Toc H Pilgrim Guides

By Steve Smith

Having recently acquired a copy of one of the few books missing from my Toc H collection, namely In Flanders Fields (qv), I thought I’d put together a short, mostly visual blog about Toc H and the early pilgrimages to the battlefields and cemeteries of the Salient, and of course, to Talbot House.

The pilgrimages began before the war had even officially ended. Travel restrictions were lifted in July 1919 and civilians – mostly women – wanted to see where their loved ones had fallen and were buried. On the 1st and 2nd of November 1919 – still 10 days before Armistice – on All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day, thousands of French families travelled on special trains to the battlefields to visit the graves of their loved ones and commemorate all the dead. A trickle became and stream and the stream became a river.

At first most of the tours were organised privately, often by motor car. They did give employment to some former soldiers. Before long they were commercially attractive enough for companies such as Thomas Cook to get involved. But as these tours were often out of reach of the working class, charitable organisations also began to arrange pilgrimages. The Canadian Red Cross brought several Canadian widows and bereaved mothers to London in January 1920 before taking them on to France and Belgium; the Salvation Army took over their first party in April 1920; and St Barnabas, began opening hostels on the Continent and would soon begin their own trips, the earliest of which were arranged with the full support of Toc H before they began their own independent pilgrimages with their members.

And to accompany these tours, a number of guide books began to appear. The earliest are probably the The Illustrated Michelin Guide to the Battlefields series which began publication in September 1919 with Marne, Amiens, Soissons, and Lille, and were followed in January 1920 with Ypres and Rheims.

A Short Guide to the Battlefields by the Revd. J. O. Coop, D.S.O., T.D. Senior Chaplain of the 55th Division was published in April 1920 and then in July, Toc H got in on the act with The Pilgrim’s Guide to the Ypres Salient

The author’s copy once owned by Rex Calkin

Officially the follow-up to Tales of Talbot House, The Pilgrim’s Guide was clearly launched to both promote and raise funds for the fledgling Toc H. It was printed by Herbert Reiach Limited of Covent Garden, and an editorial note says that it was put together entirely by ex-servicemen. The names of the contributors include Charles John Magrath, a YMCA colleague of Barclay Baron who joined forces with Tubby at Talbot House (and Dingley Dell) in 1918; Captain Hugh Pollard, the firearms specialist later credited with starting the Spanish Civil War; Boyd Cable, the pen name of wartime propagandist Ernest Andrew Ewart (who also wrote Front Lines and several other titles about life in the trenches); and several others. Illustrated with sketches and maps, it is a lovely work and was often overlooked until reprinted by Talbot House. You can buy a copy of the reprint from their website. The Pilgrim’s Guide to the Salient (2019 reprint)

Original order form leaflet for The Pilgrim’s Guide

Other early guides include Lieutenant-Colonel T.A. Lowe’s The Western Battlefields. A Guide to the British Line. Short Account of the Fighting, the Trenches and Positions and the Ministerie des Chemins de Fer’s Aux Champs de Gloire Le Front Belge de L’Yser.

The market was soon flooded so the rest of this blog will focus purely on those tomes connected closely to Toc H. It is worth mentioning the mentions in Henry Williamson’s Wet Flanders Plain, the relevant extract was published here previously.

The next pertinent book was originally published as a supplement to the December 1930 Journal. The Old House was described as a Handbook for Pilgrims to Talbot House at Poperinghe. Remember, it was around this time that, finally exasperated by the constant knocking on the door, M. Coevoet Camerlynck succumbed to Lord Wakefield’s offer and sold Talbot House to Toc H (through the specially formed Talbot House Association).

The guide, which is available either as a thin hard cover book if you can find it (as pictured in the group picture) or the paper cover supplement, is a lovely descriptive record of the House and area with many photos, sketches and maps as well as extracts from notices and a list of all the books once held in the Talbot House library.

The acquisition of the Old House led to renewed vigour in the pilgrimages though now smaller groups went and stayed in the House itself. This prompted two new publications. Firstly, Tubby and the Rev. Geoffrey Harold Woolley issued the sparse booklet The Salient Facts under the Bangwent Series (Other titles included the thumbnail sketch of Pettifer and Tubby’s Fishers of Men). Woolley was an officer of the Queen Victoria Rifles who served in the Salient and was ordained after the war and joined Toc H. Little more than a pamphlet – Tubby describes the 16 page booklet as a ‘miracle of compression’ – it adds little to the reader’s knowledge but should be part of any serious collector’s library.

In 1935, Toc H republished The Old House in a condensed booklet called Over There – A Little Guide for Pilgrims.

The final booklet in our round-up was Barclay Baron’s In Flanders Fields, published by Toc H in 1954. Another small offering subtitled A little companion for the visitor to Poperinghe and Ypres, it is precisely that and perfect for popping in one’s pocket. Which is the perfect place for us to pop off and finish this short blog.

Talbot House Seafaring Boys’ Residential Club

Ray Fabes (c) 2008

Today’s blog is a guest post by Ray Fabes, a former Toc H staff member and academic with a special interest in youth work. This article is a paper written in 2008 about the Talbot House Seafaring Boys’ Residential Club in Southampton, for many years a classic piece of Toc H work with young merchant seamen.

Unfortunately the article has only survived on paper so has been scanned in (thanks to Ray’s daughter Nicola for that) and rather than retype it, I have decided to post it as a series of images. I hope this doesn’t detract from the writing in any way.

See here for a little info about the building

The entrance to Talbot House in the early 50s


By Steve Smith

During the Coronavirus outbreak, many communities have started schemes that are varieties of putting something – a coloured card for instance – in your window if you need help. Nothing new here! Such schemes go back at least seventy years. However Toc H were one of the prime-movers in developing these simple systems in such a way that it altered how Social Service departments worked and is still integral to care in the community today. This is the story of the Toc H Flashing Light.

No one should claim that Toc H were the instigators of the Emergency Call schemes as so many similar ideas seemed to appear at much the same time. In the late fifties numerous such projects sprung up. There is anecdotal evidence that the church started the ball rolling by getting old and vulnerable people to put a Christian Fish symbol in their windows if they were lonely or needed a visit. However, I have uncovered no factual evidence to suggest these schemes predated the more general ones here.

The earliest examples I can find include some Worthing neighbours who in July 1951 had an agreement to put some paper on the landing window if they needed help; in September of that year vulnerable people in Shoreditch were issued cards (The report doesn’t say by whom) with SOS in 4” red letters on them to use if they needed help; and in 1957 the WVS in Uxbridge were issuing cards with an ‘H’ on them to all elderly people living alone.

By early 1960 one Toc H instigated scheme in South London had a name, Lifebelt, and the emblem on the card was indeed a lifebelt.

New Addington branch are cited as being pioneers though it spread to branches at Beckenham, West Wickham, Shirley and Penge, and, in the February 1960 Journal, it was rumoured that Croydon Branch was soon to initiate the scheme in other parts of the County Borough.

However, all systems up to this point were ‘manual’. The biggest flaw was they required the vulnerable person to get to their window and place the card somewhere where it could be seen. The second drawback was that a card sitting in the window hardly drew attention unless you were actively looking for it.

Although identifying the very first flashing light variation of the scheme across the country is very difficult, we do know that in the Redbridge district of Toc H, they became pioneers. Switching out the card for a flashing light and putting a button near the chair or bed the vulnerable person for them to operate revolutionised it. They went on to design the system using parts you could find around the house, or at least at the local car-breaker’s yard. The original utilised a car battery, a car indicator light, some bell wire and a simple switch. The indicator light was fixed up in the window, the battery stood on the floor and the bell-wire was taped around the wall and connected to the switch by the bed (or chair). Importantly the bell-wire was only loosely taped so if the person fell down in the middle of the room they only had to get to the wire around the wall with their hand or stick and tug it. It would come away from the wall and they could pull the switch towards them.

Of course this was only part of the system. Integral to the scheme working was publicising it the local area. Neighbours and passers-by alike needed to ensure that if anyone saw a light flashing in the window they both knew what it meant and what to do. So Toc H created letters, posters and cards and flooded the local area and the press.

The second thing was even more of a genius idea. Toc H branches set up regular maintenance calls, not just because the equipment needed to be checked but because it meant the isolated individual was benefitting from some company. A check that could have taken a couple of minutes often lasted an hour.

Very quickly the systems improved and the more technical members created custom built components rather than junkyard scraps. Car batteries could be replaced by small batteries inside the unit itself. They also engaged with schools and other organisations to build the units. Schematics and instruction manuals were created and distributed.

As early as 1964 the National Council for Social Service had put together a booklet, Emergency Call Schemes for the Housebound, to promote the various projects then in July 1967 Toc H issued a booklet in association with the London Borough of Redbridge. Toc H even set up a separate organisation, Lend-A-Hand, to manage it. In 1968 they were filmed by Pathe News. Toc H even persuaded Ever Ready to design and make a special bulb and bracket for the system.

Nearby in West Essex Loughton branch also make huge strides and soon became the undisputed champions of the scheme. They made their own film, Emergency, in 1968.

By 1973 Loughton had installed 132 units. The scheme had spread locally to Barkingside (100 units), Hoddesdon (100 units), Woodford (25 units), and Buckhurst Hill (5 units).

In the early seventies, Mitcham branch in Australia had even wired up a 12 story block of 207 flats for older people. In New Zealand the scheme was known as Lightline.

According to a 1982 survey, Toc H were involved in at least 66 schemes (Not all branches returned questionnaires so the figure may have been higher).Not all went for the flashing lights; a buzzer was also popular (both occasionally) and some just used cards. Some branches ran the scheme alone, others worked in partnership with other organisations. Perhaps most interestingly, several schemed initiated by branches were taken over by the local Social Services department.

Ultimately, this is what happened. Social Service departments across the country took over the schemes and as electronics improved rapidly in the seventies and eighties, systems that could be worn as pendants or on the wrist took over from the buttons and bell-wires. More radically, the flashing light buzzer was replaced by a system that could dial an emergency telephone number. Still further developments continued until we arrive at the telecare systems we use today – which are largely down to the innovative work of Toc H in East London.

Let Your Light So Shine

Steve Smith

I said recently that it is my intention to tell you the story of Barclay Baron both here in blog form and later as a full biography. That puts me in kind of a predicament. How do I relate such an important life story respectfully here whilst keeping my powder dry for the book? Can I do justice in this blog without undermining the greater venture? I guess we are about to find out. Please consider the story of Barclay Baron as a movie and this blog is the trailer. Not the first, 30 second teaser trailer that comes out six months before the film but the fully developed three minute preview that gives you enough of the plot to guarantee you will be queuing up at the box-office to find out all the details. I hope the next few thousand words will whet your appetite enough for you to eagerly await the book next year. I know I’m looking forward to it immensely, but then I’ve seen the script!

The Story of Barclay Baron

Barclay Baron

Our first scene opens on a book. Published in January 1922, Half the Battle is the first significant piece of literature Baron has produced for Toc H since he arrived there the previous summer. On the inside front cover is a quote written by Baron.

“To conquer hate would be to end the strife of all the ages,
but for men to know one another is not difficult, and it is half the battle”

If these words were Barclay Baron’s only legacy to the world it would be right to extol him for them alone. However, Baron achieved so much more in his life for such a variety of good causes, not least Toc H. No-one captured the history of Toc H with quite the detailed artist’s eye of Baron. Though its founder, Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton’s flowery writings were a great promotional tool they – despite their passion and inspiration – frequently lacked accuracy. It was Baron’s essays that helped me understand the history of Toc H when I first became interested in that side of things but it was several years later before I started to look into Baron’s own story, and what a story I found.

The Baron family’s roots are in Cornwall though a phrenologist once claimed that Baron’s father had a fine Phoenician head – inherited by Baron himself – quite possible since those ancient explorers and traders venerated the tin-mines of Cornwall and were regular visitors. The Barons also had Quaker roots which might well have had a bearing on Baron’s later compassion and humanity. He was about 13 when the family were all baptised into the Church of England.

Our leading actor was born in Clifton, Bristol on the 28th February 1884, just avoiding that devilish Leap Year trap that condemns you to only one true birthday every four years. He would be followed by three younger sisters in 1886 (Freda), 1889 (Muriel), and 1892 (Vera). Their father Barclay Josiah Baron, was a noted Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant and their mother, Jane Robinson, a grocer’s daughter from Liskeard in Cornwall.

His childhood was blessed by the comfortable circumstances afforded by his father’s success and by the beautiful environment of the West Country. Baron was interested in all things flora and fauna and later described a typical exploration with his sister Freda,

“Fortified with wedges of home-made cake in a little basket and with threepence between us for two bottles of lemonade at a village shop, we roamed fields and woods, named the wild flowers one by one, discovered a blackcap’s nest and fished in muddy ponds for water-boatmen to take home in a jam-jar.”

Home was a large house in Whiteladies Road, Clifton. Here Barclay Baron senior ran his private practice and the family went about their lives. For Baron it was school, and it was at Clifton College where he developed his interest in the natural world. He even said that he joined the school Scientific Society just so he would be let out with a butterfly net and a geological hammer.

In the autumn of 1902 he went up to University College, Oxford where his vocation would develop. Baron met Alec Paterson on the night he arrived and they would be friends for the next 45 years until Paterson died in 1947; Baron visiting him just a few hours before his death. They had many mutual interests in particular social justice. Baron had spent much time thinking deeply about religious, liberal and social issues. Despite their different characters – Paterson was serious and intense, Baron charming and apparently light-hearted – they gelled together well.

They also shared a love of the outdoors and spent holidays together – with others – in the Lake District. Baron’s love of nature was transferring into a general love of the outdoors, in particular walking. Sandals would later become his footwear of choice – except those times when he could go barefoot – and he is frequently pictured wearing them, even sitting at his desk working.

Paterson already had a well-developed social conscience and wanted to share it with his new university pals. He took some of them into the slums of Oxford twice a week where they worked with the regulars in the local doss house.

Then during that first term, an incident occurred during that changed all of their lives.

“One day in 1902 a group of freshmen loitered in the College quadrangle after ‘Hall’, when a third-year man invited them to take coffee with him and a visitor from Town.”

The freshmen included Baron and Paterson and the visitor was Dr John Stansfeld. Some of them were won over by Stansfeld’s enthusiastic evangelising about a Boys Club and Medical Mission in Bermondsey and vowed to spend a fortnight there at their next vacation. This was the Oxford Medical Mission founded by Stansfeld in 1897 (later the Oxford and Bermondsey Boys’ Club.)

Paterson said afterwards,

“He insisted we come and ‘live the crucified life in Bermondsey’. We shrank from the words rather: they seemed to push the thing too far. Yet the words stuck………The meeting seemed rather a failure, only seven men there and none of us at all heroic. Yet all seven came to Bermondsey sooner or later and five became residents.”

For Paterson it was the beginning of a 20 year stay in Bermondsey but for Baron it was the inspiration of a lifetime. Although his path would lead him out of Bermondsey, he stayed close spiritually returning when he could and the lessons he learned there stayed with him all his life.

Now we like to think that Toc H began in Talbot House in December 1915. However there is a school of thought that it truly started in Bermondsey which Tubby often called the cradle of Toc H. Indeed in Bermondsey Baron first met Tubby. Here too Baron worked with many of his Oxford contemporaries like William Temple, Neville Talbot, Cecil Rushton, Donald Hankey, Henry Scott-Holland, and Clement Attlee. These men, at least those who survived the Great War, would be the building blocks of post-war Britain.

He would also meet his future wife in Bermondsey. But that is later; first Baron had some ‘wanderlust’ to attend to.

Leaders at a Boys’ Camp in Essex. Baron holding the white hat

In 1905 he left university and in the late summer arrived in Germany for a year in the pursuit of art. He lived with a German family in Charlottenburg, Berlin (but later moved to Munich) studying at the universities of both cities. His first impressions of the country were of orderliness and thoroughness “admirable but often irksome to a casual Englishman”. He developed a great love for Germany and for its contribution to Christian life.

In 1906 he returned to London – his father wrote indicating it was time he got serious about a career. So Baron set out to do an Art Master’s Certificate at polytechnic but also struck out for independence. No longer wishing to be financially reliant on his parents he took cheap lodgings in Bloomsbury close to the British Museum and within walking distance of the polytechnic. He spent much time in the Print Room of the British Museum where Laurence Binyon was one of the staff, and he painted in Hyde Park in the mornings. He exploited his talent as a wordsmith with freelance articles and reviews for several journals and also offered his services as a private tutor. His weekends were spent volunteering at the OMM and he went away on camps to their rural retreat at Horndon in Essex.

Clearly though, his ‘wanderlust’ was not yet sated. Expanding on his experience as a private tutor, in 1907 Baron went to Italy for eighteen months to be a private tutor to a boy in Verona. He learnt Italian and painted. He had much free time and explored the city’s 40 churches and travelled across Italy. When it was time to go home he sent his copious drawings, photographs and notes along with his luggage ahead to England then cycled across the Alps to Germany, working his passage along the way. He was certainly attracted to life on the road.

Back in London he lectured at the National Gallery for the WEA (Workers’ Educational Association) and provided articles and cartoons for the Daily News. However, the pull of Bermondsey (or probably the persuasive talents of Alec Paterson) led Baron to relocate to Bermondsey. Here, according to his family later, he probably had the happiest days of his life.

Bermondsey was one the archetypal slum districts of London. Sprawling along the south bank of the Thames with its many wharves and quays and right next to the docks of Rotherhithe, most of its inhabitants worked in the port. Those that didn’t may well have worked in the tanneries that gave Bermondsey both its nickname, the Land of Leather, and the hideous smell that pervaded the air. Families were crowded into tenements that were packed into closely laid streets. One particularly jam-packed area by St Saviour’s Dock was known as Jacob’s Island and was where Dickins set Bill Sykes’ demise.

Baron was there to work with the boys of these inhabitants at the various clubs run by the OMM. He took paid work as Private Secretary to Herbert Samuel, a Liberal Cabinet Minister under Asquith (The first nominally-practising Jew to become a Cabinet Minister, and later leader of the Liberal Party). Baron worked at Samuel’s home in Bayswater and in the summer recess travelled with him to his Yorkshire constituency. This allowed him to know Samuel professionally and personally. As Baron later said, “we picnicked, played and swam together, as well as worked together.”

Alec Paterson, a relatively minor Civil Servant at the time, also became known to Herbert Samuel who was drafting what became the Children’s Act 1908. As a result Paterson wrote more than twenty amendments to the draft – all of which appeared in the final Act. Amongst other things, it brought in juvenile courts and helped develop the growth of borstals – which, after the war, would become Paterson’s true field of expertise.

Baron was becoming quite an expert in the subject ‘working boys’ and in October 1910 gave a lantern lecture at Streatley (Berkshire) Reading Room on ‘The Conditions of life among working boys in Bermondsey’. He was also writing a text on the subject. The Growing Generation: A Study of Working Boys and Girls in our Cities for the Student Christian Movement was published in 1911 and has been described as a manual for youth work. It has been quoted in many an academic treatise since. Paterson was, by 1910, working on his book Across the Bridges (Published March 1911), which he used Baron as a sounding board for.

The following year Baron took over as Warden of the Oxford and Bermondsey Boys Club. John Stansfeld had trained as both doctor and priest and had left the mission taking with him the OMM’s medical qualification, hence the name-change. At this time, Baron was sharing rooms nearby the Abbey Street HQ of the OBC, with Donald Hankey. Together they wrote a version of Julius Caesar for their club members to perform. Playwright was another skill Baron would later reemploy frequently.

Baron – who seemed to live in several addresses in Bermondsey during his time there – also lived with Cecil Rushton around 1912, who was introduced to them by Tubby. Rushton and Baron shared an attic room in a tenement overlooking the Thames. The room had a big wooden balcony on which Baron and Rushton slept when they could. Though often the pair went off for late night (early morning) walks that began at the ‘crack’ – the place in Tower Bridge where the two leaves met. The pair then wandered around Billingsgate or Chinatown until the early hours. Sadly, neither Hankey nor Rushton returned from the war.

It was in 1912 that Baron also met Rachel Caroline Abel Smith, a woman five years his senior, who was working for Time and Talents, an evangelical mission for women and girls which her mother co-founded. Both Baron and Rachel obviously shared a common outlook on life – they were both committed Christians and staunch Liberals. And both it seems, were trying to leave behind their privileged upbringing: Rachel was daughter of Abel Smith MP of Woodhall Park, Hertford, and Frances Julia Hart Dyke of Lullingstone Castle.

Early in 1914 Baron was asked by his friend William Temple, to get involved in a new Christian periodical he was starting called The Challenge.  His first few months were spent raising funds for it but he was also made editor for the first issue published in April. Then Temple took over the editor’s chair as Baron’s personal life took precedence for a change and in May he and Rachel were engaged.

Then on the 25th July 1914 they were married at Southwark Cathedral by the Reverends Canon Woodward and John Stansfeld himself. Alec Paterson was best man and Rachel was given away by her brother, Abel Henry Smith.

The Saturday afternoon wedding and reception in the Chapter House was notable for the mix of the couple’s well-to-do relatives and their friends and colleagues from Bermondsey. Baron recalls an abiding memory of an uncle, Sir Charles Fremantle, sitting on the floor in his best wedding suit whilst Fred Brent’s Bermondsey baby played with his gold watch chain.

The newlyweds left for Scotland but world events were to spoil their plans. Three days after the wedding Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia and the conflict that would engulf the world and change the lives of so many of our protagonists would begin. Honeymooning in Balmacara, they returned to London, though not easily. Everything went into lockdown and they were stranded in their Scottish paradise until a local boatman rowed into the path of one of the Fort William ferries virtually forcing it to slow and take the Barons and their luggage on board.

Baron tried to join the military but was rejected on medical grounds so settled down to married life in a new apartment in Trinity Square, Southwark and prepared for the arrival of their first-born. David Whinfield Barclay Baron arrived on the 11th April 1915. His Godfather was Alec Paterson.

Meanwhile, Baron was still working for The Challenge and, voluntarily, at the OBC but wanted to do his bit for the war effort. After all, back home in Bristol his father, now a councillor (and soon to be mayor), and mother were both doing plenty. Baron – and Paterson – were members of the Cavendish Club, a London club favoured by those involved with social work. It attracted the workers in the school and college settlements and missions and unlike most London Clubs it had its own chapel and resident chaplain (The later well-known Dick Sheppard of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and a great friend of Toc H.) The Club had a brief to get young people, particularly those of the public schools, interested in such work. A spin-off committee, the Cavendish Association, had been formed as a bureau of work placing people into appropriate roles. This led to the YMCA asking them to find a suitable man to set up and run an officer’s club in Le Havre. Baron was approached, accepted, and arrived in France on the 18th August 1915.

Baron established the club in Le Havre and, after a week’s leave to spend time with Rachel and six month old David, returned to replace Pilkington as the General Secretary in the district. He remained in this position for two years.

In April 1917, after a short spell in hospital, Baron was transferred to the Somme, then in June 1917 the Fourth Army began a move to the coast and Baron and some of his YMCA colleagues headed north with them. He mentions a detour across the Belgian border to have tea at Talbot House with his old friend Tubby Clayton, during the journey en route to Malo. This was almost certainly Baron’s first visit to Talbot House.

In the autumn of 1917 Baron found himself attached to Plumer’s Second Army as they moved east to Italy but Baron and the YMCA got no further than Poperinge. They set up base in the Catholic Club in Rue de Boescepe, just round the corner from Talbot House which Baron visited most days.

Baron (centre) in YMCA uniform 1919 (c) YMCA

In March 1918 Baron and the YMCA relocated to Mont des Cats when Poperinge evacuated. They took over the deserted village school. On the 21st of April Baron got word that Dr Charles John Magrath (otherwise Mac) was evacuating the YMCA in Ypres and drove out in a car to find him. He met him and his orderlies pushing a handcart towards Poperinge loaded with various bits and pieces. Transferring them to the car he took them to Talbot House where Mac and padre Harold ‘Goodie’ Goodwin (From Little Talbot House) joined forces with Tubby (who had resisted an order to close Talbot House).

A week later, whilst touring what YMCA huts remained on the Salient, Baron visited the deserted Poperinge to find Tubby stubbornly remaining in situ. Discussing the advancing German army, Tubby stated that “they’ll be in Poperinghe by the morning.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Baron.

“O me? I’m stopping here to give the Kaiser his breakfast.”

Baron also asked what he could do for Tubby and soon found his car loaded with the smaller furniture and fittings all covered by the black and gold carpet from the chapel and topped off with a peal of tubular bells in a six foot wooden frame. As they shook hands and bid each other farewell, Tubby scribbled a few words into a copy of Weymouth’s New Testament in Modern Speech and thrust it into Baron’s hand. The words were “Barkis from Tubby. T.H. 28 April 1918.”

The German’s didn’t take Poperinge although on Whit Tuesday when the town was closed to troops, Tubby and Mac shuttered up Talbot House and retired to ‘Dingley Dell’ by the airfield in De Lovie. They scrounged two huts for their accommodation which Baron later admitted belonged to the YMCA.

The YMCA then moved their local HQ down into Godewaersvelde then later to Roubaix where they were on Armistice Day. After which Baron took off on a recce in the car with his driver Dickie which took them to Cologne in time to see the Allied troops arrive and cross the Rhine.

Soon after Armistice, the Baron’s family was completed by the arrival of Lancelot Donald Abel Baron (Usually known as Donald) on the 15th December 1918. An auspicious date in that for several years the 15th December was celebrated as the opening date of Talbot House until it was shifted to the 11th after some letters from Tubby were found at his mother’s house.

And then, just a fortnight later in the New Year Honours List of 1919, Baron was awarded an OBE for his service in charge of Fourth Army Area Centres, YMCA. This was exactly a year after his father was knighted.

Sadly it was just a few months later that Baron lost his father in tragic circumstances. On Sunday the 25th of May Sir Barclay was in his garden tugging a branch off a tree when it suddenly broke and he fell heavily on some stones. He was confined to bed with suspected fractured ribs but a ruptured spleen went undiagnosed and Sir Barclay died on Saturday the 7th of June. Barclay had been in Germany with the YMCA when his father died and returned home after three days travelling. The funeral was held at Bristol Cathedral on the 13th of June. Baron’s mother, now Lady Baron, moved just round the corner into 60 Pembroke Road which would remain the family home for many decades.

In late 1919, with his war duties discharged, Baron became Travelling Secretary with the Cavendish Society visiting public schools to promote social service amongst boys. When not away, Baron was based in their offices in New Cavendish Street where he worked with Rob Shelston.

As well as travelling for his employer and giving talks about their work, in the first few months of the year he also spoke on the work of the YMCA and for an appeal by the OBC. He continued to provide freelance articles – notably to William Temple’s new project, The Pilgrim: A Review of Christian Politics and Religion, a quarterly launched in autumn 1920. He also made a trip to Nuremburg to see an old friend.

However 1921 would see further developments. The Cavendish Association was struggling, the war had damaged its momentum. And now there was a new Movement building a head of steam. Some of Baron’s friends like Alec Paterson had a foot in both camps and Baron knew many of its leading lights, including the tubby little padre who led and inspired it. Toc H was on its way up and it shared many of the aims of the Cavendish Association thus it was no real surprise that the two organisations should join. Whilst technically a merger, the Cavendish was effectively subsumed by Toc H and in the late spring of 1921 a wagon-load of furniture left New Cavendish Street along with Baron and Bob Shelston, to Mark II in Pimlico where Toc H had its HQ.

Baron, during his early days in Toc H

Shelston took charge of the Social Service Shop, an early centralised bureau for Toc H work mostly with Boys Clubs. Baron kept his job title of Travelling Secretary and was sent around the growing bands of Toc H men to give speeches of encouragement, or to others like Rotary Clubs to encourage them to start a Toc H branch. However, when not on the road, he shared an office with Lionel Bradgate, editor of the Toc H Newssheet (later The Journal) where he watched him put the magazine together each month. He eventually became his assistant. In late 1921 he also put his literary talents to use by writing the aforementioned Half the Battle which was published in January 1922. Telling the story of Toc H in the first two years of its rebirth, it is the perfect companion volume to Tubby’s Tales of Talbot House.

One of the key expressions of Toc H’s work in those first two years was the establishment of new Talbot House hostels – Marks – in London and provincial cities. In May 1922 Bristol was in Toc H’s sights and it was only natural that Baron would be involved given it was the city of his birth and he had many connections there. An appeal was launched by the Rotary Club to raise funds and Baron was established as Appeal Director. It was almost certainly in relation to this appeal that he and Tubby came to be sat waiting in a Bristol stockbroker’s office for an appointment. Whilst waiting they discussed the idea of a symbol for Toc H. Baron suggested an oil lamp similar to those used by Christians in the catacombs under Rome. He sketched his idea on a scrap of envelope.

The idea was well received and a model was made by Wippell, the church furniture and fixtures specialists and by December the first forty-four were given out to branches and a further eighteen to schools. The Toc H lamp would be the most iconic representation of Toc H and used constantly in its logo (It was replaced briefly in the early twenty-first century with the rugby posts/TV aerial logo but the membership revolted and the previous logo was quickly restored).

1922 was an annus mirabilis for Toc H and Tubby (They received their Royal Charter, Tubby was appointed vicar of All Hallows etc.) but it was a special year for Baron too. In the summer he was given the opportunity take a party of over 100 Toc H members to Oberammergau for the Passion Play. Postponed from 1920 due to the aftermath of the war, this was the first performance here since 1910. Although spiritually led by Tubby, Baron’s knowledge of the country and command of the language made him a natural choice for organising everyone.

The party assembled at Mark I for supper on Saturday the 12th of August then divided into four groups which departed after Holy Communion in the Mark I chapel of the following day. Crossing by boat to Ostend they caught a train to Brussels, thence to Cologne and breakfast at the YMCA there.

A final leg to by train to Munich and then “a most leisurely cross between train and tram” to Oberammergau. After some exploring – they were out for a holiday not just the play – and meeting locals they witnessed the performance on Sunday the 20th of August.

Baron (right) with Anton Lang, who played Christ in the 1922 Passion Play

There would be a further trip to continental Europe in 1923 that would require Baron’s skills too. The first trips to the battlefields of Europe (and beyond) had started even before Armistice Day. These however were small privately arranged trips, most usually for widows and family members to see where their loved ones fell. These trips could be expensive so around 1920, the charity St Barnabas established hostels in the old war zone so people making their own arrangements had somewhere to stay. This naturally led on to the organisation of trips but not small trips, rather huge pilgrimages catering for hundreds of people. For the first of these in 1923 they enlisted the assistance of Toc H and though they were advertised as St Barnabas’ Pilgrimages, Toc H were much involved, as was Baron. Most markedly for Toc H, Baron was one of the three-man party who presented a Silver Lamp to the Burgomaster of Ypres on the 25th of March.

The following month Baron was appointed to Central Executive by Central Council (Previously he had attended Council meetings by invitation and was not entitled to vote). In fact he would only remain on the CE for one three year term, after which he went back to attending meetings by invitation only. Although he remained on Central Council for a few more years, he would not hold a major governance office in Toc H again until he was made a Vice President after his retirement. This was typical Baron, unambitious in the eyes of his father but happy to operate quietly in the background.

However, in June 1923 he did take another committee role when he became one of three members (With John Hollis and Tubby) of the first Guards of the Lamp. These were the officials who decided whether a Branch’s application for a Lamp was accepted or not and also had the power to divest a Branch of its lamp and thus its Branch status. The same group also became the primary arrangers of the Birthday Festival given that the lighting of new lamps formed the centrepiece of the celebrations.

And later that month, on the 22nd, Baron’s fundraising work in his native Bristol paid dividends when Toc H Mark IX opened on St Paul’s Road, Clifton, just 200 yards from the former Baron family home in Whiteladies Road.

It was back to the Continent again in August as Tubby and Baron led a hiking party over the Pyrenees in Andorra, a trip Baron had done himself back in 1913. Then at the end of September, he was playing a leading role in the second St Barnabas’ Pilgrimage.

He had just returned from that trip when the next Toc H Mark was opened. Although not directly involved, he would have had a great interest in Mark XXII (Named not in numerical order but in tribute to the 22nd (Queen’s) London regiment whose HQ was opposite) for this was the Bermondsey Mark. It was established in conjunction with the OBC, and Charlie Thomson – a worker in both organisations – was installed as Warden. Also known as Alexander Paterson House, it stood on Jamaica Road and remained there until 1927 when it was condemned and they relocated to Denmark Hill. The local Toc H unit used it as their HQ and in 1924 when they were awarded their lamp it was dedicated to the memory of Cecil George Rushton, Baron’s old OBC colleague and sometime room-mate.

1923 also saw the publication of a second, much revised, edition of Half the Battle. This time it was generously illustrated with Baron’s own pencil sketches. Many of these can be seen in a previous blog History in Sketches. The establishment of Baron as Toc H’s resident literary guru was a portent of things to come as from the April 1924 edition Baron became editor of The Journal; a post he would hold for the next thirty years.

Baron, the playwright, came to the fore at the December 1925 Birthday Festival. His play in seven parts, first published in the 1923 Annual Report was radically revised (by Baron himself) as a masque performed at the Albert Hall. It was no small thing; a large cast, elaborate scenery, musicians and 400 members of the Royal Choral Society.  The original play included a hymn with words written by Baron. The Hymn of Light would later have an arrangement of The Londonderry Air put to it and become a firm Toc H favourite.

In 1926, now working out of Toc H’s new HQ at Number 1, Queen Anne’s Gate, Baron annotated some letters from Tubby to his mother. Originally published in The Journal they are later turned into the book, Letters from Flanders.

On Saturday the 28th August another Toc H pilgrimage set off for Flanders with Baron amongst them. The highlight of this tour was undoubtedly at 10.00 on the Sunday, when thanks to the efforts of the Belgian Embassy, the entire party was admitted by M. Maurice Coevoet Camerlynck – the owner –  into Talbot House and twenty at a time, up to the Upper Room. Although bare of its furnishings – which were back in London in Mark I – the Upper Room was much as the men had known it.

In a 1927 Journal, whilst discussing the idea from a member of a Camera Circle to collect photos of Toc H activities, Baron noted that he has, somewhat belatedly, starting putting aside copies of literature, pictures and notes as an archive of Toc H. This forethought gave us the beginnings of what is now the archive at Birmingham University.

Baron was on the 1927 Pilgrimage (9th – 11th July), by now Toc H without St Barnabas. After lunching at Skindles, he headed over from Ypres to Poperinge on the Saturday afternoon. His mission was to ask M. Coevoet to once again allow some 120 pilgrims to enter his private home. This time, the request was refused but he did allow Baron to ascend the steps to the deserted Upper Room which he sketched.

Baron’s 1927 sketch of the Upper Room

In March 1928 – along with fellow German speaker Paul Slessor – Baron responded to a request from the Quakers to help billet a group of German schoolboys visiting London. In a rash moment Toc H agreed to take over the entire programme for the boys and they were met by Toc H when they arrived in Southampton on May the 12th. The boys were from the Kaiser Friedrich Real-Gymnasium, an incredibly progressive co-ed school drawing its students from the working class Neukoelln district of Berlin. Baron knew that area – as Rixdorf – from his time in Germany and compared it to Billingsgate or Limehouse. In return Baron and Harro Jensen, his friend and the first German member of Toc H, arranged to take a party to Germany in August.

An article appears in the May Journal, written by someone called Bish, extolling the virtues of walking holidays in Germany staying at Jugendherbergen (Youth Shelters). The writer suggests that England should have its own similar system and suggests that Toc H should run it. This was a subject very close to Baron’s heart as he knew Germany well and was a great walker and fan of the outdoor life. He was himself a proponent of the Jugendherbergen movement, which had been started by teacher Richard Schirrmann in 1912. The movement would soon become a major part of Baron’s life.

Meanwhile, in the August/September 1928 Journal Baron publishes a lengthy article of his own (The Next Step) about the relationship between Toc H and Germany. The following month he publishes (and translates) a reply by his friend Harro Jensen. Baron goes on to highlight a few successes of the ‘exchange’ trip to Germany and how they used the Jugendherbergen whilst they were out there. He refers to Bish’s article in the May Journal and also to a piece published in the Spectator on September 15th. You can almost hear the wheels turning in his mind. His final note at the very end of the article reads,

“There is emphatically need and room for a similar development in England, and I am already in touch with a few people about it.”

Baron’s new masque, The Four Points of the Compass, is performed at the Birthday Festival at the Albert Hall. Original music is again by Christopher Ogle, who composed the music to Baron’s previous masque. Christopher Ogle was a member of Reigate branch.  He died 11 January 1951. An accountant by profession but a talented musician.  He was invited by his brother-in-law, Ronnie Grant (General Secretary of Toc H at the time (Grantibus) to compose the music for In the Light of the Lamp

The poster designed for the Masque was done by Baron in the studio of Cecil Thomas who gave his help and advice (Thomas had already designed the Forster Memorial for All Hallows and would go on to do much more). The picture, which owed much to Blake, was lithographed in three bold colours. It was available as a poster to branches

1929 was a year of expeditions. This included five Summer Tramps through Germany staying in Jugendherbergen (These were actually organised by E.W. ‘Sago’ Saywell but you imagine Baron had a hand in things) and, at the Schools Conference in January, Baron spoke about a forthcoming tour of Germany by English schoolboys in response to the tour of England by German schoolboys in 1928.

In April Baron travelled to Germany on behalf of the School’s Section with the boys. There were a dozen boys from each of four schools led by Baron. The schools were Christ’s Hospital, Greshams, Cheltenham, and Wellington. They sailed on a steamer on the 8th of April for a momentous tour ably described in Baron’s article in the June edition of The Journal (Crossing the Frontiers). The boys met their German counterparts and learned about their way of life, they explored Berlin and narrowly missed rioting in Neukoelln. They travelled to Saxon Switzerland where they rambled and discovered the Jugendherbergen culture.

On Friday the 30th August Toc H were once again off to Flanders for the pilgrimage – first two days around Ypres then down to the Somme. On the Saturday afternoon tour Baron gave a talk around Gilbert Talbot’s grave (as he had done on previous pilgrimages). At the last Post Ceremony that evening, Baron laid a wreath of bay leaves and Haig poppies given to him by a German member of Toc H (Presumably Harro Jensen) in remembrance of the British dead.

On the Monday morning they stopped at Talbot House and, this year were allowed inside and upstairs in groups of twenty. Baron said the words of Light (They had no Lamp but the Silver Chalice was returned to the Upper Room for the first time in 10 years) and the Toc H Prayer. Then it was on to Albert for two days on the Somme. A small party led by Ormond Wilson continued on to the Rhine.

Immediately after the Salient tours, Baron and a small Toc H party visited the group at Brussels, then travelled to Cologne on the 5th September then Berlin (via Harro Jensen in Marburg) to meet the Grope and were greeted by Hans Arheim, the earliest Berlin member. A meeting was convened where about thirty people who represented both the left and the right of politically divided Germany came together. Baron spoke to them in German about Toc H.

Toward the end of the year, Baron became involved with Wayfarers’ Hostels Association, which was looking at setting up roadside hostels (essentially for men of the road, or tramps). In Liverpool another group were looking at hostels for young people, in fact across the country that winter, various groups were having initial discussions about some equivalent of the Jugendherbergen movement. No one group was making particular progress until the National Council of Social Service stepped in. They “offered,” Baron later said, “not to organise our effort in any way, but to sponsor it.”

Thus in early 1930 a coalition of six organisations was formed. Leading the attempt was Captain Lionel Ellis, the secretary of the NCSS and a member of Toc H. The Co-operative Holidays Association, the YMCA, the Holiday Fellowship, the National Adult School Union, the Workers’ Travel Association, and the British Youth Council were invited by Captain Ellis to a meeting on Thursday the13th of March. Twenty-eight people met at the council’s offices in Bedford Square. Ronald Norman, vice chairman of the NCSS and chairman of the London County Council, started the meeting. He then invited Baron to speak.

The complete story will be told in the full biography but suffice to say, this was the beginning of the founding of the Youth Hostels Association and at a later meeting, Baron was appointed Chairman. He afterwards said how “asking a simple question at the meeting caused seven years of hard labour.” For much of those seven years Baron, and Jack Catchpole, the man appointed secretary of the YHA, travelled the length and breadth of the country establishing regional associations and generally extending the movement. And Baron still had a day job with Toc H!

Speaking of Toc H, it was decided that a book chronicling the history of the Movement to date was required and a Standing Book Committee comprising Baron, the Revd. Leonard George Appleton, Geoff Martin, Arthur Lodge, Monty Callis, Alec Churcher and Rodney George Collin Smith was established.

In August Baron returned to Oberammergau for the Passion Play. Of the 98 who went, he was one of only three Toc H members that had been on the previous trip in 1922. They left Victoria on the 23rd of August in four parties. Baron leading the Yellow party (waving the flag of Scotland because it was yellow not because it was ‘Scotch’). The first night was spent in Brussels with a huge guest night with the Branch there before catching the train to Cologne after a day spent wandering Brussels. From Cologne they headed to Munich and finally a third train into the valley of Oberammergau for the play.

But the most special trip of all was saved until the end of the year. Thanks to the generosity of Lord Wakefield, Talbot House now belonged to Toc H (Well actually a special Anglo-Belgian Association) and was to be used by the Movement as a centre for pilgrimages. But for now, as the World Chain of Light and Birthday Festivals approached, on Thursday the 4th of December Baron was among 55 assorted Toc Hers assembled at St Pancras. Unfortunately dense fog prevented their boat-train from docking at Tilbury and they were forced to find overnight accommodation at 42 Trinity Square, Pierhead House, and the Brothers’ House. The next day they crossed instead from Folkestone to Boulogne and drove to Poperinge in buses and cars. Joined by members of the Ypres group some of the party assembled on the Upper Landing around where the altar first stood then they relocated to the Upper Room, joined by René and Mademoiselle Berat, the house stewards, for the World Chain of Light vigil to begin.

The party then dashed for England for that evening they had to be at the various Regional Birthday Festivals that were taking place across the country. Baron was in Nottingham. To cap it all, the following Friday he was in Birmingham for a YHA meeting followed by the Birmingham Area Festival on the Saturday!

Determined to extend their work in getting young British school groups the opportunity to know other cultures, at the Schools conference in January 1931 Baron and Slessor introduced School trips to Talbot House. The first training visits for trip leaders were arranged for the 12th–15th April (the week after Easter) with the school trips themselves beginning soon afterwards. School parties remain one of the most important visitors to Talbot House to this day.

The opening of Talbot House. Baron is second in from the left, looking to his left

Easter 1931 saw the formal opening of Talbot House and Baron was of course there. This was a huge moment in Toc H’s history and happened just ahead of what was to be their biggest Birthday Festival yet. Shifted to the summer so that outdoor venues and activities could be utilised, the main party was moved to Crystal Palace because the previous venues for the Birthday Festivals were now too small for the massively grown Movement. The Crystal Palace event took place on the 6th and 7th June and central to both days were performances of The Thorn of Avalon, Baron’s latest and most extravagant pageant yet. Billed as an opera, it featured a score by Martin Shaw, the well-known composer and conductor.

If the following 18 months were something of anti-climax after the excitement of the spring and summer of 1931, then 1933 began with some events which must have caused Baron personal consternation. In January 1933 Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. Then the Reichstag was set on fire leading to the introduction of the Enabling Act and the consolidating of Hitler’s power. The Third Reich had begun.

But back at home in June, the outcome of the Standing Book Committee came to fruition. The Years Between was issued as a supplement to The Journal and was a detailed look at the factual history of Toc H. It was so detailed that Baron says that he was later summoned by Peter Monie’s office (Toc H’s administrator) demanding to know why – without telling anyone – instead of the normal 48 page Journal he had produced a twelve page Journal with a 104 page supplement at great cost to the impoverished Movement.

In fact that issue of The Journal sold out, became a much sought after rarity and was later published (abridged) as the booklet, The Birth of a Movement. Baron was told never to do such a thing again – though of course, he would.

A slightly different destination for Baron in December 1933 when he left for Gibraltar on the 15th with Tubby and Geoffrey Batchelar. They were to spend some time on the Rock with Tim Harrington then travel on to Malta to spend the New Year with the Royal Navy. They sailed from London on a full-size ship and Baron admitted it was the first time he had been on anything larger than a Channel steamer. On board, by chance they met fellow Toc Hers Lord Cavan and Lady Warwick and arranged Toc H meetings on board with information stalls of course, during the four day crossing

After several days in Gibraltar, Christmas Day was spent in Spain at Jerez de la Frontera as guests of the Sherry importers Williams and Humbert. It was Baron’s first Christmas away from his family since the war. Baron and Batchelar (Tubby was feeling the cold and retired early) enjoyed a Catholic Midnight Mass and the next day Tubby led an Anglican Communion for the ex-pats in Jerez.

On Boxing Day they sailed for Malta. They were booked on to a P&O Liner but at the last moment Tubby discovered HMS Acasta was also leaving the Rock for Malta and he and Batchelar hitched a ride with the navy leaving Baron to accompany all baggage and vast amounts of literature on the Rawalpindi. Five days at sea – including a layover in Marseilles – and Baron was in Valetta. The party were guests of Admiral Sir William Wordsworth Fisher, a delightful man with a great sense of humour who rapidly applied nicknames to his guests – Baron was the Marquis.

Baron returned home leaving his colleagues in Malta for a few more days. On Tuesday the 16th January he sat on a train in Paris on the last leg of his return. He reflected on an overnight stop in Rome about the effect Mussolini has had on the country and seems astonished how revered he is by the Italian people. His closing paragraphs talk about the clouds rolling over Europe, forebodings and fears succeeding each other. He notes an Italian newspaper article relishing the prospect of Oswald Mosely possibly winning England “to the true cause” in the next general election. For the first time, Baron seems to be airing his fears over what is happening to his beloved Germany and Italy. However he also reflects on some of the wonderful individuals he encountered on his month away and closes his article with the following line:

“If world politics looks despairingly shabby, most of the world’s people are just awfully decent”

1934 was a watershed year for Germany. First on 30th June (The Night of the Long Knives) Hitler rid himself of his detractors in a blood-stained clean-up. Then on the 2nd of August Hindenburg died and Hitler became Head of State as well as Head of Government

A fortnight after that Baron and others got to see the new Germany first hand when they travelled to Oberammergau once again. Normally they have to wait ten years between Passion Plays but 1934 is the tercentenary celebration and a special performance was being put on. So on Wednesday the 15th of August, ninety-seven Toc H members assembled at Victoria station. They crossed to Ostend and travelled by train and Rhine steamer to Wiesbaden where Baron noted it was “gay with thousands of swastika flags [and] portraits of Hitler” for it was around the time of the plebiscite (the referendum that rubber-stamped Hitler’s appointment as combined Chancellor and President) After a morning in Munich they caught the train into the valley and found their lodgings.

On more pleasant ground Baron goes on to describe their lodgings – as always at The Rose pub – and later the play itself. Interestingly, he also describes his favourite stick a five foot hazel cut ‘years ago on a walking tour in Dorset’. The tip is shod with iron, the top ending in a long curving knob.

Back in the UK and between the 3rd and the 8th September Toc H hold their annual staff conference. Baron is one of only four members of staff still present from the original conference in 1925. As usual at staff conferences, Baron is chairman. He is usually in his trademark sandals and occasionally in lederhosen too.

Barefoot Baron and Paul Slessor trim the putting green

Given all that is going on in the world and Baron’s own personal interest in it, it is interesting to see him tackle it in the lead article of the November 1935 Journal in a ten page article entitled The Mind of Toc H. Of course, we know Baron’s fairmindedness means he will not use the article to espouse his own views. Instead he makes reference to Peter Monie’s 1925 essays to establish Toc H as an open-minded Movement not trying to take any side and being home to people of very differing views. He urges members to think fairly. He questions, “Have we perhaps merely repeated the views of the Daily Mail or Daily Herald… our own convictions?” Instead he refers readers to a number of useful publications and books that explore the subject including A.A. Milne’s Peace with Honour. It is clear that Baron has himself consumed all this literature. Such wisdom truly stands the test of time. He later summed up his thoughts succinctly:

“It is not the job of Toc H to found one more Peace Society., whether “socialist or pacifist”, or otherwise. It is its job to train men to understand each other better, to think such problems out for themselves, and to work for them as they believe right in a spirit which is, as each man understands the term, “truly Christian.”

1936 saw Toc H celebrate its Coming of Age with the biggest festival yet running from the 15th of June to the 5th of July, centred around a Festival Evening at Crystal Palace (Saturday 27th June) but including trips to Poperinge and events in London and across the world. Friday 26 June saw the first performance of the new masque (Master Valiant) by Baron and Shaw.

This particular Festival included an art exhibition organised by Paul Slessor with help from Cecil Thomas and others. The winner of the Class 1 (Oil Paintings) category was none other than Baron with a landscape of Blakeney, Norfolk. Describing his own winning entry Baron was his most self-deprecatory describing many of the entries in the class as “in the seaside lodging house category.”

In the autumn of 1936, Baron handed over the editorship of The Journal to a colleague and he and Rachel departed Southampton on the 19th of September for South America accompanied by Howard Dunnett. Baron, whose foreign travel has thus far been limited to Europe, writes amusingly of his trip. He is clearly not enamoured with life on the ship and their stop at St. Vincent (Cape Verde) left him underwhelmed.

“Everybody keeps telling us they have a golf course on the island now – clearly because it is the only resource deserving mention………..When, if ever, I ‘retire’, it will not be to St. Vincent”

Baron and Dunnett had hoped for a peaceful cruise with some time away from Toc H matters until they arrived. It was not to be as they soon discovered several of the ship’s ‘boys’ belonged to the Toc H Seafarer’s Club at Southampton and the pair were asked to give a talk to them.

The party stayed over in Brazil for several days and in his account, Baron is complimentary of the scenery but less so of Brazilian politics. He even claims that he has torn up five pages he had written for The Journal as it would have been undiplomatic to print them. Needless to say his comments didn’t go down well with the Rio de Janeiro branch (mostly if not wholly in those days, ex-pats living and working in Brazil) who wrote a strong letter of complaint to The Journal. Baron responded that he greatly regretted hurting any feelings but stood by what he wrote. His closing sentence revealed much of what he must have been feeling:

“Trying to tell the truth as one sees it is often a risky business.”

On the 16th October they left for Buenos Aires where they stay for two months including a spell in the German-Swiss influenced part of Argentina and a stay in Peru. Howard Dunnett would remain in the Argentine as Secretary of Toc H for a year whilst the Barons went on to Antofagasta (Chile) via a boat, the Condor, through the Chilean lakes. Once in Chile proper Baron climbed the Campana.

Rachel returned to England for Christmas but for the second time in four years Baron celebrated away from home. This time in the house of his host in Chile, Pat Johnston, Vice Consul at Viña del Mar. He finally arrived back in England on the 21st February 1937 via the Panama Canal and Jamaica.

In April Baron resigned as Chairman of YHA but became a Vice-President. He was clearly still in love with the concept and in an article in The Journal in June (A Great Idea) he examined the whole movement’s progress from its first great growth in Germany from 1910 to 1934. However he admits that it is no longer the same as it is very much the playground of the Hitler Youth and the hostels are bedecked in swastikas.  Baron then went on to summarise the growth of Youth Hostels in Britain and encouraged Toc H members to get involved.

In November 1938, in an article entitled the Armistice of 1938, Baron writes more about events in Europe. This was of course in a period where it was felt that war had been narrowly avoided. Baron reiterated that Toc H held no official view on the matters but this time admitted that if bias showed in the article it is likely to be his own personal opinion showing through. The way the article developed though is most interesting, especially given recent years. Baron talks a lot about how we have become not just British but European as the threat of war loomed over the Continent. He lamented the fact that most Brits who travelled across the Channel took England with them and demanded tea and bacon and eggs but pointed out there is a growing stream who don’t. That stream – Toc H members amongst them – “travel on the Continent in order to learn about the people who live there, to make friends with them, to study and appreciate their ways and ideas and institutions.”

Then the tone of Baron’s writing becomes more sombre. He reflects on the lessons learned in the last war, finally asking “Did our friends then die in vain?” His answer is inconclusive but he says “They have taught us that war has no splendours whatever, except their own willingness to die, forgetful of themselves, for something they esteemed worth dying for.”

At the Birthday Festival in December the Lamp lighting was preceded by three short and simple dramatic episodes written by Baron. Rather than lavish productions featuring scores of choristers and musicians, they comprised a few dozen people in modern dress. The reason for this of course was that until a few weeks earlier the Birthday Party didn’t look as if it would be going ahead due to the threat of war.

Germany was still uppermost in Baron’s mind in the spring of 1939 when he wrote two articles that looked at Germany’s plans to expand their borders. For perhaps the first time in print, Baron is unequivocal about the danger of Mein Kampf and the great difference between ‘ordinary’ Germans and the leaders of the National Socialist Movement. And he offers some direction to Toc H members:

“Think fairly, as best you may, about the totalitarian view of life and the methods it allows, and you must still, I believe, see it as a step back into the dark, condemn it as a ruthless opponent of the Christian good news, and do everything in your power – by whatever method you believe in – to save the world from its domination.”

He is also anxious for his friend, the man who started the Youth Hostel movement, Richard Schirrmann. He was of course Jewish and had been forced to resign in 1936. In 1939 he was believed to be in a concentration camp though in fact he had settled in the village of Grävenwiesbach and for the duration of the war, was allowed to resume work as a teacher in the village school.

In July Baron made what would be his last pre-war visit to the Continent when he holidayed in France (Veules-les-Roses)

Once war broke out Toc H soon found its most suitable war work. They started to open Services Clubs around the world to give Service men and women that home from home experience the original Talbot House offered. In April 1940 Baron was put in charge of St Stephen’s in the old Conservative members’ club opposite Parliament. Principally to provide hot food and accommodation to troops leaving for or returning from France, the old cocktail bar became a chapel and the lounge was made into a recreation room with billiards tables on the immense landings. The club was connected by an underground passage to the House of Commons but this was made into a kit and rifle-room. Baron remained working in some form or other at the club for five years.

He didn’t see his own home – near Earls Court – too much as he often worked nights at the club and days at Toc H HQ. In the third week of the Blitz (Presumably around or soon after 21st September 1940) he slipped home for a short visit. He found the house slightly damaged and spent an hour patching holes in the roof before grabbing some books. The next day a neighbour phoned him at breakfast time with the news that at 1am that morning an incendiary bomb had hit his house. He hurried there, as quickly as one could hurry through blitzed London, and found his door slashed by a fireman’s axe but still able to open. Let’s let Baron describe what he came across in his own words:

“The air was heavy with the sickening smell of fire. There was no sound save the dripping of water in a dozen places. The stair carpet was slimy black, with a glitter of glass here and there. In the first room the fire had made no mark, but water dropped slowly through the ceiling on the warped bedsteads, and the carpet showed at the bottom of a pond of brownish water where the floor had begun to sag in the middle. In the next room there was ruin, the ruin of charred timber and burnt paper and plaster and roofing slates, tumbled together from the upper storey through the black and broken joists, and the almost equal ruin of the bookcases and other furniture, still intact around me, on which the hoses had played.”

Books, prints, papers all destroyed. How very heart-breaking that must have been for an artist, wordsmith, and collector like Baron!

Destruction was everywhere of course and for the greater part of World War II Toc H believed that even Talbot House had been destroyed in the fighting. In an article in the March 1941, Baron chose to express his view that he would not like to see it rebuilt after the war rather he wanted a modern home for a Belgian family built on the site.

“Talbot House to me does not now stand in Flanders. It must stand, in spirit and in truth, henceforward all over the world, wherever Toc H is true to its vision.”

Without going into the ins and outs of his argument in this short blog, I just wanted to use this as an illustration of how Baron and Tubby didn’t always agree. In a letter to Baron in The Journal written on the 26th of March 1941, Tubby opens with the line “I may be most unwise to disagree with you” then of course, he does. His lengthy discourse gets an immediate response from Baron (Equally lengthy, he even drops the size of the typeface to squeeze it all in). The two opposing views are both forthright but there is no malice. This is a good example how Baron and Clayton didn’t always see eye to eye and yet always worked well together. Of course, in the end, the happy discovery was that Talbot House had not been destroyed at all.

As the war started to draw to its conclusion the St Stephen’s Service Club closed on the 12th April and was taken over by United States Army authorities thus freeing Baron of this responsibility. Eyes were already turning toward that most important Service Club of all and at the end of 1944 as soon as they were allowed, Baron and Slessor flew to Belgium to help restore Talbot House. They spent ten days there working with Charles Young (who had already spent the previous fortnight clearing up) and were there for the World Chain of Light on the 11th and 12th of December. Tubby joined them for this and then the group flew home on the 16th.

Inevitably, Baron was seen as Toc H’s German expert and in this post-war climate, he would be looked to for advice and opinion. Thus in October and November 1945, Baron spent two weeks touring Germany and looking at the Clubs and Circles of Toc H with BAOR (British Army On the Rhine). Baron admits to being anxious about how he would find his beloved Germany but once over the border he seemed relieved to see “bright dahlias leaning over a well-painted fence, men (usually in the remnants of grey-green uniform) ploughing the fields with a lean horse and an ox harnessed together, women picking potatoes, children, not badly dressed, playing here and there..”

And then they reached the industrial Ruhr. And the war struck home; “mile after mile of desolation, in extent utterly beyond anything the bombed cities at home can show.”

Baron visited a number of Toc H centres including Fallingbostel where Vic Martin and his wife ‘Bill’ late of Warden Manor were in charge (Warden Manor having been requisitioned as an Anti-Aircraft Battery). Vic and Bill started a playground for German children, the first such post war project and a strong pointer of the direction Toc H would take in BAOR. The legendary Jock Brown set one up in Hildesheim in 1948!

Here too was Stalag XI B where a number of former Allied Prisoners of War first joined Toc H. And Baron spent an hour at the Belsen trial in Luneberg where Josef Kramer and Irma Grese were amongst those being tried.

On to Berlin, a city already carved up and divided. Only on Sundays between noon and 2pm was it possible to pass through to the Russian sector to see Hitler’s ruined Chancellery. This Baron did and swapped five Woodbines for a 1939 Polish Invasion medal from a German policeman.

A year later he would do the tour again, three weeks this time or 2006 miles in a Volkswagen as he later recalled. Baron examined the living conditions for Germans whilst travelling to places like Harburg where he met his old friend Brother Douglas, Prior of the Anglican Society of St Francis and now working for the YMCA at the Schwerkriegsbeschadigtenheim (The home for badly war disabled men).

In May 1948 Baron made his third trip to Germany since VE Day. This time though, it was for a five day conference in Hanover of British and German educationalists. Baron served on the German Educational Reconstruction Committee. One of about twenty British representatives on the trip he found himself chairing several meetings. He also took the opportunity to visit Toc H Clubs near Hanover and returned home in June.

Baron holding a celebration birthday cake

Whilst the Birthday Festivals had been suspended for the duration of the war, they returned in 1948 and Baron again provided a masque. This one was called Credo – I Believe and was performed on the 11th December at the Royal Albert Hall. Rather than have new music written, Baron utilised popular tunes and stuff borrowed from previous masques.

It was back to Germany in May/June 1949 for another German Education Reconstruction Conference. The first week spent mostly at Odenwald School (in the American zone) but afterwards Baron travelled to the British zone to spend Whitsun weekend (4th – 5th of June) at the Toc H Services Club in Göttingen. He visited the Friedland camp (with John, warden of Services club) where German Prisoners of War are returned from Russia. Then travelled north to Celle where he spent the night with Horst Wetterling and his family (“our Toc H Guest in England last year”) and a night with Ken Oliver, deputy Chaplain General (Chaplain to the 7th Armoured Division) and former Toc H London padre

Meanwhile in Nairobi, where his son David and wife Julia (née Morley) lived and worked Baron was gifted his first grandchild. This, one imagines, was the catalyst for Baron and Rachel to plan a trip to Africa. In November he hung up his editor’s hat for six months with Frederick Gladstone Chesworth (aka Ches), his assistant of two years taking up the reins, and the couple left for Mombasa. They planned to visit David, Julia and their grandchild, and also their other son Donald who was also in Kenya. At the Central Executive’s request, Baron extended his trip to Rhodesia and South Africa to visit the Toc H units. During March and April 1950 he visited fifteen of the 74 Toc H groups and Branches in those countries. Baron returned home in May 1950 after an epic six month or so tour which he wrote about in the book An African Transit. It is a fascinating picture of a continent undergoing change.

Talbot House now took precedence in Baron’s life for a while. On the 26th of March 1951 (Easter Monday) Baron and seven others travelled to Poperinge for a working party to clean and decorate the Upper Room. Around this time Baron became President of the Talbot House Association, a post he would hold for the next six years.

August was marred by the death of his mother, Lady Baron, though at a respectable 91 years of age. She was described in The Journal as a friend of Toc H from the early days and certainly she helped with fundraising and contacts.

Much of the year was spent working on his new book and in 1952 The Doctor was published. It was Baron’s telling of the story of John Stansfeld and the Oxford Medical Mission/Oxford and Bermondsey Boys Club. It is an important and well-crafted biography frequently cited today.

Toc H had been lucky to have a string of highly experienced and competent Honorary Administrators at its helm. Peter Monie, Hubert Secretan, William Lake Lake, and Harold Howe had all guided the Movement well since 1922. Ranald MacDonald however, who was appointed Administrator in April 1952, had not worked out quite so well. One day I hope to explore his short reign in my blog but for now, suffice to say, he simply didn’t fit! He was asked to stand down after one year and in April 1953 Baron, as senior member of staff was appointed Acting Administrator from the 20th of April until the next Central Executive meeting in April 1954, or until a successor was found – whichever came first. On his appointment at Council Baron spoke:

“I have enjoyed thirty two years on the staff and have seen a good deal of the ups and downs of Toc H but never thought I would get so low as I am now! After the first shock I am beginning to recover……..I have never been afraid of change; I hope that none of us at Headquarters ever will be. I am now in my seventieth year, the beginning of middle age, when one is apt to get a little static, but I still remember my nurse calling me ‘a little Radical’. That word then had the exact connotation of the later word ‘Bolshie’: each meant that the person who used it was in a state of frustrated anger, fear and contempt. I have never since that day voted conservative, and so if there are new things to be done in Toc H I am with you in them. We shall not be doing new things for the sake of it but because our history is just beginning. We are still pioneers and ‘the first fine careless rapture’ may come back…….It will be the job of the Central Executive and all the members to find an Administrator who can measure up to this new work – until then we will hold the fort and do our bit, God willing.”

The 1953 Toc H Festival took place at the still almost new Royal Festival Hall on June the 13th and 14th. Baron provided yet another new masque called The Bridge in which he performed St John the Divine who opened and closed the drama. It consisted of four episodes with acted interludes between each episode where Baron reused songs from previous masques.

In late December John Callf accepted the position of Acting Administration pending appointment by Central Council in April and Baron stepped down the 31st of December 1953 with the thanks of the Central Executive. His health was described as ‘indifferent’ at this time, nevertheless it was with much sadness when in March he stepped down as editor of The Journal after thirty years. Ches took over. Baron remained as Editorial Secretary and devoted his time to publications and special writings as well as contributions to The Journal.

In January 1955 Baron was ill and off work. He had to undergo an operation for stomach cancer, however in the April Journal it was reported that he was making good progress towards what promised to be a complete recovery. He was certainly fit enough to travel by September as he went out to Talbot House for the unveiling of a plaque in memory of his friend the late Paul Slessor. Slessor’s son Philip, a well-known BBC Light Programme announcer was also present.

And then, in the spring of 1956 Baron lost his closest companion when Rachel, his wife of over 40 years died suddenly on  March 24th in her sleep. She had a fatal coronary thrombosis due to a ‘peculiar condition of the heart’ that they were previously unaware of. Her ashes were placed in the Columbarium at All Hallows.

In November 1957 Baron’s most personal Journal article, One Man’s Pattern, was published. Autobiographical in nature, reflective in tone, entertaining in reading, it was later reissued in booklet form. It was Baron’s way of marking his retirement which he now announced. His long service for Toc H was celebrated with a dinner on the 6th of November held in London in his honour. The Central Executive and many of his friends were present to make presentations and provide spoken tributes.

Baron steps out of The Journal

Shortly afterwards, he set sail for Hong Kong where his son David and his family were now based. But he was not yet done with Toc H, not even the Birthday Festival that took place whilst he was away – his voice featured in the masque courtesy of a pre-recorded message.

Furthermore, he sent articles to The Journal sharing his adventures. He was in Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year on the 18th of February; helped out at a Kowloon Toc H party for Street Sleepers; and came home via Singapore where he was guest speaker at a Toc H Guest Night there. On the 1st of April he visited the naval base, went to Johor Bahru to see Padre Jack Thistle at the barracks, then back to Kranji War Memorial to visit Padre Gerry Chambers’ grave then more meetings including one at St Andrew’s Mission Hospital for Children before getting back on his ship. All that in one day!

In May 1959 Baron became engaged to a Toc H secretary, Dorothy King, and they wed on her 51st birthday on the 3rd July 1959. One of the events that Baron and Dorothy would be remembered for at the time was playing Romans in the annual pageant organised on Tower Hill by Tubby. As a tribute to Julius Classicianus, the Roman Procurator who stopped the Romans from ravaging Norfolk after Boudicca’s rebellion, Tubby created a pageant where the Iceni were represented by Norfolk’s Scouts and Guides and the Romans by the London Marks.

In 1960, Baron made what would prove to be his last trip to the Passion Play in Oberammergau though not as a leader.

By then, he and Dorothy were living in Hampstead and he was a Vice President of Toc H. Time was catching up with the pioneering Foundation members like Baron. At the very end of 1962, Tubby announced his retirement from the living of All Hallows with immediate effect.

In July 1963 Baron and Tubby’s old friend, Pat Leonard, lately Bishop of Thetford, died and two months later, Alison Macfie, founder of the Women’s Movement also passed away.

In February 1964 Baron celebrated his 80th birthday and the April edition of The Journal includes a greeting to him. It notes that he has taken to wearing a beard which makes him look more Phoenician than ever and – if such a thing were possible – more distinguished.

However, before the issue had even been opened by many of its subscribers, on the 11th of April 1964, Barclay Baron died at his home, now on Kingston Hill opposite the hospital.

Baron’s funeral was held on the 17th of April at St Mary the Virgin in Primrose Hill followed by private cremation. Unfortunately Tubby was away on a tour of Australia and New Zealand at the time but had returned in time for the memorial service at All Hallows on Wednesday the 27th of May. Hubert Secretan and Henry Willink spoke. Secretan also wrote his obituary for The Journal. Baron’s ashes are with Rachel’s in the Columbarium under the church.

He received many tributes but one letter from his friend and sometime travelling companion, the Revd. Geoffrey Batchelar summed things up simply:

 “No Guest Night was more rewarding than when Barkis was the speaker”

And that is end of the beginning. Just writing this précis has made me want to get on post-haste with a full-blown biography where I can fill in the detail and explore several themes at length. I shall start straight away, I only hope I don’t neglect this blog whilst I am doing it!


I couldn’t have written this piece without the help of Barclay Baron’s family. I look forward to working further with them for the full biography.

Otherwise my sources are broad but of particular use were Baron’s own many articles in The Journal; and the books he wrote for Toc H in particular

One Man’s Pattern.

Half the Battle                      

The following books were also most useful and will continue to be so;

The Back Parts of War – Edited by Michael Snape

Richard Schirrmann. A biographical sketch – Graham Heath            

Open to All: How Youth Hostels Changed the World – Duncan M Simpson

The Doctor – Barclay Baron

Works by Barclay Baron


The Growing Generation (1911) Christian Student Movement
Half the Battle – Toc H (1922)       Toc H (Available online here)
The Years Between (1933)*          Toc H (Originally a Journal Supplement)
Asleep or Awake (1944)                Toc H (Originally in July-Oct 1944 Journals)
The Birth of a Movement (1946) Toc H (Revised The Years Between)
Simple Things (1947)                     Toc H (Originally a Journal Supplement)
Four Men (pre 1949)                      Toc H (Originally published in The Journal)
An African Transit (1950)             Toc H
The Doctor (1952)                           Edward Arnold & co.
In Flanders Fields (1954)              Toc H
Green Rushes (1956)                      Toc H (Originally a Journal Supplement)
One Man’s Pattern (1964)              Toc H (Originally published in The Journal)

*Although the subsequent book carries Baron’s name as author, he credits Rodney Collin-Smith with much of the preparatory work on the original supplement.

Pageants, Plays and Masques
In The Light of the Lamp (1923)*            
The Four Points of the Compass (1928)
At The Sign of the Star (1929)                 
The Thorn of Avalon (1931)                     
Seeing’s Believing (1934)                        
Master Valiant (1936)                                
From Darkness into Light (1938)            
Credo – I Believe (1948)                           
World without End (1950)                      
The Bridge (1953)                                      

Hymns (Words only)
The Hymn of Light*                                     To the tune of Londonderry Air
Father, who hast made us brothers
Go forth with God, the Day is Now**        Music by Martin Shaw
The O.B.C. Hymn***

*Originally written for the In the Light of the Lamp play, it was replaced for the Masque but subsequently set to an arrangement of Londonderry Air by George Moore and used as a standalone hymn.
** From Master Valiant
***Dedicated to the Oxford and Bermondsey Club

Over There                                                    Commentary by Baron
The Lamp Burns                                          Commentary by Baron

History in Sketches

I’m currently researching for a future blog about Barclay Baron, to my mind one of the most important figures in Toc H history. If you don’t know much about him then you’ll have to wait a few weeks for that blog to appear. However, in the course of my research I came to realise just how prolific an artist he was. So now, for the first time ever, I am able to bring you a collection of some of his works together in one place.

Toc H Buildings

The following group of pencil sketches depict various Toc H premises from the Upper Room in Talbot House (Sketched when Baron visited it between the end of the war and the purchase of the house for Toc H); Little Talbot House in Ypres (Baron worked for the YMCA in France and Belgium during the World War I and knew both Talbot Houses); the UK and Canadian Marks that were acquired in the 1920s; Queen Anne’s Gate where Toc H had its HQ from 1926-1930; and Pierhead House, Wapping which was a training centre for several years.

Festivals and Masques

This next group depict Baron’s sketches of Birthday Festivals and Masques. Baron was heavily involved in the organisation of the early Festivals and wrote all of the Masques or Mimes that were performed.

Here we see some illustrations of the Masques he wrote along with some Festival venues (the Albert Hall, Crystal Palace, the Guildhall, and York Minster) and the earliest banners used at the Lamp-lighting.

And below is a rare surving colour image of a Baron illustration from a Festival brochure


Since Baron was the one who thought of the idea of using an oil lamp as the symbol of Toc H and who designed the Lamp and Casket used, it is not surprising he made several sketches of lamps and their settings.

Here are just a few as some others appeared in my last blog. The original Lamp and Casket design; Herbert Fleming’s Silver Lamp in the chapel at Woolwich (See A Lamp Miscellany for details) and in its earlier display the the British Empire Exhibition; and Forster’s Silver Lamp in the Warrior’s Chapel in Newcastle Cathedral, Australia.


In 1936 Baron won first prize in the oil painting class of a competition held for the Festival that year. Unfortunately I don’t have a colour copy of his winning entry but this is it in monochrome

The Doctor

In 1952 Baron published his biography of John Stansfeld and the Oxford and Bermondsey Mission. It was illustrated by Baron. The top picture is the image from the hard to find first edition dust jacket (My torn copy I’m afraid) whilst the couple below are from inside the book. There are many others in the book but they are not signed so I haven’t included them even though they are almost certainly Baron.


Baron provided countless maps to illustrate his and others articles in The Journal. Here are a selection

Another oil

This is a monochrome reproduction of an oil Baron painted from the YMCA HQ in Poperinge during the war.


A few images from Baron’s tours of Europe

And finally

Some images not otherwise categorised. From top left to right: The chapel of HMS Courageous (sketched from a photograph); an unspecified Branch chapel; the retreat of St Francis Place in the West Country (run by his friend Father Duncan); St Martin’s Exeter; Tubby’s pyx; the Coat of Arms of Ypres; St Edward’s, Cambridge; St John’s Gate, Clerkenwell; St Augustine’s College, Canterbury; interior of St Edward’s, Cambridge; a very moving piece from Half the Battle; some Priory seals; Toc H ‘furniture’ in a Prisoner of War camp; the Toc H Initation Ceremony choreography; the chapel of the Decima Club in Bermondsey; and Edmund Street’s sword in All Hallows.

Christmas Annual

The Houses That Love Built

This article was written for and first published by Talbot House as part of their appeal for funds due to the Covid 19 crisis. I republish here so we can get the biggest possible audience for this very good cause. If you enjoy reading this article, please make a donation to Talbot House and help save it.


Donate here


By Steve Smith

Thirty years ago this summer – 26th July to be precise – I arrived in Poperinge with a minibus full of young people. For the first time ever, I pulled up outside that huge front door and began depositing suitcases on the pavement outside Talbot House. Within a few short hours I was wrapped up in the magic of the place. The friendly welcome from the warden Bert; the beautiful and peaceful garden; and the history, the glorious history of the place. Later that day we were sat in the Upper Room listening to Jacques Ryckebosch tell us the tales of Archie Forrest and Edmund Street and all those others whose booted feet once climbed those stairs.

Until then Toc H was those strange people who came into the youth club in Hertfordshire where I worked and who held parties for people with disabilities. Now, thanks to them, we had brought our young people to Talbot House, the cradle of Toc H and were learning the story behind it all.

Poperinghe and London - First Annual Report 1921

Thirty years, and at least thirty trips to Poperinge later, I now tell the stories of Toc H, the Movement, in my blog One Hundred Years of Toc H. And to support Simon and all at Talbot House in these difficult times I have written this article about Tubby’s post-war push to build a new Talbot House. For although Toc H quickly became a Movement of men (and women) in a network of branches across the Dominion, it was Tubby’s initial dream to reopen a single building, a new Talbot House in London.

Writing in The Messenger – the newssheet of St Martin-in-the-Fields, the church of his good friend Dick Sheppard – in April 1919, Tubby outlined his plans to open a new house. Perhaps the bit about bulldozing Trafalgar Square to recreate the Grande Place of Poperinge was a bit tongue-in-cheek but the whole idea was very real indeed. The first £10,000 towards his dream came from two worshippers at St Martin’s in memory of Oswin Creighton, one of Neville Talbot’s chaplains killed in the war and whose name adorned the casket of the Knutsford School Lamp.

In June 1919 Tubby saw the news that the Guards’ Club was moving from its premises at 70 Pall Mall to a new building in Brook Street. Immediately he set his eye on taking the old building for Toc H. However the leaseholders, the London Joint City and Midland Bank, had other ideas and Tubby’s plan was thwarted.  Looking elsewhere he turned to his sister Belle. She somewhat had left her family home in Fulham to work and took up lodgings in Red Lion Square during the war. From here she ran her ‘self-appointed’ mission to help those in need in the area. Tubby often stayed there during leave. So in late 1919 he rented a five room flat on the top floor of 36 Red Lion Square and opened what was effectively Toc H’s first hostel.

It was clear that Red Lion Square was not going to be big enough for what Tubby had in mind and anyway, he was talking to the Westminster Estate about opening a hostel in two houses in Pimlico and also had one eye on Bloomsbury. But things were not moving fast enough for Tubby so when it came to light that the war-time organisation – the Anglo-South American Committee – had reached the end of its useful life and held two properties in Kensington, a delegation comprising Jack Peirs (the first treasurer), Reggie May, Herbert Shiner, and Tubby approached the committee’s head – Dame Guthrie-Reid – and she agreed to rent one of those properties – No. 8 Queen’s Gate Place to Toc H. The acquisition was discussed at a meeting of the newly formed Executive Committee on 23rd December 1919 and was announced as a done-deal in no less an organ than The Times on 12th January 1920. Although it was claimed they planned to open on the 19th January Toc H actually moved in in March 1920.

There is, of course, another story in which the rotund Reverend dispatched one Harry Moss, a friend of the Old House in Flanders, from Red Lion Square to No. 8 to ask the lady of the house to give it rent free to Toc H for six months. Harry duly knocks on the door and persuades the nurse who answers to let him see said lady. He is astonished to find that despite having been in Flanders she has not heard of Tubby or Talbot House so he borrowed the house telephone and summoned the man himself. Tubby arrived shortly in a G.N. cyclecar and took himself off with the lady for a conversation. He emerged soon afterwards declaring that they had house rent free for a year. The first explanation was related by Barclay Baron and  the latter almost certainly propagated by Tubby so I think I know which version I am inclined to believe.

It was around this time that an appeal was launched to raise £30,000 to fund this central clubhouse. As usual Tubby was putting his plans into action before the cash was actually there!

SOS Posters

It is an indication of the exponential growth of Toc H in 1920 that by May, No.8 was too small for its intended purpose and Toc H transferred to 23 Queen’s Gate Gardens, just up the road. It was a jump in rent, from £155 p.a. to £490 p.a. but Tubby felt it could be found. So here they settled – for now – and Talbot House Mark I was properly established. And it was here where the furnishings of the Upper Room, including of course the Carpenter’s Bench, found a home following their journey with the Test School through Le Touquet and Knutsford.

Mark I remained here until 1928 when 24 Pembridge Gardens in Notting Hill Gate was anonymously purchased for them and they moved there. It was from the basement of that terraced town-house they say that Bangladeshi Independence was plotted in the early seventies but you’ll have to wait for that story.

Mark I was followed closely – in September 1920 – by Mark II – the houses in Pimlico ‘gifted’ by the Duke of Westminster in memory of his mother Sibell Mary, Countess Grosvenor. Toc H paid a Peppercorn Rent and were eventually granted a lease of 999 years. It not only became the second hostel but also Toc H headquarters and remained so until HQ moved to offices at 1 Queen Anne’s Gate in February 1926. Of course Toc H didn’t hang on to it for 999 years and after they divested themselves of it, the houses became nurses’ quarters for Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Mark III took root in the shadow of Waterloo station in May 1921. I told the complete story of Mark III earlier this year.

York Road wrong number

A fresh appeal was launched in 1921 specifically for new houses. This was still Tubby’s chosen expression of Toc H in those days. And so, in April 1922, largely due to the appeal, the first provincial Mark opened in Manchester. Pat Leonard was shipped up from Cheltenham Ladies’ College to run things. Gartness was a huge old house on Upper Park Road just east of Moss Side. They pulled it down in 2007 and built a mosque next door – quite fitting really.

Southampton followed next after an advert appeared in the Times in August 1922 stating that the owner of a medium-sized house with six acres of beautiful grounds “might be disposed to give it to a religious or charitable institution if satisfied as to the use to which it would be put. It was essential, the advert continued, that house should be used as a permanent memorial to one who fell, and preferably for the benefit of those hurt in the war”.

The house was the Firs in Bassett, the owner was Walter Southwell Jones, and the man who fell in the war was his son, Second Lt. Louis Gueret Walter Jones who was born in the house and died 20th June 1917 in France. Tubby happened to be staying at Little Hatchett, his family’s holiday home nearby, and he shot across to see Southwell-Jones. By January 1923 Mark V was opened.

1923 also saw the first Mark VI open in Newhall Street, Birmingham (but very soon relocated to Clifford Street) and Bloomsbury was finally reached when Mark VII opened in Fitzroy Square. Sheffield, Bristol, Hull, Leicester and Halifax had all opened before the year ended, and so it continued. And not just in England but in Canada, India, Australia and elsewhere. From one door being pushed open by a short chaplain and his rather tall companion in December 1915, there were now Talbot Houses serving men across the world.

What is clear, is that all these houses were sustained through love, generosity and donations. And if Talbot House – the original, the birthplace of so many good things – is to survive this current crisis then that same love, generosity, and most importantly of all, donations, need to be showered on the Old House right now.

Front Cover of Sept 1922 Journal

A Lamp Miscellany

Title Pic Possible

This blog is written to accompany the first draft of a newly compiled Roll of Lamps – the link to which is at the end of the article – which attempts to catalogue all the Lamps of Maintenance of Toc H. The catalogue is a work in progress. This article recaps the history of the Lamp of Maintenance and explores some of the dedications and other facets of the many lamps issued over the years.

The Lamp is perhaps the image most evocative of Toc H to many people, and like it or not, the phrase “As dim as a Toc H Lamp” will be remembered in popular culture long after all achievements of the Movement are lost in the winds of time.

The focus of this particular article is the Lamp of Maintenance, the symbol of the Men’s branches. I don’t mean to do the Women’s Movement a disservice and I hope to put a similar effort towards cataloguing their Lamps of the Magnificat at a later date. And yes, cataloguing, because accompanying this article is a report from a database of Lamps I have been compiling. I must stress at the outset that this is a work in progress. Ultimately I want it to contain every lamp, every dedication, and all pertinent information relating to it, including its ultimate fate. This I fear could be a lifetime’s work but it is begun. I also want to add colour to the Lamps by exploring the person behind the dedication. This article contains a few snippets like that as well as some statistics based on the database so far.


First let us recap the basics. Most scholars of Toc H and those with an interest in its story will be aware of the history and purpose of the Toc H Lamps so I won’t dwell on these aspects. Suffice to say that in the June 1922 edition of The Journal, Barclay Baron reflected on the ceremonies of organisations such as the Church and the Freemasons, and acknowledged that a group of Toc H men couldn’t gather together in one place without bursting into a verse or two or Rogerum. He bemoaned that fact that Toc H had not then produced a distinctive badge by which the world might know it except the wristlet (which I believe was only available to Foundation Members).

Leonard Wrist Strap

A Foundation member’s wristlet – the only badge or emblem of early Toc H

So yearning for something to rival the YMCA’s red triangle; the Freemason’s square and compasses; the Rotary Club’s cog-wheel, Barkis put forward the idea of a lamp. A lamp he described as

the simplest and most beautiful kind of lamp, the little boat-shaped lamp which the Romans used when they wanted a bottle of Falernian out of the cellar.

It appears that these thoughts of Barkis has emerged the previous month when he and Tubby were sitting in the waiting room of a stockbroker in Bristol with whom they had an appointment. Shortly after the article appeared a wooden model had been commissioned from Wippell & co and soon the lamp and casket designed by W. R. Paterson, was made available.

Wippell AdvertWippell were from the west of England and initially established themselves as grocers. By 1851, Joseph Wippell had expanded the business into church decorations, many of which were displayed at the Great Exhibition that year. By 1897 they had acquired London premises in Duncannon Street near Trafalgar Square and became the de facto supplier of religious furniture and the like. Wippell and co are still trading today.

The Lamp, which I trust readers of this blog will be familiar with, comprises a cast bronzed lamp with a detachable Cross of Lorraine (The arms of the city of Ypres, use of which was granted to Toc H by the city) replacing the traditional XP of a catacomb lamp, and an extinguisher cap covering the wick at the other end of boat shaped lamp. This was the Lamp of Maintenance (definitely not the Lamp of Remembrance as they are often mistakenly called, even by members, and certainly not the Lamp of Memory which appears in the press many times). Fifty were cast initially but more must soon have been made as by the time of the first Lamp Lighting festival in December 1922 sixty-three Lamps would be lit.

Lamp Sketch

Barclay Baron’s original design sketch

Whilst symbolically critical to branches, materially the lamps were of little consequence; it is the caskets and the dedications thereon that make these historically valuable.


Sheringham Lamp showing an earlier sliding door casket

Be aware that there are two types of lamp and casket. From 1922 until 1939 the lamps had a green patina and the caskets, a sliding door to access the storage inside. From 1939 the lamps were Bronze-Brown and the caskets had a lifting lid. There were also some Silver Lamps but more of these later.

The Lamp and the Light
He who now holds this token, may his soul
Remembering of its form and flame the birth
Resolve the Chapel of the lamp be known
For service, not for ease; where Self a throne
For ever lacks, and where the exhausted Earth
From hate by love is conquered and made whole

Leslie Nicholls

MArk I Petition

Mark I Petition for a Lamp

So much for the physical item but what about the use and regulations.

Until this point, all units of Toc H were known as Branches but the arrival of the Lamp as a badge of merit enabled some changes to the system. Now a unit of Toc H would start out as a Group (later a pre-Group status of Grope would be used informally) and only be elevated to a Branch at the discretion of the Central Council. If they were happy that the unit were ready to become a Branch then a Lamp would be bestowed upon them as a symbol. From 5th June 1923 the Central Council appointed a Guard of the Lamp (originally Tubby, Barclay Baron, and John Hollis), a committee whose duty was to regulate and safeguard all matters concerning Lamps. The Guard would recommend promotion to the Central Council and the Branch would then expected to submit a petition. If granted the Lamp would be loaned to the Branch in stewardship to be returned or recalled if the standards fell or the Branch closed. The Guard were to be reappointed annually.

Bradwell Petition

Bradwell’s petition

The date the unit was elevated to Branch status would often be recorded under the Branch name as was the date on which the Lamp was ceremonially bestowed and first lit (Originally by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales). This would happen at a suitable event, normally the December Birthday Party until the Bestowals grew so much in number that the Lamp lighting had to take place at other times and on other continents.

Lamplighting Festival 1922 Query Name People

The first lamp-lighting at the 1922 Birthday Festival

PoW Lighting Lamp

The Prince of Wales’ lights his taper from his Lamp

The first lamp-lighting took place at the Guildhall on the 15th December 1922 at the Second Birthday party. Holding a long wax taper, the Prince lit each new Branch lamp (44 Branches, those of 18 schools, and his own) as they approached him in threes; the first man holding the Lamp, the second it’s casket, and the third a Branch banner (Nothing like the banners we later became familiar with).

Guildhall 1922

A Barclay Baron sketch of the first lamp-lighting

Despite the long established assumption that all Toc H Lamps were first lit from the Prince’s Lamp, descriptions of the evening in The Journal and the contemporary press are clear that the Branch and School Lamps were lit first then Tubby knelt whilst the Prince’s Lamp was lit. The Prince of Wales Lamp, a silver lamp (See below) was provided by the Prince himself to Toc H as a whole, in memory of his friends. Afterwards it was placed on Croke’s Tomb at All Hallows, firstly in the open but later in a magnificent casket (Described later). Here it remains to this day burning eternally….OK, it’s no longer allowed to be alight most of the time but at least it’s still there.

PoW Lamp on Crokes before casket

A rare picture of the Prince’s Lamp on Croke’s Tomb before the Casket was built

Binyon wrote these words about the Prince’s Lamp for the 1928 Christmas Annual:

The Pilgrimage
The flame upon the Altar lives
In its own home of Light apart,
And yet it shines on secret tears
And in the darkness of the heart.
More real than any world of ours
Is that still Presence of the Light,
Happy are they who harbour there,
Happy, who keep it whole in sight.
How still, amid our noise and fret,
It burns and trembles and aspires,
Drawing our spirits from the cloud
And aching of our old desires.
The young-eyes spirits whom we knew
Who smiled, and whom we called by name.
Who went in their own faith to die,
Are flames within that trembling flame
Now all the corners of the earth
Look on them where so clear they shine,
A single glory, a radiant fire,
By day and night a silent sign.
O dear, untroubled, happy Dead,
Comrades eternal, now and here
When most we falter in our fight,
When most we fail you, be you near

Lawrence Binyon

It is worth taking a few minutes to document when and where the lamp-lighting normally took place. The Birthday Festivals of Toc H, were in those early years, the most magnificent of festivals. The first was held in December 1921 at Grosvenor House in Park Lane. Not the hotel that stands on the site now but a magnificent townhouse that was the London residence of the Duke of Westminster, a good friend to Toc H. It was a gathering of the growing band of Toc H men including Prince Henry, the third son of George V. It was held to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the opening of Talbot House as well as the approximate second birthday of the founding of Toc H as an association.

Stott Sketch of First lamp Lighting.jpgW R S STott Illustration of First Lamplighting Festival

A reproduction of R.S. Stott’s sketch of the first lamp-lighting

The following year though was when the celebrations really found their feet. This time events were held over an entire weekend (15-16th December 1922) and at several venues. The date being celebrated was the 15th as – at that time – it was believed to be the date Talbot House opened. 1922 had been Tubby’s annus mirabilis with Toc H receiving its Royal Charter at the Birthday weekend, Toc H getting its Guild Church (or Anglican anchor!) when Tubby received the living of All Hallows, the LWH starting, Peter Monie joining as Honorary Administrator, and, as we have seen, the introduction of the Lamp. The first Lamps were lit at the Guildhall on the Saturday Evening.

Dec 1923 Lamplighting 2

The 1923 lamp-lighting

In 1923 the party was again held at the Guildhall on the 15th but by 1924 had moved to the Memorial Hall in Farringdon Street, then, in 1925, the size of the Movement necessitated moving to the Royal Albert Hall.

In 1926, Tubby unearthed some letters he sent to his mother that showed that Talbot House actually opened on the 11th December and the birthday moved to that day where it remains. By chance, the following day is also Tubby’s birthday! The 1926 Festival was actually held at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester and 1927 it was back to the RAH. There was no new Lamps lit at the 1928 Festival at the RAH because the Prince of Wales was in Africa but in April 1929 Lamp Lighting took place in Great Church House in Dean’s Yard, Westminster. In December that year they were back at the RAH but 1930 even that venue was outgrown for a National event so Regional Festivals were held without lamp-lighting. Instead a huge summer celebration took place at Crystal Palace in June 1931 where the new Lamps were lit for the first time.

December 1932 saw the festivities move to Birmingham Town Hall whilst 1933 was at the RAH and 1934 at De Montfort Hall in Leicester.1935 was skipped in favour of another summer festival at Crystal Palace in 1936 this time celebrating Toc H’s ‘Coming of Age’. In 1937 they were at the Exhibition Buildings in York and in 1938 back at the RAH then Hitler intervened and it would be 1948 before the Birthday Festival returned in full, once again at the RAH.

1924 festival Programme

Part of the programme for the 1924 Family Party which included the lamp-lighting

Use of Lamps

A Branch was expected to light its Lamp at every meeting although precisely when was not prescribed. The ceremony though was set and was called simply Light. At the appropriate time the Chairman would call Light and all present would stand. The room lights were dimmed and the lamp was lit. It was placed where all in the room could see it and one was expected to gaze on the flame and not to shut one’s eyes. The words of Remembrance would then be spoken by the leader. The original words were based on the middle stanza to Lawrence Binyon’s famous Ode To Remembrance (Itself a subset of three stanzas for the seven stanza poem, For The Fallen)

With proud thanksgiving let us remember our Elder Brethren
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

The last line would be echoed by those present. There would then follow a full minute’s silence before the lamp was extinguished and the house lights turned back on.

Later an alternative form based on The Prayer of St Francis was introduced.

Lighting a Lamp

A second rite that utilised the Lamp was the Initiation Ceremony of a new member. In this ritual the lighted lamp was put in the candidates hands by the chairman and the following dialogue played out

Chair: What is this?
Candidate: The Lamp of Maintenance
Chair: What first lit it?
Candidate: Unselfish sacrifice
Chair: What alone will maintain it?
Candidate: Unselfish service
Chair: What is service?
Candidate: The rent we pay for our room on earth

What few will remember is the ceremony of Grand Light! It was decreed that at a common meal or other meeting of the branch deemed proper, the greater rite known as Grand Light could be taken. There is lengthy diatribe about how it should be performed which I’ll precis here. The newest or youngest branch member lights the lamp. All present bring forward a taper which they light at the lamp. The chairman shall strike a bell or bang a hammer on the table and say

“By the Spirit, which this Lamp betokens, let me re-light my torch.”

At which point every member holds his taper aloft. There follows a minute’s silence after which each member extinguishes his taper in a convenient glass or bowl of water. It didn’t catch on!

And one final ceremony which is too large to do justice to here is the World Chain of Light. I will look at this in a separate blog someday.

As mentioned earlier, it is the caskets and their dedications that make the lamps unique and of historical value. It was decided early on that Branches should attempt to get their lamp paid for by a donor in memory of someone they have lost, mostly in the Great War but not exclusively.

Nice ful set for Harry Burgess

A full set of Lamp plaques

This is what the Guard of the Lamp had to say about the rules around this in 1928:

The oak Casket of every Lamp should bear four engraved bronze plates, which are supplied by the Guard of the Lamp. The first plate gives the name of the Branch, the second the date on which the Lamp was ceremonially bestowed and first lit. The other two plates should be engraved with the memorial inscriptions e.g., “The John Smith Lamp” — “In memory of John Smith” (with the particulars of the date and place of his death, etc.). The dedication may, of course, be to any one or more men or women, who have passed over to join the Elder Brethren—whether in the War or otherwise. Clearly a local donor and a name which has particular meaning to the Branch will be specially valued. The cost of the Lamp is £10 10s. A printed form describing the Lamp, etc., for the use of donors can be obtained from the Guard.

Most branches took this task on with gusto which is why, when compiling the database that accompanies this article, it was disappointing to increasingly see the rather unimaginative number of lamps simply dedicated to “the Elder Brethren of Anytown” donated by “the Branch”

Bradwell by me

Bradwell (Norfolk) Casket

There was some discussion about where Lamps should be kept when not in use. Some Branches planned elaborate shrines and caskets; some stood it in a convenient chapel; most bunged them in a cupboard or locker in their branch rooms (from whence they were occasionally stolen e.g. Colchester 1938). At the meeting they normally stood on the table in front of the chairman but some branches favoured a repurposed aspidistra stand (Still in use at the chapel at Talbot House!). For the creative carpenter’s a wall mounted shelf akin to that illustrated was favoured.

Example of Stand for Lamp

An example of a wall-mounted Lamp stand

Now, it is time to take a look at some non-standard lamps. When the Lamp was introduced and became the emblem of a fully-fledged Branch, it was soon realised that the fledgling Groups would also need something so the Rushlight was introduced in late 1925.


A Rushlight

In the thirties a new unit status was introduced – from the US units – for men just starting to gather together in the name of Toc H. It was, rather perfectly, known as a Grope. Although never formally adopted, it did seem to gain currency for a time (including with the LWH) and most Gropes used a simple candle as their emblem.

Mentioning the LWH, I must just reference their emblem, the Lamp of the Magnificat. As I said, I will revisit this in due course but cannot cover it in this article.

Lamp of the Magnificat

Lamp of the Magnificat

Silver lamps

Perhaps the most intriguing set of lamps are the almost forgotten silver lamps. Actually just bronze lamps coated in oxidised silver they have no real intrinsic value above the standard lamps but were reserved for special use.

The Prince of Wales Lamp
Endowed and first lit 15th December 1922
Current whereabouts: All Hallows

Tubby with POW Lamp 2

Though not often realised, the first of these Silver Lamps is the Prince of Wales Lamp. If you see it in All Hallows, its gleam is dull where it stands constantly in the open. A recent close inspection by Adey Grummet, the Education and History Officer at All Hallows, revealed that in the deepest nooks and crannies of the Lamp, there are still traces of the silver plate but mostly it has eroded to reveal the bronze lamp below. Whether this is due to exposure alone, over enthusiastic polishing, or it was deliberately stripped back is currently unknown.

It was decided early on that the Prince’s lamp would need a special casket to house it on Croke’s Tomb. Alex Smithers (Former Major 154th Heavy Brigade) and a member of the Executive presented the design in the early summer of 1923. Branches all asked to send a sketch of the coat of arms for the city or town they represented. The casket was made from bronze, gilt, and enamel set behind polished stones. It is adorned with tiny glass panels on which are painted the arms of the cities and towns aforementioned which are lit from behind.

PoW Lamp by me close up

The Prince’s Lamp in it’s Casket

The City of Ypres Lamp
Endowed 25th March 1923
Current whereabouts: Burgomaster’s Office, Cloth Hall, Ieper

“To the Glory of God and in memory of the men of the Belgian Army who gave their lives in the defence of Ypres”

Presented to M. Colaert, former Burgomaster of Ypres in the Grande Place on Palm Sunday (25th March 1923) by a Lamp Party consisting of B. S. Browne, S.S. Paterson and B. Baron. Dedicated by the Dean of Westminster somewhat belatedly on 8th December 1928 (As part of that year’s Birthday Festival), it was kept in the Hotel de Ville (Former name of Cloth Hall) where it remains to this day in the Burgomaster’s office. (Confirmed by Jan Dewilde, Conservator – March 2020)

The Belgian War Museum Lamp
Endowed 21st August 1924
Current Whereabouts: Royal Museum of the Armed Forces, Brussels

“In memory of Talbot House Poperinghe-Ypres, 1915:1918”

This Lamp was presented to the Belgian War Museum in 1924 by the Prince of Wales, through Colonel Maton, Belgian Military Attaché in London. The Lamp, described as a Model, sits on an Oak pedestal on which there are four silver plates engraved as follows.

  • Model of the Lamp of maintenance of Toc H:
  • In memory of Talbot House Poperinghe-Ypres, 1915-1918
  • Presented to the Royal War Museum of Belgium, 1924
  • By His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, Patron of Toc H

An inscription, illuminated by A.A. Moore, accompanied the lamp. The Lamp remains in the museum’s collection (Catalogue No. 1102322) though the museum is now called the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces. (Confirmed by Dr Pierre Lierneux, War Heritage Institute – February 2020)

The Forster Lamp
First lit 13th December 1924
Current Whereabouts: The Saint Michael (Warriors’) Chapel, Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

“In memory of John, 2nd Lieut., 2nd Batt. K.R.R.C., killed in action 14.9.1914; and of Alfred, Lt., Royal Scots Grey, died of wounds near Le Cateau 17.10.1918.”

This lamp was given by the Governor General, Lord Forster, and is the lamp from which all other Toc H lamps in Australia were lit. In 1923, the then Governor General of Australia, Lord Forster wrote to Tubby Clayton indicating that he and Lady Forster wished to endow a Toc H Lamp in memory of their two sons who were killed during the Great War. In December 1924 the Forster Lamp was lit by the Prince of Wales at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It was brought to Australia by Tubby Clayton and Pat Leonard in 1925 and given to Lord and Lady Forster.

At first, it was intended that the Forster Lamp should be presented to the first Toc H Group in Australia to be granted full Branch status, but with Groups starting up almost simultaneously in all States, some Toc H members thought that this could lead to unhealthy competition. It was then suggested that the Forster Lamp should become the Federal Lamp and be kept burning in Christ Church Anglican Cathedral in Newcastle. A Ceremony of Enshrinement was held in 1926 during which the Forster Lamp was placed in the Warriors’ Chapel. In 1927 a great Toc H Festival was held in Christ Church Cathedral and the Forster Lamp was used to light five other Toc H Lamps – from Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Newcastle.

Forster Casket

The Forster Casket (A sketch by Barclay Baron)

The Herbert Fleming Lamp
First lit 14th May 1925
Relit 11th December 1926
Current Whereabouts: Still being determined

This lamp stood before the Empire Roll of Honour in the Government Pavilion at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1925. Lit by H.M. the Queen on the 14th May and remained burning until the exhibition closed on the 31st October.

After temporarily resting on the Boardroom table at Toc H HQ, it was presented to the Royal Army Chaplains Department in proud thanksgiving for the life and example of Herbert Fleming, Honorary Administrative Padre 1923-1926. It was lit in his memory at the Eleventh Birthday festival at Manchester on the 11th December 1926 by the Prince of Wales, and dedicated by the Chaplain General to the Forces on the 19th June 1927.

Fleming lamp

Herbert Fleming Shrine (Sketch by Barclay Baron)

Originally held in a shrine in the chapel of the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, a panel on the shrine bore the following inscription:

“To the Glory of God and in memory of Herbert James Fleming, C.M.G., C.F., who was Chaplain of the Royal Military Academy from 1911-1914 and 1918-1922, and died while watching the R.M.A. v R.M.C. Rugby Football Match on 17th December, 1926”

A further panel behind the Lamp explained how it came to be donated by Toc H


It was to be lit on Armistice Day each year and then again on 17th November which was Fleming’s birthday.

The Lamp of India
First lit 15th December 1925
Current Whereabouts: Still being determined

Lit 15 Dec 1925 at St Paul’s Cathedral, Calcutta by the Hon. Mr Justice H.G. Pearson Chairman of the Toc H Council of India in front of a congregation the Viceroy and Lady Irwin, and the Governor and Lady Lytton. It was entrusted to the All-India Council of Toc H and burned perpetually on a pedestal in the Chapel of Remembrance with a War Graves cross from the grave of an Unknown Soldier below it.

Lamp of India

Lamp of India sketch

The Sidney Byass Lamp (The Lamp of Wales)
First lit 7th December 1929
Current Whereabouts: Toc H Archive, Cadbury Special Collection, Birmingham

“In memory of Sir Sidney Byass, Bart., First President of the Toc H Council for Wales, who died on February 18, 1929.”

Lit by the Prince of Wales in London on the 7th December 1929, this silver Lamp was dedicated on the 18th January 1930 by the Archbishop of Wales, a President of Toc H in Wales in Llandaff Cathedral.

Instead of being kept in one place like other national lamps, it was kept a year at time in various Welsh Cathedrals or Churches such as Merthyr, Neath, Swansea and Pontypridd. It also put in appearances at events like the National Eisteddfod in 1953.

Returned to HQ it is now in the Toc H archives at Birmingham University

Silver Lamp of Wales

The Sydney Byass Lamp (The Lamp of Wales)

The Plumer Lamp
First lit 3rd December 1932
Current whereabouts: Silver Store, York Minster

“In memory of Field-Marshall First Viscount Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer of Messines, 1857-1932, President of Toc H”

Lit by the Prince of Wales at Birmingham on the 3rd December 1932, it was deposited in the Zouche Chapel of York Minster and dedicated by Dean of York 3 Sep 1933. It was kept in an aumbry designed by Walter Tapper, the Minster architect. It was later removed from display and is currently in the Silver Store at the Minster.


The aumbry at York Minster

School Lamps

At the same time as Branches started being granted lamps, Toc H also issued some to affiliated schools. The first 18 listed here were lit at the inaugural Lamp-Lighting festival 15 Dec 1922 but although Toc H continued to work with schools the practice of issuing lamps was stopped as it was a badge of Branch status. Only Bradfield received a Lamp after this time.

Firstly we must mention Knutsford Test School which seems to straddle both the Branch and School camps in those early days. Knutsford was of course the Ordination Test School established by Tubby in the old gaol. They were gifted a lamp that was lit on 15th December 1922 at the Guildhall and they appear at the top of the first School Lamps list. However they also appear in the Branch lists as Branch no. 41. Whatever the position then, the Lamp later became The Padres’ Lamp: In memory of Oswin Creighton, C.F., attached 42nd Bde. R.F.A. 15.4.1918, though I’m not clear where it went to. Creighton was one of Neville Talbot’s officers and chaplains.

Eastbourne EBN 1922 16 Dec TOC H lamp

And so to the schools proper.

Berkhamsted School
Tubby preached at Berkhamsted School in June 1922 just as the concept of the Lamp was being born. So perhaps it’s no surprise that this Hertfordshire School were one of those to receive a Lamp at that first Lamp Lighting festival on 15th December 1922. Leslie Koulouris, the school archivist, was not able to shed any light on the Lamp’s history at the school but we do know that the plaques are in the archives at Talbot House which suggests the lamp and casket were destroyed.

Bishop’s Stortford College
I currently have no information on the Bishop’s Stortford College lamp. The college do not know its fate.

Blundells School
Mike Sampson at Blundell’s School in Devon assures me that not only do they have the Lamp still but it is on permanent display in the School Chapel on its casket. They have even retained the box in which it was presented including a small explanatory booklet. The school representatives at the Guildhall receiving the Lamp that evening were Mr Gerald Vernon Hotblack (Westlake Housemaster), L. N. Cholmeley, and R. Purvis. Mr Hotblack worked closely with the Schools Section of Toc H and there are records of him speaking at a London Conference in 1928.

Brighton College
This Lamp is still on display at Brighton.

Brighton College Lamp

Brighton College Lamp on display still

Bromsgrove School
The fate of this Lamp has not yet been ascertained.

Christ’s Hospital School
Like Bromsgrove its whereabouts currently unknown. We do know that two Grecians (Upper Sixth pupils) and one Dep. (Deputy Grecian or Lower Sixth pupil) attended the Guildhall to receive the Lamp. It then stood in the Chapel near the organ to be lit on special days (Armistice etc.) but it is not known when it left the school.

Eastbourne College
Paul Jordan explains that the college only have the wooden casket and even then one of the wooden panels (Presumably the sliding one) is missing. Another panel is blank and the other two have plaques inscribed ‘Eastbourne College’ and ‘Bestowed 15 XII 1922’. We know that Mr Tanqueray, R.F. Bateman, and A.B. Carter received the Lamp from the Prince on the College’s behalf.
Eastbourne EBN March 31 1923 TOC H lamp `

Harrow School
Another Lamp missing in action. School Curator Julia Walton is not sure what happened to it.

King’s School, Canterbury
Mr Mayne along with the School Captain and House-Monitor received the Lamp from the Prince in December 1922. Peter Henderson, Harrow Archivist, is not sure when it went missing but feels it may have been when the school was evacuated during World War II. It must have ended up at Toc H HQ though and scrapped along with the others as the brass, casket plaques have end up in the Talbot House archives.

Marlborough College
The fate of the Marlborough Lamp is unknown but curator Gráinne Lenehan is keeping an eye out

Mill Hill School
I’m still waiting hear from Mill Hill about their Lamp.

Sedbergh School
The whereabouts of the Sedbergh School Lamp is currently unknown but in 2013 local historian and sometime Talbot House Warden Mike Wilson presented the school with the old Sedbergh Branch lamp (Dedicated “In memory of the Old Sedberghians who fell in the Great War 1914-1918” and First Lit in London by the Prince of Wales 27.04.1929) which was given to him by a neighbour.

Solihull School
The Solihull School casket plaques are in the Toc H archive so I am fairly confident the lamp was returned to HQ and subsequently destroyed.

Solihull School

St Edward’s School, Oxford
Another of the original Lamps, St Edward’s School sent a deputation of a master and two boys receive their Lamp from the Prince of Wales on 15th December 1922. It was placed in the Chapel. I haven’t yet established its fate.

St George’s School, Harpendon
I was delighted to hear from the School Chaplain, the Revd. Steve Warner, that this Lamp is still in the care of the school and is used at every Remembrance service.

Harpendon School

St. John’s School, Leatherhead
Bestowed on the school by the Prince of Wales on 15th December 1922, the lamp then stood in the chapel on the ledge of the west window. The name plaque is now in the Toc H archive so at some point it was returned to the Movement and almost certainly melted down.

St Johns School

St. Paul’s School
Ginny Dawe-Woodings, School archivist, confirms they received a Lamp but doesn’t know of its fate. According to The Paulian, the school journal, the Lamp was received from the Prince by the Captain of the School, A. M. Farrer accompanied by E. P. C. Cotter and Mr. Temperley. The Lamp was to be stood in the school’s Memorial Chapel which, at the time, was still being completed.

Westminster School
Elizabeth Wells, Archivist and Records Manager at Westminster School, could find no records of the lamp. A lot of the school’s possessions were destroyed in the blitz, including our First World War memorial, and it may well be that the lamp was lost at this time. It was one of the originals lit in December 1922.

Bradfield College (1925)
The only School Lamp not lit in December 1922, this one was given to the college in early 1925 by Mrs Robertson, the mother of an old Bradfield boy, Edward John Macrory Robertson who died at the Battle of Festubert in May 1915. He is buried at Beuvry Communal cemetery. The dedication reads, In memory of Mac Robertson, Lieut., 70th Battery, Royal Field Artillery. Festubert, 22.5.1915; and of the boys of Bradfield College who gave their lives in the war. Mrs Robertson had also already given The Unknown Heroes’ Lamp to Portsmouth Branch and paid for the Unknown Heroes’ Room at Mark V (Southampton). Bradfield College was where Kate Luard [link] was Matron but whether this had any bearing on the bestowal is not known. The Mac Robertson Lamp was later earmarked for reendowing to Bushey and Oxhey Branch and lit on 4-Mar-1936 (although I have contradictory information about the dedication on the Branch lamp that is yet to be unravelled). The whereabouts of the Mac Robertson Lamp are unknown.

The above list mentions the destruction of lamps several times so it is worth a brief note on what this is about. Essentially as Branches closed and members died, some Lamps were returned to HQ and were stored in a shed at Wendover. Eventually, and with an office move on the horizon, a decision was made to get rid of many of these surplus lamps. Plaques were taken from the caskets and stored – eventually being split between the Talbot House archive in Poperinge and the Toc H archive in Birmingham. Those who were around at the time believe the lamps were melted down to prevent them being sold on the open market whilst the wooden caskets were skipped. Letters were semnt out to known branches and holders asking for the return of Lamps to prevent them being sold on eBay or in antique shops.

GY Lamp

Great Yarmouth Lamp

Thankfully many lamps survive with remain branches and members, in museums and churches or in collectors hands. Others probably sit in attics across the world and will one day resurface.

A word about logos and badges

The Lamp has, of course, been central to Toc H logos and badges since it was introduced and whilst the earliest logo – the lovely art deco monogram – didn’t incorporate a Lamp, everyone since did, until the unpopular ‘rugby posts/TV aerial’ that was used briefly in the new millennium. And since badges were generally based on the logo, they too have largely included a lamp or a stylised interpretation of a lamp on them. See this blog [link] for a look at badges. And here’s a rare example of a logo that included a lamp. This is the little used combined Toc H and Rover Scouts Logo for when the former were largely responsible for forming and running the latter throughout the UK.

Rover Scout Logo

Toc H Rover Scouts’ logo

This is the first ever Toc H logo that incorporates the Lamp. It’s from 1922 and was used for literature of the period.

First Lamp Design Logo for Literature 1922

When is a Toc H Lamp not a Toc H Lamp

Finally in this section, we have spoken a lot about what the Lamp is, so perhaps a cautionary word on what it isn’t!

You will frequently see Scripture Union badges being sold on eBay as Toc H badges. Sure they feature a catacombs style lamp but that is a very common icon. Early British Nursing Association badges also featured one as did the pictured American Lamp Lighters badge which may or may not be connected to the Christian Lamplighters Ministries.

Perhaps though the worst case of mistaken identity is this one. In a New Zealand chapel?? It claims that the lamp in the larger picture is a Lamp of the Brotherhood or Fraternitatis Lumen, one of 84 decorative oil lamps cast from the bronze doors of the destroyed Monte Cassino Abbey in Italy. Clearly this is a Toc H Lamp of Maintenance. The Lamp of the Brotherhood (Inset) is quite different. Not quite sure who managed this fubar!

Lamp Of The Brotherhood Illustration

And thus we end our look at the story of Lamps in Toc H and now turn to the stories of some of those memorialised with them.

Tubby setting off from Southampton with teh Malay lamp

Tubby leaving for New York with a Lamp for the Branch there

We Will Remember Them

A look at some well-known figures associated with Lamps. Please note, if I say someone is commemorated on a Lamp I do of course mean the casket plaques.

Sir Henry Rider Haggard, the author of She and King Solomon’s Mines (Amongst many other titles) along with his brother, Major Arthur Haggard, donated the Lancelot Haggard Lamp to Montreal Branch in memory of Arthur’s son.

The poet Rupert Brooke, was remembered by the Branch of his birthplace, Rugby. The Rupert Brooke Lamp was inscribed with the dedication, “In memory of Rupert Brooke, Poet. Died at Seyros, 23.4.1915, whilst serving with the Royal Naval Division.” It was donated by his mother Ruth.

Another war poet remembered with a Lamp is Julian Grenfell who is commemorated on the Buenos Aries Lamp. On 13 May 1915 Julian a shell landed yards from where Julian was standing. A splinter of shrapnel hit him in the head. He was taken to hospital in Boulogne where he died of his wounds two weeks later with his parents and sister at his bedside. The text on the Lamp reads “In memory of J. H. F. Grenfell, D.S.O., Capt., 1st R. Dragoons. Ypres. 26.5.1915.” It was donated by his father, Lord Desborough.

When Baron Sackville (Lionel Edward Sackville-West), who served in Gallipoli, Egypt, Palestine and France, passed over in January 1928, the Sevenoaks Branch Lamp was donated in his memory by his daughter. She was Victoria Sackville-West better known as Vita, a notorious novelist, poet, diarist, and garden designer whose bisexuality caused waves in society at the time.

An intriguing pair of plates unearthed in a box of lamp plaques at the Birmingham archives caught my attention. Unfortunately they are separated from the other plates so I don’t yet know which Branch Lamp they belong to. There are two plates, the first of which reads ‘In memory of Sister Julia Childers and Sister Julia Lake’ whilst the second says ‘Founders of the Nursing Sisters of St John the Divine 1880’. So what makes these interesting? Well the Community of St John the Divine were founded in London in 1848 (They are now based in Birmingham) but it was their midwifery service based in St John’s House, Poplar that made them well-known. Though I can’t establish that date of 1880 as being the start of this service, certainly at the 1881 Census the two women were both living at St John’s House, 210 East India Dock Road. Childers was listed as Sister in Charge of Nursing Home whilst Lake was a nurse. OK, but why so interesting. Well St John’s House was written about by Jennifer Worth in her best-selling trilogy of books about midwifery in London in the 50s and, under the pseudonym of Nonnatus House, was central to the popular TV series Call The Midwife!

The Nursing Order who inspired Call The MidwifeChilders and Lake

In less literary fields, the Bootle Lamp was “Dedicated to Samuel Plimsoll, the originator of the Plimsoll Mark in Shipping”

The Street Lamp is dedicated “In memory of John Bright Clark. Street, 6.4.1933. “The path of the just is as the shining light.” Clark was the head of Clark’s shoes and the grandson of the founders Cyrus and James Clark.

John Bright Clark

Barking’s Lamp was “In memory of G. A. Studdert Kennedy. Passed over, 8.3.1929”. Kennedy was better known as Woodbine Willie, one of the more famous chaplains of WWI

Evesham dedicated their Lamp “In memory of Gino Watkins, Artic Explorer. Drowned Lake Fjord, Greenland, 20.8.1932, aged 25”.

Shackleton, in Buenos Aries, unsurprisingly dedicated their Lamp “In memory of Sir Ernest H. Shackleton, C.V.O., O.B.E., LL.D., Explorer. South Georgia, 5.1.1922”.

The Devonport Lamp was dedicated to Captain Falcon Scott (Scott of the Antarctic) whilst the Isle of Dogs, more generically, paid tribute “To those who, while exploring uncharted regions, found comradeship and life through death”

Captain SCott Cutting

The New Plymouth (New Zealand Lamp) was dedicated to Arthur Ambury who, on June 3rd , 1918, went to the aid of William Gourlay,​ who had become stranded on ice near the summit of Mount Taranaki. Ambury, a 37-year-old father of four young children, was climbing with his wife Annie and two friends when, up ahead, they saw Gourlay, 20, and two other men having difficulty walking down as a heavy mist descended. Then, suddenly, Gourlay lost his footing and began to slide. The Horowhenau Chronicle reported

“It was here that Mr Ambury showed his heroism. Taking a chance which he must have known would be a very remote one of saving the falling man, he stuck his alpenstock (ice pick) fast in the ice, took a firm hold with his feet, and endeavoured to catch the body of Gourlay and check his descent. The impact, however, was such that Ambury was unfooted, his alpenstock broken, and the two men slid, it is estimated, a distance of about 1200ft and finally went over into a gully.”

It took a team of about 20 men to recover the men’s remains the following morning, far beneath what is now known as Ambury Bluff.

Whilst many lamps were dedicated to those who lost their lives during the Great War, others commemorated heroes from other times:

The Oliver Gosnold Clark Lamp (Bradwell)

In memory of Ranger Clark, who gave his life for others while fighting a forest fire. Vancouver Island, 25.6.1925

The Lindsay Lamp (Abadan, Persian Gulf)

In memory of Robert Leiper Lindsay, who lost his life preventing the spread of fire at an oil station at Tembi, 9.7.1917

The Noble Fleming Jenkins Lamp (Grimsby)

In memory of Brig.-General Noble Fleming Jenkins, C.M.G., C.B.E., who gave his life in attempting to rescue a girl from drowning, St Leonard’s-on-Sea, 19.8.1927

The Douglas Frederick Ogborn Lamp (Wood Green)

In memory of Douglas Frederick Ogborn, medical student, who passed over summer 1926: he gave his life to save his friend’s mother from drowning at St Ives, Huntingdon.

Ogborn Cuttings

This is one of the most intriguing

The Blackall Lamp (Leytonstone)

In memory of Reginald Griffith Blackall, who gave his life for his friends; he died 29.11.1925, aged 44, a victim of X-ray research

Whilst this, is many ways, one of the saddest

The Abbey Lamp (Darlington)

In memory of William Byland Abbey who died at Ferryhill in the discharge of his duty. 16.2.1928


I wonder if the subsequent execution of his kkiller was discussed at length during Branch meetings?


Coventry’s Lamp was retrieved virtually unscathed from the ruins of the Services Club in Middlesborough Road following the Blitz

Colchester’s Lamp was stolen from the branch’s HQ in 1938. It apparently turned up in the river much later

The earliest commemorated Great War death on a Lamp I have found is that of John Forster. He died on 14th September 1914 and is commemorated on the silver Forster Lamp which is the Federal Lamp of Australia.

John Forster

Perhaps the last commemorated War death before the treaty of Versailles was signed is that of Karl Krall who died 28th February 1919 and is remembered on the Agra (India) Lamp

Karl Krall graveKarl Krall CWGC

The Brislington (Bristol) Lamp is dedicated “In memory of Paul Klimas, a German Soldier unknown to us, whose grave we continually tend.”

A  Few Lists

The 44 Branch Lamps lit at the 7th Birthday festival
On Friday 15th December 1922 at the Guildhall in London, the Lamps of 44 branches were lit for the first time (plus the Prince’s Lamp) along with 18 School Lamps. The Lamps were lit in order of Foundation:

  1. London Mark I
  2. Cheltenham
  3. Manchester
  4. Cambridge
  5. Maidstone
  6. Swindon
  7. Oxford
  8. Edinburgh
  9. Bristol
  10. Barnet
  11. Exeter
  12. Shotton*
  13. London Mark II
  14. Wolverton
  15. Durham
  16. Portsmouth
  17. Sheffield
  18. Birmingham
  19. London Mark III
  20. Liverpool
  21. Bradford
  22. Brighton
  23. Cardiff
  24. Spen Valley
  25. Glasgow
  26. Coventry
  27. Southampton
  28. Colchester
  29. Leicester
  30. Winnipeg
  31. Middlesbrough
  32. Farnham
  33. Halifax
  34. North Staffs**
  35. Derby Central
  36. Northampton
  37. Canterbury
  38. Sleaford
  39. Hertford
  40. Hull
  41. Aldershot
  42. Huddersfield
  43. London Mark VII
  44. Knutsford

*Later renamed Deeside & District
** aka Stoke-on-Trent

Guildhall Plan

A plan of the 1922 lamp-lighting


Now we look at some other lists of Lamp dedications. They are not definitive lists of the subject matter explorer, simply examples. Information shown is Name of Lamp, Branch and the Dedication on the Casket.

10 Lamps Dedicated to Officers and Men Awarded the Victoria Cross

The Frank Maxwell Lamp Guildford
In memory of Frank Maxwell, V.C., Brig-Gen., 27th Lowland Brigade. Ypres, 21.9.1917

The M.O.’s Lamp Oxford
In memory of N. G. Chavasse, V.C., R.A.M.C., and of Aidan Chavasse.

Four Brothers Lamp York
In memory of Four Brothers : Lt.-Col. W. H. Anderson, V.C., 12th H.L.I., Maricourt, March, 1918 ; Capt. C. H. Anderson, 1st H.L.I., Missing, December, 1914 ; 2nd Lt. A. R. Anderson, 1st H.OL.I., Vieille Chapelle, October 1915 ; Capt. E. K. Anderson, R.F.C., Winchester, 1918.

The Good Hope Lamp Capetown Central
In memory of T. O. L. Wilkinson, V.C., Loyal North Lancs. 5.7.1916 : and of Eric Hitchcock, 3rd South African Infantry. 11.6.1918.

The Rupert Lamp Port Talbot
In memory of Rupert Hallowes, V.C., M.C., 2nd Lt., Middlesex Regt. Ypres, 1.10.1915

The Carter Lamp Truro
In memory of Herbert Augustine Carter, V.C., Major, 101st Grenadiers, Indian Army. Mivele Mdogo. B.E.A. 13.1.1916

The Parsons Lamp Basingstoke
In memory of Hardy Falconer Parsons, V.C., 2nd Lt., 14th Battn. Gloucester Regt., aged 20. The Knoll, Villers-Faucon, 22.8.1917; and of Ewart Moulton Parsons, Lt., R.A.F., aged 19. Eastbourne, 17.6.1918

The Congreve Lamp Malta
In memory of General Sir Walter Congreve, V.C., and of his son, Brevet Major William Congreve, V.C.

The Ranken Lamp Irvine
In memory of Harry Sherwood Ranken, V.C., Capt., R.A.M.C. attd. 1st K.R.R.C. Died of wounds, the Battle of Aisne, 25.9.1914, aged 31 years.

The Sydney Woodroffe Lamp Marlborough
In memory of Sydney Woodroffe, 2nd Lieut., V.C., 8th Rifle Brigade. Hooge, 30.7.1915.

10 Lamps Dedicated to officers awarded a Distinguished Service Order

The Parker Lamp Perth, Western Australia
In memory of Frank Parker, D.S.O., Major, 8th Field Artillery. Egypt, 27.3.1915.

The Tebbut Whitehead Lamp Port Elizabeth, South Africa
In memory of Tebbut Whitehead, Lt.-Col., D.S.O., M.C., O.C. Prince Alfred’s Guard, and late of 13th Royal Fusiliers. Died at Port Elizabeth, 6.1.1926

The Douglas Hall Lamp Boldre
In memory of Major-Gen. Douglas Keith Elphinstone Hall, C.M.G., D.S.O. 29.9.1929

The Dunster Force Lamp Spen Valley
In memory of Bernard John Haslam, Major (acting Lt.-Col.), D.S.O., R.E. Baku. 26.8.1918

The Reginald Henry Napier Settle Lamp Bath
In proud and loving memory of Reginald Henry Napier Settle, D.S.O., M.C., Major (tempy. Lt.-Col.) 19th Royal Hussars, attached M.G.C. Killed in action in the Great War.

The King Lamp Auckland, New Zealand
In memory of George Augustus King, Lt.-Col., D.S.O. with Bar, Croix de Guerre, 1st Canterbury Regiment and N.Z. Staff Corps. Passchendaele. 12.10.1917

The Lukin Lamp East London, Cape of Good Hope
In memory of Major-General Sir Henry Timson Lukin, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., South Africa, 1926

The Knox Lamp Nuneaton
In memory of James Meldrum Knox, D.S.O., Bt. Lt.-Col. Royal Warwickshire Regt. Asiago Plateau, 23.9.1918; and of Andrew Ronald Knox, 2nd Lt., Royal Engineers. Albert, 12.3.1915.

The Gus King Lamp Mount Eden-Auckland, New Zealand
In memory of Lt.-Col. George Augustus King, D.S.O. with Bar, Croix de Guerre, 1st Canterbury Regiment and N.Z. Staff Corps. Passchendaele, 12.10.1917.

The Bertie Blair Lamp Whitehaven
In memory of R.C.R. Blair, Captain, D.S.O., 5th Battn. Border Regiment. France, 21.7.1916. “He died as he had lived – a gallant English gentleman in the midst of men who loved him.”

10 Lamps Dedicated to Officers & Men who fell on the first day of the Somme

The Neville Woodard And Richard Leonard Hoare Lamp Sheffield
In memory of Neville Woodard, grandson of the founder of the Woodard Schools. Died 3.7.1905; Also of Richard Leonard Hoare, Capt., 12th London Regt. (“The Rangers”) Gommecourt 1.7.1916

The Jack And Geoffrey Lamp Derby Central
In memory of J. B. Hoyle, Lt., 7th Batt., South Lancs., Ovillers-la-Boisselle. 1.7.1916, and of G. M. Hoyle, Lt., 2nd Batt., Sherwood Foresters, Hooge, 9.8.1915.

The Three Brothers’ Lamp Belfast Central
In memory of Ernest Hewitt, Lt., 4th Batt. K.O.R.I.R., 15.6.1915, Holt Hewitt, Lt., and William Hewitt, Inniskillem Fusiliers, 1.7.1916.

The Bickersteth Lamp Cudham
In memory of Stanley Morris Bickersteth, Lt., 15th Batt. West Yorks. (Prince of Wales’ Own). Serre. 1.7.1916

The Loughburian Lamp Loughborough
To the glory of God and in loving memory of Arthur Donald Chapman, 2nd Lt., 1/5th North Staffordshire Regt., Somme, 1.7.1916, and of all his fellow Loughburians who fell, 1914-1918.

The Willie Frost Lamp Doncaster
In memory of Willie Frost, Sergt., Yorks and Lancs Regt. Somme. 1.7.1916.

The Nephews Lamp Keston
In memory of John Sydney Allen Stoneham, Sergt., 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles, killed at Festubert, 2.6.16 ; of Philip Allen Stoneham, L/Cpl., Lord Strathcona’s Horse, missing after the First Balle of Ypres, 24.5.1915 ; of Greville Cope Stoneham, 2nd Lt., 1st Royal Berks Regt., killed on the Somme, 10.11.1916 ; of Allen Barclay, B.Sc., 2nd LT., Royal Engineers, killed at Givenchy, 24.4.1915 ; of Kenneth Barclay, Pte., London Scottish, killed at Zillebeke, 12.11.1914 ; and of Eric Henry Lloyd Clark, 2nd Lt., R.F.A., killed on the Somme, 1.7.1916.

The Paul Pollock Lamp Duncairn, Belfast
In memory of Paul Gilchrist Pollock, 14th Battn. Royal Irish Rifles (Y.C.V.s). Somme, 1.7.1916

The Lionel David Lamp Codsall
In memory of Lionel Adolf David David, 2nd Lt., 7th Yorks. Regt. Fricourt, 1.7.1916

The Ludlow Lamp Solihull
In proud and loving memory of Stratford Walter Ludlow, Capt., 8th Battn. Royal Warwichshire Regt. Beaumont Hamel Serre. 1.7.1916. “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.”

10 Officers and Men who fell at Hooge with Lamps Dedicated to them

(To the best of my knowledge Gilbert Talbot has two lamps dedicated to him and W.T.M. Bolitho also has two. My first thought regarding Bolitho was that Exeter had their Lamp withdrawn and reissued to Penzance. This does not appear to be the case as Exeter remained a Branch whilst Penzance became one. Therefore I must conclude that Bolitho had two lamps dedicated to him – one by his father and one by his mother. I wonder if there is a further story to read between the lines!)

The James Clark Lamp Edinburgh
In memory of James Clark, Lt.-Col., C.B., commanding 9th Battn., Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Hooge, 10.5.1915

The Bolitho Lamp Exeter
In memory of W. T. M. Bolitho, Lt., 19th Royal Hussars. Chateau Hooge. 24.5.1915.

The Penzance Lamp Penzance
In memory of W. T. M. Bolitho, Lt., 19th Royal Hussars. Chateau Hooge, 24.5.1915; and of the Elder Brethren of Penzance

The Frederick Usherwood Lamp Bishop Auckland
In memory of Frederick William Usherwood, Sergt., 3rd Dragoon Guards, who fell in action on the night of May 31-June 1, 1915, at Hooge, Belgium.

The Gilbert Talbot Lamp *
In memory of Gilbert Talbot, Lieut., Rifle Brigade. Hooge, 30.7.1915.

*This lamp was first issued to Franham in 1922 but withdrawn. In 1925 it was reissued to Keiskama Hoek in Cape Province and then Relit when they merged with King William’s Town in 1936.

Gilbert’s Lamp Norwich
In memory of my friend, Gilbert Talbot (Hooge, 30.7.1915), from whom Toc H derives its name. G.R.R.C.

The Keith Rae Lamp Blackburn
In memory of Keith Rae, Lt., Rifle Brigade. Hooge. 30.7.1915

The Sydney Woodroffe Lamp Marlborough
In memory of Sydney Woodroffe, 2nd Lieut., V.C., 8th Rifle Brigade. Hooge, 30.7.1915.

The Jack And Geoffrey Lamp Derby Central
In memory of J. B. Hoyle, Lt., 7th Batt., South Lancs., Ovillers-la-Boisselle. 1.7.1916, and of G. M. Hoyle, Lt., 2nd Batt., Sherwood Foresters, Hooge, 9.8.1915.

The Willoughby Lamp Malton
In memory of Digby Willoughby, Comdr., HMS Indefatigable. Jutland, 31.5.1916; and of Godfrey Willoughby, Capt., The Rifle Brigade. Hooge, 9.8.1915.

The Jeffries Lamp Market Harborough
In memory of Harold John Fotheringham Jeffries, Major, 5th Battn. Leicestershire Regt. Hooge Salient, 26.9.1915.

Let me end with whast is perhaps my favourite dedication on any lamp. It was on the casket of the Greenford, Middlesex Lamp, endowed in November 1938 and first Lit that December at the Royal Albert Hall:

To peace among men. Say not the Elder Brethren of Greenford and of the world died in vain.

Herewith is the link to a PDF report from the database. Clicking on this link will open the file in a new window (tab). Please be aware that this is still a very early version of the database and there is much more data to be recorded and many errors to be unravelled. What you see is what you get!

Toc H Roll of Lamps (Version 1 March 2020)

At the Sign of Toc H

Despite Tubby’s oft quoted maxim to “Do something good each day but don’t get found out”, Toc H would go to great lengths to extend the Movement and that included ensuring the places that they met were well-publicised. From the famous signboard hanging over the door of Talbot House via the parcel tag on a string that hung from the flat in Red Lion Square to the uniform signs of the seventies, this short, visual blog takes a look at some of the signs of Toc H.

Hopefully it will keep you ticking over whilst I complete my next mammoth article on Toc H Lamps of Maintenance

Talbot House

The original – outside Talbot House

The Boddy Brothers were Norwich metal-workers and Toc H members whose firm was probably most famous for its milk-churns. Perhaps that inspired this 3d Toc H sign they developed in 1927

The Boddy Sign

The Boddy Brothers metalworked sign (1927)


Over the years many branches made up their own efforts


But few as magnificent as this one constructed through Mr Bryant’s glass business (Clarks of Hoxne in Drysdale Street) for Cuffley and Goffs Oak branch.


The restored Cuffley and Goffs Oak sign in 2019

Toc H made some directional signs available.

Directional Sign

Directional Sign in Situ

Though they were sometimes confusing

Both ways

This one was introduced in 1972 to bring some unity

New 1972 Sign

And came as a lower tech plastic on wood version

Orange sign


But there would always be something on the door

Or over it

Hanging Light

And someone to put it up

Putting SIgn Up

A Toc H Timeline

I originally put this together for Toc H Belgium as part of the Centenary celebrations in December 2015. Parts of it appeared in a huge display in the Slessorium that week. I thought it was worthwhile reproducing it here. I have decided against illustrating it as I see it as a simple reference tool rather than an enlightening article. Anyway, I’m knee-deep in another research project for my next Toc H post.

Every effort has been made to ensure that the dates used in this timeline are accurate. However it should be noted that Tubby was never one to let facts get in the way of a good story so there have been certain discrepancies over the years which may be reflected in this timeline.

A good example of this confusion is that of the opening of Talbot House and the subsequent birthday celebrations. In the early years the date of 15th December was given as the official opening. Thus in 1921 and for a few years after, the birthday party was held on or adjacent to December 15th. Sometime after his mother’s death Tubby discovered amongst her papers, the letters he had sent her from Flanders. These were edited by Barclay Baron and published in the Journal before being published as a book. A letter written on 6th December shows that the house in fact opened with a concert on Saturday 11th December 1915 and the first Communion was held in the Chapel (Still the landing on the second floor) the next day.

Early logo


Dec 1918 The Whizz Bang
Just before Talbot House closes its doors, Tubby sends out a Christmas card to those who took Communion in the House and whose addresses survive. It contains an army style field postcard that Tubby calls a Whizz-bang in which he asks men to commit to buy a planned booklet (What will eventually be Tales of Talbot House). This Whizz-bang is the first indication that the spirit of Talbot House is to be maintained in peacetime.

Dec 1918 Tubby sent to Le Touquet
Tubby and a pile of furniture and fittings from Talbot House move to the newly established ex-Service Candidates Ordination Test school at Le Touquet

Jan 1919 Tubby called to War Office
Tubby asked to find suitable premises to move the Test School to England

Mar 1919 The Test School opens in Knutsford prison
On the 26th March the school for ordinands opens in the old prison at Knutsford

Apr 1919 Tubby in London
Whilst the Test School take an Easter break, Tubby borrows some flats in Red Lion Square (where his sister has been living). It becomes a recruiting station for Toc H where many friends visit. Lieutenant E.G. White acts as secretary when Tubby returns to Knutsford.

Sep 1919 Tales of Talbot House published

Nov 1919 First Committee meeting of Toc H
On the Saturday (15th) after the first anniversary of the Armistice, at the RAC in Pall Mall, a committee was convened. They passed a resolution to reconstitute Talbot House at the earliest possible moment. The first plan was for it to be sited on Trafalgar Square. To avoid confusion with the Talbot House Settlement in Camberwell, it was decided to use the soldier’s slang of Toc H for the movement. An Executive Committee is formed

Nov 1919 Executive Committee meeting
The Executive meet for the first time on 19th November, at the offices of solicitor Montague Ellis at 17 Albemarle Street. Reggie May is chairman, a position he will retain for the next 10 years. The Executive meet three more times before Christmas and on 23rd December No 8 Queen’s Gate Place, formerly occupied by the wartime Anglo-South American Committee was being considered as Club premises

Feb 1920 Tubby issues circular
On the 26th February a letter from Tubby and a set of rules are sent out to the growing band of members

Mar 1920 Mark I opens
The property at 8 Queen’s Gate Place, Kensington is leased and opened as Talbot House Mark 1, a hostel for men who find themselves in London and need somewhere to stay. The stewards were Sam Pickles and his wife.

May 1920 Mark I moves
After just a few weeks Mark 1 moves to bigger rented property just a few hundred yards away at 23 Queen’s Gate Gardens where it will remain for the next eight years. Colonel Herbert Shiner becomes the first Warden of a Toc H Mark and remains in position until Lancelot Prideaux-Brune takes over on 6 May 1921.

June 1920 Tubby reaches out
Tubby sends a letter to selected Talbotousians outside of London asking them to gather men together

Summer 1920 The Four Points Of The Compass
Tubby draws up the original Four Points based on Alec Patterson’s Four Rules of Life

July 1920 Foundations in place
A list is produced showing 50 UK groups and 20 overseas

Sep 1920 Mark II opens in Pimlico
The Duke of Westminster (Hugh Grosvenor) allows Toc H to use his property at 123 St George’s Square in memory of his mother Lady Sibell. Toc H headquarters would be based here until 1926. Father Wimbush was its first Warden.

Sep 1920 First Official Football Game
The Toc H Football team play their first game beating a team from the Brigade of Guards HQ on 25th September

Nov 1920 First provincial group formed at Cheltenham
To date, gatherings of Toc H men had tended to happen in London at the Marks but on 22nd November the first provincial group meet for the first time in Cheltenham

Dec 1920 The Christmas Spirit published
Toc H put out The Christmas Spirit, the first Christmas Annual of Toc H, a miscellany of short stories and Toc H related material. It includes a list of secretaries covering 65 towns and cities in Great Britain and nine countries abroad. HQ is listed as Effingham House which is the editorial office of The Challenge, a church newspaper that Tubby contributes to.

Dec 1920 Punch notice
The issue of Punch or the London Charivari published on 22nd December includes a notice explaining the purpose and aims of Toc H. The editor, Owen Seaman, is a great friend to the early organisation.

Also in 1920 Toc H in Canada
George Goodwin and Tony Grant start Canadian Toc H in Montreal. The group would move slowly forward until Tubby’s tour of 1922 when they would get a boost. They achieved branch status in 1923

Feb 1921 Group matters
A memo from Cheltenham group makes two significant suggestions for Toc H. The first is that Service becomes a key element of Toc H’s purpose alongside the Friendship ideal that was an extension of the Old House. The second suggestion was that some form of Remembrance be part of a branch evening. The seed for the Ceremony of Light was sown.

May 1921 The first Toc H News Sheet
A four page news sheet is issued

May 1921 Mark III opens in Waterloo
This Mark was at 148 York Road and was demolished when County Hall was expanded

Jun 1921 Toc H merges with Cavendish Society
This merger brought Barclay Baron and others into the organisation and started a Toc H schools section

Dec 1921 First Birthday Party
Toc H celebrates its first birthday (also the sixth anniversary of the original house opening) at St Martin’s Crypt and Grosvenor House on 15th December. The Round Robin is signed.

Also in 1921 Sports ground opens
Toc H open a sports ground on a field at Folly Farm, Barnet

Jan 1922 First World Tour
On 6th January Tubby sails to Canada from Liverpool on the Empress of Britain. This is Tubby’s first post-war trip abroad and the start of many tours to promote Toc H in the Dominion and elsewhere

Feb 1922 First Canadian branch
Winnipeg are the first Canadian group to be awarded full branch status

Apr 1922 First Provincial Mark
The first Mark outside of London, Gartness in Manchester is opened. it is run by Pat Leonard

Apr 1922 First Council meeting
The Central Council meet for the first time

May 1922 The Lamp of Maintenance
Whilst buttering up a wealthy stockbroker, Tubby tells Barclay Baron that it is a shame the movement has no emblem. Baron suggests a lamp such as those used by early Christians in the catacombs under Rome. Soon a wooden model is created and the lamp takes its place in Toc H

Jun 1922 The Journal launched
The Toc H News Sheet becomes The Journal. It is edited initially by Lionel Bradgate

Jul 1922 Dawn of the League of Women Helpers
Inspired by the Women’s Auxiliary of the Church of Canada encountered on his recent trip, Tubby calls some key people for a meeting in Mrs Edmund Horne’s drawing room on 4th July with a view to creating a women’s auxiliary for Toc H. The new organisation will be led by Alison MacFie, a nurse in Flanders who visited Talbot House during the war and is thus one of the few female Foundation Members.

Jul 1922 The Executive Committee petitions for a Royal Charter
As an association Toc H is unable to own property or employ people in its own name. One of the ways an association can become incorporated is by Royal Charter which is granted through the Privy Council

Jul 1922 Birth of the LWH
The Executive approves a resolution by the London Club Committee to proceed with the formation of a Toc H League of Women Helpers. However it rejects the part of the resolution that would recognise the League in the new Royal Charter.

Nov 1922 Peter Monie becomes Honorary Administrator
Peter Monie was a British administrator in the Indian Civil Service. On his retirement he became the first Administrator of Toc H freeing Tubby up to take over All Hallows. He is known as the architect of Toc H for the way he shaped the organisation.

Dec 1922 Royal Charter granted
The Royal Charter is officially granted by the Privy Council on 6th December thusToc H is incorporated. The Girl Guides receive their Royal Charter on the same day!

Dec 1922 Tubby appointed Vicar of All Hallows
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson approached Tubby in the summer of 1922 and asked him to take over as Vicar of All Hallows. Initially Tubby was against the idea as he saw Toc H as his life’s work but the Archbishop and Tubby’s own Executive convinced him that it could be the centre of Toc H not a distraction. Peter Monie was to take up some of Tubby’s burden within the movement. Much admin was carried out from the porch room at All Hallows.

Dec 1922 Second Birthday Party
The 7th Anniversary of Talbot House and second birthday party of Toc H at Guildhall celebration includes the first lamp-lighting Ceremony by the Prince of Wales. The party starts on Friday 15th and continues to Sunday 17th

Apr 1923 The Main Resolution passed
Central Council pass the main resolution:

May 1923 Toc H & the Scouts
Toc H becomes a Kindred Society of the Boy Scout Movement and many branches set up Rover Crews to train up future Scoutmasters and assistants. Tubby and Baden-Powell are good friends

Nov 1923 First overseas Mark
The first overseas Mark opens in Winnipeg, Canada

Dec 1923 Toc H in Australia
Lord Forster, the Governor General of Australia, wrote to Tubby saying that he would like to endow a Toc H Lamp of Maintenance in memory of his two sons killed in World War 1. He said he wished to get Toc H started in Australia

Aug 1924 Toc H Western Australia
Padre Hayes arrives in Fremantle to help establish Toc H in Western Australia

Dec 1924 The Forster Lamp
The Forster Lamp, the parent lamp of Australia was lit by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales at a Toc H Festival in London.

Also in 1924
First hostel for women opens
New June is opened on Tower Hill by the LWH. It stood at 50 Great Tower Street (now covered by the Tower Place shopping centre). Tubby’s sister Belle was one of the residents

Toc H Rugby Club
Members of the Manchester Mark formed a rugby club which they called Toc H Manchester. After moving to various sites the club arrived in Didsbury and in 1986 the name was changed to Didsbury Toc H. It is still active today

Derby Camp for Boys
Originally set up as a local branch of Toc H, the Derby Toc H Camp for Poor Boys began in 1924 and continued until 1940. The Camp reformed in 1948 with the word Poor dropped from its name. It became a separate charity in 1952 and is still running. Similar camps were run throughout the UK and elsewhere

Feb 1925 First Staff Conference
The first staff conference is held at Stratford-on-Avon

Feb 1925 Tubby’s Tours
On the 6th February Tubby and Pat Leonard sail from Southampton to New York on the Antonia on the first leg of their world tour

Feb 1925 First group in South Africa
A telegram from Bert Oldfield announces that a group has been set up in Keiskama Hoek. Bert was housemaster at the mission school and started the group on 24th February with ‘Uncle Harry’ Ellison

Jun 1925 Down Under
After passing through New Zealand and helping birth groups in Wellington and Christchurch, Tubby and Pat arrive in Australia on 16th June

Sep 1925 Australian Council
An Australian Toc H council is formed and meets for the first time in Melbourne

Dec 1925 Toc H starts in Ceylon
Toc H gets underway in Colombo and Kandy as Tubby and Pat journey through

Dec 1925 Toc H Victoria
Toc H Victoria (Australia) is incorporated with its own constitution

Feb 1926 Headquarters moves
Toc H HQ moves to No.1 Queen Anne’s Gate on 20th February

Apr 1926 Toc H Australia formalised
On April 28th an Interstate Conference in Melbourne is held with the objective of forming a Toc H organisation of Australia

Jun 1926 Tubby meets Lord Wakefield
Tubby meets Sir Charles Wakefield at a service in London commemorating some of those who had fallen on the Somme. Tubby found a fellow philanthropist and Londonphile who could add considerable political clout and cash to his dreams. As well as what he did for Toc H, Wakefield and Tubby drove the work of the Tower Hill Improvement Trust (Now known as the Tower Hill Trust)

Sep 1926 The Forster Lamp relit in Australia
Australia’s parent lamp – The Forster Lamp – is lit at Christchurch Cathedral, Newcastle, New South Wales on 29th September.

Oct 1926 Launch of The Mark
South America’s journal, The Mark is first published

Dec 1926 The Lamp of India
The Lamp of India is lit for the first time in Calcutta Cathedral

Also in 1926
First group in Belgium

A Toc H group is set up in Ieper

The Log first published
The Log is the newsletter of the LWH

The Link is first published
Toc H’s Australian newsletter is first published

May 1927 Mark I on the move
Mark I, recently homeless, finds itself a new address at 24 Pembridge Gardens, Notting Hill where it will see out its days

Also in 1927
A South African Mark

Toc H South Africa opened its first house, in Johannesburg, known as Mark I (Transvaal)

Feb 1928 Tubby speaks at Parliament
Tubby and Barclay Baron speak at parliament on 29th February leading to formation of House of Commons Toc H group

Mar 1928 First house in India
A Toc H House opens in Calcutta

Dec 1928 First Lamplighting Festival for League of Women Helpers
22 lamps lit by Duchess of York at Christs’ Hospital Hall in Great Tower Street. Only one was a Lamp of Magnificat; 21 were hurricane lamps from a hardware shop opposite All Hallows due to an accident

Dec 1928 Birthday Festival
One of the special guests at this year’s festival is Madame Van Steene better known to soldiers as Ginger

Dec 1928 First Indian Conference

May 1929 First World Chain of Light
The first World Chain of Light, organised by Toc H Australia, takes place. It starts at the Federal Festival in Perth on the 14th May.

Dec 1929 Birthday Festival
The Prince of Wales announces that Sir Charles (later Lord) Wakefield, of Castrol Oil wealth, has bought Talbot House and given it to Toc H.

Spring 1930 Headquarters moves
Headquarters moves to the former Guards’ Industrial Home for Girls at 47 Francis Street.

Apr 1930 Talbot House Association founded
The Association de Talbot House de Poperinghe is formed with Paul Slessor as its chairman. This is the legal body that will own Talbot House under Belgian Law. It is now known as the Talbot House Association

Dec 1930 Tubby moves into his vicarage
42 Trinity Square was bought by Charlotte Tetley – the wife of self-made industrialist Henry Tetley – in 1928 for use by the clergy of All Hallows but Tubby didn’t move in until 1930

Apr 1931 Talbot House reopened
After being bought by Lord Wakefield in 1929 the Old House is given to the Talbot House Association on 27 Oct 1930. Wakefield officially opens it on Easter Sunday – 5th April 1931

Mar 1933 Toc H and leprosy
Whilst touring West Africa, Tubby comes face to face with leprosy. He immediately strikes up a relationship with the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association and sends Toc H men to Africa to help. BELRA later becomes LEPRA

Also in 1933 Warden Manor donated
Warden Manor on the Isle of Sheppey is made available to Toc H as a holiday hostel by the business man Cecil Jackson Cole. Cole was a Toc H member and for a while a Central Councillor. He later co-founded Oxfam and founded Help The Aged and other charities. Warden Manor was sold by Coles in 1978 with the proceeds going to a special trust administered by Toc H.

Jan 1934 Death of Edward Stuart Talbot
Known as the father of Toc H, Bishop Talbot was the father of Talbot House co-founder Neville Talbot and Gilbert Talbot for whom it was named.

Jul 1934 Children’s Beach reopened
This sandy stretch by the Thames in the shadow of Tower Bridge was one of the achievements of Tubby through the Tower Hill Improvement Trust

Feb 1935 Hubert Secretan becomes Honorary Administrator
Hubert Secretan, a former Warden at the Oxford and Bermondsey Boys Club, replaces Peter Monie as Honorary Administrator of Toc H.

Jun 1936 Coming of Age
A massive Coming of Age festival is held in London to celebrate 21 years of Toc H

Jan 1937 New HQ for the League of Women Helpers
The LWH HQ moves from New June to 18 Byward street, an ‘ugly little building’ on the pavement outside the north wall of All Hallows and a cover over an extra exit for Mark Lane was purchased by the Wakefield Trust so it could be demolished. The Luftwaffe began the job which the Trust later completed.

Nov 1938 LWH move again
The LWH move to Crutched Friars House, 42 Crutched Friars. It was given to the Wakefield Trust by Charlotte Tetley for the use of LWH.

1939 Service Clubs
With the advent of war, Toc H moves its focus to Servicemen (and Women’s) Clubs both in the UK and in the theatres of war. During the course of the war Toc H will run 400 Service Clubs, 1800 Mobile canteens and employ 358,000 workers. Their work is coordinated with other organisations like the YMCA by the newly formed Council of Voluntary Welfare Work.

May 1940 Poperinge over-run
Talbot House falls into German hands. Back home it is believed Talbot House is destroyed and that is what Toc H members believe until Poperinge is liberated.

May 1940 Prisoners of War
Toc H staff Rex Calkin, Reg Staton, Lt-Col. Brian Bonham Carter, Hugh Pilcher and Padre Austen Williams serving with the BEF in France, are taken prisoner of war.

Dec 1940 All Hallows destroyed
The church on Tower Hill is struck by a high explosive bomb on the night of the 8th/9th December and then on 29 December it is hit by incendiary bombs which burn it to a shell

Apr 1943 Death of Neville Talbot
On the 3rd April, Neville Talbot, the tall padre who established Talbot House alongside Tubby dies. It was for Neville’s brother Gilbert, Talbot House was named

Also in 1943
LWH becomes Toc H (Women’s Section)

In recognition of its much changed role during wartime, the domestic sounding League of Women Helpers becomes Toc H (Women’s Section)

Sep 1944 Polish Troops liberate Poperinge
On 6th September Polish troops drive the Germans out of Poperinge. Their departure was so fast an uneaten meal lay on the tables. The many artefacts of Talbot House, spirited away by local people in 1940 are taken from their hiding places and restored to the Old House

1945 Post War Work
After the war the Services work continues overseas (especially clubs with the British Army On the Rhine)) whilst the branches go back to community service. An expected surge in numbers from servicemen who had come into contact with Toc H during the war, doesn’t happen

Jan 1947 Harold Howe becomes Honorary Administrator
Howe was formerly the headmaster at Keswick Hall School. He will be ordained in 1953

July 1948 Foundation stone laid at All Hallows
Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, lays the foundation stone as All Hallows begins to be rebuilt.

Also in 1948
Winant Volunteer programme launched

This programme was named for Tubby’s friend and US Ambassador to the UK, John Gilbert Winant. Young Americans were brought to the UK to work in the community in projects organised by Toc H. Later a second programme would send UK students to America. Winant committed suicide in 1947. The Winant Clayton Volunteers are still going as a separate charity.

Sep 1949 Death of Paul Slessor
Major Paul Slessor died in Rottingdean, Sussex at the age of 78. He did much to ensure that Talbot House came to Toc H and the washhouse in the garden was named for him.

Dec 1950 TB Settlement at Botha’s Hill founded
Toc H establishes a TB settlement at Botha’s Hill, Natal, South Africa to combat the disease that ravages the African people. It soon becomes a village known in Zulu as Entembi (A Place of hope). It was founded by Don Mackenzie of Pinetown branch and the South African writer Alan Paton worked there for a year.

Mar 1952 Toc H (Women’s Section) becomes Toc H Women’s Association

Apr 1952 Ranald MacDonald becomes Honorary Administrator

Apr 1953 Barclay Baron becomes temporary Administrator
Ranald MacDonald is asked to stand down and Barclay Baron fills in until a new Administrator is found

Jan 54 John Callf becomes Administrator
John Callf becomes the new Administrator of Toc H. Callf was formerly Toc H Commissioner in India

Jun 1954 Death of the General
Tubby’s former batman and old friend, Arthur Pettifer dies aged 80 on 16th June

Jul 1957 All Hallows reborn
On 23rd July the rebuilt All Hallows is dedicated by the Bishop of London

Feb 1958 This Is Your Life
Tubby is the subject of a live This Is Your Life on 3rd February Guests include Leonard Browne, Alison MacFie, Inky Bean and the Rev. Ronnie Royle

Also in 1958
Dor Knap becomes training centre

Dor Knap in Broadway, Worcestershire was first acquired as a training centre by Toc H in 1958, needing ‘sympathetic modernisation’. This led to an upsurge of enthusiasm that made it a place of tranquillity, engendering caring practical leadership

Oct 1960 15 Trinity Square is new HQ
15 Trinity Square on Tower Hill has been purchased through a special fund and will be Toc H’s UK HQ for the next 12 years

Jun 1962 Rex Calkin retires as General Secretary
After 31 years, including a spell as a Prisoner of War, Rex Calkin steps down as General Secretary of Toc H and is replaced by Cyril Cattell

Nov 1962 Tubby announces resignation as Vicar of All Hallows

Jul 1963 Death of Pat Leonard
Tubby’s long standing friend, lately Bishop of Thetford, Pat Leonard dies in Middlesex Hospital on 21st July

Sep 1963 Death of Alison MacFie
Just two months after losing his great friend Pat Leonard, Tubby must grieve the loss of foundation member and founder of the LWH, Alison MacFie

Also in 1963
George Davis becomes Administrator

Apr 1964 Death of Barclay Baron
For the third time in less than a year, Tubby has to bear the death of close friend. This time it is Barclay Baron who dies

Jun 1965 Toc H Straat opens
A new street in Poperinge is named for Toc H. Tubby receives the Freedom of Poperinge

May 1966 Queen visits Talbot House
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visits Talbot House

Dec 1967 Desert Island Discs
Tubby is the guest on the radio show Desert Island Discs on 4th December. His choices include Alvar Lidell & Gerald Moore’s Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes, Peter Jackson’s Waltzing Matilda and Peter Sellers’ My Old Dutch

Also in 1967
Alison House acquired

A house, formerly owned by the Arkwrights, in Cromford, Derbyshire is bought by Toc H as a training centre. It is named for Alison MacFie, founder of the LWH.

Point 3
The Journal and the Log merge to become Point 3 and Ken Prideaux-Brune is appointed editor

Jul 1969 Sandy Giles becomes Director (Formerly Administrator)
Sir Alexander (Sandy) Giles is appointed Director (replacing the position of Administrator). He assumed the role of Director Designate from 12 Feb 1969

Also in 1969
Colsterdale opens

A dilapidated Yorkshire farmhouse near Ripon has undergone a transformation and opens up as a Northern Dor Knap for training and projects. It was opened by the Countess of Swindon

June 1971 Royal Charter Amended
Most significantly, Toc H and the Toc H Women’s Association become integrated officially although it will be several years for all the branches to become joint men and women’s

Apr 1972 Toc H HQ Sold
Toc H’s prestigious HQ at 15 Trinity Square is sold for over £2m giving an incredible boost to the Movements funds. HQ leaves London for the first time for Wendover in Buckinghamshire

Dec 1972 Tubby Clayton dies
On 16th December, just 4 days after his 87th birthday, Phillip Thomas Byard Clayton, known to most as Tubby, dies

Dec 1972 Tubby’s funeral
Tubby’s funeral took place at All Hallows on 21st December. The service was conducted by the Rev. Colin Cuttell and Yeoman Warders from the Tower acted as Pall Bearers.

1973 Number 7 Opens
Number 7 The Crescent just behind Talbot House on Trinity Square, owned by the Wakefield Trust and formerly a Merchant Naval Hostel called Seamark, is taken over – rent free – by Toc H. It is to be run as a hostel for young Bangladeshi men recently arrived in this country. It not only provided accommodation for some 20 young men; it became a centre for the whole community. Some of the first Bengali community organisations were founded at Number Seven and Peter East’s work there bred a generation of leaders.

June 1974 Colsterdale holds its first Open Day
Founded by the Rev Bob Purdy it was donated at a peppercorn rent by the Earl of Swinton

July 1974 The birth of Friendship Circles
North Tees hospital ask Ann Crouch, a Voluntary Help Organiser, to consider volunteer run day centres to help patients rehabilitate. Ann developed the idea of mixing volunteers and patients as peers in a Friendship Circle. These groups became an important expression of Toc H’s work for the next 30 years

Also in 1974
Ken Prideaux-Brune becomes Director

The appointed is ratified by the Central Executive Committee on 25 October 1974

May 1975 Diamond Jubilee
Toc H celebrates 60 years with a Festival in London and exhibitions around the country

1977 Port Penrhyn opens
Toc H’s new activity centre is opened by Her Majesty the Queen after six years of redevelopment work.

29 Mar 1980 Cuddesdon House formerly opened
A property near Oxford, Cuddesdon House, is acquired as the new Toc H training centre to replace Dor Knap. It is formerly opened by the Bishop of Oxford, the Right Reverend Patrick Rodger, on 29th March.

Dec 1981 Poacher’s Den opens
A former Wesleyan Chapel, bought as a branch room for West Pinchbeck Men’s branch in 1958, is converted into a Toc H Centre where projects can be based.

Apr 1982 Seafarers’ Club closes
The Talbot House Young Seafarers’ Club in Southampton finally closes its doors after nearly 60 years

1986 John Mitchell becomes Director

Nov 1993 Mike Lydiard becomes Director

Mar 1999 Ken Prideaux-Brune becomes acting Director
Following Mike Lydiard’s sudden death whilst at Talbot House

Mar 2000 Geoff Smith becomes Director

Jul 2000 Royal Charter Amended
On 16th July the Royal Charter is amended further

Feb 2007 Mary Rance becomes Chief Executive

Compiled by Steve Smith with additional info by Marolyn and John Burgess. With grateful thanks to Barkis.


Tubby’s Dogs

After the last epic blog, it’s time for a shorter simpler exploration of a facet of Toc H’s past. Hopefully an interesting one just the same as we take a peek at Tubby’s faithful canine companions over the years.

We start off with an enigma though. In his biography of Tubby, Harcourt says that Tubby’s earliest dog was one called Hephzi-Bah who, along with her Bull-Terrier friend, died by a butcher’s knife in Brighton. I find no evidence elsewhere of this and wonder where Harcourt got this gory nugget from. Perhaps Tubby himself? And if so, how much is truth and how much elaboration? If it’s one of Tubby’s woven tales, what allegory was he trying to conjure up?

We get to much firmer ground with Kemmel. Kemmel was a Collie Tubby owned in the early twenties. He was the Regimental dog at Knutsford (Hopefully got on well with Sam Pickles Bulldog) and must have moved to London with Tubby as it was later said that:

Foundation members will still remember his fine collie Kemmel who flourished exceedingly in the early 20s.

Certainly he was with Tubby at a Staff Conference in August 1927 as he is listed on the roll call.

Tubby with Smuts early 1939

Tubby with Smuts in early 1939

Next up, though I don’t know exactly when but probably in the mid-thirties, was Smuts, a black Cocker Spaniel. Once again, Tubby’s retelling of events is probably embellished. In later years he said

a much wider circle of members knew Smuts, the black spaniel who upheld on Tower Hill the reputation of his previous master, the South African General of the same name

The General in question was of course Jan Smuts, the South African statesman and military leader, who was known to Tubby. However, the dog more probably belonged to Lord Hugh Beresford, the naval aide de camp to Lord Clarendon who was Governor General of South Africa from 1931-1937. The dog was acquired in South Africa and was named for Smuts with his permission. When Beresford went to sea (Sometime after 1935 as we know he was still stationed in SA until then) he gave Smuts to Tubby. Beresford sadly was killed when his ship, HMS Kelly, was sunk during the evacuation of Crete in 1941.

Smuts was a dog with special talents. Tubby described him as the master of fifteen tricks including playing the opening three notes of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude. This trick was allegedly performed to the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret – who adored Smuts – at their parent’s house in Piccadilly. Whilst this might have some embellishment about it, we know it to be at least partly true as we have photographic evidence of Smuts performing tricks during a party for RAF personnel at 42 Trinity Square in late 1937.

Smuts at an RAF Members party at 42 Trinity Square late 1937 or early 1938

Smuts up to tricks for a party of RAF personnel at 42 Trinity Square

With the outbreak of war Tubby and others in Toc H established themselves in the Orkneys and Smuts went along too. Sadly his holiday in the country didn’t last long as in December 1939, during the blackout in Kirkwall, Smuts went under the wheels of an army lorry and was killed. Tubby was heartbroken.

However, on his next leave, he was summoned to Badminton, home of the Duke of Beaufort, where Queen Mary was living during the war and she presented him with Billy of Badminton, a beautiful brown pedigree spaniel. Billy returned to Orkney with Tubby – he appears in a photo there in August 1940 – but was looked after a lot of the time by Alison Macfie at Woodwick House. Macfie also had her own dog there, a mixed Shetland Collie bitch with the strangely masculine name of Magnus.

Aug 1940 Billy

Poor quality picture but shows Billy in the Orkneys

Billy features in the Arnold Mason sketch and oil painting of Tubby made in 1947. I don’t know when Billy died but the last evidence I have of him still being around is in photos of him lounging on the stage in September 1947 whilst the painting is presented to Tubby. Certainly two years later, in a photo of Tubby with the Winant Clayton volunteers, the dog under his arm is the much better known Chippie, a Cairn terrier.

The problem we now have is that from then until his death Tubby only had Cairn terriers and they were all called Chippie. There would be four in all but differentiating between them is tricky. What we do know is that the first of them was again given to Tubby by Queen Mary to replace Billy and was the son of Splinters of Balmoral. Queen Mary was fond of Cairns. Her husband George V had two (Snip and later Bob). Whilst her son and daughter-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor had one called Slipper who went into ‘exile’ with them. The most famous Cairn of all though is perhaps Terry, who played Toto in the Wizard of Oz. Although Queen Mary died in 1953, all future Chippies were said to have come from the royal kennels.

Holding Chippie

Whilst Queen Mary was still alive, Tubby was a frequent visitor to Marlborough House and always took Chippie – presumably Chippie Mk I – with him. It’s said that Queen Mary had her curtains covered with plastic as Chippie always liked to leave his mark.

For the next couple of decades Chippie would be an almost constant companion of Tubby when he was on Tower Hill. His sometime ADC John Burgess, says that Tubby used the dogs as a way of getting through to people, after all everyone loves a dog. Less believably Tubby said that Chippie could spell using his ears – twisting his left ear for consonants and his right ear for vowels!! If that were true and he’d gone on the stage, Toc H never would have been short of funds.

Chippie on parade

Chippie on parade

In common with all of Tubby’s ADCs of the time, one of John’s jobs was to walk Chippie in the moat of the Tower of London. The dog even had his own pass to allow him access to the Tower. John says that as soon as he arrived on a Friday night his first job was to take the terrier into the fortress. The moat has a wonderful acoustic so Chippie would bark and get the echo back and so bark again. Then they would go back to the vicarage, go upstairs, drink a bowl of water and Chippie would want to go out again.

WIth Fred Tucker Tubby ADC query

Being walked by Fred Tucker, one of Tubby’s many ADCs

Another of Tubby’s ADCs, Ray Geise, similarly recounts:

One of my first tasks on the day that I arrived in London was to go and have afternoon tea with a Brigadier Weiler, who was the Resident Governor and Major of The Tower of London, and to receive from him a Special Pass to this most historic place. The wording on this Pass, which I have kept to this day, reads as follows:

“Mr Raymond Geise has permission to exercise Dr Clayton’s dog – ‘Chippy’ – in the moat during the hours of daylight.”

Jean Harris, who lived and worked at Mark VII in Fitzroy Square remembers that when Tubby came to speak at a Guest Night he would let Chippie run amok amongst the audience barking his head off whilst Tubby would just carry on and ignore him.

Chippie 1960ish Tubby Teasing with Squeaky toy Photo Frederick Mott Evening STandard

Tubby’s nephew Tom Clayton also has a Chippie tale to tell:

on one occasion driving from York to London in a van, Chippie was standing at an open window with his head stuck out as usual. When arrived in London, no Chippie. Must have been thrown out when cornering. Had to ring Chief Superintendent at Scotland Yard to get all police on lookout for Chippie. Two anxious days then heard that a lady driving down the A1 found him and picked him up. Tubby said I never particularly wanted to get married but if I had done surely that would have been the lady I married.

As well as being Tubby’ ice-breaker, Chippie earned his keep in other ways. Mk I was used in the late forties on a fundraising postcard that was widely circulated to raise money to build Queen Mary’s Organ in All Hallows. Later Chippies also had their own money-raising postcards produced.

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Thankfully, facts are a little more forthcoming on the final Chippie – Mk IV. We know he was born in 1968 and Tubby acquired him soon after. He was a light wheaten breed bred by Mrs M. Hadden of Fyvie, Aberdeenshire. Tubby got the dog from the breeder in July 1968 (so perhaps the story of them always coming from the Royal Kennels is exaggerated?) though he never sent the transfer form off to the Kennel Club.

Tubby of course died in December 1972 and Chippie was taken by a Mrs P. R. Moore who kept him until he died in late 1980 aged 12½.

Effigy of Chippie Mk IV Christ Church Cathedral Newcastle Australia

Cecil Thomas’ effigy of Chippie Mk IV

Chippie Mk IV has been much immortalised, being the dog that Tubby had when he died in December 1972. Peter Jardine, who served as Tubby’s final ADC and dog-walker, worked with the sculptor Cecil Thomas, creating the life-size effigy of Tubby that lies recumbent in All Hallows. At Tubby’s feet is a likeness of Chippie. The memorial was unveiled by Cuthbert Bardsley, Bishop of Coventry on the 11th December 1976 – on the eve of what would have been Tubby’s 91st birthday.

In 1985 Jardine presented Geelong Grammar school in Australia, where he taught for 33 years, with a replica of the Chippie sculpture. He presented further replicas to the town of Maryborough, Australia (Where Tubby was born), in May 1998; the city of Dunedin, New Zealand where Cecil Thomas’ last sculpture (Learning To Fly) stands in March 1999; and Adelaide to mark the 75th anniversary of Toc H Southern Australia in 2000.


Interestingly, the plaque on the side of the Maryborough memorial says Chippie Mk I was given to replace ‘Bill of Badinton’ [sic], ‘who was accidentally killed’. I think this must be getting things mixed up with Smuts as, as far as I’m aware, Billy died a natural death unlike his predecessor.

In November 2002 another replica was unveiled in Christchurch Cathedral, Newcastle, Australia by Ray Geise. Here the information of the plaque has got even more twisted, like some weird Chinese whisper, to read ‘Chippie Mk I was a gift from Queen Mary, Consort to King George V, after Tubby’s dog , Bill of Badinton was accidentally killed by Field Marshall Smut`s A.D.C.’ Quite a mash-up of the facts there.

More recently, Chippie has appeared on the mural by Akos Juhasz painted on the wall of the Colonial and Military Museum in Maryborough.

Maryborough Mural

And so, Chippie lies recumbent in different places around the world as a reminder, not only of his own existence, but of all those before him who were Tubby’s dogs!

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Jeff Sedley

Ray Geise

Peter Russell

John Burgess

An Impudent Dreamer – Harcourt

The Journal and Point 3



The Houses That Love Built – Part 1

Mark III 

 Whilst Toc H grew to be a worldwide movement built on people, actions, faith and fortitude, Tubby’s vision for rekindling Toc H after the war was more simply focussed on a peacetime Talbot House in London. Of course, even then he knew that the strength of his new organisation would be sum of everything that had grown in and out of the Old House between 1915 and 1918. Thus the seed for his new crop would also be a building.

With all the grandeur you might expect of Tubby, he felt that the best place for his new Talbot House would be Trafalgar Square. The square itself acting like some stand-in for the Grand Place, Poperinghe. Other more practical – but ultimately unfulfilled schemes – included taking over the Guards Club in Pall Mall which was on the market.

Tubbys Dream

Tubby unveils his plans

Front Cover of Sept 1922 Journal

The Journal highlights the journey underway

Tubby next wanted Talbot House Mark I – incremented army style – to be in Bloomsbury (Mark VII would open here) and was also talking to the Westminster estate about opening a hostel in two houses in Pimlico (Later Mark II). So the houses that were leased from an Anglo-South American organisation in South Kensington were only ever meant to be temporary. The first, at 8 Queen’s Gate Place, was very temporary, being outgrown inside two months, whereas its successor at 23 Queen’s Gate Gardens served the movement until July 1927 when Mark I moved to Pembridge Gardens in Notting Hill.   

Once Tubby was on a roll there was no stopping him and the Marks started opened up in rapid succession. It was now not simply that Tubby wanted to recreate Talbot House in London. He was aware of the desperate isolation of young men in digs and wanted the Toc H houses to be an alternative to the loneliness of lodgings.

There was a post-war housing crisis for working class people however, the young men Tubby was looking to assist – his hostellers (the term Marksmen arrived later) – were largely quite well to do gentlemen looking to build careers after the hiatus of the Great War.

So within this Centenary blog I will, from time to time, look at the history of various Marks both in London, the provinces and abroad. I have decided against doing them in numerical order. In fact I shall do them in no real order whatsoever although Mark III is a good place to start as, to all intents and purposes, it is the only Mark still in existence – albeit much changed.

Its beginnings were in the shadow of Waterloo station opposite the General Lying-In Hospital in Lambeth. On the corner of Guildford Street stood no 148 York Road, a big grimy house that acted as the vicarage for St John the Evangelist’s church in Waterloo Road. When former army chaplain John Walker Woodhouse was inducted to the living of St John’s in January 1921, he found it too big for his needs and moved into a much smaller property at 9 York Road. Being a member of Toc H he knew of Tubby’s quest for properties to open as hostels and arranged for the fledgling organisation to lease it from the church. Neither party hung around as the hostel opened on the 21st May 1921, just four months after Woodhouse took over. Incidentally Woodhouse would end his career as Bishop of Thetford immediately preceding Toc H stalwart Pat Leonard.

York Road wrong number

A rare image of the first Mark III (Wrongly labelled as 146 instead of 148)

Across York Road on the opposite corner of Addington Street was a former Congregational Chapel. It was taken on by St John’s as a church hall when the parish expanded (due to All Saints being pulled down for Waterloo station).Wrigley’s had used it for gum storage during the war when evicted from their own Lambeth Palace Road warehouse but it was now empty and Mark III were able to use it for Guest Nights and the like.

St Johns Church Hall

The chapel across the street used for Guest Nights

Barons description in Half The battle

An early Barclay Baron description

So who were the first hostellers down in Lambeth? Well, as became the norm, new Marks were usually seeded by hostellers from existing Marks, in this case Mark I in Kensington and Mark II in Pimlico. The most notable of these was Harry Willink who had spent time in both and became the first Honorary Warden of Mark III. Given Willink’s long future association with Toc H and his place in history, a short sketch of his life is justified.

Henry Urmston Willink was born in 1894 of Quaker stock. The family seat was at Dingle Bank near Liverpool. After leaving Cambridge in 1913, Willink did some mission work but joined the army in 1914. By 1917 he was in charge of a Heavy Gun Battery outside Ypres and on Good Friday of that year attended a service in what was left of Ypres prison. The padre delivering the service was one Tubby Clayton. They chatted and Clayton invited Willink to Talbot House for a service on Easter Sunday which he duly attended. Given that Alison Macfie and her cousin Dorothea both visited Talbot House for the first time that Sunday, what a portentous occasion that was for Toc H.

After the war, in 1919, Willink met his future wife and the following year was called to the bar. In October 1920 he moved into Mark I as one of the first hostellers. He spent six months there before moving to Mark II then in May 1921 to Mark III as Warden. Among the Service he would partake in were two Duke of York Boy’s Camps (1920 and 1921) which he attended as Section Leader. He would remain as Warden and hosteller until September 1922 when he moved into the Temple near his chambers but his association with Toc H was far from over.

Willink would become Chairman of the South London Area Committee and the London Executive and, in 1934, become Chairman of the Central Executive of Toc H. The following year he took Silk and in 1940 was elected as a Conservative MP. During the wartime coalition government he was made Minister of Health. At this time, 1944, he regretfully stood down form the Central Executive chair.

Involved with the production of the Beveridge report, Willink prepared a White paper entitled a National Health Service. It made many proposals for the establishment of the NHS but differed in one major aspect to Bevan’s later white paper, in that Willink was opposed to the nationalisation of hospitals. So when Labour swept to power after the war, Willink’s paper was torn up and replaced by Bevan’s.

Willink retired from politics to become the Master of Magdalene College but retained Toc H connections. He was very supportive of the campaign to raise funds to rebuilt Mark III (See below). He died on New Year’s Day 1973 just a fortnight after Tubby.



Boys Club report

Annual Report St John’s Boys’ Club

Each Mark had an Honorary Warden who was an ordinary hosteller with a day job but who had voluntary responsibilities in looking after the house and ensuring any issues were dealt with. The Honorary Warden would be assisted by an Honorary Deputy Warden. Willink’s first Deputy was Guy Sydenham ‘Siddy’ Hoare. Another gunnery officer, he had been a major in charge of a Wessex Territorial Battery near Ypres. After the war he devoted himself to Toc H and as an External Aspirant at the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield, where he became resident in 1923 but died in 1926 aged just 47.

The men living in hostels were not normally domesticated and they generally required domestic help. Soon the Marks would have properly paid live-in housekeepers – often a husband and wife – but in the earliest days they were known as stewards. Sam Pickles and his wife were amongst the earliest stewards and he joined Mark III when it opened remaining until November 1922 when he left to be OC Messing at Mark VII (Fitzroy Square).

Amongst the other early hostellers was Bob Collis, an Irish doctor and writer. He joined the British Army in 1918 as a cadet, but resigned a year later to study medicine in London which is when he stayed at Mark III. He would later become the first President of Toc H London. After qualifying he was appointed director of Paediatrics at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin playing Rugby for Ireland whilst there. During the Second World War he worked for the Red Cross in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after its liberation by Allied troops. He was instrumental in bringing five orphaned children from the camp to Ireland in 1947, and adopted two of them. Hence his later reputation as the Irish Schindler. He was also involved in establishing Cerebral Palsy Ireland working closely with Christy Brown of My Left Foot fame.

Collis shared a small upper room at the top of the house with a Cambridge friend. The room was divided into a bedroom and a tiny sitting room for study. In his autobiography The Silver Fleece he describes the Mark:

Its situation alone assured the resident of a commanding position. In our case this was enhanced by the fact that our work at King’s College Hospital entailed a journey of half an hour into south-east London, while our amusements led us in the opposite direction across the river.

Mark III itself was a poor dusty house looking out on a noisy dirty street. It consisted of a basement where food was cooked and where we ate, a common room above and a large number of rooms used as dormitories in which were from two to six beds. Their furniture was scarce, but they were fitted out pleasantly, if roughly. Washing accommodation was sufficient, if crowded. One small back room had been reserved. It was made into a chapel. Whoever decorated it was an artist. It was plain, except for a few benches and a communion table. There was a wooden cross which had been brought back from Flanders, a communion roll, and a round window of stained glass, reconstructed actually of pieces from the shattered windows of the Cathedral of Ypres and arranged so as to represent the double cross of the Flanders town. It faced away from the street. In it there was stillness or as near absolute quiet as can be obtained in London. For even in places where the hooting of the traffic and all crude sounds are shut off there is still always a distant rumble, which is felt rather than heard. Here it was possible to be alone. Indeed in later years, when no longer living in Toe H, I have more than once entered Mark III quietly and climbed up to the little back room seeking peace from London.

In the end though Collins found the ‘hearty atmosphere’ too distracting for his studies and moved out of the Mark.

Another notable hosteller was Geoffrey Leonard Heawood, who was secretary of Christian Students Association whilst living at Mark III and later moved to Mark VII. A tutor at Kings College London he became deputy head of Alleyns in Dulwich then the head at Cheltenham Grammar for many years. He wrote several books on Christianity.

Others included more medical students in Bill Daggett, Arnold Hatch, and A. P. Leavey, the last named being a fine athlete whilst Hatch did a lot of the Marks’ work with Scouts and became a GP in Dulwich; and T. J. Bosley who was secretary for the Toc H Drama League and Concert Party.

Of course there were many others and most of them would have been members of Toc H. Indeed, in 1920 virtually the whole of the London membership lived in the Marks.

Meanwhile, in August 1922 Willink stood down as Warden and was replaced by Robert Jardine. Willink stayed involved with Toc H as we were saw earlier and after they married in Dec 1923, Willink’s wife Cynthia started a girls’ club at St John’s.

That autumn, the Mark started a Gym and Boxing Clubs for members in St George’s Hall, about half a mile from Mark III on Westminster Bridge Road. The building had held boxing matches before the war and in 1921 was bought by the National Sailors and Fireman’s Union as their headquarters. Charlie Thompson, who was heavily involved with Toc H sports activities and was briefly on staff as Sports Secretary and Social Welfare Secretary, ran the club. Although Charlie didn’t live in the Mark, because of its proximity to Mark III the gym became ‘owned’ by the hostellers. They would feed any gym users who required it.

“Evening supper could be arranged at Mark III, provided the members of the classes who desire it will give due notice to the secretary”

There were two sessions every Tuesday (6.30-7.30pm and 8.30 to 9.30pm). In early 1923, because of a lack of interest from Toc H members, it was turned into a single class at 8pm incorporating boys from St John’s Boys Club.

Charlie Thompson went on to run a gents’ outfitters at London Bridge and supplied ties and scarves to Toc H members for many decades.

Is This Mark III or jsut any old Mark

Chowing down in one of the Marks

In May 1923 Marks I, II, III & VII were the focus of four branches formed to organise the scattered London membership. The Mark III branch officially formed on the 4th May 1923. Branch Meetings were on Wednesday at 8pm following on from Supper at 7pm. The first branch committee of Mark III was Henry Willink (Chairman), W.E. Phelp (Vice Chairman & Treasurer; Also Warden), Tubby and John Woodhouse (Joint Padres), Horace Flower (Secretary), Bill Collis (Jobmaster), Charles Oscar Leadbitter (Assistant Treasurer), plus non-executive members R.I. Croucher, Bill Daggett, and Sidney Beresford Ingram.

Beresford Ingram was to become the Inspector of Technology for London County Council and later a Schools Inspector for the Home Office and later still a Postal Inspector. In 1924 he moved to the Brothers House (Mark XIII) Kennington. Charles Leadbitter was a former Coldstream Guard captured towards end of the First World War and held as a POW for several weeks.

What did it actually mean to be a hosteller back then? For starters, as well as paying rent – and this would normally be a variable amount depending on what they could afford – they also agreed to do one night’s service in the locality. This might mean helping out in one of the missions or boys’ clubs.

Work with St John’s Boys’ Club was extended and they also worked with the Scouts. The then Warden Walter Phelps was responsible for this and because of the pressure of work, resigned as warden to be replaced by Malcom Arnott (Later Warden at Mark VII) on the 1st December 1923. T.P. Caroll and Ronnie Myatt now ran the St John’s Scout troop. Later, Toc H hostellers would be part of the fledgling blood transfusion service furiously running or pedalling to the local hospital to lay next to someone requiring a blood transfusion.

Each house also held guest nights weekly which involved an ‘expert’ giving a talk to the hostellers and welcoming visiting members from other Marks and branches. This was a good to chance for hostellers to meet non-resident members of Toc H from the District. Talks included subjects such as Children’s rescue Work, Science and the Criminal, and Nerves.

The little branch “across the bridges” – the only one south of the Thames until Putney opened in 1930 – never seemed as busy as its fellows.  It was smaller than the other early hostels and was something of a Cinderella Mark; Marks I, II, & VII were forever playing each other in various sporting events but Mark III probably didn’t have the numbers to make up a team. However it survived nine years in Lambeth until London County Council stuck their oar in!

Started in 1911 but delayed by the war, County Hall had been the home of the LCC since 1922, shortly after Mark III opened. However, it was running out of space from day one and a plan to build an extension was always in the offing. Compulsory purchases were projected and seeing the writing on the wall, in early 1930 Toc H dispersed it’s Marksmen across the London Mark diaspora or to another charity whose head office was in Tooley Street.

“a few collected together at the Lucas Tooth hostel against the transformation of the late rectory of St John’s, South Hackney”

In March 1930 Toc H headquarters staff moved in from Queen Anne’s Gate for six months until their new HQ at 47 Francis Street was ready. A North Lambeth grope (In those days a Grope preceded a Group which preceded a Branch) was formed in the spring of 1930 by some of the old hostellers to try and plug the gap left by the closure of the Mark and its associated branch.

Final Plan for North and South Blocks though not as built

The County Hall extention that led to the destruction of the first Mark III

There were inevitable delays to the County Hall extension but by 1939 the new North and South Blocks of County Hall were finished. 148 York Road had been torn down and the pedestrianised Forum Magnum Square still stands over the spot today. On the diagram above, the ‘A’ of York Road points to where the Mark stood.The Lying-In Hospital opposite is still in situ!

However, the story of Mark III was far from over, as thanks to the generosity of its friends at Punch, the Mark crossed the river and decamped to South Hackney. Sir Owen Seaman, editor of Punch and a great friend of Toc H, launched the appeal that allowed the former rectory at on Church Crescent, South Hackney to be purchased for the movement. It was known as Punch House though still bore the title Mark III. The Reverend Henry Cecil had arrived at St John of Jerusalem church across the street in July 1930 so it was all change in this area close to Wells Common.

Marksmen moved in to Mark III in the late summer of 1930 whilst there still trenches in the garden being dug for the electrics and paint still drying on the walls. It was officially opened on Wednesday the 18th September by Seaman. It included the Punch Room and possessed the Punch Lamp dedicated to F.H Townsend.

Punch House

The old rectory in South Hackney which Mark III took over as Punch House

The first Honorary Warden was Lew R. Tamplin from Mark VII and he was joined by Deputy Phil C. Toy, also from Mark VII. Marksmen, many from other London Marks, included E B Wilkinson, later Warden at Mark IV in Manchester, R.A. Suckling, Gerry Hayes later Warden at the Brothers’ House, and Bobbie Hirst from Mark I.

Mark III continued to exist relatively quietly in Hackney through the nineteen thirties but by 1939, in common with the rest of the Marks, it suffered as young men were called to war. Occupancy across all the national hostels was at less than 50% by the end of the year. In December 1939 the last residents moved out Mark III and it was moth-balled. John Sarl was warden when it closed

In 1940 it stood empty and was badly bombed. After the war, initially the surviving rooms were used to store Toc H property from closed wartime Services clubs. In time the upper rooms were reconditioned to make temporary homes for otherwise homeless staff and finally it was made fit for revival as a Mark.

It was initially reopened in 1947 with Bernard Shaw from Mark XX as Honorary Warde. He was assisted by Bill Jakeman and a team drawn from the other London Marks with the task of rebuilding Mark III. They included the Revd. Edward Seager, a former vicar for the Scilly Isles who was Padre before moving back down to Cornwall. They clearly succeeded as by April 1949 it was back to full capacity.

It was during this period that Mark III – and the other London Marks as well – started to show signs of massive diversity, something Mark III in particular would become renowned for. One Marksman remarked;

“this is the room you’ll be in for the time being. We call it the nursery. The chap in the bed next to yours is a Pole, the one in this bed a West African studying textiles, over there a tubby chap in the Bank and in the corner Jimmy, a ‘printer’s devil’ ”

Little wonder they called Toc H the human zoo. The same Marksman goes on to explain what Mark living is all about;

“a Mark is not just another name for a boarding-house. It is not out solely to provide comfortable quarters for the men lucky enough to live there, nor to cater for a floating population…………the Family living in a Mark needs to be a carefully chosen mixed team – the young apprentice, the student, the shop assistant, the mechanic or the miner, the bank official and the journalist, in age from 16 upwards……… this is but an overgrown family, it is a small enough community for each to realise his duties and responsibilities to his fellow member which in the larger community of town or nation are too often forgotten.”

Punch House was further restored over the next three years and officially reopened on the 5th April 1950. At the opening – the celebrations beginning at 42 Trinity Square – Punch owner Allan Agnew introduced editor Cyril Kenneth Bird aka Fougasse, assistant editor Humphry Ellis and contributors E.H. Shepherd, A.B. Hollowood, and A.D. Keown. The party later moved to the newly restored house where hostellers had hung an illuminated sign. Bird handed over a small tablet in memory of Sir Owen Seaman who ‘led Toc H to Punch’. Seaman had died in 1936.

Wardens during this rebirth included Michael Meadows, Pat Blakeman and John Bewley. The latter died suddenly in February 1959 and was replaced by his Deputy Ken Harvey until Jack Lucas took over. Whilst the normal life of the Mark continued, an interesting tradition began in 1955 – at Tubby’s instigation – that continued for many years. Mark III played a central role in it.

Romans Mark III Banner prominent

The Mark III Romans march on Tower Hill

Tubby, a keen historian particularly in relation to Tower Hill, wished to commemorate Julius Classicanus, the Roman Procurator who stopped the Romans from ravaging Norfolk after Boudicca’s rebellion. The governor Paulinus was pursuing a scorched earth policy throughout East Anglia but Classicanus, whose role was to take money in taxes, opposed him thus sparing the Iceni from complete annihilation. To commemorate him, Tubby created a pageant where the Iceni were represented by Norfolk’s Scouts and Guides and the Romans from all London Marks but especially Mark III. Gualter de Mello recalls;

The Roman pageant was a fascination. Mark III enjoyed dressing up as Roman soldiers, headed by the Roman Governor Gaius and his wife Julia, followed by Scouts and Guides from Norfolk dressed as Iceni who together marched to Mile End underground on to Aldgate East and a further march to the moat of The Tower of London. A mock battle between Romans and Iceni before going to All Hallows Church for a Thinking Thanksgiving Service and from Tower Hill back home by coach as our Iceni Scouts and Guides had to get back home after tea at Prideaux House


More Mark III Romans. The Mark Banner is nicely displayed.

However there was no getting away from the fact that those seeking life in a hostel were looking for something a little different now. And however you dressed up Mark living as a way of life, the building it was being lived in was still a Victorian Rectory!

Planning to replace Mark III began in the late fifties and outline plans were approved by London County Council by the end of 1958. It was an ambitious plan too – Toc H was looking to have its first ever purpose-built Mark at an estimated cost of £50,000 (Just over £1 million in today’s terms).

Artists Impression PH

Artist’s impression of the first purpose built Mark

An initial plan allowed for 12 three-bed rooms plus quarters for the Warden, Padre, a guest room, sick room and a separate suite for the housekeeper and her assistant. The Chapel and Quiet rooms would adjoin each other on the first floor. Additionally there would be a dining room, games room, TV room, lounges, laundry and a dark room plus the necessary bathrooms and showers on each of the three floors. Quite a rebirth. An appeal was launched with Henry Willink as Patron.

Artists Impression 1962 rebuild

How the inside was planned to look

The last guest night of the old Mark III was held on the 29th November 1960 and the Mark closed on the 10th December 1960 with demolition commencing on the 15th.

Once complete, the new Prideaux House (named for Lancelot Prideaux-Brune, a foundation member, early Warden of Mark I, and holder of many other roles in Toc H) was a much modernised hostel. The fundraising had proved a great success and many of its donors were remembered by having rooms named after them: The Chapel was dedicated to John Bewley, former warden of Mark III and a Welfare Adviser for the RAF Association; the Padre’s room was the Owen Watkins Room – Watkins being a Toc H padre and Deputy Chaplain General for the army and a legendary figure in Toc H. Other rooms were named for sponsors such as The Wolfson Room (The Wolfson Foundation contributed £5000); The Building Industry Room; the St Michael Room (Marks and Spencers), The Henry Hildesley Room (A local printer who covenanted £100 a year to provide a memorial room in the name of their late MD);  the SEDOS Room (Stock Exchange Dramatic and Operatic Society who put on a performance of Kiss Me Kate to raise funds); the Unilever Room (They donated £1000);  the Frederick Bain Room (The Quiet Room was to be named for the former Deputy Chairman of ICI and a Toc H member); the Arnold Power Room (W H Smith); the Borough Room (Hackney Council) and many others. Perhaps the most poignant was the Our Twelve Room. Endowed by Mrs Alexandra Louise Gray, it is memory of twelve members of her family who gave their lives during the First World War.

PH ANother View

And the finished building

Unfortunately, it retained the old Mark practice of multi-occupancy at a time when people were looking for private bedrooms. This limited its life as a hostel but more of that later.

Originally due to open in February, inevitable delays meant that the new Mark was eventually opened by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother at 4.15pm on Friday 1st June 1962.

The new Honorary Warden was to be Charles Young, of Carlisle branch and Northern Area Secretary, who with wife Kate had been the second Wardens at Dor Knap. Charles got Prideaux House up and running but retired early in 1963 having established a younger team. W. Anthony (Tony) Lee was warden mid-1964 and was also elected as a Central Councillor. John Boddy was Warden in the summer of 1965 at time of third anniversary open house celebrations. However, in 1966, came a man who would leave his mark on the Mark indelibly!

Gualter de Mello joined Toc H in his native Brazil in 1953 when Archdeacon Townsend started a group in Sao Paulo. Gualter was initiated by Alison Macfie who was on her travels in South America. In 1957 Gualter spent a year at Mark I whilst acting as Tubby’s weekend ADC and then some time at the Brothers’ House where he met Neville Minas. After doing his theological training at Ely, partly funded by the Toc H and All Hallows Trust, Gualter was ordained at St Paul’s in 1964 after which he took a curacy at St John of Jerusalem Church in South Hackney and became padre for Mark III where he moved in in September 1964. After his curacy finished he became Warden as well as Padre.


Your author’s wife with Neville Minas and Gualter de Mello at Ely

To understand the work of Prideaux House under Gualter I can do no better than suggest you seek out a copy of Kenneth Prideaux-Brune’s Any Problem Is No Problem published by the Community of Reconciliation and Friendship in 1996. What follows is but a glance.

Under Gualter’s guidance Prideaux House began to turn from a hostel into a community centre. The docks were closing and this part of Hackney needed community spirit. It would become an integral part of the community with local mayors, councillors and religious leaders becoming involved.

In the summer of 1967 the first ever Toc H project based on a Mark took place at Prideaux House. A number of painting and decorating jobs on behalf of the Hackney Borough Council Welfare Department were carried out by a party including one boy from Poperinge, a Czech, and a German.

Drawing of PH by Min Tabor

A drawing of Prideaux House by local Hackney artist Min Tabor

The Mark itself was highly multinational with its residents representing 22 nations in late 1967. One of the Marksmen around this time who later became better known was the musician Peter Skellern. He was seen as an ideal hosteller – somewhat different to guitaris Chris Spedding who got thrown out of Mark II for constantly arriving back in the early hours.

Gualter arranged a community survey and it was established that the local elderly community was most in need of services. In 1968 Gualter began holding lunch clubs at the centre for local elderly folk. This lunch continues 50 years later!

PH Lunch Club 1970 Gualter and Miss Ann Brace

The long running lunch club. Gualter is far left at the back

On the 28th November 1968 a new Toc H Service called Friends Anonymous began. Later it would be havied off as a separate entity and, now known as the Community of Reconciliation and Friendship, this service is still going. Other services included chiropody, a club for people with disabilities on Friday nights, an open night with films on Wednesdays

PH Postcard

Another view showing the Friends Anonymous Service sign

In 1969 the rooms were converted into two people rooms and the following year the first six women moved in. One of these was Marolyn White who met a young Toc H worker (and former Tubby ADC) John Burgess at the house. In December they married. They play a further role in this story as you will shortly see but more importantly, without John Burgess, who hooked me into Toc H, I would not even be writing this blog.

1970 Playgroup Photo JUB

The first playscheme

Another community survey was held in 1970 which highlighted the need for playgrounds and clubs for young people. This led to the establishment of Summer Playschemes that same summer and, in 1971, the Rainbow Playgroup for 5-12 year olds. There were also residential camps at Colsterdale and Rhyl that gave local children the opportunity to enjoy a break on the countryside. These were led my Mark III resident Brian Harding.  Realising that schemes being run only during the summer holidays didn’t solve all the problems, Gualter started a Youth Club over the winter of 71/72.  He soon realised that there were too many young people for Prideaux House and a purpose built Youth Centre was required. Luckily there was a vegetable patch at the rear of Prideaux House that would be a perfect site. However, its birth was not without complications.

In January 1972 Gualter pointed out to Toc H that the young hostellers who were involved in their own student lives were not the best people to engage in Toc H activities and that future long-term residents should be fully committed to Toc H work. He recommended that only the top floor be residential (long-term) and the first floor be turned over to conference facilities and short term accommodation.

Unfortunately, whilst the management committee of Prideaux House supported Gualter fully, Toc H nationally didn’t necessarily agree with his views. There were further clashes regarding the building of the Youth Centre and finally in December 1972 Gualter resigned. One wonders if his great friend Tubby’s death on the 16th December had any bearing on his decision.

Captain Roy Leech of the Church Army (He was also 26 years in the army – Tank Corps and RAOC) took over the reins after Gualter left but on the 16th June 1973 when the aforementioned John Burgess took charge.

John was born in Clacton in 1945 and introduced to Toc H by his father when he was 16. He was District Secretary 1964-66 whilst working as a Marine Diesel Engineer. He then joined the staff and was Deputy Warden of the Toc H Services Club in Paderborn. On returning to the UK he lived at Mark III and became Projects Officer helping the Project scene grow massively. After his stint as Warden at Prideaux House he would continue to work as a Development Officer and, well he deserves a blog to himself some day!

Under John’s wardenship the spirit of Gualter’s Prideaux House was maintained. The community fun continued with Mad Hatter’s Tea parties and Happiness Marches across Wells Common. Stamp Clubs started and the Summer Playschemes went from strength to strength. They carried out a third community survey in 1974 reaching over 1000 local homes.

In the autumn on 1974 the go ahead was finally given for a Youth Centre on waste ground at the rear of Prideaux House. The cost of £22,000 was to be met by grants from the Inner London Education Authority and Toc H but £10,000 still had to be raised locally – Toc H West Essex District took up this challenge. It was opened in on the 3rd November 1975 by Angus Ogilvy. The youth leader was Alison Hutchinson, who had cut her teeth in Darlington. Around the walls of the new centre were a series of handwritten signs bearing messages such as “If you swear, do it quietly”; shades of Talbot House! Bob Haimes was a later Youth Leader.

Bob Haimes Warden Toc H Youth Centre Hackney1979

Bob Haimes, Youth Centre Warden, with some of his young people

Meanwhile in 1973 Gualter had returned to Hackney and opened Friendship House after a sojourn in West Malling working with Ugandan refugees. This would have an important bearing in the not too distant future.

In early February 1977 Jeff Bird arrived as Warden allowing, on the 2nd April, John Burgess to leave Prideaux House for the next phase of his long Toc H career. Jeff came in from his position as Long Term Volunteer Assistant Warden at 42 Trinity Square. He struggled a bit and was replaced by Mike Giddings, a former Mark III resident, and then by Geoff and Liz Taylor for a few months. Geoff, a teacher, and his wife Elizabeth, a Social Worker, were also both former residents of Prideaux House before they married.

Activities at this time included a Sponsored Walk around Wells Common led by Youth Leader Bob Haimes supported by 28 Marksmen and many members of the local community. A fete and barbecue to support he event was put on my Prideaux House. Indeed the annual ‘Feet Fete’ festival on Wells Common was a popular event. The Lunch Club and Summer Playschemes were still going strong and the latter attracted an International selection of volunteers.

Little Wallet Booklet FC

The cover of a Prideaux House pamphlet

But the Marks were out of fashion with Toc H and once again the writing was on the wall for Mark III. In March 1982 Toc H’s Director Ken Prideaux-Brune relayed the CEC’s decision to sell off the Marks. Mark III wasn’t ready to go though and this time though it didn’t have to close as such. With the help of John Burgess, Hackney Council and many others, Friends Anonymous bought it from Toc H and reinstalled Gualter to run things.

In 1982 Toc H Management decided to sell Prideaux House Mark III and we had 5 days to make a decision and purchase it with Hackney Borough Council’s Help. We moved back to Prideaux House and, despite of the changes taking place in society throughout the world, maintained the old Mark III principles of fellowship and service. I retired from Prideaux House in September 2013 after nearly 60 years.

One of the first things Gualter did was to set up a room containing Tubby’s original dining room furnishings. They were rescued by Gualter when 42 Trinity Square was under threat.  The room was recreated at Prideaux House and reopened along with the house on the 11th July 1982 in memory of Tubby.

Strictly speaking Prideaux House was now no longer part of Toc H. Nonetheless, the links were strong and the ethos similar on so many levels that the spirit of Toc H continued and continues still. In terms of hard facts the most significant change came in 2002 when Prideaux House was torn down and a new Prideaux House rose in its place. Then in 2013 Gualter retired to Brazil (Sadly dying just three years later). One era ended but a new one began.

Prideaux House II

Prideaux House rebuilt again in 2002

So we will end the story of Toc H Mark III here but what a journey it has had from its grimy beginnings in Lambeth to its place at the heart of South Hackney’s community. The Cinderella Mark turned out to be the fairest of them all.

Steve Smith (c) 2020

  • Sources
  • The Journal (Various)
  • Point 3 (Various)
  • Any Problem Is No Problem – Kenneth Prideaux-Brune (1996)
  • The Silver Fleece – Bob Collis (1937)
  • Unpublished autobiography – Henry Willink (1968)
  • Various other Toc H books, booklets and pamphlets
  • John Burgess

A Week End at Dor Knap

Another guest post this time. I’ve reproduced a little booklet put together by Ted Curry of Harrow branch in the sixties. It documents a June 1961 Week End at Dor Kapp, Toc H’s Cotswolds Conference Centre between 1959 and 1979.

The weekend appears to be around meeting between members from West London and South Wales. I have reproduced it in full here (And in order, I don’t know why he numbered his pictures so randomly). Familiar names such as Mayne Elson and Jeremy Topham feature.

If you want to know more about the Dor Knapp centre you can do no better than tracking down a copy of Dor Kapp – The House on the Hill by David Encill, Ray Fabes, George Lee, and Lionel Powell. Published by Cortex Design in 2004, it tells beautifully the history and Toc H life of Dor Knapp.







Working With Offenders

The following two accounts were given at different times by two volunteers who both worked for Toc H in Norfolk (and elsewhere). The other common ground is that when they came to Toc H they were both serving time in HMP Lancaster. In those days, some prisoners were sometimes allowed to join Toc H projects as part of their rehabilitation and process of assimilation back into society. We were given the permission of both volunteers to use these stories. This is certainly the first time that John’s tale has been published and I don’t believe that Ian’s was ever made public either, though I am willing to be corrected if anyone knows different. I also no longer know Ian’s whereabouts but John, sadly, died in 2014. He was a good friend and a valuable volunteer.

I have applied a light-touch on the editing so these accounts are pretty much exactly as they were written.

John McGrath

My introduction to Toc H

In the summer of 1993 I received a three and a half year prison sentence for fraud. I was eventually sent to a prison with the unlikely name of Lancaster Castle which was in Cumbria. As fate would have it I was allocated to a cell with a guy who was doing projects for Toc H. Lancaster was one of two prisons in England that were unique in that if you were a certain type of prisoner (i.e. model inmate) you could apply to do this voluntary for Toc H. The other one being a young offenders institute called Deerbolt which was situated somewhere in North Yorkshire.

I must be honest and admit that I had ulterior motives. I mean being paroled for a week, sometimes two weeks to go and do a project for some charity, how hard could that be? I could get to go and have a drink and any other fringe benefits that were on offer. My work, attitude and behaviour were what you would call exemplary and I was selected to be given the opportunity to go and do a project for Toc H.

I was soon away on my first project which was taking a group of disadvantaged teenagers down to Lindridge House for a week’s holiday. The group were from the Cardiff area in South Wales so the eve before myself and a band of other volunteers stayed at a Toe H house in the centre of Cardiff, just by the railway station. I will always remember that night because it was so cold and the house had no heating or beds.

Our guests who we were looking after for the week were a mixed group. Downs Syndrome, autistic and able-bodied children.


John McGrath (right) with a guest on a Toc H holiday

The holiday was a great success and a great experience for the volunteers. I found that I had really enjoyed the whole project and when I was on my way back to prison I had this nice feeling inside me , a feeling that I had made a difference co these children’s lives even if it was only for a week.

I was impatient for the next project just so I could get that feeling back again. It was a bit of a downer having to go back to prison after each project but on the whole I felt lucky to be able to go and do these projects. The ulterior motives that I first had had now disappeared giving way to the immense fun and pleasure of actually helping fellow human beings who were less fortunate than myself.

Over the years I have done so many projects and I never get tired of it. After one project finishes my thoughts are on the next one and that’s the way it has gone. Of course I am no longer in prison anymore but I am still doing whatever projects I can. I once read somewhere that it is through change that we find purpose and I wholeheartedly agree with those sentiments. It is through my voluntary work that I have changed as a person and I have a sense of purpose. I have turned my life around and have never been back to prison since my release way back in the early nineties. As well as doing projects for Toc H I also do voluntary work for a charity here in my home town in Liverpool (Team Oasis). So instead of anyone thanking me, I thank all the lovely people I have met through doing voluntary work. That is both fellow volunteers and all the guests I have had contact with and so enjoyed being with. Now I hope to continue and embrace lots more projects. I attended the Year Of the Volunteer Awards at the Theatre Royal in the west end of London recently and what stuck in my mind was that volunteering must come from the heart and you must have a passion for it, and that’s the way I like it. Here is to many more years of volunteering.

CSV Awards

Me and John just before attending the Year of the Volunteer Awards in London


Ian Scott

How did I learn about Toc H and what effect did it have on my life?

It was on the landing of Lancaster H.M. Prison where over the weeks I gradually gained more information. Little did I know what a week with Toc H was going to mean to me.

Well, Toc H meant a week or weekend out of prison on a project either helping disabled or land reclamation.

I was on a six year prison sentence, having served six months of that time I was still learning the rules of the system. I asked some questions, but felt quite down when I learned that I had to be at my parole date to be eligible. That was one third of my sentence! One has to learn patience in prison.

When out in the yard one day, I saw someone going out the gate who I knew was on a Toc H project. My first thoughts of Toc H was solely to get out of prison. I had no inkling of the impact it was going to have on me. Twelve months after that I was on a Toc H project.

The person mentioned above blew it. He also lost his parole.

A prisoner needs to be very closely vetted. The governor requires a lot of accurate information in order to make the correct decision. He is taking a chance. Some see it as an opportunity to do a runner.

I got an appeal date on 2nd March 1993, where I had my sentence reduced to 4 years. In my fourteen months in prison this was my best day. This meant my parole date was only two months away. I was buzzing.

After serving sixteen months a prison officer asked me if I would like to go out on a Toc H project, and I said ‘yes’.

As that time I was leaving the prison daily to work in the local hospital maintaining the hospital trolleys. I felt this was proving I was a suitable candidate for a Toc H project and parole. At that time I was waiting for a parole answer.

Then Linda Jones a prison officer concerned with the employment of prisoners, asked me if I would like to go on a Toc H project to a place called Hengrave Hall on Friday 2nd July. I said ‘yes’.

Olive and Alan

Olive Tennant and Alan Brooke

A week before going to Hengrave, Friday 25th June I was given a parole date of 14th July. I was buzzing out of my head. Suddenly it was all happening. I now had four days home leave because of my parole date, on top of my week at Hengrave Hall with Toc H.

The news of the parole was given to me on the 25th June while working at the hospital. Barbara Tolan a prison officer from Lancaster told me she had good and bad news. Good being my parole date with four days home leave. Bad being that I wouldn’t have time to fit in both home leave and Hengrave. There was only 19 days left.

I told Barbara to speak to the governor and ask if I could go on my home leave on Monday 28th June, back Thursday 1st July. Then I would still be able to go to Hengrave on Friday 2nd July. The Governor agreed and that is what happened.

Therefore on Friday 2nd July I set sail by train to Berry St Edmunds where I was to be met by Olive Tennant and an Alan Brooke who organise the Toc H project at Hengrave. I did not realise this was going to have an ongoing effect and change my life.

After travelling for seven hours I arrived at Berry St Edmunds station where I telephoned for Olive and Alan to come and collect me. Hengrave was a large Stately home run as a retreat and conference centre by the Catholic Church. I was made very welcome by everyone.

I was to look after a man who had multiple sclerosis. He could manage most things for himself with some assistance. I was very nervous. Everyone was great, gave lots of encouragement, and this in turn helped give me confidence.


A Toc H project at Hengrave Hall

I was doing alright. Olive showed me love and affection that I had not experienced since I went to prison. It was a brilliant week. The best week I have ever had in my life and I had only £30 in my pocket.

The project gave me great confidence to get on with my life when I was released on parole on 14th July. The people I met through Toc H at Hengrave will never leave my heart.

Our daily routine began early in order to wash, shave and dress ready for breakfast at 8.30am. Meanwhile Olive would be out in the grounds hiding wooden blocks with a letter of the alphabet on each. After breakfast we all went block hunting, the only rule being, you had to have someone in a wheelchair with you. All blocks found were given to Olive. On the Thursday night before we left there was a prize for the pair who collected the most blocks and a prize for who guessed the correct rhyme about Hengrave from the letter son the blocks.

After lunch there was an outing in the bus to some local area of interest. The evening meal was at 6.30pm after which there was some kind of entertainment.

Leaving Hengrave on Friday lunch time for Lancaster H.M. Prison proved to be a very emotional experience. The week had been good for me. I told Olive and Alan that I would be back and they smiled in agreement. I think they had heard it all before but they invited me to the reunion in March ’94 of the following year.

I think at the latter stages of your sentence, before your release a project like this is a valuable experience of being amongst people again.

I attended the reunion in March and was invited to join them again at Hengrave in August ’94.

This time I looked after a lovely man who was paralysed from the neck down. Although hard work, another wonderful week which left me very happy, content and humble at how graciously this man accepted his disability. I have since visited him in hospital but distance is the problem. I live in Paisley and he is in hospital in Great Yarmouth.

1995 again saw me at Hengrave Hall and it will always have a special place in my heart as will all the reunions I have attended but it is now time for me to move on.

In October of ’95 I attended the Scottish Conference at Dunblane of Toc H and in the future I plan to become involved nearer home in Scotland. Working with disabled people changes your outlook on life. It puts everything into perspective and makes one appreciate the simple things that one takes for granted.

As I have said I think Toc H was a valuable experience at the end of my sentence. New faces, new outlook, new ideas helps build your self esteem. It is up to each individual, but for my part Toc H was there to help me at a very crucial stage in my life.

Two and a half years on I have built up my life again. I have bought my own flat (mortgaged), own my own car and have found consistent employment since my release.




The Women Who Knew Talbot House

Steve Smith January 2020

You may know that Tubby tried to record the names of all those who passed through the door of Talbot House whilst it was open. The most successful attempt at achieving this was by persuading those who took communion there to sign a communicants’ slip. These slips were preserved, carefully stuffed into a couple of empty sandbags, and all was well until German shells started falling a little close to Talbot House and someone decided to shore up the defences with a sandbag…stuffed with communicants’ slips. It was never seen again, or so the story goes.

So only half of the names survived and amongst those many names were those of just eight women. Most sources agree that these eight were the only women to visit the Old House during the war and thus, the only women entitled to call themselves Foundation Members of Toc H. Having said that, in 1930 Tubby said there were six and a few months late a book on Talbot House said less than a dozen. Alison Macfie produced the eight names in her The Curious History of Toc H Women’s Association in 1956 but perhaps there were others? Nonetheless, it is Macfie’s list that forms the basis of this blog.

It takes a glimpse at the lives of those eight women but for some context, let us first understand the circumstances that allowed women to be so close to the front.


Advertisement for VADs

Prior to World War I, the main military nursing organisation was the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service (QAIMNS) formed in 1902 out of the Princess Christian’s Army Nursing Service. The British Red Cross Society and the Order of St Johns also enrolled nurses for the civilian Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD). When the war began both these organisations saw a massive increase in membership although most of those joining the QAIMNS went into the Reserve as the army didn’t want to get left with a surfeit of regular nurses after the war. As a broad rule of thumb, qualified nurses joined the QAIMNSR whilst the VAD was a mix of civilians carrying out a multitude of tasks. Indeed, in the early days, the British Army wanted little to do with VADs and they either drove ambulances or worked in hospitals and casualty clearing stations (CCS) for the French and Belgian armies. As the war progressed, the VADs became more experienced and their contributions were much more appreciated by the military.

Additionally, the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry were a charity formed in 1907. Generally favoured by a less gentile and more forthright woman, the FANYs sought to serve on the front-lines and rarely took no for an answer. Initially helping in hospitals they eventually found their niche as drivers near the front line ferrying wounded back to CCSs and hospitals. A fitting role for what had started as a cavalry unit! And for the even more spirited suffragettes, there were units such as Mabel St Clair Stobart’s Women’s Sick and Wounded Convoy, and the Scottish Women’s Hospitals movement.

It was amongst these organisations that our women found their place in history.

By far the best known in Toc H circles is Alison Bland Scott Macfie, henceforth known as ABS, because it was she who established and for so long, led, the League of Women Helpers, the female counterparts of the original Toc H organisation.

Alison Macfie

Alison Macfie whilst at La Panne

ABS was born on Christmas Day of 1886 in New Ferry on the Wirral side of the Mersey. Her father, John William Scott Macfie, was a wealthy Liverpool based sugar refiner. The Macfie sugar dynasty began in Greenock but a branch opened in Liverpool in 1838 and was managed by John. The branch ended up on Temple Street, not 200 yards from where the famous Cavern Club would later open on Mathew Street. The Macfie’s sold out to Tate and Lyle in the 1920s, considerably increasing their fortune.

ABS’ mother, Helen Wahan was born in India to an army Major General and with her husband had nine children including ABS. The others included Marion, a well-known dog breeder and founder of the Norfolk Terrier Club; Robert, a renowned expert on Gypsy Lore; and John, a respected entomologist. By the time of the 1891 census the family were living in Rowton Hall, Rowton, Cheshire (Now a hotel).

Perhaps inspired by a Red Cross Society parade through Chester in September 1914, that November ABS joined the Society and began nursing at St John’s VAD hospital in Chester. This was otherwise known as the King’s Buildings hospital.


ABS’ VAD card

However by 1916, ABS and her ‘cousin’ Annie Dorothea Macfie (See below) were nursing with the French Red Cross at a Belgian Red Cross Hospital at La Panne on the Belgian coast near the border with France. The Ocean Ambulance – its central building was the Hotel de l’Ocean – was established by Dr Antoine Depage, commander of the Belgian Red Cross, with the support of the Belgian royals. Depage had previously appointed Edith Cavell as head of his nurses’ training school, the Berkendael Medical Institute in Ixelles. Under his direction, the hospital was staffed by a mixture of British and Belgian nurses and Queen Elisabeth attended daily to help change dressings.

Hotel de l'Ocean Private collection of Mr. Philippe Dequinze, Sambrevill

Hotel de l’Ocean from the private collection of Mr. Philippe Dequinze, Sambrevill

In the spring of 1917, relief nurses were needed in Poperinghe – a Belgian town 10 km from the front line under allied control and used for billeting troops – and the cousins travelled to the annex of the Hospital Elizabeth that was built in the grounds of Chateau Couthove at Proven just outside the town. Whilst there ABS recounts that on the 8th April 1917 “we were taken by ambulance into Poperinghe on Easter morning and there deposited outside the big iron doors of Talbot House……” She doesn’t expand on who “we” were although one assumes it was her cousin given that both signed Communicants’ Slips at Easter 1917.

ABS mentions at least one further service at Talbot House albeit in the ‘barn’ which was in the property next door but it is possible she attended Talbot House quite regularly whilst stationed near Poperinge. She certainly became very close to Tubby Clayton, the padre who ran Talbot House.

We know from Tubby’s own words in a letter to his mother written on May Day 1917 that ABS and her cousin were asked to attend a garden party that day to give men from each unit in the neighbourhood the opportunity to meet them. It was still a rare sight for the men to see English ladies at the time. ABS later returned to La Panne and then London where she sent packages of books, cigarettes and knitted garments out to the house.

After the war ABS was working at the West End Hospital for Nervous Diseases in Welbeck Street. She maintained contact with Tubby and on one occasion saved her hospital ration of sugar and took it to the team based at Red Lion Square with a view to reestablishing Talbot House in London. She was promptly nabbed by the Gen (Tubby’s batman, Arthur Pettifer) to put up a new lampshade and thus the work of the League of Women Helpers (LWH) probably began at that very moment.

ABS was, somewhat against her will, recruited to the first Executive of Toc H, which met on 15th November 1919, and thereafter found her life divided between her hospital duties and Toc H. The eight Foundation Women were to be the only ladies allowed to join Toc H until the men and women’s movements merged officially in 1971.

Soon afterwards Tubby acquired a job lot of ‘green curtains, army huts for the use of’ and they were delivered to ABS at the hospital where friends volunteered to cut and sew the curtains to size for Mark II, a hostel established in St George’s Square, Pimlico. Already Toc H was identifying a need for a band of volunteers to assist the men with a feminine touch. Yes, it all sounds rather sexist and a reinforcement of gender stereotypes now, but this was the early part of the 20th century and how things were despite the Suffrage Movement and the liberating aspects of the war. However, it would not be until 1922 that the women’s movement became formalised.

At a meeting on 4th July 1922 in Mrs Edward Horne’s drawing room, Tubby expounded the virtues of Women’s Auxiliary of the Church of Canada that he had encountered on his recent trip there. The formation of a new association was agreed and, though she sank herself deep into the sofa, ABS found herself on the committee once again. Of the other Foundation Women only Kate Luard joined ABS on the committee, the other members being largely wealthy and well-to-do women of Tubby’s acquaint, or wives of some of the senior men in Toc H.

ABS found the social work side of her new ‘hobby’ quite different to her nursing experience – so much so that she stop working in the hospital and went to work in a South London Settlement. Increasingly though she took a greater unpaid role in the work of the LWH in particular and Toc H in general. She lived in various properties on Tower Hill close to where Tubby had his ministry at All Hallows.

Maacfie at Tubby 60th Birthday 1945

Macfie at Tubby’s 60th birthday party

She travelled too and went on several tours of the dominions on behalf of the organisation starting in 1929. She was officially Founder Pilot of the LWH and used her skills and charm to entice new branches to spring up and new members to join. She was also a deeply religious woman and this was evident in her talks and passion for her work.

After Talbot House was reacquired for the Movement by Lord Wakefield in 1930, ABS was one of three Women Foundation members who travelled by car with Tubby to the House to begin the World Chain of Light in December 1930. The other two were probably her cousin Dorothea and Kate Luard.

On the 1939 register compiled at the beginning of the Second World War, ABS was shown at Crutched Friars doing Voluntary Social Work. She was also part of the Air Raid Precaution Casualty Services Unit. Then Tubby sent her to the Orkneys to become the Warden at The Pilgrim House aka Woodwick House, Evie where Toc H had established a rest home for sailors (and later other services too)

In the 1944 New Year’s Honours she became an Associate of the Royal Red Cross (ARRC), an honour awarded to a fully trained nurse of an officially recognised nursing service who has shown exceptional devotion and competence in the performance of nursing duties, over a continuous and long period.

From 1946 until shortly before her death she was back working and living at Crutched Friars House which was the HQ of the Toc H (Women’s Section) (as the LWH had become in 1943). She remained close to Tubby physically and emotionally appearing as a guest on his This Is Your Life appearance in 1958.

ABS with Tubby and Eamon on TIYL

Macfie appearing on Tubby’s This Is Your Life

Macfie wrote two books about the history of the LWH (Details at end of article)

In December 1962 ABS made what would be her last trip to Australia as she died on the 12th September 1963 at the Cottage Hospital in Swaffham, Norfolk. Her ashes are in an urn in the columbarium in the Crypt of All Hallows alongside Tubby and several other notable Toc H folk.

Alison House in Cromford, Derbyshire is named for her. It was a Toc H conference centre for many years but is now a private hotel

Now we look to her cousin Annie Dorothea Macfie – generally known as Dorotheawho was born to William Macfie and Mary Colvin on the 18th June 1884 in Clermiston, Edinburgh. In fact, despite their similar ages they were actually cousins once-removed;  Dorothea’s father was a brother of Alison’s grandfather Robert Andrew Macfie. William was also a sugar refiner and a fan of Sir Walter Scott erecting the well-known Clermiston Tower, in the Edinburgh suburb, in his honour.

Annie Dorothea Macfie

Annie Dorothea Macfie at La Panne

Despite belonging to a wealthy family, her childhood was marred by tragedies. When Dorothea was just nine her older brother Walter Scott Macfie was lost at sea, and two years later her mother died.

She was presumably quite close to her cousin because at the 1901 census we find sixteen year old Dorothea visiting ABS and her family at their home in Rowton, Cheshire.

Dorothea clearly liked to travel as on Valentine’s Day 1912 she was issued a passport to Rome, so it is little surprise that during the war she was prepared to go back to the continent. She volunteered through the British Committee of the French Red Cross who organised women to go to the French (and free Belgian) hospitals. Sadly their records do not survive though her medal card suggests she joined in February 1915. Presumably she did this alongside her cousin as they both ended up at La Panne and then in Poperinghe.

Communicant Slips

Communicants Roll slips for the Macfie cousins

After the war her love of travel continued with trips including India (1921), South Africa (1923), Canada (1925), Argentina (1927), Australia (1933), Karachi (Also 1933) and Tangiers (1936). These were mostly not only parts of the Dominion but also places where Toc H was being established though she never mentions Toc H on the manifests. Sometimes she is listed as a Domestic though!

On her return from India in 1921 her home address was given as Lexham Court Hotel in Kensington but by 1923 she appeared to be staying at her brother’s house Colonsay in Kingswear, Dartmouth. Lieutenant Colonel William Colvin Macfie lived in a stunning colonial villa overlooking the Dart. By the 1930s she was based at 7 Cromwell Road, Kensington where she remained for some years. William died in 1934 and she received £10,000 in his will, a considerable sum in those days. She got another £7,000 two years later when his wife Ethel died.

At the 1939 register she was still living at 7 Cromwell Road. Since there were many others listed with her of both sexes so it seems likely it was a hotel. Dorothea was listed as a VAD Quartermaster for the Chelsea Division so was doing her bit again.

Soon after the war she had moved into her own place at Thames Eyot, a beautiful complex of Art Deco apartments on the river at Twickenham. There was further travel to Canada (1951), South Africa (1952), the USA (1953) but after that she seemed to have to give up her adventures.

Dorothea died on the 28th November 1967 and is buried with her family Cramond Kirk Church burial ground in Lothian.

Our next Foundation Woman, Katherine Evelyn Luard, known always as Kate, was born to Bixby and Clara Bramston on the 29th June 1872. Bixby was vicar of Aveley in Essex and Kate’s early childhood was spent growing up in the vicarage. The tenth of thirteen children, she wouldn’t have been short of company. In 1895 the family moved up the county to the beautiful village of Birch near Colchester where Bixby was appointed Rector.

Kate trained as a nurse firstly at the East London Hospital for Children and Women then at King’s College Hospital, London working as a teacher and governess to find the fees. On the 31st March 1900 she signed up to the Princess Christian’s Army Nursing Service and spent her next two years in South Africa treating casualties of the Second Boer War. This must have been an incredibly eye-opening experience for a clergyman’s daughter from Essex! She resigned on the 19th August 1902

Once back in the UK we know she spent some time as a Night Superintendent at Charing Cross Hospital but by 1911 she had the more prestigious appointment of Matron at what was then the Maitland Sanatorium at Rotherfield Peppard west of Henley on Thames. The sanatorium was founded by Dr Esther Colebrook, a pioneer of tuberculosis treatment, in 1898. In 1914 Colebrook sold it to Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Councils and it became the Berks and Bucks County Sanatorium until absorbed by the NHS in 1948 and renamed the Peppard Sanatorium. Kate remained as Matron after the first takeover, at least until war came.


Kate Evelyn Luard

Two days after England declared war on Germany on the 4th August 1914, Kate signed up to the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve and less than a week later she was on her way to France. In August 1914 there were just 516 nurses with the BEF in France (Compared to over 6000 come Armistice).

Kate was officially posted to No. 1 General Hospital at La Havre on the 9th September but actually spent the day in a hotel at La Baulle. According to her diary she received her orders on the 13th September and a few days later got a train to Le Mans. In October Kate was posted to an ambulance train ferrying wounded soldiers between the front and the ports for treatment and evacuation and since this put her under fire she was entitled to the 1914 Star.

After a spell with a Field Ambulance from Easter 1915, at the very end of May she received new orders and was to be moved to a base hospital. It turned out to be No.16 General Hospital at Treport where she met for the first time “the little portentous padre” (As described by Dorothea Crewdson in her diaries) who had arrived in the early summer fresh from his curacy in Portsea to become a military padre. This was, of course, Phillip ‘Tubby’ Clayton who had “been splendid in getting the church started and people to come to his services”. Tubby claimed she was his first Communicant in France though we must always bear in mind that Tubby never liked the facts to get in the way of a good story. However Kate may well have been glad of his solace in July because on the 13th, her brother Colonel Frank William Luard was killed at Gallipoli.

On the 17th October Kate was transferred to CCS No. 6 at Lillers in France where she remained for just over a year, relocating with the unit to Bruay in May 1916. Whilst at Lillers she was awarded the Royal Red Cross. Also during this period, in time for Christmas 1915, her diaries were published anonymously by Blackwood.

Kate was transferred to CCS No.32 on the 11th November 1916 whilst it was at St Venant and after a short spell in stationary hospitals in the early summer of 1917, Kate was relocated on the 25th July with CCS No.32 to Brandhoeke, an extremely perilous location between the garrison town at Poperinghe and the frontline at Ypres. Kate was Sister in Charge of the most important Advanced Abdominal centre on the Western Front and had 40 nurses and about 100 orderlies working under her. In her letters home, Kate described the centre herself:

This venture so close to the Line is of nature an experiment in life-saving, to reduce the mortality rate from abdominal and chest wounds. Hence this Advanced Abdominal Centre, to which all abdominal and chest wounds are taken from a large attacking area, instead of going on with the rest to the C.C.S.’s six miles back”

It was during her time at Brandhoeke that Kate acquainted herself with Talbot House and met up again with Tubby. She was only at CCS No. 32 for a few weeks before moving to CCS No. 37 but what an intense few weeks they were for her. CCS No. 37 was at Godewaersvelde (Or God Wears Velvet to the English troops). Kate spent Christmas 1917 at CCS No. 54 in Merville before re-joining No. 32 at Marchelepot in February 1918 for a short spell. Her last turn at a CCS was as Sister in Charge at No. 41 (Pernois) during which time she had a Bar added to her Royal Red Cross. At the end of the summer she was at No.47 General Hospital and by autumn at No. 10 General Hospital in Rouen which is where she was serving at Armistice.

After the German surrender, Kate clearly felt her duty was done and she resigned just over a fortnight later citing the need to care for her very poorly father. Her resignation was accepted and she was allowed to leave France immediately on compassionate grounds. Given that she had now served in two wars on different continents, received a prestigious medal and bar and was twice mentioned in dispatches, I think she had every right to feel she had done her bit.

Kate Luard Resignation Letter

Kate’s resignation letter

Kate nursed her father for a few short weeks until his death in January 1919 after which she returned to her role as Matron and the Berks and Bucks County Sanatorium but before long was given an appointment as Matron at the South London Hospital for Women. The announcement for this appointment also said that Kate had been Out-Patient Sister at the Evelina Hospital in Southwark and Registrar of the National Union of Trained Nurses!

Around 1925 Kate obtained a position as Matron at Bradfield College, a private boys’ school in Berkshire. It was whilst she was working here in 1930 that her book Unknown Warriors: The Letters of Kate Luard, RRC and Bar, Nursing Sister in France 1914-1918 was first published.

In 1930 Tubby offered her some sort of position with Toc H but she refused saying she was too old, not religious enough, and with splendid candour – that she daren’t relinquish the salary she had at Bradfield.

Soon though, her health would get the better of her and she retired in December 1932 due to a bad back and went to live with two of her sisters in a house in Wickham Bishops in her native Essex.

Despite her health she still enjoyed travelling including a battlefield Pilgrimage with her brother (Edwin) Percy who assumed the living of Birch when his father died. Like Tubby, Edwin was formerly a Curate at Portsea though several years before Tubby.

In her retirement Kate gave talks on subjects as diverse as ‘midwifery’ and ‘gas’ to groups such as the Women’s Institute. One of her talks was entitled “From Mrs Gamp to hospitals of today” about the London Hospital. She was also on the Council of the Essex County Nurses Association.

However, it was as Commandant of the Essex 24 Women’s Detachment of the British Red Cross Society that she donated much of her time in the thirties. She retired from this role in 1939 but was made a Life President.

She died on the 16th Aug 1962 aged 90 and is buried in Wickham Bishop.

Now we look to Ethel Webb-Johnson who was born in the Potteries to the man who was the Medical Officer for Health for Stoke on Trent, Samuel Johnson, and his wife Julia Ann Webb. Ethel was born on the 8th September 1881 and baptised at St. Peter Ad Vincula a month later. By 1891 her father was in general practice and the family were living in Hill Street, Stoke.

In January 1897 Ethel started at Orme’s Girl’s School in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire matriculating to Newham College at the University of Cambridge in 1901. She graduated in 1904 with a BA in Mathematics. Her father died in 1899 and although the family would stay in Stoke at first, they would soon migrate in different directions. For Ethel, this would be the West Country as from 1904 she was Mathematical Mistress at Exeter Modern School.

However, an academic career was presumably not what Ethel was looking for as between 1907 and 1909 she was at the London Hospital qualifying as a nurse. By the time of the 1911 census, she was listed as a sick nurse at the hospital though she was with her mother at home in Wales on the night of the census. Ethel was mostly known as Webb-Johnson professionally. Her older brother Alfred changed his surname to Webb-Johnson by deed poll in 1915 so perhaps Ethel and her siblings did too.

MDV Allen and EW Johnson

Ethel Webb Johnson (left) with her friend Mary Dorothy Vernon Allen

As with many people, the arrival of war changed things for Ethel. On the 1st November 1914 she joined the Royal Red Cross Society and was posted to France. Since she went early in the war with the BEF she was later awarded the 1914 Star. She worked at the Belgian Red Cross Jeanne D’Arc hospital in Calais. Established by the Belgian doctor, Dr Depage, who also ran the earlier mentioned L’Ocean at La Panne, the typhoid wards were run by Dr Alice Hutchinson. Hutchinson had previously served in the Balkans and had been involved with the Women’s Sick and Wounded Convoy. It was one of three hospital units effectively run by the Scottish Women’s Hospitals movement (The others were at Chantilly, and a mobile unit in Serbia) and were mostly run by women. Unbelievably this caused issues in some quarters as many men believed it was a politically motivated gesture by Suffragettes! In fact Hutchinson reduced the death rate by enteric fever well below any other hospital in the area.

In general Red Cross volunteers (VADs) were treated as vastly inferior to military nurses. Since Ethel was trained she clearly felt she had more to offer as on the 28th March 1915 her application to join the QAIMNSR as a Staff Nurse was accepted. She left the Red Cross on the 9th April 1915.

Ethel travelled first to No. 13 General Hospital in Boulogne where she spent a year, renewing her position on the 28th February 1916, and then on the 8th April 1916 she was posted to No.10 CCS then at Remy Siding. Here she would have received many wounded men on the trains from the front-lines. Now incorporated into the huge Lijssenthoek cemetery this was an incredibly busy area. It was whilst at Remy that she visited Talbot House with her friend Dorothy Allen during Easter 1916.

After a brief spell at Abbeville and No. 47 CCS (Beuval) in October 1916 Ethel was back at No.10 but only for a few days before she was forced to take sick leave in England. On her return on the 27th November 1916 she was posted to No. 3 General Hospital at Le Treport where she a large, acute surgical ward.

After renewing again on the 30th Apr 1917, giving her address as “Cricklewood”, East Sheen, London which was the house where Ethel’s widowed mother was living with her son Captain Cecil Johnson.

The autumn of 1917 saw Ethel at No. 4 CCS (Dozinghem) and No. 6 Stationary hospital (Frevent) before she arrived at No. 48 CCS in Ytres on the 6th December 1917 remaining there over the winter.

She spent much of March 1918 on leave in England but on her return at the end of the month was posted to No. 24 General Hospital in Etaples. It was here in June that she contracted the flu and spent a week as a patient in her own hospital. Etaples has since been identified as the centre of the 1918 Spanish Flu endemic so this may well be what Ethel contracted. From the 22nd June 1918 she spent several weeks convalescing the nurses’ rest in La Touquet. On her return to duty she was moved around several CCS and Base Hospitals through the autumn and winter before finally settling for a while on 19th April 1919 at No. 6 Stationary Hospital in Atwerp. It was whilst she was here that, on the 3rd June 1919, Ethel was awarded the Royal Red Cross (2nd Class).

Ethel was demobbed officially from the 18th July but her records indicate she was allowed to leave early on the 11th July 1919. Her dispersal address was given as Ravelrig in Inverness which was the home of Miss Barron, a member of the family that owned and edited the Inverness Courier.

At the end of the month on the 31st July 1919 Ethel had her investiture at Buckingham Palace being given her RRC by the king himself.

Ethel was now giving her address as 14 Raymond Road in Wimbledon an address she would retain until her death despite being abroad much of the time. This address was also used by several of Ethel’s sisters at different times so we might assume it was a family home used as a poste restante by those siblings travelling.

And travel, Ethel did! In 1920 she was a Matron at the British Station Hospital in Bangalore and in 1923 she registered as a nurse in London (The register was only introduced in 1922).

However, in 1925 she returned to teaching and became Vice Principal at the Girls Collegiate School in St Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. In 1927 she was promoted to Principal. During this period, in 1929, she returned to her previous teaching post at Exeter Modern School to give a talk at their annual speech day was presented with flowers and chocolates. She remained at the Girls Collegiate School until 1948.

Afterwards she volunteered at the Royal Hospital and Home for Incurables at Putney and died on the 23rd November 1960 ‘on the way to Putney Hospital’. She is buried in Hartshill Cemetery, Stoke.

We shouldn’t leave Ethel without mentioning the achievements of her siblings. It was an amazing family. The eldest child, Rosa Webb-Johnson was also a Red Cross VAD and ended up as Second in Command of the Worcestershire Detachment of the British Red Cross. She also founded her local Women’s Unionist Association and was President of the Welfare Clinic.

Next sibling along was Samuel Webb-Johnson who was better known as Cecil. A Captain in the RAMC during WWI, after the war he was a doctor in the Indian Medical Service at Dum Dum and later became an expert in diet for good health.

Alfred Edward Webb-Johnson was the most successful of all being admitted as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1906. During the war he was a Colonel in the Army Medical Service and was mentioned in despatches three times. He was awarded a DSO and made a CBE after the war. Alfred later became surgeon to Queen Mary for which he was knighted in 1936, given a baronetcy in 1945 and raised to the peerage in 1948.

Alice Mabel Webb-Johnson became a teacher teaching music

Younger sister Kathleen also a Red Cross VAD and in 1939 Secretary Guild Social Welfare

Norah Millicent Webb-Johnson was yet another VAD

Whilst Stanley avoided medicine he worked in law and was a legal adviser to the Indian government.

Our next nurse, Dorothy France, was born on that rare day of the 29th February, in her case in 1888, in Gateshead to George Thornton France and Harriet Lucy Stogdon, France’s second wife. Mr France managed a chemical works and was also a local magistrate. A large family, they lived next door to the Rectory of St James but George died in 1902 when Dorothy was only 14 and her mother appears to have moved to Norfolk shortly afterwards.

Certainly at the 1911 census the widow Harriet was living at North Hall Farm, Warham in North Norfolk (Although the following year she was shown living at the hall itself with a Mr Groom at the farm). However, at the census Dorothy was no longer living at home and her address was given as the Queen’s Hospital for Children in Glamis Road, Shadwell.

From 1913 to 1916 she was training at St Bartholomew’s Hospital becoming a member of the College of Nurses in August 1916. She was still working at St Bart’s when, on the 17th April 1917, she signed up as a staff nurse for the QAIMNSR. She was posted first to No. 40 Stationary Hospital at Harfleur on the 15th May 1917. In October she transferred to CCS No. 4 at Dozinghem where she remained until January when she returned to England on leave.

On her return to France she appeared to be quite transient spending time at Base hospitals in St Omer, and in Aire before settling for a while at Stationary Hospital No. 32 at Wimereux. Whilst here she was taken ill with a gastric complaint that led to her being granted sick leave until September. Her sick leave address was given as Northgate Hall in Warham, a slight variant but presumably the same place her mother was living.

Communicants Slips France and McAfferty

Dorothy France and Ella Maclaverty’s Communicants’ Roll slips

She returned to Wimereux on the 13th September 1917 and remained there for three months before joining CCS No.44 in Cologne. This was her last post before being demobbed on the 2nd April 1919. Her reports described her as an exceedingly good nurse. Her discharge address was Falcon House in Twyford, Norfolk.

Professionally we lose track of Dorothy for a while but she is still on the nursing register and continues to give a Norfolk address, latterly St Andrew’s Lodge in Hingham. This was also the address given for her mother on probate when she died in 1935 though her death actually occurred at Bears House, Hingham.

The following year Dorothy married – the only one of our eight ladies to do so – wedding Flight Lieutenant Christopher Musgrave at St Andrew’s church in Hingham.

During the war she appeared to relocate to the Metropolitan Convalescence Home Cooten, Bexhill where, since she is still on the Nursing Register, one presumes she was working.

Dorothy later returned to Norfolk and died at The Willows, Hingham on the 13th August 1965.

The first of the Women Foundation Members to leave us was Eva Rose Stapleton who was just 51 when she died in 1931. She had been dogged by poor health which made her achievements all the more remarkable.

Born to William Stapleton and Ann Hayden in Stratton on the outskirts of Bude in the first quarter of 1880, Eva would not be baptised until the 1st May 1887 alongside her brother John, born in 1878. Someone has written the 6th October 1880 alongside the Baptismal date in the register as if it were her date of birth. However this doesn’t tie up with Civil Registration of her birth in the January to March quarter of 1880. This won’t be the last time that the ‘facts’ about Rose’s life don’t quite add up.

She lived alongside the famous Bude canal and only a short distance from her uncle, Henry Stapleton, a shipwright and coxswain of the Bude lifeboat. Her own father was classed as a Mercantile Marine so the sea was clearly in the blood. Sadly Rose was only 15 when her father died in 1895. She attended Truro High School.

At the 1901 census, Rose is at her uncle’s house whilst her widowed mother is a few doors away living on her own. She would die in 1906 at the age of 63.

In 1908 Rose is collecting house to house for Stratton Cottage Hospital and by the 1911 census we start to see where Rose’s life is headed as she is recorded as a nurse at Royal Victoria Hospital in Bournemouth but in September that same year she starts her training at Bristol Infirmary. Rose completed her training in November 1915 and on the fifteenth of that month signed her forms to join the QAIMNSR. Her start date is on the 3rd December and on the 7th she joined her unit as a Staff Nurse. She was appointed to No. 2 General Hospital which was based at Le Havre for the duration of the war. In a piece he wrote when Rose died, Tubby says he met her at No. 16 General Hospital:

“Sister Rose Stapleton had proved my friend from the first days in France. When I reached 16 General Hospital at Le Treport she and Sister Luard were the first two who helped me. “

Tubby must be getting something mixed up here as he was at Le Treport in the summer of 1915 and Kate Luard was indeed there. However, Rose didn’t join the army until December 1915 and was still at Bristol Infirmary when Tubby was at No. 16 General Hospital.

Just to complicate matters, Alison Macfie says

“Rose Stapleton was probably the first nursing sister to enter Talbot House; her first visit being in 1915” and she “was at the Old House at Christmas time in 1915”.

Timewise this is feasible but Rose spent the first two years of her time in France at Le Havre, which is 150 miles from Pops! Unless she travelled there on a special mission, it seems unlikely she would have just gone all that way for a little R&R especially since she would have needed permits to get into Pops.

Regardless of the above, we do know that Rose worked in a surgical ward at No. 16 and that in May 1916 she took charge of an operating theatre, a role that required her to be a good administrator and manager as she would need to direct others in the theatre. Apart from a few short periods of leave in England, Rose seemed to be firmly fixed at Le Treport. She was there in October 1917 when she fractured her clavicle trying to adjust a light in the theatre.

In early 1918 after some leave she was finally relocated via Abbeville and No. 12 Stationary Hospital to No. 29 CCS at Grevillers and after a month to No. 14 General Hospital at Wimereux.

Towards the end of 1917 the army was facing a shortage medical officers and it was decided that some nursing sisters could be trained to provide anaesthetics during operations. Rose was chosen to be one of these trainees and did a course in May 1918 after which she started practicing her new skills at No. 7 Stationary Hospital in Boulogne and at the end of July went to No. 44 CCS in Berques. This is only about 15 miles from Poperinghe and is the closest she has been stationed so far. However she was only there for a month before being sent back to Wimereux to No. 32 Stationary Hospital in charge of a 70 bed ward. Although posted there for three months she actually only worked 35 days due to tonsillitis (initially diagnosed as diphtheria) and spent half of October into November on sick leave in England. On recovery, she returned to No. 32 for a three weeks before being posted to No. 32 CCS in Valenciennes on the 8th December 1918.

There was a further posting in February 1919 to No. 1 CCS in Mons and by now the end of her war must have been in sight. However, Rose clearly liked the life she was living for on the 3rd April 1919 she applied to join the regular QAIMNS though her application doesn’t appear to have succeeded.

Rose was now sent to Boulogne ready for demob but they must have changed their as she was sent to No. 10 Stationary Hospital at Remy Siding in May. For the first time she was stationed within walking distance of Talbot House but the house had closed the previous December!

In July she must have received the sad news that her Uncle Henry had died.

In October she was transferred to No. 24 General Hospital in Etaples but at the end of the month she was admitted to Woolwich Hospital (Probably the Royal Herbert Military Hospital) with gastro enteritis. Her address was listed as the Sisters’ Hostel in Boulogne but her nearest relative was given as Lady Osler (Friend) of 13 Norham Gardens, Oxford. This is Grace, a descendant of Paul Revere and the wife of William Osler who was known as one of Oxford’s greatest physicians and even the Father of Modern Medicine. Canadian born, he ran an open house at 13 Norham Gardens for medical students and their like. The connection between Rose and the Oslers is unclear. Sadly William Osler died in December 1919 during the Spanish influenza outbreak.

Rose’s own health was deteriorating and her sick leave kept getting extended. It seems likely that this was no longer just gastro enteritis and at some point she is diagnosed with Neurasthenics. Nowadays this obtuse neurotic disorder is believed to have been ‘shellshock’ or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) more often than not. In March 1920 her doctors actually stated that she had had a nervous breakdown made difficult by the fact she had no close living relatives.

She is discharged on the 18th September 1920 and her address is given as Rosewarne, Flexbury, Bude. Somewhat bluntly, a note is added to her records in 1921 that “if she applies to go back on the QAIMNS Reserve to tell her there are no vacancies”.

Rose clearly recovers as by 1921 she is on the Chartered Society of Massage and Medical Gymnastics and Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Registers as working at Selly Oak Hospital. Interestingly she is registered as Eva Rose Stapleton-Hayden tagging her mother’s maiden name on. She registered as a nurse on the 3rd February 1922 soon after the Register started. In the electoral register at this time her address is given as The Woodlands, Raddlebarn Road which is the nursing quarters for Selly Oak Hospital. She will later live at various addresses in the Selly Oak area. It would be around this time that Rose would get involved with Toc H Mark VI in Birmingham.

By the end of the decade it would seem that Rose’s health was impacting her life. She wrote a letter to the Joint Nursing and VAD Services Committee asking for help but all we know is they confirmed her QAIMNSR Service and Conduct but not whether help was applied.

In 1928 she was living back in Bude at the wonderfully named Cottage of Sweet Content so I assume she had retired from Selly Oak though according to Tubby it was 1929 when she left Birmingham to be a patient in the London Hospital. Her illness was incurable so she was moved the St Columbas Hospital (Home of Peace for the Dying) in Swiss Cottage where she died on the 5th July 1931. According to Tubby her ashes are in the Columbarium at All Hallows yet they do not appear in the lists All Hallows hold! Just another little mystery in this remarkable lady’s life.

Ella Jane Vincentia Maclaverty was born in Llangattock near Monmouth in 1880 to Alexander Maclaverty and Mary Eugenia TOMBS. She was baptised on the 11th July that same year. Her father had the living of Llangattock since 1875 and the family lived in the Manor. A wealthy family with connections to the Jamaican coffee trade, Ella’s siblings included Captain Colin Maclaverty who was prospecting in Nigeria when war broke out and landed in France as part of the Nigerian force. However he later joined the King’s (Shropshire Light Infantry) and died near Leuze Wood in September 1916, two days after his son was born.

Ella was a talented violinist but we know little else of her upbringing as at the 1901 census she remained living with her parents and had no profession whilst I have been unable to track her down at the 1911 census. It is with some surprise then, that late in the war, Ella decided to join the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. Surprising because the FANYs were somewhat at odds with the more genteel ladies of the Red Cross. It took them a long time to be accepted by the military as being of use and much of the rejection was due to their stubbornness and attitude. Originally intended to provide First Aid on the battlefields, early FANYs rode horses but by the time they arrived in Calais in 1914 they had switched to motor ambulances and, over the course of the war, they would move further away from their medical origins and specialise in driving and mechanics.

Whether or not Ella could already drive before she joined the FANYs is lost to time but we know that she signed up and started her service on the 18th July 1918 with the St Omer Convoy. This particular FANY convoy had been formed in January 1918 and had earned considerable respect during May with their heroic deeds. Then the Spanish influenza (Or Flanders Grippe as it was known locally) laid waste to the group. It is possible that Ella was posted there to help make up that deficiency.

There were 30 cars in the Convoy driven by a combination of FANYs and VADs, Ella was variously known as a driver or chauffeuse. She would have been there in August 1918 when King George V visited them.

As the war drew to a close, the St Omer Convoy provided cars at drivers at Hazebrouck and Poperinghe where parties of men were clearing the battlefields of unexploded bombs and shells. Dangerous work, the FANYs had a constant flow of casualties to get to the CCSs and hospitals. It is likely that it was during this time, the last six months of 1918 before the club shut down, that Ella visited Talbot House. The address given on her Communicant’s Slip is The Elms, Hereford which was the family home of her brother Colin’s widow, Geraldine Hewat.

Ella is another of those we lose track of a little after the war though she makes several trips to Jamaica. Although one one of the passenger manifests in 1923 her address is given as Chelston near Torquay, the following year it is listed as Breinton House in Hereford. This picturesque property on the banks of the Wye belongs to Major Dodgson, a nephew of Lewis Carroll and the second husband of Ella’s sister-in-law Geraldine. This suggests that Ella remained close to Geraldine after Colin was killed.

She is in West Sussex in the late 1920s because we learn that she is thrown into a ditch at Partridge Green when her car is hit by a van. She clearly wasn’t seriously hurt, or if she was the newspaper couldn’t be bothered to report it.

By 1936 Ella’s given address is Coleherne Road in the earls Court district of London.

Three years on and at the 1939 register we find her living on her own means at Battramsley Close, a large house in Boldre in the New Forest. The house owner and one of Ella’s cohabitants at the register is Dr Harold Des Voeux, a short, bearded man of French descent who was the first president of the Smoke Abatement Society and is credited with coining the word ‘smog’. His wife, some servants and some girls ‘in training’ are also on the register. One can only speculate on Ella’s reasons for being there.

Dr Des Voeux died in 1942 and in 1945 we find Ella living at the Vancouver hotel in Lancaster Gate though later that year she crops up at Sheffield Terrace in Kensington sharing with one Amy MacFarlam. By 1949 her address is Lowickswood in Tilford Farnham, sometimes shown as Lowicks Bungalow. She died in Haslemere Hospital in Surrey on the 3rd July 1956.

Our final lady is Mary Dorothy Vernon Allen to give her rarely used full name. She was born on the 2nd of November 1884 to Vernon Allen and Charlotte Wood-Moor and baptised a month later at St Peter’s, Eaton Square, London. The name she uses at different points of her life seems to vary considerably and she is sometimes known as Dorothy, sometimes as Mary, sometimes Dorothy Mary and occasionally Mary Dorothy! The use of Vernon doesn’t seem to happen until later in her life.

By 1901 the family had moved south to Petersfield though Dorothy was not listed on the household at the census. By1911 she was listed a nurse at Sussex County Hospital. She trained here between 1908 and 1911.

In November 1912 she travelled to the Balkans and became a nursing sister at a large base hospital run by the Austrian Mission in Sofia, Bulgaria. It is likely this was with a Red Cross VAD though I haven’t seen the evidence of this. It might also have been with the Women’s Sick and Wounded Convoy Corps founded by Mabel St Clair Stobart after she became disillusioned with the FANY^s. They travelled to the Balkans under the auspices of the Red Cross. Either way, she remained in Sofia until February 1913 then spent March and April at a Russian Hospital in Cettinye, Montenegro. After the Siege of Scutari ended on 23rd April, she returned home via Trieste. Dorothy held a deep affection for the Bulgarian and Montenegrin people.

Dorothy enjoyed a brief period of peace but was back in action within days of the Great War commencing. Although her Red Cross card gives her joining date of the 1st November 1914, she was in fact one of the nurses sent to Brussels with the first Belgian Unit of the British Red Cross. Organised by Sir Frederick Treves, Commander of the British Red Cross and the King’s Surgeon, on the 13th August, a party consisting of 10 doctors, 10 dressers and 20 nurses left Charing Cross early on the 16th August and travelled by train to Folkestone, across the channel to Ostend, and then on to Brussels where they arrived that same evening.

On arrival they found they too few patients to be particularly busy and spent the first couple of days sight-seeing. However, things changed on the 20th August when the Germans entered Brussels.

Dorothy, in her letters and diaries that are now at the Imperial War Museum, wrote that she was one of many English nurses trapped in Belgium. She worked at the chateau in Perke treating German wounded and then at a Red Cross station caring for British soldiers being transported to Germany as prisoners.

On the 6th October, she and many other British nurses were taken by train to Copenhagen.

On her Overseas VAD card it mentions previous engagements at the Allied Forces Base Hospital, Boulogne and the Hospital Jeanne d’Arc in Calais. This may have been whilst she was still in the Red Cross or possibly later – it is not clear. What we do know is that she resigned from the Red Cross on the 9th April 1915 and her official termination date was the 1st May 1915.

After this she appears to join the QAIMNSR as a Sister though I have not been able to locate her records in the normally reliable WO 399 collection at the National Archives..

We know she visited Talbot House with her friend Ethel Webb Johnson at Easter 1916. She may well have met Ethel at the Hospital Jeanne d’Arc.

Dorothy had already been awarded the 1914 Star and in June 1919 she was in awarded Royal Rec Cross 2nd Class. She was invested by the King at Buckingham Palace on the 12th May 1920.

Dorothy helped Alison Macfie establish the League of Women Helpers and was heavily involved with All Hallows.

She first appeared on the Nursing Register on the 15th June 1923, shortly after it was introduced, and remained on it into the 1940s. Her address was normally that of her brother – Major (Later Lieutenant Colonel Moor-Allen – but in later years was given as 19 Earl’s Terrace, Kensington which is where she was at the time of the 1939 register. This listed her as a State Registered Nurse and in the Civil Nursing Reserve (Corporation of London). She was sharing the property with the widow, Mary A. Holt, and Mary’s companion/helper Irene Smart.

We know she travelled to Canada a few times in the twenties to visit relatives but otherwise records of her whereabouts after the first war are sketchy. There was a further trip to Canada in the 1950s and then we learn of her death on the 5th November 1980 in a nursing home in Grayshott, at the age of 96. She was the last of the women Foundation Members to die.

Allen Obit

So there they are – our eight amazing women. And just looking at their records shows how amazing they were. And yet these eight are highlighted simply by the fact they visited Talbot House and were Foundation Members of Toc H. There are thousands of other women whose stories are equally amazing and yet, largely untold. Let us remember with gratitude their courage and unstinting devotion to duty. And with that in my mind let us finish with this poem by Sapper W. Brindle written in 1919.

Sapper W Brindle 1919 (Use at end)


Diary of A Nursing Sister on the Western Front – (Anonymous – Actually Kate Luard)

Unknown Warriors: The Letters of Kate Luard, RRC and Bar, Nursing Sister in France 1914-1918 (2014 edition edited by John and Caroline Stevens)

Dorothea’s War: The Diaries of a First World War Nurse. (Dorothea Crewdson)

A War Nurse’s Diary; Sketches From A Belgian Field Hospital. (Anonymous)

The Curious History of Toc H Women’s Association. (A.B.S. MacFie)

The Further History of Toc H Women’s Association. (A.B.S. MacFie)

The Christmas Spirit

Season’s greetings to one and all. To celebrate here is a rarely seen illustration by Queenie Dodd from the 1920 Toc H Annual A Christmas Spirit. Entitled A Dream Comes True, I believe it is meant to represent Tubby’s dream of Toc H coming to pass.

Now I’ve finished a family history book, I’m hoping to get a few more blogs posted next year. In fact the next one is well advanced although its a bit of an epic so maybe a couple of weeks yet.

I hope you are enjoying these little vignettes of Toc H’s long history. Take care, have a great Christmas and see you next year.


The Dream Come True by Queenie Dodds from The Christmas Spirit

A Sketch of the Early Days

Let me begin with a brief apology. A variety of different factors have stopped me adding to this blog as frequently as I planned over the past couple of years but it’s by no means dead. I have several features planned for the coming months and years but as we approach the centenary of the first committee meeting (The effective founding of Toc H, the organisation) on 15th November 1919, I wanted to get this one done and dusted.

This blog revolves around the cartoon reproduced below. At Christmas 1920 Toc H published an annual, The Christmas Spirit, to raise funds and promote the fledgling organisation. It contained contributed stories, pictures and cartoons by a variety of friends ranging from Rudyard Kipling to Heath Robinson and contained a greeting from Edward, Prince of Wales. It also contained several cartoons by illustrator Frederick Henry Townshend who contributed to Punch amongst many other achievements. Punch was a staunch supporter of early Toc H thanks largely to its editor Owen Seaman. Tragically, Townshend died suddenly on the golf course on 11th December 1920 around the time the annual was published. However, the subject of our blog is not a Townshend cartoon.

Full Scan

Sitting proudly on page 91 was a caricature captioned “Toc H.” At Home. It featured seven sketches of some of the people involved in the very early days of Toc H. The cartoon is reproduced in the August 1929 The Journal supplement, Ten years of Toc H and is described thus:

Some of the persons in the Toc H drama in 1920. A caricature by J.B. Melhuish from The Christmas Spirit, the 1920 Toc H Annual, the Editor of which was Stuart Sheppard (above – now Chelsea branch). “Shi” above was the first warden of Mark I, where “Mus” was one of the hostellers. “The Gen.,” seen wearing a favourite German hat, was “Major Domo,” with Sam Pickles (now on the professional stage) backing him.

These people were the pioneers who joined Tubby – or indeed substituted for him when he was torn in many directions – as the organisation fledged in such places as Tubby’s sister’s old flat on the top floor of 36 Red Lion Square, or in the offices of The Challenge (which Tubby edited) in Effingham House on The Strand.

Thus in one picture, the quality and variety of the early initiates in Toc H is admirably illustrated and I want to explore these men in more detail in this blog. I am going to skip over Tubby himself, and his loyal batman The General (Arthur Pettifer) as their stories are oft told. Instead I will focus on the other five illustrated and on Melhuish himself


TubbyThe General


The editor of the Christmas Spirit was one Stuart Morton Winter Sheppard, a cousin of Tubby. Both men descended from the well-known clothiers, the Sheppard family of Frome, Somerset. He was born in Dawlish in in 1895 to Henry (Harry) and Rita Sheppard. Harry, a scholar of Hebrew, would himself become a Toc H man and would be responsible for building it up in Cambridge.

ShepherdStuart served as an officer in the 12th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers in the Middle East. After the war he settled in Chelsea and became a solicitor. Tubby contacted him early on and persuaded him to edit The Christmas Spirit. This happened from the offices of the Cavendish Association at 8a New Cavendish Street. (The Association would later merge with Toc H bringing Barclay Baron into the organisation). Sheppard was also on the London Club Committee in 1922. However it was in the Toc H sports associations that Sheppard found his calling.

He started a Toc H cricket team which led to finding and renting in 1921 (From Eli Frusher) the Toc H sports ground at Folly Farm near Hadley Woods, Barne. Sheppard was also secretary of the Toc H football team in 1927/8 when they played in Senior Division 1 of the Southern Amateur League

In December 1922 he married Barbara Shepherd, daughter of another Punch illustrator, J.A. Shepherd at Charlwood church in Surrey. Tubby, newly inducted as vicar of All Hallows, carried out the service. They would have two children, Mary and David. David went on to become a well-known cricketer and later Bishop of Liverpool.

Sheppard died on 19th November 1937 aged only 42. His ashes are in the undercroft of All Hallows church.

Perhaps the most interesting character of the caricature is Sam Pickles. This charming fop of a lad was born in Huddersfield, on what is now an industrial estate near the Kirklees stadium, on 4th February 1894. His dad was a lumber yard labourer and young Samuel had several siblings. By 1911 he was working as a shop assistant. However, at some point he decided to train for Holy Orders and found himself under the Reverend Charles Neivell of Cleckheaton.

According to Pickles himself, he also began an acting career ‘running away from home’ at the age of 17 to join the Benson company. His first professional role was playing Old Adam in As You Like It. Then war broke out!

Like most young men of his age, young Pickles enlisted and found himself in the Royal Field Artillery. It wasn’t a glorious career, at one stage Corporal Pickles found himself reverted in rank for misconduct, but nonetheless he was described in Toc H literature as a “square built Gunner from Yorkshire”.


On 1st October 1918, at the age of 24 he married Helena Roberts, a woman some 13 years older than himself. And then, after armistice, he went to Le Tourquet, the first Ordination School set up by Tubby and followed him to Knutsford – his bulldog in tow. He was by all accounts, the life and soul of the theological training school in the old Knutsford Gaol but he failed academically. This, presumably, is how he and Helena found themselves snared by Tubby to be stewards and housekeepers at Marks 0 (8 Queen’s Gate Place) and  I (23 Queen’s Gate Gardens) in Kensington, and later (7th November 1922 to be precise) was promoted to Officer Commanding Messing at All Hallows House aka Mark VII (15 Fitzroy Square) under warden Jack Clark.

This was not to be his life though. At Tubby’s suggestion, Pickles had taken evening classes and returned to acting doing a lot of drama around the Toc H hostels. In 1924 he appeared in the London premier of George Bernard Shaw’s St Joan alongside Sybil Thorndike and Raymond Massey (and a 14 year old Jack Hawkins).

He won a scholarship at RADA and graduated in 1925 alongside John Gielgud (Who was later involved with the Toc H Drama League), Charles Lloyd-Pack, and Alan Napier, amongst others.

It was Napier, most famous for playing the butler Alfred Pennyworth in the sixties TV series Batman, who adds a twist to the tale of Sam Pickles. In his autobiography Napier notes that Pickles was somewhat older than the rest of the class and also described him as a “pixie with more attractiveness than talent”. Nonetheless, he found him the most palatable of his contemporaries and they shared a flat at 37 Belgrave Road in Pimlico. Here Napier observed that Pickles had a wife much older than himself who “looked in from time to time” but was quite clear that Pickles was in fact gay.

Now whether that had any bearing on his subsequent career moves is unclear but initially Pickles seemed to find most of his work up north. In between plays he cleaned windows at Collinson’s Cafes in Leeds and took other less pleasing jobs. More significantly, he says at the suggestion of Sybil Thorndike, Sam Pickles changed his name to Peter Ridgeway in a bid to be taken more seriously. It seemed to work for he appeared in several plays during the late 20s and early 30s even sharing the boards with a young Laurence Olivier in 1925. He toured Egypt with Thorndike and also dramatized two books himself. In June 1931, his wife Helena died and whilst his IMDB entry shows him married to one Mary Christiansen, I find no evidence to support this.

Probably Pickles/Ridgeway’s most significant contribution to the acting world was the founding of a small club called the Playroom Six in 1927. This moved premises and changed names several times before becoming the Player’s Theatre in 1936, a famous music hall co-founded with Leonard Sachs, that still exists to this day.

Perhaps our Mr Pickles may have achieved more but he was sadly taken by TB on 21st November 1938. He was only 44 years old.

Sam PicklesPeter Ridgeway aka Sam Pickles










Whilst Lieutenant E.G. White of the Queen’s Westminster Rifles held the fort for Tubby administratively whilst he was still at Knutsford, it was Commander George Pritzler Green, Royal Navy Retired, who took over from White to be Office Boy/General Factotum at Toc H HQ alongside the newly free Tubby and William Musters. He was also the first naval member of the newly minted association.

His tenure was short. Arriving in 1920, the following year Tubby asked him to go and see some former soldiers confined to the Ministry of Pensions Hospital in Ducane Road, Shepherds Bush (Now the site of Hammersmith Hospital). Green obliged and decided to stay there moving into a side ward and acting as an errand boy and friend to the inmates until his own ill-health forced him to retire to Lewes.

Green 2Green was born in Charlton on 12 November 1881 to a shipbuilding father Henry, later MP for Charlton. The sea was clearly in his blood and he enlisted in the Royal Navy in January 1896. He progressed through the officer ranks becoming a Sub Lieutenant in 1901, a full Lieutenant two years later and Lieutenant Commander in September 1911. He retired of his own desire just two months after this promotion.

In July 1913 he married Isabel Carwithen Richardson in Ledbury.


He came out of retirement in August 1914 to serve in the war, initially on HMS Glory in the Mediterranean. In 1916 he transferred to HMS Valerian, a newly launched minesweeper, and in 1917 was promoted to Acting Commander aboard HMS Hannibal, a depot ship stationed in Egypt.

Shortly after Armistice he requested immediate repatriation due to private family matters and in June 1919 he reverted to the retired list. He was promoted to a full Commander (Retired) as a reward for his war work. It must have been shortly after this that Tubby ‘acquired’ him for Toc H.

After his brief stay with Toc H, Tubby seems to lose track of his Commander bar a brief written reunion in 1935. What we know of the rest of his life, largely relates to a naval career once again resurrected by war.

On 29 August 1939 Green was assigned to HMS President, the land based naval establishment overlooking Tower Bridge that was the home of the Royal Naval Reserve, for Special Service. Shortly afterwards, at the time of the 1939 register, he was living in Manchester Hotel in the City of London alongside another retired naval officer Robert Buchanan. In 1943, Green had his shoulder injured when he was run down by a car. On 14 June, 1944 he was reverted to the Retired List on compassionate grounds.

His wife died in 1952 and Green himself died on 20th November 1961.

Like Pickles, Major Herbert Shiner DSO MC, was one of the earliest hostellers. He lived in the flat at 36 Red Lion Square (Sometimes known retrospectively as Mark 00) and established the short-lived Mark 0 (Again an ex post facto nomenclature) at 8 Queen’s Gate Place before becoming the first warden of Mark I. It was not for nothing that Melhuish annotates his caricature with the words “The host in himself.”



Shiner was born on 4th July 1890 in Bethnal Green. By the time of the 1911 census, he was an acting Bombardier with the 35th Heavy Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery and was billeted at Fort Nelson near Fareham. He later transferred to the reserves and on 9th December 1912 joined the Metropolitan Police as a Constable. When war broke out he was mobilised as a Bombardier before being commissioned in 1915. That same year he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. In 1917, now with the 154th Heavy Battery, he was promoted to acting Major and the following year received the Military Cross for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty”. He left the Metropolitan Police in September 1917 and in 1919 accepted a permanent commission in the RGA. Shiner was a Battery commander at Poperinge and knew Tubby (and the Old House) well.

He married Elizabeth Trimmer in 1921 but retained his links with Toc H being a major player in the Petworth area in Sussex where he now lived at Coldharbour Farm near Pulborough. Shiner became a councillor for West Sussex County Council in 1928. In 1932 was chairman of the West Sussex Education Committee. A school was later named for him. He was also chair of Petworth Rural District Council for some years.

Elizabeth died in 1935. During the war Shiner was a member of the council’s War Emergency Committee and also served on the headquarter staff of the Home Guard. He became chairman of the West Sussex County Council in 1946, a position he retained until shortly before his death. He was made a Deputy Lieutenant of West Sussex in 1949 and knighted the following year. He died on 1 August 1962 in the London Clinic.



And so to Laidlay. Unfortunately I have so little to go on. The caricature just labels him as “Tenner” voice and Baron later describes him as “A Mark I hosteller who helped with the appeal”. I do not see his name in later records of Toc H and without so much as a first name to assist, my quest seems almost impossible. And yet, it is not that common a name. Even Google keeps asking me if I mean Laidlaw. Johnny Ernest Laidlay was a well-known Scottish amateur golfer who had two sons who might just have been about the right age and yet…’s like looking for a needle in a haystack when I haven’t even found the haystack yet. Although, there is this chap.

John Melville Lauriston Laidlay was born on 15th January 1900 in Cheshire to Edward Collinson and Beatrice May Laidlay. His elder brother Edward Christopher became a vicar. On 17th September 1915 Laidlay signed up to the army giving his date of birth as 15th January 1897 thus making him old enough to enlist. At 5’ 8½” he is tall enough to pass for 18 and is accepted into the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Royal Gloucester Hussars Yeomanry, a Territorial or part-time force. Without being deployed overseas, Laidlay is discharged on 1st August 1916 for “having made a misstatement as to age on enlistment”.


The following year he applied to the Royal Flying Corps and on 28th October 1917 was temporarily assigned to the Naval wing as a Pilot Flying Officer based at Greenwich. In January 2018 he was transferred to Redcar and thence to RAF Manston in Kent. On the formation of the RAF on the 1st April 1918 Laidlay was appointed 2nd Lieutenant and transferred to Cranwell before being discharged at the end of May.

By 1920, when – if this is our man – he was purloined by Tubby, he was living in Highgate. We know this because in February he was fined 15 shillings for “motoring at a speed of over 20 miles an hour in Hampstead Lane” and his Highgate address was given in the newspaper.

We know from Baron that our Laidlay lived in the hostel Mark I during 1920 and J M L Laidlay was living in similar accommodation at the Connaught Club near Marble Arch by 1923 which suggests to me the lifestyle suited them and they might be the same person.

By 1930, whilst still living at the Connaught Club, he is listed as an actor (Another one!) as he travels firstly to Canada and the US then to New Zealand.

He married Marjorie Rix Carter in 1937 in Honiton, Devon and at the 1939 register was living by private means in Torquay. After the war, when he was put on the Royal Navy reserve list, things get a little cloudy. Laidlay continues to make overseas trips and is listed as living in Wellington, New Zealand as early as 1949. Marjorie does not appear to be with him and it seems they may have separated. His job is listed variously as an accountant and a journalist. He moves around New Zealand during the sixties and died there in 1972.

Is it him, perhaps….he is the best candidate I could find. Maybe one day I will be able to prove it.

And so what of the man who provided the illustration. John Barradale Melhuish himself. Known as Mel, he was an illustrator for such periodicals as The Tatler and Sporting Life as well as for the Evening Standard. His speciality was sport and his cartoons help plot the great sporting events and heroes of the first half of the twentieth century. The caricature style both flatters and lampoons at the same time and I must be careful not to fill this blog with his wonderful sketches. If they aren’t yet collected together in a book then they really should be.

Melhuish was born in Exeter on 9th January 1893. By the time of the 1911 census he was a trainee at an auctioneers in Leicester which is why, when he enlisted, it was into the Leicestershire regiment where he rose from Private to Lance Corporal before being commissioned in August 1915. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant and was awarded the Croix de Guerre and an MBE in 1919.

Melhuish WWI


He found time to marry Doreen Armstrong at All Saints, Clayton Park, Hackney in February 1917 though they divorced in 1932 and he married Violet Digby, an actress, the following year.

mel and mrs J B Melhuish in 1934 in fancy dress

At the time of the 1939 register they were living in St Ives, Huntingdonshire and Melhuish was recommissioned for the war. He was relinquished in 1945 on account of a disability.


portrait of mel in oils by james proudfoot 1940

He died on 22nd March 1965

And that’s it. A brief run through the lives of a handful of the characters that made up early Toc H. And over the next 100 years there would be thousands more interesting and unique people making up the merry band of Toc H. I know, many of them are my friends.


All Blacks

Pat Leonard Memoir

This memoir was originally written by Pat’s son-in-law, Philip Leonard Johnson, in 1968. In 2010 Philip and I digitised it to coincide with the publication of Pat’s diaries, The Fighting Padre. It did live on the internet for a time but had no permanent home. This blog now seems like a good place to hold it. Click the photo to open.


A symbol of Home and Friendship

As I continue my research into various aspects of Toc H, from time to time I unearth some interesting works by other people that relate to the Movement. Recently I ended up on a website largely dedicated to the men from the UK who served with General Custer at the battle of Little Big Horn where I came across an incredibly detailed and enlightening article about Toc H’s presence in the Orkney Islands during the Second World War. The original article was written for The Orkney View magazine in 1995 but subsequently appeared on the Men With Custer website. You can find out how a Toc H article appears on such a website and read a lot more fascinating non-Toc H pieces here

The author of the piece and webmaster for Men With Custer – Peter Russell – has kindly given permission for me to reproduce his article on my One Hundred Years of Toc H site and it appears below. I am very grateful for Peter’s generosity. I hope that it will be the first of several other guest articles as this site builds up a collection of insights into the long history of Toc H.


Toc H was born in the conflict of the Great War a hundred years ago and its work of reconciliation and service has continued to the present day. Now as we commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War, it seems particularly appropriate to pay tribute to a small band of dedicated men and women who served with this Christian organisation in Orkney and created a unique ‘home from home’ environment for so many members of the armed services in their time of need.

Of all the places where Toc H provided at least some of the comforts and atmosphere of home for service personnel far away there can have been few where these were more appreciated than the bases and stations in Orkney. For the men from ships, at any rate, these bare windswept distant islands can have displayed little charm and provided no more than a godforsaken base with few amenities. The real Orkney was hidden away behind the hills surrounding Scapa Flow, while the treacherous Pentland Firth lay like a great gulf between them and all they loved best.

Toc H was involved in many activities during this period. One of these was a direct result of talks which its founder padre, the Reverend Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton, had with survivors of HMS Royal Oak on the day following the tragedy of its sinking at anchor in Scapa Flow, with such a heavy loss of life, in the early morning of 14 October 1939. He immediately realised the enormous need there was in so remote an area for some place of rest and recuperation for men who were suffering from shock, shipwreck or exposure, or who were not so seriously ill as to be sent south and yet were not well enough for duty.

          Woodwick House today

The idea met with approval of the naval authorities and Admiralty recognition was soon granted with facilities for transport and obtaining supplies, and the promise of a Sick Berth Attendant to assist in the work. A search was on the main island (actually called ‘Mainland’) and among the big country houses not yet requisitioned by the military, Woodwick House, in the parish of Evie, set in the most beautiful surroundings, was considered perfect for the purpose of a convalescent and rest home. There, were flower beds and a vegetable garden, and very pleasant woods which in the springtime were filled with daffodils and bluebells, and were home to many nesting birds. A trout burn, overhung with rowans and willows, cascaded down to the sea into a secluded bay.

Woodwick House was rented, furnished, for the duration of the war, and was equipped mainly through the generosity of the Pilgrim Trust, which also made an annual grant for as long as the house was open. In recognition of this timely and constant assistance in the inception of the scheme, it was officially called The Pilgrim House of Toc H. The Canadian Red Cross, together with allowances from all three services and the invaluable help from Toc H branches, all made a significant contribution to its outstanding success. By March 1940 it was fully equipped and ready to receive its first ‘patients’.

The length of stay varied, according to the nature of each one’s illness or injury, and it is difficult say in a few words just what Woodwick House meant to the servicemen in Orkney. It was the only convalescent home in the islands, it was in the depths of the countryside with no cinema, no public house within easy reach, and only oil lamps and candles to illuminate the dark winter days. In fact, it was as a complete a contrast to ship or shore establishment as can be imagined. The original number of beds, twenty-six, was later increased to thirty-four to accommodate the brave men of the Northern Patrol of the Atlantic and Russian convoys. In all, over 3,500 patients were to enjoy a break at Woodwick.

Alison Bland Scott Macfie, the daughter of a wealthy Liverpool-based sugar refiner, who would soon become affectionately known as ‘Matron’, was appointed as the Warden. Miss Macfie, a devout Christian, was a founder member Toc H and first met Tubby Clayton in Poperinge. Belgium, at Easter 1917, when she was serving with the Voluntary Aid Detachment in the Ypres Salient. In a quiet determined way she got her ‘boys’, the patients, to do what she wanted them to do. New arrivals were often greeted with the words: “Act as if you were at home.” To those who did not live up to the expected standards, she would say: “If you act like this at home, then act as if you were at someone else’s.” Her kindly manner, shy wit, sense of fun and natural reserve did not entirely disguise signs of a strong and forceful personality, and she held very definite opinions on most matters. Like many others during the war, Alison Macfie proved beyond doubt that she was the right person in the right place at the right time.

                Alison Macfie     

This gentle ‘saint’ was ably assisted by a Royal Navy Sick Berth Attendant, a cook, four housemaids-cum-general assistants and a gardener/handyman, who were soon hard at work providing hospitality for men and women from all the armed and nursing services. For this large family of many nationalities Alison Macfie and her staff created an ‘away from it all’ environment, with rest, good food and healthy recreation which was much needed at the time.

Matron ran a very tight ship and the patients were actively encouraged to go for a walk before lunch. One particularly chilly morning several of the men were engaged in a game of pontoon in the lounge and were decidedly reluctant to leave the warm and comfortable surroundings. In her characteristic way she opened all the windows, insisting that they get some fresh air into their lungs, and it was not long before the through draft forced them out. Assuming they were going for a walk, she asked them to take her dog, Magnus, along them, to which the patients agreed, and they set off for the shore. However, they only got as far as an old boathouse and then proceeded to continue with their game of cards. Poor Magnus was tied to a post, and when lunch time arrived it dawned on the card players that the dog, which had been lying down for most of the two-hour session, was not the least bit tired. In order to conceal their deception they took it in turns to run the little dog round and round the boathouse. Arriving back at the house they were greeted by a delighted Matron who was pleased to see Magnus panting for breath, and clearly well and truly exercised! Magnus, a mixed Shetland collie was, in fact, a bitch, and no-one knew why she was given such a noble and masculine name. This constant and faithful companion of Miss Macfie died at Woodwick House in the last year of the war and was buried in the woods where a small white marble headstone marks the spot. The simple epitaph reads: “Magnus/Good friend for 13½ years/1945.”

For a time whist drives were held in the lounge and were well attended by local people. Unfortunately the staff seemed to be winning most of the prizes, which displeased the Matron, who ruled that in future only patients and guests would be allowed to hand in cards. Not surprisingly, the staff soon lost interest.

There was no mains gas or electricity at Woodwick House and lighting was provided by Tilley (paraffin) lamps and candles. Lighting the lamps was a job for an expert and it invariably fell to the female members of the staff. For safety reasons the patients were forbidden to light the Tilley lamps as applying too much pressure could be very dangerous. Edith Harvey (the future Mrs Sinclair) and Ina Yorston (the future Mrs Greenwood), two of the housemaids, remembered this task well. First the lamp was heated with methylated spirits, and then carefully pumped to pressurise the paraffin. They gave out heat as well as light. Sometimes candles were placed in front of mirrors to provided extra light and on one occasion, during a spell of exceptionally cold weather, the small amount of heat generated actually cracked a large mirror. In time of war an extra seven years’ bad luck is something that they could have well done without!

                                  Woodwick House in the early 1940s

Although most of the naval patients were from the lower deck, at least one high-ranking officer spent some time at Woodwick House. An Engineer Commander of a famous battleship, often in Scapa Flow, having been brought low by a minor illness, was recommended by his medical officer to try a few days’ change at Woodwick. Rather reluctantly he agreed and duly found himself being transported in a state of some astonishment, and at great speed, in a drafty Ford V8 to a far corner of the Orkney Mainland. “What sort of place is this I’m going to?” he asked the driver’s Navy SBA: “It’s nothing like you’ve known before, sir,” was the reply. On returning to his ship a week later the Commander confirmed the rating’s view, and felt quite honestly “refreshed both physically and mentally and ….possessed with greater determination and energy in pursuit of my definite objectives.”

The first SBA, 25 year-old Denis Truslove, from the West Midlands, arrived in April 1940. On returning to Naval Sick Quarters in Kirkwall (the Masonic Hall), from leave, he was advised that “he had been volunteered to work at Woodwick House for two weeks or until more permanent arrangements could be made” – in the event he remained there until January 1943! Truslove remembered his time at Woodwick House with a great deal of affection and had a wealth of interesting stories about the happy days he spent there.

Many of his most amusing anecdotes centred on the heavy, wooden-bodied Ford V8 shooting brake, which was the chief mode of transport. According to Truslove, the tyres were the smoothest parts of this remarkable old vehicle, which nevertheless was capable of reaching 80 miles per hour along the stretch of straight road between Finstown and Woodwick.

There was little actual nursing to be done at Woodwick and much of the SBA’s time was spent in collecting ‘bodies’ from, and returning them to, Scapa Pier and running errands for the Matron. When other duties permitted he would take patients out for a run to visit various places of interest, often using Matron’s own car. On one of these occasions an airman asked Truslove if he would make a short detour and drive him to his station so that he could pick up some long-awaited mail from home. On arriving at the camp the SBA was invited into the canteen for a cup of tea, while the airman took his leave on the pretext of collecting his post. The following morning Matron informed Truslove that she would be driving into Kirkwall to fill up with petrol. However, as the tank was now virtually full, with the ‘compliments’ of the RAF, he politely explained that her journey would not be necessary and recounted the events of the previous day. Matron’s reaction was somewhat severe, though not entirely unexpected: “Petrol is brought into this country at great danger to help the war effort, not for dashing around the place sightseeing!”

On another day Truslove was given the job of getting the wife of an army officer, who was helping out at Woodwick House, to the bank in Kirkwall before it closed at 2:00 pm, and as it was already close on half-past one there was no alternative but to ‘put his foot down’. As they were approaching Finstown he noticed what he assumed to be bags or sacks dumped on the grass verge, To his astonishment one of these ‘objects’ suddenly stood up and began to walk slowly across the road. A collision was unavoidable but thankfully – for the occupants that is – the old V8 was fitted with a sturdy pair of bumpers and the unfortunate sheep was impaled on one of the curve-shaped overriders, which prevented a potentially serious accident. Needless to say the ewe was killed. The badly-shaken officer’s wife, who was pregnant at the time, scolded the poor SBA with the words: “If my baby is born with a sheep’s head, I’ll blame you!”  Truslove duly reported the incident to the police who took no further action as apparently accidents involving straying livestock were fairly frequent occurrences.

Several years after the war while on holiday in Orkney, Denis Truslove was enjoying a quiet pint in the bar of the Pomona Inn in Finstown when his brother-in-law introduced him to a local farmer as: “The man who ran over your sheep.” Before Truslove had a chance to offer a single word of explanation, the aggrieved man snapped: “I never did get paid for it and sheep were £4 in those days.” Clearly some Orcadians are blessed with very long memories!

While wondering around the garden one day Truslove stumbled across deep trench, measuring about four-feet wide. He mentioned his discovery to Miss Macfie who decided it could come in useful to store tin food and other non-perishable goods in readiness for a German invasion. She even went as far as to arrange for this hole-in-the-ground to be covered with sheets of corrugated iron and also chose plants to provide the best camouflage. Fortunately its usefulness was never put to the test. The nearest that they ever came to having direct contact with the enemy was the time they were involved in a very hush-hush operation of washing salt water out of a ‘captured’ German parachute in the Woodwick Burn.

                     The burn

No account of Woodwick House during the war years would be complete without reference to the near-legendary Dolly Dickson, the cook, who worked like a slave for the princely sum of £1 a week, plus board. In fact, Dolly was much more than a cook; she was a miracle worker, who produced the most tempting dishes out of the meagre collection of wartime rations. All the cooking at Woodwick was done on a large coal-burning range in the main kitchen. Dolly’s wonderful baking was done without any modern aids: she simply put her in the oven and somehow or other gauged the correct temperature and kept building the fire to maintain an even heat. A sailor from a destroyer wrote: “As to your cook, we are only awaiting her arrival on board before disposing of ours.” Dolly Dickson’s fame was spread through the Home Fleet, and far beyond.

The ever-willing Denis Truslove came to her aid at the time she suspected a rat was getting into her kitchen through the bottom of a rotten window frame. “I’ll soon stop his little game” boasted the confident SBA. His plan of action was, indeed, a simple one. Several glass bottles were broken into small pieces and then forced into the offending gap. “That’ll cut his corns,” he exclaimed. Alas, it was not to be, for the very next morning the floor of Dolly’s scullery was littered with hundreds of shards of broken glass. Clearly the ‘rodent proof’ defences had been breached. Mercifully – for Denis that is – he suddenly found himself on an unscheduled trip to Kirkwall and was, therefore, not on hand to witness Dolly’s initial reaction to his failed attempt to rid her kitchen of this most unwelcome intruder. Soon after, the window frame was repaired and the much relieved cook was able once more to concentrate on her culinary duties.

Unlike the Royal Navy, the other services did not make a direct financial contribution to the cost of running Woodwick House but, instead, supplied foodstuffs from their own sick quarters. The job of collecting these rations fell to the SBA, who would always ask Dolly Dickson if there was anything special she wanted. Arriving at the Army Hospital Centre on one particular occasion, Truslove told the sergeant cook that “We have some of your squaddies at Woodwick and they need feeding.” The NCO duly provided every item he had that was on Dolly’s list plus a few others to make up for those he hadn’t. Cook was delighted, Matron less so. “Truslove,” she sighed, “you should have only brought those things which were official!”

Two of the greatest friends to the staff at Woodwick House were Davie and Bella Rendall, from the neighbouring farm of Walkerhouse. They supplied fresh eggs, milk, cheese, fowls for the table, vegetables and more. Many was the time that they gave a lift into town, which were much appreciated when the local bus only ran twice a week. Tubby Clayton, who was chaplain to the oil tanker fleet, often stayed with the Rendalls during his frequent visits to Orkney. His dog, Billy of Badminton, a beautiful brown pedigree spaniel, was presented to Toc H, Orkney, by H.M. Queen Mary (the Queen Mother) and spent a lot of time at Woodwick House.

Another good friend was Mrs Mary Wood who did the laundry for the patients in her own home. It was a marathon task, all done by hand, as there was no electricity in any of the country districts at that time. The local Church of Scotland minister, Dr Alexander Campbell, regularly came for tea on Saturday afternoons. He was an accomplished storyteller and held his audience spellbound with his depth of knowledge of Orcadian and Scottish history, always referring to the early Norse inhabitants of these islands as ‘Vik-kings’, which was the cause of some amusement. The reverend gentleman was a most popular and welcome visitor: as a result, church attendance was usually quite high the following day.

Every so often a Navy chaplain would come out to conduct a communion service. On one occasion his chauffeuse, a Wren, had driven off before the good man realised that the communion set was still in the boot of the car. In the event there was no need for concern as the resourceful Matron was on hand to help and quickly produced a sufficient number of small cream jugs and a bottle of Beaune to enable him to administer the sacrament.

The Fleet Air Arm was stationed at Hatston and pilots honed their skills by flying Swordfish, nicknamed ‘flying bedsteads’, over the sea in the area between Evie and the island of Rousay. One morning a knock on the door of Woodwick House was answered to two airmen who enquired: “If it was possible to get a cup of tea and ring up Hatston?” They apologised profusely for their feet being wet which was due to the fact that they had just scrambled ashore, having ditched their aeroplane in the sea!

Woodwick House from an old postcard

Woodwick House possessed a greenhouse, which was a great asset to staff and patients alike. True, it faced the wrong ‘airt’ (direction), and was suffering from old age, decay and a lack of paint but nonetheless, it served a useful purpose. Being built against the dining-room wall it provided the first line of defence against blizzards and other inclemencies from the east; better still, thanks to Dolly Dickson’s ‘green fingers’, it was filled with a profusion of blooming geraniums and pelargonium’s, and clematis massed in one corner, and a genista to fill the other end with its sweet-smelling golden sprays all year round. And as the geraniums flourished so did the tomatoes, and the plant which seeds are noted for survival under even the most adverse conditions, was persuaded ‘to do its stuff’. It thus supplied some of the missing vitamins which an anxious Minister of Food had urged everyone to seek in a land where the turnip and the potato graced the table without rivals from November to May.

With much encouragement, not altogether disinterested, from various medical officers of the Fleet Air Arm, tomatoes were planted in orange-boxes, which were still obtainable in greengrocers’ shops. At the end of the first summer the net result of all the care and attention was some very good chutney, and the Principal Medical Officer was duly grateful for a small jar of it and the promise of something better next season, should he still be in the area.

The following winters were fierce ones, even for Orkney, and in a full gale on 12 February 1943, the crash finally came: the whole greenhouse collapsing with much noise of splitting timber and breaking glass. However, with admirable promptness and resource the crew of HMS Kingston Amber, just returned that morning from a tour of duty with the Northern Patrol, flung themselves into action under the direction of SBA Harry Greenwood, from Barrowford, Lancashire (who had recently replaced Denis Truslove), with old ladders, planks, oars, and bits and pieces picked up at random in the garden, pushed the fragments together, propped then up, and lashed them more or less securely in place with a new clothes-line just purchased for hanging out the washing on the drying green. In this hazardous engagement tin hats were worn by those who had them as a protection against falling glass, and all felt a sense of successful achievement, though somewhat dishevelled, when the job was done!

For many weeks thereafter the whole company shivered grimly at mealtimes, the bitterly-cold east wind making its way all to easily through the wreckage of the ill-fitting door to the dining-room. They also thought longingly of tomatoes. So an appeal was made to the Royal Navy and the Army for help. For a month or more they were in suspense – who would come to the rescue? The Navy! The Army! Both? Or (horrible thought) neither! Then the GOC Orkney and Shetland went to see for himself, and quick on his heels came the Garrison Engineer, who was followed by Andrew Kirkness, a local man, who did odd jobs around the place, and the Royal Engineers. Andrew was an uncle of Mary Spence, one of the assistants, which made it a pleasant family concern.

First, a day was spent contemplating the wreck, with the aid of cigarettes and cups of tea administered at regular intervals by Mary. Next came an army truck laden with ladders and trestles, paint, glass, putty and wood, and within a week the miracle was completed. The restored greenhouse was stronger than it had ever been.

At the last came an unforeseen problem. A pair of linnets had built a nest in the clematis just under the roof, and a pair of blackbirds had settled in the upper branches of the genista, each nicely sheltered from the Orkney blasts. Both couples were expecting families in the near future and had serenely sat on their eggs, quite undisturbed by the work which went on around them. At the completion of the job, the workmen, in a dilemma, therefore decided to leave out a pane of glass at each end of the greenhouse for the convenience of the birds’ entry and exit. Andrew Kirkness would return later and put them in.

A new difficulty arose when it was found that although the blackbirds would use the exit provided, they would not come home except through the open door, and much distress was caused if it was shut. Of course, the birds won the day, and the tomato plants had to do with cold feet until the time came when the fledglings gained their wings and flew out into the garden. Despite the early set back, that year produced a bumper harvest of tomatoes to brighten the bacon and embellish the salads.

Germany surrendered in May 1945 and, happily, the services being provided by Woodwick House were no longer required. That summer Matron returned to London where in 1952 she became Founder Pilot of the Toc H Women’s Association. Following a short illness, Alison Bland Scott Macfie died on 12 September 1963, aged 76 years, at the County Hospital, Swaffham, Norfolk, and after cremation at Norwich, her remains were deposited in the crypt of All Hallows-by-the-Tower, London, EC3. A small oval-shaped, wooden plaque, depicting the Toc H lamp of the Women’s Association is inscribed:


Loved and Served this Church


My Soul Doth Magnify The Lord

The words of the popular wartime song ‘All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor‘ were certainly true as far as two of the staff at Woodwick House were concerned. Jean “Neen” Harvey, one the four original assistants, from the parish of Evie, married SBA Denis Truslove. The wedding was conducted by Dr Campbell, who happened to be Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland at the time which, as far as Denis was concerned, is the equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury! Denis and Jean lived near Coventry, in the West Midlands. Ina Yorston, from the neighbouring parish of Rendall, married SBA Harry Greenwood in 1945, also in Orkney. Harry later became ordained a minister in the Church of Scotland, and he and Ina spent their twilight years in Perthshire.

What happened to the other members of staff? Edith Harvey, sister of Jean, became Mrs Sinclair; Mary Spence, from Costa in Evie married Gordon Linklater, a local man, and like Edith Harvey and many others named a daughter, Alison, in honour of Miss Macfie, Neither Dolly Dickson, from Rendall, or Willie Scott, the gardener/handyman ever married. Denis and Jean, and Dolly and Willie, passed away many years ago. The fate of the others is not known to this writer.

The noble motto of Toc H is ‘Bringing People Together’ and for five long years Alison Macfie and her devoted team did just that. To thousands of men and women from many nationalities Woodwick House, Evie, Orkney, was indeed A SYMBOL OF HOME AND FRIENDSHIP.

Peter Groundwater Russell

August 2015

Note: This story is based on a two-part contribution that was published in The Orkney View magazine (No. 60 June/July 1995 and No. 61 Aug/Sep 1995). An acknowledgement at that time was given to Mike Lyddiard, Director of Toc H, for kindly allowing me to quote freely from Alison Macfie’s memoirs and also to Ina Yorston Greenwood, Ann Herdman, Gordon and Leonard Linklater, Hazel Scarlett, Edith Harvey Sinclair, and Denis Truslove, who provided information and valuable assistance in the preparation of this article.



Wet Flanders Plain

Sorting through my research notes I came across this extract from Henry Williamson’s The Wet Flanders Plain I scanned a while back. It’s a lovely little account of his return to Poperinghe & Talbot House shortly after the war. I thought you may like to take a look!