“Various brothers gave some of their experiences during the time they were on active service”

More men were welcomed home.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

On Saturday, June 21st, we held the “Welcome Home Tea” to our Brothers who have been on active service, and are now demobilised. They numbered about 30, and a most pleasant evening was spent.

A meat tea was generously given by our President (C Steward Smith, Esq., JP) and afterwards various brothers gave some of their experiences during the time they were on active service. Musical items were rendered, and during the latter part of the evening coffee and sandwiches were served. It was really one of the best and most enjoyable evenings held in connection with the Brotherhood for many a day.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, July 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

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A heartfelt “welcome back” to the men who had done and suffered so much for their country and for us

There was a warm welcome home for returning soldiers at Broad Street Chapel.

June

VARIOUS ANNOUNCEMENTS

It is proposed to give a “Welcome Home” to demobilised soldier and sailors connected with the church, in the Schoolroom, on Wednesday June 4th at 7 pm. A limited number of tickets for the tea and subsequent gathering will be sold to other friends at 1/6 each. Application for these tickets should be made to the Chapel-keeper or to any of the deacons.

July

“WELCOME HOME”

On Wednesday June 4th, members of the church and congregation assembled in the Schoolroom to give a cordial “Welcome Home” to men from the church and its various organisations who had been “demobilized”. About forty of these brethren attended, in response to the invitation which had been extended to them, and the whole proceedings were most enjoyable. At 7 o’clock the company sat down to a substantial tea which had been arranged by the wives of the deacons, and when the good things provided had been satisfactorily disposed of, the tables were cleared away for an informal meeting. Miss Vera Smith had very kindly arranged a capital programme of songs, recitations, etc, which were contributed by a number of her friends, and interspersed with the various items short speeches were delivered by several of the deacons.

The Minister was present, but owing to a relaxed throat, he was unable to speak. Mr Chas Steward Smith, JP, presided, and in fitting terms he gave a heartfelt “welcome back to Broad Street” to the men who had done and suffered so much for their country and for us. Other speakers in similar strain were Mr W. J. Brain, Mr Ernest Francis, Mr Swallow, and Mr Tibble. At the close, Mr W. J. Dance and Ex-Sergeant C. S. Stebbings voiced the gratitude of our guests for the welcome accorded them, and for the way in which the church had kept in touch with them by letters and parcels during their absence. The singing of “Auld Lang Syne” fittingly concluded a very happy gathering. Mr J Swallow was secretary, and Mr Tibble treasurer, of the committee which made arrangements for the function.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, June and July 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“We earnestly pray that our friend may be kept from all harm in the difficult and dangerous work in which he is engaged”

A former member of Broad Street Congregational Church had been reported killed, but there was better news from local hero Victor Smith.

We extend our sympathy, too, to the relatives of the late Sergeant A Middlemost, of the South African Contingent. Before emigrating to South Africa, Sergeant Middlemost was an active member of the Young Men’s Institute. In the early days of the war he joined up with the South African forces, and he has now paid the supreme sacrifice for his country. Those who knew him will ever cherish his memory with affection.

The many friends of Captain L. Victor Smith, MC, have been greatly pleased to hear of his recent promotion, and they would unite in heartiest congratulations to him and his parents – our esteemed friends Mr and Mrs Chas Steward Smith – and in good wishes for the future. Captain Smith is the first of our Broad Street representatives to win his captaincy in the present war, and he has done it in a remarkably short time. It is not long since we were rejoicing in the MC which he had won for conspicuous bravery, and now comes this further cause for gratification. We earnestly pray that our friend may be kept from all harm in the difficult and dangerous work in which he is engaged.

The way in which our schoolrooms are crowded each afternoon by wounded soldiers, and each evening by other men and women in khaki, gives ample proof of the need for such work as is now being efficiently done by the church. I [the minister] should like to thank the many ladies and gentlemen who have so readily come to our assistance in this matter. They need no assurance from me that it is abundantly worth while.

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

Can a government contract for blankets keep an Abingdon factory open?

The Executive Committee of the Berkshire branch of the National Relief Fund met on 13 October 1914, at Shire Hall in Reading. They tried to help a factory at risk from closure get war contracts, and gave handouts to various individuals:

The Chairman reported that with regard to Clarke’s Factory in Abingdon, contracts had been received which would keep the hands fully employed until Christmas.

That the manager of the Carpet Factory at Abingdon had asked the assistance of the Committee in obtaining contracts for rough horse cloths & blankets in order to enable him to keep the factory open, & the Committee had been able to obtain leave for him to submit 100 specimens of his blankets to the Admiralty & War Office, it being hoped that some contract would be obtained.

Applications for relief
Elstrick, Windsor. Mr Durant reported that work had been found for the applicant.
Daisy Brown, Shinfield. The Chairman reported that he had made personal enquiry into the case & agreed to pay arrears of rent, & that 36/- had been paid by the Treasurer on this account.
Fanny White, Shinfield. A grant of 9/- was sanctioned by the Committee, representing 4/6 a week for two weeks. A further report was to be asked for on this case from the Wokingham Committee.
Minnie Jones, Shinfield. Mr Tottie reported that the SSFA was dealing with this case.
Philip Dennys, Wargrave. The secretary was instructed to write to Mr Batty and Mr Bond & ask for particulars concerning the applicant for the post of interpreter.
Oakley, Bracknell. Mr Ferard made a report upon this case. The secretary was instructed to write to Mr Wilson asking what steps had been taken to obtain work.
Tindall, Windsor. Mr Durant gave a report on the case & the Committee decided to make a grant of £1 as representing the applicant’s rent for 3 weeks.
Heard, Cookham RDC. The application was declined on the ground that it was not a suitable one for the National Relief Fund.
Ethel Bourgeois, Cookham RDC. The Committee decided to advance £3 to the Local District Committee on behalf of this case, such sum to be expended at the discretion of the Committee. The secretary was instructed to write to the applicant’s late employer asking for particulars concerning rent of applicant’s house, and also to write to the French Embassy asking whether any fund was in existence for the assistance of the dependants of French Reservists in this country.

The Chairman reported the receipt of a telegram from the Local Government Board asking for further offers of hospitality for Belgian refugees. The secretary was instructed to send a copy of the same to Local District Committees.

Broad Street Congregational Church in Reading was just as anxious to help out those whose family finances might be badly hurt by the loss of the breadwinner, in an age when gaining public assistance meant the shame and unpleasantness of the workhouse. The church magazine tells us more:

ADVISORY COMMITTEE
The church at its last meeting decided to appoint an advisory committee whose function, during the course of the war, shall be to look after the interests of those amongst our people who may be adversely affected by the enlistment of fathers, sons or other relatives (upon whom they are dependent) in H. M. Forces or by privation directly due to the outbreak of hostilities. There are many ways in which this committee may be of service, apart altogether from the actual giving of relief.

It is hoped that every member of the church and congregation will hold a watching brief on behalf of the committee, and report cases of distress and privation amongst our number with which they may be acquainted, to the secretary. Very often the most deserving and the suffering cover their distress from a sense of pride – a pride which we commend – and it is for us to see that such are not overlooked on this account. Since the inception of the idea for which the committee stands, articles recommending the formation of such bodies in our churches have appeared, as many will have seen, in the British Congregationalist.

The following friends have promised to serve on the committee:-
Rev. W. Morton Rawlinson (Chairman)
Mrs C. Steward Smith
Mrs A. S. Hampton
Mr W. J. Brain
Mr J. Swallow (secretary)

National Relief Fund Berkshire Committee minutes (C/CL/C6/4/1); Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, October 1914 (D/N11/12/1/14)