“Off to the realm of star-shells and whizz-bangs”

A former curate at St John’s Church left the parish to help with the YMCA’s support work behind the lines in France.

LETTER FROM MR MORLEY

My dear friends

The vicar has given me this further opportunity of attempting to thank you all for the almost overwhelming generosity, in kind and in affection, which I have experienced while in St John’s parish and especially for the kind words and most liberal gifts of November 5th…

And now we are off to the realm of star-shells and whizz-bangs, where we shall revel in a pair of most formidable rubber boots and where one’s gaze will rest on little but the inevitable khaki; and one’s heart leaps at the thought. It is simply great to be going amongst it.

I have today obtained my new address which as far as I know for some time now will be, Rev. R W Morley, YMCA, APOS 51, BEF, France. I sincerely hope I may get an occasional letter at least, and also it would, I am sure, even before I see my new sphere of work, be a real help and delight if any friends having illustrated papers or magazines which lie idle after they have seen them would post them on to me for use in cheering and diverting the Tommies who use the hut…

Ever your sincere friend

R W Morley

Reading St. John parish magazine, December 1917 (D/P172/28A/24)

Advertisements

Speakers home from the Front will explain the work of the Y.M.C.A. abroad

The work of the YMCA with soldiers was publicised in Maidenhead.

Y.M.C.A. Meeting

I have been asked to announce that the Y.M.C.A. will hold a Public Meeting in the Town Hall on Friday, Oct. 12th, at 7.30 p.m. There will be speakers home from the Front who will explain the work of the Y.M.C.A. abroad. No doubt many of us are still more interested in the work of the Church Army. But the field is so large and the needs of our men so urgent that there is plenty of room for the excellent work done by both Societies. I hope therefore that many may be able to attend.

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, October 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

The War has brought home to us our dependence on our daily food in a way unknown to most of us before

The vicar of Maidenhead All Saints reminded his flock about the work of merchant seamen bringing food to the country, and of church workers comforting the troops close behind the lines.

The Vicar’s Letter

Dear Friends and Parishioners,-…

St Peter’s Harvest Festival is to be held at the end of this month (September 30th)… And this Harvest we have, indeed, much for which to be thankful. The War has brought home to us our dependence on our daily food in a way unknown to most of us before. We have to thank God for the labours of our farm workers and allotment holders, who, in the face of an inclement Spring, have greatly increased our food supply; for the valour of our Navy, that has convoyed our store ships past many perils; for the steadfastness and courage of our Merchant Sailors, who, risking often sudden death or lingering suffering, have yet dared to go on faithfully bringing grain and meat and other things for the maintenance of our people.

Lastly; sometimes people ask me for the name of some Charity to which they may give a donation, outside the Parish. Just now few deserve more support than the Church Army Recreation Hut Fund. There are over 800 in full work. All are under the auspices of the Church, and special provision is made for those who wish for a quiet place for prayer or study. They are, also, available and used for Church Services. I feel thy deserve great support, for, excellent as the work of the Y.M.C.A. usually is, these Church Army Huts make a still greater claim on our generosity as Church people; that our men should not feel that the Church has in any way neglected them. Any donations should be sent to the Secretary, Church Army Headquarters, 55, Bryanston Street, Marble Arch, London, W.1.

I remain, Your faithful friend and Vicar
C.E.M. FRY

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, September 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

Pretty eloquent testimony as to what has been happening the whole country over

More and more men were serving overseas as the war intensified.

Church News

Sorrow.

It is with very deep regret that we record the death of another of our hero “boys” – John Bernard Eighteen. Tragic indeed is the grief of this family. It was only last November that his brother, Henry Thomas, was killed in action, and now the elder brother has died of severe wounds – passing away before his mother, who was hastily summoned, could reach him. To all who mourn his loss our hearts go out in deepest sympathy, and we pray that our Heavenly Farther may draw very near to comfort and to help!


Roll of Honour.

Advantage is being taken of the fact that our Membership and District Lists are being revised and reprinted, to get our Roll of Honour dealt with in the same way. That roll has steadily been growing, but up to the present has never been arranged in any sort of fixed or permanent form. When it comes to us from the printer this month we shall be able to use it in considering that final form it must take when we place it somewhere in our buildings as a memorial for all time of our part in the Great War. In the earlier stages of the struggle we thought we thought the number on our roll was fairly high when it reached twenty. It is now much nearer sixty. This fact, when one reflects that our experience is probably quite normal, is pretty eloquent testimony as to what has been happening the whole country over. It has not been exactly easy to arrange this roll, and if it should contain omissions and errors I should be very grateful if friends would kindly let me know. For the guidance of those interested, I may say here that in drawing up the list of names, the general principle followed hitherto has been to include along with the members of the Church, Institute or Congregation, sons or husbands of our members, whose names do not appear on any other Church Roll of Honour.


Khaki Chat.

The statement made last month to the effect that Leslie Newey is now in France is incorrect. We are glad that Leslie is still on this side, and much regret the slip made.

The following paragraph was omitted from last month’s columns owing to lack of space:-

The interesting quotations given below are from a letter received from a Y.M.C.A. Hut Leader in France, and will explain themselves.

“I cannot help feeling you and your people will be glad to hear that Mr. Jordan is really doing splendid work out here….. His C.O. released him that he might be my right-hand man in running this Hut in the centre of a large Hospital on the downs….. He seems as happy as the day is long and is most useful. I am sending you this quite spontaneously.”

I might add that the Hut Leader has since been invalided home, but that Mr Jordan is still at the work referred to. His new leader is a Congregational minister.


Trinity Congregational Church magazine, August 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

“Many of us feel there is a reasonable hope of a termination of hostilities before Christmas”

An army chaplain with links to Mortimer shares details of his life in Normandy.

Mr Bowden writes:-

Dear Vicar,

It is a long time since I sent a contribution to the Magazine, not that I have forgotten Mortimer but I have so little of interest to relate. My work is now in the docks area – I have charge of No. 2 General Hospital, on the quay alongside which the hospital ships lie and take in the wounded direct from the trains to convey them to Southampton. Any cases which prove too bad for the boat journey we take in to our hospital which is directly over the railway station, and occasionally we get a train load for treatment at No. 2. We have three very fine, airy wards; and a broad balcony facing the sea runs the whole length of the hospital; in the summer we place many beds out there – the men love to be in the open air and watch the shipping and the aircraft. The hospital commands a fine view of the town on one side and the mouth of the Seine with Trouville and Honfleur on the other.

In addition to hospital work I have some 1,500 Army Ordnance and 650 Army Service Corps men to work amongst. These are busy on the docks all day long but can be seen in the Recreation Huts and in their billets in the evening and at meal times.

There are plenty of amusements provided for them – some sort of entertainment almost every night. We also have recently acquired a recreation ground for their use and a cricket ground as well as a tennis court for officers and N.C.O.’s.

It might be of interest if I give my Sunday programme – I start early with a Celebration of Holy Communion at 6 a.m. for the A.O.D. in a little chapel near their quarters – another celebration at 7 a.m. for the hospital staff in a hut on the quay. This is always followed by a series of private Communions to sick men and officers in the various wards and huts; [sic] then back to breakfast. I used to have a Parade Service at 10-30 for the R.A.M.C. but have dropped it as it was an inconvenient time for the men. At 11-30 we have a Parade Service for the A.O.D. in one of the warehouses on the docks – the men climb up on the boxes all round a space left for the purpose – we have a good choir, an hearty service, and then the men go straight off to their dinner at noon, or soon after.

Then I have nothing till 5-15 when I hold Ward Services in hospital – these are very much appreciated by the patients and are of an informal nature as all denominations join in. The men love singing hymns and the Sisters come and help form a choir. At 7 p.m. we are now having open-air services in the A.S.C. camp on the river front between the docks and hospital. Here the men are mostly getting on in years – I believe the average age is about 42 – All younger men have long since been sent “up the line.” Of course a large portion of both A.S.C. and A.O.D. men have done their bit at the front in various units and have been sent back to work at the Base owing to wounds or some physical disability rendering them unfit for the fighting line.

Sometimes my day ends here or I have a service at the Y.M.C.A. or in one of the other huts, in turn with other Padres.

We have many destroyers constantly alongside the quays, the escorts for hospital ships, transports, &c. I go aboard when I can but generally most of the sailors are sleeping as they are working all night and its [sic] not often possible to hold a Service for them, but one gets some interesting talks with men and officers.

Just now we have a Mortimer man in hospital – Sergt. Shackleford – he is doing very well. He is only the second man I have met from the parish since I joined the B.E.F. – the other being Frank Parsons.

We are all very cheerful about the position of things just now and many of us feel there is a reasonable hope of a termination of hostilities before Xmas.

With best wishes to all friends.

Yours very sincerely,

W. S. Bowden, C.F.

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

Another of our hero lads has fallen in the terrible conflict

Reading’s Congregationalists continued to serve.

Sorrow.

We are deeply sorry to hear that another of our hero lads – Stanley Challen – has fallen in the terrible conflict. Whilst in action at Arras, on the May 3rd, he was struck by a shell and was instantaneously killed. To his loved ones the sad news came as a terrible blow, for he was of a lovable, thoughtful disposition, a devoted son and kind brother. We desire to express our truest sympathy with them, praying that our Heavenly Father may richly comfort and sustain them in these sad days.

Khaki Chat.

Jack Newey is back in the line again. Jesse Prouten is in England, and will probably appear from time to time among us. Mr Dormer has obtained a commission as equipment officer in the R.F.C., and is at present undergoing a course of instruction in this town. Mr Goddard is now “somewhere in France,” and so also to our surprise is Leslie Newey. The former has already written home expressing warm appreciation of the work of the Y.M.C.A. out there.

Trinity Congregational Church magazine, July 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

“The soldiers are in dire need of comfort both physical and spiritual”

A Congregational minister from east Reading had spent the winter with the YMCA, working with British troops in France.

VISIT OF REV. LEONARD BROOKS

The minister of Park Congregational Church, Reading, paid us his first visit on the 23rd of May, when he gave to a splendid congregation part of the story of his experiences with the troops in France during the winter. Mr Brooks told the incidents with great feeling and force, and revealed to us in striking fashion the need there was for religion to be manifested as a very practical thing.

What we heard of his work among the relatives of the wounded and the dying was most interesting, and to many of us it was a section of YMCA enterprise of which no thought had ever been held. We imagine quite readily that the soldiers are in dire need of comfort both physical and spiritual, but that there should be poignant sorrow among the wives and mothers had very rarely occurred to us as calling for the special labours of the YM.

Mr Brooks did not dwell altogether on the grave side of the matter; there were tales of much merriment, of muddled recipes, failing lights, pilgrimages up and down long flights of steps, etc, which kept us from taking the more serious aspect of the war too seriously. We felt much indebted to Mr Brooks for coming over to open out to us a new side of things, as well as for going to France at all, and we hope that his labours over there are resulting in a greater acceptance of the higher things in which he ministered.

Tilehurst Congregational Church section of Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, July 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

The finest, cosiest, and prettiest place in the whole Second Army Area

A Reading church sponsored a place of recreation for soldiers at the front.

“Words Fail Us.”

Such are the words used on a Christmas card by the Y.M.C.A. to convey their deep gratitude to all who have helped in the erection of Huts in France and elsewhere. The words may be even more fittingly used to emphasise the desperate need for these buildings, and we rejoice in having been privileged to take part in this good work. It will be remembered that soon after our pastor’s return from France in March of last year, he announced his wish to erect a Y.M.C.A. hut, and was met by so gratifying a response from his many friends in Trinity and elsewhere that, by the end of August it was being used by our fighting men on the Western “Front.” This month, by the help of the above-mentioned Christmas card, we are able to show our readers a picture of our own hut.

It is situated La Clytte, about 4.5 miles south-west of Ypres and within three miles of the front firing-line very, very near danger. It is by the side of a road, along which is passing a continual stream of men to and from the trenches. Near by is a rest camp, into which the men are drafted after having served a certain time actually in the line. Hence our Hut, capable of accommodating from two hundred to three hundred men, meets the very real need of a large number of men actually in “the thick of it.”

The picture represents its actual appearance from outside, which resembles many other Y.M. Huts, but the interior is most beautifully and artistically decorated with about 250 coloured pictures, with the result that Mr. Holmes (Sec. Y.M.C.A. 2nd Army) pronounces it to be the finest, cosiest, and prettiest place in the whole Second Army Area. For this proud distinction we must thank its present leader, Mr Cecil Dunford, who is an artist, and so in touch with colour-printing firms. To him, too, we are indebted to him for our picture. His helpers are the Rev. Eric Farrar, son of Dean Farrar a most interesting fact and the Rev. Herbert Brown, Chaplain to the Embassy at Madrid.

At Christmas-time, our thoughts flew naturally to the men in our Hut, and Mr Harrison, anticipating our wishes, telegraphed that a sum of £20 was to be spent on festivities. It will interest all to hear what was done.

On Christmas Eve a Carol service took place, assisted by a regimental band, followed by a distribution of free gifts and cake. On Christmas Day the Hut was crowded for service at 10 a.m., and 45 men present at Holy Communion. From 12-1 a free distribution of cakes and tea was enjoyed. An afternoon concert was held, after which the men were again supplied with tea and cakes. At 6.30 p.m. a very informal concert was held, interspersed with games and amusing competitions ducking for apples bobbing in a pail of water, drawing in to the mouth a piece of toffee tied to a long string held between the teeth, pinning blindfold a moustache to the Kaiser’s portrait, etc. Free drinks and tobacco were again distributed, and after three hearty cheers for the people of Reading, the National Anthem brought a memorable day to a close.

To the men this day was a bright spot in their cheerless, dangerous life, and their enjoyment is depicted by Mr Dunford in some clever sketches one of a man straight from the line, in a tin helmet and with pack on his back, beaming happily at a steaming mug of cocoa, and murmuring “Good ‘ealth to the Y.M.”; another man, whose swelled cheek testifies to the huge mouthful of sandwich (evidently “tres bon!” in quality and quantity), wittily designated “an attach in force on the salient.” To the helpers the Christmas festivities evidently proved exhausting as shown by two laughable sketches of utter collapse, one worker clinging feebly to a post, the other being dragged along the floor to a place of rest. Yet we venture to think that even they, with us, rejoice to do something to brighten the lot of our brave boys in khaki.


Trinity Congregational Church, Reading: magazine, February 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

No charge

A concert version of the opera Tom Jones in aid of YMCA war work was performed in Reading Town Hall by the choir of Broad Street Congregational Church. (A report of the concert appeared in the Berkshire Chronicle on 2 February 1917.)

Our Choirmaster (Mr F W Harvey) and the members of the choir are to be congratulated upon the pronounced success of their concert on January 31st. it was a great achievement to attract once more an audience which filled the large Town Hall…

The following Saturday [3 February], the programme was repeated for the wounded soldiers, nurses and orderlies from the various War Hospitals in the district…. There was no charge for admission on this occasion, as the expenses for the full orchestra, etc, had been met by a collection taken at the close of the original concert, supplemented by contributions from a number of friends.

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

The spiritual welfare of those who are so ready to give their lives in the great cause

Reading churchgoers were asked to contribute towards the cost of building a chapel at the closest army camp.

The Vicar’s Notes
Best greetings and blessings to all the parish for the New Year. There seem to be real signs at last of the prospect of peace. God grant that, when it comes, it may be real and lasting.

The Following Appeal comes from the Bishop of Buckingham.

Halton Camp.

With the approach of winter the problem of holding the church parade Services for this large camp has become acute. The accommodation provided by the Churches in the immediate neighbourhood, and by the Y.M.C.A. huts (which are readily lent for the purpose, and which are doing such excellent work), is quite insufficient for the purpose. With the present accommodation it would require many more parades than are possible every Sunday to take in all the troops attending Church.

It is proposed therefore to erect a large wooden building capable of holding 1,000 to 1,500 men, such has been found suitable in other large camps. The primary objective would be to make provision for the Church services during the winter, but the building would also be available for other purposes. It is estimated that the cost of such a building would be £1,000. Voluntary help would be given by qualified architects among the troops and Royal Engineers.

This is the only large camp in the Diocese of Oxford, and we feel that the Church people of the Diocese will be desirous of showing their interest in the spiritual welfare of those who are so ready to give their lives in the great cause by making by making a prompt and adequate answer to this appeal. It is most desirable that the matter should be put in hand at once, before the severe weather sets in.

The scheme has the hearty approval of the General Officer Commanding and the Bishop of Oxford and the Bishop of Buckingham.

Subscriptions will be thankfully received by the Senior Chaplain, the Rev. P.W.N. Shirley, Halton Camp, Bucks, or by the Bishop of Buckingham, Beaconsfield.

Sympathy

During the past month there has been an exceptional amount of sickness and a large number of deaths. Our deepest sympathy is given to all those who have suffered the loss of those near and dear to them. May the divine comforter bring them every consolation and support in their time of sorrow.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, January 1917 (D/P96/28A/15)

Learning French in internment

The four Cusden brothers from Reading who had been teaching in Germany before the war were among those British and other foreigners who were interned in the Ruhleben camp near Berlin. There was an active education and activity programme run by the internees, and which they took very seriously. Victor Cusden taught French, and the other men may have attended classes. The camp ‘school’ issued a detailed prospectus for the autumn term, 1916.

Ruhleben Camp School
Prospectus of work for autumn term 1916

In issuing this special prospectus the Committee of the Ruhleben Camp School wishes to draw the attention of students to the following points:

1. The School Premises are now simply but adequately equipped.
2. The Laboratory arrangements enable satisfactory practical work to be done.
3. A good Library dealing with a wide variety of Subjects is already in Camp and further volumes can be procured easily from England.
4. Public Examinations are being arranged for: those of the Royal Society of Arts have already been held.
5. The Board of Education has arranged a Scheme for Recording Study which may be used 1. as a testimonial 2. in connection with certain Examinations.
6. In most subjects the tuition provided by the School ranges from that required by absolute beginners to that required by Advanced University Students.

The Autumn Term begins on September 11th: the enrolment of all students, old and new, in all Departments, takes place in the Loft of Barrack 6 on Monday and Tuesday the 4th and 5th of September, 9 to 11 am and 2 to 4 pm.

DEPARTMENT FOR FRENCH
Last term: 2 lecture classes, 43 classes, 39 teachers, 284 individual pupils
Special Classes for absolute beginners (grammar and pronunciation). Special class for coloured men.
Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced Grammar Classes, based on Otto-Onion’s, Hugo’s, Berlitz’ I and II, Siepmann’s 1, 2 et 3, Gouin’s I and II, Larive and Fleury 2me et 3me Annee, Dent’s and Wright’s Methods and Grammars.
Conversation, Pronunciation and Reading Classes for Intermediate and Advanced Students are based on the following text books: le Petit Parisien (Kron), Gouin 2nd Book, Tartarin de Tarascon, Tartarin sur les Alpes ( A Daudet), Tour du Monde (J Verne), Emeraude hdes Incas (Charles Normand), Luois XI (Casimir Delavigne).
Style, Composition, Synonyms: for advanced students.
Special Class for “Orthographe”, by P Elies.
Preparation Classes for London University Matriculation and London Chamber of Commerce Examinations.
Lectures on Idioms, Gallicismes and general subjects; literary and otherwise.
Reading and explanation of Labiche’s plays, and other modern plays, to familiarise students with colloquial French, by P Elies and H A Bell.
Course of lectures on Victor Hugo (his life and works) by M Bordelain.
Series of lectures (in French and English) on “le Pays de France” dealing with different aspects of French life (Literature, Art, Music, Commerce, History, Geography, etc).
Commercial French classes: correspondence, expressions, etc, based on Gouin’s and Pitman’s methods.

In order to classify students adequately and place them in an appropriate class, a general entrance examination for all those intending to join or to continue classes in the French Department will be held on September 1st and 2nd at 9.30 am in the YMCA Hall.
This examination is compulsory for all students whether already in the school or not, only absolute beginners are exempted. A general “end of term” examination will also take place in December to test the progress made by students during the term.

Teachers… [include] V Cusden

[D/EX1485/4/10/1]

Family photographs at the Front

The YMCA had a heartwarming scheme to send photographs of family members to soldiers, many of whom came from poor families with no access to luxury goods like cameras.

Snapshots from Home

The Y.M.C.A. have enlisted a vast number of people to help in taking photographs of home scenes, to send to Soldiers at the Front. A photograph of wife or child must be a very pleasing addition to a letter from home and is, no doubt, greatly treasured. If anyone with a camera would like to lend a hand in Wargrave there would be plenty to do, either informally or under the Y.M.C.A organisation.

Crazies Hill Notes

The Working Party has been discontinued for the summer. We are very much indebted to Miss. Rhodes who carried on this work throughout the winter months. We are also indebted to Mrs. Rhodes who so generously provided tea each week for those who came. This kind act was greatly appreciated. In a letter we have received, Miss. Rhodes says: –

“The Working Parties have been a great success and no end of good work done; and I have had most grateful letters of thanks from St Bartholomew’s Hospital, The War Hospital, Wandsworth, and the Ladies’ Linen League, Royal Berkshire Hospital, and much praise on the quality of the work.”

Wargrave parish magazine, June 1916 (D/P145/28A/31)

Playing at soldiers

Berkshire Education Committee was interested in national proposals for a scheme to train teenage boys not yet old enough to join the armed forces. A committee comprising councillor and chair of the committee, H G Willink and Messrs Mansfield and Childs of Reading University reported back. Their main concern was that the men most suitable for running such a programme were away at war, but they also felt that younger boys should not be militarised. Another big issue was the connection between social class and officer status.

Report of Cadet Training Sub-committee to the Education Committee

First report of the Special Sub-committee appointed on 29 April 1916 by the Berks Education Committee to consider the Lord Mayor of London’s “Scheme for the National Organisation of Cadet Training”.

We have met and considered this Scheme; and have also had before us a detailed Scheme of the Essex Education Committee “for the formation and organisation of Cadet Units”.

While not prepared to recommend either Scheme in its entirety, for reasons which will appear, we desire to express our appreciation of the aim underlying both, and to state that in our opinion there is need for some well-considered system by which lads below 18 years of age may not only gain the benefits of discipline but may also undergo a training which will exercise and develop their intelligence. We are convinced that this is essential if the youth of the country is to be adequately prepared either for future naval or military service or to be efficient and useful citizens of the Empire.

The Lord Mayor’s proposals fall under two heads, viz:

1. The establishment of a “National Cadet Council”, with certain relations to other authorities and with a quasi-subordinate system of City and County Cadet Committees…

2. The early introduction of a uniform system of training, upon lines following generally those of the Australian Cadet Scheme (which is established by law) but on a voluntary instead of a compulsory basis.

Under such a Scheme, lads above elementary school age and under 18 would be organised as Senior Cadets, who would receive a minimum of training in Physical Drill, Company (and some Battalion) Drill, Field Training, and Musketry. Boys from 12 to (say) 14, or Junior Cadets, would undergo a training which could only be called military in the sense of being preparation for military work. It would consist of Physical Exercises and Marching Drill, together with any two of the following: Miniature Rifle Shooting, Swimming, Organised Games, and First Aid. Senior Cadets to have a simple uniform, but Juniors none.
As regards the relations with existing formations – OT Corps would not come under the Council at all, the Boys’ Brigade, Church Lads’ Brigade, and YMCA, as well as the Boy Scouts, would remain separate, but close communication between them and the Council would be encouraged; and no objection is raised to lads or boys passing to or from them and Cadet Units, or even belonging to one of them and to a Cadet Unit also.

Note: The Essex Scheme, which contains no reference to the Lord Mayor’s proposals, invites “the co-operation of District Educational Sub-committees, School Managers, Teachers and others, with a view to the formation of Cadet Units”, the membership age to be from that of leaving the elementary school till 19, but no admission after 18….

The Scheme … lays down an elaborate curriculum of instruction, to be given in connection with the Evening Continuation Schools…

One further point may be noted. The Australian lad of 14 receives a “Record Book” in which his military history is entered up to the age of 26 years, and individuals unable to produce a Record Book with a clean service sheet are debarred from any service under the Commonwealth Government. There would, however, appear to be insuperable difficulties in the way of including this valuable feature in any voluntary Scheme, at any rate before the system was in practically universal operation.

Taking the Scheme as its stands, we are of opinion, in regard to the first “head”, that the establishment of some such central consultative body as the proposed “National Cadet Council” is desirable, provided that its functions are in the first instance confined to inquiry, ventilation and discussion; and do not extend to an immediate setting-up of a definite new Scheme, still less to its actual bringing into action.

We give due weight to the objection that the absence on active service, or the employment on other war work at home or abroad, of so many of the men best fitted to construct or introduce a system of such importance is a serious obstacle to arriving at a satisfactory decision upon the best lines for it. But we also feel strongly that the present united spirit of patriotism in public opinion ought to be utilized before reaction sets in, as may very likely be the case when the end of the war comes into sight…

The important point to bear in mind is that no new Scheme can be satisfactory which will not fit into a general plan for National Training for Home Defence, or which will in any way prejudge the question whether such training is to be on a voluntary or compulsory basis….

There are certain points which to us seem fairly clear, and which may be worth stating, if only to elicit discussion.
(more…)

A room full of weary, war-stained men, straight from the trenches

The minister at Trinity Congregational Church reports on his work at a YMCA hut at the Front, serving men getting a temporary respite from trench warfare.

Again we are indebted to Mrs Harrison, who has very kindly furnished us with further details concerning the work of our beloved pastor.

YMCA Hut
Jan. 24th-Feb 16th

We are now really at the Front, and have to be more careful to say nothing except generalities, and those very brief. We are perfectly well and happy, and like the new lot of helpers very much indeed. This hut is always open, so we take it in turns to do night duty. Things are rougher here in many ways than at the base, but the food is excellent, and the work is exactly what we came out to do. I wish it were permitted to tell you more details, but I don’t suppose it will matter your knowing that we are about six miles from the first line of trenches. Yesterday we went for a most interesting walk to within three miles of a famous town, the name of which begins with Y. We stopped by a fine old church whichn was completely wrecked some six weeks ago. Last night I trudged through heavy rain and pitch-dark cobbled streets to address a crowded meeting of men in a Y.M. hut about a mile from here.

They gave me a most attentive and quiet hearing, – it was a great opportunity, I could not have wished for a better. To-night I am going there again to help at a sort of “sing-song” they are having, – as a waiter, not a performer!

We get many chances of talks with the men in the rest-room, and also over the counter while serving them with coffee, etc. It is pathetic to see the big room full of weary, war-stained men, half of them asleep, and the rest half asleep. They come straight in to us from the front trenches, having had nothing to eat all day, but their good temper and quiet kindness to each other and to us, and their evident appreciation of what is done for them, are things to see and remember. We need all the health and strength, and all the other help we can get, for things are decidedly grim just now. We are sleeping in the cellar, and at the first warning of the danger we make tracks for our refuge like rabbits. There is a lot of amusement to be got out of it, and no one could call life out here dull, but what is far more important, is that officers and men speak in a way that would do you good to hear. There is not the slightest doubt about the need for what we are able to do, and of the way in which it is appreciated.

There is no denying that we are in the midst of danger, but it is right that we should face it, and we shall be kept safe. Think of us as utterly content with life, and do not have any thoughts of worry or anxiety on our behalf.

Trinity Congregational Church, Reading: church magazine, March 1916 (D/EX1237/1/11)

“I am increasingly glad to be out here”

The minister of Trinity Congregational Church was volunteering with the YMCA in France, helping provide home comforts for thr troops, and reported to his flock at home. The Taube to which he refers was a kind of aeroplane.

News from France

Through the kindness of Mrs Harrison, we are able to print some extracts from letters telling of our Pastor’s doings. We shall all rejoice to know he is well and enjoying his novel experiences.

YMCA Hut
Near Calais
Jan. 1st-18th, 1916

Here we are, safe and sound, and already hard at work.
There are five of us helpers in this hut, – all good, good sorts!
We spend hours and hours each day serving out tea, coffee, cocoa, cigarettes, matches, chocolate, Nugget polish, boot laces, etc., to the soldiers.

By great fortune I have come across Hamilton Moss, who seems in excellent health and spirits. We were just going to have a smoke together, when I was called away to my duties, – we hope for better luck next time.

For the last two days I have been in charge of a motor transport tent, but am back again now.

This morning I have scrubbed our three cubicles, – a thing never done before at one co,- and gained great glory thereby.

It is now my afternoon out.

There are two great boilers in this hut, from which tea, coffee and cocoa are made, and all water for household purposes drawn. It is my present duty to light the kitchen fires, and keep these pots full and boiling. Scrubbing out cubicles is by no means the heaviest job nowadays. Cleaning up the back yard and the stables, and unloading big cases of provisions from the vans, is a usual morning’s work, while washing up stacks of dirty mugs is becoming second nature.

We have just had our first sight of a Taube. It came almost over our heads, and we watched the shrapnel bursting round it. It got away without doing any damage, but I am told that they brought it down further on.

It is pitch dark here at night, and getting about is a weird business. Flash-lights are indispensable. The weather is not as bad as it might be, and we have some jolly walks along the sands.
Now I am off to get hold of a stove for the rest room. I am able to get some good talks with the men in there, but the room is too bleak for words, so I must make things more comfortable if possible.

This morning, along with other sundry duties already mentioned, I had to peel the potatoes for dinner, and boil them! They were quite well done.

Our chief told us yesterday that we should most likely be sent to the Front this week. We don’t know where, as there are some thirty places under this Calais centre alone. We shall be right in things then, and have less freedom and more work. Some huts are just dug-outs within three quarters of a mile of the trenches.

I am thoroughly enjoying the work, and keeping in the best of health. I am increasingly glad to be out here.

Trinity Congregational church magazine, January 1916 (D/EX1237/1/11)