“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)

Restore oppressed nations to their rightful heritage

A new sympathy and interest were felt in our more obscure allies. It seemed appropriate at the time to look back at our Serbian allies’ historic fight for freedom from Turkey, now our mutual enemy.

The Vicar’s Notes

What is “KOSSOVO” day? It is the day on which, after fierce fighting, the Serbians came under the domination of the Turk (June 28th, 1389), and it is observed solemnly each year by the Serbian people. I hope to have a special memorial service at S. Mary’s on June 28th, at 12.15, very much on the lines of the service held at S. Pauls Cathedral last year. We ought to do all we can to shew our interest in those oppressed nations (at present under the heel of the German) which we are pledged to restore to their rightful heritage.

Intercessions
For the wounded, especially Fred Nunn.
For the missing, especially Charles Mercott, one of our servers.
For the fallen, especially William Stevens (killed in action in France on April 22nd); Tom Gray (died at the front from spotted fever); Edgar Bland and Ernest Lawrence (killed in action); Frederick Welford (Drowned in action)
R.I.P.

For God’s blessing on the efforts being made to save our country’s food.

Thanksgivings
For the progress of the Allied Arms.
For the gift of reasonable weather to help the Crops.

All Saints District
The War

We again have to mourn losses owing to the war and our sympathies will go out in abundant measure to those who are sorrowing. In Frederick Sales we have lost a former choir boy and we shall feel with his father who still has four sons in the Army, three of whom are in the fighting line.

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

A follow up appeared in a later issue:

“Kossovo” Day, June 28th, was largely spoilt by the bad weather, But we were glad to see the Serbian lads once more at S.Mary’s, and we had the support of our Mayor, and of the Principal and Registrar of the University College. The Russian “Kontakion” for the departed was well sung by the Choir; and the service ended with the Serbian Royal Anthem and our own National Anthem. Our earnest prayer is that by next “Kossovo” Day our Serbian friends may be restored to their rightful heritage once more.

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

Mutiny in the Baltic

The Russian Revolution took a new turn.

25 June 1917

Russian Baltic fleet all mutinied.

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

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)

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)

Russian diplomats delighted at revolution

Florence Vansittart Neale reflects in more detail on her experience seeing the tragic sight of the sunken Gloucester Castle hospital ship.

5 April 1917
I saw the Gloster Castle partly submerged, it had been towed into the Solent. Hospital ship torpedoed, burnt engines, darkness, people in boats 2 hours before picked up by destroyer.

Heard our hospital ships painted black & no lights.

Phyllis tells me one ran into French mines, hit & then destroyer sank. No wounded on board but nurses& orderlies.

Mrs James says when 20,000 prisoners were taken there, we may [have] her flag & feel the end is nearly coming! She says Russian attache’s & legation delighted at revolution.

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

Mutiny in Russia, revolution in the East End

The worst mutiny of the Russian Revolution took place at Kronstadt in March, when two admirals were among the officers murdered. Admiral Viren was the unfortunate commander to be cut into pieces.

1917

Hear that Russian sailors killed all naval officers. Cut up an Admiral & sent pieces to each ship!!

In air raid in London hear police say children might press on the yellow from poison in shells.

They say air raids purposely go East End so as to make the people revolutionary.

Hear Stepney very revolutionary. Hate the King, say the war caused by personal quarrel between our King & Kaiser.

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

“Only those who have lived amongst the Boche can fully appreciate what it means to be at the mercy of a brutal bully”

A man educated at Reading School reveals the horrors of being a prisoner of the Germans.

THE UNSPEAKABLE HUN.
A True Story.

It was Thursday morning, February 16th of last year [1917], and intensely cold, the thermometer registering 10 degrees below Zero. At 9 a German soldier came to tell me that I was wanted at the camp hospital. I was there met by the British doctor, Capt. Frank Park, C.A.M.C., who told me that their ere sixteen British Prisoners had just newly arrived from the station seven Kilometres away. With him I went into ward 2, and there saw 16 specimens of humanity. That is all you could call them, 16 frozen, hollow cheeked wrecks, the remnants of hundreds and hundreds of once strong, healthy men, who had been taken prisoners and kept to work behind the lines. Their comrades were dead.

Now these men were captured in September, October and November, 1916, and kept to work close to the front, working in preparation of the big German retreat then planned to take place in February and March, 1917. Their work was demolishing houses, bridges, felling trees, making roads and digging trenches, those called the Hindenburg line. This line and others were built by prisoners of war. We praised German engineering skill and paid silent tribute to the endurance and work of German working parties, but the work of prisoners, Russians and Rumanians in thousands and tens of thousands, and of British. They worked under appalling conditions, brutal treatment, blows, kicks, death if they refused, with housing and quarters not fit for pigs and food not enough to keep even body and soul together. What did it matter if they died, there were plenty more where they came from? Germany numbered her prisoners by millions. Prisoners they were, not prisoners of war; slaves, yea, worse than slaves.

These details these poor wretches told us with tears in their eyes when they spoke of some dear friend and pal who died beside them at his work, died of exposure, starvation, or our own shell fire. They told us of the clothes they had to wear. There was no need to tell, we saw it ourselves when we undressed them. Here is the list, and think of the temperature and cold as you read it:

Thin service tunic and trousers, old cotton shirt, socks and boots, and old cap. That was all, no warm under clothing, no great coat. All these the Boche had stolen under the plea they needed to be fumigated. But they were never returned.

And what did the outside world know of this or care? It may have cared, it must have cared, but it knew nothing. Germany took great care of that. These men were reported in British Casualty lists as “missing,” and missing they will remain till the end of time. But they were not missing; they were once strong healthy men, prisoners of war. They were not allowed to write to their relatives, Germany did not want the world to know where they were, or of their existence.

Amongst the sixteen who reached Minden were men who had been prisoners four or five months. This I found out as a fact when I wrote home to their relatives. They told me of pals who died beside them and I reported them to the Record Office of their Regiments and my letter never got home. It was always a mystery to us that these sixteen and other little parties later ever got back into Germany. They attributed it to the fact that, being men of fine physique and health, they didn’t succumb as quickly as their comrades went to hospital suffering chiefly from dysentery, recovered a little strength, and the Germans, seeing it was no good sending them back to the line. Put them on a train and back they came into Germany.

This is just one isolated instance of many that might be quoted. What one must realise in relation to these crimes is that while primarily they may be said to be the work of the system and spirit inculcated throughout the German Army by “Prussian Militarism,” yet nevertheless they were perpetrated by the Boche generally, and that right down to the very last German soldier this devilish brutality is to be expected and looked for. This is not generally realized, and only those who have lived amongst the Boche can fully appreciate what it means to be at the mercy of a brutal bully. You have no possible redress, no chance of even making your conditions known to the outside world, and you have only your own British spirit to carry you through.

If you can realise what this means, perhaps then you can appreciate what the ex-prisoner feels when he tells you that never again can he hold out his hand in friendship to a German.

CAPT. REV. A. GILLES WILKEN.
(Late British Prisoner of War).

Reading School magazine December 1918 (SCH3/14/34)

“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)

False rumours of looting in Iran

A Christian missionary with Reading connections wrote to report on how the war had affected her in Persia (Iran). Persia was theoretically neutral, but there was a certain amount of military activity.

EXTRACTS FROM LETTER FROM MISS BIGGS, ISPAHAN.

Here at Ispahan practically all our property is intact. We received rumour after rumour of damage and looting, but most of it has proved false. All our personal property is safe, except things stored in the boys’ school. The Persians under German command commandeered the school as barracks, and have done a good deal of superficial damage. Except for this and the Russian Red Cross having occupied our women’s hospital and Dr Stuart’s house, everything is locked up and sealed as we left it.

Reading St. John parish magazine, September 1916 (D/P172/28A/24)

“His steel helmet had a hole right through it”

John Maxwell Image wrote to his old friend W F Smith with news of a former pupil, wounded for a second time.

29 Barton Road
[Cambridge]
6 Aug. ‘16

Poor, illstarred Willie Dobbs has stopped another bullet – this time, a shrapnel from one of our own guns 120 yards off – a premature burst. He wrote to me from the Hospital in France, quite in the jaunty Irish way –

“treated me very leniently”, he said, “for it hit me in the wind”. But it must have been a narrow escape, for it went right through the body, “cracking a rib, and came out through another hole on the right of my chest. This was on the 19th and the 2 holes are nearly healed and probably the rib will not take more than a month.”

Mrs Dobbs writes that his steel helmet had a hole right through it. He is now in King Edward VIIth Hospital, London, and “doing well”. Sybil Dobbs found him “looking wonderfully well and in good spirits”, but still in bed….

The King was here on Thursday, to inspect Cadets. They seem to have tried to keep in secret in Camb[ridge]. Indeed we heard of it accidentally – though notice of course had been posted in the Common Room. Madame, full of loyalty, came in early: and we sat down on chairs upon the lawn before the Library. The sky was blue, the air genially warm, the grass and trees most refreshing. The College gates were closed to outsiders – and we and a few others spent a happy half hour watching lazy, pipe-smoking cadets try to build a bridge across the Cam. The menu supposed them to be “surprised in the act” by the King. He came in a small procession of motors, and plainly enjoyed the unceremonious visit, for he staid [sic] a long time. Mumbo in Scarlet received him. And it was grand to behold the monarch subsequently shake hands warmly with our Head Porter, Coe….

I went on Friday to hear OB’s “friend”, Vinogradoff. The Russians are all put up in Nevile’s Court. I ought to go one night to dine and see them. Shall I?

We have about 650, I hear, Cadets in Trinity, candidates for Commissions – most of them have already been at the Front. A week ago we entertained some 120 of these, who had just received their Commissions, at dinner. There must have been 160 in all. I went. Joey in the chair. 2 High Tables and 3 of in the body of the Hall. One of the Cadet captains was overheard preparing his men, as they stood in New Court ready to march to Hall – “Now, boys, understand: this is a dinner – not a Blind”.

All love to you and die Madame

Yours evermore
Bild

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

“Our Heavenly Father is enriching this parish with heroes of self-sacrifice”

There was news of several Ascot men, including a report by one man of life as a prisoner of war in Germany.

THE WAR

We have to announce that Charles Edwards has laid down his life in the service of his country. Ascot has real reason to be proud of him. Upright, courageous, a communicant of the Church, a member of a family universally respected, he leaves behind him not alone our heartfelt sense of sorrow for the withdrawal of a true and noble young life, but an ideal to be reverently set before us of what a GOD fearing young Englishman can attain to. Our Heavenly Father is enriching this parish with heroes of self-sacrifice, even unto death. May we humbly value to the utmost so priceless a dowry. The whole district should be raised to a higher level of life by the example and the prayers of young men of the type of Arthur Jones and Charles Edwards. R.I.P.

OUR WOUNDED.

Victor Edwards (brother of the above), Reginald Smith and Arthur Taylor are reported wounded. All three are doing well.

THE ASCOT SAILORS’ AND SOLDIERS’ COMMITTEE state that since the commencement of the war 136 in all appear to have gone abroad from Ascot in the service of their country, and of that 110 are now serving abroad. 15 are in the Navy, 72 reported in France, 16 on the Mediterranean, 1 in Mesopotamia, 4 in India and 2 prisoners. Parcels were sent in June to those who appeared to require them: and similar parcels are now being sent, and in addition special parcels are now being sent to those in the Navy. The thoughts of all of us will go out to those in France at this strenuous time.

AT MOST of our Garrisons in England there are no Army Churches, and efforts are now being made, with the approval of the Deputy Chaplain-General, to raise a Fund for building a Church at Bordon Camp, near Aldershot, in memory of the Great War, and as a memorial to those who have fallen. Donations to this Fund will be gratefully received and acknowledged by W. H. Tottie, Esq., Sherlocks, Ascot.

ASCOT PRISONERS OF WAR.

We have good news from our Prisoners, who write to say they receive their parcels regularly and in good order. The following quotation from Private Richard Taylor (imprisoned at Friedrichsfeld-bei-Wesel) may interest our readers. (The letter was accompanied by the photograph of a beautifully kept burial ground and its large stone central cross. Each carefully tended grave was thickly planted with flowers and had its headstone with an inlet cross and inscription.)-

“I am sending you a photo of the monument which lies in the graveyard of our dead comrades, English, French, Russian and Belgian, who have died since they have been made prisoners. The money was raised by having concerts and charging from ten to forty pfennigs (otherwise from a penny to four-pence.)”

The letter continues: “One night we were playing a nice game at whist, and a parson came in and had a chat with us, and asked us if we should like to go to Church. Of course we all agreed, and on the same night we marched down to the village to Church and spent a very nice hour. And the parson is an Englishman, but he is allowed a passport to travel about Germany. He had some books with the short service, and some well-known hymns in them.”

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, August 1916 (D/P151/28A/8/8)

A Russian victory

The Battle of Erzincan was a major Russian victory over the Turks. Florence Vansittart Neale rejoiced at the news.

24 July 1916
Russian victory.

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

“Our streets and homes are becoming rapidly emptied of men”

The war was increasingly striking home as more and more men joined the armed forces – and more and more died.

THE WAR

The Naval Battle off the coast of Jutland and the tragically sudden loss of Lord Kitchener have brought home to us as nothing else has, the awfulness of the war. We can however thank God that we really won the victory, which will probably become clear to us when we read Admiral Jellicoe’s eagerly awaited Despatch and we can truly thank God for the magnificent character of Lord Kitchener and the splendid work which he has done for the Empire. We have also had an additional cause for thankfulness in the wonderful recovery of our Russian Allies and their victories over the Austrians, and also for the courage and grand resistance of the French before Verdun. Please God we shall have still more reasons soon for rejoicing.

Our streets and homes are becoming rapidly emptied of men, and a number more have joined up since last month. There are now from many families several brothers serving, and our sympathy is due especially to those mothers who have several sons at the war.

Several of our old lads have nobly laid down their lives, among whom are Sidney Walter Jones, John Thomas Owen, Ernest Buckle, William Henry Palmer, William Bellinger, and Ernest Westall. Moreover Lieut. William N Gardiner, grandson of the late Rector of Newbury, also died in the Naval Battle, in which Owen, Buckle, Palmer and Bellinger lost their lives. And yet how inadequate is this expression, for indeed they have, we trust, through death found a better and a more glorious life than any that can be ours here.

The Women’s Intercession Service on Friday afternoons is being well attended, though there are a great many more who could come, if they would: the members of the congregation are asked to put any special requests for prayer in the little box which hangs on the church wall, near the Intercession List, and these are used during the service: a certain number of names from the List are also read out.

Newbury parish magazine, July 1916 (D/P89/28A/13)

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)