Stoke D’Abernon – 1916

St Mary's Church, Stoke D'Abernon, February 1915.

Title: St Mary's Church, Stoke D'Abernon, February 1915.
Description: SHC Ref: 7828/2/135/59. by-nc

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,

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One Response to “Stoke D’Abernon – 1916”

  1. Barrie Higham

    Miss Blackburne’s release was reported on page 5 of the Surrey Advertiser, on October 14th 1916:-
    “The Rector’s Sister
    The Reverend A. S. P. Blackburne (Rector of the Parish) has this week received good news about his sister, Miss Gertrude E. Blackburne. Miss Blackburne was a missioner with the Universities Mission in German East Africa, and has been interned a prisoner ever since August 4th, 1914. Since that time no word has been received about her until recently, when a cable was sent to the secretary of the mission by the Bishop of Zanzibar, to say that all missionaries have been released at Tabora. Tabora is about 500 miles in the heart of German East Africa, and near the mountain of Kilimanjaro.”

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