Absent for military service

A Reading teacher is absent as he trains for possible military deployment:

21st June 1915
Mr Curtis was away having been indisposed after a Field Day with his Volunteer Corps, returned in afternoon.

Reading St Giles Boys School log book (R/ES2/9, p. 218)

Children watch soldiers practise building pontoons

The children of Purley had an outing to watch soldiers based in the area practise building pontoons across the River Thames. There was some doubt about the educational value of this trip, as the school log book records:

19th April 1915The children, forty in number, were taken along the river bank, nearly to Pangbourne, at 1.45pm to watch the soldiers build rival pontoons.

Copy of letter received from the Education Secretary [not actually received until 23 April]:

“I have seen HM Inspector and have talked over the proposed school visit to the Pontooning Ground. He agrees with me that it is difficult to lay down any rule as to the educational value of such visits, as this must depend on the way in which the teacher deals with the subject. In this case he would not with-hold consent, but would expect the teacher to take the whole of the upper school according to their class or classes and to give a lesson beforehand to teach them what they had to observe and a lesson after the visit during which they would record what they had seen. The teacher’s notes should be presented to show the character of the instruction. If Miss Reed is prepared to conduct her visit in this way, HM Inspector will not raise any objection to is being counted as a school meeting”.

Purley CE School log book (C/EL85/2, p. 74)

Reading schools continue to be disrupted

The Battle schoolchildren’s education continued to be limited due to the shortage of accommodation, thanks to military needs:

26th March 1915
Notice has been received that after Easter, the children will attend school, for four weeks from 1.30 to 4.30 in the afternoon, instead of the morning session as now.

Slough children supporting the Cheap Food Campaign were doing well, with even the boys keen to help with the cooking.

March 26th
The seven dinners have been prepared and have been quite successes. The invitations to dinner were equitably portioned between the boys and girls.

A Harbox cooker has been made and a stew put into it at 10 o’clock was found nicely cooked at 4.30pm.

The boys want to have a try at cookery and may be given a chance next term.

Battle Infants School log book (SCH20/8/2, p. 258); Stoke Road School, Slough: log book (89/SCH/28/1)

Flemish children at school in Reading

A Slough school was enthusiastic about supporting the campaign for cheaper food as prices rose due to shortages.

March 22nd 1915
Cheap Food Campaign.

Two course Dinners. Average cost for a family consisting of a father mother and four children, 10d per meal.

In connection with the above a Committee of the elder girls has been formed. Six shillings have been given to the Committee to make the necessary purchases for seven tenpenny dinners. A rota of the dinners and cooks has been drawn up. The cooking is to be done in the Master’s room, except baked dishes which are to be cooked in the school house.

Stoke Road School, Slough (89/SCH/28/1, p. 367)

Two Belgian refugee children were admitted to a Reading school:

22nd March 1915
Today admitted two Belgian Refugees, Francis Caulemins, the other [Herrmond?] Caulemins, both came from near Ghent. Both can speak a little English, their language is Flemish. They are put in Class I at present.

Reading St Giles Boys School log book, 22 March 1915 (R/ES2/9, p. 214)

A prayer in school for our soldiers

Church of England schools received regular inspections from both the government inspectors (on their general education) and from the Diocese of Oxford (on religious education). The Diocesan Inspector was pleased to hear patriotic elements brought into the prayers of children at one Reading school:

17th March 1915

Diocesan Report
I am very glad to be able again to award to this school, the highest summary mark as being “Thoroughly Satisfactory”. The singing of the hymn was very sweet, and the prayers were reverently said, including one that I was glad to hear, a prayer for our soldiers.

Reading Christ Church CE Infants School log book (89/SCH/7/6, p. 170)

Infants’ schools moved to Elm Park Hall

The disruption of children’s education is evidenced in this reference to two Reading infant schools timesharing a church hall for lessons:

12th February 1915
On Monday the staff were at Elm Park Hall getting ready to receive the children on the following day. The morning session only is to be held until further notice, as the afternoon session is wanted for the accommodation of Wilson Infants School. Mr Spikes came to Elm Park Hall on Monday morning to see the accommodation. On Tuesday the children assembled at Elm Park Hall.

Battle Infants School log book, 12 February 1915 (SCH20/8/2, p. 254)

Redlands Infants displaced by wounded soldiers

Two more schools were combined in east Reading when Redlands Infants moved to share Alfred Sutton Infants classrooms, leaving their own school available as a war hospital.

11th February 1915

The school closed on the afternoon of Feb 5th and on Monday and Tuesday 8th and 9th, so that the apparatus of Redlands School could be conveniently transferred and placed. The school re-opened on Wednesday morning. The juniors of this Department work as usual the whole day and the Infants mornings only. Their classrooms in the afternoon are occupied by the Infants of Redlands School under Miss Robertson.

Alfred Sutton School log book (89/SCH/37/1, p. 224)

Rides in an observation balloon

Purley schoolchildren had an exciting experience in January 1915. Hydrogen-filled observation balloons were used for reconnaissance during the war.

26th January 1915

At 3pm a balloon was sighted, and the airman, Lieutenant G H Scott, most kindly descended in a neighbouring field on purpose to give the children rides and an object lesson in packing it up, so the remaining hour of the afternoon session was spent out of doors.

Purley CE School log book (C/EL85/2, p. 71)

“Friends” home on leave

A Maidenhead school found its buildings used for the troops, while teachers in Cookham were allowed time off to see friends: (boyfriends?) home on leave.

Gordon Road Boys’ School, January 22nd 1915
The school is being used a good deal both in and out of school hours, by the troops billeted in the town for lectures, payment of soldiers, and billets.

Alwyn Road School, January 22nd 1915
A bad fall of snow this morning caused the already low attendance to fall further. Several children are absent with influenza.

Miss Pounds and Miss Smallbone absent today with Headmaster’s permission to see “friends” home from the War on short leave.

Maidenhead Gordon Road Boys School log book (C/El/107/1, p. 81); Cookham Alwyn Road School log book (88/SCH/18/1, p. 244)

The army uses a school’s toilets, to the head teacher’s annoyance

King Street School, Maidenhead, was inconvenienced by army use of the premises. The schoolmistress noted with annoyance in the log book:

19th January 1915
‘The military’ had the use of children’s lavatories during holidays, for soldiers using these buildings for medical inspection – this continued after school re-assembled & Mistress found it inconvenient, the accommodation being limited & supervision by teachers necessary. A notice was therefore written on door prohibiting use from 9am to 12, & 2pm to 4pm.

20th January 1915
Councillor Chamberlain, Dr. Paterson & the Town Clerk visited this morning. Enquiries were made as regards sanitary arrangements & the ‘military’.

King Street School log book (C/EL77/1, pp. 339-340)

Keep the old flag flying: Clewer Green children boost army morale

The children of Clewer Green School were enthusiastic suppliers of not only warm clothing for the troops, but of morale boosting letters. The parish magazine reported on their work, and quotes from the letters they got in return:

Since the return of the children to school after the summer holidays, the girls under the able direction of Miss Hughes have been busily engaged in making comforts for our troops at the Front.

The industry they have displayed may be gathered from the fact that 20 nightshirts have been made during School hours and have been despatched through Mrs. Cowie.

The children’s patriotism has not ended with their work at school. In their own time they have made numerous pairs of socks, sleeping socks, scarves, mittens, and gloves. These have been sent direct to the Front, each parcel being accompanied by cheering letters from the children.

Judging by the replies received by teachers and children the articles seem to have given great satisfaction to the recipients, whilst the letters served to remind them that the thoughts, hopes, and prayers of the Clewer Green children were with them.

The following extracts are worth recording:-

I am glad you are so cheerful and not expecting the Germans over there. They will never pass our troops…The enemy in the trenches are trying to learn our song, their trenches being less than 100 yards away in some places. They have a gramophone, and our fellows like this and join in the chorus.

Your letter made us really proud to think that even you and your fellow-mates, so young, should think of us in these times. We notice how you hope we shall get through to Berlin, and I must tell you that we all hope the same thing, and when a lot of ‘English Tommies’ set out to go to a place, they usually get there.

We are very grateful to all the little girls and boys who are not old enough to join the Army or Red Cross Nursing Society for helping by kindly making warm clothing for the troops.

I have just received a parcel and found inside a letter from you, and I think about the finest pair of gloves I have ever had the pleasure to wear. I am most grateful to you for your kindness. We were one and all pleased to know that the boys and girls in England were doing their best for us all and helping to keep the old flag flying.

We are very thankful to your kind teachers for teaching you to be so patriotic and loyal.

It is nice to hear from children at home, and it shows us that you are thinking of us and your country in this sad time. I am sure yours must be a nice School.

[Clewer St Andrew parish magazine, January 1915 (D/P39/28A/9)

Mittens for soldiers

The girls of St Stephen’s Intermediate School in Clewer had been busy knitting for the troops, as we learnt recently.  The school log book reports further:

December 18th 1914

210 pairs of mittens with thumbs & fingers despatched to the Royal Dorset Regiment today.
Clewer St. Stephens Intermediate Girls (SCH/8/8/2, p. 128)

“I was a stranger”: meet the Belgian refugees welcomed to Maidenhead

In October and November we heard about Maidenhead Congregational Church’s involvement with supporting Belgian refugees in the town. We can now update the story, and introduce the families the church supported:


The response to our appeal for weekly contributions towards the support of a Belgian Refugees’ Home of our own was prompt and generous. The committee appointed by the Church took 14, Fairford Road (the rent of which was guaranteed by the Adult School) and determined to invite a family of about eight persons to occupy it. On inquiry at Folkestone, three families, related by marriage, comprising ten persons in all, were allotted to us, and since Mr. and Mrs. Dykes of Hill Farm, Taplow, had generously offered to receive two refugees into their home while the need lasted, we accepted the allotment, placing eight in Fairfield Road, and two of the men at Taplow. But the two wives pleaded that they might not be separated from their husbands, and the committee felt that the request was reasonable, and must be met. So we have now ten in our home, three married couples and four little girls.

They all lived at Boom, a small town of about 18,000 inhabitants some 12 miles from Antwerp. M. Asselberghs was traveller for a milling firm; M. Van Hoof was the proprietor of a boot and shoe shop; and M. Van der Plannken was a boatbuilder on the banks of the river Rupel. They fled from their home on the approach of the Germans on September 29th and found a temporary refuge in Antwerp. On the day before the bombardment of that city, they were compelled to fly once more, together with tens of thousands of other homeless people, and went on foot to Ostend. After waiting two or three days, they were compelled to throw themselves upon the hospitality of the English people. They have received information that M. Van der Plannken’s house was demolished by shell fire immediately after they fled, and M. Van Hoof’s shop was looted by the soldiery. M Asselberghs and his sister Mme. Van Hoof are acquainted with the French language, the other speak nothing but Flemish. They all profess the Roman Catholic religion. The children attend the Roman Catholic school in Maidenhead, where a Belgian teacher (also a refugee) has been engaged to teach the many refugee children who are now resident in this neighbourhood. In doing what we can help our guests during their stay with us we shall feel that we are not only fulfilling the spirit of our Lord’s words when he said “I was a stranger and ye took me in,” but we are repaying to Belgium a small part of an obligation which seems greater the more we think of it.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, December 1914 (D/N33/12/1/4)

Clewer girls knit for the troops

Pupils at St Stephen’s Intermediate Girls’ School were busy knitting for the soldiers.  The recipients of their bounty were probably the Lancashire Fusiliers.

December 8th 1914

The following garments for soldiers have been made & dispatched to the Lan: Fus:
62 pairs socks + 4 prs
51 body belts +2
30 prs mittens + 30 prs
[‘+ second’ is in another hand]
A special request has been made for more mittens, so some extra time will be given to needlework for the present in order to complete them by Xmas if possible.
Total sum subscribed £8.10.0
Clewer St. Stephens Intermediate Girls (SCH/8/8/2, p. 127)

Knitting for the troops

By December the schoolchildren of Thatcham (at least, the girls) were busy knitting warm clothing for the troops as winter approached, as the parish magazine reports:

The National School Children’s Work for Soldiers
The children’s hands have been very busy making useful articles for our soldiers at the front, under the direction of their teachers, during their spare time. Socks and belts have been knitted by Edith Absolom, May Arnold, Beatrice Aldridge, Bessie Broughton, Nellie Browning, Edith Goodman, Elizabeth Herbert, Jeannie Hacker, May Lyford, Emily Schubert; and scarves by Hilda Hazell and Alice Maynard. Mrs Turner, of the “Crown,” kindly gave wool for one pair of socks, and the rest of the materials was most kindly provided by Mrs Glastonbury, Head Mistress, Miss Reynolds, and Miss Boulter, her assistants. The parcel containing a number of these articles was recently forwarded to the Lady-in-waiting to the Queen, and the following letter of thanks was received in reply:-

Devonshire House, Piccadilly.

“The Lady-in-waiting is commanded by the Queen to thank the teachers and children of the Thatcham School most heartily for their very kind gift of comforts for the use of the troops at the front. Her Majesty highly appreciates this contribution.”

We may be quite sure that the soldiers’ need of such useful articles as these will be very great during the coming winter months, and that they will be extremely grateful to all kind workers who give their skill, their time, and materials to provide them. Moreover, we must not wait until the want of them is seriously felt, for then it will be too late to set about providing them.

Thatcham parish magazine, December 1914 (D/P130/28A/1)