6th April 1940
Dear Mum and Dad
I feel very happy as I’ve had a glorious afternoon & evening out. Last Thursday I went to the Brethren as arranged, & attended the prayer meeting & Bible study afterwards. We had quite a nice time discussing `Suffering’ & the subject is going to be continued next Thursday.
Another soldier besides Walter and myself was present named Alfred Jones from “B” Coy & the Yarmouth Brethren, and after the meeting we received two invitations to tea. Walter had a prior invitation to tea today so Alf & myself went along together to a Mr Daisley (or some such name) & we’ve had a spanking good time. We arrived about 4p.m. at his home & the door was opened by man with a bald head & the nearest description I can give is to say that he was a cross between Dr. Beattie & Mr Sanders of Coggeshall. He made us welcome and I can honestly say that he’s one of the finest men I know. We got talking on spiritual things straight away. He was converted at 14 yrs of age & has an immense knowledge of the scriptures & while he was illustrating his points by stories we listened enthralled. His voice was soothing, his face pleasant, his tongue fluent & his mind was nothing short of superb.
He told us that he often moves among the Jews and often stands preaching to them & singing, “How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds” etc. All on his own, strongly reminding me of Mr Bardsley. The Jews often come up and ask questions, & afterwards shake hands with him. I can realise how well he can do all this, as he is never non plussed for an answer & can quote any part of the Bible in a most amazing way.
During the afternoon his wife & daughter came in. Mr & Mrs are both I should say 50-60, the man being slightly older. Soon afterwards we took a walk to his allotment on which his son works (sometimes). On returning we were introduced to his son who is the dead spit of Uncle Frank, & a friend of the daughter who is a school teacher. In fact I believe they both are. We had a lovely tea & you can guess what a change it was to have serviettes & saucers under our cups & dainty cress & ham sandwiches etc. We had a good tuck in and enjoyed it very much. Then we returned to the drawing room & for about 2hrs we sang round the piano with the son playing. These people are almost like us for the number of hymn books they’ve got. New Poems of Song, Alexander’s 3, Sundays Dillons Choruses, McEwans, Negro Quintet Songs, Celestial Songs, Golden Bells etc.
When we had finished we had another little chat about the Second Coming etc, & as I hadn’t given in a pass & had to be in by 9.30p.m., we had to leave. If I had given a pass, we could have been out till 11.55p.m. So we had some cocoa and a couple of buns each & said goodbye.
I’ve just received you gorgeous parcels and cannot thank you enough for the lovely contents. I can’t write to you all separately so will you please thank everyone who contributed very much, & tell them I look forward to a lot of happy moments tucking in. As a matter of fact I’ve already started weighing in & that’s the fact of practical application, which doesn’t need explanation.
The fellows in my room are very envious but I give them something to taste & that satisfies them. I’ve already given them an iced bun each, also Kenneth B. who has just been here on a visit. It’s now 1p.m. Sunday. When I write a letter like this I have to break off every five minutes or so & start again when I get time, so if my letters seem at all disjointed now & again, you will know the reason why. To return those fellows think that your buns are very nice. I’m leaving Dad’ chocs to last, as it’s such a substantial slab. Thank everyone too, won’t you, who wrote me a little note as well. Re. these tins, I shall keep them but as I’m so hard up for room & the Army won’t let you keep surplus kit. The little case I have to stow in my Kitbag, also all paper etc & books that I shall probably parcel some of my civilian clothes in brown paper & send them home leaving the big case here in which to pack my overflowing stock & these tins. So don’t be surprised if you find a parcel or so arriving home.
For you, mum dear, accept my great thanks for you kind words & loving thoughts. The pads & envelopes will come in very useful. You will be glad to know that the cakes arrived in perfect condition & everything in both parcels was top-hole. You’ve got some good packers among you.
I was very disappointed with the Service this morning. As I told you, the Padre has just been married, so another clergyman took the service & was absolutely rotten. Nobody liked him at all & his address was more political than religious. Thank goodness that the Padre will be back next week. At 2 o’clock this afternoon we have our little Bible Study with Walter & Alf Jones & perhaps a few more. Then I’m going with these two to tea at Mr & Mrs Davies, also Brethren people. The lady was present at one of Morris & Levetts tent meeting at W. Mersea & is a very charming person about 50 yrs old I should say. Afterwards we shall go to the Brethren, & return here by 8.30 for our Discussion meeting on `Spiritual Issues of the War’. So my day as you see is fairly full.
Re the Orderly Corporals work, we all have to take turns as Night Messenger & if the Sergeant or Corporal who acts as Night Orderly Sergeant wants to take things easy it naturally makes things harder for the Messenger. Nevertheless I had to do no more than anyone else has probably done.
Walter has given me his `Witness’. I share the Christian Herald with Kenneth the Salvationist, who contrary to what I had been told is a fine Christian & is very unselfish. The gave me 4 1 ½ d stamps & wouldn’t let me pay for them as he said he’d been given 2 2/- books of stamps from home.
Walter hasn’t heard the Goodman Bros. as in the Isle of Wight they don’t get many speakers from the mainland. You speak of Kenneth as though he only read, “well shall we say his Christian books”. He reads his Bible a lot you know, & makes ever so many notes. It was his bible which caught my eyes first when I visited his room that time.
Derek wrote me a nice letter, received yesterday.
Dear Mr Baker I remember very well. What a lovely passing he had. Joan’s pram is posh. I hope Faith is getting better. Re. your letters dear, there’s no need to make them shorter as I have time to read them at dinner when they are given up. The trouble is to get time to write to you, or anyone else.
The boys in my room are not C.O.s. Nearly all the C.O.’s I know are Christians. The fact is that most of the fellows here have been sent because the R.A.M.C. needed more men. Some of them wish they had been sent to an infantry reg! Of course you musn’t think all the chaps are like that. I’ve been finding out a lot of Christians lately & it’s simply great to know that they’ve got a real experience.
It’s now Sunday evening. This afternoon we had our Bible Study on Revelations, & 14 fellows were present. C of Es, Methodists, Elim Foursquares, Baptists etc. & of course Brethren Exclusive & Plymouth. One of the Baptists belongs to Bamber’s Church in Peckham. We had a lovely time, introducing our names, places from which we came, & denomination. “All are in Christ”. We shall hold this meeting every week, & it’s good to see everybody reading their bibles. A few chaps started interrupting, but they soon desisted. A corporal and sergeant looked in & said that it was quite O.K. The other Baptist fellow is a fine Christian & I’ll tell you something about him D.V. next week.
We went to tea at the Davies & had an enjoyable time. The family is very clever. The man knows languages & is a voracious reader, especially of Bible commentaries etc & has a fine library. The sons too are very nice & talented like the father in drawing etc.
We had a nice meeting at the Brethren. There were 11 soldiers present; a lot of them I didn’t know. So every meeting I go to I find more Christians. There was a fellow there who came from Tiptree. Wasn’t it curious? He should have come from Colchester with Walter, though they hadn’t met before, but knew they were going to the same place. He was telling me all this & Walter was standing next to him & he didn’t know it!. So of course they soon got talking. That was after the meeting.
A Mr George Grant spoke, a very powerful Gospel message on `Choose ye this day whom ye will serve’ & spoke of the Individuality of the message, its urgency & its outcome. He spoke without notes, & made a strong appeal though only in his message & not after, which was all to the good. His stories & manner of speaking were just what are needed in gospel work & all enjoyed him very much or rather his wonderful message. Then a short prayer meeting, & Walter & another fellow went back to Becketts Park as Walter was to be the chief speaker at the discussion meeting tonight. The rest of us went to the Open Air, outside Leeds Town Hall with about 20 or so of the Brethren. We had an audience of about 50 standing round besides ourselves & those passing by. There were 4 speakers in all & I was one of them. As I soon as I mounted the box, I saw a policeman dashing into the Town Hall. I’m not sure whether it’s legal to speak to an audience in public, in uniform. I spoke for about 10 minutes & they didn’t come out to arrest me so I should think I’m O.K. After the meeting about a dozen people came forward for gospel booklets etc. & after shaking hands with the Brethren people, I came away with Alf Jones & returned to Becketts Park. There are, by the way, abt. 35 parks in Leeds. Another item of information is that their Lewis’s stores about I told somebody cost 1 million pounds, the site alone costing £100,000. Some store! This afternoon on the way to tea, we visited Kirkstall Abbey, some ruins built in 1147 A.D. They are in a wonderful state & cover a large area. There’s no end to see there, as the Abbey is so high & most walls are standing with cloisters, quadrangles etc.
Well my two dears that’s enough for now. God bless you both abundantly for your goodness to me, With love, John xxxx
I see that I’ve still got a few things to say. One is that I’m sorry that this letter is so late. I think you would rather have a long letter than little short ones, wouldn’t you? It’s more economical, too.
Would you please send on 2 of my books (poetry) from Finchams & deduct the money from what I left with you.
I’m glad that you’ve told Joan Drane (or Rose) that she can stay at ours. She’s apparently had a tough time of it. I always knew there was something wrong with her, poor thing. You are welcome to my room.
If baby is another Dick, has he a long neck? You will have to send on a photo when you get one taken of him. Of course I can quite see that he looks pathetic, tell Joan, if he really is like D. I shouldn’t weep about it though. But there’s something very helpless about babies all the same, like a drooping moustache over a weak chin.
I’m looking forward with watering mouth to that cake you speak about.