“Although we always anticipated the ultimate success of the Allies, we hardly dared to hope for the great and glorious result which has been achieved”

Reading Board of Guardians reflected on the war and its impact.

28th November 1918

Report by the Chairman

As this is the first meeting of the Board since the Armistice was signed, I should like to say a word or two on the triumphant termination of the terrible war which has raged for over four years and has ended in the complete downfall of German domination. Although we always anticipated the ultimate success of the Allies, we hardly dared to hope for the great and glorious result which has been achieved.

Our thanks for victory, however, are tinged with regret by the losses which have been sustained. The War has been brought home to nearly every household in the land, and there is hardly a family in which some beloved relative or friend has not fallen or been disabled. The members of this Board have had to mourn the loss of many dear ones. I am sure that we should all like to express our sympathy with Mr Guardian Waters whose stepson was killed on the very last day of the War.

It has been my privilege to preside over the Board during the whole period of the Warm, and I am very glad to be the “Peace” Chairman as well as the “War” Chairman. We have had many serious difficulties to contend with, but with the able guidance of Mr Oliver we have been able to surmount them all. Our Institution was one of the first to be taken over as a Military Hospital & it has been found to be so splendidly adapted for the purpose that I expect it will be one of the last to be given up. The Master, Matron, Superintendent Nurse, Nursing Staff, & Officers generally have shown splendid devotion to duty under the most trying and arduous conditions, and we thank them one and all for the self denying services they have rendered. Many of the members of the Board have been engaged in War Work in various capacities, those taking part being: Mr W G Cook, Mr F E Moring, Mr A E Deadman, Col Kensington, Mr Hall-Mansey.

Staff:
Office: J R Beresford, K L Jones, G H Turnbull, A Dawson, K Garrett, K Ayling, K Hawkes
Relief: Mr F H Herrington, Mr G M Munday
Institutional: H Challis, A Sanders, G Smith, W Bibby

Out of this number Challis has been killed & Dawson has lost a leg.

Mr Guardian Waters
Mr Waters thanked the Guardians for their expression of sympathy in the sad bereavement he and his wife had sustained.

Election of Mayor

As the Guardians and Officers had not received the usual invitation to attend the election of Mayor, to accompany him at the Thanksgiving Service held at St Mary’s Church on the 13th November last, strong criticism was adversely expressed ad the Press asked to make a note thereof.

Minutes of Reading Board of Guardians (G/R1/58)

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At last this terrible War, which has oppressed us for over four years, was over

The Armistice was greeted with joy in Newbury.

It was with feelings of profound thankfulness that we heard the Armistice had been signed. Our feelings were deeply stirred at the thought that at last this terrible War, which has oppressed us for over four years, was over, and that there were good prospects of a peace being signed, which we trust will be a righteous and lasting one. Our rejoicings took various shapes during the week, and culminated in our services in Church. We were glad to see many at the Celebrations and at other services; and it was a happy thought to hold a joint service in the Corn Exchange, which was crowded with a devout and reverent congregation. We shall long remember the sight of that vast audience.

Speenhamland parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2)

Let us pray that peace may be arranged on such terms as shall make war impossible in future

The minister at Broad Street Chapel had a sober view of the end of the war.

MINISTER’S JOTTINGS

The great event of the past month has been the signing of the Armistice and the consequent cessation of hostilities. Monday, November 11th, will long be remembered as the day on which the war cloud lifted, and people began to breathe freely again. It was a day for which we had long prayed, and it brought relief to many a troubled heart. Our petitions were suddenly changed into great and glad thanksgivings.

There was great rejoicing in the streets – especially in Broad Street – and people gave themselves up to the excitement of the moment. But after four long years of repression, it was perhaps only natural that pent up feeling should find a vent in this way, and we may congratulate ourselves upon the fact that things were not carried to greater lengths than they were. The shorter hours for the opening of public houses proved a great blessing.

Many felt, however, that it was a time for thanksgiving to Almighty God rather than empty merry-making; and they flocked to the various churches in which Thanksgiving Services were hastily arranged. At Broad Street we held a special service of this kind on Thursday evening, November 14th, and in spite of the difficulty of making it known, it was largely attended. We were drawn together by a common desire to pour out our hearts in praise and thanksgiving.

With the coming of peace we shall have to face grave new problems, both in the national life and in our church life. Let us earnestly pray for Divine wisdom and strength, so that we may be able to tackle them with brave hearts and undaunted spirits. Let us also pray that peace may be arranged on such terms as shall make war impossible in future.

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

At last the “cease fire” has sounded from end to end of the long front

The news was sinking in, even for the girls at the House of Mercy.

Burghfield

THE WAR

At last the “cease fire” has sounded from end to end of the long front; and the stern terms of Armistice have been perforce accepted by Germany, following on similar surrenders by Austria, Turkey and Bulgaria. With deep, heartfelt thankfulness to God, Who alone giveth victory, we rejoice, and trust that a just and lasting Peace will in due time follow. Meanwhile, if ever men may be proud of their race, we of the British Empire have that right. With men, with ships, with arms and munitions, with coal, with money, and by our high example, we Anglo-Saxons have indeed played our part. And terrible as our losses have been, we may now feel sure that they have not been in vain.

It was good to see the church nearly full at the Evening Service of humble thanksgiving, which was promptly arranged by the Rector on Tuesday, 12th November, the day after the Armistice was signed: and to feel the earnestness and unity of spirit which all showed, and which we hope will ever be with us in the parish in peace as well as in war.

Wargrave
Hare Hatch Notes

Thanks giving services. A large congregation assembled in the Mission Church, on Tuesday, November 12th, at 7 p.m., to render thanks to God for our glorious victory. It was a simple but yet most impressive service. The collection on behalf of the King’s Fund for disabled officers and men amounted to £2.

CSJB
12 November 1918

Choral Eucharist at 8.30 in thanksgiving for cessation of war. The Warden dispensed us from silence. The girls had a talking dinner & tea, & holiday in evening.

Burghfield parish magazine, December 1918 (D/EX725/4); Wargrave parish magazine (D/P145/28A/31); Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

A wonderful day – full of thankfulness

The lights came on again as the armstice was celebrated at home.

Florence Vansittart Neale
11 November 1918

Armistice signed 5 a.m. Hurrah. War 4 years, 3months & a week.
A wonderful day – full of thankfulness. Fighting stopped at 11 a.m. Peace. Peace. We heard it on the golf links. I, the girls & Boy. Shaw heard the church bells, & we the sirens & guns!! London I hear a marvellous sight – crowds & all happy & orderly. Own overseas went up.


William Hallam
11th November 1918

We heard Germany had accepted the armistice about 20 past 11. We all left off work at 12 and came home. I washed and changed and after dinner we all went round the town which was soon decorated up and everybody visiting. Heard the first fireworks for 4 years. People letting them off even down at the Tram Centre. After tea along to Bath Rd reading room. Quite a crowd there waiting for evening papers to see the terms but there were not pub liked- the terms I mean. We all went down to St Paul’s to a thanksgiving service at 8. The most noticeable thing I suppose on going out was to see the street lamps lit. At the conclusion of the service we had a solemn Te Deum with incense.

CSJB
11 November 1918

The Armistice signed at 4 a.m. ‘Te Deum’.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9); and William Hallam (D/EX1415/25); Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

“After four years of war we ought to do what we could to make up to the little people for the many ordinary pleasures of childhood which they had necessarily missed”

The Armistice was greeted with joy and celebration in Wargrave.

Victory

The news that the Armistice was signed reached the Wargrave Post Office at almost 11.20 a.m. on Monday November 11th. The Foreman of the Belfry was ready to summon his Ringers and in a very few minutes the bells of the Parish Church rang joyously. The houses were soon bedecked with flags, the village street became full of people and the wounded soldiers marched in procession with noise and merriment. At noon there was a short service for the few who could assemble, but at 7 p.m. there was a general Service of Thanksgiving to Almighty God and the Parish Church was crowded.

The Authorities have permission for the arrangement of public festivities with bonfires and fireworks to be held within one week only of Armistice day. It seemed right to do all that could be done to impress the event upon the memories of the children, and it was felt that after four years of war we ought to do what we could to make up to the little people for the many ordinary pleasures of childhood which they had necessarily missed. But there was no time to call a public meeting to discuss the matter because the only chance of securing provisions was to make the purchases at once. By the hospitality and spirit of Sir William Cain and Mr. Bond the general entertainment of the whole village was happily arranged.

Mr. and Mrs. Bond entertained all the young people under the ages of 18 to tea. The infants met in their own school and were afterwards taken to join the older children in the Piggott School for a magic lantern entertainment. The Boys’ Club, the Girls’ Club, and the other young people had their tea in the District School. The Crazies Hill Children were well provided for in the Mission Hall and Mr. Chenery showed them a good exhibition of lantern slides.

There were many kind helpers and a good many visitors to the tea parties. At each place of entertainment there were a few words spoken to help impress the memories of the young people with the greatness of the occasion and our cause for thankfulness. Mr. Bond, Mr. Huggins, and the Vicar all said something at one place or another, and everywhere there were loud cheers for the host and hostess. It was delightful to see the enjoyment of the children.

The Fireworks were announced to commence at 8 p.m., at the Manor, and the entertainment was for all parishioners. It was a most magnificent display with many set pieces, a host of rockets and a bonfire at the last. The show was arranged at the top of the park just below the garden terrace. A great crowd of people thronged the lawns and overflowed to the grass beyond.

At the conclusion of the fireworks, when the people were gathered to the bonfire, the Vicar, supported by Mr. Bond, expressed the thanks of the parish to Sir William and Lady Cain. Everyone understood that when both time and supply were so limited there could have been no entertainment at all unless someone had acted at once. Sir William Cain has always shown that he has the welfare of Wargrave in mind and on this occasion he acted immediately, taking the whole burden upon himself and supplying an entertainment which no combined effort could have surpassed. The cheers of the guests must have done something to show how much the hospitality was appreciated, and it would indeed be difficult to think of anything that could have been devised that would have been more calculated to impress the memories of the young people with the glorious event of this happy victory than the entertainment which they enjoyed at Wargrave.

Wargrave parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P145/28A/31)

Peace was declared at 11am by the continual blowing of all Reading hooters followed by ringing of church bells

No one in Berkshire could miss the end of the war.

Earley

On Monday November 11 peace was declared at 11am by the continual blowing of all Reading hooters followed by ringing of church bells and a general half holiday. We have no peal of bells here, but we had a beautiful Thanksgiving Service at half past seven the same evening. The order of service was as follows; the National Anthem, a short address from the pulpit by the Vicar; a procession round the church with Milton’s hymn “let us with a gladsome mind” and “Now thank we all our God”; prayers and thanksgivings in front of the altar; “Gloria in Excelsis”; hymn by Mr Athelstan Riley “Ye watchers and ye holy ones”; the blessing. The whole service lasted 25 minutes. It was a damp, miserable evening but all hearts and spirits were full of thankfulness and rejoicings. The next morning a noticeable number of people communicated at 7.30.

Bracknell

November 11th will always be kept in remembrance as the day when the Armistice was signed which put an end to the fighting. The news was received in Bracknell about 11 o’clock, and spread rapidly far and near. Groups gathered together, discussing the news, and the street was soon gay with flags. A Thanksgiving Service was held in the church in the evening, which was attended be a large and representative gathering.

Never before have our hearts been so deeply stirred as they were when we sung our psalms and hymns and said our prayers of thanksgiving.

Earley St Bartholomew parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P192/28A/15); Bracknell section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, December 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/10)

“We have no traitors in our midst worse than the so-called “pacifists,” who want peace at any price and, in many cases, are simply enemy agents.”

The fourth anniversary of the start of the war was commemorated soberly in churches throughout the county.

Sulhamstead

THE WAR

WAR COMMEMORATION

Sunday, August 4th, has been set apart for the purpose of commemorating our entry into this terrible war. We shall remind ourselves that it was impossible so long as we maintained honour, righteousness and justice to hold back. We took our place by the side of France and Belgium, not from any desire to increase our own power or raise our position in the world, but simply to prevent wrong and to work righteousness. Our objects are still the same. There is no hope for the world until the gigantic military despotism of Germany is destroyed. There will be services of Intercession at 11 a.m., St Mary’s Church, followed by the Holy Communion; 6 p.m., St Michael’s Church.

There were good attendances at the church on Sunday, August 4th, for Thanksgiving and Intercession. The offertories for the fund for assisting Prisoners of war belonging to the Royal Berks Regiment amounted to:

11 a.m. £3 11s 0 ½ d
6 p.m. £1 13s 1 ½ d
Total £5 4s 2d

Earley St Peter

August 4th

The anniversary of the proclamation of war (August4th) will this year fall on a Sunday. I do not know whether any special Order of Prayer will be issued. For myself I consider that the forms of Prayer for use in the time of War (by authority, S.P.C.K., 1S.) Contains sufficient material. But I hope all the clergy will prepare well beforehand to stimulate and satisfy the spiritual needs of their people. The collect, Epistle and Gospel for the Sunday (x. after Trinity) might well be used. Otherwise the order suggested for the last year may be used again (Forms of prayer, P. 87 FF.) with necessary changes.

My Dear Friends

The first Sunday of this month, August the 4th, is the anniversary of the war. I wonder what we should all have felt if on August 4th 1914, we had thought it would have continued up to this time. Lord Kitchener indeed said three years and enrolled his army for that time, but such is a contingency seemed impossible to the generality of our countrymen, many of whom thought that the first battle of the Marne was the beginning of the end.

Who then dreamt of the collapse of Russia, or of the entry of America into the war? Who for a moment imagined that Germany would descend to the depths of degradation to which she has sunk in the eyes of the world by her false dealings and her barbarities. Who had any conception of the miseries, the losses, the bereavements, of the greatest war that the world has ever seen? (more…)

Tug of war

Sydney Spencer’s Sunday was a mix of attending church with the locals and sports with his platoon.

Sunday 28 July 1918

Had a glorious ‘louze’ [sic] in bed this morning until 8 am. After getting up so early lately it was strange to be able to lie in.

Took a gas parade at 10.15. Church Parade at 11.

At 12.15 heats for tug of war. No 6 platoon beat No. 5. No. 7 beat No. 8. At 4 pm No. 6 pulled No. 7 platoon, No. 6 winning, after losing the 1st pull.

After tea went to church with Kemp. French service was peculiarly noisy, all sorts of people continually moving & walking about. Little girls took the collection. An old man with a stick thumping vociferously on the floor with a heavy cane before them to remind us they were near us. Father Thompson dined with us.

In the evening after tea rode out to B- Y- with Dillworth & Dawkins a cheval [on horseback].

Diary of Sydney Spencer

“Don’t worry, she can’t speak English & I could never make love in French”

Percy Spencer was excited by his sister Florence’s getting a comic article published in Punch, and almost fell in love with a French girl.

July 14, 1918

My dear WF

Another week gone & here I am still at school & beginning to know something about musketry.

I’m very glad to hear Sydney is better again and delighted about the Punch article. Mind you send me a copy of the number.

This week I’ve been feeling very dicky myself. I think I had a touch of this strange fever, but a very slight one. Another officer here, I am sorry to say, has died with it.

Today I have been to a much bombed town near here for a holiday. There is quite a good officers’ club and one can generally meet old friends there and get a good dinner. It’s nice to sit in a pretty garden and receive tea from the fair hands of a wholesome English girl.

Today as you know is France’s National day. I went to the cathedral – which by the way has been rather badly bumped at the eastern end – and listened to a service. The singing was delightful, but it is difficult for me, much as I love the Roman Church’s seriousness, to refrain from smiling at their quaint beadles armed with swords and wearing mighty cocked hats, and at the endless collections.

Another good thing out here is the good nature of all motorists. One sets out to walk anywhere, hails the first car or bus or lorry, which always stops & takes you as far as it can. The other night a staff officer we coolly hailed drove us in here and offered to take us as afar as Paris if we liked. This however only applies as between Englishmen or as between French etc. but today I had quite a romantic experience.

Following the usual custom I stepped out to hail a car, but observing it was driven by a Frenchman, stepped back. However, it stopped & then to my pleasurable surprise I saw it was driven by a French GIRL. I’ve given her capitals as she was a capital girl. She wasn’t going very far my way but would give me a lift on my way. Well, the fair chauffeuse who was on her way to fetch the Prefect of the town we had just left melted, & when she got to her turning & I made to alight, she said she would drive me here and she did. After that we got very friendly and talked about London & the Thames, and she said that after the war she should come to London, and I said then I hoped we should meet again, whereupon she volunteered her address and I mine and neither of us could remember the other nor muster a pencil between us, so we pulled up at a cottage & borrowed one & some paper from an old lady who smiled approval at the beginning of a romance. And all the while the Prefect cooled his heels at some village down south!
I must be a lady killer after all!

Don’t worry, she can’t speak English & I could never make love in French, and Bordeaux (her home) is a long way.

Well, goodbye & God bless you both.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/53-55)

Beaucoup wound up about a move

There was tension in the air when expecting a move to the front line.

Saturday 13 July 1918

Beaucoup wound up about a move but nothing had happened yet. 10.45 am. We are now wearing SBRs for an hour. After lunch we had a good rest. I read & lay down for a time but did not sleep.

After tea a conference. I went down to my platoon & arranged things for tomorrow. Trench stores etc. I then went to church for ½ an hour. I am so grateful to the Roman Catholic Church for at least supplying a form of service in which I can take part without feeling that I am not wanted.

Ferrier came into dinner. After dinner packed & to bed at 10. Talked with Kemp about Catholicism until 11.15 & then to sleep.

Saw an old French man with blue trousers & a drum, who stood at street corners & after performing on his drum gave out much important mayoral news to the villagers.

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

“More might spare time from the river or their gardens to pray for the brothers and fathers and friends, who in our defence have neither our pleasures, our comfort, nor our safety”

The vicar of Maidenhead found wartime bread substitutes were inappropriate for Holy Communion.

The Vicar’s Letter

Dear Friends and Parishioners,-

Ascension Day and Whit-Sunday have come to us in glorious weather, and we had satisfactory numbers of Communicants and good congregations. Both might have been rather better, for though well up to the level of other years, in this time of stress, I think more might spare time from the river or their gardens to pray for the brothers and fathers and friends, who in our defence have neither our pleasures, our comfort, nor our safety…

St Luke’s is going to ask for some extra donations to wipe off our deficit. Collections have been up in both churches, but the price of fuel, light, etc, has soared like an aeroplane…

Lastly, I have to ask for your consideration in a very delicate matter that needs reverent treatment. We are very fortunate in being able to get a special loaf of bread made for Church use, which is purer and whiter than the ordinary war bread. This, I hope, we shall always be able to get for Sundays, and we are much indebted for the trouble that has been taken by those who supply us with the bread. But frequently there are (in addition to Thursday) occasional week-day Celebrations. Sometimes I can arrange for a special loaf; sometimes it is difficult for me to do so. In these last cases, on week-days I propose to use wafer bread, made in squares that one can break, thus preserving the symbolism of the “One Loaf”. It is made of pure wheat, flour and water, and thus obeys the spirit of the rubric at the end of the Holy Communion Service. And there is no Scriptural or Church Warrant for the use of potato flour, etc, in church bread.

I must ask you to believe me when I say that I do it reluctantly, but I feel that in the circumstances the use of the very crumbly war bread makes devout persons of all schools of thought in the Church feel that something else should be secured that can be more easily and reverently divided. In France, I believe, the Army almost always uses wafer bread for the Holy Communion Service. No one attending the week-day Services will, I think, be made uncomfortable by the change; and old-fashioned people will not be disturbed by any change on Sunday as long as I can get a special loaf made.

I remain, Your faithful friend and Vicar
C.E.M. FRY

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, June 1918 (D/P181/28A/27)

“The men always say we move on a Sunday”

Sydney was on the move again.

Sunday 16 June 1918

And so, my dear diary, once more we make a move on a Sunday! The men always say we move on a Sunday, although I have not specially noticed it.

Got up at 6.45. Went to Holy Communion at ‘Gaspers’ entertainment barn at 7.30. Took church parade for Dillon. An old French peasant kicked up a row. My knowledge of French led me into the task of getting rid of him!

At 12 noon we knew nothing about moving. At 1.45 Dillon & I were playing double patience. At 2 pm we marched off for a camp between F-c-v-e & H-d-v-e. Arrived there at 4.30 pm. Men under ‘Arab’ bivouacs in a corn field at edge of trench system, ourselves, 4 of us in a tent near road. A rest & bed by 10 pm. EA [enemy aeroplanes] heard overhead but no shelling except of V-ns.

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

Pot shots over the parapet

Soldiers coped with the onslaught in different ways.

Sydney Spencer
Sunday 26 May 1918
(written retrospectively on 28 May)

I came on trench duty at 12.30 am till stand down (normally at 4.30, but as the mist was very strong & heavy we stood to till 7). I then went on strike & had breakfast after 5 ½ hours trench duty!

At 7.30 I found Rolfe & Peyton taking pot shots over the parapet with Mills bombs & rifle grenades. Just for the sake of old times I threw one through the crater. It fell in our wire. At 10 the Bosche started a strafe on the whole of our front. This lasted until 12.30. I & my platoon grovelled on the trench bottom & made accusative remarks about his bad shooting, & Corporal Bindey [?] & I studied an ants’ nest to while away the time!

After lunch I was on duty again from 2 till 4 pm. After tea for about 10 minutes I suffered complete demoralisation, goodness only knows why! I slept for 1 hour & then as no evening hate took place at 6 pm I went to company headquarters & rested till dinner time.

After dinner I got ready to hand over after 9 days in line! Then came orders to stand to as a raid was expected. Discovered a ground search light on our front at 2.35. It played all along our front.

Percy Spencer
26 May 1918

Communion service in grass avenue outside chateau. Went over a tank.

Moved up close to Lavieville. Not bad quarters but well bombed all around & no protection. Hartley joined us.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15) and Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

A manly sermon and modern religion

Sydney attended to the practical needs of his men while thinking about God.

Sydney Spencer
Sunday 12 May 1918

After a delicious night’s sleep in pyjamas on a semblance of a bed, I got up at 10 am! Wrote sundry letters. Made up my accounts. Went down & saw my platoon. They seemed very happy. Also to HQ Mess, settled wine account. After lunch got QM to change a cheque for 300 francs. Hence we have money again. Examined kits of platoon. Took them to a bath where they got change of clothes. Got their clothes and boots examined.

Tea & more letter writing. Heard from OB, Major Bracey, Field & Ruscoe. Got some money out of officers. Spent 47 francs on food for mess.

To evening service of YMCA. Christopherson, padre of Buffs, preached a manly sermon. Stayed to communion. About 60 men stopped. Had a talk with C afterwards. After dinner sat & talked ‘modern religion’ to Hervey & Rolfe.

Percy Spencer
12 May 1918

A wet day. But an eventful one because I have just heard my first shell since June last year. No connection, but the villagers are moving out in anticipation of Fritz’s attack, due originally on the 8th, next yesterday, & now fixed for the 14th.

Had a long chat with CO in the evening. CO told me forward HQ found my presence at Dept very useful. Major Woolley also wrote from England saying nice things about me. Another bad night owing to Bosch shelling & aircraft activity.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)