Stoke D’Abernon – 1919

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.

From January 1919 the parishioners of St Mary’s were concerned with ‘how best [they could] commemorate the names of those connected with the Parish who [had] made the supreme sacrifice in the Great War’. In Stoke D’Abernon the general desire expressed was for a Crucifix in the Church-yard, with an inscription and the names of those who had laid down their lives. They also hoped to ‘acquire a war trophy in the shape of a gun or Howitzer, to be placed in the Recreation Ground, with an inscription’, but had been advised this might be difficult, if not impossible.

A concert was given to raise funds for the Red Cross, with a final total of £15 4s.0d. given over as a result. The same concert was then repeated at the Schiff Home in the evening.

In Oxshott, the War Workroom was closed for the final time on Friday, December 13th, after three and a half years of activity, during which upwards of 5,826 garments and bandages were made. It was also reported that the Guild’s Headquarters had requested that garments were made with the utmost urgency for despatch to the ‘women and children in the devastated areas of France and Belgium, and Mr Northcott [had] most generously undertaken… to have the work carried out immediately and free of cost, by his own workpeople’, using the considerable quantity of material still on hand. In all Mr Northcott made 111 pairs of pyjamas, 63 vests, 63 pants, 16 nightshirts, 222 petticoats, 96 chemises, 48 combinations, and 9 bed jackets. Special letters of thanks were received in February, for the ‘beautifully made’ and ‘urgently needed’ garments, from Mrs Gibson, C.B.E, Honorary General Manager of the Guild. The news that the depot had closed led Mrs Gibson to be ‘specially commanded by [Princess Beatrice] to thank [them] for the loyal and faithful service [they had] rendered to the great cause’.

In July it was reported that:

the following members had earned the 1916-17-18 Bars and Badge by 75 per cent. Attendance:- Mrs. Northcott, Mrs. Burgoyne, Mrs. Humbert, Miss. Grey, Miss. Thomson, Mrs. Read, Miss. Bryant, and for 1916-7, Mrs. Mason. The following members earned the Princess Beatrice Badge for general good work and attendance:- Mrs. Northcott, Mrs. Burgoyne, Mrs. Humbert, Miss. Grey, Miss. Thomson, Mrs. Read, Miss. Bryant, Mrs. Alfred Williams, Mrs. Boxhall, Mrs. Shadbolt. The parishioners will be proud of these women, and especially of Mrs. Northcott and Mrs. Byrgoyne, upon whom the whole work of organising the branch was thrown.’

Demobilisation also brought its challenges, and in February Mr Matthews found it necessary to resign as organist of St Mary’s due to the pressure of work associated with the standing down of the armed forces.

By March 1919, a temporary War Memorial had been erected in Stoke D’Abernon and £222 had been promised or received for a permanent one. By April, a site had been chosen on the South Side of the Church, between the Porch and Vestry, and the amount subscribed or promised had increased to £288 11s. 1d. In May it was reported that this had increased further to £291 5s. 1d. and an estimate had been obtained from Messrs Mowbray and Company, for executing the work. They had been unable to get a satisfying work in bronze and were still to obtain a separate estimate for the inscription and names that were to be placed in the old South doorway.

In Oxshott, after ‘ years [of] groping our way about with the aid of lanterns’, they welcomed the relighting of the lamps at night as an ‘outward visible sign that the War [was] really over’. The author believed it to be ‘much to the credit of the youth of Oxshott, that the lamp posts and gas mantles, though untended for four years, all remain intact’!

There was also the news that there was a ‘very serious deficit on the Parish Magazine Account, due to the enormously increased cost of paper and printing during the War’. Based on one page per month, there was a total deficit of £4 3s. 5d., but, as Reverend Hole reported, there had been so much ‘extra matter’ of interest to report ‘that they simply could not keep within our single page’, and so this left Oxshott with a deficit of £9 16s. 9d. in total. To that end an appeal was made, in both Stoke D’Abernon and Oxshott, for special subscriptions to assist in meeting the shortfall. By the following month the full sum had been subscribed.

On 12th April 1919, a supper was held at St Andrew’s Hall, by the Residents of the parish, to welcome home those who had returned from war. There were 60 guests in total. The following month, on 4th May 1919 a Memorial Service was to be held for those who had fallen, at which the buglers of the East Surrey Regiment were to attend and play the Last Post.

For one parishioner the entire war was to pass them by, until its conclusion. In September 1919 parishioners of St Mary’s were notified that ‘a link with the past [had] been severed’ with the death of Miss Charlotte Friday, in her 101st year. Miss Friday had been in service locally from 1846, until her retirement a few years previously, and it was reported that ‘she was never informed about the Great War until the Armistice, it being feared that the shock would hasten her end’.

Obviously, the after effects of the Great War on the parishes of St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, and St Andrew’s Oxshott, did not simply fade away. Yet throughout 1919, although the magazines record continuing discussions with regards to War Memorials, apart from occasional appeals on behalf of the Schiff Home for Recovery and the Lord Roberts’ Memorial Fund, little else is mentioned about the continuing privations, about the men who returned, or the impact of their return on those who had remained behind. It seems fitting then, to conclude an account of war-time life in the two villages with this expansive account of the Peace Celebrations that took place in Stoke D’Abernon, in July 1919.

‘Peace Celebrations.’

The Rector was away from home at Worthing on a brief holiday when he heard on authority that Sunday, July 6th, had been fixed as the day of National Thanksgiving for Peace. It was right that there should be no undue delay in the giving of thanks. There was no opportunity of announcing the service even the Sunday before – but the Special Thanksgiving Services were duly printed in time – the people readily grasped the significance of the event – and it was evident by the attendance that gratitude to God for the blessing of Peace was manifest.

Time seemed to be short to make due preparations for the official Peace celebrations on Saturday, July 19th, but our local committee, under the efficient leadership of Colonel Gore as [honorary] secretary, worked wonders. What more natural than that we should wish to entertain the men who have fought so gallantly and done so much for the winning of Victory and Peace? Thirty-four in all sat down to dinner at the Village Room on Wednesday, July 16th, a day to be remembered. Anything more complete in arrangement could hardly be imagined. The profuse decoration of flags, the flowers in profusion, the dainty menu and commemorative menu cards, the ladies of the parish waiting on the men, made a striking scene which we are not likely to forget nor shall we easily forget the moving words spoken by Colonel Bowen-Buscarlet in welcoming the men home and urging us to a true spirit of patriotism and the building up of a better England. Colonel Gore replied in the name of the men and gave a vivid picture of the spirit that animated our men to rally from the furthest corners of the Empire to take their place in the fight for justice and freedom. The Rector then asked all to stand as he read out the names of those from the parish who have made the supreme sacrifice, and who on this day we especially wish to remember, and who through the years of war have always been remembered in our Prayers.

The dinner was followed by a concert and also a clever conjuring entertainment. So many have taken their share in doing their best to honour the men whom we welcome back home that it is invidious to mention names. Enough that each and all have done their best, and that success has rewarded their efforts.

The programme for the 19th was not less complete. It was altogether fitting that it should open with a Service of Thanksgiving in the Recreation Ground. This service was suggested by the Committee before the Rector returned home. A shower of rain gave a hint of what might follow, but it cleared for the time being and a representative gathering of parishioners assembled, to take part in the service. A cricket match, Military [versus] Civilians, resulted, as might be expected, in a win for the former. The Army put up a score of 132 and the Civilians did quite well in making 66 in reply.

Meanwhile there were great counter-attractions in the sports ground. Mr. and Mrs. Harrison placed their grounds at Stoke Lodge at our disposal, and were indefatigable in organising and carrying through a lengthy programme. Great ingenuity was shewn (sic.) in inventing a great variety of races, and the events included a “boat race,” wheelbarrow races, a tug of war, and an infinite variety of flat races for children; we understand that about 150 prizes were given and the children and the grown-ups altogether had a day to be remembered.

We must not forget the tea arrangements. This was typical of the way things were carried ut. The children first had their turn, but beforehand everybody had done their part in making or supplying the most dainty confections for the occasion, with the result that never was there such a tea arranged before in the history of the Parish. During the afternoon about 230 sat down to tea, and all was so well arranged that there was no crowding and no shortage of supplies.

In the evening there were fireworks and a grand illumination of the recreation ground, an impromptu concert, followed by dancing, which was kept up to a late hour. As the day waned the weather grew worse; but we are thankful that the greater part of the programme was carried through without let or hindrance and that we were spared the really heavy rain of the Sunday following.’

Sources:

St Mary’s, Stoke D’Abernon, and St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazines, January to December 1919, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.

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