Stoke D’Abernon – 1917

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

At the start of what was to be the third full year of conflict, the January 1917 editions of the magazine were to continue in a similar vein, with their mix of ‘business as usual’ such as arrangements for the altar flowers, interspersed with news of the war effort from both home and abroad.

In Stoke D’Abernon there was the news that Mr C F Waters, praised for his work with the choir the previous year, had been called up for war and was expected to enlist in the Artists Rifles. The choir were to present him with wrist-watch. Meanwhile in Oxshott, the vicar, Reverend F Norman Skene, had been appointed to the Temporary Army Chaplaincy and hoped to embark for Salonika early in January, for a period of twelve months. In the meantime he was to be replaced by Reverend Charles Donald Hole. Reverend Skene was not to return to the parish on a permanent basis until 1 May 1919 but throughout his absence the magazine kept parishioners appraised, with both first and second-hand accounts, of his whereabouts and experiences. Lastly, there was the news that Captain E C Fox-Male had gained the Military Cross for his actions whilst in command of a machine gun section during the Mesopotamia Campaign.

In Oxshott an appeal for more women workers was made on behalf of the Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild, Oxshott Depot, War Work Room. In addition, with hope that it would be more convenient for some, the hours of the Work Room were altered so that it opened for work on Monday and Thursday mornings and Tuesday and Friday afternoons.

February 1917 saw the news that Prime Minister David Lloyd George had called for a National Lent. In ‘this third year of war [which] will be the severest test of our fortitude and determination’, the author was certain that ‘the Country will be ready to respond to every call to self-discipline that may be made on us’ as, with ‘God helping us, we face the future with hope, convinced of the justice of our cause, and that victory may yet crown our efforts and our Allies during 1917’.

In Oxshott, there was news both from the vicar and his replacement. As if to reinforce the temporary nature of the vicar’s absence, Reverend Skene was re-elected president of the Basil Ellis Nursing Association, while Reverend Hole was elected to the committee.

Mrs Burgoyne appealed, once again, for new laid eggs to be sent to the wounded at Hospitals at home and abroad, and it was announced that the Vicar’s Christmas appeal for the ‘Lord Roberts Memorial Fund, for Workshops for Disabled Soldiers and Sailors’ had resulted in contributions totalling £15 3s.

On a positive note, it was reported that ‘an excellent Entertainment got up by some very young members of our circle’, in the form of a play “Domestic Economy”, had ‘brightened up the dullness of the sombre “War” winter’. £12 6s. had been raised from ticket sales, which was to be forwarded to St Dunstan’s Home for Blinded Soldiers.

In March 1917 an urgent appeal was made for readers to collect the Sphagnum Moss growing by Black Pond at Oxshott, which had ‘wonderful healing properties and [was] used for dressing wounds in place of cotton wool’. There was also a report on the Red Cross Work in Stoke D’Abernon.

In Stoke D’Abernon, the Scheme for National Service saw the Rector, Reverend Blackburne, who had already offered himself as Chaplain to the Forces, now offer himself for other forms of service under the new Scheme, to be administered by the Bishops, in co-operation with the Director-General of National Service. The Reverend G Remfrey Brookes had offered to take charge of the parish in order to free the Rector up to take up special war work, wherever most wanted. However, this was subject to the Bishop’s approval and the uncertainty led to readers being advised to be ‘prepared, at any moment, to abandon plans to meet the more urgent calls for National Service’.

Parishioners from St Andrew’s were advised that the vicar had arrived safely at Salonica and there was an update on the Oxshott War Savings Association was provided.

April 1917 saw the curtailment of space in the magazines due to increased printing costs. However, there was further news of Reverend Skene in Salonika and an update on the plans of Reverend Blackburne, who was to become Chaplain Superintendent for the Church Army Recreation huts in France, while Reverend Brooks took charge of the parish and acted as chaplain at the Schiff Home of Recovery in his absence. In the following months it was reported that Reverend Blackburne would be trained for Church Army Hut work at Inkermann Barracks, Woking, before proceeding to France, however, he found this very arduous and the strain of the work ‘told upon his health’. As a result he was quickly declared ‘quite unfit to continue this work’ and, by July 1917, after ‘rest and normal conditions of life’, he was strong enough to return to the Parish and take up his work as Rector once again.

As food shortages worsened, in June 1917 it was reported that Mr J W Harris, who was Gardener to Neville Gwynne of Bevendean, Oxshott, had been ‘placed on the panel by the Royal Horticultural Society and National Food Supply, to give assistance and advice to Cottagers and Allotment Holders in the immediate locality. The government had been promoting a scheme of voluntary rationing since February 1917 and on June 6th there was to be a meeting in St Andrew’s Hall at which Miss Chamberlain was to ‘give an address upon the Food Crisis, and… tell us how all classes, rich and poor alike, must ration themselves in order to avoid compulsion’.

The Oxshott War Working Party made a further appeal for workers as attendance had fallen off, despite the fact that ‘the greatest “Push” (was) now in progress, and assistance (was) required more than ever’.

On Friday 6th and Saturday 7th July a performance of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was to be given by the pupils of Uplands School in aid of the Red Cross Hospitals. Tickets were to be charged at 5/3 and 2/8 seated, standing room at 1/2 and Teas at 1s. In addition unreserved seats were to be offered for the dress rehearsal at the cost of 1/- or 6d.

July 2017 saw the advent of the first ‘National Baby Week’. Readers of the St Andrew’s parish magazine were informed that its objects were:

(1) to arouse the sense of racial responsibility in every citizen, in order to secure to every child born in the United Kingdom a birthright of mental and bodily health.

(2) to inform the public generally as to what is now being done for young children and mothers by voluntary, agencies, Local Authorities and the State.

(3) To show what could be done if every citizen shouldered his or her responsibility.

Over a hundred people had gathered at Willoughbys in Oxshott, to listen to an address from Mrs Salmon on the subject, who in turn had attended a Mass Meeting at Guildford the day prior. Attendees were advised that a large proportion of infant mortality was due to preventable diseases and that in a country village like Oxshott it was important to take advantage of the fresh air, keeping houses well ventilated, and of the fact that milk was supplied direct from farms, avoiding processes that could be ‘injurious to its purity’. While mother’s milk was best, it was asserted, when it was unavailable fresh cow’s milk was on of the best substitutes, but it was necessary to keep it, and food, protected from flies and dust. Infant welfare centres were being started throughout the country for mothers to ‘get advice and help from doctors and nurses for herself as well as how to feed, clothe and look after children’, recognising that, for children to thrive, mother’s must be taken care of.

Eugenic thinking clearly underpinned this concern as, in order to halt the ‘damage to the whole race’ that resulted from high infant mortality, citizens were asked to pledge to ‘enquire into the conditions which were responsible for this loss to the nation and undertake to use their influence to secure improved housing and sanitation, together with adequate provision for the care of maternity and infancy in their own districts’.

A collection was made which amounted to over £14 and a resident also offered to pay for twelve mothers to attend the Mothercraft Exhibition that was to take place in London the following Friday.

August 1917 saw commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the Declaration of War, and in Stoke D’Abernon the meeting of the Church Council considered, amongst other things, the notion of a War Memorial. However, it was considered best to postpone discussions to a later date.

In Oxshott parishioners had collected £64 16s. for ‘France’s Day’, which had taken place on July 14th, and an exhibition of toys made by the boys of the Oxshott Wood-carving Class had raised the sum of £1 12s. for the ‘Lord Roberts’ Memorial Fund’.

September 1917 brought news of the losses of Corporal Archie Skilton and Private William Weller, and, in October 1917, that of Private John William Coles.

In Oxshott, readers were advised that the fruit, flowers, and vegetables supplied for the Harvest Thanksgiving, held the previous month, had been distributed between the Sailors of the Fleet and the Wounded Soldiers in the Heywood Hospital at Cobham. However, some of the fruit had also been sent to sick people in their own parish. In addition, on the first anniversary of its inception, there was an update on The War Savings Association.

In November 1917 St Mary’s parishioners were advised that collections in the parish on ‘Our Day’, in aid of The British Red Cross and St. John’s Ambulance, had amounted to £13 15s, while in Oxshott £102 4s. 6d. had been collected. Meanwhile, at the St Mary’s Harvest Festival there had been ‘a profusion of gifts of corn and fruit, and eggs for the National Collection’, which had been sent to ‘our gallant sailors and to the Chobham Cottage Hospital’. In addition the mistresses and girls of Leatherhead Court had given £1 16s. 8d. for the purchase of eggs for the soldiers’. The pulpit for the service was supposed to have been occupied by Canon Gardiner, of Holy Trinity, Folkestone, but he was prevented from attending at the last moment due to ‘war emergencies’.

There was also the good news that Miss Gertrude E Blackburne, the Rector’s sister, had finally returned home after her internment in German East Africa, ‘in good health, having mercifully escaped also the dangers from submarine attack’. Miss Blackburne later gave an account of her experiences to a village room that ‘was crowded to its utmost limit’, and the sum of £5 7s.d. was raised for the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa.

As the ‘National Food Supply’ became a matter of increasing concern, a public meeting was to be held in the Church Hall at Oxshott, on November 15th, ‘with a view to forming an Allotment Association’. At the meeting Mr Harris was to exhibit ‘100 varieties of fruit and vegetables which he will briefly describe and… explain the processes of cropping and intercropping’.

On a more sombre note there was news of the losses of Rudolph Martin and Ernest Pullen, as well as further information about the circumstances of Private William Coles passing. On the evening of November 4th a Memorial Service was to be held at St Mary’s, for those from the parish who had fallen. In Oxshott, ‘commemoration of the Faithful Departed with special reference to those who have fallen in the war’ was to be made at most of the week-day celebrations at St Andrew’s, throughout the month of November.

The problems of food supply were again addressed in both magazines in December 1917. In Stoke D’Abernon the magazine outlined ‘recommendations’ of ‘The Economy Campaign’:

The position of the food supply is such that the utmost economy in the use of all kinds of food must be practised by every adult in the kingdom, especially in staple foods: bread, flour, cereals, meat, margarine, lard and sugar. The weekly bread rations per head mentioned in the following table should on no account be exceeded:-

Men:-

Heavy work, 8lb.

Ordinary Industrial work, 7lb.

Unoccupied or sedentary work, 4lb. 8oz.

Women:-

Heavy work, 5lb.

Industrial or domestic work, 4lb.

Sedentary work, 3lb. 8ozs.

Other staple foods for both sexes:-

Cereals, 12ozs.

Meat, 2lbs.

Butter, margarine, lard, oil, fats, 10oz.

Sugar, 8oz.

A National League of Safety has been formed and all who are prepared to sign the following may join: “I realise that economy in the use of all food and the checking of al waste helps my country to complete victory, and I promise to do all in my power to assist this campaign for national safety.” A certificate of good citizenship is given to all who join.

In Oxshott it was reported that November’s meeting, at which Mr J L Peters had ‘urged very strongly the national importance of increasing the home-grown food supply’, had been well attended. Mr Harris had given a lecture on cottage gardening and attendees were invited to join the proposed Allotments Assocation, for which Mr Harris had consented to act as Honorary Secretary.

An appeal had been made for parishioners to help the Rector and Churchwardens send a Christmas welcome parcel to men from the parish who were serving at the front. It was reported that the response had been so good they were able to send a gift to men serving at home as well, and, all in all, about thirty parcels were to be despatched.

As the year began with the news that Mr C F Waters of Stoke D’Abernon had been called up, it was to end with the news that he had been wounded in his right hand and was in hospital in Streatham.

Lastly, approximately one third of the St Andrew’s magazine was taken up by a long letter from the vicar, Reverend Skene, full of news of his experiences in the desert, including his belief that ‘there are indications in the splendid news from most of the battle fronts that the end may be in sight’, although ‘we cannot tell when that much to be hoped for event will come’. Despite the caveat, this must have been very welcome news for his parishioners, as the third full year of war-time drew to a close.

Sources:

St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, and St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, January to December 1917, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

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