“The toll the war is taking of our men is appalling”

Reading and Caversham property developer Edwin Jesse (1842-1921), currently living in Mapledurham, had seen his sons Edwin (Ted) and Walter, both in their 30s, and his daughter Rose’s husband, off to fight in the war, and the family had now heard bad news of the latter.

13/10/17

Dear Uncle

I am indeed very sorry to hear the sad news of the death of [his cousin] Rosie’s husband. It must have been a great shock to you all, and you have my sincere sympathy.

The toll the war is taking of our men is appalling.

So Ted and Walter [his cousins] are in France now. I wish them both the best of good luck & trust they may return safely – and soon.

I am so sorry that you should have all this anxiety…

With kind regards

Your affectionate nephew
E. S. Herbert

Letter from E S Herbert to Edwin Jesse (D/EX1942/1/1/40/59)

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So far recovered from the effects of being gassed, a soldier gets married

There was sad news for many Reading families, but one soldier, home after the nasty experience of being gassed, decided to marry his sweetheart.

The Vicar’s Notes
Intercessions

For our Russian allies in their time of need.

For our own fighting men, and especially for our lads who have just joined the army, particularly Charles Upstone.

For the wounded, especially Percy Viner.

For the fallen, especially Thomas Murray, William Eaton, Albert Ford, George Lawrence, Frederick Lewis. R.I.P.

S. Saviour’s District

R.I.P.
The brass tablet placed in the Church by Miss Ward, and the new Epistle and Gospel lights for the sanctuary, presented by Mrs Ward and Miss Ward, are in memory of the late Evelyn Paget Graves, Major R.A. and R.F.C.

Albert Edward Barnet and Albert Edward Turner are reported killed in France. Our sincere sympathy is with the bereaved families.

Marriage
Our best wishes to Alfred James White (Corporal R.G.A.) and Miss Nellie Allwood, who were married at S. Mary’s on September 1st. We are glad that Corporal White has so far recovered from the effects of being gassed in France.

S. Mark’s district
R.I.P.

It was with great sorrow that we heard that one of our servers, Leonard Pusey, had been killed in France on August 22nd. He had been a server at S. Mark’s for about 7 years and he always took a keen interest in all that was done in connection with the Church; he will be much missed – we offer our sincere sympathy to his wife.

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

Delays in forms for war allowances

Administrative red tape and confusion over parish boundaries caused problems for some families.

It often happens that a delay occurs in attending to the many forms, which have to be filled up in connection with Soldiers’ allowances, pensions, &c., owing to persons giving “Winkfield” as their Parish. “Winkfield” is the proper Postal address, but for persons living in this Parish it should be stated that they live in the Parish of Cranbourne, and not Winkfield.

Privates P. Wye, F. Douglas, and H. Edmonds have been home on leave. We hear that Stanley Stratfull has been made a Corporal.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield District Magazine, October 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/10)

The separation that duty involves

A Tilehurst girl married a soldier on leave.

TILEHURST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH

Miss Harriet (“Hettie”) Crocker, a daughter of Mr and Mrs J Crocker of Victoria Road, was married in our church on September 3rd to Mr Ronald George Clark of Alveston, Stratford-on-Avon. The Pastor [the Revd E J Perry] conducted the service, which was of the simplest and quietest character. The bridegroom has served from the beginning of the war in the Royal Field Artillery, and was in this country for only a short leave. We all greet the happy pair, and trust that the separation that duty involves will soon be over, and that God will crown their union with His rich blessing.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, October 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Mothers, wives and widows take on their men’s allotments

Women were picking up the slack at home when it came to tending soldiers’ allotments.

Burghfield and Sulhamstead Horticultural Society’s Annual Show

On Wednesday 29th August, it was a gratifying sight to the promoters of this Show to see so goodly a supply of produce from the cottage gardens and plots; especially when it is remembered that a large number of the gardens and allotments are being cultivated by the wives and mothers of the men who are away serving their country; and by the widows of those who have fallen in the war. The greatest credit is due to them.

Burghfield parish magazine, October 1917 (D/EX725/4)

So the war takes toll of England’s best

Tribute is paid to a fallen soldier from Reading, a young man with much to offer his community.

In Memoriam
Wilfred Wallace Drake.

The sad news that our loved friend and brother, Lieut. Wilfred Drake, had died on August 16th, from severe wounds received in action that day, has cast quite a gloom over Trinity. It came to all who knew him as a shock of personal and poignant grief. He was so essentially a vital part of the work here that, in his passing, we have sustained a grievous loss. He was perhaps the one to whom some of us were looking to come back into the Church life and, in his inimitable way, to infuse fresh life and vigour into its various activities. It is a great blow to feel that this cannot be.
In thinking over his life, three characteristics stand out in impressive prominence.

1. His Splendid Keenness.

With what tremendous energy and enthusiasm he threw himself into any job he undertook, great or small. Shall we ever forget the eagerness with which he championed the scheme for the entertaining of Kitchener’s Army in 1914-15, and with what joyful willingness he gave up many an evening to this work? Of him it may be truly said – “No duty could over task him, No need his will outrun; Or ever our lips could ask him, His hands the work had done.”

2. His Gentility.

He was of a particular happy disposition, and his spirits were so infectious a nature that he made everyone else interested and enthusiastic. Whether it were the Children’s Choir, the Eisteddfod, an Institute picnic or tennis tournament, it went if “Drake” had anything to do with it. So great was his influence that even his telegram of good wishes for the success of the Eisteddfod of 1916 gave fresh Zest to the proceedings.

3. His Earnestness.

With all his spirits, his deep thoughtfulness impressed all who were privileged with his close friendship. He scarcely ever missed attendance at the Institute Bible School, and was of enormous help getting in other young men to join. They came at first at his word and because he was there; they stopped because they liked it, again helped by his unconscious influence. He was a simple but strong faith; he did not say much but lived out what he believed.

His activities were many and in all he excelled. From its commencement the institute owed much to his initiative and enterprise. For four years he was the superintendent of the Band of Hope, where his bright personality made him the life and soul of every meeting. The training of the children’s choir was a truly great piece of work, and not only revealed his wonderful aptitude for teaching children, but was the means by which large sums were raised for charitable objects. And how the children loved him! They will long revere the memory of their good natured and painstaking conductor, to whose careful tuition many of them owe their musical powers to-day. In the Choir he was invaluable. Possessing a baritone voice of rare quality and resonance, he was a decided acquisition, and his attendance could always be relied upon. Again, his glad willing spirit readily undertook any required service.

Lieutenant Drake received his commission over two years ago, and had been in France since June, 1916. He came home on leave only a month before his death. How little did we, who so gladly welcomed his presence at church, think it was for the last time! He was attached to a Trench Mortar Battery. Numerous are the tributes which have been received showing the deep affection and profound esteem entertained for him.

Through the kindness of Mrs. Drake we are able to print two of them.

His Commanding Officer writes:-

“I have just heard that your husband has died of wounds. I cannot say how sorry we all were. Although he had been away with the trench mortars, he of course belonged to the Regiment, and had been with us for some time. He was one of the bravest and most promising of officer’s, and his loss is greatly felt in the Regiment. Please accept my deepest sympathy and that of all ranks of the Battalion in your great loss.”

The second is from A/Sergt.-Major Holmes, and it is signed by many of the of lieut. Drake’s own Battery. It is as follows:-

“I write to you these few lines of sympathy on behalf the loss of your husband, Lieutenant Drake was, who was an officer in our Battery, and I must say that he was very much liked indeed by all N.C.O’s. and men. It is now we miss him, and many a time I have heard my men say, ‘Isn’t it a pity we lost Mr. Drake?’ And I am sure it is also, for I, as well as all the others, was always fond of such a brave and noble officer as he proved himself to be.

The following are names of the N.C.O.’s and men who came out of the last action; they all asked me to write, and all send their deepest sympathy to you, the wife of a noble Officer of the British Army.”

So the war takes toll of England’s best, and when it claimed Wilfred Drake, it took one whose life would have enriched our land wherever it had been lived. Yet he is not dead, for that spirit cannot die. For us its memory will never fade, but will live as an inspiration to all who knew and loved it, and “the friendships thus made in God will grow through a;; eternity” till we meet before the great white throne and all “the shadows flee away.”

But what of his loss to his loved ones? To his young wife, whose joyful wedding lingers still in all memories, our hearts go out in tender thought, and to her and to his parents, mourning the loss of their only son, we offer our heartfelt sympathy, praying that God of all consolation may comfort their hearts.

On Sunday morning, August 26th, the choir sang very impressively “What are these?” (Stainer), and Mr. Goodenough played “O rest in the Lord. ”At the Bible School in the afternoon.” Mr Streeter made feeling reference to our great loss, and a vote of condolence with Mrs. Drake and the bereaved parents was passed. Mr. E.C. Croft gave a beautiful rendering of R.L. Stevenson’s “Requiem.”

Trinity Congregational Magazine, October 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

Police uniforms will have to be lower quality

The war continued to have an impact on the local police service.

7 July 1917

On 8 May last the Acting Chief Constable was informed by the Home Office that the War Cabinet had decided that further members of Police Forces should be released for military service; and that the minimum number to be supplied by Berkshire was 20. he accordingly released that number of the youngest Constables on 1 June, as follows:

PC 44, James H. Benson Married
PC 193, Wilfred Thomas Ditto
PC 192, Henry J. Boshier Ditto
PC 59, James Strange Ditto
PC 29, Charles J. Simmonds Single
PC 187, Harry Hankins Married
PC 180, George W. G. Plumb Ditto
PC 152, Bertie W. Smith Ditto
PC 4, Charles W. Green Ditto
PC 220, Bertram G. Sherwood Ditto
PC 207, Albert J. Harvey Ditto
PC 160, Allan Miles Single
PC 76, Kenneth Chapman Married
PC 157, James A. Butler Ditto
PC 191, Ernest Culley Ditto
PC 67, Ernest West Ditto
PC 53, Francis G. E. Bailey Single
PC 118, Frederick Bailey Ditto
PC 8, Charles V. Foster Married
PC 121, Thomas H. Fletcher Ditto

In accordance with the Committee’s decision on 5 July, 1915, the allowance to the wives of married Constables during the latter’s absence on military service will be the amount the Constables were receiving from Police Funds for pay and war bonus – less the amount received from Army Funds … and the wives will be allowed to remain in their houses on payment of half the usual deduction for house rent.

As regards the single Constables, PC 29 Simmonds alone has been contributing regularly, 6/- per week to the support of his relatives, and the Sub-committee recommend that an allowance of 6d per day be granted in this case.

No further First Police Reservists have been called up for active Police duty, and endeavours will be made to manage with the assistance of the Special Constables whenever practicable.

Three of the Constables who have now joined the Army formed part of the number furnished under agreement to Newbury Borough, and have not yet been replaced pending the reconsideration of the agreement.

Clothing and Helmets for 1918

A tender was obtained from Messrs Titley, Son & Price for the supply of Police clothing for 1918, but the prices being so much in excess of the previous contract, they were communicated with, with a view to the prices being reduced; and they subsequently offered to supply the clothing at the same prices as in 1917, but stipulated that, while the material would be serviceable, it would be of a lower quality. The overcoats, capes and undress trousers would be of the same weight and appearance as, but would not be, all wool. At the same time they strongly recommended the retention of the Sergeants’ and Constables’ winter trouser material at the price quoted, viz £1.1s.0d, instead of 16s 0d as last year. It is recommended that this offer be accepted.

The garments required for the 1918 issue will be Great Coats, Serges, Dress Trousers, Undress Trousers, and Summer Helmets.

Messrs Christy & Co are at present unable to tender for the Caps and Helmets, owing to the Government having commandeered their stock and, as the Committee understand other firms are in like position, it is recommended that tenders be not invited this year.

Adopted.

Class “B” First Police Reserve

The position and pay of Class “B” men on the First Police Reserve – some of whom have been on duty since the beginning of the war – have been brought to the notice of the Sub-committee. In view of the present high prices of food, etc, the Sub-committee recommend that their rate of pay be increased from 5/- to 5/6 per day as from 1 April, 1917…

Carried: That Class “B” First Police Reserve be granted a bonus of 3/6 per week as from 1 April, 19817, instead of the increased rate of pay as recommended by the Finance Sub-committee.

Standing Joint Committee minutes (C/CL/C2/1/5)

Sick leave from France

A Maidenhead teacher’s husband came from from the front due to illness.

8th June 1917
Mrs Wells had leave of absence for two days, as her husband had sick leave from France. Secretary acquainted of this fact.


Log book of King Street School, Maidenhead (C/EL77/1, p. 396)

“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)

“The soldiers are in dire need of comfort both physical and spiritual”

A Congregational minister from east Reading had spent the winter with the YMCA, working with British troops in France.

VISIT OF REV. LEONARD BROOKS

The minister of Park Congregational Church, Reading, paid us his first visit on the 23rd of May, when he gave to a splendid congregation part of the story of his experiences with the troops in France during the winter. Mr Brooks told the incidents with great feeling and force, and revealed to us in striking fashion the need there was for religion to be manifested as a very practical thing.

What we heard of his work among the relatives of the wounded and the dying was most interesting, and to many of us it was a section of YMCA enterprise of which no thought had ever been held. We imagine quite readily that the soldiers are in dire need of comfort both physical and spiritual, but that there should be poignant sorrow among the wives and mothers had very rarely occurred to us as calling for the special labours of the YM.

Mr Brooks did not dwell altogether on the grave side of the matter; there were tales of much merriment, of muddled recipes, failing lights, pilgrimages up and down long flights of steps, etc, which kept us from taking the more serious aspect of the war too seriously. We felt much indebted to Mr Brooks for coming over to open out to us a new side of things, as well as for going to France at all, and we hope that his labours over there are resulting in a greater acceptance of the higher things in which he ministered.

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, July 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Some disabled ex-soldiers are refusing to work

Berkshire County Council found the war coming close to home when its Deputy Clerk, who had joined the army soon after the start of the war, was reported killed. Meanwhile they had begun to tackle the problem of those men who had returned home from the front with a permanent disability as a result of wounds. How might they be retrained?

DEATH OF THE DEPUTY CLERK

Resolved on the motion of the Chairman [James Herbert Benyon]: That a vote of condolence be forwarded to the widow of Lieut-Col H U H Thorne in her bereavement, and that it be accompanied by an expression of the great loss sustained by the Council in the untimely, though gallant, death in action of their Deputy Clerk.

Report of the Berkshire War Pensions Committee

The War Pensions Committee commenced their work on the 1 October, 1916.

The County, in accordance with the Scheme arranged by the County Council, has been divided into twelve Sub-committees, being, for the main part, one Sub-committee for each petty sessional division; but there have been certain adjustments, for the convenience of working, between the divisions of Wokingham and Easthampstead, while the Lambourn division has been divided between Wantage and Newbury division, with the exception of the parish of Lambourn itself, which is being worked by a Secretary and Treasurer.

Almoners have been appointed for each parish throughout the County, and the Almoners and Sub-committees respectively have had powers given them to deal with all urgent cases of wives and dependants of soldiers and sailors requesting financial assistance, each case being reported to this Committee for approval or revision as the circumstances may require.

During the six months alterations have been made in the amount of the State Separation Allowances and valuable additional powers have been given to the Pensions Committee in the way of making additional grants to meet to some extent the increase in prices, and the work has been now thoroughly organised.

Since the 1 October, 1916, up to the 30 April, 1917, the Finance and General Purposes Sub-committee have dealt with 1326 cases of Advances, Supplementary and Temporary Allowances, Temporary and Emergency Grants, etc. The payments made up to the 30 April, in respect of these Allowances and Grants, amount to a sum of £2299 2s 11d.

In addition to this the Sub-committee have dealt with 33 cases of Supplementary Pensions, which have been recommended to the War Pensions etc Statutory Committee.

The other section of the work of the committee is the very important and constantly increasing work of dealing with discharged and disabled soldiers and sailors. The principle adopted has been that so soon as the notification of the discharge of a man into the county has been received, the particulars are sent down to the Secretary of the Sub-committee in whose district the man proposes to live; enquiries are made in the district as to the man’s physical condition with a view of ascertaining whether he needs further medical treatment or training for some form of employment other than that to which he was accustomed prior to his disablement, and further inquiries to ascertain whether he needs financial assistance of either a temporary or permanent character, other than that provided by his pension, if any.

Considerable difficulty has been found in many cases where men have refused to work for fear of endangering the continuance of their pension, or because they are satisfied to remain as they are for the time being at any rate with the pension that they hold. The new Royal Warrant, however, will considerably strengthen the hands of the committee, as the Ministry of Pensions are entitled to withhold a portion of a pension if a man refuses to undertake treatment which the Pensions Committee, acting on medical advice, consider necessary for him, and the Pensions Committee will be enabled to grant a Separation Allowance for the wife and children where the man is undertaking training, and, further, to pay the man a bonus for each week of a course of training which he has competed to their satisfaction.

The provision of training is a difficult matter, as the necessary organisations are few and far between. In Berkshire the committee have three Schemes in course of formation. (more…)

Killed by a shell on his way back to the trenches

A Cranbourne was killed in unfortunate circumstances.

We have to record, with much regret, the death of Private Ernest Lunn. He had been in the Hospital and was killed by a shell on his way back to the trenches. A memorial service was held on Sunday afternoon, May 13th. He leaves a widow and two young children with whom much sympathy has been expressed.

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

Fallen on the field of war

Warfield’s women had contributed large amounts of clothing and bandages for wounded soldiers, while two more of the parish’s men had lost their lives.

Since our last issue we have to record the deaths of Major Alexander Wood and Walter Parsons who have fallen on the field of war. We desire to express our sincere sympathy with their respective widows and families.

It will be of some interest to the parish to hear some account of the Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild in Warfield. Since its institution, in 1914 no less than 430 articles (including vests, sandbags, housewifes, treasure-bags, bed-jackets, gloves, pillows, hot water bottle-covers, shirts, operation stockings, sun shields, surgeon’s coats, slippers, jug-covers, quilts and pyjamas) have been sent to Head-Quarters; also 79 pairs of mittens to Colonel Burgess, and 407 bandages with 156 face-swabs to the Mayoress of Reading for the War Hospitals of that town.

Warfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, May 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/5)

“The dear boy was not 19 years of age”

Two families in Cookham Dean had to face the worst news of their beloved sons.

Roll of Honour

Sincere sympathy must be expressed with Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton Hobson, of Dean House, in the loss of their brave young son, Geoffrey Hamilton Hobson, 2nd Lieut., Hampshire Regiment, who died of wounds received in action early in the month. The dear boy was not 19 years of age.

Our very sincere sympathy also is with the wife and parents and other relatives of Pte. John Usher, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, the news of whose death from wounds, on April 24th, has been (unofficially) received.

Cookham Dean parish magazine, May 1917 (D/P43B/28A/11)

Valuable lectures on the culture of vegetables

Ascot people grew vegetables for the war, while one couple lent their big house for use as a hsopital.

THE MILITARY HOSPITAL is to be re-opened immediately after Easter at “Sandridge.” Mr. and Mrs. Ninian Elliot have, most generously, handed over their delightful house for the purpose.

LECTURES on the Culture of Vegetables (two of them in this parish) have been given in the neighbourhood during the past few weeks. Interesting and valuable in themselves, they have also been very well attended.

ERNEST MERRY, who was some time ago reported missing, has been killed in France. We deeply sympathise with his wife and little children.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, April 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/4)