Archive for the 'Family' Category

Armistice Centenary – and an Eltham soldier

(From a sermon preached on the Centenary of the World War 1 Armistice) 

Around the church are a number of pictures of a young First World War soldier.

Lieutenant Cecil George Cutting
Lieutenant Cecil George cutting a dashing figure

Let’s hear a bit of his story.

He was the son of a missionary teacher family who were living and working in India, as he approached secondary school age, Cecil George was sent to boarding school.

The young scholar was at a school just over a mile from here, at Eltham College.

He was a lively student, who particularly loved his sport.
Athletics; and cricket mainly.


The school regularly played other teams, and had several matches against the world famous local cricketer, WG Grace.

There’s a record of a match where the great WG was bowling against the young Cecil George.

Cecil George was one of the best all rounders in the team.

But not on this occasion.

Cecil George, bowled out by WG, for a duck!

He left school in July 1915 age 18. He was not called up at once, and the Academic year 1915-16 he spent at Imperial College reading Chemistry.

Then he was called up at the end of the Summer term of 1916. Cecil George was Gazetted as of the 27 Nov 1916 and recorded in the Royal Garrison Artillery.

He did his basic training in the Infantry.
At the end of this they asked:

“Who has Matric Maths?”
“I do!”  Says Cecil George.
“Right, if you can count more than two legs, you are going to be in the Cavalry!”

Off he goes and does the basic training for the Cavalry in Exeter.

At the end of that basic cavalry training they said

“Who has Higher Maths?”
“I do !” says Cecil George.
“Right, if you can plot graphs and trajectories, you are going to be in the Artillery!”

So off he goes and does the basic training for the gunners.

He ended up a with the Royal Garrison Artillery on the Selonica Front, not far from the Greek border across into Turkey.

The RGA was often supported by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) who had devised a system where pilots could use wireless telegraphy to help the artillery hit specific targets. Years later it became clear that Cecil George was involved going up in these ‘string bag’ aeroplanes of that era, as a “spotter” for targets! This was very early in the history of flight, and must have been some adventure for the young soldier!

What were these soldiers given? Their uniform, sometimes a weapon, and – a Bible.
Well, that may sound a bit curious now.

Cecil’s missionary parents had gone to India in the late 1800s to help try and make a difference to ordinary peoples lives through education. Like them, Cecil George was a man of faith. Like many of the sodiers who went off to war, they were men of faith.

Not all children of missionaries, or vicars, come to faith.
But Cecil did.

Sometimes with much time on their hands, soldiers would sit and flick through the only reading matter they had to hand – their small Army issue Bibles or New Testaments.

Not everyone who had them treated them with the respect one might expect of holy scriptures.  I suspect more than a few pages were used by some squaddies to roll cigarettes,
or draw pictures on
– or any number of other unmentionable practices, when paper was in short supply.

For some soldiers & sailors, though, they were lifesavers – real lifesavers.

Sometimes quite literally.
There is evidence that some of these pocket bibles, often carried in a breast pocket, literally stopped bullets and saved people from being killed, on more than one occasion.

No wonder some soldiers would read these Bibles,
read the words that gave the hope and love and life:

Words such as:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

How poignant the words:

We are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.

Paul’s letter to his friends in Rome becomes so much more than just a dusty old document, when he says:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor rulers,
nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers,
nor height, nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8: 35-39)

Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God.

Cecil George didn’t like war much; he saw some terrible things, things that scarred him for life.

But did his duty until the very end of the war.

He survived.

He lived.

Many, soldiers just did the ordinary thing.

During his military career, Cecil George had risen to the exalted rank of…?


Recognised for local leadership; but nothing too special.

You couldn’t have fought in the war and been more ordinary, really.

Just doing what he had been called up to do.

At the end of the war, those who fought received medals.

There are famous ones for great bravery in particular campaigns.

Cecil George got the two standard British campaign medals that about 6 million soldiers got.

The British War Medal and the Victory Medal,
nicknamed Mutt and Jeff– or perhaps we might say the Tom & Jerry, or the Ant and Dec – of medals; the family heirlooms that many families still own.

This is Cecil George’s British War Medal and his Victory Medal.

His name is stamped around the edge of them
you can still read it:

Lieutenant Cecil George CUTTING

WH & CG Cutting medals
WH & CG Cutting medals *

Because he is my grandfather.

When I was doing my GCSEs, which used to be called O levels when I was doing them,

I did WW1 history.

I asked Cecil – my grandfather – about his involvement.

He wrote to me about it.

At the time, it was some 60 years since the conflict but it was something he’d hardly spoken of since then.

And It was still a shock, so many years later.

Cecil went on after the war to train as a doctor in Edinburgh University.
Whilst there, he met a young Scottish lass called Eleanor, whom he married and they in their turn went as missionaries to India too – medical missionaries this time.

Partly because his love of life was something he wanted to share with others in the most effective way he knew how. His passion for people; for what the bible calls: life in all its fullness.

Later, their eldest son William also went to Eltham college.

William is my dad.

Once, back visiting Eltham college, Cecil & William, father & son, walked down one of the corridors that had photos of the old boys, and especially the sports teams. Cecil was in in a number of the photos.

As he stopped and gazed, he pointed to his team mates and with many of them said “he’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead”.

No wonder Cecil Cutting had been so reluctant to dredge up the painful memories of his WW1 experience.

It transformed his life trajectory – as a missionary doctor he was then keen to bring the healing power of a physician, to the people of rural South India.

And as the medical missionary, he also introduced people to The Great Physician, to the God who can bring healing to the body, peace to the mind, and salvation to the soul.

Cecil recorded some of the stories of his healing ministry in rural South India in a book – he’s a doctor, in India, so it is called Hot Surgery.

Hot Surgery by Cecil Cutting
Hot Surgery by Cecil Cutting

One ordinary school boy from Eltham College.
One ordinary soldier in the first World War.
One ordinary medical student.
One ordinary doctor on a mission field.

One of so many ordinary stories,
of people who were actually extraordinary,
so much more extra than ordinary.


Those who came back from war,
from playing their part,
and making a difference.

We will remember them.

And those who never came back.

We will remember them.

Click on the link here to listen to the sermon.

* In addition to Cecil George Cutting’s two WW1 medals on the right, the medal on the left is the Kaisar-I-Hind, the medal for Public Service in India awarded by the Empress/Emperor of India, in this case the silver one, awarded to Cecil’s father The Rev’d William Cutting. 

(From a sermon preached on the Centenary of the World War 1 Armistice, in St John’s Church, Eltham, South East London, on 11 November 2018, by the Archdeacon of Lewisham & Greenwich, The Venerable Alastair Cutting, as part of the Royal Borough of Greenwich‘s civil commemoration of Remembrance Sunday. )

Alastair Cutting preaching in St John's Eltham
Alastair Cutting preaching in St John’s Eltham with the poster of Cecil Cutting on the pillar


Join us at the Cathedral

Please come and join us at Southwark Cathedral on 14 April 2013.

Southwark Invitation

Southwark Invitation

Alastair’s installation, along with Archdeacon colleagues Jane Steen and Chris Skilton, takes place at 3pm. The original announcement was made back in December at Henfield, and at Southwark and Chichester.

Friends who wish to come, please do! It would help to have a rough idea on numbers, by emailing or texting/ringing 07736 676106 that you’d like to come.

Those who would like to robe, choir dress with black shoes please.

We would love to see you!

Alastair, Kay, Hannah & Laura

(We are probably moving at the end of May, to Sydenham/Forest Hill. Address on the linked pdf – please update address books! Personal email addresses and mobile numbers as they were.)


Copthorne to Henfield

Updated with move dates: After 14 great years at St. John’s Copthorne, we are moving to Henfield: remaining in Sussex, and Diocese of Chichester, and even in the same episcopal area and archdeaconry of Horsham, but in a new deanery: Hurst.

The following pdf documents were released as information about the Henfield benefice, and it’s new incumbent.

The text from each of the documents is quoted below.

About the parish of Henfield:

About Henfield

About Henfield

About Henfield‘s new vicar:

Alastair Cutting - Henfield

Alastair Cutting - Henfield

About Henfield:
After 14 years thoroughly enjoying ministry at St John’s, The Rev’d Alastair Cutting, with Kay, Hannah & Laura, are to leave Copthorne. Their last Sunday will be Pentecost, 23 May, starting in Henfield on Friday 2 July 2010. Continue reading ‘Copthorne to Henfield’


What my parents did, and what my children don’t

Cardinal Red Tile Polish. There was a time when no self-respecting house-wife would not have the front door-step regularly polished with ‘Cardinal’. Haven’t seen it around for ages, though I think you used to be able to get it in Woolworth’s – and indeed what happened to that too?

It got me thinking a bit about practices of the generation before us, things that we (generally) no longer do; and of some of the things we do, but our children have given up on. I thought I might try and make a list of things that now seem so anachronistic… Do join in, and add more in reply comments.

Cardinal Red, courtesy of Billogs@Flickr

Cardinal Red, via Billogs@Flickr

How about fountain pens and inky fingers? Ball-point pens were anathema at my school; and I remember having to regularly re-fill my pen, using the lever on it’s side, from the Royal Blue Ink bottle on the windowsill of the classroom. Little scratching of the fountain pens heard these days; mainly replaced by the tap-tap sound of fingers on laptop keyboards instead.

Music reproduction has changed enormously. In 1960s rural India, we didn’t have a radio; but we did have a gramophone with some records. Even the old brittle 78rpm shellac ones. (I remember my sister standing on a favorite record, and breaking it; or hearing stories of people –philistines– heating old records to recycle them in to flower pots.) All a long way from the iPod, and higher quality music available for instant download in greater quantities than ever before in history. I suspect Bach and Mozart would have been tempted to give their right ear to have access to the huge catalogue of music we largely ignore.

Items heading towards the local museum:

  • Dress-making patterns
  • Telegrams, and telephone boxes
  • Hand-cranked meat-mincers
  • Shoe polish
  • Update: additions from the ‘Comments‘…

  • twin-tubs
  • ironing underwear (!)
  • old fashioned slideshows with family snaps
  • napkin/serviette rings
  • sugar tongs & sugar cubes
  • paper doilies
  • This is not all about nostalgia not being what it used to be, though. I may need to consider another post on things that grandparents have start to pick up from their grandchildren – surprisingly, to show it’s not all one-way…

    And then there is the list of things we don’t yet have, but really could do with – but I think Dave Gorman already has that one covered.

    In the mean-time, do add (in reply comments) to the what ever happened too… list


    London, in Synod week

    This week I have spent most of my time in that other ‘London Eye’, the circular debating chamber of Church House, Westminster.

    Church House Westminster - London 'Eye'

    Church House Westminster - London's other 'Eye'

    I, and others, have commented and commented elsewhere especially on the General Synod Blog, so do look there for some of what Synod has been up to.

    I take being an elected member of the Church of England’s General Synod quite seriously, for though I am not a delegate, expected to carry others views, I do try to sit in as many of the debates and fringe meetings as I possibly can.

    However, being in London has given me a rare opportunity to walk along the banks of the Thames on a couple of occasions, and last night get a cheap mid-week ticket to a theatre production after Synod business had finished.

    I sat with a married clergy colleague, slightly uncomfortably, but also with huge fun, at Alan Ayckbourn’s revival of his 1985 ‘Woman in Mind’.

    Woman in Mind

    Woman in Mind - Alan Ayckbourn - Vaudeville Theatre

    Ayckbourn was interviewed by the Telegraph in the run-up to the West End opening of the production, with the marvellous Janie Dee in the lead rôle.

    The piece is set in a vicarage garden, and is based on the life of wife of the vicar. She has immaculate garden, an exemplary family, a beautiful life. Except, as it transpires, much of the perfection is in her mind – the reality leaves much to be desired. Ayckbourn does not really explore the causes for ‘Susan’s’ mental illness, but looks at it’s outworking.

    I sent a text to my wife saying I was at a play about a vicar’s wife slowly going mad – she responded with a text saying she could introduce me to many clergy wives for research, and that most clergy wives were slowly going mad. She added she was not joking; which though I already knew, I needed to be reminded of; especially in the week this clergy couple celebrated a silver jubilee of years since our engagement.

    Ayckbourn’s play is perplexing, and I think probably a commentary on many professional people of our time, not just vicar’s wives. But the play is not without humour, or indeed hope. Note to self, may need to pick up dreamy immaculate white suit on the way home…

    One further suggestion from a couple of colleagues was to try and get to the Byzantium Exhibition at the Royal Academy before heading home. More signs of hope.

    Byzantium Exhibition

    Byzantium Exhibition



    Hannah, Kay, Laura, Alastair

    Hannah, Kay, Laura, Alastair - July 2008

    ** Alastair’s blog **

    Click for Alastair's blog

    Alastair's blog

    ** Christmas Letters **

    Cutting Family Letters page link

    Cutting Family Letters page link

    Our annual family update… You need a key to unlock the private Christmas letters page. Email us and we will send you the key.

    ** Family Tree Page **

    Family tree

    You need a key to unlock the private Family Tree page. Email us and we will send you the key.



    Cutting Family Christmas letter

    This years family Christmas letter, with previous years’, available via password from the Family page.


    Photos & Videos

    Photos on Alastair’s Flickr site

    Videos on this site



    :: Alastair Cutting ::
    husband of one; father to two; son of medics; CofE priest for many,
    English-born, of Scottish heritage, Indian-raised, 3CK,
    with a passion for God, Macs, the arts, and Aotearoa/NZ;
    working in the UK for the Church of England in South East London as
    Archdeacon of Lewisham & Greenwich, in the Diocese of Southwark.


    Alastair’s MA (including NZ) papers are here, and CV is here.

    Alastair, Kay, Laura & Hannah in Queenstown, NZ; August 2009

    Alastair, Kay, Laura & Hannah in Queenstown, NZ; August 2009


    Hannah, Kay, Laura, Alastair

    Hannah, Kay, Laura, Alastair 1998


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