By kind permission of John King, Author
The freedom of the individual was, not surprisingly, restricted during the war. Indeed, the Defence of the Realm Act had virtually suspended civil rights since 8th August. This extended to newspapers, but it did not stop the Eltham Times reporting the arrival of an ambulance train at Well Hall in the early hours of 29 August with some of the wounded of the British Expeditionary Force who had earlier gone to France, and their subsequent transfer to the Royal Herbert Hospital at Shooters Hill. Already the local newspapers were each week reporting a list of local casualties and were requesting that photographs of the deceased should be sent to the newspaper offices immediately. The dire nature of the conflict was now being clearly demonstrated to the people of S E London, and it was to get worse.
How did the Vicar at St Augustine’s react to the war situation? The Rev. Samuel Luffman had been vicar since 1902 and was much loved and respected. Unlike his opposite number at St Mildred’s, he was restrained in his war language. It was unnecessary, he wrote in the church magazine, to discuss who is responsible for setting Europe in a blaze; “but since we are at war and since we believe our quarrel is just, it is our duty to prosecute it with all the means in our power; we must do all we know to supply what Lord Kitchener asks for in the way of men and materials for the war”. He added that the community must also help to relieve the sufferings of’ the sick and wounded which could best be done by supporting the National Relief Fund and British Red Cross Society. A working party for the latter was in fact formed with Mrs Worters of Oaklands and Miss Harvey of Beresford House as secretary and treasurer respectively — both ladies lived in big houses in Baring Road — while lectures could be given on Mondays on First Aid and nursing by the local doctor, William Lansdale.
By contrast, the Vicar of St Mildred’s, the Rev. .1 C V Farquhar, was somewhat emotive in his sermon on 23 August, “We have tried to smile at the almost brutal and expressive opinions of a bureaucratic German press. We have seriously tried to love, but that time has gone. I can say to you quite frankly, I say it will full knowledge of where we are, and what we profess by our Christian profession, it is the time to hate”. Farquhar’s language was to become yet more emotive when talking about Germany, although he was not the only clergyman to express himself in this way.
Meanwhile the patriotic meetings continued. The Mayor made a patriotic address at St Mildred’s Hall on 31 August, and there was a crowded rally at the Catford Skating Rink on 2 September which was addressed by the Mayor and Sir Edward Coates. The Mayor of Deptford was also present on the platform as were W H Le May and the writer Marshall Steele, who lived in Amblecote Road.
Unrelated to the war was the opening in September of a temporary LCC school in Burnt Ash Hill and opposite the junction with Coopers Lane. The reasons for its opening are not clear but were probably due to overcrowding at Baring Road and also the need for a more local school for children of the workhouse families. The building was ‘temporary’ for many years until the 1960s when it became the Burnt Ash Day Centre.
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