The Right Reverend Edward Talbot (1844-1934), Bishop of Winchester, sent a letter from his seat at Farnham Castle to all the churches of his diocese in January 1919, reflecting on the armistice and the challenges ahead: ‘God has brought us through the war, and given us a fresh lease of power – for what?’ The Bishop had himself experienced the tragedy of the war: his younger son Gilbert Talbot (1891-1915), a lieutenant in the 7th Battalion, The Rifle Brigade, had been killed in the Ypres Salient on 30 Jul 1915; Gilbert’s brother Neville, an army chaplain, had retrieved the body. Talbot House, the famous rest house for soldiers in Poperinghe, west of Ypres, nicknamed Toc-H, was named after Gilbert. A letter from Gilbert, written to Susan Lushington from Bordon Camp in March 1915, is held by Surrey History Centre (SHC ref 7854/4/32/3/1a-b).
In the letter, the Bishop gives thanks again for the end of hostilities and hopes that now a ‘just and lasting peace’ can be achieved. He warns against any temptation to self-righteousness even though it is proper to look ‘sternly and severely at the awful fault and crimes of Germany’ and warns Britain not to fall into Germany’s sins of ‘national self-worship, and the worship of force, of gold and of the machine’. He believes that the final peace settlement should not aim at any expansion of Britain’s empire but should seek to ‘draw all nations into a League of Peace, to act as trustee and defender of the weaker races, to conduct ourselves so that slowly but surely hatreds may die down, and slowly but surely the ideals which are good for all the nations may come to be pursued by all’.
At home it should be the aim of all to create a fairer society but this should be done with ‘general goodwill, disinteredness, and unselfishness’, so it does not degenerate into a struggle between rich and poor. He recognises that ‘those who have sometimes a wrong and unchristian monopoly of the great word ‘respectable’ will have to reconcile themselves (let me put myself among them) to great losses and disagreeable changes, and to welcome a state of society in which they count for less’ but urges people to heed the lesson of the Russian Revolution ‘that revolution can be as ruthless as autocracy or Junkerism’ and urges Labour not to ‘organise hatred against all who are not in its ranks’.
Above all, he asks his flock to pray that ‘the nations all, and our own, may feel their way forward’ and that God will ‘give life’s bread and portion more and more truly and fairly to all’.
A copy of the letter is included in the volume of Witley parish magazines at Surrey History Centre (SHC ref WIT16/37).