Stoke D’Abernon – 1917

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

At the start of what was to be the third full year of conflict, the January 1917 editions of the magazine were to continue in a similar vein, with their mix of ‘business as usual’ such as arrangements for the altar flowers, interspersed with news of the war effort from both home and abroad.

In Stoke D’Abernon there was the news that Mr C F Waters, praised for his work with the choir the previous year, had been called up for war and was expected to enlist in the Artists Rifles. The choir were to present him with wrist-watch. Meanwhile in Oxshott, the vicar, Reverend F Norman Skene, had been appointed to the Temporary Army Chaplaincy and hoped to embark for Salonika early in January, for a period of twelve months. In the meantime he was to be replaced by Reverend Charles Donald Hole. Reverend Skene was not to return to the parish on a permanent basis until 1 May 1919 but throughout his absence the magazine kept parishioners appraised, with both first and second-hand accounts, of his whereabouts and experiences. Lastly, there was the news that Captain E C Fox-Male had gained the Military Cross for his actions whilst in command of a machine gun section during the Mesopotamia Campaign.

In Oxshott an appeal for more women workers was made on behalf of the Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild, Oxshott Depot, War Work Room. In addition, with hope that it would be more convenient for some, the hours of the Work Room were altered so that it opened for work on Monday and Thursday mornings and Tuesday and Friday afternoons.

February 1917 saw the news that Prime Minister David Lloyd George had called for a National Lent. In ‘this third year of war [which] will be the severest test of our fortitude and determination’, the author was certain that ‘the Country will be ready to respond to every call to self-discipline that may be made on us’ as, with ‘God helping us, we face the future with hope, convinced of the justice of our cause, and that victory may yet crown our efforts and our Allies during 1917’.

In Oxshott, there was news both from the vicar and his replacement. As if to reinforce the temporary nature of the vicar’s absence, Reverend Skene was re-elected president of the Basil Ellis Nursing Association, while Reverend Hole was elected to the committee.

Mrs Burgoyne appealed, once again, for new laid eggs to be sent to the wounded at Hospitals at home and abroad, and it was announced that the Vicar’s Christmas appeal for the ‘Lord Roberts Memorial Fund, for Workshops for Disabled Soldiers and Sailors’ had resulted in contributions totalling £15 3s.

On a positive note, it was reported that ‘an excellent Entertainment got up by some very young members of our circle’, in the form of a play “Domestic Economy”, had ‘brightened up the dullness of the sombre “War” winter’. £12 6s. had been raised from ticket sales, which was to be forwarded to St Dunstan’s Home for Blinded Soldiers.

In March 1917 an urgent appeal was made for readers to collect the Sphagnum Moss growing by Black Pond at Oxshott, which had ‘wonderful healing properties and [was] used for dressing wounds in place of cotton wool’. There was also a report on the Red Cross Work in Stoke D’Abernon.

In Stoke D’Abernon, the Scheme for National Service saw the Rector, Reverend Blackburne, who had already offered himself as Chaplain to the Forces, now offer himself for other forms of service under the new Scheme, to be administered by the Bishops, in co-operation with the Director-General of National Service. The Reverend G Remfrey Brookes had offered to take charge of the parish in order to free the Rector up to take up special war work, wherever most wanted. However, this was subject to the Bishop’s approval and the uncertainty led to readers being advised to be ‘prepared, at any moment, to abandon plans to meet the more urgent calls for National Service’.

Parishioners from St Andrew’s were advised that the vicar had arrived safely at Salonica and there was an update on the Oxshott War Savings Association was provided.

April 1917 saw the curtailment of space in the magazines due to increased printing costs. However, there was further news of Reverend Skene in Salonika and an update on the plans of Reverend Blackburne, who was to become Chaplain Superintendent for the Church Army Recreation huts in France, while Reverend Brooks took charge of the parish and acted as chaplain at the Schiff Home of Recovery in his absence. In the following months it was reported that Reverend Blackburne would be trained for Church Army Hut work at Inkermann Barracks, Woking, before proceeding to France, however, he found this very arduous and the strain of the work ‘told upon his health’. As a result he was quickly declared ‘quite unfit to continue this work’ and, by July 1917, after ‘rest and normal conditions of life’, he was strong enough to return to the Parish and take up his work as Rector once again.

As food shortages worsened, in June 1917 it was reported that Mr J W Harris, who was Gardener to Neville Gwynne of Bevendean, Oxshott, had been ‘placed on the panel by the Royal Horticultural Society and National Food Supply, to give assistance and advice to Cottagers and Allotment Holders in the immediate locality. The government had been promoting a scheme of voluntary rationing since February 1917 and on June 6th there was to be a meeting in St Andrew’s Hall at which Miss Chamberlain was to ‘give an address upon the Food Crisis, and… tell us how all classes, rich and poor alike, must ration themselves in order to avoid compulsion’.

The Oxshott War Working Party made a further appeal for workers as attendance had fallen off, despite the fact that ‘the greatest “Push” (was) now in progress, and assistance (was) required more than ever’.

On Friday 6th and Saturday 7th July a performance of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was to be given by the pupils of Uplands School in aid of the Red Cross Hospitals. Tickets were to be charged at 5/3 and 2/8 seated, standing room at 1/2 and Teas at 1s. In addition unreserved seats were to be offered for the dress rehearsal at the cost of 1/- or 6d.

July 2017 saw the advent of the first ‘National Baby Week’. Readers of the St Andrew’s parish magazine were informed that its objects were:

(1) to arouse the sense of racial responsibility in every citizen, in order to secure to every child born in the United Kingdom a birthright of mental and bodily health.

(2) to inform the public generally as to what is now being done for young children and mothers by voluntary, agencies, Local Authorities and the State.

(3) To show what could be done if every citizen shouldered his or her responsibility.

Over a hundred people had gathered at Willoughbys in Oxshott, to listen to an address from Mrs Salmon on the subject, who in turn had attended a Mass Meeting at Guildford the day prior. Attendees were advised that a large proportion of infant mortality was due to preventable diseases and that in a country village like Oxshott it was important to take advantage of the fresh air, keeping houses well ventilated, and of the fact that milk was supplied direct from farms, avoiding processes that could be ‘injurious to its purity’. While mother’s milk was best, it was asserted, when it was unavailable fresh cow’s milk was on of the best substitutes, but it was necessary to keep it, and food, protected from flies and dust. Infant welfare centres were being started throughout the country for mothers to ‘get advice and help from doctors and nurses for herself as well as how to feed, clothe and look after children’, recognising that, for children to thrive, mother’s must be taken care of.

Eugenic thinking clearly underpinned this concern as, in order to halt the ‘damage to the whole race’ that resulted from high infant mortality, citizens were asked to pledge to ‘enquire into the conditions which were responsible for this loss to the nation and undertake to use their influence to secure improved housing and sanitation, together with adequate provision for the care of maternity and infancy in their own districts’.

A collection was made which amounted to over £14 and a resident also offered to pay for twelve mothers to attend the Mothercraft Exhibition that was to take place in London the following Friday.

August 1917 saw commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the Declaration of War, and in Stoke D’Abernon the meeting of the Church Council considered, amongst other things, the notion of a War Memorial. However, it was considered best to postpone discussions to a later date.

In Oxshott parishioners had collected £64 16s. for ‘France’s Day’, which had taken place on July 14th, and an exhibition of toys made by the boys of the Oxshott Wood-carving Class had raised the sum of £1 12s. for the ‘Lord Roberts’ Memorial Fund’.

September 1917 brought news of the losses of Corporal Archie Skilton and Private William Weller, and, in October 1917, that of Private John William Coles.

In Oxshott, readers were advised that the fruit, flowers, and vegetables supplied for the Harvest Thanksgiving, held the previous month, had been distributed between the Sailors of the Fleet and the Wounded Soldiers in the Heywood Hospital at Cobham. However, some of the fruit had also been sent to sick people in their own parish. In addition, on the first anniversary of its inception, there was an update on The War Savings Association.

In November 1917 St Mary’s parishioners were advised that collections in the parish on ‘Our Day’, in aid of The British Red Cross and St. John’s Ambulance, had amounted to £13 15s, while in Oxshott £102 4s. 6d. had been collected. Meanwhile, at the St Mary’s Harvest Festival there had been ‘a profusion of gifts of corn and fruit, and eggs for the National Collection’, which had been sent to ‘our gallant sailors and to the Chobham Cottage Hospital’. In addition the mistresses and girls of Leatherhead Court had given £1 16s. 8d. for the purchase of eggs for the soldiers’. The pulpit for the service was supposed to have been occupied by Canon Gardiner, of Holy Trinity, Folkestone, but he was prevented from attending at the last moment due to ‘war emergencies’.

There was also the good news that Miss Gertrude E Blackburne, the Rector’s sister, had finally returned home after her internment in German East Africa, ‘in good health, having mercifully escaped also the dangers from submarine attack’. Miss Blackburne later gave an account of her experiences to a village room that ‘was crowded to its utmost limit’, and the sum of £5 7s.d. was raised for the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa.

As the ‘National Food Supply’ became a matter of increasing concern, a public meeting was to be held in the Church Hall at Oxshott, on November 15th, ‘with a view to forming an Allotment Association’. At the meeting Mr Harris was to exhibit ‘100 varieties of fruit and vegetables which he will briefly describe and… explain the processes of cropping and intercropping’.

On a more sombre note there was news of the losses of Rudolph Martin and Ernest Pullen, as well as further information about the circumstances of Private William Coles passing. On the evening of November 4th a Memorial Service was to be held at St Mary’s, for those from the parish who had fallen. In Oxshott, ‘commemoration of the Faithful Departed with special reference to those who have fallen in the war’ was to be made at most of the week-day celebrations at St Andrew’s, throughout the month of November.

The problems of food supply were again addressed in both magazines in December 1917. In Stoke D’Abernon the magazine outlined ‘recommendations’ of ‘The Economy Campaign’:

The position of the food supply is such that the utmost economy in the use of all kinds of food must be practised by every adult in the kingdom, especially in staple foods: bread, flour, cereals, meat, margarine, lard and sugar. The weekly bread rations per head mentioned in the following table should on no account be exceeded:-


Heavy work, 8lb.

Ordinary Industrial work, 7lb.

Unoccupied or sedentary work, 4lb. 8oz.


Heavy work, 5lb.

Industrial or domestic work, 4lb.

Sedentary work, 3lb. 8ozs.

Other staple foods for both sexes:-

Cereals, 12ozs.

Meat, 2lbs.

Butter, margarine, lard, oil, fats, 10oz.

Sugar, 8oz.

A National League of Safety has been formed and all who are prepared to sign the following may join: “I realise that economy in the use of all food and the checking of al waste helps my country to complete victory, and I promise to do all in my power to assist this campaign for national safety.” A certificate of good citizenship is given to all who join.

In Oxshott it was reported that November’s meeting, at which Mr J L Peters had ‘urged very strongly the national importance of increasing the home-grown food supply’, had been well attended. Mr Harris had given a lecture on cottage gardening and attendees were invited to join the proposed Allotments Assocation, for which Mr Harris had consented to act as Honorary Secretary.

An appeal had been made for parishioners to help the Rector and Churchwardens send a Christmas welcome parcel to men from the parish who were serving at the front. It was reported that the response had been so good they were able to send a gift to men serving at home as well, and, all in all, about thirty parcels were to be despatched.

As the year began with the news that Mr C F Waters of Stoke D’Abernon had been called up, it was to end with the news that he had been wounded in his right hand and was in hospital in Streatham.

Lastly, approximately one third of the St Andrew’s magazine was taken up by a long letter from the vicar, Reverend Skene, full of news of his experiences in the desert, including his belief that ‘there are indications in the splendid news from most of the battle fronts that the end may be in sight’, although ‘we cannot tell when that much to be hoped for event will come’. Despite the caveat, this must have been very welcome news for his parishioners, as the third full year of war-time drew to a close.


St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, and St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, January to December 1917, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

The Reverend Frederick Norman Skene, Vicar of St Andrew’s Oxshott 1913-1921

Frederick Norman Skene, the fifth of seven children, was born on 21st January 1878 in Merrion, Dublin, to Samuel Slinn Skeen, a clergyman, and his wife Charlotte Warren Seen. By 1891 the family had moved to Myrton upon Swale in Yorkshire, where his father was the vicar. Frederick attended Ripon Grammar School before being admitted to St John’s College, Cambridge, on 1st September 1896, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in 1900 and Master of Arts in 1912. He was an Assistant Master at Spondon House School in Derby from 1899 to 1901, and was then ordained in Lincoln, first as a Deacon in 1901 and then a Priest in 1903.

From 1901-1903 Frederick was a Curate in Grantham, Lincolnshire, and in 1902 he married Clara Maude Lilly who was born in Kensington, London, on 9th January 1862, to Oliver Morgan Lilly and Celia Parsons Lilly. The couple were married in Prescott, Lancashire.

Frederick and Clara moved to the Cowes on the Isle of Wight, where he was Curate at St Mary’s from 1904-1906, and, on 3rd May 1906, they had a daughter, Sarah Olive Norman Skene. In 1906 Frederick took up the post of Curate at St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon where he remained until 1913, when he was appointed Vicar of Oxshott. He remained in Oxshott until 1921, before becoming Rector of Albury with Chilworth from 1921-1929, as well as Honorary Canon of Guildford in 1928. From 1929-1951 he was Vicar of Banstead, as well Rural Dean of Epsom in 1938. Clara died on 10th March 1949, at which point the couple were living at The Vicarage, Garretts Lane, Banstead. Frederick died in June 1956 in Chichester, Sussex.

Whilst vicar of St Andrew’s Oxshott, in January 1917 Reverend Skene was appointed to the Temporary Army Chaplaincy and the intention was that he would hold this post for a period of twelve months. He spent the first few months in Salonika in Greece, before joining the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in Palestine. News of his experiences reached his parishioners via the Parish Magazine.

In March 1917 parishioners were advised that ‘the Vicar left for France on [February] 4th. What with bad weather and other discomforts he has had rather a rough time so far, but he keeps well and writes cheerfully. We are now very glad to hear news of his safe arrival in Salonica’.

The following month Mr Vertue had received a long and interesting letter from the Vicar, dated from Salonica on 1st of March which they regretted being unable to print ‘in extensor’, owing to higher rates for printing. ‘Our readers will, however, be pleased to hear that the Vicar has had a safe journey and is well and happy. His present address is ‘42nd General Hospital, Salonika’, and he will be very pleased to hear from any old friends. He especially asks for old illustrated newspapers and magazines for the men in hospital – probably there are many in Oxshott who would be glad to send out literature of the kind and to know that it will be thoroughly appreciated’.

By July 1917 the vicar had obviously been unwell, and possibly had to return home, but he wrote to advise that ‘he is now completely restored to health and… has arrived safely once more in Salonica’.

December 1917 saw the publication, for the first time, of a first-hand account from Reverend Skene, dated 18 October 1917, the letter detailed his experiences and impressions:

A great deal may happen in two months. It is impossible now to say where I may be when this gets into print. Although there are indications in the splendid news from most of the battle fronts that the end may be in sight, yet we cannot tell when that much to be oped for event will come…. Since I saw you all I have travelled a great deal, and seen much. I am now in the EEF [Egyptian Expeditionary Force] and situated in a very historic part, and every step we shall be taking in the near future will be over land that has become well know to us all from our study of Old Testament history… We have two great inconveniences here – the lack of water and the sand. We are issued one gallon of water every morning, and this has to suffice for drinking, cooking and washing purposes… the sand is very light and dusty, and the slightest breeze blows it about so much that it permeates everything. But in spite of it all we are keeping remarkably fit and well. All ranks are glad of the change of scene and climate, and hope ere long you will receive as cheering news about our front as you have had lately about the other fronts. At the time you receive this I shall have been away nearly a year. It has been a year of intense interest for me, and has passed very quickly. I am very impressed by the courage, cheerfulness, and resource of the British solider, and his determination to see that the fight for right is fought out to a finish – such a finish as will ensure a permanent and lasting peace. I have been very glad to get news from you, but I am sorry indeed to hear of all the sickness there has been. It will be a sorrow, too, to find some not with you on my return… A month ago I had the privilege of celebrating at a choral celebration in the desert, when 500 men were present. We had a piano very much out of tune to lead the singing… As a rule I have a gunner to help me with a fiddle. This fiddle was made in camp out of biscuit boxes by an RE corporal – and is a very prized possession.

In April 1918 it was reported that Mr Skene had returned from Palestine on three weeks furlough. He had been with the parish on Easter Day, ‘when he preached both morning and evening’ and, ‘in spite of having been several times on the sick list, he was looking bright and cheery, robust and thoroughly well’.

Just before leaving for Egypt, on April 13th 1918, Reverend Skene wrote to Mrs Burgoyne of the Oxshott branch of the Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild, explaining what the work of the War Room meant to both the soldiers and himself.

Dear Mrs Burgoyne, I am sailing tomorrow for Egypt. Yesterday I was told that you had started the new session of the Work Room (Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild) with a better attendance. I am very glad; and sincerely hope you will steadily increase your numbers and output. I hope no one will think that what they turn out is of little account or unappreciated. When the solider gets sick or is wounded the very sight of the things you make in the workroom lying on his bed ready for his use, and the knowledge that these things have been made for him by the women at home, make him forget his troubles, and bring to him a sense of gratitude which it is difficult to express in words. I know this from experience, and I do hope that Oxshott will stick to it, and right on to the end (God grant that may come quickly) will steadily increase the output of its War Work Room.

On May 28th 1918, the Reverend wrote of the progress made in his absence and the conditions they were experiencing, as well as his pleasure at being able to visit Bethlehem.

My dear People, It was a delightful experience to be with you again for Easter. The only disappointment was that the time was so short and prevented my seeing many of you. I left Southampton on the 14th April, and arrived back here on 13th May after an uneventful journey by rail and sea. The journey was not without anxiety for we knew that the enemy were on the look out, and one morning he took a long shot at us, which happily was a ‘wash-out’.

After being away from my unit for four months it was not surprising to find many changes. The army had advanced over very difficult country, and I found it necessary to change my address. I am now with the 263 FAB and our camp is up on the hills of Ephraim. The climate is very good, very hot by day, but delightful after tea, and decidedly chilly after dinner. I have long distances to cover visiting the three Brigades of Artillery. It was a great pleasure the other day when the Padres gathered in Jerusalem at St George’s Cathedral for a Retreat, to be able to visit Bethlehem, and see the Manger in which Our Lord was born. A very large church has been built over it, and the greatest veneration is shown by the people for this sacred spot. I also found it possible to get inside the Dome of the Rock, and the Mosque of Aksa, both of which are inside the Temple area. The former is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, richly adorned with marbles of various colours, some of which probably formed part of Herod’s Temple. There are many windows filled with the richest stained glass. The whole interior is richly gilded. The building covers the natural rock on which Araunah had his threshing floor. It is the same rock upon which the altar of burnt sacrifice stood in Soloman’s Temple. On our way back to camp we passed through the village where the Blessed Virgin Mary failed to discover Jesus in the Caravan when he stayed behind in the Temple.

The country is very rugged, and until the Army arrived was quite without roads. Now it is possible to move about in comfort. Yesterday I drove down in the Cook’s cart behind a pair of horses to draw stores from the canteen. Until three months ago I am certain that no wheeled vehicle had ever passed along her. Now one can see motors being driven at ten miles per hour. The road of course is not so good as the Portsmouth road, but even a springless cart such as we had, did not unduly tire one, but five hours on a hard seat is quite as much as one cares for.

We are getting splendid rations and the health of the troops is good. I hope the great struggle in France will soon brought to a successful issue, and that ere long I shall be able to resume my duties in the parish.

Then, on 22nd July 1918, he related a happy day spent playing cricket on the Mount of Olives:

My dear People, I spent such an interesting and happy day last week, that I feel I would like to tell you about it. I left the Camp at 8am shortly after the ‘Archies’ had been strafing a Turkish Scout machine, and arrived in about 40 minutes at Divisional Headquarters, where I met 10 other men who formed our divisional Cricket Team for that day. Having split ourselves up into parties we went out for the Mount of Olives, where we were to play our opponents. We arrived in good time for lunch, thanks to Mr Ford of USA and promptly at 1400 hours our skipper, Major G A Faulkner, of South African Test Match fame, sent us in to bat. It was a pleasure to receive that first ball of the match, it was the first I had bowled to me in a march since August 1914. The less said about my innings the better, but I did survive the first ball. The second wicket fell at 111 made in exactly 30 minutes by Major Vernon and Captain Bolton. Major Faulkner made 35 and the innings was declared at the tea interval with the score 230 for 6 wickets. The dust having been removed from the matting, and our thirst quenched with copious draughts of iced coffee or hot tea, the former was the most popular as the thermometer stood at above 90 in the shade, and there wasn’t much of that; the other side came in to the bowling of Faulkner and Bolton, each of whom bowled the leg theory to perfection. Wickets quickly fell, and at 1759 hours, or one minute before time, the last wicket fell with the score 98, leaving us the winners of a thoroughly enjoyable and sporting match. We hope to play the return match on our own ground in a few days. The ground has yet to be found, and the wicket made – it will be done – but it is not an easy job in these hills of Ephraim to find cricket fields. The people of Palestine do not go in much for games! Their chief form of exercise is walking up and down the hills between the villages. The match concluded, our hosts insisted on our staying for dinner and a concert. The dinner was magnificent and the concert excellent – during the evening played the violin – a treat indeed. At midnight we set out for our various camps, a good 90 minutes run in a car. I had the misfortune, or rather the car did, to break down. We had a good sleep in the car until day-break, and as soon as the sun was up the driver made the necessary repairs and I finally reached my tent at 0800 hours. So ended a good day – the best I think it has been my lot to spend on active service. I little thought some 3 years ago that it would ever be my lot to see Jerusalem, much less to play cricket on the Mount of Olives.

I am going to Jerusalem again next week on a different errand, but one which will give me and those whom I am taking an immense amount of pleasure. I am taking 6 men to be confirmed in the Cathedral by the Bishop of Jerusalem. It will be a truly memorable day for all of us. I was greatly interested in the news of some of our Oxshott men in a recent copy of the Magazines which has just reached me. I hope some of  the others may be prevailed upon to write an account of a day spent on Active Service. Heartiest greetings to you all.

However, in his last letter to be published, dated 24th September 1918, Reverend Skene offered a very different perspective on the life of a soldier in Palestine:

My dear People, In a letter written some weeks ago I gave you a description of a day in the life of the solider in active service in Palestine, and it might well have been a description of an ordinary day in the old days before the war. During the last seven days I have seen the stern side. We have been fighting hard. After the preliminary bombardment of some very strong positions the infantry advanced and turned the enemy out. The enemy realising that his lines of communication, if not already cut, were just about to be cut, retreated in hot haste. The British troops pursued him, and as you know gained a magnificent victory, capturing practically the whole army. It has been my lot to be camped just by a certain wadi or valley where an enormous amount of stores and equipment was taken. A column stretching some 3 miles along the road entered this valley and got inside. The road is very narrow, and hangs over a precipitous drop of some hundreds of feet, with steep slopes stretching upwards. In the column were many lorries and carts, guns and motor cars filled with stores and equipment of all sorts. They were spotted and shelled and bombed. Many were killed, both men and animals. It was where I saw it a few hours afterwards a valley of desolation and death. To a soldier a scene of triumph, but to a civilian one of pathetic sadness. The road was completely blocked, and it will take 3 or 4 days to clear away the debris. Our men and officers have been magnificent, and though worn out and tired by the fast marching and fighting are as happy as can be in the knowledge that a sweeping victory has been won and added to the number of the very successful triumphs of our Armies in France and on other Fronts. By the time this appears in print it will be nearing Christmas. Perhaps it is too soon to expect to see then the world at peace; but I hope this will be the last occasion on which that happy day will be spent away from you all at home. With all good wishes, believe me…

Reverend Skene, 1947. Copyright Banstead History Research Group.

In April 1919 it was reported that ‘the Vicar is now convalescent and has returned to England. He is at present on sick-leave but hopes to be able to take Services at Oxshott on Low Sunday’. In the event Reverend Frederick Norman Skene was to return to the parish and resumed his duties on 1st May 1919.


St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, and St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, January to December 1915, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

ACAD A Cambridge Alumni Database, ‘Frederick Skene’,

Stoke D’Abernon – 1916

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

After a rainy Christmas, the January 1916 magazine saw the publication of ‘The Bishop’s Letter for the New Year’. The Bishop (of Winchester) called upon readers to pray that ‘God make England more worthy of victory!’.  One way it might be considered that a nation would be worthy of victory, he asserted, was to leave ‘nothing to chance, …[to use] every atom of skill, and labour… [pile] up its munitions… [economize] its money, and [make] its armies as numerous and strong as possible’. However, for the Bishop, the answer went much deeper, and, in order for ‘God to give it victory and peace’, a nation must be humble, owning its faults and reverencing God’s chastisements for them, it must fight only for right, committing its cause to God, and must ‘[lay] aside strife and bitterness of all kinds’.

Throughout the year, news of the Mothers’ Union, Sunday School, the National Mission, the Church Spire and Heating Fund, the Boy Scouts, issues of church seating, and the recording of births, deaths, and marriages continued, unabated. As the nation settled into war the magazines offered a vision of the ways in which, for those at home,  the everyday business of the parish and the church continued, but it was a vision that was increasingly frequently interspersed with the triumphs and, more often, tragedies of those away from home, engaged in the conflict.

A ‘Toy Service’ had been held on December 12th and, in ‘a remarkable response’ to the invitation to send toys and clothes to the orphaned children of Sailors and Soldiers, 87 toys and 47 articles of clothing had been presented, which Mrs Bowen-Buscarlet had undertaken to forward to the Church Army. All the offerings had been displayed at the Manor House, prior to being sent off, and it was recorded that ‘many came to see them’.

With reference to the Missionaries interned in German East Africa, the magazine reported that the Bishop of Zanzibar had cabled to confirm that parcels could be sent, ‘At sender’s risk. Address, c/o Naval. Letters forbidden.’ He also advised that he had sent clothing and that all were alive. This was of particular importance as the Rector’s sister, Gertrude Blackburne, was one of the interned.

Lastly the magazine provided a detailed account of the Memorial Service that had been held for Archibald James Rowan-Hamilton, at the Old Priory Church of Saint Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield, the previous month.

In Oxshott it was reported that the War Workroom was to re-open after the Christmas break, at Heatherwold, Queen’s Drove. ‘The Workroom [had] now been affiliated to the War Hospital Supply Depot, Cavendish Square, and [was] officially recognised by the War Office. Badges [were] shortly [to] be issued to regular members’. The workroom had been open for 4 ½ months and in that time had sent 296 garments, including pyjamas, bed jackets, and operation gowns, to the Central Depot. They had also sent ‘1,060 many-tailed surgical bandages of all sorts’ which, it was recorded, took an average of about two hours’ work each. The Marchioness Ripon, in her capacity as President of the Compassionate Fund of the King George Hospital, had written to express their thanks.

In February 2016, owing to the war, the Rector of St Mary’s, and his wife, found themselves unable to organise the usual Choir Supper. In addition, Mr C Clifford, who had been acting as deputy honorary Parish Clerk, for ‘a longer time than most of us realised it would be when the war began’, had been asked to be relieved of part of his duties.

Congratulations were extended to Major Gore, who had been promoted to Colonel.

March 1916 saw the happy news that, on February 14th, whilst home on leave, Mr Harry W Champion had married Miss Emily E Simmonds at St Andrew’s and, after a short honeymoon, had returned within the week to his military duties in France.

In April 1916, almost one and a half sides of the St Andrew’s magazine were given over to the sudden and premature death, as the result of a ‘miserable accident’, of Richard John Wightwick at the age of 16 years and 11 months, offering a stark reminder that the cruelties of life were not confined to warfare.

In Oxshott, a lecture was to be given by Mr R S Morrish on the Trentino, where the Italians were currently fighting the Austrians, and all proceeds were to be given to the Young Men’s Christian Association, ‘which [was] doing such splendid work on all the fronts and at home on behalf of our soldiers’.

‘War Work for Women’ was to resume at the church Hall on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, from 10am to 1pm and, on Friday, from 2pm to 4.30pm, and Mrs Burgoyne made an appeal for ‘eggs for the wounded’.

The magazine also included an account sent by Archibald George Ritchie, who was serving in the Fleet, of his experiences at the evacuations of Anzac Cove and Cape Helles.

Meanwhile, at home, the parish of St Mary’s was busy with arrangements for the forthcoming Missionary Tableaux and the choir’s rendering of Stainer’s “Crucifixion”. The choir, it was asserted, would have been incapable of undertaking such a work a few years ago but, with training and tuition by Mr Waters’, they had risen to the occasion.

In May 1916 it was reported that Monday in Easter Week had been observed as a ‘Flag Day’ for the Lord Roberts’ Memorial Fund, and £11 13s. had been collected in St Mary’s parish. ‘Flag Days’ were days set aside for charity collection, and were particularly popular among the working classes during the First World War as, in exchange for a small donation, they could demonstrate their patriotism by wearing the small flag that they received in return.

In Oxshott it was recorded that the children of the congregation had brought 330 eggs to the Easter Day service, which were to be sent, by Mrs Burgoyne, to the National Egg Collection for the Wounded.  Miss Dash called for cigarettes or tobacco, or financial contributions to purchase the same, which were to be sent to the front, to relatives of parishioners.

Lastly, the magazine recorded the death of Albert Harris.

With the topic of ‘Educational Developments after the War, with special reference to the Duty of Public Service’, The Surrey Educational Conference held in  June 1916 demonstrated how, even in the depths of the conflict, plans were being made for eventual peacetime. The Committee also recorded that they were unable to offer cheap railway vouchers to delegates, as, ‘owing to the exigencies of the military requirements the Railway Companies… [had] been compelled to order the suspension of reduced far facilities’.

In Oxshott, as well as calls for workers for the Work Room to meet the ‘very great’ demand from the war hospitals, war work was also offered for a woman or girl, in the form of around three hours daily milking for which training was to be provided.

In July 1916, a letter was received thanking the parishioners of St Mary’s for a donated parcel of hospital supplies, which were to be forwarded to one of the poorest hospitals in France.  In Oxshott, it was reported that there had been a marked increase in the number of helpers at the Work Room, which was open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday mornings, and all days on Friday. It was also noted that the war hospitals’ need for surgical bandages was becoming greater by the day.

Lastly, the death of Frederick Cotterell was recorded.

In August 1916 it was reported that the Stoke D’Abernon branch of the Mothers’ Union had decided that its members in the Diocese of Winchester were to undertake ‘to observe each Friday as a special Day of Intercession for our Church and Country, our Families, our Parishes, our Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen, and all near and dear to us’. If unable to attend the regular Friday intercession service at St Mary’s, members were asked ‘to try to kneel at home for a few minutes in heartfelt prayer’. This undertaking was to be in preparation for the ‘National Mission of Repentance and Hope’.

The ‘National Mission’ was launched by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and was ‘an attempt to repent for our sins as a nation… not because we believe that we are guilty of provoking this war, but because we, together with other nations that profess to be Christian, have failed to learn how to live together as a Christian family’. It was hoped that a collective national effort would project a ‘much needed message of hope’. In his ‘Letter’, the Bishop of Winchester stated that:

We have come to a great crisis in the War. We think we see light on the horizon. We hope that even Germany’s colossal resources and determination may begin to give way under the pressure of the Nations whom she has allied against her. Things are brighter. Glorious, too, is the fresh proof of the Nation’s manhood given in the almost superhuman courage, and in the extraordinary pateience, brightness, and good humour of those who suffer in this unexampled fighting. They do their part, indeed: God grant that we may as faithfully do ours.

He then outlined the Mission’s purpose, which was to ‘make nations and ourselves more worthy of the gift of victory, more fit to use peace if it is granted to us’, as well as the spiritual, thoughtful and practical duties of those involved. In the St Andrew’s portion of the magazine it was noted that the Bishop had also written a letter to the children of the congregation and parents were asked ‘to explain… the two leading questions to put to them’, which were ‘what has been wrong with our dear English life?’ and ‘how may it be better?’.

In Stoke D’Abernon a ‘War Savings Association’ had been set up with the objective of enabling its members ‘to obtain 15s.6d. War Savings certifications by regular contributions on more favourable terms than would be possible for individual subscribers’.

The Oxshott parish magazine published a letter from the Honourable Arthur Stanley and Lord Ranfurly, of the British Red Cross Society, appealing for more nurses. The letter stated that:

A real and urgent necessity has arisen for more Nurses, V.A.D. [Voluntary Aid Detachment] Nursing members (women), and V.A.D. General Service members, in Military and Auxiliary Hospitals at home. The demands made upon us by the Military Authorities are very heavy and cannot be met out of the existing supply. There must still be many women who are not giving the whole of their time and service to the war, and who have not ties which prevent them doing so. We earnestly call upon these women to come forward and help us in this emergency and thus enable us to answer the call of the sick and wounded men.

Finally, the magazine records the deaths of Arthur M Rimer and  Stephen Bourne.

September 1916, in Stoke D’Abernon, saw the details of an ‘Act of Courage’ citation for Philip Marshall, and news of his subsequent promotion to Corporal, and, in Oxshott, an up-to-date list men serving from the parish (133 men, of which 2 were reported missing), a recognition of distinguished bravery on the part of Corporal O. Hussey, and an updated ‘Roll of Honour’, listing the 11 men who had laid down their lives to date, including Ernest Godfrey.

The magazine also outlined the operation of the War Savings Certificates Scheme, and the role within that scheme, and method of operation, of Oxshott’s recently set-up, local association.

Both St Mary’s and St Andrew’s published their arrangements for special services for the ‘National Mission’, which were to take place from October 12th to October 16th.

The British Red Cross Society’s ‘Our Day’, in October 1916, saw the sum of £100 raised in Oxshott, and the Oxshott Branch of the Penny Bandage Collection also collected the sum of £20 2s. 7d..

It was also recorded that, ‘in recognition of their patriotic services in agricultural labour’, Mrs R Coombs and Mrs Gray, both of Godfrey Cottages, and Mrs A Gray of Little Heath, had received the Government green armlet.

Brassard, Women's National Land Service Corps

Title: Brassard, Women's National Land Service Corps
Description: Imperial War Museum, CataloguINS 7802 by-nc

The armlet was almost certainly presented to recognise their work for the Women’s National Land Service Corps (WNLSC), which had been formed early in 1916 ‘to deal with the emergency war-work on the land’.  By the end of the year, demand for agricultural workers was so great that, in early 1917, the Corps became an agent of the newly formed Women’s Land Army. In all, the WNLSC sent out 9,022 workers, and ‘in 1918 the flax harvest was saved by 3,835 holiday workers from the Corps’.

In November 1916 the St Mary’s magazine records the success of the ‘National Mission’ but cautions against complacency, asserting that ‘our one great danger is to rest content with an new start and not to persevere unto the end’. The services at St Andrew’s were also well attended and a thank you letter from the Bishop’s Messenger, H P Thompson, was published.

Demonstrating the wide diversity of work that contributed to the war effort, the Oxshott branch of the Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen hosted  a lecture by a North Sea Trawler Skipper, Tom Nicks, who described  the life of a seaman, as well as relating the experiences of those men giving aid to the Navy on the mine sweepers.  The lecture attracted a ‘very large and enthusiastic audience’, realising the ‘handsome sum of £6 0s. 2d..

Finally, it was reported that the Rector had received a telegram from Zanzibar stating that all interned Missionaries in German East Africa, some thirty or so, including the Rector’s own sister Miss G E Blackburne, had been released. The Rector had also subsequently received a cable directly from his sister, confirming this pleasing news.

As well as arrangements for Christmas, December 1916, the last month of the second full year of conflict, saw an appeal, once again, for children and adults to bring a toy to the St Mary’s Toy Service for later distribution ‘amongst the children of our Sailors and Soldiers, especially those who have become fatherless since the war began’. The message of the ‘National Mission’ was once again re-enforced, calling for parishioners to help ‘carry the Message to the Nation’.

In the St Andrew’s magazine congratulations were offered to Brigadier-General John Clarke, who had been received by the King at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday November 22nd and invested as a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George, and William Coombs, who had received the Military Medal for gallantry. On a sadder note, parishioners learnt of the death of Leland Finch, who was killed in action.

An appeal was made to the parishioners of Oxshott, by the Matron of the Red House Auxiliary Hospital in Leatherhead,  for gifts of Christmas Fare, foodstuffs and tobacco, for the wounded soldiers under her care.

Finally, ‘in accordance with what was done on the First Sunday of this year and in 1915’, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York asked that, on the last Sunday of the year, December 31st, ‘special prayer should be offered in all our Churches in connection with the war, and… thankful recognition should be made for the devotion which has been shown by the manhood and womanhood of our country’. To that end, a special Memorial Service for those who had fallen was to be held at St Andrew’s, at 6.30pm on the last day of the year.


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

Voluntary Action History Society, ‘The Origins of Flag Days’, accessed 9 January 2017,

The Lambeth Palace Library Blog, ‘The National Mission of Repentance and Hope 1916’, accessed 9 January 2017,

The National Archive, ‘The Women’s Land Army in eight documents’, accessed 9 January 2017,

The Women’s Land Army, ‘First World War Women’s Land Army’, accessed 9 January 2017,

Imperial War Museums, ‘brassard, British, Women’s National Land Service Corps’, accessed 10 January 2017,

Surrey Regiment soldiers buried at Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen

Research and text by Dorothy Jones, edited M.A. Jones

The names of 19 British soldiers, including 4 members of the Surrey Regiments, appear on an imposing memorial in the Vestre Cemetery in Copenhagen. All had died between 22 December 1918 and 13 January1919. Amongst their number were a Canadian, an Indian and an Australian from Tasmania. They were all making their way home after having been held as prisoners of war in Germany. After surviving their imprisonment it is very sad that their journey home ended in Copenhagen; they did not get back to their loved ones. The circumstances with regard to why they were in Denmark, what caused their deaths and the funeral ceremonies that honoured them are detailed below.

The Danish Scheme, devised by Captain Charles Cabry Dix, the British Naval Attaché in Copenhagen, was in full swing. It was transporting British prisoners of war who had been held in German camps to the East of the River Elbe to Denmark for transfer to ships that would take them back to the UK. The British Red Cross commission in Copenhagen had set up an Ambulance section under the leadership of Professor Holger Mygind which hired Danish doctors and nurses to attend to the sick and wounded on the ships. This journey often involved a stay of about a week in Denmark. On arrival in Copenhagen or Århus the men would be taken to army camps whilst the majority of officers were accommodated in hotels.

Some of the men still needed treatment for their wounds and some were weak after years of  imprisonment. Given professional treatment, tender care, and good food and with the joy of being free and on their way home most of the men would make the journey successfully. Some were too weak to be taken from the lazaretts (prison camps for the wounded) in Germany where the Red Cross sent them comforts. A number of hospital ships were sent to the Baltic to deal with the sick and transport them home. Some didn’t make it and died on route.

The main killer of most of the 19 ex-prisoners of war was the Spanish flu and its complications. The flu was spreading across the world and its victims also included the young, strong and well fed. Many Danes were affected and the hospitals and staff were stretched to their limit. A good number of Prisoners of War succumbed and the hospitals in Copenhagen had to deal with a sudden influx of several hundred foreign patients who also needed their care and attention.

William Church 1st Battalion QRWS Regiment. Image courtesy of the Church family/Dorothy Jones

William Church 1st Battalion QRWS Regiment. Image courtesy of the Church family/Dorothy Jones

On 26th December 1918, William Church of 1st Battalion the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment died. Before the war he had worked at a gas works. He had travelled from Warnemünde on the Cimbria, a ship from the Danish Det Forenede Dampskibs-Selskab (DFDS) fleet taking part in the repatriation scheme, some few days before. Church’s group had been staying at Skov camp, on Amager. He was the first who died of the Spanish flu and pneumonia. The flu epidemic which in an odd way may have saved his brother’s life. Tom was in the Royal Garrison Artillery, serving as a Signal linesman. In April 1918 he was due to leave for France. He later told his grandson that he didn’t expect to survive, as his job involved repairing broken signal wires under fire, and his trade was known to take high casualties. Contracting the flu he was hospitalised and was still in hospital when the Armistice was signed.

By the end of December 1918 five British soldiers had died in Copenhagen. Captain Andrews, an ex Prisoner of War himself who was now working with the repatriation commission, in a letter sent on 30 December to the Danish Committee (Justitsministeriets kontor for hjemsendelse af fremmede krigsfanger) asked if the men could be buried in Copenhagen. A decision was needed and given the number of men ill with influenza it was probable that more would die in the coming days.

Pastor Storm conducting funeral service, Vestre Chapel, Copenhagen, January 1919. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones

Pastor Storm conducting funeral service, Vestre Chapel, Copenhagen, January 1919. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones

On Saturday 4 January a ceremony was held for the first five in the Vestre cemetery chapel and they were subsequently buried in its precincts. Five white coffins covered with British flags stood in the chapel each with a guard of four British soldiers. Wreaths lay on each coffin. Lord Kilmarnock the British Chargé d’ Affairs, Major Hazard, an ex POW now acting as senior British officer for the British soldiers in Denmark, Colonel Willemoes from Sandholm camp, Captain Kühl, Captain Davidsen liaison officer for the Danish and British authorities, Dr. Würtzen and Mrs Mygind from the British Red Cross commission in Copenhagen were present. One hundred and fifty British soldiers who were billeted at Sandholm camp also attended the ceremony.

Pastor Andreas Vangberg Storm, minister from the Kastel Church performed the service. Before the war he had once been the vicar at the Danish Seamen’s Church at Newcastle. His wife was English. He followed the English burial service and spoke in English. The first psalm was “Lead, kindly light!” and then pastor Storm spoke. He based his sermon on Moses’ story that he from mount Nebo was allowed to see into the Promised Land which he would never enter. Another psalm followed then the English soldiers carried their comrades out of the chapel to Handel’s death march “Saul” played on the organ.

The 1st Regiment’s band was waiting outside the chapel and with a Danish guard of honour led the procession to the graves while Chopin‘s funeral march was played. The Danish soldiers took turns with the British to carry the coffins. The weather was terrible, with rain and wind, the tall leafless trees whistling in the storm over the soggy paths. The five coffins were lowered into the graves by the English soldiers while the band played “Nearer my God to thee”. Then “earth to earth, ashes to ashes …..” was recited, first in English and then in Danish. The band played “The last post” and the Danish soldiers fired an honorary salute at the graveside.

Frederick William Rayner gravestone at Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones.

Frederick William Rayner gravestone at Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones.

32 year old Frederick William Rayner of 1st Battalion Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment died on 1 January 1919 of the Spanish flu and bronchitis. Rayner who had been born in Croydon, had emigrated to Canada and worked as a moulder in a brass foundry in Ontario. He was one of five British men buried on 7th January 1919 and in much better weather than the last funerals three days earlier. Otherwise things were done more or less in the same way.

Around 1 o’clock 100 British soldiers who were billeted at Barfredshoj camp and a half company from 23rd. Battalion with the band from 1st. regiment arrived for the service. They stood to attention on each side of the gravel square outside the chapel. Lord Kilmarnock, Major Hazard, Captain Kühl, and Lieutenant Colonel With and Major Cunliffe, Danish and British senior officers from Barfredshoj, attended. Pastor Storm from Kastel Church led the ceremony with the organist and boys choir from the English church St. Albans.

Six British soldiers stood to attention by each of the coffins throughout the ceremony. Each coffin was covered by a British flag and was topped with two wreaths. The organ played and the boys’ choir sang with voices pure and hauntingly beautiful. Pastor Storm spoke about how these five had finally been released from imprisonment only to fall to the last foe: death, whilst still in a foreign country, albeit a friendly one. He told the soldiers that they should take home with them a greeting to those who grieved over the five, and tell them that their graves would be cared for.

The ceremony finished at the graveside with the band playing “Dejlig er Jorden” followed by a threefold volley salute and a trumpeter played “The last post”. In sunshine the English and Danish soldiers marched out of the cemetery in silence. Out on the road the band played “Tipperary” and the soldiers sang along to the tune. Descriptions of the funerals appeared in newspapers and magazines, but it is only in the report of the funeral on 7 January that photos are included. We can see from these photos that others, young as well as old, attended the ceremony to honour these men who after fighting for their country weren’t to see their homeland again.

Alfred Warren gravestone at Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones.

Alfred Warren gravestone at Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones.

The next funeral took place on the following day, 8 January: this time for three men. It was almost a copy of the day before with Kilmarnock, Hazard, Kühl and Davidsen as representatives for the authorities and senior military and with Pastor Storm officiating. British soldiers from Sandholm camp and Danish soldiers from 21st. Battalion with band attended.

Two of these men had died on HMHS Formosa; both were “old contemptibles” who had been prisoners of war for more than four years – William George Dimpsey, 1st Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps and Fred Papworth, 1st Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment. The third was Alfred Warren, 28 years old, who had been a boat builder before the war and served with 1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment. He had been billeted at Greve camp before being admitted to the Epidemic hospital, where he died of pneumonia on 6th January 1919.

George Henry Kelland gravestone at Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones.

George Henry Kelland gravestone at Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones.

The last three were buried on 17th January. They included George Henry Kelland a 25 year old from 1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment who had died on 10th January. He had been billeted at Barfredshoj camp and died of pneumonia in the Garnisons hospital. Pastor Storm led the ceremony as usual, but perhaps this funeral may have touched him more than the others. He had visited one of the men several times while he was ill and comforted him in his hopeless struggle against death. Lord Kilmarnock, Major Hazard, Captain Kühl and Captain Davidsen, Danish soldiers from 3rd and 4th Machine Gun Corps and some English soldiers attended. A few were still in Copenhagen even though the repatriation for the British was more or less finished.

Lord Kilmarnock thanked, through the newspapers, the Danes for all the sympathy they had shown at the funerals, not least for the anonymous wreaths and flowers. Even before the last Briton was buried a collection had been started for a monument. Contributions could be sent to Mrs. Nanni Jarl, married to Carl Jarl, Professor Holger Mygind and Pastor Andreas Vangberg Storm. All three had been involved in British Red Cross work in Copenhagen during the war years. Other committees also collected for monuments for the five Belgian, forty French and thirteen Italian former prisoners of war who also died in Denmark on their way home.

The English soldiers gravesite was bought as a family plot and most of the soldiers were buried two to a grave, double depth. Each of the prisoners of war have their own headstones. A committee of ladies with Mrs. Mygind as chairman collected funds for the maintenance of the graves. Money streamed in for the monument which was to be a stylish memorial for the poor Tommies who died on Danish soil. A preparatory sketch was made – the little trumpeter, playing “the last post”. The memorial monument was unveiled by H.N. Andersen at a ceremony that took place on the 21 August 1920. The sketch hadn’t been used.

War Memorial Monument, Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones

War Memorial Monument, Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen. Image courtesy of Dorothy Jones

The memorial consists of a standing obelisk with pointed top in Nexo sandstone on a three part pedestal. The obelisk is decorated with a wreath in relief and a tablet in marble. Inscribed on the tablet is ”To the glory of God and in loving memory of the nineteen British soldiers who died in Denmark 1918-1919 on their journey home from captivity.” The Commonwealth War Grave Commission wanted to remove the monument in 1970’s as it was badly in need of restoration. Fortunately the head of funeral services Erik Rafn’s interest was aroused and he arranged for the restoration of the monument.

Vestre Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Copenhagen and the resting place of many notable Danish people, including the sculptor Edvard Eriksen and the composer Carl Nielsen. The section containing the war graves is referred to as Copenhagen Western Cemetery by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

William Church’s story and memorabilia have been handed on to his grandnephew via his brother Tom. Bill’s medals are mounted together with his death plaque, portrait and a photo of an epitaph. The epitaph is placed at the back of St. Alban’s Church at Copenhagen. The fine marble memorial was designed by professor Dahlerup and donated by local British resident and member of the church, William Mau. Following the text inscribed at the centre of the tablet ”Sacred to the memory of the following British sailors and soldiers who served in the Great War 1914-1918 and are buried in this city” are the 24 names. The epitaph was dedicated at the morning service on Sunday March 4th 1923. Andreas Vangberg Storm, the pastor who had performed the military funerals 4 years earlier, took part.

The story of the British ex-Prisoners of War who passed through Copenhagen at the end of the Great War is being told on The Danish Scheme website.

This story is extracted from In Memoriam – Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen by Dorothy Jones, edited by M A Jones. You can read the full article here.

Stoke D’Abernon – 1915

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

From the perspective of the church, January 1915 began with a day of intercession on the 3rd, which was to be observed throughout the Empire by the Churches of England, Rome, and Non-Conformists alike, and by the Allies more generally. In Oxshott members of the Rifle Club, Civilian Reserve, Special Constables, and the Boy Scouts were all to parade at the service and the alms were to be given to the British Red Cross. The following Sunday saw the children of Stoke D’Abernon being invited to bring toys to be presented to Belgian refugee children living in the UK. This was an invitation well-received as the following month it was reported that ‘in spite of a very wet afternoon, the children… turned out in goodly numbers laden with parcels [and] two large hampers…, containing some 180 presents and clothes were sent to the 60 Belgian Refugee orphans at [the Convent de la Sagesse] near Hendon’. The Mother Superior had sent grateful thanks.

It was also reported that the Schiff Home of Recovery had seen many visitors to the English and Belgian soldiers ensconced there, but they were now much in need of a second piano to prevent the existing one from having to be taken up and downstairs between the wards. This was subsequently donated by Mrs Nevill.

Meanwhile, the Stoke D’Abernon Men’s Club had held a smoking concert on December 9 to welcome home their fellow-club member Private H. Coombs, invalided home from the fighting in the north of France. The toast was given by Reverend Blackburne, who paid tribute to the ‘pluck and wonderful bravery shown by our Army’, saying that ‘it was to such an Army… that we all looked forward to the future with great hopes of success and certain victory’. Private Coombs, who had been Parish Clerk and Church Verger, expressed his pleasure to be home and related his experiences at the Front.

In Oxshott, thanks were extended to the named parishioners who had contributed a total of £41 5s. 6d. towards a fund ‘to provide the sum of £1 for each Oxshott recruit’. It was reported that letters had been received in gratitude and the following extract, from an unnamed recipient, was published as an example:-

‘Will you convey to the Oxshott parishioners my warmest thanks for their gift. It makes me feel how good it is to be a soldier, when those who have been unable to join, show their good fellowship and friendship in such a real hearty manner. A happy Christmas to them all. I am keeping very well, and hope we shall be a first-class fighting regiment before long.’

In a number of ways, life in the parishes carried on as before. In Oxshott, for example, Mr Morrish gave an ‘enjoyable and instruction lecture [with excellent photographs], on a three weeks tour of Provence’, a bridge bournament was held, at which ‘several of the Oxshott soldiers who were home on Christmas leave were present’, and the Men’s Club continued to meet. In Stoke D’Abernon, choir practice, wood carving class and Mothers’ Meetings continued as usual, as did the Mother’s Union Festival and Sunday School Treat.

In February 1915, with Lent on the horizon, the Bishop of Winchester laid out his response to accusations that:

‘Some people, I think, have been too afraid that we have been speaking too much and too down-heartedly of humility and repentance and national fault, and not making enough of the righteousness of our cause, the clearness of our conscience, the gallantry and nobility of our soldiers, or the nation’s patriotic response. I don’t think they are right. There is no fear of all that being overlooked or forgotten, and a Christian will always prefer to err on the humbler side’.

But, for the Bishop, Lent was a special time for acknowledging and confessing what was wrong and, to that end, he continued:

‘We make light of “little faults.” We find it hard to be very angry with ourselves for familiar sins. But to-day these things are “writ large” for us to read. We see on a huge scale what evil means. We see all this “devil’s work” of the war coming, some-how, out of the heart of the life of the nations, fed by their “sins, negligences and ignorances”… We see on a great scale how man’s fault does the devil’s work’.

In the Oxshott magazine, news was given of the work done by the women and girls employed at the Red Cross workroom in Spitalfields, to which the Oxshott Fund was to provide financial assistance, in order to ensure that the work could continue. Their primary aim was to ensure that ‘the women and girls employed should not be thrown out of work at this time of year’.

March 1915 brought reports that an enjoyable evening had been spent by those who attended a concert at the Village Room on February 3, where ‘a special welcome was given to Madame Nöel, who has a voice of fine quality and well trained’, offering evidence that the Belgian refugees, who had sought a temporary home at the Manor House, had settled well into village life.

With the exception of the news from India that Private William Scarfe had drowned whilst bathing, and that Private H.W. Champion had been unable to get home from his regimental duties before his father, Henry Champion, had passed away, the March issue of the Oxshott magazine makes no other specific mention of the war or its effects.

By April 1915, as the magazines increasingly returned to the business of reporting daily life in the parishes, St Mary’s reported ‘that the special services of intercession are not now nearly so well attended as at the beginning of the war’. In May 1915 St Andrew’s reported that the Oxshott branch of the Red Cross Society had received hearty thanks for their donations towards the King Edward Institution War Workroom, and that the Ruridecanal Choirs’ Association had found it advisable to postpone their planned Festival ‘owing to the number of Choirmen engaged in war work’. By June 1915 the Red Cross work in Stoke D’Abernon was put on hold, with the hope of ‘[sending] out fresh appeals for funds in the autumn and [starting] the monthly meetings again when sufficient money has been collected’. In Oxshott a call went out, on behalf of the Basil Ellis County Nursing Association, ‘for help in securing suitable young women to be trained in their Emergency Home at Guildford, as nurses and midwives [as] at present the supply is far too limited to provide all the nurses required’.

Deep sympathy was also extended to Mr and Mrs Child of The Causeways, whose son Gilbert had given his life on Sunday, 9th May, during the battle of Richebourg.

July 1915 saw an appeal made in the Stoke D’Abernon magazine for further gifts of cigarettes and tobacco, as well as garden bowls or darts, for the men of the Schiff Home. There was also an extensive report on a Garden Meeting that had been organised by Lieutenant-Colonel and Mrs Bowen-Buscarlet on behalf of the ‘Lord Roberts’ Memorial Fund’ (i.e. the Lord Roberts Fund for Disabled Soldiers and Sailors, named in honour of Field Marshal the 1st Earl Roberts VC KG [etc.], 1832-1914), whose aim was to provide workshops and instruction for wounded and disabled soldiers and sailors. The author described Lord Roberts as:

‘the greatest English General of modern times, who, in his old age, spent his last years in warning our country of its present dangers, and with loud trumpet call bid us to prepare in time. We refused to listen, and are now feverishly hastening to make up for lost time.’

The Garden Meeting was deemed a great success, ‘a large display of work done by disabled soldiers and sailors… was practically all sold before the evening’ and the ‘highly satisfactory sum’ of £412 6s. 8d. was raised.

An appeal to readers went out in Oxshott, to help in the national egg collection for the wounded, in the form of fresh eggs from those who kept fowl or money from those who didn’t. It was reported that a minimum of 300,000 eggs per week were required to meet the needs of the wounded soldiers and sailors in our hospitals but, at that time ‘this nutritious and recuperative food’ was very difficult to obtain. As a result, close to 900 new laid eggs were collected in June and July.

With the first anniversary of the declaration of war a special service of solemn intercession was to be held in Stoke D’Abernon, on the 4 August 1915 and, unsurprisingly, the war and its effects took greater prominence in the magazines this month. In the St Mary’s magazine, the Bishop’s letter, a little prematurely it transpired, anticipated the difficult times to come once the war was over. For the Bishop ‘this is not (for most) the difficult timebut… the difficult time will come soon’. For now, he pointed out, ‘we have abundant employment, high wages, liberal separation allowances’, but, he argued, they needed to use this time ‘to prepare for the lean years when after the return of huge numbers of men employment may be scarce, money for business hard to come by, and special allowances at an end’.

The War Office, it was reported, had inspected and approved ‘Heywood’ in Cobham as an auxiliary voluntary hospital to accommodate 35 wounded men, a matron, and two trained nurses. The Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment in Cobham was to provide the remainder of the nursing staff. The house had been generously offered by Mrs Butler, but funds were urgently needed for equipment and running costs. The following month it was reported that the appeal for subscriptions had been met ‘most generously and promptly’, with subscribers raising the total sum of £736 6s. 0d.

In Oxshott, the British Red Cross Society detailed the contents of their balance sheet. The funds had almost entirely supported the King Edward Institution workroom between September 1914 and March 1915, and grants had also been made to the British Red Cross Society, the Navy League, Leatherhead Red Cross Hospital, Connaught Red Cross Hospital at Aldershot, the Schiff Home, the King’s Own Lancaster Regiment, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, the French Destitute, Belgian Refugees, Women’s Emergency Corps, Waifs’ and Strays’ Society, and the Queen Alexandra’s Field Force Fund. The balance in hand, of £16 9s. 8d., had been handed over to the Oxshott Women’s War Work Fund, who made garments, bandages, etc. for wounded soldiers and sailors. A report was also received on the Belgian Refugees’ Fund, which had enabled hospitality to be extended for longer than originally intended, and, of the two families received, one had now emigrated to Canada, while the other had returned to Brussels. For both families, their travel fares had been born by the fund, and both had written on arrival to extend their grateful thanks.

Finally, for July, a Committee of Ladies had set up a workroom in St Andrew’s Hall on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, from 10am to 6pm. In the first eight days 36 women had attended, and they had made 18 bed jackets, 18 pairs of pyjamas, 6 operation gowns, 4 ‘helpless case shirts’ and numerous bandages. Contributions were called for to assist with the cost of materials, and those who attended were also asked to make a weekly contribution of money, as well as time, if at all possible.

September 1915 saw reports of the August 19 route march from Roehampton to Stoke D’Abernon by the 3rd Battalion of the London Scottish, with which their late Churchwarden Major Gore was connected. On arrival the Battalion had slept out in fields which were lent for the occasion by Mrs Bowen-Buscarlet. For the author, ‘the immediate interest for the Village was the fact that the Village was invited to an evening Concert in the meadows’.

In Oxshott, the Men’s Club was amalgamated with the Rifle Club, in the hope that ‘now [they had] the privilege of using an excellent range’, more men would take the opportunity to learn to shoot with a rifle.

In October 1915 the Bishop’s letter, once again, offered the primary commentary on the war and Home Front. Bishop Winton, again anticipating rainy days at the war’s conclusion, called for those at home to do what they could ‘to reduce spending on things for which money has to go out of the country… to add (if possible) to home production; and if any of us make any profits out of the war… to put the bulk of that into the War Loan’. Such an effort, he argued, ‘may not only win the war… but also be an incalculable moral benefit to the nation, without [which] victory, if it were possible, might be a curse and not a blessing’. He also contrasted the situation at home with that in Germany where ‘by all accounts [they are] working like one man, throwing the whole of its heart and its wonderful industry into winning the war’, and where ‘one is told… all the Lutheran Churches… are full with praying people’.

As in Oxshott, the Men’s Club of Stoke D’Abernon was feeling the effects of war-time and, in November 1915, it was reported that the resultant fall in membership and attendance had left a debit balance on the annual accounts of £4 10s. 81/2d. As often seemed to be the case in Oxshott, Mrs Bowen-Buscarlet stepped into the breach, offering to clear the deficit.

On Trafalgar Day, which had been set apart throughout England as ‘Our Day’ in support of the work of the Red Cross, both the parishes of St Mary’s and St Andrew’s collected funds for the Society, to the sum of £26 45. 9d. and £100 2s. 4d. respectively.

The magazines this month closed with the sad news of the deaths of Archibald Rowan-Hamilton and Reginald Carter, and, in the St Andrew’s magazine, there was also a list of those who were currently wounded, sick, or reported missing.

As the first full year of the conflict drew to a close, December 1915 in both parishes saw an appeal for presents of ‘turkeys, plum puddings, mince-meat, fruit, crackers, cakes, or any Christmas fare’ for the Red Cross Hospital at the Red House in Leatherhead.

In Stoke D’Abernon an invitation was extended to children and grown-ups to bring a toy or article of clothing to the Church on December 12, as a Christmas gift for the children of the sailors and soldiers serving in the war. Mr W. Bruce Bannerman, who transcribed and edited the parish register, offered to send 10 or 20 copies to be sold at £1 1s. 0d. each, on the condition that the money was ‘credited to the Red Cross or other fund in your parish for the relief of the widows of any soldiers killed in Freedom’s Cause or of wounded soldiers (whether natives of or residents of your parish)’ and that the names of subscribers were published or fixed on the Church door. Finally, mixing philanthropy with pleasure, it was reported that the Men’s Club had held a well attended whist drive, the proceeds of which were to be handed to the Red Cross.

In Oxshott, a memorial service was held on Sunday November 28 for those who had fallen. All those who had laid down their lives from the parish were mentioned by name, and two buglers, who were given leave to attend from the East Surrey Regiment, played the ‘Last Post’. With news of the loss of local men Frederick Cotterell, Walter Akerman, and Hubert William Selby from the 7th Battalion of the East Surreys, on October 13 at the Battle of Loos, the year ended on a sombre note.


St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, and St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, January to December 1915, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.



Henry Puddick

Taken from the Surrey Comet, 11 November 1916

“[Private] Puddick, of Royal Fusiliers, who was twenty-three years of age, was a son of Mr. And Mrs. H. Puddick, of James street, Alpha road, Surbiton Hill, and was born in Surbiton. As a lad he was a member of Christ Church Company of the Church Lads’ Brigade, and was a chorister at Christ Church from his boyhood until he joined the colours on the outbreak of war. He had been at the Front for about twelve months when he was killed on October 13 by the accidental explosion of a rifle grenade at headquarters. [Lieutenant] E Price Hallowes, writing to his wife concerning him, said: ‘He will be greatly missed as he was beloved by all his company’. In August last year he married Miss Dorothy Byfield, of Surbiton Hill, and their home was at 7 Kingscote road, New Malden. His widow is left with an infant son.  Prior to his enlistment [Private] Puddick was employed as a clerk at the Army and Navy Stores.”

Harry Beavis

Taken from the Surrey Comet, 11 November 1916

“A Past Grand Master of the bush Park Lodge, M.U.I.O.O. and a chorister and server at St. Andrew’s Church, Surbiton, Rifleman Harry J. Beavis was well known in the district.  Also formerly a member of the Kingston Men’s V.A.D., he frequently did duty at the Red Cross Hospital at New Malden.  Prior to the outbreak of war he was for several years head tuner at Messers F.T.V Honeywed and Son, of Surbiton Park Terrace, Kingston, being much respected by the firm’s clients.  He was the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. H.W. Beavis, of “Surbiton”, Victoria avenue, W Swanage.  Rifleman Beavis, who was serving in the Queen’s Westminsters, was killed in action on September 10.”

Stoke D’Abernon – 1914.

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

The parish magazine came in two parts, one for each church, and prior to the outbreak of war both were predominantly taken up with the usual mix of church business and parish life.

However, two editions in the lead up to the war provide an interesting insight into how broader social and political concerns had impacted upon both villages. In August 1914, for example, St Mary’s was primarily concerned with ‘the guarding of the church from suffragette outrages’. Without providing details of the steps taken, for fear of revealing their hand, the magazine put on record the names of the 34 men ‘who have so willingly volunteered to keep on night guard against possible attacks’.

Perhaps more pertinently, the June 1914 edition of the St Andrew’s magazine offers a snapshot of what life was like for many children in Surrey, on the eve of the Great War, with its discussion of the reasoning behind the appointment of a School Care Committee for Oxshott School, and every other school in county. The duties of the committee were to attend to the health of the children while at school, as well as trying to ensure that they had the opportunity to continue their education, post-elementary-level. It was believed that these committees were required on a number of grounds. Firstly, medical inspections had revealed that many children were suffering from serious, and often preventable, ill-health. This was attributed to ‘bad and insufficient housing and sanitation with the resultant physical and moral evils’. Additionally, the article asserted that, while many people thought child labour had been done away with, in reality children were often by used as ‘Cheap Labour’ and, as a consequence, were too tired to take advantage of the education that was offered to them. Lastly, enquiries had shown that, on leaving school, a large proportion of pupils were drifting into occupations ‘which offer[ed] no prospect of permanent employment or training, and…  in a very few years they frequently drift[ed] into the ranks of the less skilled and un-organized workers’. These grave evils, it was alleged, existed in towns and villages throughout Surrey and were due to ‘deep-rooted defects in our social organization, [resulting] in a waste of the nation’s wealth’, both in terms of the children’s potential and the money spent upon them. The author was quick to offer reassurances that, except in cases of gross neglect, the Committee would not interfere or take any action without the parent’s consent, and that any medical treatment would be carried out at an affordable cost. With regards to employment, it was highlighted that, whilst there was generally no problem finding work for boys and girls, it was not ‘the kind of employment for which they are best fitted and which will provide the necessary training to enable them to become the skilled workman and skilled workwoman of the future’. To that end, the Care Committees were to be linked up with the national Labour Exchanges in Surrey, each of which had appointed an officer to find suitable industrial openings for boys and girls.

First mention of the war, in any context, came in the September 1914 editions of the magazine.  Both provided a list of men in service for their country, with St Andrew’s differentiating between those already in service and those who had enlisted since the outbreak of war, and these continued to be updated.

In Stoke D’Abernon some 60 men, mostly veterans and so too old to enlist, were giving up their evenings for drill and for lessons in the use of a rifle. These were held at the Manor House range, which had been offered by Colonel Buscarlet, and were all under the instruction of an unnamed sergeant-instructor, late of the Hussars, who came from Esher four times a week, as well as Colonel Guise and Mr Mercer who had been ‘indefatigable in helping to give training to the men’.  In Oxshott a public meeting was held on August 18th to discuss how the men of the village could best service their country. As a result, 14 men had enlisted in Lord Kitchener’s Army and a Rifle Club and Civilian reserve had been formed for those men outside of the age of enlistment, which was 19 to 30.  On August 23rd, 60 men had assembled and were formed into companies with the aim of becoming efficient shots.  It was hoped that a range would be provided for shooting in the near future. The object of the Club was very clearly outlined. They were ‘not to form an armed guard or to interfere or seem to interfere in any way with the enlistment of men… but to teach the handling of a rifle so that in a great emergency the men of Oxshott may be able more quickly to fit themselves for service in the country’s forces’.

Meanwhile 60 ladies of the village of Stoke D’Abernon had, on August 14th, attended a meeting of the Red Cross at the Village Room, and undertaken to make garments for the sailors and soldiers. The author was certain that there would be ‘no lack of willing workers to do all in their power to meet the wants of our men, whether on sea or land, and where needed for the distress which is likely to arise from the war’. Similarly, in Oxshott, a committee of ladies had formed, consisting of Lady Spencer, Mrs Lambert, Mrs Landon, Mrs Verrey (Treasurer), Mrs Williams and Miss Durrad (Secretary), to organise work on behalf of the Society. An appeal for funds, made early in August, succeeded in raising £60 and at the first meeting, on August 17th, cut-out garments were distributed for making-up.  The Committee also advised that they had been offered the loan of a house in Oxshott, by an unnamed lady, ‘for use as a convalescent home for sailors and soldiers’. However, they had been unable to accept, as, after making enquiries to the Red Cross Society, they had discovered that ‘at present the War Office do not wish to consider any hospital or convalescent home under 50 beds, [as] so many large buildings have been offered that it was thought it would be a waste of funds and materials to equip a small house’.

Special services of Intercession were to be held at St Mary’s at 6.45pm on Wednesdays and Fridays, and intercessions were to be made each day at 10am at St Andrew’s. At the suggestion of Bishop Edward Winton, the Church Bells were to be rung daily for Noonday Prayer. In his letter, written on August 14th and published in the St Mary’s magazine, the Bishop spoke of the impossibility of writing ‘with reality or usefulness’ when, by the time of the magazine’s publication, things may have changed so enormously.  However, he suggested that the ringing of the bell would serve to mark a moment when, as suggested by the Chaplain-General, people should pause ‘to put up a word or thought of prayer for our soldiers and sailors’. In addition, he hoped that, in speaking to many hearts, this would be ‘mentioned in letters to our gallant defenders [and] vividly suggest our loving remembrance of them offered to God’.

Lastly, the Oxshott magazine brought news from the front in the form of a letter home from Frederick Brooks, who was in Hasler Hospital, having been injured by a shell which had burst on the deck of his ship whilst it lay off Kiel in northern Germany.

In October 1914 St Mary’s published an appeal on behalf of the Army Council for help in supplying blankets to the Territorial and newly-formed regiments, as the Army Stores had run out. Mrs Dunning of The Tilt House, Cobham, had undertaken to forward any gifts and in November it was reported that she had been able to distribute 309 blankets amongst the troops at Kingston and Aldershot, which were ‘most thankfully received’. In addition, in answer to an appeal made by Mrs Bowen-Buscarlet, three large cases of clothing for Belgian Refugees had been sent off and, the following month, it was reported that she had received grateful acknowledgement.

As well as the call to prayer at noon, and the Wednesday and Friday services, a new weekly Service of Intercession had been added at noon on Thursdays.  In November these were then changed again, to 6.45pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 12 noon on Fridays.

The magazine also reported on the work at the nearby Schiff Home of Recovery, where some 20 men who had been wounded at Mons and the battle of the Marne were being cared for.  It was thought that gifts of illustrated papers, tobacco and cigarettes, with Players’ Navy Cut being the favourite, would be acceptable and welcomed. Boots were also needed. Visitors were asked to come on Mondays and Thursdays, between 2 and 4, bringing any gifts with them. Alternatively, they could be sent to The Rector, who was also Chaplain of the Home.

In Oxshott, the Red Cross committee made it known that a workroom had been opened on September 28th in East London, where 12 to 20 girls would be employed in making garments. The money raised locally was to be used to purchase materials for the workshop, and anyone was welcome to visit and see the work going on. In the meanwhile, 85 roller bandages, 47 many-tail bandages, 6 small cushions, 9 pillow cases, 20 flannel shirts, 21 nightshirts, 18 bed jackets, 17 pyjamas and 4 pairs of bed socks had been sent to Mrs Henderson for the Leatherhead Branch of the Red Cross Society, and 12 shirts and 12 pairs of socks had been sent to Mrs Northcott for the 9th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

The economic and social effects of wartime were already being felt. ‘Pound Day’ was to take place on October 6th, when Mrs Verrey and Miss Moorish would receive contributions to the annual collection of gifts of money and groceries for the Cobham Cottage Hospital. The importance of not forgetting ‘this local call upon our charity’, at this time of rising prices and urgent need, was emphasised, and It seems that this appeal was a great success as in November it was reported that records gifts had been received from 400 people.  The total result was £28 11s. 0d., 1,622 ½lbs of groceries, and 110 miscellaneous gifts.

Demonstrating the degree of need that being felt within the community, it was also reported that Oxshott now had a local ‘Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey Fund’ committee. They were to receive contributions for the Prevention and Relief of Distress during the War, as well as attempting to find employment for those who were out of work. However, whilst the Committee would do all they could to find work for those who required it, it was pointed out that this would require the assistance of employers.  To that end, an appeal was made ‘to everyone to do their utmost to make work’, stating that ‘no one wants charity, but every man and woman wants to earn a livelihood’.

Congratulations were also extended to Frederick Brooks who had returned, recovered, to his ship HMS ‘Queen’.

The November 1914 edition saw a report on a Lantern Lecture, entitled ‘Why Britain is at War, and how it came about’, given by Mr Addison McLeod of the Victoria League on October 22nd in St Andrew’s Hall. The slides were considered to be ‘excellent’ and ‘several pictures of Oxshott recruits were also thrown up upon the sheet’. Tribute was paid by the chair, Mr Morrish, to the Belgian King and people, and the profits from the lecture were given to the collection for Belgian Refugees that was being organised by Mrs Northcott.  The same lecture was given at the Village Room in Stoke D’Abernon, a week later, when the Stoke D’Abernon Choir had sung the National Anthems of each of the allied countries engaged in the War and, again, pictures of ten serving local men had been exhibited.

The Victoria League is an independent, non-political organisation, founded in 1901 to promote closer union between the different parts of the then British Empire in order to foster understanding and good fellowship. Hospitality, fundraising, friendship, and education have been important focuses for the League and during the Great War they organised beds and meals for servicemen on leave, and sent food parcels to the families of those serving.

In Stoke D’Abernon, the St Mary’s Harvest Festival of the previous month had been subdued in tone and no anthem was sung, but ‘God’s providence’ had ensured that, despite the precarious nature of food supplies during wartime, they had not lacked. As well as a ‘good harvest of wheat at home’, the protection of the Navy had meant that supplies were arriving from abroad ‘almost as in normal times’. By contrast, the St Andrew’s Harvest Festival seems to have been a much jollier affair as, proving fears unfounded, ‘the decorations were more beautiful than ever before.  Flowers were given in abundance and most artistically arranged… [and] the music was well up to the standard we try to preserve’.

With Christmas on the horizon, the members of the Mothers’ Meeting and Sunday School children had collected 10/- for Princess Mary’s Christmas Gift Fund for our Sailors and Soldiers.

Throughout the magazines at this time, there was a strong sense of gratitude for the sacrifices made by the Belgian people, and a desire to do something for them in return.  At a local level some very immediate assistance was being offered to some of the many Belgians who had been forced to flee the ‘ruthless, cruel, savage [and] wanton… deeds perpetrated on [their] country… by the enemy’. Colonel and Mrs Bowen-Buscarlet had offered hospitality at their home, Manor House, to Mons. and Madame Noél and their child; Monsieur Noél senior; Monsieur and Madame Van den Leven; Mademoiselle Van de Leven; Monsieur Heun de France, an invalided officer; Mademoiselle Suzanne Froidbise; and Monsieur Robert Froidbise. In addition, Monsieur and Madame Sneyers, along with their three daughters and grandmother, were receiving hospitality at the Manor Dairy Cottages, and in December it was reported that the balance of £1 18s. 6d. from the Stoke D’Abernon Lantern Lecture had been handed to the family, and received with gratitude. These families had all fled from Mons or the siege of Antwerp. Similarly, in Oxshott, two families were being hosted, and more were expected. At the Oxshott Children’s Harvest Service, one hundred and thirty-three parcels of clothing were received, which Mrs Faulkner had ‘conveyed to London by motor’. The officials of the Relief Committee ‘were most grateful’ and a letter that effect, from the War Refugees’ Committee, was also published in the magazine.

The final month of the year, December 1914, sees more emphasis on the usual business of the church and parish, in the form of Christmas, Confirmations, Sunday School, gifts to the church, general finances, and local entertainment, at which ‘national airs and patriotic songs formed a large item’.

An update on the Stoke D’Abernon Red Cross work party was provided, who, since their last account, had despatched 21 shirts, six pairs of socks, and one waistcoat, to the Royal Sussex Regiment, 48 petticoats to the ‘very destitute poor women at St Marks’ Parish, Portsea’, and two shirts, two pairs of socks, and one belt to Madame Sneyer’s son, ‘who is a Belgian soldier, and much in need of warm clothing’. It was also noted that about £6 per month was needed from the ‘Lord Lieutenant’s Fund for the County of Surrey’, for the purchase of materials for the working party.

The St Andrew’s Christmas Day Collections were, as usual, to go to the ‘Bishop of Winchester’s Fund’, which provided ‘spiritual food’ to the men, women and children of the diocese and was urgently in need of increased support. Potential subscribers were called upon to think about the people of Southampton, Aldershot and, in particular, ‘Portsmouth and all that it stands for’, because of whom the parishioners of Oxshott were able to eat their daily bread.

Lastly, there was also news from the front about the wartime experiences of Harry Coombs, the St Mary’s Parish Clerk, a Reservist who was called to serve at the beginning of the war and who was now recovering at the Schiff Home.


St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, and St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, January to December 1914, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

Victoria League for Commonwealth Friendship, ‘History’, accessed 2 November 2015,






Cranleigh in November 1916

Research and text by Joy Horn, published in The Cranleigh Magazine

The local branch of the Church Lads’ Brigade started its winter programme with enthusiasm, despite the fact that at least seven of its ex-members had already died in the War, besides others wounded. Physical drill and dumb bell exercises were carried out on Mondays in the Village Hall, rifle practice was held on Wednesdays at  the miniature range in Knowle Park, with the Bible class on Thursdays in the Kent House tearoom (over the present Barnardo’s shop). There were currently 20-30 members.

The Village Hall was also the venue for the annual general meeting of the Rifle Club. Sir George Bonham of Knowle was in the chair, and declared that ‘the benefit of these clubs is being gradually recognised.’ It currently had 45 members, most of them from the Voluntary Training Corps – the ‘Dad’s Army ’of the First World War – consisting of men who had failed the Army’s medical test or were over the age of conscription.

Mrs Rowcliffe, commandant of Oaklands Red Cross Hospital, appeared before the Hambledon Tribunal, which heard appeals against men being conscripted into the armed forces. She put in a strong plea on behalf of Abraham Osgood, 34, the hospital orderly. He was the only man employed in a hospital of 30 patients, and he worked the kitchen garden of over an acre, looked after twelve pigs, besides poultry, and attended to the drainage system and heating apparatus. An older man simply could not get through the work. Mrs Rowcliffe was a forceful lady, accustomed to getting her own way. Nevertheless, Abraham was allowed only three months. The tribunal seems to have been getting tougher in granting exemptions.

The Cranleigh Women’s War Work Committee, meeting in the Schoolroom behind the Baptist Chapel, had produced 1,096 articles for the armed forces in the past year. This included pyjamas, shirts, vests and knitted ‘comforts’. 157 workers were enrolled, and attendances had numbered 1,163. It must have been a hive of activity. The women had supplied the needs of Oaklands Military Hospital, and had sent a steady stream of parcels to Friary Court in London, the central depot of the Queen Mary’s Needlework Association.

Milford – 1915

St John‘s Church, Milford – 1915

In January 1915 the vicar’s New Year address was, unsurprisingly, very different to that of 1914 which had been entirely preoccupied with parish finances. Only a few months into the war Reverend Nattrass remained optimistically cheerful in his outlook, certain that, when God saw fit, the black cloud of war would lift and the process of healing begin. He praised the troops training in nearby camps, who desired no pity despite the fact that they lived their life in ‘shush and rain’, and viewed their behaviour as evidence of the trustworthiness of reports of the ‘cheerfulness of our men in the fighting lines’. The Reverend also continued to see the war as a just one, concluding that:

‘Everyone of us feels it is a privilege to do what is in their power to meet the endless demands which our country makes upon us in this hour of its great need. God grant that this year may see the end of the Great War, but if this may not be, then our happiness will be found in the unceasing opportunities which are being given us of rendering, however humble, a support in maintaining that heroic conflict until it shall end in a victory such as none shall every [sic] grudge the cost of.’

It seems that earlier pleas for greater support of the Curate’s Stipend Fund had been heeded as the vicar had been joined by a second clergyman, Reverend C J Johnstone.

Finite resources, both human and material, meant that the support given to the South African Church Railway Mission had been deferred, in actuality only until March, as ‘the extra work that is being done to provide for the comfort of the Troops and for the needs of those who are suffering because of the war’ was prioritised. In the meantime the Working Party continued to make garments for soldiers at the Front and mend socks for those at ‘our Camp’. A new Working Party was also to be instigated every Thursday fortnight at 6.30pm, for those who could not attend in the afternoon. Members of the League of Honour were particularly asked to attend.

The ‘League of Honour for Women and Girls of the British Empire’ was established in response to the national crises. Its motto was ‘Strength and Honour’ and its members pledged ‘by the help of God to uphold the honour of our nation and its defenders in this time of war, by Prayer, Purity and Temperance’. The organisation’s four key objects were very much couched in terms of women’s responsibility for the moral welfare of the nation, in particular for ‘the manhood of our country’.

It seems, however, that these aims were misunderstood and the magazine’s authors were keen to establish that ‘far from casting any aspersion on our soldiers, as some have mistakenly thought, members of the League should be ready to do all they can for the true welfare of those who have given up so much in the service of their country’. In practice, by August 1915 the Milford branch of the League had so far held no meetings, although one was proposed towards the end of the month in the Vicarage Garden.

In February 1915 the privations of wartime were clearly demonstrated as magazine recorded that the ‘dearness of food, the heavy taxation, and the irresistible appeals… reaching us daily’ meant that Lent this year was to be welcomed as offering ‘a consecration by Religion of that abstinence which necessity has laid upon us’.

The issue of church seating was once again mentioned and thanks were offered to members of the congregation who had given up their usual seats at the 11am service in favour of Officers and Soldiers from the local camp, who were also welcomed to the Sunday services.

Financially, the Alms Fund was showing increased solvency, which was largely attributed to ‘the special circumstances arising out of the war’, and total church collections had also increased.  However, subscriptions had fallen and this was attributed to the ‘departure from the parish of many regular subscribers’.

March 1915 saw reports that, on Sunday 21st February, the parish bade farewell to the first group of men who had occupied ‘Hut City’ at the military encampment. In contrast to their apparent initial misgivings, the it was recorded that they ‘know now that soldiers make excellent neighbours’ and, in response to the appreciation shown for the efforts made by the parishioners to mitigate the hardships of camp life, ’we shall take the more pleasure in doing what lies in our power to be of service to them’. Throughout the year the parish continued to take pleasure in the appreciation shown by the occupants of Milford Camp.

The April and May 1915 editions were mainly taken up with church business, including, once again, the falling off of subscriptions ‘occasioned by death, and by the departure from the parish of several regular subscribers’, particularly in relation to the parish’s ability to maintain an assistant priest at the exact time ‘when unique circumstances call for the utmost exertion’. In May these fears were realised when the Vicar announced that it had become necessary to cancel the services of Reverend Johnstone, despite the increase in work caused by the Military Camp, which included a corresponding increase in Sunday worshippers. However, the Diocese came to the rescue when Reverend H P Thornton, Honorary Secretary of the Diocesan Clerical Registry, consented to help out temporarily, on a part-time basis.

Appeals for money continued throughout the year as the church attempted to compensate for these lost contributions. These included appeals for The Parish Funds, the Curate’s Stipend Fund, funds for fittings at the four Church huts at Milford Camp, the Winchester Diocesan Fund, funds for those made homeless by War, the Sunday School annual Christmas Treat, the National Committee for Relief in Belgium, the Red Cross, and Missions Overseas. The demands on parishoner’s finances were plentiful.

In June 1915 the magazine reported that the parish was to respond to the Bishop of Winchester’s repeated charges of lack of support for the summons to Prayer, by moving the special Intercessory service from Friday evening to Thursdays at 7.30pm, and, if not successful, to Wednesday evenings.

At Milford Camp The Church Army had established a hut, the only institution provided by a Church agency within the camp. The Camp Hospital called for gifts of magazines to relieve the monotony of ‘these innocent prisoners’. Arrangements had been made for The Boy Scouts to call and collect any suitable publications.

In addition the inevitability of conscription was addressed, as the author asserted that ‘to wait for compulsion is to forfeit the honour of self-sacrifice’ and expressed a hope that, when the day arose, no Milford man ‘will be found to be taken other than those whom good reason has restrained from voluntary enlistment’.  This sentiment was to be repeated later in the year when King George V made his ‘call to arms’.

July 1915 was once again taken up with matters financial and in many ways, although for different reasons, this was a return to matters that had preoccupied the parish’s organisations before the outbreak of war. Additionally, the magazine reported that a special day of continuous Intercession had taken place on 21st June, which was well observed but by comparatively few. The coming departure from the Camp of XI Division, ‘among whom we have found so many good friends’, was also anticipated.

In August 1915 the effects on a small population of having a military camp nearby were highlighted, when the magazine reported on the Vicar of Aldershot’s appeal for help in building additional schoolrooms for a village that, before the Crimean War, had a population of 200 and which now had ‘a military population of 40,000, and a civil one of 24,000’. The author concluded that it did not call for much effort to foresee a day when Milford might have to take similar action.

In ‘Practical Patriotism’, the magazine recorded that the Educational Authorities, at the request of the Government, had distributed leaflets through the School advising of practical ways in which adults and children could support the war effort. These included practising ‘careful economy in our daily expenditure’ and ‘avoiding, so far as is possible, the purchase of foreign products’. In addition it was asserted that ‘it should be the ambition of everyone to possess at least one £5 War Loan Stock Certificate’.

In June 1915 the Government had announced a new War Loan scheme. Unlike an earlier scheme, in which the minimum subscription of £100.00 could only be made via the Bank of England, the new loan was designed to be more widely accessible and, to that end, bonds for the sum of £5 and £25, paying interest at 4.5%, were to be obtainable through the Post Office. For those for whom this was too much of a stretch, vouchers were also made available in five shilling multiples, not only through Post Offices but also through bodies such as Trade Unions, Friendly Societies and Works Offices. These vouchers carried interest at 5% per annum and, once accumulated to £5, could be exchanged for a bond.

National War Bonds: woman with flag

Title: National War Bonds: woman with flag
Description: Source: The National Archives, NSC5/11 by-nc

Parents in Milford were invited to encourage their children to ‘save up for the proud moment when they become possessors of a voucher of their own’.

In September 1915 a meeting was held to explain a County Scheme that had been set up to enable individuals to become 2 shilling contributors to the War Loan scheme. Payments were to be made weekly, with a penny fine for each lapsed week, and parents were able to invest in the name of a child, so endowing them with a benefit for the future. However, the meeting was poorly attended and few had become contributors.

The thorny subject of poor attendance at Intercessory prayers was tackled yet again as the author asked ‘how is it that any home which has sent out a sailor or solider to the war has no one to represent it, but leaves it to others to offer united prayer for their own dear ones in danger?’ This was contrasted with the situation in France where it had been reported that partially ruined Churches in devastated districts were ‘crowded with supplicants’.

With the approach of Michaelmas Day, also known as The Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels, the magazine made reference to the story of ‘The Angels at Mons’ as one of many reasons for keeping this festival ‘with special earnestness’.

Lastly in September, the news that Corporal William Ogden, a postman, had become the first of Milford’s own to lay down his life. This had been followed, more recently, by the death of Sydney Voller (known as Frank), who was baptized in Milford Church and had spent his life within the community.

The October 1915 issue advised that the List of Honour in the Church Porch had been revised and, ‘to the credit of our Parish’, been considerably lengthened to reflect the names of all Milford men serving in the Navy and the Army. Amongst these were the churchwarden, Walter Butterworth (known as Cecil), who had taken up a commission in the 3rd West Surrey Regiment, necessitating the appointment of Mr Mackintosh as Acting Churchwarden.  Cecil was to fall at the Somme on 21 July 1916.

In addition, the Superintendent of the Ockford Sunday School, Miss E Laidman, had accepted foreign-service as a Red Cross Nurse. Finally, the sad news of the loss of the Bishop of Winchester’s youngest son, Gilbert. The Bishop asked that his two elder sons, who were both serving as Chaplains in France, should be remembered in prayers.

November 1915, opened with the ‘King’s Appeal’ and the looming possibility of ‘compulsory recruiting’. The Girl’s Friendly Society and War Working Party were continuing their good works, and it was announced that strict measures would be adopted to enforce the regulation requiring windows to be blacked-out after dark.

Two more Milford soldiers had also lost their lives in France, Alfred Herbert died of wounds in hospital and Alfred Luff fell in action. The message from the Front telling of Alfred’s death, and the way in which he was ‘so valued by his officers and comrades’, was a matter of both pride and consolation to the parish.

1915 closed with the December issue and extracts from a charge by the Bishop of Winchester, which detailed his reflections on the nation’s response to the War so far.

The Bishop stated that, having found the War necessary, and therefore right, ‘the nation plunged with something of the blitheness of good conscience, and of conscious unanimity into the greatest adventure of history’, and the Church, having found itself convinced that treachery and cowardly self regard are more anti-Christian than war, ‘threw the whole weight of its influence into strengthening and consecrating the nation’s decision’. However, Bishop Talbot went on to assert that ‘a little too content with its decision, the nation was a little slow to see how much the decision involved, and how much it left untouched’.


St John’s Milford, Monthly Magazine, January 1915 to December 1915, SHC Ref. 8005/2/17.

‘The League of Honour’, Surrey Mirror and County Post, 4 December 1914.

‘The New War Loan’, The Times (London), 22 June 1915.