“Suppose it had been the other thing, not victory but defeat”

The vicar of Reading St Giles was grateful the war had ended in victory at last.

Notes from the Vicar

S. Martin’s Day, November the 11th, will always be remembered as the day on which the armistice was signed and hostilities ceased. It was a wonderful deliverance for which everyone was devoutly thankful. It was most encouraging to see the way groups of people were to be found in church all that day thanking God for his great mercies; and many made their Communion and were present at the Eucharist next morning. On Tuesday evening there was a special service of thanksgiving, which was well attended. The service began with hymn 166, followed by Psalm 100, Isaiah lx1. Was read by the Rev. H.C. Frith; then psalm 46 was sung, and a second lesson (Rev.xx1. 1-9) was read by the Rev. F. Young. The Creed was recited and a special Thanksgiving prayers were offered by the Vicar. The other Hymns were 379, 165 and 298. After the procession a solemn Te Deum was sung. The Vicar gave a short address, taking as his text Psalms 29; verse 10 “The Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.” Only a few words. Thank God. Peace at last! That is the one thought that fills every heart to-day. Thank God. We are met here tonight, at short notice, to say, consciously and deliberately, the same words. Thank God, Peace! Our first thought then must be – it could not be anything else-the thought of God “The snare is broken and we are delivered.” How has this come about? As was said wisely in the Times on Saturday: “No doubt we are right in ascribing our victory to the skill and valour of the men of all ranks, who, as the allied nations, for more than four years, have fought for us by land and sea and air. By their amazing valour and indomitable spirit at last are enemies have been defeated. But they could not have fought thus in their own strength. He is of an uncomprehending mind who does not lift up his heart to the lord of hosts by whose power our valiant men and our allies have attained the victory.”

So said the Times, and that is full of significance. To God alone we ascribe this happy victory. Peace after four years and a quarter of war, and such war as the world has never known. To realize the blessing of our peace we have only to recall those four and a quarter years. Shall we, who are here in this ancient parish church, ever forget them – their darkness, and their sadness, their bereavement and their desolation. It is only when we remember what these years have meant to all classes, the mansion and the cottage alike, that the word peace becomes not merely a passing emotion. And first, then, we turn to God and thank him, as we did in our Eucharist this morning as we are doing now. In God’s name and in His help, then, we shall try to celebrate this gift of peace as something which comes from God.

I could not but help feeling yesterday morning as I heard the syrens and whistles go at eleven o’clock, and I am sure you must have felt the same: suppose it had been the other thing, not victory but defeat. For we have been in great danger of disaster not once or twice. Perhaps how near defeat has been to us few here realise. Dangers across the seas, difficulties at home, we never acquiesced in the thought of defeat, but we knew, those of us who were wise, it was possible. Well, as we think of that, ought it not all the more make us thank God for this great deliverance. Thank God that he has heard our prayers at each Eucharist and at out Intersession Services. It has been said that “it is often harder to acknowledge God in success than in defeat.” Popular language shows how men are more ready to confess his presence in disaster than in success. For one man who is ready to ascribe victory to God, a hundred will declare that pain and sorrow and defeat are the work of his vengeance. And therefore, it is all the more necessary that we should at once thank Almighty God who has brought us safely through these years and now gives us the blessing of peace.

There is no one here who does not feel more than ever with those whose rejoicing at the great victory and at Peace is alas touched with feelings of sorrow and sadness, as they think of those loved ones lying in nameless graves or buried beneath the little white cross. “If only he could have lived to see this day”; well perhaps, truly he sees this day “elsewhere.” We do not forget the gallant dead, who poured out their life’s blood on the field or in the hospitals or on the seas. It was not we who won this war: it was the soldiers and sailors: all gratitude to them, the Dead and the Living who have won our Peace.

I end as I began. Our first thought is one of gratitude to God. Ere this service closes we shall solemnly sing the Te Deum. But, it is not the voice of mere human exaltation which benefits the occasion of this service. It is rather as the Te Deum itself will suggest the acknowledgement of the divine power, in comparison with which all men of all nations are but things of the day. “He increaseth the nations and destroyeth them. He enlargeth nations and chasteneth them again” So we, to-night are here to hope the hope that is born of reliance upon him, the God of our fathers. Who has blessed us in the past and who will not fail nor forget us if we are true to him. “Hope in God for I shall yet thank him. Who is the help of my countenance and my God”.

On the following Sunday (12th), a great many communions were made, and there was an especially large congregation at the high celebration. In the afternoon, a special service of praise and thanksgiving was held for the cadets of the 4th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment and their friends, the church being nearly full. At festal evensong the church was crowded, over 1,500 being present, and many could not get admission. The flags of the allies were carried in the procession by officers and men in khaki, and the service a never to be forgotten one ended with the Te Deum.

We have, indeed, very much to thank God for.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P96/28A/35)

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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)

Cheers for the allies and the old boys fighting

Schools celebrated the end of the war.

Riseley Common
Nov. 11th

Acting on the assumption that peace has been declared (or rather an armistice arranged), as we could hear sirens sounding and church bells ringing, we have sung the National Anthem, “Praise God” etc.

St Stephen’s Boys’ School, Windsor
November 11th 1918

Armistice day.

Stoke Road School, Slough
November 11th 1918

School was re-opened this morning – 63% (194/308). The M.O.H ordered the school to be closed until November 18th.

During the morning I received the news that Germany had accepted the Allies’ terms and signed the Armistice.

The children formed a hollow square in front of the flag-staff, to which a new rope had been attached in readiness. The flag was hoisted by the youngest boy in the school to the singing of the National Anthem. The flag was then saluted and cheers were given for the allies and the old boys fighting. Edw. J Baldwin “shinned” up the pole to attach the rope. John Cross hoisted the Flag.

Sunninghill: St Michael’s CE Mixed School
11th November 1918

Beginning of Armistice. On the occasion of this I addressed the children, & hoisted the Union Jack. The National Anthem was then sung.

Stanford Dingley National School
November 11th 1918

Today, news was received that the Armistice was signed at 11 o’clock AM between Germany and the allies, this concluding the Great European War. After signing several National Songs concluding with the National Anthem. The children dispersed at 3 o’clock this afternoon.

King Street School, Maidenhead
11th November 1918

There were 107 children present this morning. The news of the signing of the armistice made a difference to the attendance this afternoon. 73 children present.

Windsor Royal Free Boys’ School log book
11th November 1918

News of Germany’s signing of the armistice reached the school at 11.10 am. At midday the whole school assembled and cheered the news after singing “God Save the King”. A half holiday was given by the mayor in honour of the great event.

Abingdon Girls CE School
1918, 11th-15th November

Children were dismissed at 3 o’clock on Armistice Day at the Vicar’s request.

Coleshill CE School
15th November 1918

On Monday (11th) when news of ‘The Armistice’ arrived the children sang ‘The King’ and saluted the ‘flag’ with cheers for our Army and Navy; they were then sent home.

Sonning CE Girls and Infants
11th November 1918

School closed in the afternoon to celebrate the signing of the Armistice.

Littlewick CE School
November 11th 1918

At 11.30 AM we heard bells and hooters going and knew that the Armistice was signed and that the war was over. The children cheered and sang “God Save the King” and Rule Britannia, and put up the Union Jack.

Buscot CE School
Nov. 11th

News that the armistice had been signed reached Buscot in the afternoon. The Flag was hoisted, cheers given, National Anthem sung and the hymn “Now thank we all our God”. The children were dismissed at 3 pm, and a holiday given next day Nov 12th.

Aston Tirrold
11th November 1918

We re-opened this morning after a closure of nearly a fortnight on account of influenza. Only 42 children are present out on 75 on roll. Just before noon the rector brought in the news that the Armistice had been signed. Secular work was suspended, and we humble fell upon our knees and heartedly thanked God for His great mercy vouchsafed unto us. A holiday to commemorate the Victory was given in the afternoon.

Braywick
11th November 1918

School opened again this morning [following closure for influenza] with a very fair amount of scholars and after consulting the doctor it was decided to mark register and proceed with usual work which was done accordingly. Peace however was declared in the morning and great excitement presided, many scholars remaining at home in the afternoon. School was resumed on Tuesday, the national anthem was sung, patriotic songs, flag waving etc and children kept quite excited.

Great Coxwell
11th November 1918

War Ended. Holiday in the afternoon to celebrate the great event.

Milton
Nov 11th

Re-opened again this morning [after closure for influenza] with 28 children, several still being ill. Heard in the dinner hour of the Armistice being signed, & gave the children the half holiday.

Log books of Riseley Common CE School, Swallowfield (C/EL99/3); St Stephen’s Boys’ School, Windsor (88/SCH/23/7, p. 167); Stoke Road School, Slough (89/SCH/28/1); Sunninghill: St Michael’s CE Mixed School (88/SCH/32/3); Stanford Dingley National School (C/EL21); King Street School, Maidenhead (C/EL77/1); Windsor Royal Free Boys’ School (C/EL72/3); Abingdon Girls CE School (C/EL 2/2); Coleshill CE School (D/P40/28/5); Sonning CE Girls and Infants (89/SCH/1/4);Littlewick C.E. School(85/SCH/5/2, p. 197); Buscot CE School (C/EL73/2); Aston Tirrold CE School log book (C/EL105/1, p. 169); Braywick CE School (C/EL65/4, p. 208); Milton CE School (D/P85/25/25); Hampstead Norreys CE School (C/EL40/2)Great Coxwell CE School (C/EL81/2, p. 83); Newbury St Nicolas CE (Boys) School (90/SCH/5/3); Purley CE School (C/EL85/2)