Wireless messages concerning the armistice coming from an agitated operator at the Eiffel Tower, before many in authority knew what was being said

St Augustine’s was the only children’s home for boys run by the Community of St John Baptist. Many of its inmates went on to serve in the Armed Forces, and they shared their experiences with the Sisters.

June, 1919
Dear Friends of St Augustine’s Home

The health of the boys has been excellent this winter, for which we are most thankful. We had a bad epidemic of influenza a year ago, and when the disease made its re-appearance in Windsor in the beginning of winter, we trembled, but schools were closed, and we resorted to gargling and house-spraying, and had not more than half a dozen cases at most.

Our always kind doctor and dentist have returned home from war work, and again look after our boys…

We ended our financial year with bills amounting to more than £200 unpaid. We are printing not merely our last balance sheet, but a pre-war one, by way of an interesting and instructive comparison. One thing that may strike you is that not merely are our expenses heavier, but our subscriptions are considerably less. There have been so many claims on everyone, but we hope that as these lessen, the claims of a Home like ours, which has sent many sons to the front and is helping to train others to take the place of those who have fallen, may appeal not merely to former subscribers but to those who will become new friends…

Our household linen cupboard, and our clothes cupboard, were almost empty this spring… Then … came a large package of garments, cutlery and other things from a war hospital… during the last two weeks of March.

A number of kind friends at Eton and other places made a special Lent effort and sent us a nice contribution of stockings… If other friends would follow this example (perhaps some of those who have knitted so assiduously for soldiers) and ask their friends to do the same, the stocking basket would wear a more cheerful aspect…

August will soon be here, and we hope to see some of our old boys down for the holidays, though Peace celebrations may very naturally take them elsewhere. They have come and gone from time to time as leave allowed, and many thrilling things some of them have to tell – though told always in the simplest, most matter-of-fact way. Some have been in ships torpedoed, one received and transmitted wireless messages concerning the armistice coming from an agitated operator at the Eiffel Tower, before many in authority knew what was being said. And some of our boys will of course never return, but have won the “great promotion” of which the Home is so proud.

Yours very gratefully
The Sister-in-Charge

Letter to Friends of St Augustine’s Home, Clewer (D/EX1675/23/4/6)

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A torpedo as a war memorial

A torpedo might have been an interesting choice of war memorial, but it was not allowed.

Report of Highways Committee, 26 April 1919

WAR MEMORIALS

Cookham.

With reference to the application for consent to erect a war memorial at Cookham – referred to in the last report of the Committee – the County Surveyor has since inspected the proposed site, which is the centre of the triangular piece of waste land adjoining the main road from the Moors to Cookham village.

The Committee recommend that no objection be raised to the erection of the memorial on the site suggested.

Pangbourne.

An application has been received from Miss Waddington for permission to erect a War memorial at Pangbourne, in the middle of the Square.

As the erection thereof would cause danger to the traffic, the Committee recommend that such consent be not given.

An application has been received from the Pangbourne Parish Council for permission to place a torpedo (which has been presented to them) on the parapet of the bridge over the River Pang as a War Memorial.

The torpedo being approximately 22 ft in length, 18 in wide, and about 1 ton in weight, the Committee recommend that consent to its erection on the bridge be not given.

Berkshire County Council minutes (C/CL/C1/1/22)

“The world become more cheerless as we think we must go on to the end without them”

Three more bright young men had made the supreme sacrifice.

Memorial Service

Captain F.S. Brain.
Lieut. H.E. Aust.
Charles D. Freeman.

Three more of those brave spirits to whose return into Church life and usefulness some of us were looking, have heard the call of God and have joined the throngs invading Heaven. Three more have cheerfully and bravely given their lives to make earth clean again, and keep it safe from those who regard honour among the highest and love peace. It is easy to write these words, but behind them our hearts ache with grief and yet rejoice with noble pride.

What then is their loss to those who loved them best? Ah! Theirs is a sorrow beyond human comfort. May the only True Comforter console and sustain all such!

Captain Francis Brain was well known to most of us. Although his College career prevented his active participation in our Church life, his interest in Trinity was very real and true. A quiet, unassuming manner hid intellectual powers of no mean order, and his future was bright with possibility when, at the call of duty all was laid aside. On February 26th, 1915, he obtained his commission in the Royal Berks, being later attached to the 1st Batt. Royal Dorset Regt. He saw much service in France, and had quite recently been promoted Captain. His military record is most fittingly recorded in a beautiful appreciation from which we quote:-

“He was of the type of ‘the happy warrior that every man in arms would wish to be.’ His sterling worth drew men to him in a remarkable degree. He was greatly beloved by the men of his Company and a great favourite with every single Officer. In the trenches he was splendid, absolutely fearless, and with never a thought of self. He has been tried to the uttermost and found worthy.”

Warm tributes of affection and high regard have been received.

His Major writes: – “His death has been a great blow to all who knew him. He was loved and esteemed by all ranks of the Battalion, particularly the men of his own company.”

A fellow Officer says: – “I served for a considerable time with your son, and I was very sincerely attached to him. We all loved him- his cheeriness and good fellowship – always ready with a bit of a song to cheer one up in the most cheerless circumstances; but above all the absolute honesty and straightforwardness of his character.”

His servant Wrote: – “It is impossible to tell you in words how awfully sorry everyone in my Company feels at having lost such a good Officer. I myself know that it will be impossible to get another such Officer to be a servant for.”

Lieutenant Harry Aust was equally well known. He was a member of the Institute and had been a willing worker in all its activities. In the School at Spencers Wood his work will belong remembered, and his memory cherished. He too answered duty’s call at the outbreak of war, and, on joining, at once received a commission. On one occasion he was gassed, and later was so severely wounded that he spent eleven months in hospital. But such was his indomitable spirit and high courage that, contrary to expectations, he forced his recovery and returned to France to make the supreme sacrifice that England might live.

Charlie Freeman had been abroad for the last five years in the service of the Eastern Telegraph Company. Yet many of us knew him well, having watched him grow up, and we loved his bright happy nature. He came home this summer on leave and spent a gloriously time joy which had its consummation in his marriage. It was on his way back to his duties that the vessel was torpedoed, and he lost his life in the service of his country equally with those who fall in battle.

So one by one the war takes toll of Trinity’s best, and the world become more cheerless as we think we must go on to the end without them.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, November 1918 (D/EX1237/1)

Efficiency and gallantry

A Burghfield doctor was commended for his contributions.

Honours and promotions

2nd Lieut. F Wheeler (King’s Liverpool Regiment), before being taken prisoner (see last month’s magazine) won 1st Prize Bayonet Fighting (Officers) in the First Army Corps; Sergeant E Cooke (Royal West Surrey Regiment) to be Sergeant Instructor, April 1918.

Casualties

2nd Lieut. T Warner (RAF), flying accident, Salisbury Plain; Private Stretcher-bearer Albert Painter (Royal Berks Regiment), missing since 21st March, now reported died. Company Sergeant Major Albert Manners (17th Lancers) died 10th July in hospital (gastric complaint). Sergeant Manners served through the South African War, and through the present war. Private T Searies (Royal Berks Regiment), wounded (doing well).

Discharge

Private Frank J Cooke (Worcester Regiment), 24th July (heart).

Lt-Col. Anderson

Lt-Col. H S Anderson, RAMC, who is the brother of Mr W C F Anderson of Hermit’s Hill, and who is himself on the Burghfield Electoral Register, was in the New Year’s list of honours, and received the CMG. His name also appeared in the Gazette of February 8th among those who had been “brought to the notice of the Secretary of State for War by the Army Council, for very valuable services rendered in connection with the war, up to 31st December 1917”.

HRH the Duke of Connaught, on his visit to the Citadel, Cairo, invested him with the Order at the Hospital which is under his charge. Among such services may particularly be mentioned those in connection with the “Britannic”. Col. Anderson was in command of all the medical staff and hospital arrangement of the huge vessel during several voyages out and home, with marked efficiency, and was on board when she was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Greece. For his gallantry and conduct on this occasion he received especial thanks and mention.

Burghfield parish magazine, August 1918 (D/EX725/4)

“A torpedo boat came gliding in like a needle”

William Hallam was on holiday in Cornwall, but couldn’t escape the war.

William Hallam
16th July 1918

It was wet until dinner time then cleared and was a beautiful day. We had crabs for tea. This afternoon I took that book – rather big for a guide and went round identifying some of the old houses. The quaintest town – the old part – I was ever in but clean even in the lowest streets.

On the pier to-night we saw 2 merchant vessels come in for safety from the submarines and 3 chasers and then a torpedo boat came gliding in like a needle.

Florence Vansittart Neale
16 July 1918

Phyllis quite happy at 4 London General!…

Tzar shot by Bolshevists at Ekaterinberg.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8) and William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Added to the Roll of Honour

More men from a Reading church had joined the army.

Church Echoes
Trinity Roll of Honour

William Henry Benger, Torpedo-Boat H.M.S. “Viceroy”
John A. Brain, now Lieut. 2/4th Royal Berks.
Philip. H. Knowles (79717) Machine Gun Corps (Motors).

Trinity Congregational Magazine, May 1918 (D/EX1237/1)

In open boats for about 2 hours in a rough sea

Three Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist had a terrifying experience as they travelled home from India.

20 April 1918

Sister Alexandrina, Sister Marion Edith and Sister Edith Helen, who had left Calcutta March 9th, arrived safely after an adventurous voyage. They had only been allowed to travel with special permission from the Government of India on account of Sister Alexandrina’s state of health, which made it necessary for her to leave India.

Their ship was torpedoed by an enemy sub-marine in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Africa. Then passengers were transferred to the ship’s boats and all were saved. They were in open boats for about 2 hours in a rough sea. The Sisters & their companions were picked up by a British sloop-of-war and landed at Bizerta, where they remained for 4 days. Then they were taken on board a French mail boat carrying troops and were safely landed at Marseilles after a very uncomfortable voyage owing to the crowded condition of the steamer.

From Marseilles they travelled by train to Paris & Havre, & from thence crossed to Southampton.

Owing to rationing orders limiting the quantity to each House of certain articles of food, & the scarcity of others, the Sisters from the other Houses cannot for the present come to the House of Mercy for tea on Sundays, as has been the custom, nor have their meals there when having day’s retreats.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

“The bomb passed through the bows, exploding on the other side”

Three of the Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist, whose base was at Clewer, were shipwrecked on their way home from India thanks to enemy action.

April, 1918
My dear Associates

You will all be interested to hear that we have just welcomed home from Calcutta Sister Alexandrina, Sister Marion Edith and Sister Edith Helen after a really perilous voyage. The only route available was via Colombo, which they reached by train from Calcutta. The first part of the voyage through the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea was very enjoyable, smooth and lovely weather.

Good Friday was spent in the harbour of Suez, and Port Said was reached on Sunday morning. Along the banks of the Suez Canal they saw many races of the recent fighting in Egypt – deserted trenches and dug-outs, and in one place a camp of a considerable size, but their own course was perfectly uneventful.

After waiting four days at Port Said, their steamer joined a large convoy of vessels bound for England, protected by several destroyers and sloops. All went well during the first six days, and then, at 7 a.m. on a date I am not allowed to mention, the ship was struck by a torpedo. Mercifully no one was seriously injured, the bomb having passed through the bows, exploding on the other side.

Fearing another attack, the Captain immediately transferred all the passengers to the boats, and after rowing about on a rough sea for two hours, a sloop picked them up, and conveyed them to Bizerta, a French town on the coast of North Africa, the actual site of ancient Carthage, about four hours by rail from Tunis. At once everything was done on a most generous scale for their comfort and protection, and four days later a mail boat from Tunis conveyed all the passengers to Marseilles, and from there the homeward journey was continued via Paris, Havre and Southampton….

Letters to Associates of the Community of St John Baptist (D/EX1675/1/24/6)

An almost miraculous escape

The SS Aragon was carrying troops to Egypt when it was sunk. One of the survivors was a Wargrave man.

Crazies Hill Notes

We congratulate Joseph Carr on his almost miraculous escape while stoking in the ‘Aragon’ when it was torpedoed.

He has been home on a short leave and looks cheerful and well.

While writing we also hear that William and Herbert Plested have come home, and the former who has been in the United States for nine years will find many changes in the place and population.

Wargrave parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P145/28A/31)

“He was looking worn and depressed at his last leave”

There was news of a number of Maidenhead men, many wounded or ill. One had suffered a nervous breakdown.

OUR SOLDIERS.

Reginald Hill was able to pay a surprise visit of four days to his home, in the midst of his long and weary hospital experiences. He was looking well, considering all that he has borne, but he has one or two more operations yet to undergo. He spoke of a hope that he might be home shortly after Easter.

Ernest Bristow is progressing favourably, but the latest report that reached us spoke of another operation. He seems to be in excellent spirits.

Ben Gibbons is in hospital at Southall, suffering from debility. He was looking worn and depressed at his last leave, from which he had only got back to duty about a fortnight when he broke down and was sent to England, or rather (as we ought to say) Blighty.

Sydney Eastman is in hospital at Chatham, sent home for bronchitis. We may hope to see him shortly. The Medical Board decided that he could not stand the climate at the place where he was stationed.

W. Cleal is in hospital. No particulars known.

David Dalgliesh has received an appointment as Instructor at the Flying School at Winchester.

Hugh Lewis has been at home for a fortnight’s leave in excellent health.

Charles Catliff, too, has been home for his first leave; most of his time he spent at Bucklebury with his mother, who has been seriously ill.

Cyril Laker has had the thrilling experience of being torpedoed in the Mediterranean.

Herbert Brand has received a Commission, and when we last saw him was hoping to be attached to the 4th Berks.

Since the above was in type, a letter has been received from P.A. Eastman. He says:

“The mails where I came from have been very erratic, and some have been lost, including unfortunately the Christmas parcels. Davy Jones is now richer than all the other members of the great family of that name put together, to their and some other people’s impoverishment! ……

The medical authorities have thought it best to send me back after the first year out in the East; doubtless they have a reason. But I am glad to say I am now fairly fit, and hope to improve rapidly under the less trying conditions of English life. Very kind greetings to all West Street friends.”

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, March 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Torpedoed but able to land!

A hospital ship was attacked.

15 March 1918
Glenart Castle torpedoed but able to land! All saved I think.

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

No warning as a hospital ship is targetted

The hospital ship Rewa was sunk just of Harland Point in Devon on 4 January 1918. Florence Vansittart Neale was appalled.

4 January 1918

Hospital ship Rewa torpedoed in Bristol Channel, no warning. All [illegible] cases saved in 20 minutes!

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

“Scalps” secured by our airships

Even an idyllic seaside holiday for the Images was interrupted by the war.

Polcurrian Hotel
Mullion
S. Cornwall

Monday, Aug. 6, 1917

My very dear old man

O but this is a heavenly morning! Brilliant sky, such as I never saw in England before, in August – and the bay underneath my window of such glorious dazzling blue as I think would equal – or put to shame – South Seas or Tropics – and underneath it all, the sneaking deadly submarine. One came in here ten days ago, but had to quit re infecta, without any murders.

But a couple of young ladies from this hotel actually saw, last week, at the Lizard, 6 miles away, a U-boat torpedo strike a steamer and heard the explosion. And a man, who had cycled over, described to me the passionate race of 3 English destroyers to the rescue and our own Mullion airship hovering overhead. They did not get that submarine, though: or at least will not own to it. Discipline makes them very reticent. Still, in less guarded moments, hints are dropped as to several “scalps” secured by one or other of the airships….

Letters tell us … of two raids there – raids never mentioned yet in any newspaper!

Letter from John Maxwell Image to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

Several wounded since the late terrible fighting

There was worrying news for families in Mortimer West End.

West End

News of our Sailors and Soldiers

It was with deep regret that we heard of the death of Thomas Henry Dicker. He had recently been transferred to the Lincolnshire Yeomanry and was on the “Arcadian” when it was torpedoed and, unhappily, was amongst those lost. We offer our heartfelt sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Dicker on the loss of their eldest son.

News has been received of several wounded since the late terrible fighting. James Bailey writes cheerily of his wounds and it is good to hear that Arthur Penny’s are notified as slight while Gilbert Cowdry, at the time of writing, has gone to a convalescent home. Mr. Harry Trelawny, after having slight concussion of the brain, went into the line again but is once more in hospital, suffering from shell-shock.

Charles Murrell, R.N., has been home on leave and Alfred Cowdry has joined the Royal Navy.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, June 1917 (D/P120/28A/14)

Gifts for the good cause

Warfield women were inspired to replace gifts for the troops which had been sent to the bottom of the sea by enemy action.

On Wednesday, May 30th, the Warfield “Shower of Gifts” to Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild was held by the kind invitation of Mrs. Shard at Warfield Hall. This was a scheme to provide from home the loss of many of the overseas gifts which had been lost by the work of German torpedoes. Mrs. Shard received the gifts in the garden, and the total amounted to 407. Such a number far exceeding anything that we had anticipated. All the donors were afterwards received at tea in the dining room, including a great number of children from the School who were all armed with gifts for the good cause; after which all the gifts were then packed and sent off to the Bracknell headquarters as a gift to Queen Mary for her birthday on June 2nd, to be distributed by her among our Soldiers and Sailors.

Warfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, July 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/7)