Much of the information contained on this website has been drawn from the excellent guidebook to St Cynllo's written by Rev. Brian Whatmore - this lovingly written and scholarly guide is highly recommended for those who would like to learn more about the history of this beautiful Church.
Copies of the guidebook
are available at the
Four years. How many dead? No one yet knew for sure, but perhaps as many as two million, and
even more injured. And now an end. But not a defeat, a capitulation! His frustration with the
military leaders and his government knew no bounds. Such sacriﬁce, such hardship and effort to end
in just this: capitulation, humiliation, poverty, cynicism. All the hope and dignity of the young
German nation gone. It sickened him.
He sat in a cold, featureless room in Munich, surrounded by fellow soldiers, some former
companions in arms. They were all waiting to be called to the desk to be de-mobbed, surrender
their uniforms, and take up their civilian suits. The other men around him were talking of wives and
sweethearts, or if nothing better then a trip to a brothel; much relief and cheer amongst them
despite the degraded state of their country. He could feel none of this: no wife, no sweetheart, no
desire for a paid girl, just a crushing sense of pain and disappointment. No one tried to catch his eye
as the talk drifted around the room except for Brandmeyer, his friend, who did cast a glance towards
him, concerned, questioning. But almost immediately Brandmeyer was drawn back into the ribald
conversation of other colleagues.
Unselfconsciously, he smoothed the wings of his generous mustache with the ﬁngers of both
hands. Then his right hand dropped to grasp the Iron Cross pinned beneath his throat. He clutched
it with painful intensity, then caressed it with his ﬁnger tips. A symbol of his pride and achievement,
such a contrast with the failure of his nation. Anger blossomed afresh in his heart, for a moment he
thought the blindness of mustard gas poisoning had come down upon him once again. But it was
not so. He looked up and across to the men on the benches on the opposite side of the room. One
of them got up, called by the Sergeant Major at the desk. He’d worked with the man on dispatch, he
couldn’t remember his name, but knew him to be a chain smoker and a drunk. What would he be
bringing back to his country?
As he waited, ﬁdgeting on the uncomfortable bench, the air redolent with the tobacco smoke he
hated and the stink of soldiers’ feet and unwashed armpits, he reﬂected back on his experience of
His training, with so many other raw recruits. The pain that came with exertion and exercise, the
humiliation in the showers, surrounded by ﬁtter men he could only envy, but the exhilaration of
passing out and being posted to the front. Quiet months when his work as a dispatch rider and
runner gave him much time to sit in relative safety in Fornes. Then the ﬁrst assault near Ypres, three
of his ﬁve colleagues killed in one day. The shells, the ﬁlth and mud, the fear, and the desperate,
grasping acceptance of the dispatch orders by regimental commanders, who clearly found little
comfort or encouragement in their superiors’ directives.
So many died, on that his ﬁrst day in action. He remembered he wrote in his diary that evening,
‘Life is a constant and horrible struggle’. But while he remembered feeling the pain, he also had felt
the rightness of ﬁghting on. Their cause was just, the future freedom of his countrymen worth the
Everyday the shadow of death. Yet in truth he had felt little fear after the ﬁrst few days; inured
perhaps? The dispatch riders were sent out in pairs so that if one was killed the message or order
would still get through. He had never been the one to die, had seen so many others blown into
obscene joints of meat, but never him. The day he had left the control bunker at Fromelle and thirty
seconds later it had been destroyed by shells and everyone in it spread like so much offal across the
ground; an ear attached to a fragment of skull had landed on the path in front of him. He had
pressed on - what else could he do? Why had he been so fortunate?
And yet not always so fortunate. His terrier Foxl, his best friend. When the men you knew
thought of nothing but the next time they could fuck a whore, or their next leave from the front, a
faithful dog waiting for him at HQ after a perilous trip had been one of the few things to sooth his
hardened heart. And someone had stolen Foxl away. He didn’t know who, but it must have been a
man. One evening Foxl wasn’t there to greet him. His companions shrugged it off. He knew there
had been no meat in the camp for two weeks, his heart had burned.
The war had dragged on. He was made corporal, later he was offered a commission, but he
didn’t want it, his role in the conﬂict suited him well. Then after the relocation to the Somme, the
shell that had damaged his leg so severely, and the two months he had spent in the Beelitz ﬁeld
hospital, recovering. After that, some brief leave, when he found the morale of his friends, in fact
the whole populace at home, so negative, defeatist. It had been hard to return to the front, knowing
there was so little will in the families behind the soldiers, and yet it had also been a relief to leave
that cynicism behind and re-engage with the ﬁght he knew must be won.
More months in Viny and Ypres. The memories blurred. Mud, shells, disease, madness, courage,
camaraderie; a heady mix, but no clear memories, just a stream of heightened, frightening,
sometimes exhilarating experience. That battle at Marne in Spring 1918 - only now could he see
that the defeat there was the beginning of the end, at the time it was just another temporary
setback. But Ypres late in the year was something more. He knew nothing of success or failure that
day, only the debilitating pain and blindness inﬂicted by mustard gas. Helped from the trenches by
men he could now barely remember, what he could never forget was the subsequent weeks of
blindness at the Paswalk military hospital.
When he had recovered it was all over. his leaders had given in. He remembered saying to
himself that it was the greatest villainy of the century that they should both capitulate and accept
such humiliation at the hands of their enemies. The pain still rankled. And now here he was back in
Munich. Amongst a proud people, conﬁdent of their quality even in the face of defeat? No, a
broken people, politically and socially fragmented, worried about the very necessities of life,
crippled by the death of so many loved ones, disenchanted with their government. A sorry state, a
painful homecoming after so much strife.
And then the demob Sergeant Major called his name. He got up sharply, if reluctantly, and
walked towards the desk, back straight and erect, chin forward; if none other in the room
understood the importance of formality and dignity at such a moment, he did. ‘Sign and print
here’, the Sergeant Major said. He signed with a conﬁdent ﬂourish and then printed his name