“It is almost impossible to believe that when a fortnight ago I was dictating here, we were not only vehemently at war, but almost everybody believed that we should be vehemently at war for at least six months or more to come.” (Davidson 13, f.354)

Archbishop Davidson (ref: LC 104 f 1)

In the run up to the Armistice it is clear that although the war was expected to continue for some time, plans were being made for the eventual end of hostilities.  Despite fears expressed to Archbishop Davidson that Germany would resolve to fight on rather than accept humiliating terms, he noted in his diary that “If fighting ceases a few weeks hence, we ought to be ready for immediate handling of the demonstrations, speeches, and religious services which will forthwith be necessary”. (Davidson 13, f.348)

At this time there was much discussion involving Foreign Secretary Balfour, Viscount Bryce and Arthur Bigge (Baron Stamfordham) regarding the King’s speech, announcements to the Houses of Parliament, thanksgiving and memorial services, and demobilisation plans which would be required.  The writing of the King’s public speech was trusted to Bryce, with Davidson providing assistance, but the question remained of when the speech should be delivered: on announcement of the Armistice? When peace was formally signed?  Davidson noted that waiting for the peace treaty would mean a long delay and “the whole thing will fall a little flat”. (Davidson 13, f.350)

Regarding this activity Davidson noted on 3rd November that “All this is very private at present, and I can well imagine that it may have to be changed when it is worked out, but I think it is worth recording what is being practically planned to-day”. (Davidson 13, f.352)

From this point it seems clear that events moved at pace.  On the 9th November Lloyd George announced the abdication of the Kaiser at a Guildhall Banquet, and Davidson describes a sense of elation and enthusiasm, and some shouts of joy. (Davidson 13, f.356)

Within half an hour of the Armistice being signed fireworks were going off and London was in ‘hubbub’.  Sir Lewis Dibdin, Dean of the Arches, describes visiting London at the time the Armistice was announced and the wild celebrations which ensued: “in a moment as if the people had been waiting in the side streets – the place was crowded …  Hundreds of flags suddenly appeared in the people’s hands, on the buildings, on the buses, everywhere.  The people cheered and shouted and sang and laughed.  Motor horns, hand bells, trumpets were set going as if by magic.  Every moment the crowd increased”. (MS 1586, ff.256-257)  Dibdin also records the ‘erratic’ tolling of Big Ben, which had been silenced since the beginning of the war, and states that the Archbishop had suggested to the King on Sunday 10th that he should instruct this to happen as soon as the Armistice was signed. (MS 1586, f.258)

Services were held throughout the day at St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey, and in some places late into the night, while St Martin-in-the-Fields held services on and off for 12 hours and was still crowded at 11:30pm.  Davidson reports that attendance was ‘remarkable’ at a service he preached in the parish church, and that the congregation was ‘not merely attentive, but visibly moved’. (Davidson 13, f.357)

The King attended a Thanksgiving Service at St Paul’s on the 12th November where Davidson had to take the place of the Bishop of London and Dean of St Paul’s, as both were absent on other business.  Davidson notes in his diary how speeches made by himself and others at this time were either unprepared or made in haste but turned out impressive in their simplicity, since the subject matter spoke for itself.

A further Thanksgiving Service was held on 17th November, followed by a meeting at Buckingham Palace to finalise the King’s speech.  The records show discussion over the surrender of the German fleet, terms of peace, and prospects for the impending election.

Following the period immediately after the Armistice, in December the main issue for Davidson was whether or not he should go to France in January 1919 to see chaplains and higher officers; he obviously ended up going as he records on 16th February that it has been more than three weeks since he returned, but he does not offer information on the trip itself. (Davidson 13, f.381)

Further down the line a memorial service for chaplains who fell in the war was held at Westminster Abbey on 27th June 1919, while the formal peace celebrations took place on 19th July 1919, perhaps, in typical British fashion, somewhat hampered by the weather: “Late afternoon we drove in the car round the route of the procession to see the adornments and the crowd, and at night we looked from the top of Lollards Tower at what ought to have been a great display of fireworks.  There was much to commend in the plucky fire-working in spite of the rain”. (Davidson 13, ff.408, 417-418)

This post concludes a series published on the Library blog to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. For more information on Library sources on the war, please also see our source guide.


The papers of Archbishop Davidson (volume 346) document how planning was already in progress by 1918 on training of candidates from the armed forces for holy orders after the end of hostilities, including consideration of cases of disability.

In 1919 the Knutsford Ordination Test School opened. As recounted in R V H Burne’s Knutsford; the story of the Ordination Test School, 1914-40 (published in 1960), the institution was initially housed in the gaol at Knutsford, previously occupied by German prisoners and before that by conscientious objectors, but only until 1922, when it moved to other premises in Knutsford and from 1927 in Hawarden. It eventually closed during World War Two. Its aim was to provide education for demobilised servicemen so that they could obtain the qualifications required to study for ordination.

The Knutsford records are held at Cheshire Archives, including accounts, correspondence, teaching, examination, personnel, membership and other records, but the Library holds some relevant material. A single edition of its publication Le Touquet Times in the Library’s printed book collection represents its origins in France.

Le Touquet
Ref: G4140.G7K6


Thereafter its magazine was named Ducdame.

Ref: G4140.G7K6


‘Tubby’ Clayton, founder of Toc H, was also a prime mover in this initiative. His entry in the Dictionary of National Biography records that in total some 435 men were eventually ordained. The Library holds his mark book (MS 3099) dating from 1919.

Item of Interest: “A flame of love” – the Revd Dick Sheppard and the First World War

This month’s Item of Interest post by Tom Kennett (Assistant Archivist) delves into the archive of the Very Revd Hugh Richard Lawrie “Dick” Sheppard (MSS 3741-3750), one of the most inspired and gifted Anglican churchmen of the 20th century.

Born in 1880 at Windsor Castle (his father was a Minor Canon of Windsor and later Sub Dean of the Chapels Royal), an unhappy education culminated in graduation from Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in 1904. Sheppard later confessed he had a “mis-spent University career”; one of his primary achievements was earning membership of the Bad Eating Club by ingesting jelly through his nose. Sheppard’s gregarious character was matched by a reputation for outstanding generosity. Post-graduation, he spent four formative years working with the poor in the East End of London before being ordained in 1908. Having made a name for himself by reviving the moribund St Mary’s, Bourdon Street (curate-in-charge 1911-1913) and the Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street (1913-1914), in July 1914 he was offered the living of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square.

The Revd Dick Sheppard, early 1920s
Dick Sheppard by Howard Instead, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery NPG Ax25005

St Martin-in-the-Fields, the parish church of the Royal Family, was known as a church with a great past but no future: Charles II’s baptism had taken place there and George I had been a churchwarden. After two discouraging visits to the church, Sheppard spent a day and night walking the parish, visiting Charing Cross Hospital, the tenement buildings, pubs, and shops. As night descended he continued his tour, speaking with the sad and the lonely and those with no home to go to. He watched dawn break whilst sitting on the steps of the National Gallery: “that night’s impressions persuaded me that no square mile could provide a more thrilling or adventurous pitch”. In August he accepted the living, the same month that the First World War broke out, and the courtyard of St Martin’s soon became crowded with men waiting to enlist. As Sheppard was not due to be instituted as vicar until November, for the intervening three months he agreed to serve as chaplain to the Australian Voluntary Hospital on the Western Front.

Recruits wait for their pay in the churchyard of St. Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, London, August 1914, courtesy of the Imperial War Museum Q 53234

On 23 September he sent a long letter to Cosmo Gordon Lang, Archbishop of York (Lang 189 ff.315-20). On first arrival he had to bury six men and felt “like some kind of hideous cemetery chaplain”. Though he was often “very, very miserable” he soon found his purpose in comforting dying soldiers: “when doctors can only give pain I – with God’s help, can give peace”. He ended his missive to Lang in a typically effervescent style:

I’ve sat, on a box expecting the Germans at every moment all through one night, I’ve held a leg & several other limbs while the surgeon amputated them, I’ve fought a drunken Tommy & protected several German prisoners from a French mob, I’ve missed a thousand opportunities & lived through a life’s experience in 5 weeks.

Unfortunately, the last statement proved only too true, as by October Sheppard’s health had completely broken down and he was forced to return to England to recuperate. As an army doctor at the time stated, he “identified himself with every dying man, and in consequence nearly killed himself”. Such overwork was to be a running theme throughout Sheppard’s ministerial career.

During his induction sermon on 14 November, Sheppard outlined his vision for St Martin’s as it had come to him whilst lying in a trench, waiting for the firing to cease:

I saw a great and splendid church standing in the greatest square of the greatest city in the world. […]I saw it full of people, dropping in at all hours of the day and night. It was never dark, it was lighted all night and day, and often and often tired bits of humanity swept in. And I said to them as they passed: “Where are you going?” And they said only one thing: “This is our home. This is where we are going to learn of the love of Jesus Christ. This is the Altar of our Lord, where all out peace lies. This is St Martin’s.

Sheppard instigated sweeping reform, removing the moribund churchwardens, opening the pews and introducing shorter services of no more than an hour. Never a popular preacher, Sheppard’s delivery was nevertheless a departure from the usual, and one disgruntled parishioner commented: “what with air raids outside the church and you inside there’s nothing but explosions”. Nevertheless Sheppard made a profound impact. From an average of seven attending Matins and twelve Evensong, Sheppard soon had hundreds attending, drawn by his unique approach to ministry. Sheppard’s archive contains numerous examples of letters from congregants drawn by his preaching: “I have never been in your church before but from the first minute was conscious of something real”; “your sermon appealed to me as being one of the best I heave heard for a long time in its breadth of view & its spirit of going straight to the sort of things that matter”.

Sheppard also oversaw the transformation of the Crypt, removing coffins from the vaults and refurbishing the whole to the tune of £12,000. For the duration of the war the Crypt was used as an air-raid shelter. As one of Sheppard’s team commented:

“Five minutes after the ‘Take Cover’ sounded the Crypt would be crowded, mostly with girls from the streets and soldiers. … Air raids gave us many a welcome introduction to residents in the parish, but they were noisy, horrible affairs, and it was not always easy to control some of those who sought refuge in a state of excessive stimulation”

Sheppard took inspiration from the tale of St Martin and his cloak, depicted on the lampposts of Trafalgar Square. His aim was to make the church reflect its namesake and spread its cloak over those who had fallen down, and it soon came to be known as the “Church with the ever open door”, an appellation it retains to this day.

Lamppost detail, Trafalgar Square

An instigator of church reform, pioneer of religious broadcasting and popular religious journalism, and a leading pacifist, Sheppard became known as ‘the People’s Padre’ and a friend and supporter of the down and out. Following his death in 1937, his body lay in state in St Martin-in-the-Fields for two days and nights as 100,000 people filed past paying their last respects, a testament to the extraordinary impact Sheppard had on the religious life of England. Lang, by then Archbishop of Canterbury, commented: “he burnt his way through this world in a flame of love”.

Lambeth Palace Library holds Sheppard’s correspondence and papers (MSS 3741-3750), and his correspondence also appears in several other collections including the Lang and Bell papers.

The First World War and the Mothers’ Union

This blog post continues our series commemorating the centenary of the Great War. The archive of the Mothers’ Union (MU) includes this roll of honour (ref: MU/MSH/7/1-3) which lists members’ relatives killed in 1914-18. It is signed by George V.


The MU headquarters at Mary Sumner House in Westminster, which opened in 1925, houses a chapel, designed by the architect Paul Waterhouse. This was considered the centre of the building as the MU’s spiritual home, and was built as a memorial to the husbands, sons and brothers of MU members who had died in the Great War and were often buried overseas, meaning no grave could be visited by the bereaved. Cordelia Moyse’s account in A history of the Mothers’ Union (2009) describes how gifts from members “made the chapel a primary site of memory, mourning and meaning” (page 106).

The archive also includes material relating to those who died in World War Two (ref: MU/MSH/7/4-6). The MU records are available for research at the Church of England Record Centre.


This further blog post commemorating the centenary of the First World War refers to some of the sources in the Library relating to army chaplains. In 1917 the War Office authorised a central school of instruction for chaplains at St Omer (later at Blendecques), and Library holdings include a diary of its Principal, Bertram Keir Cunningham (1871-1944), covering 1917-19 (MS 2077). The volume includes images of those attending the school. Among those pictured is C M Chavasse, formerly an Olympic athlete and later Bishop of Rochester. He was the son of the Bishop of Liverpool and twin brother of Noel Chavasse, who was twice awarded the Victoria Cross and died of wounds received at the battle of Passchendaele in 1917. The picture also includes O C Quick, one of the Archbishop’s chaplains 1915-17, and later a Professor of Divinity at Oxford.


Group photograph of Chaplains attending the School, 1917 (MS 2077 p. 115)


The Library also holds the first issue of the Chaplains’ Bulletin produced by the St Omer school of instruction (H5133.L26).

The Library holds an additional, earlier, item on Cunningham’s views on the war, a document entitled ‘Memorandum on the attitude of the Christian Church towards War’ apparently dating from 1915 (MS 3355 ff. 55-96), which is annotated: ‘To be discussed at the Church House, on Thursday, April 29, at 9.30 a.m. Dr. Cunningham has been unable to compress his account of the attitude of the Church towards war as much as he desired’.

Cunningham’s wartime diary was given by John Moorman, Bishop of Ripon, and the Library also holds Bishop Moorman’s memoir of Cunningham published in 1947 (H5199.C8M6), and papers relating to it (MS 4676 ff. 162-206). After the war Cunningham became Principal of Westcott House in Cambridge, and he appears again in the papers of Gerald Ellison, Bishop of London, who trained there (Ellison P/11). Cunningham’s earlier career is also covered by sources in the Library. Before the war he oversaw the Bishop’s Hostel at Farnham, Surrey, a training college for clergy, and the papers of Archbishop Davidson include correspondence on his appointment there in 1899 (Davidson 52 ff.263-4, 267-8, 287-341 passim).

The wartime diary has been used by historians of the First World War: Michael Snape, The Royal Army Chaplains’ Department 1796-1953: clergy under fire (2008) and Edward Madigan, Faith under Fire: Anglican Army Chaplains and the Great War (2011).

Other records on army chaplains include material on members of the Society of St John the Evangelist, which formed the subject of an article by Basil Blackwell on ‘The Cowley Fathers and the First World War’ (published in Studies in Church History volume 20, 1983).