So ends another piece of the war-work

The YMCA Hut supported by a Reading church closed down as men returned home.

The “Trinity” Hut

Since publishing the interesting details in last month’s issue, information has been received that, owing to the rapidity of demobilization, the removal of out Hut to Zeebrugge as intended, will be advisable. It is proposed, therefore to dispose of it by auction sale as is being done with all other such huts. Removal to England is impossible on account of the high cost of freight and the unavoidable damage sustained in transit.

So ends another piece of the war-work, but no such bounds can be set to the good resulting from it. How far-reaching was that influence, Eternity alone will reveal!

Trinity Congregational Magazine, Sept 1919 (D/EX1237/1/12)

A bright spot in a time of need

A Reading church received news about the YMCA hut they had supported for soldiers behind the lines.

The “Trinity” Hut

Owing to the departure of many of the Y.M.C.A. Secretaries from the war area, it has been very difficult to get any definite information about our second Hut in France. Until just lately we believed this was erected at St. Omer, but now find that to be incorrect, as the following prove:
2nd July, 1919.

My Dear Mr. Harrison,

I went up this week to see Mr. McCowen as he was coming back from Germany on his way to London, and immediately took up the question of the allocation of your Hut with him. He well remembers the situation and says that your Hut was not actually in the St. Omer area, but it was at St. Malo-les-Bains, near Dunkirk, which after all is not so far away from St. Omer. He says this is the second Reading Hut. I have asked Mr. Sitters to send me a report as to the work of this Hut during the last few months, and also to see that the board saying it is the Reading Hut is still up in it. This Hut has served, during the past few months, thousands of men, who have been using Dunkirk as a demobilisation centre. Further particulars will be coming through, which I will send along. There is a possibility that the Navy may move the Hut to the mole at Zeebrugge, as there is a great need for an extension of our work at that place, but I will see that you are advised if this is done.

I am enclosing herewith the official receipt for the fifteen pounds which you so kindly sent. It was used in the Hut for Christmas festivities.

Yours sincerely,
(Signed) H.N.HOLMES.
Chief Secretary for France.

The report referred to is as follows:-

“The Reading (Malo) Hut was first erected in the Ypres centres, where it provided rest and recreation for countless numbers of men going in and coming out of the trenches. In it provision was made for reading, writing and games. Concerts and lectures were given from time to time, and services were held on Sundays. A refreshment counter where tea, cocoa and coffee, biscuits, cigarettes, etc., could be obtained, was greatly appreciated by those frequenting the Hut.

Later on, owing to the movement of troops, the sector was occupied by Belgian troops, who made considerable use of the Hut. One feature of their occupation was the excellent concerts given by officers and men of the Belgian army. On account of the Germans shelling the place very heavily it was found necessary to move the Hut to a more sheltered spot. It was dismantled, moved south two miles, near to the famous St. Sixthe Convent, re-erected, re-painted, and re-opened within seven days.

On the signing of the armistice the Hut was moved to Dunkirk, where it has provided accommodation for various units, including re-mounts, men being demobilised, and men returning from leave and going to Egypt. On its removal to Dunkirk it was beautifully re-decorated and fitted with electric light, and may now be considered one of the most attractive huts in France.

The subscribers, through whose generosity it has been possible for the Y.M.C.A. to meet the needs of so many men, will be happy to know that the Hut has been a bright spot in a time of need to thousands of the brave men who have been defending our country.”

Trinity Congregational Magazine, August 1919 (D/EX1237/1/12 )

Alas! glorious victories cost precious lives!

There was news of several Maidenhead men, one of whom had paid the ultimate price while taking part in an important operation.

OUR SOLDEIRS.

Reginald Hill is at a Convalescent Home, but he has not quite done with the Hospital yet. However, he hopes to say farewell to his friends at Sheffield in a month or so. Ernest Bristow has not yet been able to make the promised move to Cliveden, apparently because there has been a slight set-back in the healing process. But he is in excellent spirits. Harold Islip is in Hospital in France, suffering from a slight attack of trench fever. He expects shortly to return to England to be trained for a Commission. Wilfrid Collins has returned to Canada. Cecil Meade has been invalided home from Salonika, with a touch of malaria. He is reporting himself immediately, but does not expect to return to the East. Benjamin Gibbons is out of hospital again, and has been sent to Ireland. Herbert Brand has been gazetted 2nd Lieut. in the Staffordshires. Alfred Vardy went over to France at the beginning of April. Harry Baldwin has been home on leave, and anticipates being sent on active service (naval) very shortly. Wallace Mattingley, after a year’s training at Sandhurt, has received a Commission in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

We deeply regret to record the death of Arthur Ada, who was killed in the attack upon Zeebrugge on the night of Monday, April 22nd. Alas! glorious victories cost precious lives! We sympathise deeply with his sorrowing friends and relatives. There will be a touch of pride and admiration in the recollection of him when the manner of his death is recalled. It is said that before the operation actually took place everyone was informed quite clearly of the risk, but that no one backed out. The body was brought to Maidenhead for burial, and after a service in the Baptist Chapel (where Mr. Ada was organist), conducted by Revs. T. W. Way and T. F. Lewis, the interment was made at the Cemetery. Mr. Ada at one time contemplated offering himself for Missionary service.

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

There is always something very touching in a military funeral

A full military funeral was held for 19 year old Royal Marine Reginald Gatehouse.

The war was brought home to us all on May 1st by the solemn funeral of one of our boys (he was only a boy). Reginald Gatehouse, whose body was brought from Zeebrugge and sent to Earley for burial. There is always something very touching in a military funeral and in this case all the circumstances combined to heighten the feeling.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, June 1918(D/P191/28A/25)

Magnificent raid on Zeebrugge

Edward Hilton Young, later Lord Kennet (1879-1960), grew up at Cookham. He was badly injured taking part in the major Zeebrugge Raid.

24 April 1918

Saw Mrs Howard & Will in his coffin. Looked very beautiful. Military funeral on Friday.

Magnificent naval raid on Zeebrugge – shook up the [illegible]. Hilton Young lost an arm.

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

Raid on Zeebrugge successful

Florence Vansittart Neale reports the latest at home and abroad.

22 March 1916

Henry long day at Maidenhead – District Council in morning, Tribunal afternoon….

Read “German Secret Service”. Air raid on Zeebrugge successful. German ships [illegible] injured.

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

Bombs on Zeebrugge

The German-occupied Belgian port of Zeebrugge was targetted several times by British bombers during the war.

20 March 1916
Large air raid on Zeebrugge.

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

“Feeding and clothing excellent; only need peace and fine weather”

Florence Vansittart Neale has more news of the war, and is given an explosive souvenir:

Another aerial raid – 40 over Zeebrugge-Ostend. 4 French helped. Guarded German aerodrome. Another French despatches.

Hear Kitchener has commandeered 120,000 boats. In France by May 1st.

Received bit of German shrapnel & German high explosive from Harry Paine. Says feeding & clothing excellent. Only need peace & fine weather.

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

Russians retreating, worse luck

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham records the latest war news, a mix of good and bad:

Russians retired from east Prussia, worse luck.

Fine aeroplane raid of ours over Zeebrugge & Ostend to destroy naval bases – about 34 & all returned.

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