Nurse Phyllis Geen

‘A Walton Nurse – Reproduced in today’s issue [of the Surrey Herald newspaper] is a photograph of Miss Phyllis Geen, a young and energetic member of the British Red Cross Society who has, since January, devoted the whole of her time to ministering to our wounded heroes at the military hospital known as Ottermead, Ottershaw, the Surrey seat of the Earl of Neath who has kindly lent the state. Miss Geen is the only daughter of Mr and Mrs Philip Geen, of Walton and the granddaughter of Mr Philip Geen of Richmond, the well known author and angler, who is also the popular President of the Angling Association. Miss Geen had several of the Neuve Chappelle heroes among her patients at Ottershaw where she now holds the position of senior nurse.’


The Surrey Herald, Friday, June 18, 1915.

The Cedar Road School, Cobham

Cobham Remembers

The Cedar Road School which opened in April 1860 was an important part of the Cobham community during the Great War.

Mr John Rundle was Head Master of the Boy’s school, 1903-1930. He is recorded in the 1911 census as living in Copse Cottage, Freelands Road with his wife Bertha. May Alice White aged 15 was their domestic servant.

Miss Lilla Pridham was the Head Mistress at the Girl’s school, 1911-1927, but had taught there for some years before. The 1911 census shows her living at Roseleigh, Freelands Road, with her father Paul, a retired bootmaker, and her mother Louisa.

The War Years.

Effects of the war on school life were quick to appear with an entry in the School log book for 24 August 1914 – “five boy scouts are absent watching the telegraph wires”.

On September 7, 1914 “Mr Pratt and Mr Smith, both Certified Teachers, are absent today. They have gone to London to offer themselves as candidates for the army.” The entry for the next day says “Mr Pratt and Mr Smith have been accepted as soldiers in the RAMC for three years or as long as the war lasts. They are commanded to be present at Great Scotland Yard at 9 o’clock this morning.” Naturally there was a knock-on effect on the running of the school The Cobham Church Parish Magazine (CPM) of November 1914 reported that “the Head Master and his remaining Assistants, while justifying this patriotic action have been hard pressed to carry on all the work in their absence. A capable Assistant Mistress, Miss Chesney, has been recruited to lighten the load”.

Less successfully one of the Uncertified Teachers, Mr Joe Egbert Whiteley, living in 1911 with wife, Ellen and daughter Florence at 2, Sutton Villas, Hogs Hill Lane, tried to enlist in November 1915 but was considered medically unfit. He and another teacher, Mr Fuller, both tried again in the early days of the Battle of the Somme, but Mr Fuller was found to be “quite unfit”, whilst Mr Whiteley was told that he was “absolutely unfit”. (Curiously, Joe Whiteley had received the 2nd eleven presentation bat at the Cobham Cricket Club Dinner in January 1914!)

A more visible result of the war in Europe was a small influx of Belgian refugees. In October 1914 five Belgian children were admitted to the school. Their families were being accommodated in a number of places around Cobham including Fairfield, a house in Green Lane, and most had been brought here from HRH the Duchess of Vendome’s Hostel at Wimbledon.

The local vicar was highly critical of the effect on the schools of steps taken by the government. In the CPM April 1916 he wrote “Government measures of economy are taking the regrettable form of ruthless reduction of staff in the Primary Schools of the country. And we, of course, in Cobham, have to bear our share of loss in consequence. In the Boy’s Department, especially, there has been an increasing struggle with fresh difficulties ever since the war began, when we lost two of our best assistants to the RAMC who have never been suitably replaced. Mr Rundle has now lost his principal remaining male assistant. Before long the waves of reduction will trouble the Girls’ and Infants’ Schools. Cutting down expenditure on elementary education is, of all short-sighted economics, perhaps the most penny wise and pound foolish in which a nation can indulge. The commercial struggle of the future can only be more intense than in the past. And we might as well expect to win this present war without adequate munitions as expect to beat our rivals in the world without giving the new generation the weapons by which victory can be won.”

Other economies were more basic. In November 1914, as recorded in the School log book, “To decrease the amount of water being used the lavatories will be flushed at 10.45, 1.35 and 4.00”.

As the war drew on, in a preview of social pressures to come, in the CPM March 1918 “Thanks are due to the Misses Thomas and their helpers who have provided a meal at one o’clock for between fifty and sixty children, two days each week, on the school premises. The experiment has proved very successful and may pave the way for something of a more comprehensive kind.”

Downside school experienced similar issues. As reported in the CPM August 1915 “ A fall in the number of girls attending Downside School has meant that we have been required by the Education Committee at Kingston to reduce our staff of teachers by one and so we have been obliged to relinquish the services of Miss Marlowe. To this loss has been added the resignation of Miss Hayter [Headmistress (girls & infants)] who came here more than 14 years ago at the invitation of Mr & Mrs Deacon.”

Health issues were a persistent problem. In April 1914 Mr Rundle wrote in the log book that several cases of scarlet fever were reported but the Medical Officer refused to close the school.

The CPM of May 1914 noted “a few cases of scarlet fever and two or three cases of diphtheria during the past month has caused the Schools to close due to non attendances. It is an absolute necessity to give immediate notice to their Medical Man of suspicious cases, reducing the risk of spread of the epidemic. It is hoped when the schools re-open in a few days, Parental Panic will have ceased”.

It is somewhat surprising to read in June 1914 that “The Vicar raises the subject of social purity in relation to a movement set in foot for the introduction of Sexual Subjects in Senior classes in Elementary Schools and feels that parents should not shrink from giving the protection of knowledge to their offspring, in view of the natural and unnatural temptations which occur in every walk of life.”

The end of the war was not the end of their problems. Cobham did not entirely escape the influenza pandemic. From the CPM January 1919 “The influenza epidemic has not affected Cobham to the same extent as many other places, however there has been a great deal of illness during the past two months among the younger children and schools have been closed under medical order for several weeks.” Added to this “Both boilers at the Church and the School have broken down at a time of cold weather and trade dislocation. The one at the church can be repaired for the time being but the one at the school has to be renewed and hopefully can be supplied and fitted without having to close the School.” That wish was evidently in vain as the February update noted “Many parents and possibly some scholars will be glad to hear that the new boiler for the schools has “left the works” and we can only hope the Railway Company will be as anxious to deliver as we are to receive it. The first week in February ought to see the re-opening of the Boy’s and Girl’s Departments.”

Throughout the war the children were expected to do their bit. From the CPM Aug 1915 “The children of the school and our energetic work party under Miss Mount’s supervision have made and despatched about 200 sandbags for which Captain Mount appealed from the trenches and of which our soldiers are badly in need.”

In November 1917 the Downside Girls School gathered 23 bushels of Horse Chestnuts for the Government, and the Girls of Cobham Schools harvested 1420 lbs of potatoes from a piece of waste ground behind the Infants School, averaging about 95lbs each plot. “Each girl took several pounds of her produce to the kitchen of the Cottage Hospital”. So important was this venture that they were all named in the article as follows “They are E. Beech, F. Brooks, F. Faulkner, J. Hamilton, J. Harding, F. James, E. Johnson, D. Jones, M. Overton, J. Pearson, M. Phillips, K. Pullen, H. Radley, A. Searle and J. Tupper.” Apparently a Government Department offered 12 shillings per cwt for dandelion roots but there is no report that Cobham contributed to this particular war effort.

The Girls were kept busy as in the CPM May 1918 “Energetic Landwork is in full swing by the Girls of Cobham Schools under Miss Pridham. Mr & Mrs Nevinson have helped in measuring plots and assisting the campaign. Mr Cawston has paid for seed potatoes and Mr Beddome and Mr White of the Post Office have made presents of seed. Nearly forty plots have been arranged”. Girls were obviously a lot hardier in those days.

The adults appear to have tried to maintain some normality for the children. “Mrs Deacon’s Annual Treat for the schoolchildren just after the Christmas [1914] holidays was especially appreciated this year when there has been so much to depress and sadden us. For the first time both schoolrooms were used, tea being laid out at the Infant School and the entertainment taking place at the Girl’s School. Each child was given crackers, a box of chocolates and a present of a more lasting character. The entertainment consisted of some kinema pictures, very kindly given by Mr Cecil Hines, and some songs in character. The new arrangement made it possible for the parents to see their children enjoying the party”. (CPM February 1915)

In the absence of television and playstations the children were able to entertain themselves and their parents with their homegrown efforts.and evidently there were some musical talents. On February 9 and 10, 1915, “a grand entertainment”, a comic opera ‘Columbus’, was put on by the boys school, concluding with a display of physical exercises, “highly delighted the crowded audience who enthusiastically closed the evening with the National Anthem of the Allies. The sum raised totalled £25 10s. and benefited the National Relief Fund £15 and the Belgian Soldiers’ Fund £10.10.-.” And in April 1917 “the Boys Dept of the Cobham schools put on an outstandingly successful entertainment which included the operetta, “Caractacus” as well as Swedish Drill and part songs, over three evenings. Although all the Soldiers attended as ‘invited guests’ the sum of £33 was raised to be divided between Lord Roberts Memorial Fund and the Fund for Blinded .Soldiers.”

The end of the war was greeted with great relief. (CPM December 1918 Hatchford & Downside notes) “The manner in which we manifested our rejoicing in the Great Deliverance on St Martinmas Day will always be a happy memory for all who took part in it. At 12 o’clock the good news was brought to the schools and the Union Jack was run up, while the children gathered around it sang the National Anthem and cheered to their heart’s content.”

On the day of the Peace Celebrations, 19th July 1919, the boys, girls and their teachers, headed by a band, marched from the school through the village. When they reached the Village Hall where the demobbed men and their wives were being entertained to lunch, they halted and gave three cheers for the soldiers. They then continued on to Pyports for sports and a tea party. Prizes were presented by Mrs Kitching, the Doctor’s wife.”


The Cedar Road School Cobham 1860-1985 by David J Harrison

Cobham Church Parish magazines 1914-1919

St Andrews C of E Middle and Secondary schools log books 1873-1980

Rose Kate Overington

Rose Kate OVERINGTON, known as Kitty, was born 17 July 1896 in Godalming and baptised on 8 November at St Peter and St Paul, the same year. She was the daughter of Alfred Overington, a steam roller driver, and Kate England Overington (née MANDEVILLE).

Kate had a brother Albert OVERINGTON, who was born on 21 April 1889 in Godalming. He was killed in action during the First World War and died on 5 July 1916 in France and Flanders. He had risen to the rank of Sergeant of the 8th Battalion, Border Regiment. His regimental number was 5800.

Kate had two sisters. Annie was born 26 December 1892 and married Henry J.W. SMITH in 1940 in Surrey.

The youngest sister, Eva Audrey, was the youngest sibling and was born 6 November 1900 in Godalming, Surrey, and baptised on 3 October the following year. She married John Sharp Dixon HINDE on 10 June 1929. She died on 1 April 1987 at Eastlake Home, Nightingale Road, Godalming, Surrey.

Kate enlisted with the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) at Woking on 10 December 1917 and was transferred to the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) on 1 April 1918. At this time her parents lived at 68 Ockford Road, Godalming, Surrey. She achieved the rank of Chief Section Leader in the WRAF. Her service number was 3522.

During the period 1918 – 1919, Kate worked at Denham Camp, Buckinghamshire, as a cook. On 3 May 1918, Margaret Hay gave her a signature book and whilst working at the camp Kate asked patients and hospital staff to sign it.

N. Overington wrote in the book:

‘Friendship consists not in the multitude of friends but in their work and choice.’

Another person wrote:

‘Be a good girl, lead a good life, tend a good husband and make a good wife.’

Eva Audrey Overington wrote in her sister’s signature book:

‘There’s a silver lining to every cloud – don’t forget! Just bide a wee and dinna fret.’

Besides the many poems, a few patients painted pictures in the book.

Rose was demobilised at Ruislip on 30 October 1919. She married James LUMLEY on 7 August 1922 at St Peter and St Paul, Godalming. James had been a patient at Denham Camp and on 20 January 1920 he wrote in her signature book:

‘Friends may have written, Friends may write. But there’s no-one loves you better, than the one who writes tonight.’

He wrote his address as 39 Hartland Road, Stratford, E15.

James LUMLEY was born 22 December 1895, in West Ham. He lived with his parents and 4 siblings in West Ham, Essex.

James and Rose had four children.

Rose Kate died in 1969 aged 72 years. Her husband, James LUMLEY died 13 March 1978 at Ockford Road, Godalming, Surrey.

Rose Kate and James’ daughter Sheila allowed Surrey Heritage to make a digital copy of Kate’s autograph book. Click here to browse through the book.





Reigate County School – Dorothy Tatton Winter, an Old Girl’s War Work

Dorothy Tatton Winter was born in 1892, the daughter of William Tatton Winter (1855-1928). He was a noted artist who moved with his family to Reigate in 1897, and lived at The Studio, South Park, Reigate. He bequeathed his paintings of Reigate to the town, where they now hang in the mayor’s parlour at the Town Hall. Dorothy studied at Reigate County School from 1907-1909. Following that, it appears that she did not take up an occupation, being described as “at home” in both the school register in 1909, and the 1911 census. The family took part in the 1913 Reigate Pageant, where Dorothy played a servant. Her father’s painting of Colley Hill was on the cover of the souvenir programme. That year, she was one of a group of ‘Old Girls’ who accompanied the headmistress Miss Anderton on a visit to Paris.

In October 1918, she married John P. Walker. They subsequently moved to Canada, where she died in 1941.

Dorothy wrote an article for the 1918 magazine of her old school about her wartime experiences in the Women’s Forestry Corps. She does not give a reason why she chose that particular group.



On the morning of 2nd July 1917, I started off from Reigate with a small case and a railway pass to Newstead.

I had joined the “Foresters” just a week before and with very few particulars, set off to see what I could do. I had a very pleasant journey, travelling all the way without meeting any others members – not that that made the journey pleasanter.

We were met at the Station by Lady Markham and driven in her car to the cottages on the Newstead estate [Nottinghamshire] that had been fitted up for us. We soon found our rooms, and then the labels on the beds. I was the first to get into the uniform that I found on the bed labelled ‘Winter’. It was great fun trying the different garments on, and they really fitted quite well.

After a good night’s rest and then a very appetising breakfast, the party of five of us started off to the woods, where we found the instructor waiting for us, with his father and his son; thus we really had three generations teaching us. Our axes were splendid; they weighed three and a half pounds, and it really was exciting when we all started in a row. We all brought several trees down the first day; but after a few days, when some of the excitement had worn off, we were only too glad to saw down for a change; and with first axing and then sawing for a bit we managed to get along splendidly. One day, with four of us sawing and four lopping (three being new girls), we brought down about 723 cubic feet of timber, about 70 trees. As a reward for our energy, we were given an hour off the next day and also a large box of chocolates. When we got used to the work and the house and surroundings, it really seemed  more like a jolly picnic, the way we went to work, carrying tools and baskets; lots of days  we took our dinner, and it was lovely sitting by the stream and eating what looked like a navvy’s dinner – great chunks of bread and bottles of tea; but it certainly was a hungry job, for although we were fed exceptionally well, we often took bits of dry bread in our pockets to eat at slack moments.

I was very sorry when I knew that I would be leaving Newstead, although we already stayed six weeks longer than we ought to have done; for it was only a training centre and the training lasted four weeks, but we remained there ten. Then we were sent off to various parts of the country as fore-women. We were the first five women foresters in England. I ought to say that this was Mrs. Tennant’s scheme and she stayed and worked with us for several days at Newstead.  

Dorothy’s account was published in the 1918 magazine of the Reigate County School, June 1918 (pp. 57-58). A copy of this magazine is held by Surrey History Centre (ref. 3155/7/14).

Godalming Congregational Church in World War I

Written by Marion Edwards.

The experience of Godalming Congregational Church during the war is well illustrated by records held at Surrey History Centre under the reference 1925. They include annual reports (from 1918 re-named year books) and bound yearly volumes of church magazines.

The church’s annual reports are comprised largely of short reports and detailed accounts. However, each opens with ‘The Pastor’s Letter’ and that for 1914 begins with the statement that ‘This Manual is published while we are as a Nation at War … We are holding the fort and the flag is still flying’. From 1915, a ‘Roll of Honour’ is included of all those members of the congregation serving in the forces, with an ‘In Memoriam’ section naming those who have died.  Rather surprisingly, the regular ‘Items of Interest in … ’ detailing events for each year does not mention the war, but 1916 notes that ‘Many Canadians entertained on alternate Sunday evenings after Service’ in October, November and December; 1917 notes ‘Throughout the year a large number of Canadians from Witley Camp have attended our Sunday Evening Services’; and 1918 (now named the ‘Year Book for 1919’) records that in November there was a ‘United Free Church Service on conclusion [of the War]’.

Godalming Congregational Magazine, 1918 (SHC 1925/2/22)

The ‘Godalming & District Congregational Magazine’ is regularly at least 20+ pages long but most of the content comprises uplifting and informative illustrated stories and articles which are not specific to Godalming or indeed Surrey. This is typical of church magazines of the period, both Non-Conformist and Anglican.  Religious publishing houses provided the main content for local magazines, with local information about church services and meetings confined to an insert or short supplement.  Many people who didn’t take a newspaper will have obtained information about the war, in a rather sanitized form, from such magazines which emphasised the activities of Christian organisations and the continuing relevance of faith and traditional Christian teaching amidst the horror.

The September 1914 issue opens with the regular ‘The Pastor’s Column’, which this month states ‘No one dreamed when our last issue was published that within a few days England would be at War with Germany’. However, this is the only mention of the war and it is not until the October issue that the subject begins to feature in any length, with a page naming those men from Godalming and district serving their country and including extracts from a letter sent by a sailor on board HMS Princess Royal in the North Sea, and a short paragraph entitled ‘Mr KcKay on the War’. This final page becomes a feature in every issue of the magazine for the rest of the year, varying a little each time.  November’s ‘Pastor’s Column’ includes the news that soldiers are now billeted in Godalming and Rodborough, and that Belgian refugees are housed at Bramfield.  The same issue includes an illustrated article ‘Floating Hospitals for Children’ in New York harbour.  December’s ‘Pastor’s Column’ also notes soldiers billeted in Elstead, and the magazine includes the homily’ Powers That Promote Peace’. 

Godalming Congregational Magazine, 1918 (SHC 1925/2/22)

No magazines are held at Surrey History for 1915, although whether these were never published or are just missing is not clear. For 1916, a copy of the annual report appears at the front with the January issue and includes ‘The Pastor’s Letter’; from then on all the contents of the magazines for the year run together, with all the individual monthly introductory pages bound together at the back.  The inspiring general articles include a photograph of a sailor with two children entitled ‘Tales of the Great North Sea’ (p69); and the articles ‘The Effect of War upon Public Worship’ by the Right Hon Sir Joseph Compton-Rickett (p93), ‘Why Does not God Intervene?’ by the Rev George McLuckie (p211) and ‘The War Hymns of Charles Wesley’ by Will T Brooke (p261).  It is left to ‘The Pastor’s Column’ and the pages dedicated to local servicemen in each month’s introductory pages to directly address the war and its effect upon Godalming.

The 1917 volume reverts to the binding each month’s introductory pages together with the main contents, with a copy of the year’s annual report bound at the back. Like 1916, ‘The Pastor’s Column’ (disappearing on his departure in August), the ‘Editorial Notes’ and items dedicated to local servicemen in each month’s introductory pages address the war and its effect upon Godalming, stating in February that locally billeted soldiers are coming to Evening Service and including that month thank-you notes from recipients of parcels sent to those serving abroad.  The more general content again attempts to offer a wider perspective on the war including such pieces as: ‘A Winter of War Work’ by ‘JHN’ (May; noting ‘the idea that some of our Tommies [have] that the German guns say “Krupp, Krupp, Krupp”’); ‘The Greatest Enemy’ (June; comparing young men who fight with those who drink); ‘Labour Problems after the War’ (August); ‘Cameos From Camps’ by the Rev W Kingscote Greenland (October); and ‘New Year’s Day on a Troopship’ by the Rev Major W Field. While not directly related to the war, December’s ‘Saving the Babies’ is also of interest, relating to the education of new mothers and their babies, and the care of babies whose own mothers cannot care for them. 

Godalming Congregational Magazine, 1918 (SHC 1925/2/22)

In 1918, ‘The Pastor’s Letter’ (returning in September), ‘Editorial Notes’ and items dedicated to local servicemen in each month’s introductory pages directly address the war and its effect upon Godalming, noting in the December issue that ‘The war, we trust, is at an end’. However, like 1917, there is more of interest in the main pages again this year: ‘Behind the Firing Line’ by Gipsy Smith (January); ‘When the Boys Come Home’ by the Rev George Cooper (January); ‘The Home of Happiness’ by Sir Arthur Pearson (February; relating the story of St Dunstan’s home for blind servicemen); ‘Services in the Desert’ by the Rev Major W Field (March); ‘Miracles of Reconstruction’ (April; relating to a ‘shattered French village’); ‘Religion at the Front’ by the Rev Major Field (April); ‘My Boys of the Navy’ by Agnes Weston (June); ‘Camouflage’ by the Rev Fred Hastings (September); the short story ‘On Leave’ by Jeanie Fry (September); and ‘Children in Camp’ (December; about posting Christmas letters home to ‘Mother’). 

Mention of the past war continues until March this year, with in January pieces entitled ‘Looking Forward’ by the Rev Arthur T Guttery and ‘Tennyson’s Prophecies Fulfilled’ by the Rev George Eayrs (which includes the delightful paragraph ‘An Early Vision of Aeroplanes’ in Tennyson’s ‘Locksley Hall’ of 1942), and in March extracts from thank-you letters written by recipients of Christmas gifts to servicemen.

St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Redhill, during the war

Written by Marion Edwards

The contribution made by St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Redhill, to the war effort is well documented in the church’s records, held at Surrey History Centre as SHC ref 6353.

Of particular interest is a report on the work of the War Help Committee, established by St Paul’s church in September 1914, to consider the provision of aid to refugees from Belgium, ‘driven from their devastated homes … to seek refuge in England, the home of liberty and the asylum of the persecuted’. One of the committee’s first actions was to lend rent free a house in Devon Crescent, Redhill, which was at that time unoccupied; at the same time a needlework sub-committee was appointed to provide clothing and furnishings, and the house, named ‘The Haven’, was ready for occupation late in September.  A matron ‘well acquainted with conversational French’ was appointed – this was Mrs Heesom, upon whom ‘Nature had bestowed … the blessed gift of tact’, apparently needed ‘where there is more than one family living in a house [with] a common kitchen’!  A second house in Hatchlands Road, named ‘The Villa Hope’, was opened the same year, this time with the monetary assistance of the Borough Relief Fund.  As the Belgian men were found employment, they and their families began to leave and by June 1916 both houses were closed, those refugees remaining being boarded out with local families.  Between October 1914 and June 1916, the booklet records that 44 Belgians were housed and fed.  Thanks are given to local persons who lent or gave furniture, or painted and wall-papered free of charge, and the aid of the East Surrey Water Company in supplying water free of charge, and the Borough Council for remitting the payment of rates, is also acknowledged.

In addition to aiding refugee Belgians in England, in 1915 the Redhill War Help Committee also began to contribute funds for the supply of bread to British prisoners of war in Germany, and the booklet records that 45 men were provided with bread and other food for several months. Later, the Committee transferred their ‘practical sympathy’ to the new County Association for aiding men of the East Surrey Regiment who were prisoners of war in Germany, Redhill actively supporting 24 prisoners for a time, until obliged to reduce that number to 20.  The despatch of parcels to regimental POWs continued until the Armistice.

St Paul’s Presbyterian Church magazine (SHC 6353/3/9/3)

The booklet also outlines the efforts of the ladies of the needlework sub-committee, who, in addition to providing clothing and furnishings for the Belgian refugees, supplied bandages, clothing and other articles to wounded soldiers then returning home ‘weekly in ever increasing numbers’. Their work continued ‘with unabated zeal month after month, for the ladies possessed British grit and a Divine devotion to duty’, even after the Armistice, as wounded soldiers still arrived and ‘hospitals were full’.  Statistics for the indefatigable ladies are given as 11,974 articles and 1,365 sandbags made during the period of the war, and 35 members of the Redhill needlework sub-committee were awarded the Women’s Emergency Corps medal for their work – one had made ‘129 dozen’ bandages and another 188 shirts.  Extracts of letters of thanks from the Matrons of the Aldershot Military Isolation Hospital and the 2nd London General Hospital are included, as is a lengthy list of hospitals, societies and regiments all assisted by the tireless ladies of Redhill and Reigate.

The booklet closes with details of the amounts of money received in various ways and mentions that ‘cards of acknowledgement from the prisoners are tied up in bundles’ and asks ‘would any friend wish to have some to keep as memorials of the great [sic] War?’. It would be lovely to know if any of these still survive anywhere – do any readers know of them?

The church’s year books also include some valuable information, although largely statistical in format, comprising reports of the ‘Office Bearers’ and the various ‘Branches of Work’ (church organisations), and accounts, many of which from 1915 onwards include details of work done for the war effort. In 1915 a lengthy report entitled ‘Help in the War’ outlines the beginnings of the War Help Committee and the work done by it thus far.  This format continues for the 1916 and 1917 year books; those for 1918 and 1919 include a much smaller paragraph on the War Help Committee.  The year books for 1917, 1918 and 1919 also include on the first page a section entitled ‘Pro Patria Mori’, which names of those members of the congregation killed on active service.

Shooting at a Zeppelin, form the St Paul’s church scrapbook (SHC ref 6353/3/9/23)

The monthly ‘St Paul’s Magazine’ is rather practical in approach, with few flourishes and generally quite brief, rarely comprising more than 8 or 10 pages. Unfortunately, only magazines for 1914 and 1915 were issued, as it was deemed too expensive to continue production during wartime.  Most issues include a Roll of Honour of those serving.  The August 1914 issue includes a short report entitled ‘In Camp’, apparently describing life during a Boy’s Brigade outing; however, although there are some military references, as yet the war appears not to have intruded upon life in Redhill and Reigate. The September issue is either missing or was not produced, but the October magazine features a column on ‘How to Help in the War’. In November, a report on ‘The Haven’, one of the houses provided for Belgian refugees, is included. December’s issue features pieces ‘The War and New Zealand’ and ‘At the Front’.  The January 1915 issue includes a paragraph relating to ‘The War Needlework and Clothing Committee’, while February features a homily on ‘The Burden of Prayer and the Burden of the War’ and a report on ‘The Belgian Refugee Homes’.  March’s homily is ‘The Shadow of Lent and the Shadow of the War’, while April includes a paragraph ‘Easter and the War’; May’s issue only has a Roll of Honour. June and July both feature letters ‘From Our Friends at the Front’.  August does not include any items particular to the war, but September’s ‘Message for the Month’ from the Pastor is entitled ‘The Anniversary of Our Entrance into the War’.  October features another homily entitled ‘The Cost of the War and the Cost of Christian Discipleship’, and reports entitled ‘From WAB: At the Dardanelles’ and ‘From CR: Barrack Life in India’. November includes a lengthy report on the work of the Needlework Committee, while December closes with the aptly named ‘The Last Post’, which explains the reasons for discontinuing the magazine during wartime.

The Queen’s at Canterbury from the St Paul’s church scrapbook (SHC ref 6353/3/9/23)

A dilapidated and somewhat chaotic scrapbook of newspaper cuttings has also survived, mostly from Surrey newspapers and unfortunately largely undated, relating to all aspects of St Paul’s and other Surrey churches’ work and members, from about 1915 to the 1950s. Not surprisingly, there are obituaries, with photographs, of those serving officers and men killed. Other items of particular interest include a 1914 feature about A Company 5th Battalion the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment stationed at Canterbury; the bizarre and rather shocking 1916 piece ‘German Pastors’ Frightfulness. The Pulpit an Agent of Militarism. “It is our Duty to Crucify Humanity”’ regarding the attitude of German Clergy who see ‘U Boats as Divine Instruments’; an undated column entitled ‘Prohibition for the War. The Case For and Against Debated at Reigate’; an undated pencil drawing (possibly by a child) showing a rifleman shooting at a zeppelin; and an undated story of a soldier ‘Alive in a Shell Hole for Seven Weeks. Astounding Ordeal of a Man with a Broken Thigh. His Own Story’.

Holy Trinity Church, Guildford, during World War I

Written by Marion Edwards.

Among the parish records of Holy Trinity, Guildford, held by Surrey History Centre are a fine set of parish magazines and a scrapbook (SHC ref GUHT) which together provide a detailed account of how the church responded to the war.


The church magazine was quick off the mark with news of the war, including in the issue of September 1914 an advertisement for enlistment, the King’s ‘farewell to His soldiers’ and a suitably sombre ‘Letter from the Bishop’, commenting on the ‘unspeakably solemn and momentous time’ just befallen the country, which he considers comes from ‘the Providence of God’, perhaps ‘by our own fault’ or possibly ‘by the craft and subtily of the devil or man’. Also included is a lengthy one-page piece entitled ‘The War’, which includes suggestions as to what work may be done to assist those serving. This section on ‘The War’ continues in almost every issue of the magazine until the Armistice in 1918. Other subjects for the remainder of the year included hymns ‘for use in times of war’, paragraphs on training ships and abstinence in the army, calls for Prayers of Intercession, and, in December, a poem entitled ‘To a False Patriot’ and a report on the service for ‘laying-up’ the Colours of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment.

Poster from scrapbook, SHC ref GUHT57/7


Opening the New Year issue of the magazine is the wartime motto for 1915: ‘Go Forward’, followed by ‘The War’ and ‘Lord Kitchener’s Appeal’. Also included is a paragraph entitled ‘Why I don’t Enlist’, which prints verbatim a spoof letter purportedly written by ‘Alfred Spottle’, a ‘young healthy unmarried man’ in response to a letter asking him why he does not join ‘the colours’ – ‘The evening paper said … that a Britisher’s duty was to keep cheerful, and the man who did that was serving his country. Well, I am cheerful; I didn’t turn a hair over Mons … Then they say ‘carry on’, and I do carry on. I go out as usual …’ and so on, until the final ‘So, you see, I am doing my bit’. (The paragraph ends with thanks to the magazine ‘Punch’ as the source of the letter.) Also included in the magazines of this year are ‘Five Questions to Men who have NOT Enlisted’ (April), news of working parties on behalf of hospitals abroad, ‘Rolls of Honour’ of all those parish members serving for ‘King and Country’ (May and September), poems entitled ‘A Hero’ (June), ‘To-Night’ (August), ‘Communion’ [held in the trenches] (October) and ‘A Question of Courage’ (November), a Memorial Service for the fallen (July), paragraphs on the collection of magazines and books for the Soldiers and Sailors Help Society (of which the Rector of Holy Trinity is District Head) and of ‘silver bullets’ (monetary savings; September), news of Training Ships, the Queen’s Regiment in Fyzabad and women in war hospitals, and a letter describing how ‘a whole troop of angels’ was seen by two different officers to stupefy and terrify the Germans at Mons (July).


Opening the January issue is the wartime motto for 1916: ‘Surely I will be with thee’. Apart from the appearance of the usual paragraph ‘The War’, fewer mentions of the war occur this year, but several reports on the activities of the 5th Battalion of The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment (in the February issue stated to be under the command of Lieutenant Colonel the Hon Arthur Brodrick) are included, with a lengthy letter from Private Saunders of the 5th in Mesopotamia in August. Other wartime subjects covered are ‘Saving For Victory’ (March, with suggestions for ‘Going Without’ and ‘What we can all do’), the local War Hospital (August and September) and consideration of the erection of a War Memorial. A Christmas poem in the December issue laments that the words ‘Peace on earth, goodwill to men’ are drowned by cannon and mocked by hate, but avers that ‘The Wrong shall fail,/The Right Prevail’.

Poster from scrapbook (GUHT57/7)


The New Year issue opens with the wartime motto for 1917: ‘I will trust, and not be afraid’. Again, the war is mentioned less this year, but in January the design of two ‘War Shrines’ by a local lady for the church are described, and the paragraph ‘The War’ congratulates local men on gaining mentions in despatches and commissions in February, and in November and December names those men wounded (one by gas) while serving. Other wartime subjects in magazines throughout the year are the ‘Hut Fund’ for providing army huts abroad (March), wartime work by clergy (April), the waste of one slice of bread by 48,000,000 people in Britain every day, adding up to 9,380 tons (June), the possible establishment of a local West Surrey War Museum (July) and the enrolment of Chaplains for work with Forces abroad (with a long letter from the Rev Douglas; September).


This year, the wartime motto for 1918 is a poem, ending with the couplet ‘I can, because I ought,/And by God’s help, I will’. A report in the February magazine describes the ‘inspiring service’ on the occasion of the ‘laying up’ the colours of The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, followed by an appeal for the Surrey Regiments Prisoners of War Relief Fund. The March issue includes a lengthy letter from Private Welford RE in East Africa and the July issue features another long letter from Signaller Thompson in France. Other wartime subjects covered during the year are war memorials (April and July), the Military Service Bill (May) and War Savings (September). Not surprisingly, the December issue includes a paragraph entitled ‘Victory’, describing the Armistice.

Notice of anticipated armistice (GUHT57/7)

The Holy Trinity scrapbook, although unfortunately not kept in strict date order, is a rich source of literary and visual material relating to the war. There are flyers, notices and circular letters on a variety of subjects including: an ‘All-Day Working Party (Including Bandage Rolling)’ for Medical Missions; The Surrey Regiments Prisoners of War Relief Fund; ‘Comrades of the Great War Surrey Division’ (from Viscount Midleton); ‘How To Save and Why’; concerts and entertainments for servicemen billeted locally; blanket collections for Lord Kitchener’s army; ‘Special Hymns’ for the war and an Armistice service. Posters, some in colour, advertise: collections for ‘The Queen’s’; church services for the Regimental Colours and the Second Anniversary of the War; a prayerful ‘Day of Intercession’; the War Distress Fund; a ‘Patriotic Street Collection’ for Christmas gifts for servicemen; and an order to ‘Eat Less Bread’. A copy of Princess Mary’s letter to the troops, accompanying her gift of a tin containing cigarettes and a cigarette lighter, a Christmas card and sweets, is also included, as are two photographs of war damage, a coloured greetings card from ‘The Queens’, and official forms for the Household Fuel and Lighting Order of 1918.



Holy Trinity, Guildford, parish magazines (SHC ref GUHT/53/32-36) and scrapbook (GUHT/57/7)


Gladys Muddell, a Surrey V.A.D

Research and text by the family of Gladys Muddle, with thanks to Vernon Muddle for granting permission to share this text.

Gladys Maude Marchant Muddell who was born to William and Anniw at Dublin in Ireland on 28 April 1894, and baptised in Dublin on 23 May 1894. In the census of 31 March 1901 Gladys, at the age of 6, was living with her mother at 45 Palmerston Street in Devonport, her father was then serving in South Africa. Gladys attended the Garrison School in Devonport and on the 1 July 1907, when she was 13, was examined by [Lieutenant] S G Goater, an Inspector of Army Schools, and given a certificate showing that her standard in eleven subjects was good to excellent. Then in the census of 2 April 1911 Gladys, now aged 16, was living with her parents at C House, York Road, Weston Mill, St Budeaux, Devonport.

At the beginning of 1916, during the First World War, Gladys, at the age of 22, became a member of the Surrey/74 V.A.D. ( Voluntary Aid Detachment). [She served at Frensham Hill Military Hospital.] On 18 January 1918 Gladys, on completing two years’ service with the Surrey/74 V.A.D., was presented with a Red Cross Certificate showing that she had been elected an Associate of the Society and was entitled to wear the Associate’s Badge. Then on 2 June 1921 Gladys, on completing five years’ service with the Surrey/74 V.A.D., was presented with a Red Cross Certificate showing that she had been elected a Member of the Society and was entitled to wear the Member’s Badge. For her services during the war Gladys was also presented with certificates by the Surrey Branch of the Red Cross Society and the Joint Committee of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John of Jerusalem in England. Finally on 24 July 1922 Gladys received the British Red Cross Society medal for War Service with a letter from the Commandant of the Surrey/74 V.A.D.

Gladys Muddle's Surrey British Red Cross Voluntary Aid D certificate

Title: Gladys Muddle's Surrey British Red Cross Voluntary Aid D certificate
Description: Copyright: the Muddle family collection by-nc

Gladys Muddle's BRC Associate Badge and Member Badge

Title: Gladys Muddle's BRC Associate Badge and Member Badge
Description: by-nc

It was presumably her experience and training in the Surrey/74 V.A.D. looking after and nursing war casualties that led to Gladys working as a nurse for the rest of her life. In 1934 Gladys was granted administration of her mother’s estate. She never married and was living, and presumably working, at Horton Hospital, Epsom, Surrey, when she died on 1 August 1943, at the age of 49. It’s thought that she was buried in St James’ Churchyard at Rowledge in Hampshire, which is near Farnham in Surrey. Probate of Gladys’ will, which valued her effects at £901 14s 0d, was granted on 4 October 1943 by Llandudno Probate Registry to her brother Leslie.


Rose Kate Overington’s signature book

Rose Kate Overington, known as Kitty, was born in Godalming in 1896, the daughter of Alfred Overington, a steam roller driver, and Kate (née Mandeville). Kate enlisted with the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) at Woking on 10 December 1917 and was transferred to the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) on 1 April 1918. She achieved the rank of Chief Section Leader and her Air Force trade was cook at Denham Camp. She was demobilised at Ruislip on 30 October 1919.

This autograph book (SHC ref SGW/9) was loaned for copying by Ms Sheila Lumley of Godalming, the daughter of Rose Kate Overington. Just click on the files below to view the pages of the book.

Click here to read more about Rose Kate Overington and her family.

When Food was Scarce: Memories of a Female Control Officer in World War One

Contributed by Dr Steven Woodbridge, Senior Lecturer in History at Kingston University

While there has been a growing amount of scholarly and other research on the lives of women in Britain during the Great War, there is still much to investigate, especially in relation to particular types of occupation held by women on the Home Front. One rather neglected profession remains that of food distribution, and one woman’s career in Surrey offers a fascinating case study in relation to this.

In January 1921, the Surrey Comet newspaper published a profile and interview with Mrs Bumstead of Surbiton, in which she recalled her experiences as the local Executive Food Officer in Kingston-on-Thames during the First World War (Surrey Comet, 15 Jan 1921 p.3).

According to the newspaper, Mrs Bumstead, who worked as the Executive Officer for food distribution for just over three and a half years in Kingston, was the only female in Britain to hold a post of this kind, and she undertook her duties ‘with remarkable efficiency’.

Mrs Bumstead had moved to wartime Surbiton in 1916, and felt she must ‘take up some public work’. She was appointed chief clerk to the Executive Food Officer at Kingston, Dr H Beale Collins. On his retirement after six months, Mrs Bumstead was appointed as his successor and, as the Surrey Comet put it, she ‘found herself in a unique position as the only woman Food Officer in the country’.

In the interview, Bumstead told the Comet that, prior to taking up her duties, she had accumulated wide experience of public official work, having been appointed as the Superintendent of the Scattered Homes for children under the Reading Board of Guardians, a position she had held for five years. She said she was the first woman to be appointed to such a post. She had also worked in a similar capacity for Willesden Board of Guardians. She thus brought a wealth of organisational experience to her new Kingston position.

Wikimedia Commons

As the newspaper argued, Mrs Bumstead rendered ‘very effective service to the community’ during a very difficult period, both during and just after the war. The British government had been forced to introduce quite stringent food rationing in the later stages of the war, and the impact of the German U-Boat submarine campaign had made the availability of certain food-stuffs in the British Isles even more difficult in 1917-18. There were a number of occasions when Mrs Bumstead had to personally intervene and sort out certain situations and placate discontented members of the local community concerning food matters.

Her responsibilities included, for example, the supply of margarine to retailers in Kingston, but things did not always go to plan during wartime. She recalled that, on one occasion, just before Christmas, 1917, ‘a great crowd of women’ came into the town from surrounding districts and, having failed to obtain their usual supply from Kingston’s retailers, the angry women had gone ‘as a body’ to the local Food Office and confronted Mrs Bumstead, saying they were going to ‘help themselves’ to the several tons of margarine being stored there in readiness for distribution the next day.

Mrs Bumstead, however, quickly took action: she dispatched one of her assistants to fetch the local police and, in the meantime, met the enraged crowd at the door of the depot, blocking their way and daring them to proceed further. Faced by such an unexpected ‘outburst of passion’ by Mrs Bumstead, the crowd apparently fell back, and the arrival of the local police ‘prevented any further danger of violence’.

Wikimedia Commons

According to the Comet, the pressure on Mrs Bumstead during these difficult wartime months was so great that, for six weeks on end, she never left the depot office for a minute from morning to night, and it was often 10.00pm at night before the day’s work was completed. As well as margarine, restrictions were also placed on jam, sugar, tea, lard, cheese, bacon, tinned meats of all kinds, and butcher’s meat, the control and distribution of which all came under the overall responsibility of Mrs Bumstead. Queues for bread also became a regular sight in wartime (see the photo of a typical breadline), adding to the tensions.

Yet, using tact and skill, Bumstead was able to gradually build up good relations with many retailers in Kingston and, she said, she managed to work ‘in harmony’ with traders and win their confidence. She spoke in the highest terms about Kingston’s shopkeepers, who were ‘always loyal’ and ‘most helpful’. As she recalled, it was only on a very few occasions that she had found it necessary to ‘take proceedings’ against any of them.

Looking back on her wartime experiences as Food  Control Officer, Mrs Bumstead said she had ‘nothing to regret’. While it had been a strenuous time, on the whole she had ‘thoroughly enjoyed’ her work. Shortly after the war, she had been offered, and had accepted, the position of Food Controller for a much wider area, embracing large parts of Surrey and Middlesex. But, when it was decided to close all the Food Offices in the aftermath of the conflict, her new position came to an end.

For historians, however, the case of Mrs Bumstead offers some great insights into both the topic of gender on the Home Front in the Great War and the huge challenges involved in maintaining a fair distribution of food under very trying wartime circumstances.