28th Dec 1918. Christmastide at Rugby


It to many years probably since the message of Christmas, “ Peace on earth,” struck such a real note in men’s hearts as during the Christmas of 1918, which has just passed. For the past four years the Continent of Europe has been deluged in the blood of the flower of the human race, and the annually recurring message of Christmas seemed to many a bitter mockery. Now, however, the armistice has been signed, and once again peace reigns on earth ; and this fact could not fail to react on the celebrations just concluded. Everybody seemed to be in a real festive mood, and the old-time greeting, “ A Merry Christmas,” was given and received with its old-time heartiness. The shops in the town were well stocked with provisions, toys and gifts of all kinds, and for several days prior to the festival the streets swarmed with eager shoppers, the crowds being augmented by an unusually large number of soldiers, many of whom were spending their first Christmas in the family circle since the outbreak at war.

There was an abundant supply of poultry and game on sale ; in fact, the supply was rather greater than the demand, a number of fine turkeys being sold late on Christmas Eve for 1s per lb ; while several fowls failed to secure buyers at 1s 3d per lb.

The principal feature of the festivities at the Rugby Institution was the sumptuous Christmas dinner which consisted of roast beef, pork, mutton, plum puddings with sauce, beer and mineral waters. The dinner was attended, as usual, by members of the Board and other friends, vis, Mr & Mrs W E Robotham and family, Mr C H Rowbottom, Mr C G Steel, Mr & Mrs A G Salter and family, Mr F M Burton, Mr J H Burton, Miss Fenwick, Mrs Stimpson, Messrs J W Pendred, A J Holt, and C W Clayson. Several friends sent gifts, and apples, oranges, sweets, biscuits, tobacco and cigars were distributed amongst the inmates during the afternoon. The Chairman (Rev Canon Mitchison) sent cake for tea and this was much appreciated by the old people. Everything possible for the entertainment of the inmates was done by Mrs Dickens (the matron) and her staff, and a very enjoyable day concluded with an impromptu programme, sustained by the inmates and friends. Selections were played by the Salvation Army Band during the morning.

At the Hospital of St Cross everything possible was done to ensure the happiness of the patients. Early in the morning the nursing staff made a round of the wards (which had been prettily decorated), singing carols. An excellent dinner was provided, the principal viands being turkeys (one of which was sent by the Portland Cement Company) and plum puddings. Dr Simey carved for the men and the children, and Dr Hoskyn for the women. The service in the chapel in the afternoon was conducted by the Rev W F Stokes. In the afternoon the patients were allowed to receive their friends, and in the evening an enjoyable entertainment was given by the nurses.

Special services were held at all the Churches, and these, which were of a bright and hearty character, were invariably well attended. At the Parish Church the services partook of the usual Christmas character. The Rector preached an appropriate sermon in the morning, and at evensong the Te Deum was chanted to a setting by Stanford in B flat. The carols sung were : “ On the Birthday of our Lord,” “See amid the winter snow,” and “ Bethlehem.”


The unsettled and showery weather which prevailed last week gave way to more promising conditions, and on Christmas morn a light fall of snow gave a seasonable touch to the countryside, and the air was keen and exhilarating. Boxing Day was bright and frosty.


On Christmas Day the patients of the Isolation Hospital, Harborough Magna, had a most enjoyable time. The Matron and nurses did everything possible to make it a joyful festival. The wards were very prettily decorated, one of the chief features being the Christmas tree, from which the Matron gave each patient a gift. The early morning was spent singing carols, after which Father Christmas visited each patient. The rest of the day was devoted to playing games, &c.


CHRISTMAS PRESENTS have been sent to all soldiers and sailors serving with H.M Forces from this parish, including Street Ashton.

PTE H A WHITE, Worcester Regiment, who has been a prisoner of war since May last, returned home last week, and was heartily welcomed by his numerous friends. He does not give a very good account of Huns treatment of our prisoners. After his capture he was compelled to work behind the firing line, and lastly in a mine, with very little food. Although parcels were sent to him regularly, he never received one.

CO-OP. CHILDREN’S TREAT.—The annual treat to the children of members of the Co-operative Society serving with the Armed Forces was given by the Education Committee of the Society on Saturday last. Nearly 700 children accepted the invitation, and a most enjoyable time was spent. A capital tea was provided, and this was followed by a programme of vocal and instrumental music and a ventriloquial entertainment. A large Christmas tree, prettily illuminated with a multitude of coloured electric lights, was heavily laden with useful presents and toys, and this was stripped by the members of the committee amid a regular babel of joyful sounds. Mr A E Holdom carried out the secretarial arrangements, and assistance was lent by the members of the General Committee and the Co-operative Women’s Guild.

PETTY SESSIONS.—There was only one case at Rugby Petty Sessions on Tuesday (before Dr Clement Dukes), vis, a charge of being an absentee from his unit, which was preferred against Sapper Frank Cooper, R.E, 16 South Street, Rugby. Defendant admitted the offence, but asked to be allowed to re-join his unit voluntarily, and this course was permitted.


During the week ended December 21st an enormous number of troops on leave have passed through the L & N-W Railway Station. So great at times have been the crowds that even the spacious platforms at Rugby have been rendered almost impassable. Many special trains have been run from London to the North, and when there has been a sufficient number of passengers to warrant it a special has been run to Birmingham and district so as to avoid a long wait for a regular train.

An extraordinary amount of work has also been thrown on the telegraph offices at the termini and large junctions on the railways, the number of telegrams handed in at Euston alone amounting to between 2,000 and 3,000 on one day. The number passed in at Rugby was also greatly in excess of the normal quantity, and required the constant attendance of one clerk at Rugby Post Office to deal with them.

Another branch of railway work which has shown an enormous development during the War is the supply of cups of tea to the trains from barrows. In the early days of the War small tea barrows were provided, but as the business rapidly increased two of these were joined together by means of planks so as to form counters, and the number of cups of tea supplied from them must number many thousands.

PIVOTAL MEN in the building trade can now be released from the Army, and such employees should make application to the local Labour Exchange.


Among the first English soldiers to be taken prisoner was Pte S Beard, son of Mr Beard. 46 Murray Road, Rugby, who returned to his home last week, after having been a prisoner for over four years. Pte Beard joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1911, and after spending some time in Malta he was drafted to the “International Army,” which was formed to support the first King of Albania on the throne, and was so serving when the War broke out. He was drafted back to Malta, and thence to England. Three weeks after his arrival in England he was sent out with the famous 7th Division, which landed at Zeebrugge 30,000 strong. On October 22nd when near Ypres volunteers were called for to man trenches, while the main part of the Army consolidated its position. It was stated that it would be a forlorn hope, but Pte Beard was one of 250 volunteers who entered a trench, which they were told to hold at all costs. The fighting was most desperate, the English force being hopelessly outnumbered in both men and guns. Finally, after hours of desperate fighting, when 17 men were left alive out of the 250, they were forced to surrender, and the whole of the rest of the Division were either killed or taken prisoners. But they had succeeded in holding the line until reinforcements arrived.

The Germans stripped all their clothes off them, with the exception of their boots, trousers and shirts, and they were then put into closed cattle wagons, from which they could only obtain a view of the country through the ventilators. Sixty men were packed in each truck, which had not been cleaned since the animals last occupied them, and they were despatched to Gottengen. During the journey, which lasted three days and three nights, neither food nor drink was given to them. When the train stopped at stations the doors were opened so as to exhibit the prisoners to the German people, who spat on them and reviled them. On their arrival at Gottengen they were given some coffee without sugar or milk, but no food. They were also provided with rugs to cover them at night, but as they had nothing but their shirt and trousers, they were glad to use them as cloaks during the daytime until their friends in England could send them a supply of clothing. There were no facilities for bathing in the camps, but they were given a hand bowl and towels. No soap was supplied, there being an absolute dearth of fats in the country. For months they had no change of underclothing, with the result that they became dirty and verminous. They were not allowed to shave, and were also forbidden to smoke.

Pte Beard complains bitterly of the bullying ways of the German. “Son of a pig” was the usual salutation, and he has been beaten in a disgraceful manner with rifles, &c, when he refused to work for them. The camps were very closely guarded, a live wire running round them, but the prisoners used to be sent out in small working parties, and were compelled to labour long hours for very little money. Pte Beard tried to escape on seven different occasions, and managed to reach the Dutch frontier three times. But he never had the luck to get past the triple line sentries by which it was guarded.

Whilst he was at work in one of the factories he became on friendly terms with a young German woman, and he bribed her with gifts of soap and food out of his parcels from England to obtain civilian clothes, maps, compass, &c. He had passed an examination in steering his way by means of maps and a compass, and so he found no difficulty in making his way to the frontier. He lived on what he could carry with him and anything he could pick up in the fields, &c. During one of these journeys he had a very narrow escape of losing his life. Accompanied by an Irish soldier, he came across a large building, in part of which they found some trusses of hay, on which they slept. They were wakened by feeling the hay being mowed, and Pte Beard had the narrowest escape from having a pitchfork driven into his stomach. They jumped up, and found themselves confronted by a lot of lunatics. They had unwittingly found their way into a lunatic asylum! Pte Beard told his companion to bolt, which he did, and the lunatics then performed a dance around him, shouting out in German : “English war prisoners.” Taking advantage of their turning their heads to speak to some attendants who arrived on the scene, he made a dash for safety, and rejoined his comrade outside. Each time that he escaped he was given 14 days’ “strong arrest.” He was put in a small cell about 5ft. square, which was totally devoid of light, and for three days he was fed on bread and water. On the fourth day the cover was taken off the skylight, and light was admitted to the cell for 12 hours. On that day he received two helpings of very poor soup. He also had a rug to cover him at night. This was done every fourth day. The rest of the time he spent in total darkness, and slept on a wooden bed without covering. During the whole period he was never allowed to leave the cell.

Pte Beard consistently refused to work for them for any length of time owing to the long hours and brutal treatment, and was, therefore, continually in trouble with the authorities. The longest period he ever passed at work was on a farm, where he remained four months. The farms are built on the French model, the house and barns being joined together, with the usual muck-heap outside the house. During the time he was there he had his meals with the family, but the fare was very meagre. For breakfast they had coffee without sugar or milk, and an egg or something in that line. For dinner they had bacon or some kind of sausage, the latter being supplied in on extraordinary number of varieties—in fact, he says he could fill a book about the number he has seen. They had potatoes also, but he never saw anything in the shape of a pudding, nor did he see a piece of butcher’s meat during the whole time he was in Germany. For tea they had a sort of “mash up” of what was left from dinner, and they did not have supper. Unsweetened coffee was supplied at every meal, but the only tea he had to drink was that sent to him from England.

Whenever England was spoken of the Germans always said that she was beaten, but he and his companion had every confidence that Mr Lloyd George would pull them through. Although he was comparatively comfortable on the farm, Pte Beard got tired of the farmer’s incessant grumbling, for he said, no matter how much work they did, the Germans were never satisfied, although they worked 12 hours a day for the magnificent wage of 3d per day.

On another occasion he was sent to work in a foundry, and here he also worked 12 hours a day for 2d a day and very poor fare. There were some German women in the factory, for the German Government forced every woman to work, and he met with girls who had never previously done a day’s work in their lives. The foremen in the factory bullied the girls as badly as they did the prisoners; indeed, so far as his experience went, the Germans looked on women as their chattels and slaves, and treated them accordingly. Pte Beard spent three periods in hospitals, but they were totally devoid of all medical comforts, and the wadding and bandages were made of paper. Still, to give the devil his due, the Germans acted on two or three occasions in a totally different manner to what would have been expected. While in the Army Pte Beard had become an expert boxer, and one day he became so enraged at the abuse he was receiving from one of the German guards that he struck him a violent blow in the mouth, knocking two teeth down his throat. One would naturally assume that Pte Beard would have been immediately shot, but instead he was sentenced to two years’ and two months’ imprisonment, He appealed against this, and the sentence was reduced to one year and one month, and on a further appeal he was acquitted altogether. The prosecutor then appealed against this, but the acquittal was upheld, the court holding that he had received sufficient provocation, but he was considered to have been guilty of contempt of court owing to some remarks he had made, and was sentenced to 14 days’ imprisonment.

He calculates that out of his four years’ captivity he has spent 17 months in prison for refusing to work, &c. After he had been in Germany some time he acquired a knowledge of many words, and, thinking he would like to learn the language he applied, through the commandant of the camp, to Berlin for test books, which, strange to say, were supplied, and he became so proficient in the language that he was able to translate the German newspapers for the benefit of his companions. But since things had been going so badly with the Germans, he had not been able to procure any papers. Ha also learned French from a French prisoner, to whom he taught English in return. By bribing the guards, they also managed to get hold of the English “Times” fairly regularly, so that they knew exactly how things were going. He considered the railways far inferior to the English, there being four classes, the last two being totally devoid of cushions. The country is also wonderfully like England, and when he walked through towns like Munster or Minden he could have imagined he was in Birmingham or Leicester had it not been for the language.

Pte Beard earnestly desires to thank the Rugby Prisoners of War Committee for their regular supply of parcels, without which he would certainly have starved. So excellent were the arrangements made that he never missed a single one, and even when he was in prison they were kept for him until he came out. He also wishes to thank many kind friends for things they have sent him. He regularly received a supply of beautiful bread, which was sent from Copenhagen through the International Red Cross Society. When the armistice was signed the prisoners were packed into trains and sent into Holland, where they received every attention, and Pte Beard now appears in the best of health and none the worse for his trying experiences. On his return journey through Germany they were much better treated by the people, who all seemed very pleased to think the War was over, and not at all cast down at their humiliating defeat. Naturally Pte Beard’s feelings towards the Germans are the reverse of friendly, and he complains bitterly of the luxurious way in which the German prisoners are treated in this country.


Corpl F T Evans, Rifle Brigade, son of Mr W Evens, James Street, who was captured by the Germans near Cambrai on November 30,1917, has returned home this week, after undergoing most harrowing experiences at the hands of the Germans. He was badly wounded in the left thigh by an explosive bullet during the Battle of Cambrai. and owing to the retirement of the British he had to crawl as best he could to the German dressing station. He arrived there at five o’clock in the afternoon, and his wound was not attended to until seven hours afterwards. In the meantime he suffered considerably at the hands of his captors. Several of the soldiers deliberately kicked him, and others propped him up against a tree and knocked him down until he fell senseless. After his wound had been dressed he was placed with others in a barn and given a slice of dry German bread and a cup of cold coffee. He asked for a blanket to cover over his wounded thigh, but this was refused, and he accordingly had to make shift with some straw. He was subsequently removed to a hospital, where he was operated upon for two hours without an anaesthetic, the doctor and “sisters” informing him that if he cried out they would hurt him the more. After the operation he asked for something to drink and was served with a glass of water. Although he was captured on November 30th, Corpl Evans was not allowed the luxury of a wash until Christmas Day. After referring to the scanty and nauseating rations supplied by the Germans, Corpl Evans remarked to a representative of the Rugby Advertiser : “ You can tell the people of Rugby that had it not been for the food parcels they sent to Germany none of us would ever have returned to Old England.


Rugby, through the medium of Dr Frances Ivens, finds itself in intimate association with the first hospital in France conducted entirely by women. Dr Ivens is the third daughter of the late Mr Wm Ivens, of Harborough Parva, and at the outbreak of war had a large practice in Liverpool. This she gave up almost immediately after the opening of hostilities. The Scottish branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies conceived a scheme for supplying and maintaining two complete hospital units of 100 beds each to be officered entirely by medical women. A committee was appointed for the working out of this scheme, the moving spirit of which was Dr Elsie Inglis, of Edinburgh. The first unit parted for France early in December, 1914, and the second sailed for Serbia a little later the same month. Long before 1915 had elapsed the original modest proposition which had represented 200 beds had developed, and included two hospitals stationed, in France and three in Serbia, aggregating over 1,000 beds. After much consideration, the Abbaye de Royaumont was accepted as the centre of the work of the French unit. The personnel consisted of seven women doctors, ten fully trained nurses, eight orderlies, three chauffeuses, all under the direction of a head surgeon, Dr Frances Ivens.

The work and the responsibility of such a position in those early days of the German onward rush, when all hospitals were crowded and their staffs terribly overworked, can well be imagined ; and M Antonio de Navarro (husband of the celebrated actress Mary Anderson), in giving an account of the hospital in a book recently published, thus refers to Dr Iven’s labours on behalf of the suffering Poilu :—“ Here should be recorded the Head Surgeon’s devotion to her—at times superhuman work and her never-failing in times of unexpected complications. One could not but feel that any vacillation, lack of courage, or initiative on her part might have affected at critical moments the security of the institution itself. Happily she issued from them all with invariable composure. It should be [photograph] added that the unsparing co-operation of her assistants—surgeons and doctors alike—has been a notable feature in the unimpeachable success of the medical staff at Royaumont.” During the first two years of the hospital’s existence 2,508 patients were received and 2,872 operations performed.

A letter from one of the staff indicates the strain of the work : “ Day and night our chauffouses were on the road conveying the wounded men from the military evacuating station. Day and night out band of surgeons and nurses worked under the unwearing example of our chief, Dr Frances Ivens. During the first week in July three hours’ consecutive sleep was an inconceivable luxury, yet no one regarded her share in such work at such a time as other than a privilege. Certain it is that only by such assiduous labour were saved the lives and limbs of many of these gas-infected men, Twelve hours of waiting whilst the staff slept would have many a life and limb amongst the hundreds of soldiers entrusted to our care.”

The Scottish women wore uniforms of a soft-grey material with tartan facings, the orderlies were clad in blue cotton caps and frocks, the busy nurses with their flowing white veils flitting and out the sunlit avenues of the gardens, all combined to create of picture of singular charm and animation.

An amusing story is told of an Algerian tirailleur, a sulky young man. His long musical name was shortened to “ Sala.” On one occasion he was found at the head of the cold staircase on a chilly February afternoon, his dressing gown tightly wrapped round his naked legs. From this position of vantage he refused to move. The head surgeon was summoned to cope with the situation. Sala stood against the wall surrounded by six nurses and orderlies gloomily resisting all attempts to take him back to his bed in the ward. To the head surgeon he excitedly explained, half in Arabic, half in French, that the patient in the neighbouring bed had called him a pig, and he would not return to his accustomed place near such a contemptible Frenchman. With sympathetic agreement, Miss Ivens tactfully promised to remove the offender to a remote corner, and with the further inducement of a stick of chocolate, Sala eventually allowed himself to be coaxed back to the warm bed which he had quited half-an-hour before. His devoted Algerian servant followed him to the new position, and from afar they both ignored with oriental dignity the teasing French lad whose jests had occasioned the feud. Later on Sala was removed to a ward on another floor ; but even when out of night of his enemy he had not forgot their quarrel. One night soon after he was caught with a knife, which he confided was to be employed on his former neighbour as soon as he could steal an opportunity to reach his ward. But the opportunity never came. The doctor finally decided that he was “ well enough ” to proceed to his depot.

These incidents selected from many serve to show the splendid work this lady has accomplished since 1914. Little wonder that her services have been fully recognised by the French Government. Early in the war a gold medal was conferred by the French authorities, President Poincaré personally decorated her with the Legion of Honour, in August, 1917, and this year Dr Iven’s services were again noted by the presentation of the Croix de Guerre for performing operations by candlelight when under bombardment at the advanced hospital at Villers-Cotterets.


BATCHELOR.—In loving memory of Pte. THOMAS BATCHELOR of the 5th Royal Berks., who died of wounds in Germany on December 25, 1917.
“ The hardest part is yet to come
When other lads return,
And we miss among the cheering crowd
The face of him we love.”
—Sadly missed by his loving Children, Mother, Father, Sisters and Brothers.

GULLIVER.—In loving memory of our two dear boys—ARTHUR, killed in action Oct 6th, 1917, aged 21 years ; and HARRY, died of wounds in France Dec 25th, 1917, aged 28 years—beloved sons of Mr and Mrs Gulliver, Broadwell. “ Their duty nobly done.”—Father, Mother, Sisters.

SHEASBY.—In ever-loving memory of our dear son and brother, Pte. H. J. SHEASBY, M.G.C. Co., killed in action on December 30, 1917, aged 19. “ Sleep on, dear one, in a soldier’s grave, out in that foreign land. We often sit and look at your photo in the frame, and often picture your smiling face ; and better tears then flow to think that we have lost you, dear ; it is just a year ago.”—From his sorrowing Father and Mother, Brothers and Sisters.

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