Stoke D’Abernon – 1918

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

In January 1918, at the start of what was to be the final year of conflict, the parishes of St Mary’s and St Andrew’s were taken up with the question of how to ensure that all children, particularly those who do not attend Church Schools, were to be in receipt of a religious education that was acceptable to all denominations. In the meantime, the women of the Mothers’ Union were concerned to ensure that Parliament were made aware of their resolutions against the proposed Matrimonial Causes Act of the Marriage Law Reform Bill. The ongoing war, by contrast, was given very little attention in the early months of the year, with the exception of a report on the ‘powerful and influential Committee [that] has been formed at Guildford to collect funds for providing food and comforts for the Prisoners-of-War in Germany of our two Surrey County Regiments’. The Committee had called upon the Parish Councils of Surrey to appeal to residents, which, in Stoke D’Abernon, had resulted in the remittance of ‘a very substantial sum’.

In March 1918 it was recorded that the Rector of St Mary’s had received many letters of thanks from the men at the Front for the Christmas parcels that they had received from the parish. These had been sent as far as Mesopotamia, the West Indies and Egypt. In Oxshott it was reported that in January, the fact of rising railway fares to London, the parish of St Andrew’s had put on their own Pantomime, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, to a sold out audience and rave reviews.

With the advent of rationing, on March 11th, ‘The Pudding Lady’, Miss Florence Petty, of the National Food Reform Association was to give a lecture on War Cooking, accompanied by live practical demonstrations. Parishioners were invited to ‘come and learn how to be happy though rationed’. In the following two months Miss Petty was to give four demonstration lectures, which were well received by those in attendance, although the attendance ‘was not so large as [they] would have liked’. It was recorded, however, that Miss Petty managed to sell a number of her own recipe books and it was hoped that she would return to give more lectures if the parish could raise sufficient funds to pay expenses.

April 1918 in Stoke D’Abernon saw a visit from Reverend Skene, on furlough from Palestine. Meanwhile, in Oxshott, there was a report on the work of the ‘Surrey Regiments Prisoners of War Relief Fund’. Advising readers that the shocking sum of £50,000 per annum was required, in order to provide relief for those men of the Surrey Regiments who are being held prisoner in Germany, the author offers an insight into ideas and attitudes of the time, asserting that:

It is of course a scandal that any money at all should be required for the purpose, and when we reflect upon the way in which Germany prisoners are treated in this country we may well be filled with righteous indignation. But we have got used to the ways of the gentle Hun by this time and are well aware that he is not bound by any of the humane obligations recognized by civilised foes. All we can do at present is to try and alleviate the sufferings of our brave soldiers…

To this end, a Flag Day was to be held, as well as a House to House Collection, on Saturday, April 27th. It was later reported that the sum of £114 16s. 0d.was collected.

In May 1918 a desire was expressed that the St Andrew’s parish magazine ‘should be made more interesting and should contain more personal items of news about members of the parish and congregation now serving with the Army and Navy’. Mr Hole offered to receive any items of information and edit them for the magazine, and the following month saw the inclusion of ‘Our Oxshott Men’.

It was also reported that, although the Surrey Branch of the British Red Cross Society had previously refrained from making a special appeal for funds, they would be unable to continue their work beyond the Spring without money to meet their future needs. To that end, there was to be another House-to House collection in Oxshott on Tuesday, May 21st. It was later reported that the sum of £90 7s. 0d. was collected.

In June 1918, it was recorded that Reverend J J Corryton, Chaplain at Rotterdam, had come to Stoke D’Abernon to preach on behalf of the Missions to Seamen. Mr Corryton, it was reported, had worked among interned prisoners of war, as well as those returning to England via Rotterdam.

There was also the sad news that Mr and Mrs Pullen had lost a second son, Leonard, who had been killed by a shell on the Western front.

In Oxshott, there had been a letter from Reverend Skene, dated 13th April, 1918, who was sailing for the Egypt the day after writing, and the news that Miss Verrey was to start a Waste Paper Depot at ‘The Warren’. The boys of the Woodwork Class were to collect full sacks of waste paper and these would be sold by the Church Army for munitions, in order to raise funds to replace their huts which had been lost in France that year.

In July 1918 Mr Comyn Platt was to give a lecture on ‘Germany’s War Aims’ in Stoke D’Abernon. The lecture was well attended, particularly ‘considering most are engaged with outdoor work at this time of year’, and proved to be ‘very interesting’ and, the author noted, ‘there [were] hopeful signs that [Germany’s] power to carry [their aims] out may be shattered’.

The magazine also recorded that a Fete held at the Manor House the previous month, in aid of the Surrey Red Cross, had been a great success, aided by the ideal weather. There had been boating, children’s games, clock golf, and bowls, as guests picnicked to the backdrop of an orchestra which played all afternoon, while ‘others came to supply the music for dancing on the lawn in the evening’. Entertainment also came in the form of a children’s tableaux, Mr Morrish  had told amusing stories, also, less successfully, conducted an American auction! In all, approximately 1,200 people had attended and, combined with a Whist Drive the previous week, the sum of £70 had been raised.

On a less idyllic note, it was reported that Captain Wilfrid Brownlow had been killed in action.

In Oxshott there was another letter from the Vicar, who had returned safely, to his unit in Ephraim.

The August 1918 issue of the St Mary’s Parish Magazine recorded that, thanks to the kindness of the King of Spain who had made enquiries through his ambassador at Berlin, Mrs Albert Gilbert had been advised that her husband, a prisoner of war, was still alive, despite previous reports to the contrary. It is not clear exactly how the King of Spain came to be involved in Ada’s search for news of her husband. Sadly, the following month, it was recorded that she had passed away after a brief illness, at the age of 25, remaining convinced that her husband ‘had passed beyond the veil, and [seeming] happy in the thought of meeting him there’. Ada was proved to be correct, Private Gilbert had died on 28 November 1917.

An appeal was made by the Matron of the Schiff Home, ‘for old tennis balls, croquet mallets, and some putters for clock golf’, and it was also recorded that Mrs Halliday had promised ‘to give her grand piano for the use of the Home’.

In Oxshott, there was an appeal for ‘men who can drive motor cars’, who were wanted by their King and Country. An accompanying article, on the ‘Surrey A.S.C. Motor Transport Volunteers’, explained how they could be of use, in the face of fears about a threatened invasion:

On the 30th June the first parade of the Surrey A.S.C. Motor Transport Volunteers, No. 1 Company, Section 3, took place. This section embraces Leatherhead, Bookham, East and West Horsley, Cobham and Oxshott.

The Convoy was under the command of its Section O.C., Lieutenant C. S Gordon Clark, who is to be congratulated on its inception. Some 20 Lorries and Vans assembled at Stoke D’Abernon, and were inspected by the Corps Commanding Officer, Major George W Rutter, who complimented the Section upon the efficiency displayed.

The Convoy then proceeded to their Headquarters at Leatherhead.

Thanks is due to the various owners of the lorries and vans who provided petrol for the occasion.

It is interesting to note that No. 3 Section has the honour to be the first in the County to participate in a Road Convoy practice.

I am asked to state that the… Company… still has several vacancies for Second Drivers, the qualification for enrolment being the ability to drive a Motor Car, Van or Lorry.

The Section is most anxious to reach full strength at the earliest possible date in case of threatened invasion of this country, it being essential in that event that a sufficient number of motor vehicles and drivers are available.

In the Volunteer Motor Transport Corps only three drills or lectures per month are obligatory, with an addition of one drill per month until the recruit is passed as efficient. The lectures arrange comprise map reading, convoy practice and mechanical repairs, which are, of course, interesting and instructive.

Second-Lieutenant G C Griffiths, The Red House, Oxshott, will be glad to enrol men wishing to join, and, if necessary, will be pleased to furnish any further particulars.

There was also a further appeal on behalf of the Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild’s War Hospital Supply Depot. Materials were increasing in price daily and so they had been advised to make large purchases and were looking for funds to support this. It was reported that:

Materials, for which in 1915 we paid 6 ¾d. a yard, now cost 1/4 ½d. a yard direct from the manufacturers. We have recently secured 2276 yards of material at a cost of £120 14s. 9d., and to meet this expenditure is a balance of £30 9s. 11d.

There was another letter from Reverend Skene, in September 1918, who was effusive about his most enjoyable day of cricket on the Mount of Olives.

Returning to the Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild, in October 1918, it was recorded that, due to the difficulty of heating the hall, the Oxshott War Work Room was to open two full days a week, on Thursday and Fridays, instead of four half-days. There was also an urgent call for workers as ‘attendance lately [had] been very poor’. As they read of the ‘progress that was being made on all the fronts’, the author reminded readers ‘that every victory entails a terrible number of casualties and there was never a time when the military hospitals stood in greater need of help’.

It was also recorded that the Sister in Charge of the Schiff Home had written to express their thanks for the proceeds of the Harvest Festival the previous month. She reported that, when asked ‘Now Boys, which do you prefer, an apple all round or apple puddings?’, she was greeted with a chorus of ‘Apple dumplings, please, Sister, like mother makes’.

In November 1918 there was news from Reverend Skene, once again. This time, it was of the hard fighting that he had seen in Palestine.

As the magazines were sent early for publication, it was December 1918 before the news of, and reactions to, The Armistice were recorded.

The St Mary’s parish magazine published ‘Our Bishop’s Letter’. The Bishop wrote:

My dear People,

Gladness deep, joyous, solemn, is in all our hearts. We enjoy, and shall enjoy, the removal one by one, and little by little, of restrictions, patiently borne but not a little irksome, and the coming back one by one of little conveniences, and opportunities, and interests and enjoyments. But the gladness is a great deal deeper down than all this. It is the gladness of relief from menace of danger, from the dread of the daily entries on the Roll of Honour, from the threat to our very life and freedom as a nation, from a darkness which overhung the life and future of the world, from a triumph of the wrong.

Such gladness nothing can impair; but with it there blend in solemn unison the memories of those who do not share it with us here, but won it for us by their bravery and their deaths. Their sacrifices find a new glory in the light of victory. It is comfort of the best sort that those sacrifices were not offered in vain. They give back to victory what they borrow from it, of lofty and solemn meaning. Benediction has come to us through them. It has been an added happiness that the nation has received so finely the great gift with great gladness but soberly and in the fear of God. The ever memorable adjournment of the Houses of Parliament in order to cross over to St. Margaret’s, and the King and Queen’s impromptu visit to St. Paul’s, were but the expression in the highest places of what crammed our own great Cathedral and the Church everywhere with the crowds who felt by a common instinct that joy can only speak with its fullest voice in praise to God.

Victory, like war, has taught us out of our own hearts its lesson of faith, and instance after instance comes to us of the way in which this has found spontaneous expression from multitudes and individuals’.

A ‘memorable service’ was been held in the Church on Tuesday, November 12th, which was full ‘with the briefest notice given’, and again on Thanksgiving Sunday, which the author took ‘as testimony that our thanks are due to God and that all recognise the over-ruling hand of God’s Providence in the ordering of events’. A meeting had been fixed for 4th December, at which they were to consider how best to create a Memorial for those who had given their lives.

Alongside the celebration and commemorations, the usual appeals of war-time continued as The Schiff Home called for old linen and a Bath Chair.

In Oxshott, there was a call for contributions to the ‘Lord Roberts’ Memorial Fund’, in recognition that the consequences of ‘the greatest war of history’ were not a thing of the past. The author reminded readers ‘we have a duty to the living – those who have been maimed and broken in their country’s service. To them, indeed, we owe a debt which we can never fully discharge – but we can do our best to relieve their sufferings and promote their welfare’. Households were asked to make collections at Christmas dinner and individuals were asked, ‘at this time of festivity and rejoicing’ to open their hearts ‘to the claims of those through whose sufferings we are enabled to enjoy the blessing of a Merry Christmas’.

There was also the news that ‘Our Day’ had seen £133 15s. collected for the British Red Cross Society, which had beaten all former records, and that Miss James of the Stoke D’Abernon branch of the Girls Friendly Society ‘had the honour of presenting a purse of £6 6s.to Her Royal Highness Princess Mary on behalf of [the] branch’, contributing towards approximately £5,000 that had been raised overall for the Society’s War Emergency Fund.

Lastly, as the war drew towards its conclusion, and people began to look forwards towards the safe return of their loved ones, the magazines recorded the death of Frederick Coombs, John Samuel Harding, Frederick Skelton, and offered a glimpse of the sorrow that was to come with the death of Mrs Wilson, of Sandroyd, ‘from the prevailing epidemic of influenza’.

Sources:

St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, and St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, January to December 1918, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

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