“May blossoms and war seem as though they ought to be impossible in the same world”

The minister of Maidenhead Congregational Church tried to encourage members to look on the bright side of life despite all the horrors and losses of the war.

May blossoms and war seem as though they ought to be impossible in the same world. The dreadful mud in the midst of which our soldiers have been living is more congruous with the spirit of warfare than sweet grass and hawthorn buds. Many letters from the front have spoken of the start of surprise with which a lark’s song is heard over the trenches. We have all, when some sorrow is heavy upon us, felt a sort of astonishment that the sun should go on shining, and the birds twittering, and passers by smiling, as though nothing had happened. But the worst of sorrows cannot cover the whole sky. We want taking out of ourselves at times. Evils won’t bear brooding over, we only make them worse. We shall be able to bear “the strain of toil, the fret of care” better, if we make rich use of the ministry of the blossoms.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We are glad to hear that Reginald Hill is progressing, though slowly. He has had several operations, and probably must undergo two or three more. The doctors think he may have to be in bed for at least three months yet, but they hope he will make quite a good recovery.

We regret deeply to have to record that John Boyd, formerly the Caretaker of the Chapel, was killed in action on March 29th. He enlisted in the 2nd Berks. In June 1916, and was sent to France on Sept. 22nd. He was a most genial and kind-hearted man, and had a wide circle of friends among whom he was very popular. We offer our Christian sympathy to Mrs. Boyd and her family.

It is distressing too to hear that Stephen Harris is returned as “missing.” The Captain of his Company has written to Mr. and Mrs. Harris that he has made all possible inquiries and can gain no information. The best that can be hoped for is that he may be a prisoner in German hands. Robert Harris was killed in July last. May God grant His patience and consolation to the distressed parents.

Wallace Mattingly has been admitted to Sandhurst Military College for eight months’ training. G. Frampton is expecting to be called up immediately. We are glad to see Cyril Hews at home again on leave, looking in the pink of health. P.S. Eastman writes in good spirits from “somewhere in the East.”

He says, “I have not yet left for the special work for which I was sent out, but may do so any day now. In the meantime I have had quite a variety of work, until at present I find myself in the C.O.’s office. Yesterday I had a line from Frank Pigg, who is with the R.F.C in Salonica; may be one of these days I shall be able to pay him a visit.”

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, May 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“How splendidly he is fulfilling his mission”

Eric Brereton (1889-1962) moved to Scotland after the war, and eventually became Dean of Glasgow.

The Rev. Eric Brereton, Military Chaplain to Salonica, arrived home unexpectedly, on a fortnight’s leave, on May 14th, to the great delights of his parents at Ascot, and of many friends in the Parish. It has done us good to see how well he looks, and to know how splendidly he is fulfilling his mission.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, June 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/6)

Cheer him in his pain and solitude

Members of Maidenhead Congregational Church were serving in various fields. One man was having a nice break in Malta on his way to the east, while another was suffering with a severe wound.

OUR SOLDIERS.

Sidney Eastman sent us a message announcing his arrival at Malta. He says,

“A line of greeting from an isle of sunshine and blossoms! The brilliant blue of sea and sky, white sails and grey giants, sandstone rocks and golden architecture, vividly focussed by the eyes of an enthusiast, convey to the chambers of memory a mental masterpiece in the producing of which nature and man work hand in hand – nature gives light while man gives shade. I am very fit now, and much enjoying a day or two of respite here.”

Evidently the “sunshine and blossoms” have got into our deacon’s soul.

Reginald Hill has been rather badly wounded and is at the Wharncliff War Hospital at Sheffield. We may be quite sure that letters from any of his old friends of the West Street Church would cheer him in his pain and solitude, and would be joyfully welcomed. Letters should be addressed, “17 Ward, 6 Block.” We are glad to know that his doctors anticipate that he will probably make quite a good recovery.

Ernest Bristow is in Hospital in France, suffering from influenza.

Alfred Vardy was married on March 8th to Miss Coxhead, and is now on active service in France.

We were glad to see Ernest Mead on Sunday last looking quite fit and well.

W.H. Clark has arrived at Salonika.

A. Lane has been transferred with his section to Marlow.

Charles Catliffe is with a Signal section at a Camp near Bedford.

MILITARY MOVEMENTS.

Most of the Engineers who have been for some months in training at Maidenhead have been removed elsewhere, and at least an equal number have been brought to our town to take their place. The new-comers seem to appreciate the comforts of the Clubroom more than their predecessors, and use it in much larger numbers. But the Free Church parade service has suffered. So far, only a few attend, instead of the eighty or more of recent months. Perhaps the organization has been at fault, and we will yet hope for better things.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, April 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

A record of which we may well be proud

Ascot churchgoers sent care parcels to their friends in the forces, and entertained strangers in the Royal Flying Corps.

ASCOT SAILORS AND SOLDIERS COMMITTEE.

In January a parcel was sent to Ascot men in the Navy or Army serving abroad “with every good wish for a happy New Year from your friends in Ascot.” The parcel contained a fitting writing case, a pair of thick socks, and some candles for the men in the trenches, and was sent to 12 men in the Navy, 75 men in France, and 13 in Egypt, Salonica and Mesopotamia.

Many letters have since been received from the men thanking Ascot for their kind thoughts of them, and giving good accounts of themselves. The cost of the parcels with the postages has more than exhausted the funds at the disposal of the Committee, and we must hope of means of replenishing the fund before long.

We are very pleased to hear that Sergeant Grimmett has been recommended for a commission, and we cordially congratulate him. This will make the sixth commission specially earned by Ascot, and is surely a record of which we may well be proud. The names of the gallant six are- 2nd Lieuts. Baker, Grimmett, Robinson, Stuart, Taylor and Watson, and we wish them “Good Luck.”

We regret to have to add the name of William J. Tidy (Gun Section H. A. C.) to our Prisoners of War.

CLUB ROOM for the men of the Royal Flying Corps.

Through the earnestness and energy of several ladies of All Saints congregation a Club Room has been opened at the Fire Brigade Station in High Street, the Committee of the Brigade having most kindly lent their premises for the purpose.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, March 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/3)

“So ravenously hungry up in these hills that I could eat a hayrick”

Hungry young art student turned medical orderly Stanley Spencer was equally desperate for food, books and art while serving in Greece.

March 27th 1917.

Dear Florence,

I am no longer in the 68th or 66th F.A., so note my new address. Simply alter number of F.Amb. to 143rd. The remainder of the address is the same as it always has been. I was sorry to lose the C.O. of the 68th and I was getting on well in the 66th. If you think you can afford it could you send me out some eatables of some kind, say biscuits or those tinned cakes – cakes in air-tight tins.

Send me one of those little 6d Gowan’s and Gray’s books of Masterpieces of Art. Send me Raphael.

You must not think that I ask for eatables because I am not getting enough food. On the contrary, I am getting good rations, as we all are, but I get so ravenously hungry up in these hills that I could eat a hayrick. It is being out-of-doors so much.

And about books: it is impossible to get them here. A field Amb. is not like a hospital at Salonique where you can buy books, etc. Robert Louis Stevenson is a man whose writings I love.

I do not know if any parcels containing eatables have been sent to me; if so, none have ever arrived. But with the exception of the wonderful ‘Daily News’ Christmas pudding which I never got (and would like to know why), I do not think anything in that line has been sent to me ever since I left England on August 22nd last.

With much love

From your ever loving,

STAN.

Letter from Stanley Spencer to Florence Image (D/EX801/20)

Bread is better than tins

Medical orderly and artist Stanley Spencer wrote to his sister Florence asking for home made bread.

March 25th, 1917.

Dear Florence,

I have been down to Salonique in hospital again, though only for a trivial thing. I had bronchitis, but it was more really nasal catarrh. I am out again now, and after a day at the base was drafted into the 143rd field amb. so you will address me accordingly.

That is three ambs. I have been in.

The flowers are out, the primrose, violet, celandine and many other flowers unknown to me. I passed by such wonderful ones to-day.

It is getting dark and I have no candles and want my letter to go to-night, so goodnight, Flongy dear. With much love to you both,

Your loving brother

STANLEY

If you send me anything, send me some currant biscuits or bread and butter. We get bread and we get butter sometimes, but you know what a boy I am for bread and butter, and it is better to send that than these eternal tinned stuffs. Send me some of your own home made bread, Flongy dear, and I will love you forever.

Letter from Stanley Spencer to Florence Image (D/EX801/20)

The army continues to make its demands upon our young men

Maidenhead Congregational Church had news of its young men serving their country.

OUR SOLDIER LADS.

The army continues to make its demands upon our young men. George Ayres has joined the ranks of the London Electrical Engineers, and his friend Harry Baldwin is on the point of assuming khaki. P.S. Eastman sailed for the East on February 13th, and was delighted to discover Arthur Ada upon the same boat. Robert Bolton is in the R. M. Light Infantry. Arthur Rolfe has been promoted to corporal. Alfred Vardy has been moved to Southampton. Ernest Bristow went over to France at the end of January. Cecil Meade has arrived at Salonika.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, March 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Khaki chit-chat

There was plenty of news of men belonging to a Congregational church in east Reading.

Khaki Chit-Chat.

Friends will be pleased to hear that Segt. Leslie Smith, who lies in hospital at Stourbridge, is now making very good progress. I believe I am right when I say that he received his wounds as far back as three months ago. The injury to his ankle has been proving rather seriously troublesome, and that, combined with the low state to which his general health sank, gave grave cause for anxiety about a month ago. Since then, however, bad news has turned to good, and good, which we hope will yet grow better.

Sergt. Gilbert Smith, his brother, arrived home last month on leave, to the joy of his family circle and his friends. We congratulate him upon looking so well, and trust that good fortune will continue with him.

We are sorry to hear through Mrs. Jordan that our caretaker has been in hospital recently with frost-bite. This is not altogether surprizing when one remembers that the weather in France where our men are is not one whit less severe than it is at home here. We are glad he is out of hospital again, and hope he will get the boots he needs. If he doesn’t, then we hope that next time he will be invalided home for a spell.

Sergt. Taylor, son of Mr. A Taylor, of Bishops Road, is at present in a hospital in Scotland, going through the slow process of recovering from shrapnel wounds. We sympathize with his home people and especially his wife, in their feeling that to be so far north means that he is just as much out of reach as he would have been had he been kept in France.

Mr. Taylor, of Talfourd Avenue, has been home on leave recently from Salonika. It was extremely unfortunate that he happened to be so unwell for a great part of his visit here. Better luck next time, or rather let us hope that when next he returns it will be for good.

Leslie Newey is “joining up” the 1st of March. We admire his eagerness to follow his brother’s steps, but hope for several reasons that he will be disappointed in his desire to get to France.

Mr. Goddard wrote from Bedford the other day a cheering and encouraging letter to the Sunday School, in he stated that he is taking a class in the Sunday School there. A man who can do that when he joins the army and leaves home is “keeping fit” in more senses than one.

Sergt. Jones, son-in-law of Mr. Lindsey, is in one of our local hospitals undergoing treatment for his right arm, we regret to say that the degree of future usefulness of this unfortunate limb is a matter of uncertainty. There is ground for hope, however, and we trust that the best possible will be eventually be realized.

We were glad to see Mr Planner and Mr. Clement Tregay looking so well during their recent visits home. Mr. Watkins has also been home recently on leave. The first and last of these are now “somewhere in France,” as is also Mr Thomas who, we hoped, was destined to stay in the old country.

Mr. T. Brown is at present enjoying the gentler climate of Lower Egypt.

Jess Prouten is still in Mesopotamia, and I believe would be glad to hear oftener from old Reading friends.

Old friends of Park will be pleased to hear of the visit of a certain man in khaki to the Institute the other day. He was an Australian on leave (Tom Vinicombe, an old scholar of the Sunday School), and he explained his appearance by saying that he thought he would like to have a look at the place where he had spent such happy times as a boy.

Recently our Week-night Services have been rather changing in their character. The subjects taken are matters of general interest and they are treated from the strictly Christian and spiritual point of view. Among those dealt with hitherto have been “The Local Controversy on Spiritualism,” “President Wilson’s Attitude and Ideals,” “The Work of British Women in France,” and “The Housing Problem in the Light of the War.”

Trinity Congregational Magazine, March 1917 (D/EX1237/1/12)

Pray and pray again yet more earnestly for the triumph of right over wrong

Warfield men were grateful for their Christmas gifts. Those serving in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) were treated to plum puddings, while those in France got tobacco.

VICAR’S LETTER

MY DEAR FRIENDS AND PARISHIONERS,

I have received most grateful letters from nearly all our Warfield Soldiers and Sailors for the Christmas presents sent them by the parishioners, most of them reflecting great credit on the packers, as the cake appears to have arrived in a perfect condition, although no tins or boxes were used. I am giving you this issue a statement of accounts given to me by our treasurer, Miss Hardcastle. Only one parcel seems to have missed its destination and found its way back to me. They all seem to be looking forward to spending their next Christmas at home.

This makes me think of the national mission, and is result on the nation. What are its results on each of us personally? How far may each one of us be hindering its great accomplishment by lack of self consecration? How far is each one wilfully tying the hands of a loving God? Think of this, and pray and pray again yet more earnestly for the triumph of right over wrong, but let us all see to it that our hearts are right with God.

Yours affectionately in Christ,

WALTER THACKERAY

CHRISTMAS FUND FOR OUR SOLDIERS AND SAILORS.

At a public meeting on November 13th the following Committee was elected to make arrangements for the above: the Vicar, Messrs. H. Crocker, H. Lawrence, Mrs. Crailsham, Mrs. Dyer, Mrs. Thackeray and Miss Hardcastle (Treasurer). The total sum subscribed amounted to £25 3s. 7d., made up as follows:-

Balance from 1915 £3 2 0
Whist Drive 2 7 3
Dance 1 1 2
Subscriptions 17 4 8
Balance from Sir C. Brownlow’s
Testimonial 0 8 6

The total number of parcels sent was 107; Mesopotamia, Salonika, Egypt and India, 21; France, 42; Home Camps, 33; Navy, 11.

Contents of parcels for Mesopotamia etc: Socks and plum pudding and Warfield picture card.

For France and Navy: socks, cake, cocoa, chocolate, handkerchief, Warfield picture card and tobacco.

For Home camps: same as for France, except mittens instead of socks.

Total spent on parcels £19 5 5½
Postage 4 6 1½
Balance in hand 1 10 0
───────────
£25 3 7

Warfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, February 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/2)

Greater love hath no man than this

Caversham men’s service was honoured.

ANOTHER DISTINCTION FOR CAVERSHAM.

Hearty congratulations to 2nd Lieut. A.F.C. Hill, upon receiving the Military Cross for gallant conduct with the Salonika Expeditions. This is the fourth Military Cross awarded to Caversham men, the other recipients being the Rev. C.W.O. Jenkyn, Army Chaplain; 2nd Lieut. D.T. Cowan, A. and S. Highlanders; and Sergt.-Major Wilfred Lee, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry.

Lieut. E.J. Churchill, R.E., has been “mentioned in dispatches.”

Sergt. E. Canning, of 1/4TH Royal Berks, is one of the two non-commissioned officers selected out of his battalion for the honour of a Commission.

Caversham roll of honour.

“Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friend”

Name, Ship or Regiment and address, Date of death
(more…)

A million sheets of notepaper

Reading St Giles Church of England Men’s Society had contributed to the well-being of soldiers at the front through the CEMS Huts.

The following letters have been received giving information concerning the Reading and Windsor C.E.M.S. Huts…

January 31st 1917

This is a large and important centre always well organized. The religious and social side of the work is everything that can be desired. We also have a tea room built in addition to the hut. This gives us more room. It is a most valuable hut being in the centre of many things: hundreds of letters are written daily, Services are not forgotten, and it is now being used by the Canadian Chaplain, the Canadian troops being quartered in that district.

Funds are now urgently required to enable the headquarters to supply the huts with the proper necessaries which is very large. The provision of stationary is a considerable matter and already the society has sent out about a million sheets of notepaper and 500,000 envelopes for the use in the forty huts in France, Flanders, Egypt, Malta, Salonika and England.

I am sure the members of S. Giles’ who contributed to the hut mentioned above will be glad to hear of its usefulness.

H.J. HINDERLEY Hon.Sec.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, March 1917 (D/P96/28A/34)

The more we feel that a cloud of sorrow is upon our land the more grateful should we be for the message of Christmas

Maidenhead Congregational Church thought the country needed to celebrate Christmas differently under war conditions.

We are approaching our third War-Christmas, and the duty of rightly celebrating the season of “Peace and Goodwill” is becoming heavier. Probably few of us will find much difficulty in heeding the call to cut down the usual expenditure in Christmas fare. At the best of times it has seemed to cool observers a strange way of celebrating the coming of the Son of God to earth, to indulge in an orgy of eating and drinking. But the custom seems to have the sanction of the centuries. Long before the Conquest those in authority took pains at this season of the year to lead the fashion in gluttonous eating and drinking. Even in more stately Plantagenet times Christmas extravagance was recognised as the correct thing. At the opening of the Hundred Years’ War, when Edward III put his foot down on all kinds of luxurious expenditure, he made an exception of the principal Church feasts, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And Dickens stirred us up in this matter in fine style, until we almost came to regard gorging at Christmas as a sacred duty.

But this year at least, we must modify our ideas in these matters. Food is not abundant, and it is dear, and if we are not careful now, there may not be enough to go round presently. Nevertheless, there ought to be no diminution of Christmas joy. The more we feel that a cloud of sorrow is upon our land the more grateful should we be for the message of a King of righteousness and peace. Our laughter may be checked, but for gratitude and joy there is perhaps more reason than usual. For God has given us a great part to play in the cause of National Righteousness, and the work we are doing and the sorrows we are bearing will result in a new era for humanity.

And though in many a household we shall miss our sons and brothers and husbands, our hearts will swell with a new pride in them. The noblest manhood in them has come out, they are inside the secret of life, we thrill to recognise that they are capable of heroisms. They have no fighting instincts to gratify. They have nothing of the born-soldier in them. They have freely gone into this thing out of devotion to a high cause, in the spirit of pure sacrifice, against the natural grain. Therefore they, and the families to which they belong, and the Church to which they are attached, and the town from which they set out, and the nation of which they are a part, shall be of nobler life and purer vision for their act of sacrifice. May the blessing of heaven be upon them everyone!”

FOR OUR SOLDIERS.

The small Committee appointed to send greetings and gifts at Christmastide to our soldiers has got the matter well in hand. The parcels to Salonika and Egypt are already on their way, those to France will shortly be posted. To those who are still in training in this country, as well as to those abroad, a letter from the Church will be sent, in which we say, among other things,

“We are sure that your faith in God will help you to be good soldiers of the British Army. You will not be behind any of your comrades in pluck and purity, in high ideals and self-control, in heroism and devotion. We speak to our absent boys and pray for them constantly. We want you to know how much we are with you, how deeply we feel you are representing us and fighting for us, and we hope to do our part at home, to maintain a high standard of Church life until you come back again. The Church does not seem the same without its young men. At every point we miss you.”

THE LATEST INFORMATION.

Reginald Hill has been gassed, and is in Hospital. Percy Pigg is back at Aldershot for a time. Cecil Mead is on the point of leaving for Salonika. Percy Lewis has been home for a fortnight’s leave. Hugh Lewis has been transferred to the 1/4 London R.E., and is in France. Sidney Eastman is stationed for the present at Chingford, and Mrs. Eastman has taken apartments for awhile in that neighbourhood. Benjamin Gibbons has been promoted Lance-Corporal.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, December 1916 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Belgians want peace at any price – and no wonder

Florence Vansittart Neale was depressed by the war news, while Lockinge-born railway worker William Hallam was making weapons for the war in Swindon.

Florence Vansittart Neale
8 December 1916

Lloyd George forming a ministry. Things in bad way. Greece blockaded. Fear for troops in Salonika….

Met Gustav Kupor. Feel very sorry for Belgian soldiers. No wonder they want peace at any price.

William Hallam
8th December 1916

In to work at 6 to night and by the morning I had finished this war work. Howitzer gun arches.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

“His parents have received no official report from the War Office”

There was news of the Winkfield men serving.

OUR MEN WHO ARE SERVING.

Our deep sympathy goes out to the parents and relations of Pte. John Lunn who was killed inaction in the beginning of November. At the time of writing his parents have received no official report from the War Office, but they heard the sad news from his Commanding Officer who, in a sympathetic letter speaks in high terms of their dead son and the regret felt at his loss.

Lieut. Cecil Hayes-Sadler, R.E., and Privates Albert Fletcher, George Higgs, Earnest Woodage have gone to the front in France, and Dr. Albert Jones has sailed for Salonika. Their names are added to our long list read out in Church, with the request for special prayer in our Intercessions on the second and last Sundays in the month.

We have just learnt that Pte. F. Street has recently joined the M.T.A.S.C.

We are glad to hear that Pte. C.E.Burt is now doing well after his relapse and is in Reading Hospital.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, December 1916 (D/P151/28A/12)

“We now have several families in which no less than five sons are serving King and Country”

Men from across Reading were joining up in their droves.

All Saint’s District
Congratulations

Our heartiest congratulations to Capt. A.H. Norris, R.A.M.C. on being awarded the Military Cross.

Roll Of Honour

The following additional names have been sent in for remembrance at the Alter:

Donald Anderson, William Ayres, Bert Ayres, Thomas William George Bernard, Frank Ernest Butler, Lawrence Darwall, Frederick Charles Dolton, Cecil Hankey Dickson King, Vivian Majendie, Arthur Ernest New, Arthur Herbert Norris, Norman Alexander Norris, Rowland Victor Norris, Harold Sales, Richard James Saunders, Joseph Styles, George Thomas, Frank Thomas, James Young.

It may be of interest to note that we now have several families in which no less than five sons are serving King and Country.

S. Saviours District
R.I.P.

Two more of our young men have, we hear, laid down their lives for their country. Sidney Ostridge, brother of Alfred Ostridge, server at S. Saviour’s, has been killed in France; and Corporal Walter Paice, son of Mrs. Lane, a faithful worshipper at S. Saviour’s, was killed instantly in action on the night of October 3rd, near Salonika, to the great regret of his comrades, officers and men, among whom he was very popular. Their families are assured of our sincerest sympathy. The officer of one of them writes: “He died a noble death,” and a sergeant writes: “ He was laid to rest just behind us and the Chaplain held the service and placed a Cross at the head of the grave.” There is hope in the Cross.

S. Marks District
R.I.P.

It was with very great regret that we heard Private G. W. Davis had been killed in action. He was very well known and respected in this District, and we offer to his widow and all his relations our very sincere sympathy.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, November 1916 (D/P98/28A/14)