St Saviour’s Church, Stoke-Next-Guildford
As the second full year of conflict commenced, in January 1916 Reverend Peters reflected upon the fact that ‘almost every family has one loved one away somewhere doing his duty for his King and Country’. In order to support those on the war front, parishioners at home were called upon ‘to be pure and clean in conscience, to know that we personally are not adding by our conduct, behaviour or conversation to the present conflict and strife’, for it was in this way that individuals could ‘do their bit’ for the war effort and demonstrate their patriotism.
The Carol Service in December had been well attended and the sum of £7 0s. 3d., had been collected by the offertory on behalf of blind soldiers. Plans were also in place for the ‘Day of Intercession’, which was to take place on January 2nd and was to include a ‘Special Service for Women’ at 3.15pm, offering them an opportunity ‘for remembering their husbands, sons, brothers, and relatives serving in His Majesty’s forces’.
An annual meeting of the Church Pastoral Aid Society was to take place on January 11th, where Reverend T S Porterfield was to lecture on the subject of ‘Men, Munitions and Materials’.
Finally, the magazine carried the news of Mr and Mrs Scamell’s eventful journey to Egypt, which was a staging post for their onward journey to undertake missionary work in the Soudan.
In February 1916 the work of the church and parish continued as usual, however the effects of war were never far away from people’s lives. Reverend Peters was very grateful that an appeal on behalf of the organ debt had raised the sum of £70 11s.6d. despite the other demands made by war-time. The Sunday School annual prize-givings had taken place the previous month, however readers were reminded that, in common with many other Sunday Schools, the disturbed conditions of the past year had resulted in a ‘marked falling off in numbers and regular attendance’. Finally, the Scouts had given an entertainment on February 16th, entitled ‘De Darktown Boy Scouts’, which they were now hoping to raise enough funds to carry out ‘at various places in the neighbourhood before our brave, wounded soldiers’, particularly bearing in mind that many older members of the troop were now serving, while some had laid down their lives.
March 1916 saw much of the parish magazine taken up with fund raising and charitable works for the Church Missionary Society. In addition there was the news that Miss Methuen had taken over as Secretary of the local branch of the Waifs and Strays Society, whose resources had been greatly taxed by the circumstances of war-time. With nearly 600 children in their care they had recently received three new cases from Guildford. Readers were also reminded that about 850 old-boys of the society were now serving in the Army and Navy.
Finally, parishioners were recommended to read a small book entitled ‘Before and after the War – History and Prophecy’, which had been written by Sir Andrew Wingate and was available at the cost of 6d.
In April 1916, as the vicar considered what form the forthcoming ‘Mission of Repentance and Hope’ might take, hearty congratulations were offered to:
our friend and Sunday School Teacher, Staff Quarter-Master-[Sergeant] J A Barnett. A.S.C. [Army Service Corps], who has been commended by the General Commanding the 12th Division for distinguished conduct in the field. He enlisted early in the war, August, 1914, and was afterwards transferred to the A.S.C. His fellow teachers and the scholars have learnt of his honour with great satisfaction, but with little surprise, for he always exhibited pains and care in all he undertook, and it is gratifying to know that such qualities have been recognised by the authorities.
In May 1916 little was made of the direct effects of war time, excepting a mention of the important ‘War Work’ which the Church of England Waifs and Strays society was doing ‘by taking into its homes little children, dependants of our soldiers and sailors, who have been left homeless or unprotected by reason of the war’. However, in his consideration of the ‘National Mission’, which the Church of England was organising for the following Autumn, Reverend Peters was taken up with the fact that, while many of ‘our sons and brothers at the Front…are finding a new realisation of God’, ‘how little the manhood of the nation, as represented by the men in the training camps and the like, is really touched by the Spirit of Christ’.
In the following month, June 1916, Reverend Peters letter returned to the war more directly, as he brought the news that:
At the moment of writing the outlook is indeed sad and solemn. After three months of the fiercest conflict at Verdun the French are still holding the Germans in check, but what the neighbourhood like beggars description. The loss of human life is appalling, and the suffering and sadness of it all is beyond words, and what for? At any moment I suppose we may expect to hear of a like conflict in front of the British lines. Such butchery – such destruction of human life…. should after this war become a moral impossibility’.
As if to bring home this message, an update from ‘Dr Barnado’s Homes’, of which there were a number in Surrey, brought the news that, in total, 62 Barnardo boys had given their lives for their country.
In the July 1916 edition of the magazine, Reverend Peters once again reflected upon how much ‘we miss our married men on all sides… [whose absence] throws more responsibility on us who remain at home, and we must do our very best to “keep the home fires burning”. [The War] will be a tax upon their strength and we hope they will return looking as well and vigorous as the younger men’.
On the evening of Wednesday 6th June, a memorial service had been held ‘for Lord Kitchener and his staff and the brave men in our Fleet’. Attendance had been excellent and readers were reminded that there were ‘five homes in this parish where sorrow is keenly felt through the loss of dear ones’. However, discussions of the National Mission, as well as the vacant sittings in the church pews, again highlighted the fact that attendance was neither as regular nor as discerning as the church would wish.
Attention was drawn to a meeting that had been convened for July 6th, in response to an appeal made, by the Mayor of Guildford to the clergy, to start a War Savings Association. The intention was to use the meeting to fully explain the government scheme, which was designed to appeal to ’every class of the community [so that] young and old can help the Government at this crises’.
In August 1916, Reverend Peters reported on the Convention he had attended the previous month, in Keswick. There was the news that an ‘All Day of Prayer’ was to be held on August 4th, the second anniversary of the declaration of war, and parishioners were called upon to use this opportunity to ‘[seek] God’s face humbly, fervently, and devoutly’. The annual sermons of the ‘Colonial and Continental Church Society’ were to be preached on August 13th by the Reverend A S V Blunt, Chaplain of the British Embassy Church in Paris. In the afternoon Reverend Blunt was to give ‘a special address to men on his experiences in Parish during the war’. Also the vicar advised had been asked to become a ‘Friend’ of the ‘Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Help Society’ and would be ‘pleased to help any discharged men in the parish who find it difficult to obtain suitable employment’.
Finally, there was the news that the first meeting of the War Savings Association parochial branch had resulted in subscriptions of £150 17s. 6d. By the following month the secretary, Miss Longworth, reported that the branch had 103 members and had received £253, with a subscription range ‘from £38 15s. 0d. for a £50 Certificate to a 6d. weekly payment… [while] 720 coupons have been used, 305 certificates, and 111 cards issued’.
Between now and the end of the year much of Reverend Peters’ letter, and correspondingly, the Parish Magazine, was taken up with the ‘National Mission Repentance and Hope’ which took place from October 14th to 18th 1916, and was promoted ‘as an aid to securing victory in the war’, through Repentance, Hope, and Revival.
September 1916 saw the news that the Borough of Guildford ‘War Savings Association’ was to arrange a Patriotic Economy exhibition, to encourage those who are desirous to do so, to economise.
In October 1916 readers were advised that the gifts received for the Harvest Festival had been sent to ‘the Red Cross Annexe for our wounded soldiers’, and in November 1916 an appeal was made for contributions towards the £13 10s. Aircraft Insurance premium that was due, as a direct result of the war. The following month brought the news that ‘two friends’ had contributed 20s. and 2s. 6d. respectively, but further contributions were required to cover this expense.
As the second full year of conflict drew to a close, in December 1916 Reverend Peters wrote of the great surprise that had been brought to them ‘in the billeting of some thousands of soldiers in our ancient and beautiful town’. The vicar trusted that:
Their presence in our midst may be a blessing and not a curse. It will be our duty to see that they are cared for and provided with recreation rooms during the long dark evenings, the halls of the town having been commandeered for military purposes. The Mayor has thrown himself heartily into this work amongst others, and if any of my readers can help by placing a room at his disposal I would suggest they write at once and acquaint him of their wish. Let us pray for the men and work that their stay here may be for their good and for God’s glory’.
The presence of the billeted soldiers was already being felt. The Bible Circle Scheme was having to be held in abeyance until the troops had settled in and they knew what rooms were available, and the Sunday Schools, and The Coal, Clothing, and War Savings Clubs had had to reschedule or relocate their meetings, as the Parish Room and Ward Street Hall had been taken over by the military.
The magazine recorded that Mrs Elias Morgan had acknowledged, with thanks, ‘a welcome present of Comforts for the “Queens” R.W.S. Regiment, of 8 Mufflers, 1 pair Socks, 1 pair Mittens, beautifully knitted, from St. Saviour’s Girls Working Party’.
Finally, in yet another stark reminder that tragedies unrelated to the conflict continued to occur both on distant shores, as well as at home, Reverend Peters appealed for help for a colleague, Reverend J E Woodall, whose Church, Rectory, and all his families belongings, had been destroyed in a forest fire in Canada.
St Saviour’s Church, Stoke-Next-Guildford, Parish Magazines, January to December 1916, SHC Ref: 1946 Box 10.