The Great War At Home…

November 5, 2015 1 Comment

poppyThe following is an extract from an ongoing work by Terri Childs into the history of The People’s Hall and it’s predecessor; the Bridgnorth Early Morning Adult School. It tells of two young men connected to the school from Bridgnorth who went to war and never returned.

As 1914 marked the beginning of the First World War, the School had to report a decrease in the number of men – 21 current members having joined the army, as well as about sixty past members. These men were prayed for every week at the prayer meeting.

The Junior School was also depleted, by the calling up of Cadets and Scouts, but continued to operate with members of the Women’s School sending their children. They continued with what had by now become the traditional August camp.

The Women’s Class itself, however, was again on the increase – 100 rising to 120 during 1914/1915 – mainly mothers and elderly persons, who spent some of their time knitting and sewing garments for soldiers. Their regular meetings centred on the Bible and the application of the Word to their daily lives. A very caring attitude towards one another was evident with new members being visited at home within a few days of joining, as well as visits to existing members in their homes, particularly the sick. This compassion was also demonstrated when the members, having recognised that Mr Foxall’s health was being over-taxed donated some money for him to take a short break to restore his health.

Social activities diminished during this time of war, but the main part of the work continued. The Adult School now consisted only of those below or above enlistment age. Sunday Evening Gospel Services continued to be held at the People’s Hall during the wartime, with some inspiring gatherings being held. In the Summer the Open Air Services continued.

During the course of the Great War, about 140 Bridgnorth men who had been members of the Adult School had enlisted, and contact was kept with as many as possible. Members who were at home were each given the name of a member on active service to whom they promised to write regularly, and to uphold them in prayer. Letters were received in reply from the soldiers and sailors expressing grateful appreciation for the prayer and support.

The first Bridgnorth man to die in battle was Private Jack Greatwich, who was a member of the School until he enlisted. It was said that there were more than twenty five members who laid down their lives during this conflict.

One was Private Ben Sankey whose widow received a letter, which was shared in the School’s 1916 annual report, from the Nurse and Chaplain at the hospital in Malta where he died, describing his passing:

Just a few lines to tell you how peacefully your husband died. He said: ‘Oh, Sister, look at those beautiful stars one behind another’ then a prayer that his wife would be taken care of and his children protected, a blessing asked on his comrades and the sisters who looked after him. He died at 10 p.m. on the Sabbath and as his spirit passed away the bugler was sounding the Last Post. He was a dear good man, so sweet and patient through all his illness, and such perfect faith. We learned a good deal from your husband how a Christian can die”

Private Sankey was buried with full Military Honours on Monday May 8th 1916, in the Military Cemetery near Valletta on the island of Malta.

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One Comments to “The Great War At Home…”
  1. jan lloyd says:

    Hi Terri. Having grown up in the church, it’s been really interesting to read about the history of the peoples hall and the lives of some of those earlier members. My dad had told us of some of his experiences in the boys club, with the camps they enjoyed, but I’ve especially enjoyed finding out about the social interaction the earlier members had reaching out to those in need. Prayer has always been at the heart of the church and my prayers are with you as the new Wednesday club begins.

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