St Saviour’s Church, Stoke-Next-Guildford
January 1915, saw Reverend Peters in a reflective mood, once again. Even in the depth of the sorrow and suffering, he argued that as the war went on it was possible to see ‘more and more clearly the good hand of God upon us’. For the Reverend, the devotion and courage displayed by the officers and men, the fact that everyone at home was trying to do something to help someone less fortunate than themselves, the silencing of the ‘bitterness and strife of tongues in the political world’, the reduction in crime, the ‘liberal contributions in money and work [that] have been made in response to various appeals, and the ‘sober thoughtfulness [that] has taken the place of lightness and frivolity’, all meant that ‘the war… has been a blessing in disguise in many ways’.
On January 3rd 1915, St Saviour’s was to join the rest of the country in a day of prayer and intercession, with a ‘Special Service for Women’ at 3pm, an hour that, it was hoped, would prove convenient for those women who had husbands, sons, brothers, or relatives serving.
Again, the magazine returned to the subject of ‘Alcohol and the War’, highlighting the recommendations of a conference that had recently met under the Archbishop of Canterbury, but which was representative of ‘all shades of opinion’. The conference called for the adoption by all of ‘a patriotic pledge of total abstinence for the duration of the war’, and desired that the pledge be supported by the enforcement of the Temporary Restrictions Act of 1914, the provision of ‘suitable means of refreshment and recreation… where there would be no temptations to drink’, and also a program of public education.
In February 1915 Reverend Peters’ attention returned predominantly to parish matters, in the form of the new scheme for diocesan finance. However, he did record that the annual social gathering for workers had been postponed until brighter days, as ‘I cannot bring myself to enter into its spirit with some member of the choir and Sunday School away on duty at the call of their King and Country’. In contrast, with numbers only showing a slight decrease on account of children who had been removed from the parish, the Sunday School Treat had continued as usual.
The working party, which had been disbanded at the end of the previous year, had been so successful that the garments made that were surplus to the Belgian refugee’s requirements had been sent to Dr Barnardo’s Homes, and a letter was published this month, in grateful thanks for this ‘welcome gift’. A second letter had been received from the British Red Cross Society, offering their thanks for the £30 2s. that had been forwarded from the parish.
Lastly, there was the replication of a letter from Bishop of Durham to the Editor of ‘Sunday at Home’, entreating Christian men and women to ensure that, while they economise in ‘style of living, in dress, in food, in “pleasures”’, they do not ‘economise over our religious subscriptions and donations’. This was a message that the Reverend Peters felt ‘too valuable to be overlooked’.
As Spring returned to Guildford, March 1915 saw the publication of a letter to the parish, from an unnamed ‘private in the 5th “Queen’s” Territorials’:
I feel I must write and thank you for the kindness which has been shewed to us during our stay at Guildford. The various comforts provided for us by the kind friends there were most acceptable, and perhaps you would be good enough to convey our appreciation to them.
Reverend Peters went on to express his gratification upon receiving such a letter, as well as his promise to convey the thanks of the ‘non-commissioned officers and privates of the R.F.A., who have just left us’, to those in the parish on whom they were billeted.
The magazine recorded that, on January 26th, ’10 mufflers and seven pairs of mittens were sent from the parish to the Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen for the minesweepers’ and on February 6th ‘a parcel was sent to Colonel Treeby for the East Surrey Regiment, containing 11 mufflers, three pairs socks, 12 pairs of mittens, and one chest protector’. Thanks had been received for both. In addition an All-Day Working Party was to taken place on Friday 5th March, by the united parishes of Stoke and St Saviour’s, with the aim of supplying provisions for the Church Missionary Society’s hospitals abroad. Lastly a call was made for parishioners not to allow ‘the pinch of war time’ to cause the work of Dr Barnardo’s Homes to suffer.
Throughout all the parish magazines it is possible to see this constant tension that existed, between the routine calls that were made on parishioners for both time and money, and the new demands, which were a product of wartime.
As Easter approached, the April 1915 edition of the magazine recorded that the All-day Working Party had resulted in the supply of ’50 triangular bandages, 90 huckaback towels, 15 theatre cloths, 5 knitted cloths, 47 draw sheets, 13 mattress covers, 14 bedjackets, 30 assistant’s aprons, 4 surgeon’s overalls, 33 eye shades, 30 muslin bags… and 1,244 roller bandages’. In addition the parish had sent the following items ‘to the Barracks at Stoughton for “The Queens” Regiment: 6 mufflers, 10 pairs mittens, 3 pairs socks, 1 body belt, 1 flannel shirt’, and these had been acknowledged in the ‘Surrey Advertiser’ on Saturday 20th March.
On April 14th, The Church of England Waifs and Strays Society was to hold a performance of its pageant, ‘Children through the Centuries’, to raise funds for the ‘War Emergency Fund’. The Fund had been established to provide homes for children who had been made homeless by the war and the society had already received over 130 applications, with more being received daily.
Finally, Reverend Peters advised that he had taken the decision to abandon the 11 o’clock Intercession Service on Wednesdays, as ‘so few found it convenient to attend, and there are in other churches midday services for those who wish and are able to meet for prayer’. However, he went on to remind parishioners that prayer was a simple means by which they may be fortified, especially at a time when ‘there are indications of a fierce and prolonged struggle, and undoubtedly much anxiety and suffering in store’. However, as ‘the call to prayer becomes more and more insistent’, May 1915, saw the addition of a ‘short intercessory service’ every Sunday evening, as ‘it is the only thing we can do for those millions of our fellow countrymen who are engaged in upholding the integrity of the Empire and the honour of our flag’.
Against the backdrop of Italy’s entry into the struggle, a ‘shortage of munitions… the urgent call for thousands more men, and the frightful disregard of humane methods on the part of our enemy’, in June 1915 Reverend Peters called for ‘earnest and continued intercession’. He also drew attention to the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s calls for moderation and the King’s ‘noble example… in abstaining from the use of all alcoholic beverages’, as ‘those who return from the front are still surprised at our apathy and worldliness’. For the Reverend, ‘if the war leads us to national repentance and reformation of life, although the price will be a terrible one to pay, it will not be in vain’.
Practising what they preached, the Guildford clergy had unanimously agreed that Sunday School summer treats and choir outings should be foregone, and the Bishop had advised that the festival of the Winchester Diocesan Fund, which not only had a social side, but was also non-essential, would also not be held.
The St Savour’s Troop (1st Guildford) Boy Scouts, advised that they had received letters from past members, many of whom were in the East, and that three assistant scoutmasters, and 23 leaders and members, were serving their King and country, at home or abroad, at that time.
On the home-front a house-to-house collection was to be made in the Guildford district from June 3rd to 9th on behalf of the ‘Penny Fund for Sick and Wounded’, which operated under the auspices of the British Red Cross Society and the St John Ambulance Association. Envelopes were to be left at each house by the Boy Scouts, for collection by helpers later in the week, and a special appeal was to be made, in separate envelopes, to domestic servants. This was in light of a similar appeal that had been made in London and had succeeded in raising £13,000 from domestic servants, entirely amongst themselves.
As summer approached, in July 1915, the vicar extolled the benefits of taking a holiday which, he argued, would greatly aide in bearing up under the ‘current period of nervous stress and strain’ with the ‘courage and fortitude’ that it was their ‘duty to our country, and our friends’ to display. For the Reverend Peters the desirable mood was to:
Aim at being natural, neither ignoring the war nor exaggerating its difficulties or reverses – at being firm over ourselves and our feelings – at being useful and taking up some work which will benefit the community – and above all at being prayerful, for the success of our efforts depends on the soul of then nation.
Added to this list of qualities, however, was a desire for thrift as, against the backdrop of the government’s launch of the second War Loan appeal, parishioners were encouraged to ‘save every penny we can for the benefit of the country’. The Reverend advised that:
an extravagant person who spends money unnecessarily, a selfish person who spends on personal amusement and to gratify his love of pleasure is a traitor at the present moment. The Government wants support, the support and help of all classes, and thrift, economy, and self-denial on the part of all workers will supply their need and leave a surplus for future contingencies. Every patriotic person should be able to show that he or she has invested in the War Loan, and thus done something to help their country in the time of need.
It seems likely that it must have been very difficult at times to balance the various duties and qualities that served to make a patriot!
Taking his own advice, the vicar and his wife left for a few restful weeks of holiday, in Barmouth, North Wales, in August 1915.
The magazine recorded that, in response to an appeal amongst the Wednesday evening congregation, a cheque had been sent for £1 12s. 10d. to the Lord Mayor of London, on behalf of the French Red Cross Society.
The vicar had written his letter for the September 1915 edition of the magazine from his holiday in Barmouth, where, he recorded, ‘the holiday month has been quieter than usual’, although there were ‘still hundreds, even here, of military age who appear to be untouched by [the war]’. Reverend Peters was, however, heartened by the ‘few indications that men are realising [the importance of things spiritual’, as signified by ‘the accounts from many parts of England of the services held on August 4th – the anniversary of the declaration of war – [that were] distinctly cheering’.
The magazine published a letter from the Bishop, which had appeared in the August Diocesan Chronicle, on the occasion of the commencement of the second year of war. The issues of ‘frugality, thrift, and self-sacrifice’, were once again key, as the Bishop implored readers, in these times of ‘abundant employment, high wages, liberal separation allowances, and the like’ 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’.
Finally, with harvest approaching, an appeal was made on behalf of ‘The National Egg Collection for the wounded’, who needed to collect one million eggs for the nation’s sailors and soldiers.
In October 1915, Reverend Peters recorded that about 30 of the old members of 1st Guildford Troop Boy Scouts were serving and, of these, two (Privates Victor Davies and Arthur Tomsett) had fallen at the Dardanelles, alongside Major A Roberts, who had previously acted as honorary Secretary for the County Association for some time. A memorial service had been held on September 15th, at which the 1st and 9th Guildford Troops were present, along with other representatives of the Scouting Association.
The magazine also outlined the operation of a new scheme to allow women of the Voluntary Aid Detachments of the British Red Cross Society to take the places of men in Military Hospitals.
Lastly, readers were advised that a war lecture entitled ‘The ruined cities of France and Belgium’ was to be given on October 19th, by Reverend C F Fison, the Vicar of South Nutfield. Reverend Fison had ‘acted as chaplain in the war zone in France, and prepared his lecture for the wounded soldiers. It will be illustrated by photographs taken before and after the war, which will vividly bring the contrast to our minds.’ A collection was to be made on behalf of the soldier’s church at Wimereux, near Bologne.
In November 1915 readers were advised that the Wardens had felt it their duty to insure the parochial buildings against hostile aircraft, through the Government Insurance Scheme. An appeal was made to those who were to be members of the congregation on Sunday November 7th, to be generous in the offertories and help them raise the sum expended. In the following month, December 1915, readers were further advised that, while the policies taken out cost £15 and 2s. the collection had only yielded £9 5s., with a further £2 1s. being donated subsequently. An appeal was made for further donations, no matter how small, as they were ‘anxious to meet this expenses at once’.
Finally, the Vicar brought the news that Sunday January 2nd 1916 was to be set aside as a ‘day of solemn intercession’, with the further suggestion that Friday December 31st be kept as a day of self-denial and penitence and Saturday January 1st as a day of preparation for the duties and privileges of the Sunday. For Reverend Peters, ‘a day of humiliation and confession would do the nation good’ but he felt a week-day should be set aside, as was the case in the Crimean War, as by substituting a Sunday it ‘will appeal to religious people who are in the habit of attending public worship, but… it will leave those who never attend absolutely untouched’. He then closed the year by questioning whether anything could be done ‘to reach the masses?’
St Saviour’s Church, Stoke-Next-Guildford, Parish Magazines, January to December 1915, SHC Ref: 1946 Box 10.
‘Soldiers Comforts. The Queens, 24th List.’ The Surrey Advertiser and County Times. 20th March 1915.