Talbot House - Toc H

An oasis of serenity in a world gone mad

^^^ The Talbot House, otherwise known as Toc H in Poperinge Flanders, is a home away from home, and important and beautiful legacy


TOC H – Talbot House – Poperinge

During WW1, the ancient city of Poperinge, just 8 km East of Ypres, was part of unoccupied Belgium.

The Germans very briefly captured it on October 14 th,1914 – but it was recaptured the very next day.

Known as ‘Pop’ to the soldiers, it was a forward base for the Ypres Salient from Autumn 1914 onwards.

The local restaurants, theatres, pubs, and brothels, in Poperinge, did well during the war as the town became a very popular place of rest and entertainment for soldiers.

It was a place of choice for those who were given two or three-days’ leave. (More than one soldier went AWOL to have a night in Pop.)

Poperinge, however, was also host to a less positive activity. The town hall in the Grote Markt contains the courtyard where soldiers condemned to death were shot by firing squad.

The ‘Shot at Dawn’ memorial is placed next to what was the execution post.

Seventy executions took place here – 50 British soldiers and 20 French.

Today, a short distance from the memorial, are the surviving two cells where the condemned were held. The Padres, who always spent the last hours with the condemned soldiers, and accompanied them to their death, knew this place well.

In 1915, the Chaplains Neville Talbot and Philip "Tubby" Clayton opened a club in Poperinge for weary soldiers.

All soldiers, regardless of rank or status, were welcomed and treated equally.

Here, they would find a library, a well-kept garden, a concert hall, and a magnificent chapel in the upper room.

It was called Talbot House, or more affectionally by the soldiers as “TOC H.”

TOC was the British Army signaller's code for ‘T’, and H was for ‘House

Called "Every-Man’s Club", it provided rest and recreation to all soldiers, therefore.

A sign over the entrance says, “All rank abandon, ye who enter here.”

For many, this place became their home away from home.

It was described as "An oasis of serenity in a world gone mad"

On July 28th, 1916, just 27 days after the tragedy at Beaumont Hamel, a train, carrying the shattered remnants of the Newfoundland Battalion, pulled into the Poperinge Station.

Unfortunately, the Battalion was only able to spend two nights here as they then went on to defend a sector of the line in the Salient just to the East of Ypres. (In the vicinity where Menin Gate stands today.) But they would be back.

Many times, they would be back.

TOC H would become well remembered and well used.

The Newfoundlanders, like many British soldiers, found TOC H a rare luxury. One Newfoundland soldier sat down in the Chapel and wrote about Toc H to his father -

“…Being able to wash my socks,

dig the mud from my ears,

kill the lice in my clothes,

write a letter home and sleep without fighting rats,

is like being in heaven.”

- (Evans H.)