Merry as a marriage bell – despite the unbidden guest

Church choirs typically had an annual jolly day out. The choir at Broad Street Church in Reading invited along a group of wounded soldiers in 1918.

July

RIVER TRIP

Arrangements are being made by the Church Choir for a river trip in the afternoon of Saturday, July 20th, when they hope to entertain a party of wounded soldiers. Goring and Hartslock Woods will most likely be the places visited. In addition to the members of the choir and their wounded friends, there will be accommodation for about thirty visitors. Full details have not yet been arranged, but particulars may be obtained from members of the choir after July 1st. It is very desirable, however, that early application should be made for tickets by those who wish to join the party.

August

CHOIR TRIP

On Saturday, July 20th, the annual choir trip took place, the destination this time being Goring and Hartlock Woods. A party of twenty-five wounded soldiers from the military hospitals had been invited as guests of the choir, so there was accommodation for only about forty other friends.

In the forenoon the weather outlook seemed very uncertain, but as 1.30 pm drew near it assumed a more promising aspect. Immediately after the arrival of “the men in blue” the steam-launch “River Queen” was started, and the party of 105 proceeded upstream at a steady pace. The choir discoursed sweet music as we journeyed and “all went merry as a marriage bell”.

We reached Goring without mishap at 4.15 pm, and there we disembarked for about twenty-five minutes, to permit of a hasty look round. Setting off on the return journey at 4.45 pm, we reached Hartslock Woods at 5 o’clock, and took a short walk whilst arrangements were being made for tea.

At 5.15 we sat down to do full justice to the good things provided. The sun was now shining with unwonted brilliance, and was even considered by some to be too powerful. After tea, Mr F. W. Harvey read a letter from the Rev. W. Morton Rawlinson (who unfortunately, through indisposition, was unable to join the party) and in an appropriate speech gave welcome to our guests. To this welcome, the officer who accompanied the wounded soldiers fittingly replied, and expressed the gratitude of those for whom he spoke.

The company now dispersed in various directions. Some rambled along the banks of the river; others explored the beautiful woods; and still others climbed the high hill from which an uninterrupted view could be gained of “Father Thames”, stretching away into the distance on either side.

As our soldier friends had been granted an extension of time it was not proposed to start for home until 8.15. but unhappily the fickle sun, which had promised so well at tea-time, was hidden from view by a heavy thunder-cloud, which speedily began to give us a taste of its contents. Everyone made for the boat, and at 7.30, as there seemed to be no prospect of a change in the weather, it was decided to return.

The rain continued most of the way home, but the choir again delighted us with various musical selections, and made it impossible for us to feel depressed or even dull. Their efforts to beguile the time, from Tilehurst onwards, were supplemented by those of three youngsters on the lookout for stray pence, who, on the river bank, kept pace with the boat and provided a varied exhibition.

Altogether, although the rain was an unbidden guest, the trip was most thoroughly enjoyed, and great praise is due to the choir for the entertainment given to their wounded guests and to the whole party. We should like to thank Mr Harvey, too, and the members of the Choir Committee, for the excellent arrangements made for the comfort of all.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, July and August 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

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“The brutal diabolical Hun: may God frustrate their wicked purpose”

Civilians followed the war news closely.

Joan Daniels
May 28th Tuesday

We all went down to Caversham to see a boat race between Reading Flying School & the Henley Equipment Officers. Reading won by straights, a great triumph.

The Germans slightly advance on the Ancre. May this be their last chance & may God frustrate their wicked purpose & give peace to our beautiful country once more.

Elsie went to Hendon yesterday & saw Mrs Douglass. Eina has been gassed & was back in the hospital that the brutal diabolical Hun bombed so mercilessly for three hours last week. He (Eina) got badly wounded in the head with a piece of shell during the raid. Mr Douglass has gone over to France.

Florence Vansittart Neale
28 May 1918

Line not broken. Hard fighting but we going back slowly.

Diaries of Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1); and
Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“No one was killed & no one was hurt”

Joan Daniels’ father’s clothing factory in Kentish Town was hit by a bomb.

Joan Daniels
May 20th Monday (Whit Monday)

Wakened at 6 o’clock in the morning by a policeman for Daddie. There was a bad air raid on London last night after eleven o’clock and they dropped a bomb at Daddie’s place. So of course he went off immediately & sent a telephone message through to say that no one was killed & no one was hurt. Which we were more than thankful to receive. The bomb dropped on a wall at the back between Ash’s false teeth factory & Daddie’s, breaking practically every window in the latter & blowing a lot of the false teeth into LDG’s! Daddie came back by the 12.15 & we spent a lovely afternoon on the river. What a difference. Such a peaceful scene & how much we have to be thankful for that no one was hurt. We heard in the evening that four Gothas were brought down, which is splendid.

Percy Spencer
20 May 1918

BF officer for rest at Le Touquet.

Bosch again disappointed us. A glorious day. Boys dug in cable. Follies performed in evening. CO Major P. dined with 17th. Huns really promised for tomorrow. Davis & I had a long talk in the evening.

Diaries of Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1); and Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

A lovely evening for 18 wounded soldiers

A party of wounded soldiers visited Bisham Abbey by river.

13 May 1918

Had 18 wounded. They came by steamer rather late. Played outdoor games, billiards & river. Lovely evening.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

A friendly princess

Bisham Abbey received a royal visit.

11 May 1918

Prepared for the Princess Victoria’s visit. Mme d’Hartpond brought her to tea to see house. She very charming & friendly …

Phyllis left 7.21 for Oxford ….

Officers stayed out on river.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Just one of the best men

A Caversham-born architect who rose from the ranks to a commission was killed. Haslam’s legacy includes St Andrew’s Church in Caversham, while his father’s family firm is still going strong.

Parish Church (S. Peter’s)
Personal Notes

Lieut. James Haslam, London Regiment, killed on October 30th, was a prominent Thames rowing man. Born in 1880, he was the third son of Mr. Dryland Haslam, of Warren House, Caversham, and was educated at Bradfield College. Soon after leaving school he joined the Artists’ Rifles, and also volunteered for the South African War, in which he served for two-and-a-half years, with Paget’s Horse, and received the Queen’s and King’s medals.

After his return he began business as an architect and surveyor at Reading. In 1904 he was appointed secretary to the Reading Chamber of Commerce, and held the appointment up to his death. He rejoined the ranks of the London Regiment directly war broke out, and went to France on October 26th, 1914. He had been promoted to Company Sergeant–Major before taking up a commission, and had been at the front almost continuously. He was slightly wounded early in the present year.

A brother Officer wrote: –

“His loss is a great blow to the battalion. He was noted for his kindness to all, both before and after he took his commission, Lieut. Haslam was just one of the best men, and we always had great admiration for him.”

Lieut. Haslam rowed for Reading R.C. for several years, and stroked the four for the Wyfold Cup at Henley Regatta for three years, in addition to winning prizes at many other regattas,. He was captain and hon. Secretary of the Reading R.C. for some time and a prominent official of the Reading Amateur Regatta. He played hockey for the Berkshire Gentleman and Football for the Reading Amateurs and other clubs. He was captain of the Church Lads’ Brigade at Caversham. He leaves a widow.

(from the “Times.”)

Caversham parish magazine, November 1917 (D/P162/28A/7)

A lovely afternoon

It was non-stop action at Bisham Abbey, as one party of guests left just as a group of wounded officers arrived for the afternoon. Meanwhile an attempted coup in revolutionary Russia by the head of the armed forces was making the international headlines.

10 September 1917

Canadians left quite early, 7.55…

Played croquet till lunch. Rested after till the 16 wounded arrived.

Lovely afternoon – played bowls. Others went on river. Went about 7.

Kerensky orders Korniloff to give up being C. in C.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Scarborough under attack

Sir Henry Vansittart Neale served on the local (Maidenhead) Tribunal hearing conscientious objectors’ and essential workers’ cases against conscription. Meanwhile, the Yorkshire town of Scarborough was being attacked from the sea.

5 September 1917

Men out on river. About 40 came. Henry at Tribunal & Food Production meetings…

Bombardment of Scarborough.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Italians getting on splendidly

The current guests at Bisham were having a good time, while there was good news from our Italian allies. Monte Santo is now Sveta Gora in Slovenia, close to the Italian border.

1 September 1917

Lt McFarlane left 9.45… The Canadians had been on river (Austman and Kelly, RFC).

Italians getting on splendidly. Over 20,000 prisoners Monte Santo.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Drenching rain for wounded soldiers

A rainy day at Bisham Abbey – and a party of wounded soldiers arrived by boat.

27 August 1917

Wounded came by launch. 20 of them! Poured so had games indoors & they went off about 5.30 in drenching rain.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Boating and bowls

Another group of wounded soldiers enjoyed a lovely summer’s day at Bisham Abbey.

13 August 1917

Had wounded soldiers – 16 of them. Fine day boating & bowls. Stayed [until] 7.30!

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

By boat from Cliveden

A group of wounded soldiers recuperating at Cliveden visited Bisham by boat.

strong>30 July 1917
Wounded from Cliveden came by launch.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Armed ships on the Thames

Even the River Thames was now regarded as a dangerous place.

10 December 1916

Mrs Martin tells me her niece tells her, whose husband works in Woolwich, all merchant ships go down the Thames now as mid guns each end.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

No April fooling in the shadow of air raids

Air raids were a worrying experience for people at home – even if they were not directly affected.

Florence Vansittart Neale
1 April 1916

Papers & letters very late owing to Zepps – big raid over east coast. 5 Zepp: altogether. One brought down in Thames – crew captured….

Wire saying Bubs safe at Boulogne. Also letter from her from Folkestone.

Community of St John Baptist
1 April 1916

Air raid during past night in some parts of the country. Stricter orders as to lights.

William Hallam
1st April 1916

I had just gone up to bed at 10 last night when the hooter blew a Zepp warning but still, I was not at all anxious but got into bed and went to sleep although the rest were nervous. No April fooling here now to-day.

To night I put 4£ in P. B. bank and 15/6 in War Saving Certif.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5);
Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

Bugle needed for the Church Lads’ Brigade

The semi-military boys’ group, the Church Lads’ Brigade, was flourishing in Wargrave.

St Peter’s Church Lad’s Brigade Company: No. 3184, 4th Battalion Oxford Regiment

The Parades have been well attended during the month (with exception of Whit-Monday, when several were absent without leave, and some were at work).

The Company turned out for Chuch Parade at Knowl Hill on Whit Sunday. On Whit Monday the Company went for a Route March and had a most enjoyable day, the weather being very fine.

The first halt was made at Marlow where a short time was spent. After this they made for Quarry Woods [in Bisham], where, under the shade of trees and overlooking the Thames, they devoured the contents of their haversacks. After this a free and easy march was made for Cookham and from thence to Maidenhead in full order. Here the Company stayed for tea and a look round. After falling in once more Littlewick was reached where the boys were dismissed.

There was a good turn up for Church Parade at Littlewick on June 20th, 1915. After the service the Company were inspected by the Chaplain, The Rev. T. Wrenford.

It is hoped that the boys will distinctly understand that it is against the rules for a member to be absent without leave.

A Parishioner has kindly offered to supply one of two needed bugles, if another will give the second.

Wargrave parish magazine, July 1915 (D/P145/28A/31)