Tuesday 1 March 2016

Experiences in Egypt

Saint John's Church [Z50/67/155]

Wednesday 1st March 1916: Writing to Rev T S Lupton of Kempston, Sapper H B Mayhew of the 2nd/1st East Anglian Royal Engineers, who is with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, makes some interesting remarks on his life in Egypt. In the course of the letter Sapper Mayhew says: “I am now stationed in Egypt and although 3,000 or 4,000 miles away, I still think of all friends I have left behind. I have now been here just over four weeks and I can’t really grumble at the time I have been having. We had a very nice trip out, and we were chased once or twice by submarines, but all’s well that ends well. I don’t think very much of the Egyptians or their coinage. The standard coin is a piastre which is equal to 2½d in English money(1) and you spend them just like you would pennies, and then wonder where your money has gone! We are only about twenty minutes’ walk from the Pyramids and I have climbed to the top of one and been inside another, which I did not dream six months ago that I should have the pleasure of doing. We have the usual church parade on a Sunday and yesterday I took Communion for the first time in Egypt, under very different circumstances than you do at Saint John’s Church(2). Just try to picture a hut, built with a wooden frame, covered with rush matting for roof and sides, with about one foot left all round the top for light and just an opening for a door. At the rear the Pyramids tower up to the sky and in front nothing but desert, with many similar huts and tents. Inside are forms and tables, upon which our meals are served, and it is one of those tables which forms our altar. Such is our church, but I think the service is quite as sincere – if not more so – as if it had been in the best of our cathedrals. I also attend the evening service and Bible Class on Tuesdays, so we have not lost all touch with civilization”.

Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 24th March 1916

(1) i.e. 96 to the pound.

(2) Saint John’s was a daughter church of All Saints, Kempston, built in 1868 in Up End (today’s Saint John’s Road) and closed in 1940 when the Church of the Transfiguration in Bedford Road  opened, Saint John’s being demolished in 1968

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