Private Leland John George Finch

Private Leland John George Finch was first listed as serving in March 1916, and the following December his death was recorded as follows:

Leland John George Finch. 12th East Surrey Regiment. We have heard with much sorrow that Leland Finch was killed in action last September. He was always popular with his companions, and both at school and at his work was always considered from his studious nature and brightness to be sure of doing well. He was educated at Cobham School, and gained distinction there, amongst other things winning the Overseas Prize. On leaving school he was employed first at the Motor Works of Messrs. Dennis Bros., of Guildford and afterwards at the Abingdon Motor Works. He joined the Army last January, proceeding to France with his regiment in May. He was first reported missing in September, and news of his death has only just reached his anxious parents, to whom we express our deepest sympathy. RIP.

Although not mentioned in the parish magazine, Leland’s older brother, Royal Air Force Corporal Fenimore Victor Finch, had also died in service, a little over three months prior to Leland.

Sources:

St Andrew’s, Stoke D’Abernon, Parish Magazines, March 1916 and December 1916, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

Private Frederick Coombs [Coombes]

Private Frederick Coombs was listed as serving, in the St Andrew’s parish magazine, in November 1915. By the following month, December 1915, he was reported as convalescent. Nothing more was noted about Private Coombs until June 1918, when it was recorded that he had been missing for two years. By December 1918 Private Frederick Coombs was listed as one of a number who had ‘given their lives for our country’.  His death was officially recorded as having taken place on 18th March 1916.

Sources:

St Andrew’s, Stoke D’Abernon, Parish Magazines, November 1914, November 1915, December 1915, June 1918, and December 1918, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

Private William Richard Coombes and his brothers.

In December 1916 the St Andrew’s, Oxshott, parish magazine recorded that:

All our readers will be glad to know that William Coombs [sic.], of the 7th East Surrey [Regiment], has been given the Military Medal for gallantry on the battlefield in France. We offer him our warmest congratulations, and are proud of home. William Coombs [sic.] is one of the four sons of Mr George Coombs [sic.] who are in the Army, and was one of the first to join up in August 1914. He has gained quite a reputation for shooting, and is one of the best marksmen in his Battalion.

In June 1918 it was noted that Private Coombes remained in France, and, in August 1918, that he was now a Brigade Sniper in the 9th East Surreys, having put in three years’ service at the Front. The author commented that, with a further three sons in the service, ‘the Coombs [sic.] family have certainly done their bit’.

The following month a correction was published, stating that in fact Mr and Mrs Coombes had five sons ‘in the Army’, not four as previously stated.

The five Coombes brothers were:

Frank Arthur, born 1892.

George, born 1895.

William Richard, born 1896.

Henry John, born 1898.

Arthur, born 1900.

Sources:

St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, December 1916, June 1918, August 1918, September 1918, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

A Wartime Romance – Staff Nurse Elsie Drabble and Private Cyril Lazarus

Woking Community Hospital in Heathside Road was opened in the 1990s, having been built on the site of Beechcroft Hospital – the geriatric wing of the old Woking Victoria Hospital, and prior to that a maternity unit. However, a framed collection of pictures in one of its corridors bears witness to an even earlier use during the Great War. Beechcroft was one of many large houses converted to deal with the casualties from the Western Front.

Handwritten note by Neville Langton about his mother, Staff Nurse Elsie Drabble. Photo courtesy of Neville Langton/Woking Community Hospital

A handwritten caption tells the story:–

“My mother was a nursing sister at Woking Hospital 1916-18, before being sent to Egypt. Some of her patients did some sketches for her. I thought the enclosed could be of some historical interest. My father was wounded in France and it was at Woking Hospital that they met. I have included a photo of my mother, who served with the South African Military Nursing Service”.

Elsie Drabble was born early in 1894 in Royston, Yorkshire. Her baptism took place on 3rd March of that year and she is recorded on the Census return for 1901 as living with her family in Millgate Street, Royston. She was the eldest child of Ada and James Drabble. Her father was a coal hewer. By 1911 Elsie was living in Sheffield and working as a nursemaid. She started training as nurse at Sheffield Royal Hospital on 19th November 1913 and by November 1916 was employed as a Staff Nurse. She also undertook holiday duties at the Jessop Hospital for Women in Sheffield.

On 5th September 1916 she applied to join the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) – giving her date of birth as 1891 although the reason for the discrepancy is unclear. The application includes details of her father’s occupation – “Colliery Official” – and address as 60 Central Drive, Shirebrook Nr. Mansfield.

Three days later Elsie was informed that she had been accepted, although she didn’t formally sign up until the 7th December 1916. She was deployed to Woking the following day and continued to work there until being given a new posting in Egypt on 19th October 1917. Amongst the many casualties that would have passed through Beechcroft Hospital during that time was the man she was eventually to marry, Cyril Lazarus.

Private Cyril Montefiore Lazarus. Photo courtesy of the British Jewry Book of Honour, 1914-1920

Cyril Montefiore Lazarus was born in Fiji in 1888 into a family that had moved from the East End of London to set up a business. By 1914 however the family was in South Africa and with the outbreak of the Great War he and his brothers joined the South African Regiment. Having been deployed to France in 1916 the regiment took part in the Somme offensive – most notably at Delville Wood where enormous losses were incurred – at Arras and the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917.

Cyril’s brother Joseph Barrett Lazarus of C Company, 2nd South African Regiment died on 15th May 1917 and is buried at the Willesden Jewish Cemetery. Given the date of his death and the location of his burial, he may have died in an English military hospital from wounds received at the Battle of Arras. Cyril served with distinction – The London Gazette of 22nd January 1917 carries a notice that Private C M Lazarus 7843 had been awarded the Military Medal although there are no details of the specific act of bravery. However Cyril himself was wounded during his military service and was transported to the Woking Military Hospital, where he met Staff Nurse Elsie Drabble. A number of years were to pass before they married as, like so many couples, they were parted by the demands of military service.

At the end of her war service on 4th February 1919, Elsie Drabble applied to resign her appointment from the Military Hospital, Helouan, Cairo. Her matron A L Wilson gave her a glowing reference “an excellent nurse – kind and attentive to the patients – most reliable and methodical in her work and has considerable administrative capacity”. She agreed to join the Reserves on demobilisation, which finally came on 6th June 1919. Elsie’s address on discharge was 39 Essenwood Road, Durban, South Africa – presumably she and Cyril were reunited once again.

The National Archive holds Elsie’s military records (TNA File ref WO 399_4779) and they paint a fascinating picture of her struggles with bureaucracy to be paid a war gratuity. Authority for payment of a war gratuity was submitted to the Paymaster General on 12th June 1919. However, the War Office correspondence states that no gratuity can be paid due to the relevant records having been destroyed (in fact all documents up to March 1920 in Egypt had been destroyed by Army Order). This decision was overturned, but only after a great deal of tenacious effort by Elsie to provide the necessary evidence. In 1926 the War Office correspondence finally confirming Elsie’s gratuity is addressed to Mrs. Elsie Lazarus, 8 Wexford Avenue, Westcliffe, Johannesburg.

Elsie and Cyril continued to live in Johannesburg, and she served once again as a nurse in WWII. At some point in the following years, the couple changed their surname from Lazarus to Langton. One of their children, Neville Langton supplied the photograph of Elsie in her South African Military Nursing Service uniform with the distinctive Springbok cap badge.

Sources:
TNA File ref WO 399_4779 records relating to Elsie Drabble.
Entry for Cyril M Lazarus in the British Jewry Book of Honour, 1914-1920.

Lance-Corporal Harry W Champion

The details provided about the wartime experiences of Lance-Corporal Harry W Champion by the St Andrew’s, Oxshott, parish magazine are brief but in many ways seem to typify those of other young men of this period.

Lance-Corporal Champion joined the East Surreys as a Private and on 1 June 1915 he entered service in France. The following year, in March 1916, the magazine reported that:

A large congregation gathered to witness the marriage of Mr Harry W Champion and Miss Emily E Simmonds on Monday, February 14th.  The choir were present and sang the service. The happy pair had only a short honeymoon, as Mr Champion had to return within the week to his military duties somewhere in France. We wish them every happiness. Amongst the many wedding presents were a case of silver spoons from the choir and a wristlet watch from the members of the Men’s Club.

Nothing more was recorded until July 1918, when the magazine advised that H W Champion, by now a Lance-Corporal, was still with the East Surreys and had completed three years’ continuous service in France.

Only a month later, in August 1918, parishioners were advised that Lance-Corporal Champion was in hospital with pneumonia, ‘but is going on well’. Unlike so many others, Harry was to survive the influenza pandemic. He was discharged from the army on 25 January 1919, and passed away in 1962 at the age of 75.

Sources:

St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, March 1916, July 1918, August 1918, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

 

Private Reginald Albert Thomas Carter

In October 1915 the death of Private Reginald Carter was recorded in the St Andrew’s parish magazine as follows:

We regret to have to record that Reginald Carter, A Company, 7th East Surrey Regiment, was killed in action in France. Reginald Carter was employed by the L & SWR [London and South Western Railway] Company at Oxshott Station before he enlisted at the beginning of the war. He was one of the first to come forward and offer his services to our country. Our deep sympathy goes out to his bereaved parents. RIP.

Sources:

St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, October 1915, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

Major Ralph Smith

This story is the result of an investigation of documents held by Surrey History Centre. The file (SHC ref. CC7/4/4, nos. 1-50) contains correspondence and insurance claims on behalf of Surrey County Council Education Department employees who had been killed in action during the Great War. The cases date from 1915 to 1918.

Case 15: Major Ralph Smith

Major Ralph Smith was born the second of four children, and the only son of Major and Ellen Smith. His father was a pastor of the Congregational Church in their local village earning a salary of £90 per year, most of which was used to pay for their family home. Nonetheless, his parents invested a great deal in Major’s future, sacrificing much at their own expense to ensure he would receive the best education possible and ultimately become a schoolmaster. Major spent three years as a pupil-teacher before attending Winchester Training College for two years. During this time, he relied on his parents’ financial support, as well as the small amount he had earned being a pupil teacher. Therefore, when he became a qualified teacher, Major did what he could in return for his parents, becoming a great financial help to his family by sending money home almost every month. Even after joining the army, Smith gave permission for his parents to use his money as sent by the Lingfield School of Managers. Whilst they did use some of his wages, Major’s parents also saved some money in the bank, in the hope of his return.

Unfortunately, Major Ralph Smith died as a result of his wounds on 19 July 1916. Although the events leading to his death are uncertain, a letter sent from Chaplain Hubert L. Simpson to Smith’s parents reveals the nature of his final few days, which he spent seemingly recovering in hospital. Simpson wrote of the conversations he shared with Major about teaching and religion, and his love for reading. The two prayed together, and Chaplain Simpson also read some of the Scriptures. Although breathing was difficult, Major did apparently not suffer much, and his parents were told to ‘have pride in his devotion and self-sacrifice […] Everybody was impressed by his quiet, brave, spirit, his gentleness and thoughtfulness.’ Smith is buried in the British cemetery of Mount Huon in Le Treport, France.

At the time of his death, Major’s older sister, Florence Nellie, was married and living away from home. The next sister, Winifred May, was 22 years old and working at Dyer and Son printers. Although she lived still lived at home, she relied on her own wages of 13/- per week. The youngest sister, Gladys Ellen, was the only child of Major and Ellen who was still dependent on her parents. Like her brother, Gladys pursued a role in teaching, spending a year working in Woking before being accepted to study at Goldsmith’s College. This was something which had pleased her brother Major and he had wanted to support her financially. Although his official will left all property, effects and money to their father, some of the money which had been saved in the bank was then used to support Gladys through her education and training. Major and Ellen Smith wrote that they had ‘no regrets about the expenses or sacrifices’ for their son: ‘he was worthy of it’.

2nd Volunteer Battalion Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, No. 15 Platoon, Oxshott Section.

In the wake of the Armistice the previous month, the December 1918 edition of the St Andrew’s, Oxshott, parish magazine included a summary of the wartime work of the Oxshott Section of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, No. 15 Platoon.  The readers were advised that:

Oxshott was not behindhand in the matter of Volunteering in the early days of the War, and it was in August 1914, that a civilian Reserve Corps was founded with a strength of some sixty or seventy members, but for many reasons Volunteer Corps were not encouraged in those early days.

In October, 1917, it was decided to form a section to be attached to the County Volunteer Regiment.

Sergeant Osman who was at that time attached to the Cobham Platoon was made available, and under his guidance a good start was made. The first year was completed on October 31st, and the results are here summarised:-

31 men joined up.

6 men since called to the regular army.

2 men of ‘D’ class resigned.

1 man discharged medically unfit.

Drills have been held three times a week and the attendance on the whole has been very satisfactory. Sergeant Osman himself has put in 302 drills, Corporal Harding and Corporal Tearle 197 and 192 respectively, Private Harris 223, Private Wilson 198. Evening drills were held at St Andrew’s Hall, but on Saturdays and Sundays exercises were carried out on the Cricket Ground at Mr Gwynne’s or on Oxshott Common. The Section has also attended parades away from home, at Cobham, Leatherhead, Betchworth, Dorking, Redhill, etc.

All the men, with four exceptions, have passed their musketry course at Westcott Range, Private C P Wilson (of Sandroyds) making top score for the whole of ‘D’ Company.

On Sunday October 20th, the Section attended the Annual Parade, which took place on Earlswood Common, when the Surrey and Sussex Volunteer Regiments were inspected by [Lieutenant-General] Sir [Charles] Woolcombe. Over 5,000 men were present with [The Army Service Corps], [The Royal Army Medical Corps], and motor transport sections, and the whole display was valuable evidence of the military strength which can be raised by collecting together sections, platoons and battalions from the scattered villages and towns of these two counties.

The Oxshott Section were tested for efficiency on October 27th by Major-General Tulloch, and were passed in Squad Drill, Extended Order Drill, Bayonet Fighting and Musketry.

The Rifle Range, which was constructed in 1914 for the original Civilian Guard, has been put into thorough repair during the year and has proved to be very useful.

Now that the Armistice is signed and a settled peace is in sight, we may expect that the Volunteer Regiments will in due course be disbanded. The emergency, for which at first they voluntarily assembled, and afterwards were listed under Government guidance, has passed away, but it will always be a satisfaction to know that although the military age was raised to 50 and all available men called up, there still remained a large number of men in civil employment who not being equal to the calls of the Army, were ready to give up their spare time to be trained as soldiers for use in the Country’s hour of need, all honour to the Oxshott men who proved themselves ready to play their part.

Sources:

St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, and St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, December 1918, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

Stoke D’Abernon – 1919

St Mary’s Church, Stoke D’Abernon and St Andrew’s Church, Oxshott.

From January 1919 the parishioners of St Mary’s were concerned with ‘how best [they could] commemorate the names of those connected with the Parish who [had] made the supreme sacrifice in the Great War’. In Stoke D’Abernon the general desire expressed was for a Crucifix in the Church-yard, with an inscription and the names of those who had laid down their lives. They also hoped to ‘acquire a war trophy in the shape of a gun or Howitzer, to be placed in the Recreation Ground, with an inscription’, but had been advised this might be difficult, if not impossible.

A concert was given to raise funds for the Red Cross, with a final total of £15 4s.0d. given over as a result. The same concert was then repeated at the Schiff Home in the evening.

In Oxshott, the War Workroom was closed for the final time on Friday, December 13th, after three and a half years of activity, during which upwards of 5,826 garments and bandages were made. It was also reported that the Guild’s Headquarters had requested that garments were made with the utmost urgency for despatch to the ‘women and children in the devastated areas of France and Belgium, and Mr Northcott [had] most generously undertaken… to have the work carried out immediately and free of cost, by his own workpeople’, using the considerable quantity of material still on hand. In all Mr Northcott made 111 pairs of pyjamas, 63 vests, 63 pants, 16 nightshirts, 222 petticoats, 96 chemises, 48 combinations, and 9 bed jackets. Special letters of thanks were received in February, for the ‘beautifully made’ and ‘urgently needed’ garments, from Mrs Gibson, C.B.E, Honorary General Manager of the Guild. The news that the depot had closed led Mrs Gibson to be ‘specially commanded by [Princess Beatrice] to thank [them] for the loyal and faithful service [they had] rendered to the great cause’.

In July it was reported that:

the following members had earned the 1916-17-18 Bars and Badge by 75 per cent. Attendance:- Mrs. Northcott, Mrs. Burgoyne, Mrs. Humbert, Miss. Grey, Miss. Thomson, Mrs. Read, Miss. Bryant, and for 1916-7, Mrs. Mason. The following members earned the Princess Beatrice Badge for general good work and attendance:- Mrs. Northcott, Mrs. Burgoyne, Mrs. Humbert, Miss. Grey, Miss. Thomson, Mrs. Read, Miss. Bryant, Mrs. Alfred Williams, Mrs. Boxhall, Mrs. Shadbolt. The parishioners will be proud of these women, and especially of Mrs. Northcott and Mrs. Byrgoyne, upon whom the whole work of organising the branch was thrown.’

Demobilisation also brought its challenges, and in February Mr Matthews found it necessary to resign as organist of St Mary’s due to the pressure of work associated with the standing down of the armed forces.

By March 1919, a temporary War Memorial had been erected in Stoke D’Abernon and £222 had been promised or received for a permanent one. By April, a site had been chosen on the South Side of the Church, between the Porch and Vestry, and the amount subscribed or promised had increased to £288 11s. 1d. In May it was reported that this had increased further to £291 5s. 1d. and an estimate had been obtained from Messrs Mowbray and Company, for executing the work. They had been unable to get a satisfying work in bronze and were still to obtain a separate estimate for the inscription and names that were to be placed in the old South doorway.

In Oxshott, after ‘ years [of] groping our way about with the aid of lanterns’, they welcomed the relighting of the lamps at night as an ‘outward visible sign that the War [was] really over’. The author believed it to be ‘much to the credit of the youth of Oxshott, that the lamp posts and gas mantles, though untended for four years, all remain intact’!

There was also the news that there was a ‘very serious deficit on the Parish Magazine Account, due to the enormously increased cost of paper and printing during the War’. Based on one page per month, there was a total deficit of £4 3s. 5d., but, as Reverend Hole reported, there had been so much ‘extra matter’ of interest to report ‘that they simply could not keep within our single page’, and so this left Oxshott with a deficit of £9 16s. 9d. in total. To that end an appeal was made, in both Stoke D’Abernon and Oxshott, for special subscriptions to assist in meeting the shortfall. By the following month the full sum had been subscribed.

On 12th April 1919, a supper was held at St Andrew’s Hall, by the Residents of the parish, to welcome home those who had returned from war. There were 60 guests in total. The following month, on 4th May 1919 a Memorial Service was to be held for those who had fallen, at which the buglers of the East Surrey Regiment were to attend and play the Last Post.

For one parishioner the entire war was to pass them by, until its conclusion. In September 1919 parishioners of St Mary’s were notified that ‘a link with the past [had] been severed’ with the death of Miss Charlotte Friday, in her 101st year. Miss Friday had been in service locally from 1846, until her retirement a few years previously, and it was reported that ‘she was never informed about the Great War until the Armistice, it being feared that the shock would hasten her end’.

Obviously, the after effects of the Great War on the parishes of St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, and St Andrew’s Oxshott, did not simply fade away. Yet throughout 1919, although the magazines record continuing discussions with regards to War Memorials, apart from occasional appeals on behalf of the Schiff Home for Recovery and the Lord Roberts’ Memorial Fund, little else is mentioned about the continuing privations, about the men who returned, or the impact of their return on those who had remained behind. It seems fitting then, to conclude an account of war-time life in the two villages with this expansive account of the Peace Celebrations that took place in Stoke D’Abernon, in July 1919.

‘Peace Celebrations.’

The Rector was away from home at Worthing on a brief holiday when he heard on authority that Sunday, July 6th, had been fixed as the day of National Thanksgiving for Peace. It was right that there should be no undue delay in the giving of thanks. There was no opportunity of announcing the service even the Sunday before – but the Special Thanksgiving Services were duly printed in time – the people readily grasped the significance of the event – and it was evident by the attendance that gratitude to God for the blessing of Peace was manifest.

Time seemed to be short to make due preparations for the official Peace celebrations on Saturday, July 19th, but our local committee, under the efficient leadership of Colonel Gore as [honorary] secretary, worked wonders. What more natural than that we should wish to entertain the men who have fought so gallantly and done so much for the winning of Victory and Peace? Thirty-four in all sat down to dinner at the Village Room on Wednesday, July 16th, a day to be remembered. Anything more complete in arrangement could hardly be imagined. The profuse decoration of flags, the flowers in profusion, the dainty menu and commemorative menu cards, the ladies of the parish waiting on the men, made a striking scene which we are not likely to forget nor shall we easily forget the moving words spoken by Colonel Bowen-Buscarlet in welcoming the men home and urging us to a true spirit of patriotism and the building up of a better England. Colonel Gore replied in the name of the men and gave a vivid picture of the spirit that animated our men to rally from the furthest corners of the Empire to take their place in the fight for justice and freedom. The Rector then asked all to stand as he read out the names of those from the parish who have made the supreme sacrifice, and who on this day we especially wish to remember, and who through the years of war have always been remembered in our Prayers.

The dinner was followed by a concert and also a clever conjuring entertainment. So many have taken their share in doing their best to honour the men whom we welcome back home that it is invidious to mention names. Enough that each and all have done their best, and that success has rewarded their efforts.

The programme for the 19th was not less complete. It was altogether fitting that it should open with a Service of Thanksgiving in the Recreation Ground. This service was suggested by the Committee before the Rector returned home. A shower of rain gave a hint of what might follow, but it cleared for the time being and a representative gathering of parishioners assembled, to take part in the service. A cricket match, Military [versus] Civilians, resulted, as might be expected, in a win for the former. The Army put up a score of 132 and the Civilians did quite well in making 66 in reply.

Meanwhile there were great counter-attractions in the sports ground. Mr. and Mrs. Harrison placed their grounds at Stoke Lodge at our disposal, and were indefatigable in organising and carrying through a lengthy programme. Great ingenuity was shewn (sic.) in inventing a great variety of races, and the events included a “boat race,” wheelbarrow races, a tug of war, and an infinite variety of flat races for children; we understand that about 150 prizes were given and the children and the grown-ups altogether had a day to be remembered.

We must not forget the tea arrangements. This was typical of the way things were carried ut. The children first had their turn, but beforehand everybody had done their part in making or supplying the most dainty confections for the occasion, with the result that never was there such a tea arranged before in the history of the Parish. During the afternoon about 230 sat down to tea, and all was so well arranged that there was no crowding and no shortage of supplies.

In the evening there were fireworks and a grand illumination of the recreation ground, an impromptu concert, followed by dancing, which was kept up to a late hour. As the day waned the weather grew worse; but we are thankful that the greater part of the programme was carried through without let or hindrance and that we were spared the really heavy rain of the Sunday following.’

Sources:

St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, and St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, January to December 1919, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

Stoke D’Abernon – 1918

St Mary’s Church, Stoke D’Abernon and St Andrew’s Church, Oxshott

In January 1918, at the start of what was to be the final year of conflict, the parishes of St Mary’s and St Andrew’s were taken up with the question of how to ensure that all children, particularly those who do not attend Church Schools, were to be in receipt of a religious education that was acceptable to all denominations. In the meantime, the women of the Mothers’ Union were concerned to ensure that Parliament were made aware of their resolutions against the proposed Matrimonial Causes Act of the Marriage Law Reform Bill. The ongoing war, by contrast, was given very little attention in the early months of the year, with the exception of a report on the ‘powerful and influential Committee [that] has been formed at Guildford to collect funds for providing food and comforts for the Prisoners-of-War in Germany of our two Surrey County Regiments’. The Committee had called upon the Parish Councils of Surrey to appeal to residents, which, in Stoke D’Abernon, had resulted in the remittance of ‘a very substantial sum’.

In March 1918 it was recorded that the Rector of St Mary’s had received many letters of thanks from the men at the Front for the Christmas parcels that they had received from the parish. These had been sent as far as Mesopotamia, the West Indies and Egypt. In Oxshott it was reported that in January, the fact of rising railway fares to London, the parish of St Andrew’s had put on their own Pantomime, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, to a sold out audience and rave reviews.

With the advent of rationing, on March 11th, ‘The Pudding Lady’, Miss Florence Petty, of the National Food Reform Association was to give a lecture on War Cooking, accompanied by live practical demonstrations. Parishioners were invited to ‘come and learn how to be happy though rationed’. In the following two months Miss Petty was to give four demonstration lectures, which were well received by those in attendance, although the attendance ‘was not so large as [they] would have liked’. It was recorded, however, that Miss Petty managed to sell a number of her own recipe books and it was hoped that she would return to give more lectures if the parish could raise sufficient funds to pay expenses.

April 1918 in Stoke D’Abernon saw a visit from Reverend Skene, on furlough from Palestine. Meanwhile, in Oxshott, there was a report on the work of the ‘Surrey Regiments Prisoners of War Relief Fund’. Advising readers that the shocking sum of £50,000 per annum was required, in order to provide relief for those men of the Surrey Regiments who are being held prisoner in Germany, the author offers an insight into ideas and attitudes of the time, asserting that:

It is of course a scandal that any money at all should be required for the purpose, and when we reflect upon the way in which Germany prisoners are treated in this country we may well be filled with righteous indignation. But we have got used to the ways of the gentle Hun by this time and are well aware that he is not bound by any of the humane obligations recognized by civilised foes. All we can do at present is to try and alleviate the sufferings of our brave soldiers…

To this end, a Flag Day was to be held, as well as a House to House Collection, on Saturday, April 27th. It was later reported that the sum of £114 16s. 0d.was collected.

In May 1918 a desire was expressed that the St Andrew’s parish magazine ‘should be made more interesting and should contain more personal items of news about members of the parish and congregation now serving with the Army and Navy’. Mr Hole offered to receive any items of information and edit them for the magazine, and the following month saw the inclusion of ‘Our Oxshott Men’.

It was also reported that, although the Surrey Branch of the British Red Cross Society had previously refrained from making a special appeal for funds, they would be unable to continue their work beyond the Spring without money to meet their future needs. To that end, there was to be another House-to House collection in Oxshott on Tuesday, May 21st. It was later reported that the sum of £90 7s. 0d. was collected.

In June 1918, it was recorded that Reverend J J Corryton, Chaplain at Rotterdam, had come to Stoke D’Abernon to preach on behalf of the Missions to Seamen. Mr Corryton, it was reported, had worked among interned prisoners of war, as well as those returning to England via Rotterdam.

There was also the sad news that Mr and Mrs Pullen had lost a second son, Leonard, who had been killed by a shell on the Western front.

In Oxshott, there had been a letter from Reverend Skene, dated 13th April, 1918, who was sailing for the Egypt the day after writing, and the news that Miss Verrey was to start a Waste Paper Depot at ‘The Warren’. The boys of the Woodwork Class were to collect full sacks of waste paper and these would be sold by the Church Army for munitions, in order to raise funds to replace their huts which had been lost in France that year.

In July 1918 Mr Comyn Platt was to give a lecture on ‘Germany’s War Aims’ in Stoke D’Abernon. The lecture was well attended, particularly ‘considering most are engaged with outdoor work at this time of year’, and proved to be ‘very interesting’ and, the author noted, ‘there [were] hopeful signs that [Germany’s] power to carry [their aims] out may be shattered’.

The magazine also recorded that a Fete held at the Manor House the previous month, in aid of the Surrey Red Cross, had been a great success, aided by the ideal weather. There had been boating, children’s games, clock golf, and bowls, as guests picnicked to the backdrop of an orchestra which played all afternoon, while ‘others came to supply the music for dancing on the lawn in the evening’. Entertainment also came in the form of a children’s tableaux, Mr Morrish  had told amusing stories, also, less successfully, conducted an American auction! In all, approximately 1,200 people had attended and, combined with a Whist Drive the previous week, the sum of £70 had been raised.

On a less idyllic note, it was reported that Captain Wilfrid Brownlow had been killed in action.

In Oxshott there was another letter from the Vicar, who had returned safely, to his unit in Ephraim.

The August 1918 issue of the St Mary’s Parish Magazine recorded that, thanks to the kindness of the King of Spain who had made enquiries through his ambassador at Berlin, Mrs Albert Gilbert had been advised that her husband, a prisoner of war, was still alive, despite previous reports to the contrary. It is not clear exactly how the King of Spain came to be involved in Ada’s search for news of her husband. Sadly, the following month, it was recorded that she had passed away after a brief illness, at the age of 25, remaining convinced that her husband ‘had passed beyond the veil, and [seeming] happy in the thought of meeting him there’. Ada was proved to be correct, Private Gilbert had died on 28 November 1917.

An appeal was made by the Matron of the Schiff Home, ‘for old tennis balls, croquet mallets, and some putters for clock golf’, and it was also recorded that Mrs Halliday had promised ‘to give her grand piano for the use of the Home’.

In Oxshott, there was an appeal for ‘men who can drive motor cars’, who were wanted by their King and Country. An accompanying article, on the ‘Surrey A.S.C. Motor Transport Volunteers’, explained how they could be of use, in the face of fears about a threatened invasion:

On the 30th June the first parade of the Surrey A.S.C. Motor Transport Volunteers, No. 1 Company, Section 3, took place. This section embraces Leatherhead, Bookham, East and West Horsley, Cobham and Oxshott.

The Convoy was under the command of its Section O.C., Lieutenant C. S Gordon Clark, who is to be congratulated on its inception. Some 20 Lorries and Vans assembled at Stoke D’Abernon, and were inspected by the Corps Commanding Officer, Major George W Rutter, who complimented the Section upon the efficiency displayed.

The Convoy then proceeded to their Headquarters at Leatherhead.

Thanks is due to the various owners of the lorries and vans who provided petrol for the occasion.

It is interesting to note that No. 3 Section has the honour to be the first in the County to participate in a Road Convoy practice.

I am asked to state that the… Company… still has several vacancies for Second Drivers, the qualification for enrolment being the ability to drive a Motor Car, Van or Lorry.

The Section is most anxious to reach full strength at the earliest possible date in case of threatened invasion of this country, it being essential in that event that a sufficient number of motor vehicles and drivers are available.

In the Volunteer Motor Transport Corps only three drills or lectures per month are obligatory, with an addition of one drill per month until the recruit is passed as efficient. The lectures arrange comprise map reading, convoy practice and mechanical repairs, which are, of course, interesting and instructive.

Second-Lieutenant G C Griffiths, The Red House, Oxshott, will be glad to enrol men wishing to join, and, if necessary, will be pleased to furnish any further particulars.

There was also a further appeal on behalf of the Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild’s War Hospital Supply Depot. Materials were increasing in price daily and so they had been advised to make large purchases and were looking for funds to support this. It was reported that:

Materials, for which in 1915 we paid 6 ¾d. a yard, now cost 1/4 ½d. a yard direct from the manufacturers. We have recently secured 2276 yards of material at a cost of £120 14s. 9d., and to meet this expenditure is a balance of £30 9s. 11d.

There was another letter from Reverend Skene, in September 1918, who was effusive about his most enjoyable day of cricket on the Mount of Olives.

Returning to the Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild, in October 1918, it was recorded that, due to the difficulty of heating the hall, the Oxshott War Work Room was to open two full days a week, on Thursday and Fridays, instead of four half-days. There was also an urgent call for workers as ‘attendance lately [had] been very poor’. As they read of the ‘progress that was being made on all the fronts’, the author reminded readers ‘that every victory entails a terrible number of casualties and there was never a time when the military hospitals stood in greater need of help’.

It was also recorded that the Sister in Charge of the Schiff Home had written to express their thanks for the proceeds of the Harvest Festival the previous month. She reported that, when asked ‘Now Boys, which do you prefer, an apple all round or apple puddings?’, she was greeted with a chorus of ‘Apple dumplings, please, Sister, like mother makes’.

In November 1918 there was news from Reverend Skene, once again. This time, it was of the hard fighting that he had seen in Palestine.

As the magazines were sent early for publication, it was December 1918 before the news of, and reactions to, The Armistice were recorded.

The St Mary’s parish magazine published ‘Our Bishop’s Letter’. The Bishop wrote:

My dear People,

Gladness deep, joyous, solemn, is in all our hearts. We enjoy, and shall enjoy, the removal one by one, and little by little, of restrictions, patiently borne but not a little irksome, and the coming back one by one of little conveniences, and opportunities, and interests and enjoyments. But the gladness is a great deal deeper down than all this. It is the gladness of relief from menace of danger, from the dread of the daily entries on the Roll of Honour, from the threat to our very life and freedom as a nation, from a darkness which overhung the life and future of the world, from a triumph of the wrong.

Such gladness nothing can impair; but with it there blend in solemn unison the memories of those who do not share it with us here, but won it for us by their bravery and their deaths. Their sacrifices find a new glory in the light of victory. It is comfort of the best sort that those sacrifices were not offered in vain. They give back to victory what they borrow from it, of lofty and solemn meaning. Benediction has come to us through them. It has been an added happiness that the nation has received so finely the great gift with great gladness but soberly and in the fear of God. The ever memorable adjournment of the Houses of Parliament in order to cross over to St. Margaret’s, and the King and Queen’s impromptu visit to St. Paul’s, were but the expression in the highest places of what crammed our own great Cathedral and the Church everywhere with the crowds who felt by a common instinct that joy can only speak with its fullest voice in praise to God.

Victory, like war, has taught us out of our own hearts its lesson of faith, and instance after instance comes to us of the way in which this has found spontaneous expression from multitudes and individuals’.

A ‘memorable service’ was been held in the Church on Tuesday, November 12th, which was full ‘with the briefest notice given’, and again on Thanksgiving Sunday, which the author took ‘as testimony that our thanks are due to God and that all recognise the over-ruling hand of God’s Providence in the ordering of events’. A meeting had been fixed for 4th December, at which they were to consider how best to create a Memorial for those who had given their lives.

Alongside the celebration and commemorations, the usual appeals of war-time continued as The Schiff Home called for old linen and a Bath Chair.

In Oxshott, there was a call for contributions to the ‘Lord Roberts’ Memorial Fund’, in recognition that the consequences of ‘the greatest war of history’ were not a thing of the past. The author reminded readers ‘we have a duty to the living – those who have been maimed and broken in their country’s service. To them, indeed, we owe a debt which we can never fully discharge – but we can do our best to relieve their sufferings and promote their welfare’. Households were asked to make collections at Christmas dinner and individuals were asked, ‘at this time of festivity and rejoicing’ to open their hearts ‘to the claims of those through whose sufferings we are enabled to enjoy the blessing of a Merry Christmas’.

There was also the news that ‘Our Day’ had seen £133 15s. collected for the British Red Cross Society, which had beaten all former records, and that Miss James of the Stoke D’Abernon branch of the Girls Friendly Society ‘had the honour of presenting a purse of £6 6s.to Her Royal Highness Princess Mary on behalf of [the] branch’, contributing towards approximately £5,000 that had been raised overall for the Society’s War Emergency Fund.

Lastly, as the war drew towards its conclusion, and people began to look forwards towards the safe return of their loved ones, the magazines recorded the death of Frederick Coombs, John Samuel Harding, Frederick Skelton, and offered a glimpse of the sorrow that was to come with the death of Mrs Wilson, of Sandroyd, ‘from the prevailing epidemic of influenza’.

Sources:

St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, and St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, January to December 1918, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.