TOC-H FOUNDER

Picture of Revd Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton in Talbot House

Mark K. Smith (2004) has written about the founder of TOC-H, Army padre Reverend Philip Clayton. See: Smith, M. K. (2004) ‘Philip “Tubby” Clayton and TocH’, the encyclopedia of informal education.

Revd. Philip (Tubby) Clayton and Toc H

Army Chaplains Neville Talbot (left) and Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton opened a club for soldiers in the heart of Poperinge in December 1915. For more than three years, Talbot House provided rest and recreation to all soldiers entering, regardless of rank.

Remembering those souls who have died

Philip Thomas Byard Clayton (1885-1972), Philip Thomas Byard Clayton (1885-1972) was known to his friends as Tubby. He was born on December 12th 1885 in Queensland. At the age of two his parents returned to England. Educated at St Paul’s School in London and then at Exeter College, Oxford, he gained a First Class Degree in Theology. While reading for orders under the Dean of Westminster he became involved with the boys’ club work of the Oxford Medical Mission in Bermondsey.

John Stansfeld (‘The Doctor’), the founder of the Mission, had, according to Philip Clayton, ‘passed like the Pied Piper, through the ‘Varsity and bidden us to the boys’ clubs at Dockhead, Gordon and Decima’ (quoted by Baron 1952: 206). He worked there one night a week, joining a remarkable group of workers that included Alec Paterson and Barclay ‘Barkis’ Baron (who was later to join the central staff of Toc H and edit the Toc H magazine).

TOC-H POPERINGE

Talbot House, Poperinge

TOC-H (TH) is an international Christian movement. The name is an abbreviation for Talbot House, ‘Toc’ signifying the letter T in the Signals spelling alphabet used by the British Army in World War I.

Front door of Talbot House, Poperinge

A soldiers’ rest and recreation centre named Talbot House was founded in December 1915 at Poperinge in Belgium. It aimed to promote Christianity and was named in memory of Gilbert Talbot, son of Edward Talbot, then Bishop of Winchester, who had been killed at Hooge in July 1915.

Room in Talbot House

The founders were Gilbert’s elder brother, Neville Talbot, then a senior army chaplain, and the Reverend Philip Thomas Byard (Tubby) Clayton.

Talbot House

Talbot House was styled as an “Every Man’s Club”, where all soldiers were welcome, regardless of rank. It was “an alternative for the ‘debauched’ recreational life of the town”.

Entrance to Chaplain’s Room

In 1920, Clayton founded a Christian youth centre in London, also called Toc H, which developed into an interdenominational association for Christian social service.

The original building at Poperinghe has been maintained and redeveloped as a museum and tourist venue.

Map of WWI Battlefield around Ypres in Flanders

Branches of Toc H were established in many countries around the world. An Australian branch was formed in Victoria in 1925 by the heretical Reverend Herbert Hayes. Another was formed in Adelaide the same year.

Caption for WWI Map

Toc H members seek to ease the burdens of others through acts of service. They also promote reconciliation and work to bring disparate sections of society together. Branches may organise localised activities such as hospital visits, entertainment for the residents of care homes and organising residential holidays for special groups.

Our group arrives at Talbot House, Poperinge

POPERINGE

Poperinge war memorial

Poperinge or simply ‘Pop’ as the Tommies referred to it is a village about eight miles west of Ieper in West Flanders. The region is famous for growing hops.

Sint Bertinuskerk tower with carillon

During World War One the town was one of only two in Belgium not under German occupation. It was used to billet British troops and also provided a safe area for field hospitals. Known familiarly as “Pop”, it was just behind the front line and formed an important link for the soldiers and their families, especially through the rest house known as Talbot House (or “Toc-H“). A grim reminder of that time remains within the town hall, where two death cells are preserved, and outside in the courtyard, where there is a public execution post used by firing squads.

Another reminder is the location of a number of military cemeteries on the outskirts of the town with the graves of Canadian, British, Australian, French, German, US servicemen and men of the Chinese Labour Corps. One of these is Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery for soldiers who had been wounded near Ypres and later died in the large Allied casualty clearing stations located in the area.

Ginger sculpture in Market Square Poperinge

A new statue on the market place brings Eliane Cossey or “Ginger” back to Poperinge. Ginger was a red haired girl that worked at the La Poupée café and had a mesmerising effect on many soldiers. An initiative that bring “Little Paris” back to life.

Poperinge Town Hall

Willie Redmond MP wrote in his war diary about Ginger’s: “A cheery spot it is, bedecked with the flags of the Allied nations. All the appointments of the place ara good: clean cloths upon the little tea-tables, little bunches of flowers here and there, and altogether an air of brightness and comfort about. Very grateful indeed to eyes weary of the drab dismalness of trench and hut. In the hours of the afternoon the tea-room is crowded with officers from various units, and it is of interest to observe that they represent very often branches of the army in the field from almost every corner of the Empire.