Toc H: A Refuge from the War

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While at Poperinge, we visited a key site in the story of the British Army in the Ypres Salient, the establishment of a refuge from the war at Talbot House. Rev. Phillip ‘Tubby’ Clayton became an army chaplain in France and Flanders where, in December 1915, he and another chaplain Rev. Neville Talbot opened “Talbot House”, a club house for soldiers, regardless of rank or status. It became known as Toc H, this being signal terminology for “T H” or “Talbot House”.


With its simple accommodation, garden and chapel in the eaves, Toc H fostered a spirit of friendship across social and denominational boundaries and enabled soldiers to enjoy rare moments of peace and entertainment, a home away from home. After the war, branches were set up across the UK and in several Commonwealth countries.

The Battle bus group were delighted to be given a guided tour around Talbot House in April and a visit there with the bus in September will be essential. The House still has many features surviving from the First World War – the peaceful garden, Clayton’s study, framed aphorisms on the walls and artworks such as the sketches of soldiers by Christopher Nevinson, working as an ambulance driver, who later designed posters for the Underground group.

A full size reproduction of a photograph of soldiers relaxing in the canteen room around the piano occupies the same room today and brings the past of the House vividly to life. It is still possible to stay overnight B&B in Talbot House and exhibitions tell the story of the house and the Ypres Salient.

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