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)

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Bread and butter, yes! real butter at khaki socials

Reading Congregational Church reports on another winter’s worth of entertaining soldiers.

KHAKI SOCIALS

Now that the Khaki Socials have ended for the season, a short report may be of interest to those who read the magazine.

The winter season started on Sunday October 8th 1916, and continued every Sunday until May 6th 1917, a total (including Good Friday) of 32 Socials. At first they were not attended as well as could be expected, but after a while they became more widely known, and many nights the room has been quite crowded. The average attendance for the season was about sixty soldiers, besides others who came in as “friends”.

One of the chief features of the socials has been the refreshments, which were always appreciated by the Khaki boys, especially the thin pieces of bread and butter, yes! real butter.

The singing of the Fellowship Hymns was much enjoyed, special favourites being “All Hail the Power”, “Fight the Good Fight” and “Lead, kindly Light”, which were often selected by the men themselves, and couldn’t they sing, too!

The “tone” of the concerts was well maintained throughout the season, thanks to the various kind friends who have rendered help in this way.

The financial side of the Socials has been rather heavy, on account of the extra cost of foodstuffs. Consequently there is a deficit of several pounds.

The average cost per social was about 12/-, and it is estimated that nearly 2.000 Tommies attended and received refreshments during the season, so the committee cannot be accused of “over-feeding” at any rate.

There is now a splendid opportunity for two or three generous friends to send along their donations to wipe off the deficiency.

It would take too much space to say what I should like to say about all the friends who have helped so splendidly; but there are two or three who certainly should be mentioned. First is our Minister, Mr Rawlinson, who has presided on most nights, and has done more than anyone to cheer and brighten the meetings. It is not everyone who, after a strenuous day’s work, would undertake this extra work, but Mr Rawlinson has done it and done it cheerfully. Then Mr and Mrs J Ford and Mrs Witcombe, the “Food Controllers”, must be mentioned for their splendid services. Always behind the scenes, yet always on the spot and ready. They never once failed to supply even the “sugar”. Then our best thanks are due to one who, although not on the committee, has done good work as welcomer and door keeper. I refer to Mr J Owen. Some of the men got quite used to his welcome “how a-r-r-e you?”, especially the “Welsh Boys”.

What we should have done without Mrs Dracup and Miss Green in the musical department of the work, it is difficult to think. They have been a real help, and each deserves the silver medal for “services rendered”.

Besides those mentioned, the Khaki Socials Committee consisted of the following, all of whom have done their share of the work:
Mr Nott, Mrs Hendey, Mrs Woolley, Mr and Mrs Tibble, Mr A S Hampton and Mr Swallow, Mr Hendey as treasurer, and Mr W A Woolley as secretary.

The same committee has been re-elected to arrange Garden Parties, River Trips, etc, for the wounded soldiers during the summer months. Friends wishing to help in this good work should communicate with the secretary, who will be pleased to book up dates and make arrangements.

W A Woolley

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, June 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)