Holy Trinity Church, Guildford, during World War I

Poster exhorting congregation to eat less bread

Title: Poster exhorting congregation to eat less bread
Description: SHC ref GUHT/57/7 by-nc

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)


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