing thought for us as members of the Church this month, that is, the National Mission. No one can doubt but that God has been very distinctly speaking to us as a nation since the war began in 1914. He speaks in order that we may act. An opportunity is seized or it is lost. What great results may flow from a choice rightly made? The entire Church, interpreting God’s message from this war, says to us now “Choose ye this day who ye will serve?” Some folk feel that God has never crossed their path. Some people don’t hear when they are spoken to. They are either deaf or inattentive. Let me conclude my letter with the words of no less a hero than Admiral Beatty, which claims the respect of every thoughtful man and woman.

“Surely the Almighty God, does not intend this was to be just a hideous fracas, a bloody, drunken orgy. There must be purpose in it all: improvement must be born of it. In what direction, France has shewn us the way. She has risen out of her ruined cities with her revived religion, which is most wonderful. Russia has been welded into a whole, and religion plays a paper part. England still remains to be taken out of the stupor of self-satisfaction and complacency in which her great and flourishing condition has steeped her; and until religious revival takes place at home, just so long will the war continue. When she can look out on the future with humbler eyes and a prayer on her lips then we can begin to count the days towards the end.”

I would specially commend to the serious thought of every reader the latter part beginning with the words of England. Let every man and woman do their bit.

Ever yours affectionately in Christ,

WALTER THACKERAY.

* * *

We desire to express our deep sympathy with Mr. and Mrs. Woodwards, also with Mr. and Mrs. Ferris in their recent bereavements on the battlefield.

Warfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, October 1916 (D/P151/28A/8/10)

The allies are in the ascendant – but the sacrifice is awful

The Bishop of Oxford looked back at the start of the war and the reasons for going to war, as the National Mission began:

THE BISHOP’S MESSAGE

The following extracts are from the Bishop’s message in the August Diocesan magazine:

Your prayers are specially asked:

For all the needs of the nation, for peace in Ireland, and for the good hand of God upon us in the war, especially in connection with August 4, the anniversary of its declaration.

THE CLERGY RETREATS AND AUG. 4

I am very sorry that this anniversary of the declaration of war coincides with the last day of the clergy retreats at Bradfield and Wellington… The observance of this anniversary must, where necessary, on this or other grounds, be postponed till the Sunday.

THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE DECLARATION OF WAR

I trust that we shall use the anniversary to revive in our minds the clear consciousness of what we are fighting for. What drew us, under an overmastering sense of national duty, for the sake of ourselves and all mankind, to go to war, was that we found ourselves face to face with a claim made by Germany, so plainly destructive of international obligations and so plainly destructive of the equal rights of all nations in the sight of God, that it was necessary to league ourselves with other nations in order to resist it, and if possible, to crush it (not Germany, but the arrogant claim of Germany) once and for ever.

It is the cause for equal rights for all peoples: for liberty, and the maintenance of international obligations for such as are fighting: and it is laid upon us plainly to show ourselves worthy to fight for these sacred laws by vindicating the liberty and the just rights and the legitimate claims of all at home and within our Empire as well as abroad. We who have used the sacred words of liberty and justice are on our trial no doubt before the eyes of men. Please God we shall rise to the great responsibility.

Meanwhile as the terrible war goes on, year after year there are no signs of failure to maintain the unity and spirit of the nation. Just at present our longing eyes are being greeted at many points by conspicuous signs for success. For the first time we feel justified in saying that the allies appear to be in the ascendant. We are full of hope. We are filled with enthusiasm at the splendid spirit of our men. Nothing more glorious in its kind could be desired. But the sacrifice is awful. And our hearts are torn every day by the awful records of loss. We can only pray with all the concentration of which we are capable that the awful and long-continued sacrifice, on our own part, on the part of France, on the part of Serbia, on the part of Russia, on the part of Italy, may really avail to build upon secure foundations a future of peace: a future in which the nations of Europe in their attitude toward one another shall be less unworthy of the name of Christian nations.

THE NATIONAL MISSION

The preparation for the national mission goes on, I trust, deepening and widening. There are many hopeful signs. But a great deal of awakening remains to be done. Not so many women as we were led to hope for were in fact forthcoming for the first Pilgrimage, and there were some acute disappointments. But the first reports of the reception of the pilgrims are distinctly encouraging. …

C. OXON

Earley parish magazine, August 1916 (D/P191/28A/31/8)

The Russians are shocking optimists and may run out of ammunition

Ralph Glyn’s old mentor was feeling a bit out of it now that he was no longer involved in the war.

Montpellier Hotel
Llandrindod Wells
21.6.16

My dear Ralph

I got your letter today. I wrote to you to Egypt about three weeks ago but expect the letter missed you.

Very glad to hear that you have found your way home. You will surely be able to light on some job other than intelligence in Egypt, which has lost its interest and importance so much. You will I suppose go and look up Whigham at the WO who is the dispenser of General Staff jobs in common with Bird.

I came down here last week and after finishing three weeks shall probably go on to Ireland before returning to Town. They are hardly likely to employ me again as they could not expect me to take anything that was not fairly good and there are plenty of people to fill such jobs, without their retrieving dug-outs for the purpose. I am sorry in some ways that I did not accept Haig’s offer last winter to go as his Mili. Secretary in place of Lowther; but at that time I was fed up with office work and I wanted to go to Russia; it could have kept me in harness till the end of the war.

I hope that you are none the worse for the wear [sic], Egypt can be uncommonly hot after April. Things are going well for the Allies but one feels a little afraid that the Ruskis may run short of ammunition if they are too busy; they are shocking optimists.

Ever yours
Chas E Callwell

Letter from General Callwell to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C24)