Fred Studenberg, who has taken on the huge task of collecting all of Warwick Deeping’s short stories, has asked if my readers would help him in a bit of detective work.
He has found the manuscript of ‘Father Teapot’, a hitherto unpublished story, in the Howard Gottleib Archival Research Center at Boston University. Deeping’s handwriting is not easy to read, and he asks about this passage:
(Click the picture for an enlarged view.)
It seems to read:
Now, there was a rude joke current in the army. It declared that the two great failures of the war were the Church of England, and Somebody’s mackintosh.
As the story progresses, Deeping explains why C of E chaplains had a low reputation:
Nor, I confess, did most of them impress us. They seemed to lack courage and a sense of duty. They were not trench-minded. Some of them remained very much in the back area.
I am afraid we often thought of them as rather useless parasites.
But is that last word ‘mackintosh’, and if so, what is ‘Somebody’s mackintosh’? Was there a wartime waterproof that was famously less waterproof than it was supposed to be? Any ideas?
The story ‘Father Teapot’ goes on to tell of a C of E chaplain who was an exception to the uninspiring norm. It has a central incident in common with Deeping’s ‘The Padre and the Tea-pot’ published in The Story-Teller Magazine in 1923. Maybe it’s an early draft?