Toc H Underway

By Steve Smith

Recently my focus seems to have fallen of the formative years of Toc H. I looked at Tubby’s pre-war grounding in Portsea and then, more recently, at the earliest Committee meetings and members. My research for both these blogs threw up a few curios and questions so I decided to focus on the two year period following the closure of Talbot House in Poperinge. This was when Tubby’s dream turned into a reality. A trip to the London Metropolitan Archives unearthed some interesting mementos of that period unfortunately I am still waiting permission to reproduce these so I have decided to publish this as a simple list. I have written it largely as a calendar of dates from December 1918 until December 1920

December 1918
A Christmas card and Whizz Bang start being sent out. The Whizz Bang is an army style postcard which the recipient was expected to complete by crossing out the inappropriate responses and then returning to Tubby. The Whizz Bang returns continued well into the spring of 1919. The questions relate primarily as to whether the recipient would buy a copy of Tales of Talbot House, and to the question of whether a new Talbot House should be opened in London.

Last week of December 1918
Tubby (and much Talbot House furniture) is sent to Le Touquet where the Ordination School for Other Ranks is established in the old Machine Gun camp.

Wednesday 8 January 1919
Chief of the Test School, Frank Russell Barry orders Tubby to the War Office in London to see the Service Candidates Committee

Thursday 9 January 1919
Tubby heads to England where he will be asked to find an English base for the Test School

Thursday 6 February 1919
The keys of Talbot House are formally handed back to M. Coevoet-Camerlynck by Tubby and Neville

Monday 10 February 1919
A document date-stamped by the Deputy Chaplain General on this date and addressed to the Chief Instructor at G.H.Q. Ordination Test School No. 1 demobilizes Tubby leaving him free to take up his position at Knutsford

Friday 14 February 1919
Tubby writes an interim report in the form of a poem entitled A Valedictory Valentine. Amongst the verses is one which says he shall be released from the army “next week”. He gives his forthcoming ‘town address’ as Belle’s flat in St George’s Mansions, Red Lion Square (described in the poem as “a four-roomed flat behind Southampton Row”). Lever, in his biography, says Tubby first arrived at there with his sandbag in March 1919 so exact date notwithstanding, it is clear that it is around this time that Tubby establishes himself at his sister’s flat in Red Lion Square.

Here is a stanza from the poem

“The dear old house, intact or more or less,
Through all last spring’s surprise and summer’s stress
Is now returned, with a substantial dot*,
To M.Coevoet-Camerlynck and Co.
“These Belgians”, as a Sapper said with phlegm,
“Behave as if the place belonged to them.”

*The word is clearly meant to be pronounced as in Godot, as ‘Doh’ which means Tubby beat Homer Simpson to his catchphrase by some 70 years!

Wednesday 26 March 1919
The Test School opens at Knutsford prison

April 1919
Tubby writes an article for The Messenger (The newsletter of St Martin-in-the-Fields) outlining his plans to open a new Talbot House in London

Neville Talbot returns to his pre-war position at Balliol College

April 1919 (c.17-21st April)
Whilst the Test School take an Easter break, Tubby moves back to his sister’s flat in Red Lion Square where the first seeds of organisation are sown here. Lieutenant E.G. White acts as secretary when Tubby returns to Knutsford. The Reverend Richard Ridges starts collating names into index files.

Wednesday 7 May 1919
Barkis (Barclay Baron) writes to Tubby in response to his recent account of Knutsford and a request to sell copies of Tales in Cologne. Baron is still with the YMCA HQ there. He agrees to promote the sale of the book in Germany and of the plans for Talbot House, says “TH simply must have a new chapter at home.”

June 1919
Tubby has his eye on the Guards Club in Pall Mall for the new Talbot House but it proves too expensive

Tubby writes about his work at Knutsford to The Nutshell summer edition, the magazine of Brown Company at Portsea

July 1919
A letter – or in Tubby’s words – an Encyclical “intended to keep you in touch with the affairs of Talbot House, past, present, and to come” is circulated. The heading bears the name of Talbot House and Tubby is listed as Chaplain whilst Lieutenant White is Honorary Secretary.

Sunday 3 August 1919
Tubby delivers a sermon at Wells Cathedral

Saturday 16 August 1919
Tubby visits St Mary’s, Portsea

Sunday 17th August

Tubby at Portsea

Sunday 24th August 1919

Tubby at Portsea

Monday 25 August 1919
Tubby’s mother, Isabel dies at Little Hatchett, the family home in the New Forest. She was 70 years old.

Monday 15 September 1919
Tales of Talbot House first published.

September 1919
Tubby attends a reunion of St. Mary’s Company, Portsea

Thursday 16th October 1919
The Sheffield Telegraph reported that “there is reputed to be an Association of Old Talbotians [Sic]”

Saturday 18 October 1919
An early committee meeting is held. Details of the event are unknown, except that the minutes (which don’t appear to survive anymore) would be read at the next big meeting in November.

Friday 24 October 1919
A second impression of Tales of Talbot House is released, the first having sold out

Sunday 2 November 1919
Tubby preaches the Sermon for the King and Queen in the Private Chapel at Buckingham Palace. The Times lists him as Chaplain of the Talbot House Association

Saturday 8 November 1919
Date on agenda sent out from Knutsford for next meeting

Friday 14 November 1919
Tubby and ‘Nick’ (John Henry Nicholson) leave Knutsford for London on the night train. Interestingly, writing in 1937 Tubby changes the story and says that he ‘Nick’ travelled on Tubby’s Clyno motorcycle combination which broke down near Barnet and they completed the journey by lorry.

Saturday 15 November 1919
Tubby and ‘Nick’ visit a nearby insurance company to get some copying done. They meet William Hurst who will join Toc H. Tubby claims they chose this company because they recently paid out a claim on his Clyno motorcycle combination.

Saturday 15 November 1919
Lunch at the RAC Club followed by a meeting at 40 Great Smith Street where an Executive Committee were formed. See here for further details of this and subsequent meetings.

Wednesday 19 November 1919
A Committee Meeting is held at 17 Albermarle Street, the office of Toc H ‘s solicitors Ellis, Peirs & Co.

Wednesday 26 November 1919
Another Committee Meeting at Ellis, Peirs & Co.

Monday 1 December 1919
Tubby officially resigns from Knutsford to “place his services at the disposal of the Committee” for £400 p.a. The same day he sends another interim report around to the growing band of members

Wednesday 17 December 1919
At the next Committee Meeting the renting of 36 Red Lion Square is approved. This is the top floor flat of a block just around the corner from St George’s Mansions where Belle’s flat is. The Conservative office is below them.

Tuesday 23 December 1919
A Committee Meeting is held at 17 Albermarle Street.

January 1920
‘Mus’ (William J. Musters) visits Tubby at Effingham House to sell him a typewriter. Returns (a few weeks) later to become first proper paid staff member. See here for more about Mus

Tuesday 6 January 1920
At this Committee Meeting the takeover of the lease at 8 Queen’s Gate Place confirmed

Wednesday 7 January 1920
The Revd. Hiram K. Douglass, an American visiting London, is directed to Tubby at St George’s Mansions by Dick Sheppard. He later tries to take the ideas of Toc H back to the US.

Monday 12 January 1920
The Times announces that Toc H has acquired 8 Queen’s Gate Place as a hostel

Sunday 25 January 1920
Tubby preaches at All Saint’s, South Acton

February 1920
The first hostellers move into a four-room flat on the top floor of 36 Red Lion Square. Shortly afterwards Tubby circulates a letter saying he will be at 36 Red Lion Square each Tuesday evening in March from 5pm until the last tram. He goes on to say he is in most days at tea-time.

Second reprint of Tales

The St Martin’s Messenger carries another interim report from Tubby

Sunday 8 February 1920
Tubby addresses the Portsmouth Brotherhood at the Wesley Church, Arundel Street, Portsmouth on What Toc H Stands For

Friday 13 February 1920
A meeting of London members I held at 36 Red Lion Square at 6.30pm and a number of recommendations were drawn up to be passed to the main committee when they meet on 23rd February

Monday 23 February 1920
Meeting at 17 Albermarle Street.

Thursday 26 February 1920
A letter from Tubby and a set of rules are sent out to the growing band of members

Sunday 29 February 1920
Tubby preaches a sermon at Southwark Cathedral

March 1920
An appeal is officially launched to raise £30,000. This will include a poster campaign on the London Underground

Tubby writes about his plans for Toc H in The Nutshell

8 Queen’s Gate Place opens as a hostel

Tubby, Dick Sheppard and Alec Paterson draw up the original Four Points of the Compass

Tuesday 9 March 1920
The Times writes about the launch of the appeal in which the hostel in Queen’s Gate is described as temporary.

Sunday 14 March 1920
A card bearing this date is circulated requesting up to date contact information from the recipient. The official office at the time is listed as Effingham House. This is the office of The Challenge, William Temple’s religious newspaper that Tubby contributes to and briefly edited

Friday 19 March 1920
Another letter is circulated to ‘Talbotousians’ to launch an appeal for funds for houses. At this time the offices are listed as Effingham House whilst 36 Red Lion Square is listed as Temporary Club HQ, and 8 Queen’s Gate Place as its first hostel.

Monday 12 April 1920
Neville Talbot elected Bishop of Pretoria. He will retain close ties to Tubby and Toc H until his death in 1943.

Wednesday 14 April 1920
Date of letter written by G.C.R. Cooke Hon. C.F., chaplain Ardingly College, to Sussex Times as part of the appeal for funds (Published in issue dated 20 April 1920)

May 1920
Hostellers make a ‘moonlight flit’ from 8 Queen’s Gate Place to 23 Queen’s Gate Gardens (Mark I proper)

Thursday 13 May 1920
The chapel from Talbot House installed and dedicated atthe new Mark I in an Ascension Day service.

Wednesday 19 May 1920
Dowager Lady Hillingdon holds a reception on behalf of “Toc H” (late Talbot House, Poperinghe and Ypres) Club for professional men at her home at Vernon House, Park Place, 4.15

Thursday 20 May 1920
The Times reports on the new hostel at Queen’s Gate Gardens. It says there is nothing to distinguish it “from its more staid neighbours except the number 23 on the door and the noise within”

June 1920
The Pilgrim’s Guide to the Ypres Salient is published for ‘Talbot House’ by Herbert Reiach. It is the official follow-up to Tales and is intended to raise funds for Toc H. Further reading here

Tubby sends a letter to selected Talbotousians outside of London asking them to gather men together

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

Saturday 17 July 1920
A Talbotousians reunion is publicised for Quarry House, Hastings at 6.30pm. One assumes it took place but I found no report of its outcomes.

Sunday 18 July 1920
Tubby preaches at Holy Trinity Church, Hastings

Friday 23 July 1920
Toc H have a Talbot House tent at the Officer’s Association Fete in Royal Botanical Gardens at Regent’s Park. Curiously the gardens are divided into areas named after famous battles and Talbot House was located in Neuve Chapelle .

Saturday 24 July 1920
Second day of above fete. The King and Queen visited today and called in to the Talbot House tent

September 1920
Toc H take occupation of 123 St George’s Square donated to them by the Duke of Westminster for a peppercorn rent. They are also gifted the building next door at 121 but choose to let that for rental income.

Saturday 25 September 1920
The Toc H Football team play their first game – in Knightsbridge – beating a team from the Brigade of Guards HQ. The Toc H team includes Stuart Sheppard, William Musters, and Hector Wimbush. It was later alleged that Toc H won but apparently the game was a little chaotic and no-one really remembered what happened!

September 1920
Third printing of Tales of Talbot House

October 1920
The second edition of All Saint’s Review (Northampton) contains an article entitled A Morning Mediation by Tubby in which he describes the House at Queen’s Gate Gardens.

Sunday 3 October 1920
Tubby preaches Harvest Festival Service at Brockenhurst, Hampshire (Part of the offertory to Toc H)

Friday 29 October 1920
The Times publishes a piece by Tubby headed Two Men’s Work which explains his desire to instil the need to work for others into the surviving young men of today. He talks of the Talbot House movement and its role in achieving this goal.

Saturday 30 October 1920
A ‘weak’ Toc H football team visited Highgate and lost 6-0 to a team of Old Cholmeleians.

November 1920
Toc H Christmas Annual published. The full title was The Christmas Spirit First Christmas Annual of Toc H. Late Talbot House. Poperinghe and Ypres. It was published by St Catherine Press of Waterloo, London and edited by Stuart Sheppard. See here for his biography. It was a collection of stories, poems, illustrations by various friends of Tubby and Toc H. These included G.K.Chesterton, Kipling, Heath Robinson, and Edith Nesbit. There were greetings from HRH, the Prince of Wales and various snippets about the plans for Toc H plus a list of branch secretaries at that time.

Saturday 6 November 1920
The Toc H soccer team beat the Old Westminsters 3-0 despite the Vincent Square ground being enveloped in fog.

Sunday 14 November 1920
Tubby addresses the Central Brotherhood, Cheltenham, supported by ex-servicemen.

Thursday 18 November 1920
Tubby addresses a meeting at Portsea Parish Institute to explain the aims of Toc H. It was followed by a Social evening organised by St Mary’s Company

Monday 22 November 1920
Cheltenham branch meet for the first time, the first branch outside of London

Friday 26 November 1920
A meeting is held between business men at the Commercial Hall Bristol with regard to establishing a branch and a hostel in that city. The meeting is presided over by the Rev. N. Blakiston. A committee was established

Sunday 28 November 1920
Tubby preaches a sermon at St Cuthbert’s parish church, Edinburgh

Monday 29 November 1920
Meeting held at North British Station Hotel to try to start Edinburgh branch (Presumably Tubby presided)

Tuesday 7th December 1920
The Times review The Christmas Spirit

Wednesday 22 December 1920
The new issue of Punch or the London Charivari includes a notice explaining the purpose and aims of Toc H alongside a short review of the Christmas Spirit.

And so we see in two short but incredibly busy years, Toc H has gone from a twinkle in Tubby’s eye to a shooting star blazing across the heavens.