8 October 1915Rev Whincup in monthly letter to parishioners said he realised that those who assured him he was going to a hot shop were right.‘To me, as I went through the trenches, the first wonder was that the men were able to “stick it” so well. Plucky and cheeryBut there they were, plucky and cheery as ever, in no way disheartened, at time singing lively songs in their dug-outs, or else giving any passer by a kindly salutation as they kept watch for any sound from the German trenches. And yet the appalling tragedy of it all!Mr Whincup refers in humorous vein to what happened on his first visit to the trenches.
‘Possibly the Germans had wind of my approach and they wished to frighten me off. At any rate a bombardment very soon began. Flying about‘At first the novelty of the situation appeared to be a bit interesting but this feeling gradually changed to something different when I began to realise what was actually taking place all around and the various things which were flying about.The Germans seemed to be trying to destroy a bridge close at hand but after smashing down one or two big trees, possibly they decided that they had given me a sufficiently encouraging ovation and that I was not worthy of any warmer reception. For that decision I was much obliged.’
5 November 1915Rev Whincup reveals he is torn between is duty to the troops and that to his parish in Windhill where an enormous effort was being made to clear the church of debt.I regret very much that I shall not be able to be with you for the bazaar. The time for my leave of absence as far as I am concerned is not really due and I thought it was better not to press for it under the circumstances.In my opinion a chaplain has no more right to special consideration in a matter of this kind than any other man serving out here.Though the disappointment is a very keen one to me because I should have loved to be with you, yet I trust that I am acting for the best in not applying for leave of absence at the present time.
An intimation which I received telling me that my presence with you at the bazaar would mean a great deal as regards the success of your efforts has caused me a certain amount of misgivings as to whether I ought not to have made a firm resolution to try and be present with you regardless of any other considerations.But I sincerely hope that my absence will not make any material difference in this respect. I shall be with you in thought. Possibly for the time being people out here may think that at any rate I have a certain military qualification which was at one time attached to Mr Thomas Atkins in that I may seem to be an ‘absent minded beggar’ for my thoughts will be largely elsewhere.
Thoughts from the trenches 1915
17 December 1915Christchurch Windhill (right) was packed to hear a sermon from their vicar, Rev Richard Whincup, who was home on leave from his duties as chaplain to West Yorkshire Regiment.He said he wanted to take back a message from the congregation ‘whose one desire, he felt, was that the boys should retain their health and return home safe and sound once again.‘The message he brought from the
front was that the boys are still cheery and optimistic and still looking forward confidently to the day when they can come back victorious.’
He continued: ‘There is no such thing as pessimism in the firing line. Every man is an optimist and it is a good thing that is the case. A victorious man is always an optimist.Rich and poor‘The Bradford Territorials are drawn from all sorts of families – from the rich and poor, the highest and the lowest – but they get on very pleasantly together. There are no differences and no distinctions.‘At the front one gets down to the
bed rock of human experience and the bed rock of human nature and one sees a man as he really is.’He told the story of one boy ‘who died a splendid death. He had been wounded and was in terrible agony and yet he found it possible to cheer a wounded comrade not half so badly wounded as himself, continually murmuring “Keep your spirits up, Jimmy.” ‘I know nothing so noble as that incident.’
26 November 1916Rev R B McKee, the vicar of Eccleshill told his congregation that he had received a letter from Rev Whincup saying that ‘the lads in the trenches are having a hard, wearying and anxious time and they needed something to cheer them up.’He asked if Mr McKee could use his contacts in the Khaki Club to get 100 mouth organs ‘which would cost about £5.’Mr McKee explained to his congregation that the Khaki Club funds could only be used for housing purposes and so he ‘appealed to the church folk of Eccleshill to provide the amount required, observing that by so doing they would be showing the high respect in which they held the lads and their chaplain and would also be performing a right neighbourly action.’By the following day the vicar was able to write to Mr Whincup and tell him ‘the mouth organs would be immediately sent by Eccleshill church people, who considered it an honour to do everything they could to help our gallant lads. Well done Eccleshill Church.’
10 December 1915Rev Whincup was at home on a short leave after four months at the front and told the local paper ‘he was sadly impressed with the awfulness of war but was full of admiration for the bravery of our troops.‘The men had gone through a hard gruelling in many respects but they had borne it splendidly. The men were filled with a feeling of the greatest optimism about the ultimate result of the war.‘Despite the hardships they had had to go through, they always kept up their spirits and were as determined as ever to fight on for their country’s cause and for the sake of those near and dear to them.’
The church arranged a number of ‘At Homes’ where he was greeted with enthusiastic applause and many renderings of ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’Rev Whincup used the opportunity to praise the efforts of the recent fund-raising bazaar and to praise Mr Moreton, the curate who was performing the vicar’s duties during his absence.LessonsHe added that he had “left the lads at the front in a very cheery mood. It is wonderful how cheerful they are.‘They live – or perhaps it would be better to say exist – under conditions of great hardship in the trenches and still one never hears a single note of pessimism escape their lips.
“They are out to win and they will win. “I have learned excellent lessons with regard to endurance and patience which will make me a far better vicar when I return than I was when I went out.“I will always consider it a great honour to have had the privilege of acting as chaplain to the Braford Territorials and I hope I have been of some help to them“It is a great pleasure to be back once more amongst my friends in Windhill. I thank them for the hearty way in which they have received me and I look forward with great earnestness to when I will once more be amongst you permanently.”