“Saw some poor old ladies who have been gassed with yellow X – a lamentable sight.”

Civilians were among the victims of German poison gas.

Tuesday 11 June 1918

Got up at 7.45 am. Got my kit packed by Fox [his batman]. Had breakfast, & then Jones stropped my razor & got a really good shave. After breakfast got down to Hesdin station. Train was due to leave at 10.15 so Graham & I bought biscuits, strawberries & bananas to eat if no food was available. Started at 11.45. Got to St Pol at 1.15. Lunch at the EFC canteen. Town has been fairly well shelled & bombed. Saw some poor old ladies who have been gassed with yellow X. ‘De profundis’ a lamentable sight.

7.30 pm Candas. We stay the night here at Candas as we cannot go further until tomorrow morning at 7.30. Tea at Café’ [illegible] Henly. Then kits to RTO office, a walk and dinner at same café’. Just discovered that I have left my advance pay book & my cheque book, ‘horribili dictu’, at Marronville!

After dinner I made paper frogs for French officers who thought them ‘tres gentils’. To bed at rest camp at 10 pm.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

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“Looking more or less like an Englishman, instead of a walking mole heap in damp weather & a dust bin in dry weather”

Sydney and Percy Spencer both took the opportunity to write to their sister.

May 28th [1918]
My Darling Florence & Mr I.

Now it is really a time of rest & once more I can sit at a table again looking more or less like an Englishman & feeling very much like one too, instead of looking like a walking mole heap in damp weather & a dust bin in dry weather. Your parcel of toffy & chocolate was very much enjoyed

May 29th
I am simply bursting to tell you of a frightful row between my platoon & the villagers who possessed the little orchard in which they live. Suffice it to say that, broken bottles, language, shovels, dogs, tent mallets, myself, 4 sergeants & the town mayor (an aged full colonel) were chief actors in the scene, to say nothing of a goat which eats my men’s soap and children who steal their rifle oil to put on boots & other little etceteras! Happily we decamped before anything more than threatened warfare had taken place.

The cause of the quarrel? I was ordered to make my tent bombproof which meant digging up the floor of the tent & heaping up round it. This raised the ire of Monsieur et Madame et les petits!…

Your always affectionate

Brer
Sydney

May 29, 1918
My dear WF

Wants as usual.

6 pots of Properts MAHOGANY polish & invoice, please.

1 bottle of fountain pen ink. Boots have some Watermans boxes if you cannot get Swan. Everyone borrows mine & then complain that it’s bad ink!

The polish is for the CO so I hope Thrussells will come up to scratch. He can’t get it from his wife. Thrussells can pack it no doubt. Rather elliptic, but you’ll understand.

Well dear, it’s a lovely day – the planes have been doing stunts over the line and all’s merry & bright. Our quarters are good shelter but no cover against fire so I wasn’t particularly happy last night when the Hun commenced shelling. We have also had a fairly consistent bombing stunt nightly – very pretty to watch but too near to be pleasant.

The other day – Sunday in fact – I went all over one of our tanks. Life inside one must be pretty cramped and unhappy [censored].

My quarters on Sunday were in the guest chamber of a ruined chateau. A shell had had an extraordinary career through the next room but except for windows my room was all right. We went there as our previous quarters were stiff with guns of all sizes firing into our back doors. When some 9 1/2s began to arrive we moved. The concussion of those beggars is terrific.

Yours ever
Percy

Letters from Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/3/38-39); and Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/40)

“Those lovely old 5.9 shells do make me feel skittish when they land near the parapet”

The Germans were shelling Sydney in the front lines, and Percy some way back.

Sydney Spencer
Saturday 25 May 1918
(written retrospectively on 28 May)

This night I had a certain amount of good sleep from 3 am, but stand down wet & rained until about 10 am, then we had the usual strafe on my platoon front. No casualties, although those lovely old 5.9 shells do make me feel skittish when they land near the parapet.

We had a quiet time then for the rest of the day & the mud dried up pretty well. Tours of duty during the day very exhausting owing to the heat & drying mud. Master Hun kept quiet until 6 pm when he sent over his usual short hate on our front. Mostly 4.2 & block shrapnels. This evening I had a quiet night. No working parties & no patrols to do. I managed to get to my bivy and get sleep from about 12 till 3. A clear morning.

Percy Spencer
25 May 1918

Some 9.2s turned up to help make me unhappy. Struck camp at 2 pm as Bosch began shelling & moved to Bazieux ruined chateau. [Spring?] in cellar. Slept in gorgeous chamber sans fenetres [without windows] on the sunny side of the house.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15) and Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

“Was it a bomb?” “No, a mouse got in”

Joan Daniels’ father inspected the damage from the air raid on his factory.

May 23rd Thursday

Daddie did not come home to lunch as he had to settle up some things about the bomb. They now find that there were two dropped a few yards apart. Daddie told us rather an amazing thing. An old lady was peering in between two sheets that have been fixed across one of the windows now that the glass is gone. The fat old policeman who was on guard came up & said “Ere mother, you clear off”. She turned to him & said “Was it a bomb?” “No” he whispered, “a mouse got in”.

Diaries of Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

The work of vandal hands

Sydney Spencer was distressed by the signs of looting and damage by the enemy, but could still delight in natural beauty.

Friday 26 April 1918

I got up at 7.30 & Peyton & I went into the cook-house, & we sat by the fire & talked about Oxford & had a cup of tea, & then we had breakfast. Morning spent in gas drill, rifle inspection & mouching [sic] round & lying about.

After lunch we went down to the platoons & O ticked them off about camouflage. Then went for a ‘scrounge’ with Harvey through the town. Very pathetic. In one house I found beautiful books, furniture & china all pelmel [sic] smashed & broken & torn by vandal hands on the ground. Upstairs large cupboards ruthlessly torn open, quantities of women’s apparel lying thick on the floors, & [illegible] lying full sprawl on the apparel a massive black dog with weak brown eyes, also looked long & sadly at me. In a ruined chateau I found a curious letter written on Sept 25 1915 from here.

After tea rations came. While I was away at D company HQ, 2, 15 point 9 shells got used. B company HQ. No damage to life but a hole in wall just outside the cellar. Tonight Rolfe and [illegible] have gone on working parties.

I gathered some lovely apple blossom from an apple tree blown up by a shell today. Also some forgetmenots, wallflowers, [peonies?], cowslips & bunches of blossoming branches of Tulip Tree.


Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15)

“Today I have had my baptism of fire”

Sydney Spencer found a damaged churchyard highly symbolic.

Thursday 25 April 1918

Well, my dear diary, today I have had my baptism of fire, this morning. At nine [Harvey?], I & NCOs of our platoon went round our brigade front & we came under very light shell fire.

Saw lots of curious & a few distressing sights. In a cemetery, a large vault burst open at the bottom of the vault, an oak coffin within, ‘les Immortelles’ on the top. At the end of the cemetery a larger old cross lying broken on the ground, & underneath the figure of the ‘Great One’ lying with arms clutching the ground & the great face buried in [illegible] clayey mud. Emblematic! He seemed to feel the load too much. The wooden cross still crushes Him into the earth. We are of the earth, earthy.

Peyton & I took a working party up to best support trench about 30 yds behind front but of course under covering gunfire…

We got back at 2 am.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15)

“It all seems like a Cook’s tour to me instead of real war”

Sydney Spencer was now very close to the action, as he confided in both his diary and a letter to sister Florence (written in pencil on a scrap of paper). His fluency in French meant he was the recipient of the sorrows of an elderly Frenchwoman.

Diary
Wednesday 24 April 1918

After a very peaceful night I got up at 7.30. after breakfast had a rifle inspection. Made up mess acocount. Wrote to OB. Sent cheque to W H Smith & Sons. We march off & dig in at 2 pm. We go to M-M. We arrived here at 8.45 pm. Our platoons dug in & made cubby holes. Before one could say knife they had scrounged any mount of loot & made cubby houses! One was named Norfolk Villa, another “Tumbledown Nest”. Another “Home sweet home”.

Two pathetic incidents, an old lady horribly crippled finished her plaint weeping, “Vous me donnerez, M’sieur, [meme?] grand service si vous tirez a moi”! [You will give me great service, sir, if you will shoot me.]

Another, outside our cellar here in the yard lies a cross with grave number & the legend ‘A British soldier’. Tonight Frost found some flour someone else went to move. Brought back some sort of [lime?]. The two were mixed before I discovered the mistake. Result chaos!

Guns are behind us now firing considerably in “crashes on suitable targets”!


Letter

24.4.18
My dearest Florence

A cellar in a ruined village, straw on the floor, 4 candles, a brazier, a table ‘scrounged’ from somewhere with glasses, table cover & supper in preparation. Artillery getting ever louder & nearer. And that is how I approach nearer the real thing. It all seems like a Cook’s tour to me instead of real war. I suppose it is a case of fools & angels again!

Only twice have I been made to feel the effect of war. Outside leaning against the wall is a small wooden cross torn up from goodness knows where & on it the legend “A British Soldier” and a grave number. An old lady, very crippled, who wept & spoke patois, poured her troubles into my ears, seated on a pile of wood & earth. I was the only one who could understand her so I had to bear the brunt of all her troubles. I will not tell you all she said, but when I told her gently that there was nothing I could do, she wept and pathetically asked me whether I would do her the kindness of shooting her! My captain, who says that he is a well seasoned soldier, was quite touched by the incident, so you can imagine that I had to take very great care to preserve an outward calm.

But still my darling Florence I am as I have repeatedly said, very perky & as well & vigorous as ever I have been. My tootsies are just a little weary after much walking about today, but otherwise c’est une bagatelle.

All love to you my darling sister &
Cheer Ho

Your always affectionate Brer
Sydney

Same address
I am Mess President of my Company. Tonight my [illegible] discovered some flour in a disused mill, another went for more & brought back some lime, both were mixed before I discovered mistake. Result chaos!!!

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); and letter to Florence Image (D/EZ177/8/3/22)

Old clothes for the destitute people in the devastated parts of Northern France

Broad Street Congregational Church in Reading was collecting second hand clothes for our friends in the battleground areas of France.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

In connection with the collection of old clothes for the destitute people in the devastated parts of Northern France, the committee who had this matter in hand, found that they could not get sufficient canvassers and helpers to embark upon the more ambitious scheme of canvassing the whole town for articles of clothing.

Rather than let the matter entirely drop, it has been decided to carry out the scheme in a modified form. Rooms have been obtained over Poynders’ old bookshop near the Post Office, as a depot and clothing station. It is intended to send a circular and reply postcard to persons in the town whom we think will assist us in the scheme, asking for promises of clothes, and then arrangements will be made for the collection of the same.

For this purpose we still want the help of our Brothers, but it will only consist of a very small amount of definite work compared with the previous scheme. Members of the Brotherhood who have been preparing bundles of clothes, should get them quite ready, and a date for the collection will be arranged. This scheme must now be pushed, as the time of year is getting on.

It has been thought desirable by some of our members that we should revive the old Horticultural Show for this autumn. We are all more or less interested in allotments and “back to the land” schemes, and it is felt that a horticultural show, held in our schoolroom, would be an incentive and an encouragement to our many brothers who are spending all their spare time in increasing the food supplies of the country. An enthusiastic committee has been appointed and details will shortly be announced.

The time of year has again arrived when we hope our brothers will volunteer, as in past years, to keep the allotments of those members who are on service in order. This work in the past has been done ungrudgingly, though un-noticed, and it has earned the heartfelt gratitude and thanks of many a member away serving his country, and been a help to the wife and little ones at home.
..
A much appreciated addition to our Sunday afternoon services has been made in the form of singing a verse of a “hymn of remembrance” of the brothers who are serving us on land and sea and in the air. They will know that each Sunday afternoon, and before we disperse, we shall be singing:

O Trinity of Love and Power
Our Brethren shield in danger’s hour
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, April 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

A strenuous time with tanks

There was news of several soldiers associated with Broad Street Church in Reading, while the men’s group was trying to help displaced civilians in France.

PERSONAL

Captain L. Victor Smith, MC, has many friends and well-wishers at Broad Street, and they were all delighted to see him once more when he was recently home on furlough. Captain Smith had been having a most strenuous time with his tanks, and we were all glad to know that he had come safely through many perils “without a scratch”. We pray that God’s protecting care may continually be about him. During his stay he was summoned to Buckingham Palace to receive his Military Cross at the hands of the King.

News has been received that Air-Mechanic Fred W. Warman, of the RNAS (eldest son of our friends Mr and Mrs Warman) is interned in Holland. He was in an air-ship which “came down” there a few days ago. Whilst we deeply regret this misfortune, we rejoice to know that our young friend’s life has been spared, and we trust he may be as happy as circumstances permit. We all sympathise with his parents in their anxiety.

At the time of writing, 2nd Lieut. Leslie Pocock is on his way to India, and the thoughts and prayers of many at Broad Street go with him. We trust he may have a safe journey, that he may come safely through every experience, and that some day in the not distant future we may have the joy of welcoming him home. He will be missed in many branches of our church work.

Quite a number of our “men in training” have been home recently for a short furlough. We refrain from mentioning names for fear lest some should be overlooked. It is always a pleasure to see them at the services, and we take this opportunity of telling them so. The Minister is not always able, as he would wish, to speak to them. They get away too soon. He wishes they would “stay behind” for a few moments at the close of the service so that he might have opportunity for a word of greeting.

We should like to join our Brotherhood Correspondent in his appreciation of the generosity of Mr Tyrrell. At the conclusion of the Brotherhood meeting at the Palace Theatre, Mr Tyrrell promised £40 to provide one of the huts which the Brotherhood National Council propose to erect for destitute families in the devastated districts of France. Mr Tyrrell requested that his name should not be publicly mentioned in the matter. He wished the money to go from Broad Street Brotherhood. But seeing that someone “gave away the secret” to the local press, there is no reason now why the name should be withheld. We hope this generous lead will inspire the Brotherhood Committee to renewed efforts on behalf of their distressed brethren in Northern France.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, January 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“Folks don’t cry out about the millions that’s being spent every day in killing our boys and smashing up all the beautiful churches and buildings in France”

It may be fiction – and intended as political propaganda – but this story, written by Phoebe Blackall (later Cusden) does shed some light on some working class attitudes to the war’s impact on local schools.

Mrs Higgs Speaks Her Mind
IV – On Schooling

“Drat them children! What’s the use o’ me slaving myself to a skelington to keep the place decent when the young baggages keeps rampagin’ over my clean floor and makin’ enough noise to wake the dead?”

Mrs Higgs stood with her hands on her hips, ruefully surveying several muddy footprints …

“But there! What’s the goodo’ blaming the kids? They must let off steam somehow, else they’ll bust. It’s all along o’ this ‘alf-time schoolin’… ‘alf time school – ‘’alf their chance of learning gone – that leaves ‘em wi’ about a quarter of what the rich folks’ children gets …

I know they wants hospitals for the wounded soldiers – bless ‘em – but there’s plenty of other places they could turn into hospitals without taking our schools. I haven’t heard that the big country mansions, what’s only used for weekends, have been given up to the wounded, nor the big hotels and public buildings where they does nothing but waste public money by paying big salaries to people who don’t know nothing about the job they’re supposed to be doin’…

Ame old tale – when they wants cannon-fodder or money or munitions or buildings, they always looks round to see what else they can take away from the working folks, first they takes our men-folk, then they asks us for our savings – lumme! I should like to see some! – and when they wants hospitals they takes the Council Schools…

We never ought to have let ‘em have our schools, and if this war’s going to last much longer, they ought to let us have ‘em back.

Cost a lot? Course it would; but folks don’t cry out about the millions that’s being spent every day in killing our boys and smashing up all the beautiful churches and buildings in France.

A.P.E.B.

The Reading Worker: The Official Journal of Organised Labour in Reading and District, no. 13, January 1918 (D/EX1485/10/1/1)

A uniform bombed to cinders

Air raids were apparently more damaging and extensive than the general public was aware of.

29 Barton Road
30 Dec. ‘17
My very dear old man

Are you really thinking of “some sunny place on the South Coast”. Well, but gare les obus – F’s KRR brother called at his London tailor’s on the 21st, to try on a new uniform. The tunic had been bombed to cinders in the raid three days before, and the poor tailor at work on it was in hospital! Much ghastly work, which we’re never allowed to hear of in the newspapers, is done in these raids. London is so vast that the quarters untouched have grown careless and indifferent…

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

Soldier saints and martyrs

A bereaved mother’s gift would be a permanent memorial to her son, with a military theme.

All Souls’ Church has been further enriched by the completion of the Baptistry with a permanent font and stained glass lights. They are the gift of Mrs Mark Bell in memory of her son Captain R. de H. M. Bell, KRRC, who fell at Guillemont in 1916. The font, which is from a design by Sir Charles Nicholson, has been carried out in stone by Mr A. E. Peacock. Mr Peacock shows himself as adept a carver in stone as he proved himself to be in wood. The same treatment is followed as in the choir stalls. The figures represent Our Lord in His Passion, S. Mark as the patronal saint, S. Michael as the patron of Soldiers, and the Baptist.

The lights, which are from the studio of Mr Whall, reveal the brilliance of colouring for which Mr Whall is noted. The subjects are soldier saints and martyrs. The associations of France with England in this great war and also of the fact that Captain Bell died on French soil is portrayed by S. Louis of France and the newly canonized Joan of Arc. Mr Whall has memorialized the war by giving as a background to S. Jeanne D’Arc the burning Cloth Hall of Ypres, and an outraged humanity is depicted in the little orphan seeking protection from the Virgin Saint. The figures selected are S. Martin of Tours, S. Sebastian, S. Joan of Arc, S. George of England, S. Louis of France, and S. Alban of England.

The dedication took place on November 16th – the dead soldier’s birthday. The gift is a most welcome one, for which we are profoundly grateful.

South Ascot Parochial Magazine, December 1917 (D/P186/28A/17)

A Prayer in War Time

This manuscript was found in the pocket of Lt. Col. A. J. Saltren-Willett, R. G. A, when he was killed in action, on October 11th, 1917 at 4.30pm in Flanders.

A Prayer in War Time

Father of all, Helper of the Free, we pray for anxious hearts for all who fight on sea or land, and in the air, to guard our homes and liberty.

Make clear the visions of our leaders, and their counsels wise.

Into thy care our ships and seamen we commend; guard them from chance sown mines, and all the dangers of this war at sea, and, as of old give them the victory.

To men on watch give vigilance, to those below calm keep.

Make strong our soldiers’ hearts, and brace their nerves against the bursting shrapnel and the [cover] fire that lays the next man low

In pity blind them from the sight of fallen comrades left on the field

May Christ himself in Paradise receive the souls of those who pass through death.

Let not our soldiers ever doubt that they shall overcome the forces of that King who seeks to “wade through slaughter to a throne, and shut the fate of mercy on mankind”.

O God of Love and Pity have compassion on the wounded, make bearable their pain or send unconsciousness.

To surgeons and dressers give strength that knows no failing and skill that suffers not from desperate haste.

To tired men give time for rest.

Pity the poor beasts of service, who suffer for no man’s wrong.

For us at home, let not that open shame be ours, that we forget to ease the sufferings of the near and dear of the brave men in the fighting line.

O thou who makest human hearts the channel of thy answers to our prayers, let loose a flood of sympathy and help for children and their mothers, and all who wander desolate and suffering, leaving wrecked homes and fields and gardens trodden under ruthless feet.

With thee, who sufferest more than all, may we in reverence thy burden share, for all Thine and in Thine image made; They too are Thine, and in Thine who caused the wrong.

O Father may this war be mankind’s last appeal to force. Grant us from the stricken earth, sown with Thy dead an ever lasting flower of peace shall spring, and all Thy world become a garden where this flower of Christ shall grow.

And this we beg for our dear Elder Brother’s sake, who gave Himself for those He loved.

Jesus Christ Our Lord
Amen

D/P162/28/79/1-2

“I could not say there was accommodation enough for a pig (much less a man) anywhere except in the cellars of ruined houses”

Civilians in wartorn northern France and Belgium suffered terribly due to the war.

Movement in Reading in aid of the Relief of Sufferers by the War in France and Belgium.

Friends at Trinity will no doubt be interested to know that a movement in the above direction has been initiated by the Reading Broad Street Brotherhood. The objective is to supplement the efforts now being made in other towns and in the colonies, and in continuation of efforts already made which have abundantly testified to the Christian sympathy which exists towards those who have suffered so acutely through no fault of their own. A relief fund of £20,000 is contemplated, a very large part of which has already been subscribed by Canadians, by London and other cities, towards which also many small towns have contributed nobly and generously.

It is supposed that the good lead of Basingstoke with its generous promise of £100 in cash, besides clothing, &C., Reading will not wish to be excluded from taking part.

It is proposed to collect both in cash and kind, as in some of the large townships in France (Lille in particular, which is the Manchester of France), the civil population – men, women and children – are in rags, not having had any opportunity of purchasing clothing and boots for 2.5 years (since the German occupation).

Clothing (cast-off and new) will therefore prove most acceptable, also boots.

Those who have seen tell us that the homes of the people in the country towns and villages are ruined-walls broken and roofs fallen. A witness on the spot says:

“In a large town it was my orders to report how many houses were fit for billeting British soldiers, and after visiting with a comrade every house in the place (about the size of Reading) there was not a single house with an unbroken roof, and I could not say there was accommodation enough for a pig (much less a man) anywhere except in the cellars of ruined houses such as I and my comrades occupied.”

Wood houses are already being prepared in sections in this country to be despatched to Northern France and Belgium directly the way opens-facilities having been promised for this purpose as soon as possible by our own Government. A wood house thus prepared can be erected by a few men within a day of arrival, and it cost would be about £40. Seed for gardens, food, flour, blankets, &c will also be despatched.

Interested readers can secure further information by sending two penny stamps to the national Brotherhood Offices, 37, Norfolk Street, London, W.C., when they will be supplied with a pamphlet entitled “The Story of Lille, and its associations with the Brotherhood Movement,” and which describes the Brotherhood Crusade of 1909 A.D. and the practical relief already given.

Locally, every Church, adult School, and Christian Society in Reading will later on be invited to join hands with the Relief Committee connected with Broad Street Men’s Brotherhood, the secretary being Mr. A. Woolley, 85, Oxford Street, Reading.

Further information may also be obtained from J. Harper, “Chelmarsh,” 42, Crown Street, Reading.

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

Dandelions and devastation

Members of the Broad Street Brotherhood, the men’s group at Broad Street Congregational Church in Reading were supporting the war effort in whatever ways they could; and also helping civilians in the devastated occupied regions. Regional rivalry came into play, with the men not wanting to show up poorly in comparison with Basingstoke.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

Some of our members have intimated a desire to start a War Savings Association in connection with our Brotherhood, similar to what is being done at other Brotherhoods and churches up and down the country.

The matter has been carefully considered by a small sub-committee, and it is felt that it is hardly necessary to open a fresh savings department, but any member can purchase these War Savings Certificates through our already existing Savings Bank.

We most strongly recommend these war savings certificates to the earnest attention of every member as not only are they financially sound, but each one purchased is directly helping our country to victory.

Brother Hendey will be pleased to give particulars and carry through any transaction.

We take this opportunity of thanking many of our brothers who have during the past months loyally and painstakingly worked to keep the allotments in order for the brothers who are at the Front.

This has been a fine example of practical brotherhood work.

It is our sad duty to have to record the death of our Brother Frank Ward, who made the supreme sacrifice for us in France just recently.

He is the fourth member of our Brotherhood who has given his life for his country.

BROTHERHOOD CONTINENTAL RELIEF

Our constituency will no doubt be interested in the movement in Reading in aid of sufferers by the war in France and Belgium, which has been initiated by the Broad Street Brotherhood.

Their object is to supplement the efforts now being made in other towns, and in the colonies (and in continuation of efforts previously made) to express the Christian sympathy which exists towards those victims who, although innocent, have suffered acutely through the war. The National Brotherhood Council are aiming at a contemplated relief fund of £20, 000, a very large part of which has already been subscribed. The Brotherhoods of Canada have sent large sums, as well as London and the great centres of industrial life in England. It is believed that Reading will not want to take second position to Basingstoke, where the generous promise of £100 in cash, besides clothing, books, etc, has been made. It is proposed to collect both in cash and kind.

In several of the large townships of Northern France and Belgium the civil population is in rags. For instance Lille (the Manchester of France), having been in the occupation of Germany for 2 ½ years, has had no chance whatever of providing her people with clothing, even if they had the means to purchase. Clothing, boots (cast off or new), seeds, blankets, or anything of portable, useful and lasting character will be acceptable, and later on fruit trees.

A witness on the spot (Near the Somme) says “the fruit trees, large and small, are ruined; but little remains of pleasing appearance except dandelions, and they cover desolation almost everywhere.” A large town (about the size of Reading) had not a roof left whole upon any one building. In a report given to headquarters he said there was no accommodation for men whatsoever (not even for a pig) except in the cellars of ruined houses, such as he then lived (slept) in personally.

The country people, who crowded into the towns, had to hurriedly vacate their homes which were in the path of the then advancing enemy, and could only carry what they stood upright in. They have had no chance, many of them, since to return; and if they had done so they would have found (as some did) that not a tree in the garden, not a vestige of furniture or other property, and a ruin of the actual building. The writer of the foregoing testimony says that for 9 weeks he never saw a civilian (man, woman or child) although frequently on the move, and for long distances.

Wood houses are being prepared in sections in this country for the purpose of being despatched to Northern France and Belgium directly the way opens, and facilities for this purpose have been promised by the governments of Great Britain and France as soon as possible. A wood house thus prepared can be erected by a few men, within a day, upon arrival at its destination, and its total cost would be about £40. Who will buy one for “La belle France”?

Interested readers can secure further information by sending two penny stamps to The National Brotherhood Offices, 37 Norfolk Street, London WC2, when they should ask for a pamphlet entitled “The story of Lille and its associations with the Brotherhood Movement”. This pamphlet describes the Brotherhood Crusade of 1909 AD and the practical relief already given. Locally, every church, adult school and Christian Society in Reading will be asked later on to join hands with the relief committee connected with Broad Street Men’s Brotherhood, whose secretary, Mr WA Woolley, 85 Oxford Road, Reading, is associated with Bros Mitchell, Hendey and Harper in this great work.

Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, September 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)