The Project Gutenberg EBook of With our Fighting Men, by William E. Sellers This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: With our Fighting Men The story of their faith, courage, endurance in the Great War Author: William E. Sellers Release Date: November 1, 2010 [EBook #34188] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK WITH OUR FIGHTING MEN *** Produced by David Clarke, Jeannie Howse and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
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"WE BESEECH THEE TO HEAR US GOOD LORD."ToList
See page 57.
Author of "From Aldershot to Pretoria"
In sending forth this book I wish to acknowledge the kindness and co-operation of many friends, new and old, who have made my task easy and my story, so far as possible, complete.
In the first place, I express my hearty thanks to the Rt. Rev. Bishop Taylor-Smith, D.D. (the Chaplain General); Revs. E.G.F. Macpherson, M.A., and F.G. Tuckey (senior Church of England chaplains at the front); Rev. J.A. M'Clymont, D.D., V.D. (Convener of the Church of Scotland General Assembly's Committee on Army and Navy chaplains); Rev. J.H. Bateson (Secretary of the Wesleyan Methodist Army and Navy Board); Rev. J.H. Shakespeare, M.A. (Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the Free Church Army and Navy Board); Rev. E.L. Watson (senior Free Church chaplain at the front);[iv] General Booth and Brigadier Carpenter (of the Salvation Army); Mr. A.K. Yapp (General Secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association); and several others.
In the second place, I acknowledge with gratitude the help I have received from reports in the Methodist Recorder, Methodist Times, United Free Church of Scotland Record, Church Pennant, Baptist Times and Freeman, Guardian, Guy's Hospital Gazette, War Cry, and many other papers, to the respective editors of which I tender my thanks.
I also wish to express my cordial thanks to my colleague, the Rev. E.G. Loosley, B.D., for the painstaking care with which he has revised the proofs of my book.
I hope and pray that the story recorded in these pages may quicken interest in Christian work among soldiers and sailors, and so help to extend the kingdom of Christ.
|LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS||vii|
|I.||AT THE HOME BASE||1|
|II.||EARLY DAYS AT THE FRONT||26|
|III.||AT THE FIGHTING BASE||44|
|IV.||THE MARNE, THE AISNE, YPRES||63|
|V.||THOMAS ATKINS IN THE TRENCHES||79|
|VI.||CHRISTMAS AT THE FRONT||100|
|VIII.||AT THE SIGN OF THE RED CROSS||135|
|IX.||WITH THE GRAND FLEET||153|
|X.||CHAPLAINS DESCRIBE THEIR WORK||171|
|XI.||HEADS OF ARMY WORK AT HOME TELL THE STORY OF WORK AT THE FRONT||192|
|XII.||WHEN THE MEN COME HOME||207|
|A Moonlight Consecration Service||Frontispiece|
|The Military Cross: The New Decoration For Special Gallantry of Officers||p. ix|
|TO FACE PAGE|
|When the Lads Depart||12|
|Helping the Helpless||26|
|"It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary"||43|
|Bishop Taylor-Smith, Chaplain General, and Other Chaplains||58|
|British Trenches in the Aisne District||74|
|British Soldier Comforting a Dying German||88|
|A Sunday Evening Service on the Field||98|
|In the Trenches||108|
|The Bishop of London Addressing Men of the Army Service Service Corps at the Front||118|
|Hot Food for the Wounded—A New Form of Red-Cross Work||134|
|A Rescue Party. Good Samaritans of the Battlefield||142|
|An Incident During the Fighting on the Marne||150|
|A Voluntary Service on a Battleship||162|
|A Fight in the Air. British Airman Attacking a German Monoplane||178|
|An Incident in the Forêt de la Nieppe||190|
|When the Men Come Home||207|
The Military Cross.
The New Decoration for Special Gallantry of Officers. Already several Army Chaplains have won it.ToList
The story I am about to tell is one of surpassing interest. It is the story of Christian life, work, and heroism among our troops at the front.
The soldier is easily moved to good or to evil. In the past evil influences have been more powerful and more numerous than influences for good. Our soldiers had been drawn, for the most part, from classes outside all churches and Christian influences, and the wet canteen had been the most popular institution in the Army.
For the last twenty-five years, however, the situation has been altering for the better. The day-school has done its work, and a free education has accomplished splendid things for the working-man. The [x]Sunday-school, too, has extended its scope and has of late years been more efficient than ever before. There has been a steady levelling up of the people, and the Army has risen with the rest. Said a soldier to me during the South African war: "They think we are the same as we used to be, but we are no longer the scum of the earth."
Slowly and surely the work done outside the Army has been reflected in the Army. The Army Temperance Association, the Soldiers' Christian Association, the Soldiers' Homes provided by the churches, and other uplifting organisations have found that they were working on soil to some extent prepared. The soldier has responded readily to the appeals made, and the Soldiers' Homes have become as popular as the canteens, and often more so. A Soldiers' Home in a camp has meant at once a change for the better. The senior officers have recognised this fact, and have gladly welcomed every Christian effort on behalf of their men.
I remember, when Bordon and Longmoor camps were formed, with what joy my colleagues and I were welcomed by the officer in command. Everything he had was placed at our disposal, a hut was apportioned to us, and we furnished it, for the most part, from furniture belonging to the camp. Everything was very rough in those days, and the roads well-nigh impassable; but when we got there what a welcome we had! The late Colonel Gordon, R.E. (nephew of Gordon of Khartoum), lent us his piano and his wife often played it for us.
I was standing on Petersfield Station platform one night looking sadly at a group of drunken and half-drunken soldiers, when a non-commissioned [xi]officer came up, and, after saluting, said, "They would not be like that if you had a Home for them, sir."
By and by it was not only a hut we had, but a permanent Soldiers' Home, and when it was opened by the Earl of Donoughmore, it became crowded at once. Brigadier-General Campbell stood our friend through all those difficult days, and rejoiced as much as we did in the prosperity of the Home.
It must be remembered also that for many years past there has been an increasing leaven of Christian men in the Army. The Home to which I have just referred could not have been the power it became had it not been for this. I remember a lance-corporal who, so far as he knew, was the only Christian in his regiment. He used to go out among the solemn pines at night and pray for his comrades. Soon another joined him there, and many another, and by the time the Home was opened we had a company of Christian men ready to work among their fellows.
During my ministry in Aldershot I saw this illustrated in much larger measure, and the Christian men were, all of them, Christian missionaries working with great success.
I have already told the story of Christian work during the South African war in my book "From Aldershot to Pretoria." The story is one for which all the churches may well thank God. Though that war was child's play compared with this, the higher war waged—the war for Christ and His Kingdom—was one of constant victory. Large numbers of men gave themselves to Christ, and when the war was over remembered the vows they had vowed to Him.
Now we have witnessed a mobilisation of Christian forces, such as would have been impossible hitherto. [xii]The Chaplaincy Department has developed into a great and well-organised agency for good. Over two hundred chaplains are already at the front, and the ministers of all the churches are busily at work in the camps at home. All the old Christian and temperance organisations are to the fore, only developed out of all former knowledge, and the Young Men's Christian Association has astonished and delighted the whole Christian world.
The Christian men in the Army—more numerous before the war broke out than they had ever been—are carrying on their noble work and are constantly receiving additions to their ranks.
We have known for years what Thomas Atkins was like—susceptible as a child. I have heard sobs all over the room while picture slides of a little child's story, such as "Jessica's First Prayer," were being shown. But what will the new army be like? Will it be as susceptible as the old? Will the men still thrill when the Gospel story is told? They are different men—men drawn from all classes, actuated by a common purpose to save their country. Will they think only of that, or will their hearts also be "strangely warmed" by tidings of their Saviour's love? Already the answer comes to us "Yes." Never before has such deep seriousness fallen upon our men, and in their quiet moments, and even amid the stress of battle, thoughts have turned to Christ and hearts have been surrendered to Him.
"The truth of the matter is," wrote the Bishop of London, in the Times, after his visit to the front at Easter, "that the realities of war have melted away the surface shyness of men about religion; they feel they are 'up against' questions of life and death; [xiii]and I have heard of more than one censor who has for the first time realised the part religion bears in a soldier's life by censoring the innumerable letters home in which the writers ask for the prayers of their relations or express their trust in God."
It is the purpose of the following pages to tell, so far as it is possible, in these early months of the war, something of the Christian work attempted and accomplished among our men at the front and at sea, and to answer the questions I have just asked.
Enlisting—"Good-bye"—Excitement and Drunkenness—Then came Kitchener's Army—The Churches gave of their Best—A Canvas City—Not for Pay, These—What the Churches Did—The Home Church in the Camp—A Powerful Christian Leaven—Theological Students Volunteer—What the Boys Did—Organising Religious Work—Fifty Men Stood Up—The Y.M.C.A. Tents—A Proud Boast—At Work in the Tents—A Typical Service—The Canadian Y.M.C.A.—What the Salvation Army is Doing—The Church Army at Work—Huts of Silence—W.M. Hut Homes and "Glory Rooms"—Hymn 494—Teetotal Soldiers—Lord Kitchener's Message—The Work of the Navy Chaplains—The Sailors' Homes—Work among the Wounded in Hospital—Hospital Stories.
A troop train slowly passing through Winchester Station. Heads out of every window. One great shout by hundreds of eager young lads, "Are we downhearted?" And then, not waiting for those of us on the platform to answer, the emphatic response "No!"
Winchester Station looked strange that morning, early in August 1914. Its dignified quiet had gone. No one would have dreamt that this was the station of an ancient cathedral city. Armed sentries were posted at every point of entrance and departure. With fixed bayonets they guarded the signal-boxes. Their beds were in the waiting-rooms. The whole station was given up to the military.
And this was not the only case. All down the line it was the same, while every few yards by the side of the metals, all the way to Portsmouth and Southampton, soldiers with fixed bayonets were on guard. Here and there Boy Scouts were assisting, and enjoying themselves immensely.
Portsmouth Harbour at that time was closed to ordinary traffic. The few passengers who still ventured to the Isle of Wight, in what should have been the height of the holiday season, had to betake themselves to Southampton, and be thankful if after long waiting they could get across from there.
The Solent was full of troop-ships. We counted over forty at one time waiting to take troops across, while many more were in Southampton Water. The Isle of Wight was an armed camp. At night search-lights played all over it.
What touching farewells there were! Stand on almost any platform and see—that is if you have the assurance to look on at that which is sacred. A mother brings her little ones to say good-bye to their soldier father. An old woman with difficulty slowly comes to the edge of the platform to give her blessing to her soldier son. A wife is locked for a few brief moments in a loving embrace.
The father, or son, or husband brushes the sleeve of his tunic across his eyes, and then, as the train begins to move, says "Good-bye. I'll soon be back!" And as the train steams out those brave lads ask again, "Are we downhearted?" and the mothers and wives and sweethearts, with tears streaming down their faces, strive to answer "No!"
Those were stirring times at Aldershot. The old scenes at the outbreak of the war in South Africa were re-enacted, only on a larger scale. That was mere child's play to this, and every one realised it. Incessant coming and going as troops gathered from all parts of the country. Military bands marching detachments to the station on their way to the front.
At first there was much drunkenness, for this is generally the case where there is much excitement. But soon a serious feeling crept over all, and the town grew more sober in every respect. Our troops were going to fight the greatest military power in the world, and every man realised that it would be a struggle such as this country had never known before.
By and by our regular troops had departed, and the "Terriers" began to come in. A workman-like lot of men these, shaping like good soldiers. In their thousands they had volunteered for active service, and to active service after a period of training they should go.
And then came Kitchener's Army. And what an army! The appeal had gone forth for half a million men, and then for another half million, and by and by for still another million.
The response was magnificent. Never was our country so great as in those days when Kitchener's Army was being formed. The rush of recruits was overwhelming. It seemed as though the whole body of young men in the country would volunteer.
The churches were to the front in this matter. All suspicion that the churches would prove unpatriotic was blown to the winds. They had been training their young people for peace, but when their country was threatened they were ready for war. They had, many of them, been strongly opposed to conscription, but it was no conscript army which was being embodied; it was an army of free Englishmen.
The churches gave of their best. The vicarages and manses of the country were denuded of their sons. In some Sunday-schools the young men's classes volunteered to a man. In many places it was only with great difficulty that the work of the Sunday-schools was carried on, because the male teachers had enlisted. From the Nottingham Wesleyan Mission went five hundred young men.
All sorts and conditions of healthy young manhood responded to their country's call. Kipling's lines, true of the regular army, were prophetic when applied to Kitchener's Army of those days:
And the young women would have gone too, if they could. It went hard in those days with a sweetheart who was not disposed to volunteer. And the young women did go. The rush of volunteer nurses was tremendous and had to be checked. We shall hear of their good work as we progress.
Aldershot was taken by storm by Kitchener's Army. At one time there were a hundred and fifty thousand men in the camp. Seeing that the barrack accommodation in the camp is not for many more than fifteen thousand in normal times, it was evident that the only way to meet the new conditions was to create a canvas city, and a canvas city it became. There were many miles of tents.
It was a sight indeed to see Kitchener's Army drill. The rush was far too great to be met by the Army clothing factories, and for many weeks there were no uniforms, and the men drilled and were drilled by other men in ordinary civilian clothing.
One could see the varied occupations of the men who had enlisted. Here is a man, great of girth, who will need to have his size reduced considerably ere he rushes at German trenches, and he still wears the leggings with which he trudged across his fields. Here is a man who evidently a few days ago held in his hand the yardstick with which he measured his calico. He is bent on sterner work now.
Here, again, is one from the pit and another from the mill, and a third who looks as though he had been a lawyer or a lawyer's clerk. And drilling them all is a man who evidently a few days since was hewing coal from a Welsh mine. He is back to the colours now, but will have to wait for his transforming uniform.
But all eager, all intense. No work for pay this. "Mercenaries" the Kaiser called them, but no mercenaries these—England's best and noblest ready to give their lives for the land they love so well.
It was a happy thought which allowed men who had been accustomed to live and work together to form their own battalion or regiment; and so we had the Public School Corps, and the Pals' Brigade, and many another. Fastidious young men from West End drawing-rooms proved that they had the hearts of true Englishmen, and worked hard as the rest. Later on, in one hut were men whose income was said to average £2000 a year. They were just privates.
From the religious point of view it was a great opportunity. Nearly every church in the land had sent of its best and had done its best to honour those who went. "Rolls of Honour," containing the names of those who had gone from that particular church, hung in the porches. In many, Sunday by Sunday, the names on the Roll of Honour were read out and special prayer offered for them.
The young men had left their homes and churches with the voice of prayer ringing in their ears. They knew that they were going to serious work and that many of them would never return. The most careless of them were serious now, and were ready, if the impression did not pass away, to give themselves not only to their King and Country, but to the King of Kings.
And right earnestly was the work begun in the Home Church continued in the camps. These camps were established all over the country, for Aldershot and Salisbury Plain were altogether inadequate. To all such camps chaplains were appointed, and, for the first time, the Baptists, Congregationalists, Primitives and United Methodists, who, except in the great military centres, had stood out of the Army work, had their appointed chaplains—not many as yet—but sufficient to show that they also felt the need and were ready to do the work. They have since joined forces for this service, and are carrying on their united work by Free Church chaplains.
The entry of the Free Churches into the Army work is of such general interest that I asked the Rev. J.H. Shakespeare, M.A., Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland, to send me a brief account of the facts. Mr. Shakespeare replied under date of February 10, 1915.
"Up to ten years ago, the sentiment among Baptists and Congregationalists was not very sympathetic towards the Army, and there was no provision on the Attestation Sheet for the entry of men as belonging to these two denominations. I then secured a column for this purpose, which has been in use ever since, but I do not think it has been very effective.
"When the war broke out, our churches were practically unanimous in their support of the Government. At that time about three thousand troops were entered under our two denominations. I went to see the late Mr. Percy Illingworth, who interested himself very warmly in the proper recognition of Baptists and Congregationalists. Large numbers of our young men began to enlist. The Rev. R.J. Wells and I, through interviews at the War Office, secured that orders were sent out directing that men were to be entered according to their religious professions. Mr. Lloyd George brought the matter under the notice of Lord Kitchener, who strongly resented any sort of sectarian unfairness and wished our recruits to have the same facilities as those of other denominations. Meanwhile, Mr. Wells and I collected the names and regiments of Baptist and Congregational recruits, with the result that we are able to announce the following figures, though more than a third of our churches have made no reply:—
|Hampstead, Heath Street||92|
|Plaistow, Barking Road||400|
|Hornsey, Ferme Park||160|
|Peckham, Rye Lane||116|
"In spite of what had been done, a great mass of certified evidence began to reach us that recruiting sergeants were refusing to enter our recruits as Baptists or Congregationalists, but were putting them down to some other church. Of this we have exact evidence. Further orders were then issued by the War Office that this must not be done.
"At the beginning of the war there were only two Baptist Chaplains to the Forces—Rev. F.G. Kemp at Aldershot, and Rev. J. Seeley at Woolwich. The War Office now asked our Army Board to nominate additional provisional chaplains, both for home camps and for the Expeditionary Force, and, in addition, that ministers should be appointed for any place where there was a considerable body of troops as 'officiating clergymen,' still carrying on their churches, but having the right to hold church parade, visit in camp, hospitals, &c. Of these a large number have been appointed. In addition, Congregational chaplains were appointed.
"The next stage was that we were approached from the Primitive Methodist and United Methodist Churches asking to be grouped with us for Army and Navy purposes. The result has been the formation of a United Army and Navy Board for the four denominations, and our chaplains and officiating clergymen have charge of soldiers and sailors belonging to these four churches.
"The next step was that an appeal was made by the Rev. R.J. Wells, for the Congregationalists, and myself, for the Baptists, for an 'Army Tent and Chaplain Fund,' the result being that we have raised a sufficient sum to enable us to erect permanent institutes or huts with chaplains, or 'officiating clergymen,' in about half a dozen camps. The Primitive Methodists and United Methodists are taking the same course, and together we shall shortly have a considerable number of such huts available.
"Concurrently with this we have succeeded in securing appointments for 'officiating clergymen' and chaplains for the Navy and at naval stations, though some of our chaplains hold a double position, both to the Army and Navy."
From the character of the response it was evident that there was a powerful Christian leaven working in the Army itself.
To begin with, there was a wholesale offer by Christian ministers for chaplaincy work. Not a tithe of the offers could be accepted, and then was witnessed a sight such as has never been seen before. As they could not be accepted as chaplains, a large number of ministers of religion enlisted as private soldiers, and these from practically all the churches.
Certainly the proposal that the clergy should volunteer as combatants was not favoured by the ecclesiastical authorities. The Archbishop of Canterbury recognised the prima facie arguments used by the younger clergy in support of such action, but concluded that fighting was incompatible with Holy Orders.
However, many, with the Archbishop's consent, enlisted in the Army Medical Corps, and are devoting themselves to the sick and wounded. Among the Wesleyans, the matter was left to the judgment of the men concerned. Some enlisted in line regiments, but the majority also entered the Army Medical Corps. In one barrack room of the R.A.M.C. at Aldershot, we hear of five Church of England curates and one Wesleyan minister. So far as we know the other Free Churches adopted the same line as the Wesleyans.
The Theological Colleges were not slow to follow the example of the ministers, in fact in many cases they led the way. Both in this country and in Scotland a large proportion of the students volunteered—so many in fact that it has become a serious matter for the immediate future of the churches.
The Church of England has been suffering from a dearth of candidates for its ministry for years past, and, as the Times says: "The great reduction caused by the war may quite seriously affect the Church's efficiency." However, these young men evidently thought that they might serve their Church and its Divine Lord as well in the ranks as in the pulpit, and might serve their country at the same time, and they went.
This was a new army—new in every respect. Never before had Christian ministers and young men in training for the ministry volunteered, in any numbers, as private soldiers; but the call had been imperative, and they were out to save their country. They took their religion with them and made it felt.
Still another great work for the Army has been done by the Christian churches. In an important article in the Times of January 1915 we were told:
"It is impossible to give an adequate account of the valuable work done by the different churches in providing men for the Army through the various Lads' Brigades and Boy Scouts. The Boys' Brigade is the senior and largest of these organisations; it has many branches throughout the Empire, with a present total strength of 115,000. Many of its members have enlisted. The Church Lads' Brigade had in 1913 a membership of 60,000, besides two junior organisations, the Church Scout Patrols and the Church Lads' Brigade Training Corps. It has also contributed a very large number of recruits. In London the Diocesan Church Lads' Brigade, which forms part of the Cadet Force of the country, sent practically every officer eligible and nearly every cadet of seventeen years of age to join the regular forces soon after the declaration of war. Many of these have been in action, and the following casualties have been reported: Killed, two; wounded, thirty-two; missing, six; invalided, five; prisoners, two. These Boys' Brigades have become very popular. Besides those already mentioned there are the Jewish Lads' Brigade, the Catholic Boys' Brigade, the Boys' Life Brigade, and the Boys' Naval Brigade. Three of the new V.C.'s have been won by former Brigade lads. On behalf of all these admirable organisations the Lord Mayor of London has issued an appeal for financial support, pointing out that 225,000 of those now serving with the colours have been prepared for their work by one or other of these organisations."
The Government heartily backed the efforts of the churches. In addition to the chaplains of all denominations, others for whom no appointments could be found were allowed to go to France at their own or their friends' expense, to render to the soldiers what spiritual help they could.
Services for the men in training were organised everywhere. Schools, vicarages, and manses were turned into temporary soldiers' homes. Wherever they came, the men found the churches ready to receive them. They supplied them with literature to read and with writing materials, provided refreshments, organised religious services, and did their best, not only to cater for their social needs, but to enlist them into the Army of Jesus Christ.
Numbers of the soldiers were preachers too, and supplied the pulpits of the Free Churches where they were stationed. They occupied choir stalls, taught in Sunday-schools, and generally helped to carry on the work of the churches. Many of these Christian lads were themselves unofficial chaplains among their comrades.
At Aldershot and the other great military centres, the work of the churches was naturally of the best. Never was the opportunity so great, and never was the response so rapid.
Take, for instance, the report that comes to us from Grosvenor Road Wesleyan Military Church, Aldershot. Grosvenor Road Church dominates the town. It is a noble Gothic building, its tower visible for many miles. It is locally known as the "Wesleyan Church of England." It is, of course, customary for it to be crowded at the Parade services, but now it was thronged with soldiers at the voluntary services also. Wesley Hall at the back and the Soldiers' Home Lecture Hall at the side were thronged at the same time. On one Sunday evening, when the appeal was made for decision for Christ, fifty men stood up in the midst of eleven or twelve hundred of their comrades, to avow that they did then and there give themselves to Christ. It was no easy matter for a soldier to do, but it was done, and similar scenes were enacted on many occasions.
Drawn by Arthur Twidle.
WHEN THE LADS DEPART.
One of Kitchener's army salutes his mother as he leaves.ToList
Let no one suppose, however, that this was the only place where decisions for Christ were registered. Nearly all the churches could make some such statement, though perhaps they could not speak of such large numbers. Never a night passed but some soldiers gave themselves to Christ, in the "Glory Rooms" of the various soldiers' homes. The chaplains and the Army Scripture readers were busy all day and often far into the night: by day visiting the men in barrack room and tent, in the evening conducting services for them, and at night writing letters on their behalf.
It is impossible to chronicle such work as this. Much of it is too sacred to be told. Many of the best workers are the slowest to speak of their work, and where all did their best—their very best—it is invidious to mention names. But on every hand we hear of spiritual results surpassing all previous experience in work among soldiers—work which the Great Day will declare.
It must be borne in mind that the men were ready for this spiritual work. The times were serious and they were serious too. It must also be borne in mind that splendid preparatory work had been done in the churches and Sunday-schools of our land. And now that the spiritual need was felt, the response was rapid, and the Sunday-school teacher far away reaped the result of his labour.
I turn now to another class of work, the work of the Young Men's Christian Association. For many years the Y.M.C.A. has been identified with social and Christian work in the Army. It has had its tents wherever soldiers have gathered for their training, and during the South African War it rendered most efficient and appreciated service.
Since the outbreak of the present war it has to a large extent suspended its ordinary work, in order that it might establish a system of recreation tents and reading rooms in all the naval and military camps. It is the boast of the Association that it has not refused a single request for a tent, and by the end of March 1915 it had 700 centres in different training camps, each with its wooden "hut" or canvas tent.
Not only are they in England, but in Scotland and Ireland, and by and by upon the Continent also. When the Canadians came they found the Y.M.C.A. ready to receive them. Six buildings were erected for their use, and the largest of these measured a hundred feet by thirty, with wooden walls and floor, and a canvas roof.
Coffee is served in these extemporised Soldiers' Homes from five o'clock in the morning to the end of the day. Everything that it is possible to do for the soldiers' comfort is done. In one of these tents 5000 letters were written and posted in one week. In the evenings "Singsongs" are arranged, and hundreds of thousands of a popular Christian songbook have been sold. Literature, largely provided by such agencies as the Religious Tract Society, abounds.
On Sundays the "Homes" are given over to the ministrations of the chaplains. All denominations are welcome, and the freedom of the buildings is also allowed for services to the Roman Catholics and the Jews.
Over 3000 voluntary helpers have taken part in this work as well as the staff of the National Headquarters, while 95 per cent, of the general secretaries throughout the country have acted as supervising agents. We do not wonder that the Association has received the thanks of the Government.
May I describe one service in a Y.M.C.A. tent? It is Sunday evening. The various Parade services of the morning have been held, the Church of England in the open air, and the Congregationalists and Wesleyans in the tent. But now a sergeant is in charge, and for half an hour he allows the men to choose what hymns they like, and right heartily do they sing. But now an Anglican archdeacon is on the platform, and with eager words and practical advice is urging the soldiers to live as Christian gentlemen. Then follows a Wesleyan minister with many a story and many an appeal. Then a Congregationalist minister, in quieter vein but with restrained earnestness. There are Christian songs between the addresses and many an audible response from the "Tommies" to the word of exhortation spoken. It is a re-union of the churches, proving that at heart they are all one in Christ Jesus, and it is made possible by the work of the Y.M.C.A.
In the case of the Canadians, the Y.M.C.A. is actually a part of the military force, and that is a remarkable thing. Six of the Canadian officers of the Association in the first contingent were at the same time officers in the Canadian Army, and were told off to the service of the Y.M.C.A., but they were none the less officers for that. In this way the Association is recognised, and the officers can go with the men right into the trenches, and do. Fine men were these first six officers, four of them with the infantry brigades, one with the cavalry, and one with the artillery.
The Salvation Army is also doing this work in its own way, but on a smaller scale. Writing to the Times in October 1914, Commissioner Higgins said: "We have established centres of work by permission of the authorities in about forty camps, and others are in course of preparation. We have many indications that the men highly appreciate what is being done. In one centre alone, on one day recently, we received 2000 letters for men in camp.
"In addition to personal help—which is so valuable when men are separated from their families and friends—there are opportunities for reading and writing, simple recreation and rest, and we are, so far as possible, holding bright and happy meetings, where men who know something of the power of Christ are able to urge upon their comrades the love and service of God. It seems to us that these cannot but be of the highest advantage to the men when they come to face those dreadful ordeals which must lie before many of them. Salvation Army officers have been appointed by the authorities concerned as chaplains for various units, both in the forces coming from Canada and New Zealand."
Everyone who knows anything of Christian work in the British Army knows how efficient is the service rendered by the Salvation Army, and its Salvation soldiers are always at work bringing other soldiers to Christ.
The Church Army is, and also has been, at work. Prebendary Wilson Carlile reports that it has supplied tents in a number of the larger stations, tents which were welcomed everywhere, and in which the same class of work has been done as in those of the Y.M.C.A. The "Lord Kitchener" tent in Hyde Park, close to the Marble Arch, has proved to be an admirable institution, and has afforded an object lesson as to how this work should be done.
At the request of Bishop Taylor Smith, the Chaplain General, a new departure in Christian work among the troops has been taken. In twelve different camps small chapels have been built, each 30 feet by 20 feet. In each chapel are a Lord's Table and chairs, and there is a small room, 5 feet by 8 feet, for interviews with the chaplain. These chapels are called "Huts of Silence" and are intended for quiet meditation and prayer. It is a new experiment and will be watched with much interest. Tommy is a gregarious creature, and how he will take to silence remains to be seen. There is, however, opportunity for all classes of Christian work in the ever-growing British Army.
In connection with the Army work of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, Soldiers' Homes have long played a conspicuous part. Before the war broke out that church had already spent £154,420 on providing forty-one such homes in different parts of the Empire, twenty of these being in England.
Always full in peace time, these homes have of course been overcrowded in time of war, and scores of temporary homes have been brought into use in all the great centres. Soon after the war broke out an appeal was made for £5000 to erect tent or hut homes in all the camps. It has had a noble response, and the work is succeeding beyond expectation. In each of these homes there is a "Glory Room." The name comes from the Mother Home at Aldershot, and they call it so because
No pressure is brought to bear on any soldier to enter the Glory Room. There are the reading rooms, games room, refreshment room as everywhere else, but night by night an increasing number of lads find their way into the Glory Room. There prayer is wont to be made, and Sankey's hymn-book, loved of the Christian soldier, is in evidence. Never a night passes but some soldier lad comes home to God, and "Glory crowns what grace has begun."
Every night the gathering ends with the Christian soldier's watchword—"494." Years before the South African War it was used among our Christian lads. It went right through South Africa. As company passed company on the march, a Christian man in one company would shout "494," and if there were a Christian in the passing company he would respond "494." Sometimes the response varied and instead would come the ringing shout, "Aye, lad, and six further on." Thus the Christian soldier's watchword rang out from the Cape to Pretoria. And it has been ringing right through this war.
So every meeting in the Glory Room of a Wesleyan Soldiers' Home closes with it. If you turn to Sankey's hymn-book you will find that "494" is "God be with you till we meet again," and "six further on" is "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine." Thus our lads cheer each other in times of difficulty and danger.
I must not forget to mention the little Red Books and Blue Books which, to the number of 60,000, have been distributed to all Wesleyan soldiers and sailors in the Expeditionary Forces. These, which contain hymns and prayers, have been compiled by the Rev. F.L. Wiseman and are greatly appreciated by the men. Also a "Housewife" has been given to every man, containing all things necessary for patching, darning, and mending.
But every church has cared for its men, if not in these, in other ways, and the men have been loaded with comforts. I have singled out the Wesleyan Soldiers' Homes for special mention, because that church has made this work a speciality, and has homes now in every great military or naval centre throughout the Empire. But it must not be forgotten that the Church of England has its "Institutes" also, and that the Presbyterian Church is just beginning this work. Miss Daniel's Soldiers' Home at Aldershot has for many years rendered good service.
Perhaps this is the best time to speak of Temperance work in the Army, for it is another form of Christian service.
Temperance principles had been rapidly leavening the Army years before the outbreak of war. We are apt to forget that we have a new army, an army educated in our Council schools and Sunday-schools, and most of its men have been under Christian influence. Before the war broke out, over forty per cent. of our Army in India were members of the Army Temperance Association, and in this country, though the percentage of members was lower, that magnificent institution was rejoicing in great success. There was still a "tail" to the British Army, a long and unwholesome tail, but it was growing shorter and more wholesome each year.
Since the war commenced it has grown shorter still. Temperance work has been done everywhere. The Army Temperance workers are in all the homes, and the fruit of their work is seen on every hand.
The decree of the Czar of Russia prohibiting the sale of vodka gave a great impetus to British Temperance work, and perhaps Lord Kitchener gave as great if not an even greater stimulus.
Lord Kitchener's message to the Expeditionary Force on its departure for France may in part be quoted: "In France and Belgium you are sure to meet with a welcome, and to be trusted. Your conduct must justify that welcome and that trust. Your duty cannot be done unless your health is sound, so keep constantly on your guard against any excess. In this new experience you may find temptation in wine.... You must entirely resist temptation."
Lord Kitchener also issued a strong appeal to the British public, urging them not to treat our soldiers to intoxicating drink, and his entreaty was backed by strong measures in many camps.
At the request of the naval and military authorities the Home Secretary (Mr. McKenna) carried through Parliament a measure giving to licensing justices in any district, upon the recommendation of the chief officer of police, the power temporarily to restrict the sale, consumption, and supply of intoxicating liquors on licensed premises and in clubs.
Add to all this the immense work of the churches and various temperance associations, and there is no wonder that we have new men in a new army.
I turn now for a few moments to work among the men of the Navy. Not so much could be done for them as for our soldier lads. Church of England chaplains were, of course, on the larger ships, but room could not be found for the chaplains of other churches. All the records tell of splendid work done by the chaplains on board.
And when from their life on the ocean wave the men came in for brief periods to the home ports, the chaplains on shore rejoiced in the opportunity of service. Everywhere services were arranged—services on board ship, and services on shore. All sorts of literature was provided. Comforts, in the shape of warm garments made by loving hands at home, were distributed.
The Sailors' Homes were open to them, and were thronged during the brief periods when they could be used by the men. Special mention must be made of the splendid work done by Miss Agnes Weston for many years. It must not be forgotten that long before the outbreak of war Christian and Temperance work had been as fruitful in the Navy as in the Army. But the war has made such work still more effective.
On board ship the Christian men were always ready for prayer. The Rev. R.H. Hingley tells that one day he had been conducting a brief service on a cruiser, and as he was waiting for his boat, man after man came up to him and suggested a prayer meeting. It was a newly commissioned ship and many of the men who gathered to the prayer meeting confessed Christ for the first time.
At sea these men congregate every evening for prayer in the chaplain's room, but often that room is too small, and more commodious quarters have to be sought.
Mr. Hingley tells of a letter he has received from a sailor saint. "We have taken the ninety-first Psalm as our special song. How grand it is to be sure, and how true have we proved it to be!" Thus many of our Christian sailor lads go down to the sea in ships singing as they go, "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty," and so they are not afraid "for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day." Christ has many witnesses among our sailors in the North Sea.
It was not long before another class of service came to those at the Home Base, viz. the work among the wounded in the hospitals. This war has brought the fact of war home to every one.
Not long was it before the hospitals already in use were all too small for the numbers of wounded drafted from the front, and hospitals sprang up in all the great centres of population. For weeks preparations had been made. Red Cross amateur nurses and St. John's Ambulance nurses had been completing their training. Medical men had volunteered their services, and ministers of religion of all denominations were ready to do what they could for the spiritual needs of the men.
The opportunity was golden. Never had there been one like it before. These men had come through the Valley of Death. They were ready to think and pray. Says one chaplain:
"Again and again, while going through the wards, men have said, 'I shall be a different man after this, sir.' They have told us of their life in the trenches and of the prayers they have made while the bullets have been flying about them. Said one: 'I know this—on the field I prayed hard, more than ever I prayed before.' Another man speaks of the peace he had when facing death. 'I remembered those words in one of the Psalms—"A thousand shall fall at thy side and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee"—and God brought me through.'"
Multiply this story a thousandfold and we shall see what the war has done for men, and also realise how easy it has been to lead soldiers thus impressed into fellowship with our Lord. A loving work is this, requiring ministry tender and true, but it has been done and done right nobly. Men who had learnt not to be afraid of death have learnt also how to live.
In Denmark Hill Hospital a wounded man told this story to the Rev. A. Bingham. A young soldier was mortally wounded in one of the great battles. When he realised that he was dying he began to sing. Faintly but clearly he sang:
Far away from loved ones—far from home—wounded to the death, the soldier found in the love and presence of Jesus his Saviour and friend, rest and peace. And his comrade in the hospital remembered his dying song and passed it on that it might become a message to many another when they too came to die—
One more hospital story will suffice. It is of a different order from the last, but it reveals Thomas Atkins as he really is.
The wife of the local colonel was making the round of a hospital and paused at the bedside of a wounded soldier, who evidently hailed from the North of England. He was toying with a helmet, apparently a trophy of war.
"Well," said the lady, "I suppose you killed your man?"
"Well, naw," quietly responded the soldier. "You see it was like this. He lay on the field pretty near me with an awfu' bad wound an' bleedin' away somethin' terrible. I was losin' a lot of blood too fra' my leg, but I managed to crawl up to him, an' bound him up as well as I could, an' he did the same for me. Nawthin' o' coorse was said between us. I knew no German an' the ither man not a word o' English, so when he'd dun, not seein' hoo else tae thank him, I just smiled, an' by way o' token handed him my Glengarry, an' he smiled back an' giv' me his helmet."
Thus Thomas Atkins has shown how to fight his enemy and to love him too.
This, then, in brief outline, is the story of Christian work at the Home Base during the early stages of the war.
Chaplains or acting chaplains everywhere, Scripture readers, Y.M.C.A. workers, voluntary workers, all sorts and conditions of workers. Bright, cheery services every evening. Loving appeals for decision for Christ—appeals which have been responded to by thousands of our lads. Centres for thought and rest and recreation everywhere. The need has been great, and the need has been supplied by people moved to self-sacrifice as never before.
Few families but have had some members in either Navy or Army, and as parents have said good-bye to their sons they have known that a hearty Christian welcome awaited them where they went, and that they might safely leave them to the kindly ministry of willing hearts and hands. The motto of everyone, high and low, has been Ich dien—I serve.
If Minister Shoots Minister!—A Brighter Side—A Beautiful Story—Pastors and Members in the Firing Line—A German Pastor—The Retreat through Belgium—The Work of Heroes—A Rear-guard Action—Seeking the Wounded—Refugees Stupid with Terror—Behind the Rear-guard—A Narrow Escape—A Night to be Remembered—The Man who Saved the British Army—God has been with Me—The British Soldier will Joke—Why Not?—Awful Experiences—A Monotony of Horror—Picking up Wounded Stragglers—Lines of Broken Men—Still Retreating—A Wonderful Triumph of Will—Thirsty Heroes—The Ambulance Found—The End of the Retreat—Mentioned in Despatches—No Parade Services.
Viewed from a Christian standpoint, the most distressing things about this war are: (1) That Christian nations are engaged in a life and death struggle. It is a lamentable confession, an awful fact. Two thousand years of Christian teaching have absolutely failed to keep Christian nations at peace.
And yet are these nations Christian? Has not Germany by its adoption of a false philosophy forfeited the title of Christian? So far as its military class is concerned I fear we must say "Yes," but so far as hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants are concerned we rejoice to believe we can still answer "No." They are fighting because they must, and because they do not understand. And we are fighting in another sense because we must. Like Luther, "We can no other." May God forgive us if we are wrong! We believe—with all our hearts we believe—our cause is just.
HELPING THE HELPLESS.
Royal Navy Division helping Belgian soldiers and refugees during the retreat from Antwerp.
Drawn by Ernest Prater from sketches made by one who was there.ToList
And out of this first distressing thing there emerges another. (2) Christian ministers are opposed to each other in the ranks, not because they want, but because they must. The law of conscription in Germany and in France applies to them as to others.
Surely these might have been left out of the call, or at any rate might have been left free to respond or not as their conscience dictated, as was the case in England. The consequence is that hundreds if not thousands of churches are left without their spiritual leaders, and everywhere the flock is destitute of the shepherd's care.
I said "a distressing thing," but is it not a tragedy? And if they should meet—these Christian ministers—across the trenches or in the line of battle, and minister shoot minister, or perforce meet him in a bayonet charge!
But there is a brighter side even to this dark picture. There are twenty thousand priests, "religious," and seminarists serving in the French Army. Among them are three bishops. Monsignor Ruch, coadjutor of Nancy, is one; he is employed as a stretcher-bearer. Another, Monsignor Perros, is a sub-lieutenant; and the third, Monsignor Mourey, is simply Private Mourey in the ranks. It is quite an ordinary thing for confessions to be heard by soldier priests in the trenches, and for absolution to be given before the charge. Protestant ministers, too, fighting in the ranks never forget they are ministers, and their ministry may be even more effective than that of the chaplains, for are they not comrades too? Thus the armies are leavened by Christian men, whose supreme business must be the Kingdom of God.
A beautiful story comes to us from the early days of the war. In the hall of a great railway terminus in Paris, a number of wounded were laid out on straw waiting to be taken to a hospital. Several of them had evidently not long to live. One especially was very restless, and a nurse moved to his side, and began to do what she could for him.
"I badly want a priest," moaned the dying man.
The nurse looked round upon the company of wounded.
"Is there a priest here?" she asked. A voice in little more than a whisper replied:
"Yes, Sister, I am a priest. Take me to him."
There he lay at the point of death, wounded and wounded sorely. It was a strange sight—his dirty ragged uniform not yet removed, the stains of war and of awful travel from the front upon his face, and he a priest!
"Take me to him," he repeated.
She said: "You are not fit to be moved, I dare not do it." And then insistently he whispered:
"Sister, you are of the faith. You know what it means to the dying lad. I must go."
He tried to rise from the straw on which he lay, and seeing his determination the nurse had him moved to the dying soldier's side. A few whispered words of confession, and the priest motioned to the Sister.
"I cannot raise my arm. Help me to make the sign," he said.
The Sister lifted his arm and together they made the sign of the cross. And then, exhausted, the soldier priest fell back. His comrade felt for his hand, clasped it in his dying grasp, and together priest and penitent passed away.
Thus heroically are many French priests doing a double work, at once fighting for their country and for their faith.
It is the same with French Protestant ministers. All of military age have had to go. The President of the French Wesleyan Conference, the Rev. Emile Ullern, is fighting as a private soldier in the French Army, and many another. Two-fifths of the pastors of the Reformed Church of France are also in the ranks. Already three of them, plus a missionary and a most promising theological student, one of the Monod's, have fallen on the battle-field. Our French churches are without pastors, and the work of many years is seemingly being ruined. But their members are at the front too, and it is a joy if, now and then, they meet and are able to comfort one another in the firing line.
It is the same in Germany. Already we hear of one German Methodist minister who has fallen at the front—Rev. Friedrich Rösch, Ph.D. He graduated brilliantly in philosophy and languages at Strasburg University. He then offered for missionary work and rendered excellent service among the Mohammedans of Northern Africa. He had a good knowledge of Arabic and had learned two other African languages. Now a British or French bullet, or shrapnel shell, has cut short his career.
This is the grim tragedy of this awful war—Christian fighting Christian, Christian minister fighting Christian minister.
Our business, however, is with the British army and with Christian work therein. Our task is a difficult one, for the veil of secrecy which enveloped the early days of the war has hardly as yet been lifted. Only here and there has that veil been raised just a little, but wherever we are privileged to gaze we are filled with admiration. The work of our chaplains and doctors and nurses has been heroic, and the no less noble work of Christian soldiers fills us with thanksgiving.
The war began with retreat. That apparently invincible German army strode ruthlessly through Belgium, leaving fire and rapine and death in its track. It found a garden, and it left a wilderness; prosperity, and it left starvation. It will be remembered for all time for barbarities that disgraced war. Belgian mothers will tell their children, and the story will be passed down the ages, of broken hearts and ruined lives, and a tortured devastated land.
And then, the devoted little army of Belgium thrown upon one side, the clash of war began in France. Our British Expeditionary Force had been rushed across the Channel with General Sir John French in command. With marvellous efficiency it had crossed without a single casualty, convoyed by British and French men-of-war. With the forces went the chaplains of the different denominations, their numbers to be steadily augmented throughout the war.
But the French were not ready, and our force was all too small for the task allotted to it. To our eternal credit, we also were not ready. Our Army did the work of heroes, but the huge German Army steadily marched on, and there was nothing to be done but retire. When the full story of the retreat from Mons comes to be written, what grim reading it will make!
Of course, in those desperate days all that the chaplains could do was to look after the wounded and bury the dead. Organised services were out of the question. A few men gathered here or there at the close of a terrible march, a prayer or two, a message of cheer or consolation, and then a brief sleep, and the inevitable weary march again, the rear-guard fighting all the way. But all day long there were opportunities of individual service and these were used to the full.
From the publications of the Salvation Army we get a vivid picture of those days. Being an international institution it had, and still has, its agents in every part of the fighting area. Germans, Russians, French, Belgians, and British are all the same to it—they are men who need salvation. It has been as vigorous in its work among Germans as among any others, and its trophies won upon German battle-fields will be bright jewels in our Redeemer's crown.
Brigadier Mary Murray, who rendered signal service during the South African war, and who wears the South African medal, was in Brussels when the Germans entered the city. She gives us a vivid picture of her experiences in connexion with the German occupation. I quote from the War Cry of September 12, 1914:
"At last I am able to write. Twelve days of silence, no post, no papers, nothing but such news as the Germans cared to put up, and all the time a sound of heavy firing.
"We reached Brussels last Tuesday week. The first impression was of a town en fête. The streets, even the poorest, were gay with bunting and flags; on every side black, orange, and red caught one's eye.
"In trying to get an extra man officer for our party we were still in Brussels on Thursday, and by twelve o'clock found ourselves German prisoners. Every house in the better part of the town was closed and the windows shuttered. The empty streets at twelve o'clock gave one a horrid chill, but by four o'clock dense masses of people watched the German Army pass. Old men, young men, bare-headed women, women with hobble skirts, but one and all holding tiny dogs in their arms! Behind, the cafés were in full swing.
"Hour after hour the 4th German army corps rolled along the cobble streets, a solid grey line of burly men and magnificent horses. I turned from watching and saw a boy in the act of throwing a heavily-weighted belt dragged away by two policemen. In the cafés men were drinking the inevitable beer and playing cards. I turned again. Still on they came, cavalry, artillery, and infantry—a man to my right in French said, 'One of these men told me they knew they were going to their death.' Just then a cavalry man, catching sight of my uniform, very courteously and gravely saluted me, saying, 'Heils Armee' (Salvation Army).
"The next day—still the army passing through,—a gunner, bending down, said, 'Heils Armee—Hallelujah!' Wild rumours throughout the town; atmosphere electric, a single act of violence, and one felt the Germans would have opened fire. Notices were posted all over the town imploring the people to be calm; every day, often all day, we tried for a way to get out, but without a ray of hope; day after day refugees arrived with tales of misery and horror.
"My diary runs: 'All cafés to be closed early. Germans send for quicklime to cover their dead. 7000 wounded arrive—all Germans. Germans posted notices to-day: "English badly beaten; French retreated." Threatened to sack Brussels. No milk, no bread, no eggs, no butter. We were mobbed to-day, as the rumour had spread that Brussels had been betrayed by the English. Notice out not to touch water, as German dead were lying in great numbers unburied near Mallien.'"
From Brussels Brigadier Murray made her way to Le Havre. The scenes she witnessed among the flying Belgians were terrible. One picture will ever live in her memory—and ours.
"A woman who had to fly at night from her village had to do so with three tiny children; the baby she put into her apron with some clothing, the other two she carried. Through the darkness she had to walk to the junction, where ensued a wild scramble for seats. When the train had started the distracted woman discovered that the baby had dropped from her apron, when and where no one could discover."
Later Brigadier Murray has had charge of the first ambulance sent out by the Salvation Army.
The bravery of these women Salvation Army officers is past description.
During the battle of Mons Adjutant L. Renaud, a French-Swiss officer, was in charge of the Salvation Army corps at Quaregnon, near Mons. She tells us her experiences during those fearful days.
"Here in Quaregnon it has been terrible—beyond all expression. More than 300 houses have been destroyed, and many civilians killed, not only men and women, but also children, but none of our Salvation Army comrades has been touched. We have been protected in a marvellous manner. We can say with David, 'The Angel of the Lord encampeth around those that fear Him and plucks them out of danger' (French translation). God has done that for us. The battle continued from Sunday morning at eleven o'clock to Monday evening. The bombardment did not cease a moment; while it was on we had thirty of our comrades with their little children in our large cellar."
We understand that the officers got possession of this house with the large cellar last year. The hall is on the ground floor. In their former house there was no cellar. The adjutant proceeds:
"I am so glad that I remained at my post, to aid and encourage not only my Salvation Army comrades, but also the population. The people were completely panic-stricken. I do not know how it has happened, but the Lord has enabled me to rest in a great calm and without any fear. Lieutenant and I have been enabled to go amongst the people, comforting them and taking help to them even when the balls have whistled by our ears. Oh, how God has protected us! That night of August 23 will never be forgotten by me.
"The day after the battle—what horrible sights! Dead bodies in the streets, the wounded, and from all sides poor maddened people flying to save themselves with their little children—all the people weeping. I could never describe what I have seen. How is it possible that such things could take place in this age of education? And now the misery is here for the poor workers. It is already seven weeks since the men (colliers) could work. The food has been seized and more often than not wasted by the German troops. The future is very dark for these poor people.
"When the English soldiers came here the Lieutenant and I prepared tea for them while they dug trenches. After the battle, when the Germans came, we lodged many of them in our hall and did what we could for them. Then I thought of all our dear Salvationists who are in the different armies—English, German, French, Austrian, Russian, Belgian. Oh, how glad I am that I remained at my post to help my comrades! On the Sunday during the bombardment the cry went forth, 'Let all those save themselves who can do so!' I went outside to see if there was any serious danger. Then I said to the people, 'Come with us in the hall; I will take care of you as much as I can.' They came, and were content to be with their officers. They said, 'If it be necessary for us to die, well, we will be with our officers; it will be better for us to be with them.' Thus they remained with us, and God has protected all. Blessed be His Holy Name!"
Adjutant Renaud and her Lieutenant, however, were not the only women Salvation Army officers who stuck to their posts. They all did so, nerving themselves with the strength of Christ, and daring all things in His name. And to-day many of them are still working in Belgian and French towns overrun by German troops doing their best for Christ and the Kingdom.
It is time, however, that we rejoined the British troops who by this time are retreating from Mons. There had been terrible fighting around Mons for four days, but the opposing forces were overwhelming, and they had no option but to retire fighting a rear-guard action all the way. The retreat began on or about August 24, 1914, not three weeks after the declaration of war. It was a pitiful experience for our soldiers who are not accustomed to turn their backs to the foe.
It is not our purpose to tell the story of that awful retreat—other books will do that. Nor is it possible as yet to tell in full the story of the Christian work attempted during the hurried marching of those fearful times. In the first place commissioned chaplains are not permitted as yet to publish reports, and in the second place all work attempted was necessarily unorganised and fragmentary. It could be nothing more than caring for the wounded and whenever possible burying the dead.
The horrors of the retreat can only be known by those who experienced them, and there was little light amid the darkness of apparent failure. It must be remembered that our men were fighting all the time, sometimes it seemed to them succeeding, but really only succeeding in allowing the main body to retreat to the rear. For twelve days the retreat continued and did not terminate until Saturday, September 5.
Here and there we get a little light in the darkness. The War Cry of September 19 contains a story from the pen of a motor driver in the R.F.A., who was also a Salvation Army bandsman, which has to do with the battle more than the retreat, but which may as well be told here, leaving a description of some incidents in the retreat itself to follow later.
"We got everything ready for the enemy, the trenches dug and the guns fixed, and then came the worst job of all—waiting. For thirty-six hours we lay there watching and listening for the first sign of the Germans. Then for five hours the battle lasted without cessation.
"Having brought my transport wagons up to the firing lines with my motor, I had to help load the guns. Shells were flying and bursting all round us. I was wounded by a splinter from one of the shells, but as it was only a flesh wound I bound it up and went on with my work.
"Now, the enemy seemed to be beating us, then again they retreated. All the time my comrades were falling around me, and the Germans were falling in hundreds too. So thick were the enemy's dead that when the advance was given we simply had to force the motor up and over heaps of bodies—there was nothing else for it.
"At last the battle, so far as the batteries in our neighbourhood were concerned, went in our favour, and we were ordered to follow the retreating Germans. In doing this six of us got lost, and for four days we were tramping about without a mouthful of food or drink!
"By day we lay concealed in the corn or grass fields, and by night we crept along, without any guide, only hoping and praying—I've prayed many times in the past, but never so much as on these nights—that all would come right.
"On the first day we were fairly well, on the second we were very hungry, on the third our tongues were hanging out, and two of my comrades went mad.
"On the fourth night we fell in with a British ambulance section and were taken into camp. As I was passing an ambulance tent I heard some one singing:
I asked who it was, and was told it was a Salvationist.
"In the stillness of another night from one of the tents I heard—
"I tell you it was thrilling; it made me dance for joy. Two or three Salvationists were having a Free and Easy; after the chorus had been sung once or twice I heard it taken up by other Salvationists in other tents, and presently from many parts of the camp could be heard the old Salvation Army song. It was splendid!
"My, didn't the old verse go with a swing—
By this time the whole camp had joined in. Some of the non-Salvationists would sing it with a slight change.
"Another favourite with us Salvationists was the last verse of 'I'm a child of a King'—
"I was unable to get to chat with any of the Salvationists, because if you want to go from one battery to another you have to get permission. But one night I did go and listen outside one of the tents to their singing. It cheered me only to know I was near some of my comrades. I learned that the Salvationists in camp came from various parts of England, some were bandsmen, some local officers, and others soldiers. I didn't hear that any had been wounded beyond myself, although the comrade I heard singing in the ambulance tent was in all probability injured!"
But now for the retreat itself! The passage I quote is from the pen of the Rev. Owen Spencer Watkins, as printed in the Methodist Recorder.
Mr. Watkins had already seen much war service. He was in Crete. He accompanied the British Army to Khartoum and was present at the battle of Omdurman. He went through the South African war and was shut up in Ladysmith during the siege. He knows what campaigning is, and he knows how to describe what he sees. When this war broke out he was attached to the 14th Field Ambulance, in command of which was Lieut.-Colonel G.S. Crawford. The personnel of the ambulance consisted of nine medical officers, one quartermaster, two chaplains—Rev. D.P. Winnifrith (Church of England) and himself (Wesleyan)—and 240 non-commissioned officers and men. His full description of the retreat is as fine a piece of writing as I remember to have seen in connexion with this war.
"On we tramped through Maretz, our destination being, we were told, Estrées. Never a halt or a pause, though horses dropped between the shafts, and men sat down exhausted by the roadside. A heavy gun overturned in a ditch, but it was impossible to stay to get it out, so it was rendered useless, and the disconsolate gunners trekked on. When horses could draw their loads no longer, the loads were cast by the roadside; there could be no delay, for the spent and weary infantry were fighting in our rear, and every moment's delay had to be paid for in human lives.
"Darkness fell and still we marched—I dozed in the saddle to waken with a start, but still nothing but the creak and rumble of waggons and guns, and the tramp, tramp, tramp of men. I cannot give a connected account of that night—it lives in my memory like an awful but confused nightmare—the overpowering desire for sleep, the weariness and ache of every fibre of one's body, and the thirst. I had forgotten to be hungry, had got past food; but I thirsted as I had only thirsted once before, and that was in the desert near Khartoum.
"About midnight we reached Estrées, and I asked a staff officer where the 14th Field Ambulance was camped. 'Camped!' he exclaimed. 'Camped! Nobody camps here. Orders are changed and there must be no halt.' Then, as an afterthought, 'What Ambulance did you say?' 'Number 14.' 'Do you belong to it?' 'Yes.' 'Then I congratulate you, for if reports are true, you are all that is left of it: it is said to have been wiped out by shell fire.' I said I thought the reports were, to say the least, exaggerated, and rode on.
"Shortly after I heard a familiar voice also asking for the 14th Field Ambulance. It was Major Fawcett, R.A.M.C, who, like myself, had been detached from the Ambulance on special duty. We greeted each other with joy, and for the rest of that awful march had company.
"At last we felt we could go no further (remember, in the last four days we had only ten hours' sleep, and three proper meals), and were in danger of dropping out of our saddles from exhaustion. So we dismounted, sat by the roadside holding our horses, and at once were fast asleep.
"Two hours later we wakened, dawn was just breaking over the hills, and still the column creaked and groaned its way along the road, more asleep than awake, but still moving. A wonderful triumph of will over human frailty. But at how great a cost to nerve and vitality was revealed by one look at the faces of the men.
"I was noticing how worn and gaunt my companion was looking, and was about to remark upon it, but the same thought was in his mind and he forestalled me. 'Isn't it wonderful how quickly this sort of thing tells upon a man? You know, Padre, you look as though you had just got up from a serious illness, and only three days ago you looked as hard as nails, and as fit as a man could be.'
"Soon after sunrise we came up with two of our ambulance waggons and one of our filter water-carts. The wounded were in such a state of exhaustion with the long trek, and the awful jolting of the waggons, that Major Fawcett decided to halt and make some beef-tea for them, so rode on ahead to find some farm where water could be boiled. He had hardly gone when a battalion of exhausted infantry came up with us, and as soon as they saw the water-cart, made a dash for it.
"Hastily I rode up to them, explained that there was very little water left in the cart, and that little was needed for their wounded comrades.
"'I'm thirsty myself,' I said, 'and I'm awfully sorry for you chaps, but you see how it is, the wounded must come first.'
"'Quite right, sir,' was the ready response. 'Didn't know it was a hospital water-cart,' and without a murmur they went thirsty along their way."
Soon the retreat was renewed and steadily they marched to the rear until St. Quentin was reached, where they got their first wash and actually eight hours' sleep. Then on again—back, back, always back. The River Aisne was passed, soon to be regained and made memorable by a brilliant fight. But now it was all retreat. Day after day, night after night they trekked. The days were tropical, the nights arctic. Often it was too cold to sleep, though sleep was needed badly.
At last, on Saturday, September 5, they reached Tournan, south of Paris, and were informed that the retreat was over, and that they would ere long turn to attack the foe who had so ruthlessly followed them.
The men were not down-hearted even through that awful march. Down-hearted? No! They were always asking when they could get "a bit of their own back." Their one desire was to turn and face their enemy. This was a retreat, not a defeat. The men were ragged, bearded, footsore, unkempt, but were unconquered and unconquerable. The spirit of their country burned in them and blazed through their eyes, and when the message of Sir John French came thanking them for their magnificent courage and promising them a share in the rounding up, they cheered until they could cheer no longer.
When Sir John French published his first list of names for honourable mention, the names of seven chaplains were "mentioned in Despatches." And among the seven the name of the Rev. Owen Spencer Watkins was mentioned twice.
No Parade services—they were out of the question,—hardly any short unofficial services such as we grew accustomed to during the South African War. Just a hearty handshake, a "God bless you," a whispered text, or a hearty word of cheer, but the ministry to the wounded always, and wherever possible the burial of the dead. No more is possible in such a retreat. But the Christian soldier is cheered by the sight of his chaplain. His "494" is never forgotten, and as he passes along the lines of the wounded they look up and call him blessed.
Thank God, the Cross is always where there is suffering and death, and never is it needed more than on the stricken field, or in such a retreat as "The Retreat from Mons."
"IT'S A LONG, LONG WAY TO TIPPERARY."ToList
Commissioned Acting Chaplains—All Creeds Participate—Stories of Christian Workers at the Fighting Base—Pluck, a Miracle Worker—A Whole Regiment Praying—More Chaplains' Stories—The French Mayor's Speech—Protestant Service in a Roman Catholic Church—An Old-Fashioned "Revival"—The Cross upon the Field of War—A Hospital Confirmation Scene—Y.M.C.A. at the Fighting Base—The Story of the German Sniper.
Perhaps this is the best time to say a word about religious ministrations in the Army.
When a soldier enlists he is expected to "declare" his "religion." Time was when only two forms of religion were recognised in the Army—the Church of England and Roman Catholic. A recruit was asked, "What are you? Church or Catholic?"—that was how it was shortly put. But that day has gone by, and now all the chief religious denominations are recognised, and the men—to the extent I have already indicated—have the ministration of the chaplains of their own churches. This some officers at first fail to recognise.
The story goes that a captain, who had recently changed regiments and had not as yet become acquainted with the idiosyncrasies of his new command, was surprised at the small muster for Church of England Parade. "You see," explained the sergeant-major, "we've sixteen Roman Catholics, twelve Wesleyans, six Primitive Methodists, two Jews, and four Peelin' Purtaties!"
The Church of England, Roman Catholic, and Presbyterian chaplains hold commissions in the Army. The Wesleyans, although commissions have repeatedly been offered, prefer to keep their ministers under their own control. Their ministers become "Acting Chaplains," and, as I have already indicated, during the present war for the first time, the other Free Churches have been recognised in the same way. When, however, war breaks out, all the chaplains, commissioned and acting, are on the same footing, are attached to some unit, and are under its commanding officer. They all wear uniform, and the only way to distinguish the "Padre" from the ordinary officer is by the black shoulder-knots and the cross on his hat.
At the head of the Chaplaincy Department is Bishop Taylor-Smith, the Chaplain-General. He is a powerful preacher, a good administrator, a broad-minded man, and eminently fitted for his high position. But he remains at home during this war, for the Chaplaincy Department has become a big thing, and only very occasionally can he pay visits to the front.
The chaplain in charge of the Army work at the front is the Rev. Dr. J.M. Simms (Presbyterian), one of the chaplains who also have the distinction of being Hon. Chaplains to the King. It shows how catholic the Army authorities are, and how little they allow their sympathies to be with any one church, that the man in charge of the chaplains of all the churches is a Presbyterian. He takes this position by virtue of seniority, for Dr. Simms has seen long and varied service; but never before has any other than an Anglican clergyman found himself in command.
The senior Church of England chaplain is the Rev. E.G.F. Macpherson, who served with distinction throughout the South African War and was among those shut up in Ladysmith.
Chaplains have military status. The Chaplain-General ranks as Major-General, Dr. Simms as Brigadier, and the others as Colonels, Majors, or Captains. They do not use their title of military rank.
As Bishop Taylor-Smith says: "There are no flouts or sneers against the Sky Pilot in the Army of to-day. Quite the reverse; for does he not bring them comfort and courage, and that quiet confidence which a man of great moral might can implant in the most irreligious mind?... Sometimes one hears grumbles at having to salute civilians 'dressed up as officers,' but never a word against the Army chaplain—the Padre."
In an interview reported in the Daily Chronicle, Bishop Taylor-Smith goes on to say: "Chatting with a senior Army chaplain who had been at the front from the beginning, I was not surprised to hear that he had not once received a snub, for his story confirmed the remarks made to me by Tommy Atkins himself. Down there in the bleak desolation of mud and morass, with death hurtling through the grey sky, one is face to face with the Unknown, and the man who in his native town never sets foot in church, turns with gratitude to the chaplain to strengthen him with the comfort of God.... All Protestant creeds are one in the fighting line. If an Anglican minister is not at hand, a Presbyterian speaks a few words, and all of the Protestant denominations work hand and glove.... Only for Holy Communion in the field does he wear his surplice, and usually he invites all, the unconfirmed, or even those of other creeds, to participate, for any minute may mean death out there."
I can bear this out from personal knowledge. There is much less distinction between the denominations in the Army at home than one would expect, but in the "field" they rejoice in the grand old title of Christian, and on occasion each does the other's work.
Every day is a Sunday, so far as the chaplain is concerned. He takes a service when and where he can. He cannot have too many, and the men readily respond to his call.
At the fighting base, however, his most important work lies in the hospital. Here he is sorely needed. The men want him more than they ever did in their lives. And it is his to hear their last words and to tell them of the peace of God.
We must remember that the fighting base is an ever-moving base, moved according to the exigencies at the front, now forward, now back. It is many miles behind the firing line, far from the sound though not the sights of war. Here are Headquarters, where the brains of the Army do their responsible work. To Headquarters comes information from every available source. The telegraph and telephone instruments tick and ring all day long. Motor cyclists bring their store of knowledge, and aeroplanes, most important of all informants, dispense their news.
Here, also, somewhere among the miles that measure the fighting base, are the base hospitals, where the cases that cannot at once be sent to the homeland are received and cared for; and here, also, are soldiers on their way to the front, or those who—retired from the trenches—are resting until their turn comes to go back.
It will be seen, therefore, that the term fighting base is a very elastic one. It stands for that wide area behind the advanced lines, where all but the fighting work is done.
Now, let us get among the Christian workers and see what they are doing there.
We are impressed with their magnificent opportunity. The men who have been fighting know what it means. They have looked the king of terrors in the face, and they feel the need of a Saviour as never before. The men who, as yet, have not been to the front cannot escape an indefinable dread, and they, too, are ready for the gospel message. While the wounded—suffering, and maybe drawing near to death—eagerly drink in the words of life.
We will listen to some of the chaplains as they tell their own tale.
We will begin with the Rev. J. Esslemont Adams, of the United Free Church of Scotland. Writing to the Record, the organ of that church, he begins by emphasizing the splendid character of the men of the Expeditionary Force. He says (November 3, 1914):
"Of 200,000 men forming the Expeditionary Force only 366 are in prison—one man out of every 546. That statement proves the clean character of the force. Of these 366 men in prison we find that the number penalised for yielding to the sins about which Lord Kitchener warned the troops before they left for overseas is (according to the official returns) one man in 5000. Only one man in 5000 is worthy of contempt. The rest are in gaol for reasons which stir not wrath but pity."
This is a remarkable statement, and when we consider the strain that these men have experienced, and the reasons for their failure as given by Mr. Adams—breaking ranks to seize a bunch of fruit, falling asleep on "sentry-go" and the rest,—the wonder is that there have not been many more. We do not wonder that he adds: "British soldiers have a good name and a good character in this country, and it is well that this be placed to their credit by the people of the Christian Church."
Like all the chaplains at the base, Mr. Adams finds his chief opportunity in the hospitals. He says:
"At the base there are nine hospitals, some in public buildings, some in tents out on the plain. Of these nine hospitals, some are filled with British wounded, others with British and French, and the fellow soldiers of both—Turcos, Senegalese, Belgians, Indians. The chaplain's work is principally there, going from ward to ward and tent to tent, talking on all subjects from the war to the Word of God, writing letters, or getting those angels of mercy, the nursing sisters, to write for men too crippled to write.
"As he goes on his way the Padre distributes out of his well-filled haversack gifts which have come from kind-hearted people at home.... A fig, a handful of raisins, a packet of 'Woodbines' (greatest of all luxuries in the opinion of 'Tommies' and 'Jocks'), a box of matches, an old illustrated paper, a little bottle of perfume, or a little bag of perfume for the uneasy and restless. These are some of the contents of the wonderful haversack, and words cannot express the value of the good things. The men look on them as love-tokens from home.
"These men deserve our best care. They are brave in suffering as they have been in service. Their pluck is extraordinary, and the instances I now put down in my note-book prove the assertion.
"In one of the field hospitals there are two men in the same tent, and occupying beds next to each other. One man has had his left leg amputated above the knee, the other his right leg. Both are recovering and are as happy as sand boys. 'Good job, sir,' says one, 'it isn't the same leg with both of us. One pair of boots will do between us when we are allowed to get up.'
"In another tent lies a 'Jock' shot in the back in two places, and with his left arm shattered by shrapnel. He, too, is mending and developing an alarming appetite for theological argument. Pluck, the doctor says, is a miracle-worker here.
"In a third tent is a lad with paralysis, the result of a bullet wound in the region of the spine. He believes he will recover and says he must hurry up, as no other fellow in the regiment can valet the Colonel as he can....
"As a rule the wounded are eager for the chaplain's visit. They want a talk, and very often the talk turns steadily to the thing that counts. Men are not ashamed to discuss religion, and get to the subject often without much man[oe]uvring. That is not surprising. Very many have been in the Valley of the Shadow, and they tell you that they found God there. 'One' was with them—they cannot explain it, but they remember it. And a soldier is a strong partisan. The hard fact is that God was with them, and now they want to tell you what God is to them.
"One lad (he is little more than a boy in years) said to me when he was telling me all about the battle of the Aisne, where he was wounded:
"'I never knew before then what it was to pray. Of course, I had learnt to say my prayers, but I never really prayed till that day at the Aisne. We all went into the battle singing "You made me do it, I didn't want to do it," but when we got in the trenches it was like hell. You should have seen some men dropping on their knees and praying. Why, the whole regiment seemed to be praying. I know I was praying, and somehow I felt better, and I've prayed every night running since.'
"That plain tale is the parable of many an awakening. It is the parable of the soldiers' need and vision and faith. They have seen something, and that something which is responsible for the question they so frequently ask, 'What is it like at home? Are the people at home praying? Are they praying for us doing our bit out here, or are they still going on the old way?'...
"The other day I was acting chaplain at the funeral of a 'Jock,' aged twenty-eight, who leaves a widow and three little children amongst that great company at home weeping for their beloved dead.
"The night before he died I said, 'Good-night, boy, I'll be in to see you early to-morrow morning.'
"The poor fellow knew he might not last till morning; and as I turned away he tried to raise himself and salute, and then he said:
"'Good-night, sir, and God bless you! and if I'm gone, sir, remember I'm all right—all right. Send my love to Janet and the bairns, and tell them I'll be waiting for them.'
"Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. These men are our heroes and God's own children."
Yes, that is the universal testimony—"brave in suffering as they have been brave in service." Grand lads these, and we shall never forget what they have done for us.
My difficulty in this chapter is to select out of the mass of material to hand stories which will best illustrate the work which is being done. Much will necessarily have to be put upon one side.
I will turn next to the Rev. Richard Hall. For many years he had been at the head of the Welcome Soldiers' and Sailors' Home at Chatham, and in this position had done most effective service for the men. The Chatham Wesleyan Central Hall is also his creation, and in it he had led hundreds of sailors and soldiers to Christ. No truer friend of the soldier and no more efficient worker is to be found with the men.
He, too, tells us something of hospital work at the fighting base. I quote from the Methodist Times.
"One night," he says, "as I was going my rounds, my attention was directed to a man who was in delirium. I knelt down to hear what he was saying. His mind was dwelling on his boyish days. He was repeating—
And then he uttered a name—it was the name of 'Peter Thompson.' This man had evidently when a boy attended our East End Mission, and had known Peter Thompson. I buried him in the little cemetery close by.
"It was All Saints' Day, a great festival in France, the time when friends visit the graves of their departed loved ones, and place thereon flowers. It was a beautiful morning, scores of people were there, and by invitation of the Mayor, as many officers from the hospital as could be spared were present also. The funeral service was combined with the celebration. I conducted the funeral first. At the close the Mayor made the speech, a copy of which I enclose.
"'Ladies and Gentlemen,—Often have I been proud to state that many of you have considered it a duty and a patriotic devotion to accompany to their last resting-place the glorious remains of our Allies who have fallen on the field of honour, and to show your fraternal friendship in bringing flowers, a spontaneous testimonial, but ephemeral, which we will confirm later by a commemorative monument, and we shall put it up together on this ground of supreme rest.
"'In the name of the Municipal Council of Boisguillaume, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you one and all.
"'English officers and soldiers,—Be assured we shall never forget here your brothers in arms. The people of Boisguillaume will make it their duty to watch over these glorious remains you trust to their care, and they will regard it as a perpetual honour.
"'When later they bring the younger generation to bow to these graves, they will ask them to remember for ever that the men who rest here have shed their blood for France and England, in union of heart with the civilised nations, in order to fight against the invasion of our land by the barbarian hordes who are desirous of exterminating justice and right, our genius and our civilisation.
"'Glory to you, noble heroes, who for the sake of a sacred cause have sworn to defend France unto death! Carry away with you into eternity this confidence that you will live for ever in the memory of the French, who have at present only one heart, one soul, whose gratitude to you will never fade.
"'Glory to England!
I have given the Mayor's speech in full, not because such a speech was exceptional, but because it gathers up into itself the sentiments of the French nation, and eloquently expresses the reverence felt for our British dead.
But not only do British soldiers know how to die, but German soldiers also. They are our enemies, but it is a pleasure to record that many of the captured German soldiers have their Bibles with them. Mr. Hall tells of one who died suddenly. His open Bible was found on his bed; and John iii. 16—"For God so loved the world "—were the words he had been reading as he passed into the presence of his Saviour.
Mr. Hall also tells of a graceful act of kindness on the part of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of the Diocese. In company with Father Bradley and the Church of England chaplain, he waited upon the Archbishop to ask permission to hold Protestant services in the small but beautiful Roman Catholic church. The Archbishop received them most kindly and readily gave consent. By the by, Mr. Hall pays a beautiful tribute to that same Roman Catholic chaplain whose tent he shared—Father Bradley. He says: "I never met a more gentle and refined Christian character. His one thought was to serve others, and he cared nothing for his own discomfort as long as he was helping someone else." When they parted—for Father Bradley was the first to go to the front—the Father's last words were, "Hall, don't forget to pray for me, underneath and round about both of us are the Everlasting Arms."
Differing as we do so much from the Roman Catholic Church, it is a pleasure to record this testimony.
The services in the Roman Catholic church were conducted by the Church of England chaplain and Mr. Hall. They were united services, for in face of danger and death all are one in Christ Jesus.
The services were fruitful in results as such services must always be. Not only did large numbers attend, but doubtless the Great Day will declare that many received the pardon of sin.
"Padre, did you see me at the service last night?" asked one young officer of Mr. Hall.
"Well, do you know that is the first voluntary service I ever remember attending, and I have made up my mind that from to-day God shall have the first place in my life?" A fortnight after he said, "I thank God that I have been a new man since that day I spoke to you."
That is it—"a new man." God is making "new men" by the hundred, if not by the thousand, in France and Belgium, and the chaplains are reverently looking on and praising Him.
The Rev. W.H. Sarchet tells quite a different, but not less striking, class of story. It is his privilege to record an old-fashioned "Revival" at the fighting base. Mr. Sarchet has seen much work among soldiers and sailors. For eight years he was Wesleyan chaplain at Gibraltar; for another seven he was chaplain at Devonport; for the last four he has served in the same capacity at Portsmouth, having charge of the Duchess of Albany's Soldiers' and Sailors' Home there, and the services in the Town Hall.
In a letter to the Rev. John Bell, Mr. Sarchet tells the story of this remarkable spiritual movement which has been taking place at the General Hospital, with which he has been serving at the fighting base. I give the story in his own words as printed in the weekly article by the Rev. J.H. Bateson in the Methodist Recorder. Mr. Bateson is Secretary of the Wesleyan Army and Navy Board and Ex-Secretary of the British Army Temperance Association in India. His weekly article is replete with first-hand information, and that and its corresponding article in the Methodist Times are a gold mine in which students of the war may well dig.
Mr. Sarchet, after referring to the wounded "fresh from the trenches in all their grime and dirt, torn clothes, broken limbs, and ghastly wounds," goes on to say:
"In addition to this really distressing work, I am having some most delightful camp work experiences. Last Sunday week at my second Parade service—my first was at 8 A.M. three miles away—I discovered by the very hearty responses in the prayers that there were some out-and-out Christian men present. I asked them if they would like a voluntary service at night. They said they would very much, so we fixed it up for 6.30 P.M. We had a delightful service just at setting sun. I think that 'Abide with me,' as that crowd of R.F.A. men, waiting to go up to the fighting line, sang it, never sounded so beautiful.
"At the close of the service, we had an after-meeting by moonlight, and three sought and found Christ. I announced a meeting for Monday night, and so we have gone on right through the week, and there have been seekers every night. At the close of this meeting we enlarge the ring in the centre, and then invite those who have decided to serve Christ to come right out into the ring before their comrades.
"It is beautiful clear moonlight, just like day, and out they come one after another. One never-to-be-forgotten evening we had twenty out. They kneel down and we pray with them, then close the meeting with 'God be with you till we meet again,' and prayer. Then we take the names and talk with the soldiers individually. We have enrolled the names of over eighty men who have come out in this way in the last ten days.
"The meetings are having this good effect—finding the Christian men in the camps around. There are several camps and thousands of men—reinforcements just waiting for orders to move forward. Night and day men are coming and going. A Christian officer too heard us singing and has come and joined us. He has been with us every night when not on duty."
Supplementing this story Mr. Sarchet tells of another series of meetings still proceeding as he wrote. He says:
"A large number of our mounted men have recently gone forward, so this week we started in the infantry camp, which is about three miles away. We had our first open-air service there on October 26. We were only two when we started, but a great crowd before we finished, with eleven men out in the ring seeking Christ. This is grand work. The weather has turned very wintry and wet this week, but the Camp Commandant has promised me a store tent for our meetings, so we shall go on."
What wonderful scenes these are when you think of their setting and the men who were the chief actors! As Mr. Bateson says: "In the Nile Expedition, in the South African Campaign, in the frontier work in India, there have been many soldiers who, here and there, have surrendered their lives to Christ, but this 'Revival' in the British Expeditionary Force in France is surely unique in the history of war."
We picture the scene—not a Salvation Army ring in some country town in England, but crowds of khaki clad soldiers, supposed to be trifling, light-hearted, devil-may-care. But here they are out in the open, in full view of hundreds of their comrades, surrounded by great camps, humbly kneeling in penitence at the Throne of Grace, "owning their weakness, their evil behaviour," and pleading "God be merciful to me a sinner." So strangely, yet so powerfully, stands the Cross upon the field of war.
Another beautiful little picture is presented to us by Mr. Sarchet in another letter—a gathering of twenty-six soldier lads on the afternoon of the Lord's Day.
"We had a talk about temptation, and then celebrated Holy Communion. It was all out in the open in a little wooden dell. I had my portable camp table. It was a very gracious and never-to-be-forgotten time, as we knelt there on the grass, with a beautiful clear sky overhead. There seemed absolutely nothing between us and God, and the presence of the Risen Christ was a great reality. Before next Sunday some who were there will be fighting in the trenches, but they will carry the memory of this soul-hallowing time with them."
BISHOP TAYLOR-SMITH, CHAPLAIN-GENERAL.ToList
Rev. E.L. Watson, Senior Baptist Chaplain at the Front.
Rev. O.S. Watkins, Senior Wesleyan Chaplain at the Front.
Rev. J.M. Simms, D.D., K.H.C., Presbyterian, Principal Chaplain at the Front.
Rev. E.G.F. Macpherson, Senior Church of England Chaplain at the Front.
So out there in France our soldier lads "do this" in memory of Him "until He come."
Before I pass from the record of the directly spiritual work at the fighting base, let me tell the story of a unique confirmation—a confirmation without lawn sleeves. Bishop Taylor-Smith was the chief actor in this strange scene. A Church of England chaplain represented to him, during his visit to the front, that there were some men in hospital, badly wounded, who desired confirmation. The Bishop gladly consented to confirm them. They could not come to him, and so he went to them. But it was not in his bishop's robes he went. He was on military duty and he went in his military uniform as major-general.
There was no attempt to get a congregation. The Bishop was only attended by a chaplain and Scripture reader. He first went to a ward where lay two lads side by side, each with his right leg amputated above the knee. They were simple country lads and they were crippled for life. Their hearts had been won for Christ, and they desired to give their lives to Him. The Bishop spoke words of hope and cheer, and laid his hands upon them. Then he went to another ward where lay a man with a terrible shrapnel wound in his arm. Him also the Bishop confirmed. In the next ward were two men—older men these—who had known agonising pain. Their beds had been brought together, and upon these also the Bishop laid confirming hands. Then he passed to the church where the convalescents who desired confirmation could receive his Church's rite.
A simple record this, but I fancy we shall search history in vain for any other story of a bishop in military uniform administering the rite of confirmation to wounded soldiers.
A word about the Y.M.C.A. work at the fighting base. It is being carried on there much as in England. Wherever possible Camp Homes are being erected, and the work done in them not only keeps the men out of temptation, but is the means in many cases of turning their steps toward Christ and heaven.
Mr. A.K. Yapp (the General Secretary) has recently paid a visit to France and reports most cheerily of the work done there. They have received ready help from both officers and men. In the erection of Queen Mary's Hut, for instance, every consideration has been exhibited. Materials have been carted free of charge, and other important and valuable concessions made, which have proved of the greatest service.
The work by the Y.M.C.A. in the Indian hospitals is exceptionally interesting. Those who are in charge can speak Hindustani, and are able to render many kindnesses to these brave Eastern fighters. They cannot, of course, undertake Christian teaching, but they are able to show the Christian spirit, and the lesson will not be lost on the sick and wounded Indians.
The more we study the work of the Y.M.C.A. for our soldiers in this war, with its branches now grown to nine hundred, the more we shall agree with the statement of a British officer: "You Y.M.C.A. people are marvellous."
And the men—what of the men among whom these chaplains and "Y.M.C.A. people" and others work? "The men," said General Buller in South Africa, "are splendid." That is still the verdict—the universal verdict—they are splendid. Everybody loves Thomas Atkins who knows him; cheerful and kindly, ready to do anyone a good turn, heroic in action, patient in suffering, tender and chivalrous to women, he has set us all an example in this war. And he has done with the greatest ease what some people in this country find it so difficult to accomplish; he has shown us, as I have already indicated, how to fight his enemy and to love him too.
The Rev. Harold J. Chapman, M.A., vouches for the truth of this story told him in artless fashion by the hero of it. A German sniper was in a tree some distance from a small company of our men. He wounded one of our lads, and the pal of the wounded lad, lying not far from him, said, "I'll have to bring that fellow down, or he'll be hitting me next." So he took aim and fired, and the German sniper dropped from the tree wounded. The ambulance that carried to the rear the wounded British soldier took also the German sniper.
After some days, to their astonishment they found themselves opposite each other in the same compartment of the same train.
"Well, what did you do?" said Mr. Chapman. "Did you hit him?"
"Oh no! why should I hit him? I couldn't speak his 'lingo,' and he couldn't speak mine, so I smiled at him and he smiled back at me. Then I offered him a cigarette, and he offered me one of his, and we were the best of pals all the journey."
That is it, the man who had shot the British soldier, and the man who had been shot by his pal, the best of friends! After all, why should not nations emulate the example of their soldiers?
Aye! They have seen suffering—these men—and they have risen superior to it, and speedily they forget the suffering, but they never forget a kindness shown. As Private Simmons of the 1st Cameronians says: "I have seen hell, for I have seen war, and I have seen heaven, for I have been in hospital."
They are worth all that is being done for them—these splendid fellows—and still they go on singing, the words that Mr. Robert Harkness has recently written for them:
Christian Work during the Fighting—A Monotony of Horrors—A Brave "Bad Lad"—Strange Places for Worship—No Apples on his Conscience—Transferred to Flanders—Strangest Spectacle of the War—Lord Roberts in France—At Dead of Night—A Shell Stops a Sermon—The University Student.
Sunday, September 6, 1914, will be a memorable date for British soldiers, for it was the day on which the long and perilous retreat from Mons came to an end, and they once more turned to meet their foe. It was a day of great rejoicing. They were not privileged to join together in the worship of God; instead there was constant marching. But they were advancing now, not retreating, and there was a spring in their tread, and a glad light in their eyes, which showed of what stuff they were made, and pronounced them "ready, aye ready."
As they marched steadily forward, they passed through village after village devastated by the German troops. Stories of barbarism were told them which made them clench their hands and set their teeth. Here and there, however, it was different, and they passed through villages on some of the doors of which was the notice, "Only defenceless women and children are here. Do not molest them." It seemed as though when the German troops had their commanding officer with them, and were well under control, they regarded the rules of war; but that when they were detached from the central command and could do more as they liked, then all the savage in them was let loose.
At last the Marne was reached and the battle begun. It is no part of our purpose in this book to describe that and the following battles. Our business is with the Christian work done in connexion with them, and only so far as they help to illustrate the work done have we anything at all to say about the conflicts. For five long days raged the battle of the Marne, from September 6 to 10 inclusive. During it deeds of heroism were performed by the hundred which will never be recorded.
While it continued but little of a specifically religious character could be performed by the chaplains. But they were everywhere—with their men in the front, with the ambulance and stretcher-bearers, bending over the wounded with words of Christian hope, and when the darkness fell, burying the dead. They had the perils of the battle, but none of the excitement of participation.
Take this as a tribute from the Rev. Owen Spencer Watkins to the work of the R.A.M.C. I quote from the Methodist Recorder.
"Then the shrapnel swept the road; the bearers scattered in all directions; for a moment I thought General Rolt and his staff were wiped out, but all reached cover in safety. For myself, I leaned close against the high bank, whilst in the bush just above my head rattled the bullets like rain, and the leaves and twigs fell round me in a shower, but the danger was not for long.
"'Stretcher-bearers!' came the shout down the hill, and Major Richards sprang to his feet and the first squad followed him. My task was for a time to direct the bearers, and I was filled with admiration as the men faced the hillside, and what waited for them in the woods above.
"Remember these were not fighting men who carried arms, and they could take no cover, for they had the stretcher to carry with its suffering load. I never admired the Royal Army Medical Corps as I did that day on the hills above Pisseloup and Montreuil.
"'Next squad!' I would shout, and without the slightest hesitation or sign of fear they would take their stretchers and climb the hill. Now Major Richards was in the road dressing the wounds of those brought in, and working with equal bravery and almost a surgeon's skill, good Sergeant-Major Spowage laboured at his side. Later they were joined by Lieutenant Tasker, R.A.M.C, and still the wounded streamed down the hills above.
"How those doctors and orderlies worked! That day at the cross-roads near Pisseloup, I saw some of the best work done that has ever been accomplished in the field, and none seemed to realise that they were doing anything out of the ordinary."
When night fell, Rev. D.P. Winnifrith and Rev. O.S. Watkins did work similar to that which other chaplains were doing elsewhere on the field. We have their record, but must wait for that of the others. What a picture it is upon which we gaze! Aye, and not only at night, but next day following the advancing British troops.
Here and there is a wounded soldier who has lain for hours in the rain. Their sufferings must have been horrible. And here and there, nay, all around, the dead. They buried them in fields, in gardens, in orchards and vineyards, sometimes singly, sometimes in twos and threes—in one grave two officers and eighteen men. But we draw a curtain over the scene. It will soon become a monotony of horrors. Let us hasten on.
The Marne won, the next line of battle was the Aisne.
Here I pause to relate a little incident variously reported in the papers. I give it as it came to me first, judging that the first report is probably the most correct. It dates from some of the fierce fighting near the banks of the Aisne.
A village was temporarily evacuated by the British under the pressure of German troops. In the hurried retreat six or eight British soldiers were left behind. They took shelter in a cottage, knowing that the Germans were close upon them. There was a hasty council of war. One of them was the "bad lad" of the regiment—a drunken ne'er-do-well. He had his own solution of the problem.
Said he, "I have never been any good. I never shall be any good. Let me go and I will try to save you lads. The Germans are upon us. I can hear them in the street. I will rush out of the house and down the street. They will see me and they will fire. They will never suppose that one would run and not the others. They will not trouble to search, and you will be saved."
His comrades protested and said they would all die together. But there was no time to argue. In a moment he was out of the house and down the street. Shots rang out and the "bad lad" of the regiment fell, pierced by many bullets. It was as he said. The Germans passed the house, and for a moment the rest of that little company were saved.
But the British had received reinforcements. They advanced to the attack again and the village was cleared of Germans. Then the little company came out of their hiding-place, reverently lifted the body of the dead hero who had died for them, and carried it to the rear. They dug a grave and buried him. Over the grave they placed a rough wooden cross, and wrote upon it—"He saved others, himself he would not save."
They hoped, they said, they were not guilty of blasphemy in altering and using the historic words, and we, as we quote them, are quite certain they were not.
The battle of the Aisne was long drawn out, if that can be described as a battle which consisted of many days of fierce fighting culminating in long continued siege warfare in the trenches. During its continuance there was the same individual ministry, the constant hair-breadth escapes of chaplains and doctors—not always, however, for both chaplains and doctors suffered—the same heroic endeavour to ameliorate suffering and to point the dying to the Saviour.
Here and there we get glimpses of brief services held behind the firing line. A brigade at a time would be withdrawn from the trenches and then was the chaplain's opportunity. We read of a Sunday spent among these men who had just been facing death. An early communion, the men kneeling on the straw of a dimly lit barn, a service in the open-air among men of line regiments and of batteries, a united service in the evening at which the Rev. D.P. Winnifrith read the prayers, Colonel Crawford the lessons, and the Rev. O.S. Watkins gave the address.
We are told of hurriedly arranged services in the evenings—one in a cart-shed lit by two hurricane lamps, in which Church of England and Wesleyan chaplains took part, and Lieutenant Grenfell, R.A.M.C, a Wesleyan local preacher, gave the address. Another in a deep cutting, safe from shell fire, while overhead the guns were booming, but clear above the noise the music of the hymn—"Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine." Another, which Lieutenant Grenfell reports, in a farmyard, amid the neighing of horses and the constant tramp of men.
Strange places these for the worship of God! But with a heart at rest, even amid the strife of battle, the Christian turns to God, and there is a deep longing in the hearts of men who cannot call themselves Christians for the consolations of religion.
Corporal Chappell, invalided home with a bullet in his leg, illustrates this with some touching stories of the battle of the Aisne. As they advanced to the front the road was for some distance lined with orchards. The Colonel issued orders that no apples were to be taken, for, said he, "It would be stealing." One man, however, could not resist the temptation, and when for a few minutes they rested, filled his pockets with apples. In a short time they were in the thick of the battle and shells were falling fast and furious. Out came the apples from the lad's pockets. He flung them as far from him as he could. "There, I will not have you on my conscience, anyhow!" he said.
Another lad close to Chappell said to him: "Chappell, I have a sort of feeling I shall not reach home again. I cannot help thinking of my wife and children."
"Have you thought of your own soul?" asked Chappell.
"There is no time for that," was the reply.
"Oh yes, there is a minute at any rate. Pray, lad, pray! Your wife and children are in God's hands. Pray for pardon now."
And so they two went forward praying. A few minutes and a shell almost annihilated the company, and among the rest the lad who had just been pleading "God be merciful to me a sinner" was killed. Thank God! no one ever prays that prayer in vain.
A few minutes afterwards Corporal Chappell was himself shot in the leg. As best he could he proceeded to hop into safety. Two men of another regiment saw him and carried him to the shelter of a cow-shed and laid him there. It was only some time afterwards that he found that one of the men who had helped to carry him was only less severely wounded than himself. The cow-shed was filthy, the pain severe, he wondered how long he was to lie there alone, and untended.
"Then," said he, "I remembered that my Lord was born in a stable, and I just lay still and went to sleep thinking of Him, and I slept on and on until night fell, and the stretcher-bearers found me and carried me to the rear."
Thus these simple lads help their fellows, preach Christ even in the midst of the battle, and when in sore need themselves, find in the thought of their Saviour comfort and rest and hope.
Then came threatenings in Flanders, and the daring plan of a German advance on Calais. This necessitated the withdrawal of our troops from the lines of the Aisne to the Yser and their replacement by French troops on the Aisne. The transference of our troops was accomplished with the greatest secrecy and skill. It is doubtful if the Germans were acquainted with the transference until it was accomplished. It is perhaps one of the greatest deeds of the war, and speaks of supreme skill and daring on the part of our commander.
The soldiers took it all in good part. "Over incredibly bad roads, often up to the boot tops in mud, they marched with a swing that would have done credit to a Royal Review on Laffan's Plain, and as they marched they chanted their war-song, 'It's a long, long way to Tipperary.' It seemed hardly possible that for three solid months they had been fighting without a single day's rest. As they crossed the Belgian frontier their spirits rose. 'This is better than the last time we crossed it, isn't it, sir? Then we was on the run, having got more than we wanted at Mons, but now the boot's on the other leg. Now if we could only capture 'Kaiser Bill,' or even 'Old one o'clock' (General von Kluck), we might get home for our Christmas dinners after all.'"
Then followed the battle of Ypres, the bloodiest battle of the winter campaign, and one of the most critical engagements of the war. It was now cold—bitterly cold. Rain and snow—snow and rain! The trenches became almost uninhabitable. Frost-bite among the men became common. Many were invalided to the base suffering from rheumatism. All that could be done for the men was done. Warm goat-skin coats were served out, and the men looked more like Teddy Bears than soldiers. Charcoal braziers were sent to the trenches, and, most important of all, the men were well fed.
It was only a thin line to keep back the German hosts. How thin a line no one yet is permitted to tell. But it accomplished its task, and by November 20 reinforcements arrived and the situation for the British was somewhat relieved.
All through the series of battles the chaplains had been busy with their grim work, caring for the wounded and burying the dead.
"Bit of an attack on, sir," said the pioneer sergeant, "but they're firing high, and all the bullets are going well overhead; they don't matter. But there's a sniper who seems to have a line on that grave. It's so dark that it's certain he can't see us, but he seems to have a sort of instinct; as sure as we go near the place he begins firing. There you are, sir; he's at it again. Lucky he ain't a good shot."
But notwithstanding the sniper, the chaplain buried his dead, and then tramped back in the darkness with shells falling all around.
The battles now developed into a sort of siege, and for long drawn-out months the British and German armies faced each other in the trenches. By this time the Indian contingent had arrived and their chaplains with them.
Then we had the strangest spectacle of the war—Roman Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, Mohammedans, in all speaking fifteen different languages, but fighting side by side in a common cause. The fact that, notwithstanding the proclamation by the Sultan of a Holy War, our Indian Mohammedan soldiers stood firm by Old England, was a sign that no longer could Constantinople be reckoned as the headquarters of Mohammedanism. The Sheik-ul-Islam might sound forth his proclamation in great state, but the princes and soldiers of India, Egypt, and the Sudan heeded not. They knew that under the British flag they had religious liberty, and they were loyal to the core.
It was just before the battle of Ypres commenced that Lord Roberts paid his visit to France. He was over eighty years of age, and it was dangerous in the extreme for him to attempt such a journey at his time of life. But he was most wishful to review his much-loved Indian troops, and they in their turn were anxious to see their "Father," whom they all revered. When the risks at his age were pointed out to him, he replied, "We must do what we consider to be our duty; then we are in God's hands."
It was bitter weather, but he reviewed the Indian troops, caught cold, and died on Saturday, November 14, 1914.
He was the darling of the British Army. When the soldiers knew that "Our Bobs" was coming to their relief in South Africa, their delight was unbounded. They had absolute confidence in him; they would follow him anywhere. And something more—they knew that when they read their Bibles that was what Lord Roberts did—was there not a message from him within the cover?—and when they knelt to pray they knew that that also was what Lord Roberts did. His influence was widespread and was all for good in the Army.
In the eloquent tribute which Earl Curzon paid in the House of Lords to the memory of Earl Roberts, he quoted a letter received from him only a fortnight before.
"We have had family prayers for fifty-five years. Our chief reason is that they bring the household together in a way that nothing else can. It ensures servants and others who may be in the house joining in prayers which, for one reason or other, they may have omitted saying by themselves. Since the war began we usually read a prayer like the enclosed, and when anything important has occurred I tell those present about it. In this way I have found that the servants are taking a great interest in what is going on in France. We have never given any order about prayers. Attendance is quite optional, but, as a rule, all the servants, men and women, come when they hear the bell."
"The man who penned these words," said Lord Curzon, "even to a friend, was not only a great soldier, a patriot, and a statesman; he was also a humble-minded and devout Christian, whose name deserves to live, and will live for ever in the memory of the nation whom he served with such surpassing fidelity to the last hour of a long and glorious life."
The Army bade farewell to the body of the great field-marshal at St. Omer, then the headquarters of the British Expeditionary Force. The route to the Mairie was lined by British and French troops. The coffin, draped with the Union Jack, was placed upon the gun-carriage by eight non-commissioned officers selected from regiments of which he had been colonel. All the British and French courage was represented in the procession. The Prince of Wales represented the King. The Indian chiefs who honoured and loved him were there.
At the service in the Mairie which followed, the Rev. F.I. Anderson, assisted by the Rev. C. Marshall and the Rev. A. Helps, officiated. The service, as was fitting, was very simple. The music was led by a choir of soldiers, accompanied by a harmonium, and the hymns sung were "Now the labourer's task is o'er," and "O God, our help in ages past."
At the conclusion of the service, British bugles sounded the "Last Post." Then the body was reverently borne down the steps and placed in the motor ambulance which was to convey it to Boulogne. As this was done the guard of honour once more sprang to the present, French trumpeters blew a fanfare, and the guns of Lord Roberts' old regiment thundered a salute.
Thus the British Army said farewell to its old chief, and will remember him for ever as a great soldier and a great Christian.
In the fighting round Ypres fell that distinguished British officer, General Hamilton. The record of his funeral will show a great contrast to that of Lord Roberts, but it gives us a weird and pathetic picture of the circumstances under which our chaplains do their work.
While standing on a hillock near the village of La Couteau in the midst of his staff, the commander of our Third Division was struck by a fragment of shrapnel and killed. They buried him "at dead of night," and the whole scene recalls the famous lines on the burial of Sir John Moore.
It was a sad and silent party of distinguished French and British officers which followed the coffin up the winding path to the little churchyard, where the grave had been hastily dug, near the shell-battered church. The only light was that of the electric flash lamp used by the Rev. E.G.F. Macpherson (the senior Church of England chaplain) to enable him to read the burial service.
BRITISH TRENCHES IN THE AISNE DISTRICT.
Drawn by D. Macpherson.ToList
He had scarcely begun to speak its solemn words when the Germans opened a perfect hurricane of fire. But the chaplain never altered the measured dignity of his intonation, though shells were bursting all around and the enemy's bullets were pattering against what remained of the church walls.
This weird service over, the officers present had to hurry away to their respective duties with the rattle of German musketry in their ears. As General Smith-Dorrien also left, he said to Mr. Macpherson: "A true soldier's funeral, Padre. We couldn't fire a volley, but the enemy have given him the last salute for us."
Aye! a true soldier's funeral, and the one which he would perhaps have preferred to any other.
Bishop Taylor-Smith, who tells the story of the funeral, also says that the very next day the same chaplain (Mr. Macpherson) had gathered the men of a battery into a musty old barn for a short service, when, in the midst of the service, the roof of the barn was lifted right off by a shell which, however, failed to explode. The service came to a summary conclusion, not because of fear, but because the battery must stop that sort of thing, and gallop away into action.
Further stories by Bishop Taylor-Smith of the period to which this chapter relates show under what weird circumstances the sacrament of the Lord's Supper is sometimes administered.
A jute factory near Armentières was being heavily shelled, but down in the cellar, while the shelling was proceeding, the chaplain calmly distributed the elements to one hundred and twenty-eight officers and men of the Monmouth regiment. The only light was that supplied by the chaplain's flash lamp. The battalion went into action next day, and several of those who had taken part in the Holy Communion were killed.
On another occasion a celebration was taking place in a house at Houplines when shells demolished the houses on either side, and no sooner was the service over than a shell struck that self-same house. Close by was the crackling of rifle fire, for a shed in which the ammunition of the West Yorks was stored had been fired by a German shell.
In the same district an ordinary service—lasting about twenty-five minutes—was held at the O.C.'s request in a barn round which shells were dropping every moment. And yet so powerful was the singing of the men that it almost drowned the din of the bombardment. The chaplain, as he stood there conducting the service, thought how fearful it would be if a big shell dropped into the midst of that company of praying men.
After this who will call parsons cowards? I do not wonder that already one of them, the Rev. P.W. Guinness (Church of England), has won the D.S.O., and that Mr. Macpherson was among those "mentioned in despatches." I shall tell the story of Mr. Guinness' brave deed in another chapter.
One more funeral and this chapter shall draw to a close. The scene is too beautiful to leave out, even if it does mean bringing three funerals into one chapter. It dates from the battle of the Marne, and the story is narrated by our old friend the Rev. O.S. Watkins.
No men are braver, and very few render more important service, than the motor cycle scouts. They are, many of them, students from Oxford and Cambridge. Their intelligence, knowledge of languages, and general resource are a great asset to the British Army. Their work, however, is perilous in the extreme. One of these had lost his way and had actually ridden through two villages occupied by Germans when, at Douai, a bullet found its way to his heart.
When the Germans retired from the village, the villagers carried him tenderly into a cottage, straightened the fine young limbs, and covered him with a clean white sheet. They placed a bunch of newly gathered flowers upon his heart. He was carried to his last long rest by the old men of the village—the young men had all gone to the war—and as they passed through the village, the women came from the houses and laid flowers upon the bier.
Slowly they climbed the hill, with many a halt to rest the ancient bearers, while ahead boomed the heavy guns, and at their feet they could see the infantry advancing to action. At last the hill-top was reached, crowned by the little church, with "God's acre" all around. They laid him in the hastily dug grave, the peasants, with uncovered heads, listening reverently to the reading of the burial service in a language they could not understand. Before the service was finished shrapnel shells were bursting over the hilltop, and the peasants quietly moved to the partial shelter of the wall, still with uncovered heads.
When the final "Amen" was said, the chaplain stood for a moment gazing down into the grave and thinking of all the brilliant possibilities wrapped up in that splendid young fellow "gone to his death," when one of the old men, forgetting his fear of the guns, came forward to the graveside, and cast earth with unconscious dignity upon the body lying there. "You are a brave man," he said, "and our friend. You have given your life for our country. We thank you. May you sleep well in the earth of beautiful France!" And the old men under the shelter of the wall added "Amen."
Thus they go, the grand old field-marshal 'neath the weight of years, the brilliant general in the full tide of useful service, and the young man, his life-work scarce begun! Thus they go and the flower of our nation's manhood with them. If that were the end, if death ended all, Britain could hardly lift up her head again. But we cheer ourselves as we remember that what we call the end is only the beginning. Goethe draws a picture in Faust of his hero gazing at the setting sun. As he watches it slowly setting in the west, he longs to follow it in its course—
But they may and do. There is always—
"There is no night there." And so we comfort ourselves with the thought that service broken short off here may be continued yonder, that the old will grow young again, that the o'erthrown fighter will rise conqueror, and life—eternal life—will crown all.
The Original Thomas Atkins—No Infidels in the Trenches—In the Trenches at Night—A Salvation Army Story, and Others—Man Who was Digging a Trench—They have "Kept Smiling "—What Christ is to the Soldier—What a Picture!—Every Place the "House of the Lord"—The Soldier Spirit—The Gilts from Home—Courage has never Failed—And the Christian Soldier?
"I tell you what it is, sir, God is jolly near you in the trenches." So spoke Thomas Atkins to a Church of England chaplain. It was just like him to speak thus. A vigorous utterance suits him.
But how did he come by the name Thomas Atkins? The story goes that it dates from the Peninsular War. The Duke of Wellington was directing some operations in the field. An aide-de-camp rode up to him with the outline of a new attestation form, or something of that kind sent out by the War Office of those days.
It was advisable to fill up the top line in order that those who filled up the following lines might have an example of how it should be done. The question was, Whose name should be put in there? The aide-de-camp thought the Duke would mention the first name that came into his mind, but not so the Duke. He looked at it a moment, and said, "I must think. Come back to me in an hour."
During that hour he turned over in his mind the deeds of bravery he had seen performed by private soldiers. He thought of the brave deeds of soldiers in the Peninsular Campaign. And then his mind went back to India, and at last he said to himself, "Yes, that was the bravest deed I ever saw performed by a private soldier." And when his aide-de-camp came back he said, "Put down Thomas Atkins." And "Thomas Atkins" it has been from that day to this. So the title enshrines the memory of a brave man, and I wonder if he, too, felt God "jolly near" him in the trenches.
"Jolly near!" It is a thought-provoking phrase. "Near!" Ah! yes, we know that, and if we can look up amidst the bursting shell and see, not the angry, but the smiling face of God, then the word "jolly," if not as we should put it, is at any rate expressive.
The "Eye-witness" with the British Army tells us something of what it is like in the trenches.
"After a short outburst of fire lasting perhaps for only three or four minutes the hostile trenches are obscured by a pall of smoke, in the midst of which can be seen the flashes of the shrapnel bursts and the miniature volcanoes of earth where the high explosive common shells burst in the soft clay soil. Then, if an infantry attack is to be launched, the cannonade suddenly ceases. There is a moment of suspense, and a swarm of khaki figures springs from our trenches and rushes across the fire-swept zone, possibly 100 yards in breadth. Instantly there breaks out the rattle of machine guns and musketry. There is some hesitation as the stormers reach the entanglements, and then, if the assault succeeds, they disappear into the enemy's trenches, leaving a few or many scattered bodies lying in the track of their advance. Save at such moments as these there is often no movement whatever in the battle zone, for not a man, horse, or gun is to be seen, and there are periods of absolute stillness when, except for the sight of the deserted and ruined hamlets, the scene is one of peace and agricultural prosperity."
Yes, it is very quiet in the trenches. Not a head must appear over the top or death is the result. Quiet, yes; up to the knees, or sometimes up to the waist, in water, eating there, sleeping there, often dying there. We read of some trenches where the water was so deep that the wounded men were drowned. There was no place to put them, and they just fell into the water, and there they died.
Quiet, until the artillery has done its preparatory work, and then charge, charge, charge!
I do not wonder that a wounded soldier said to the Rev. T.J. Thorpe: "My mates used to tell me in barracks that they were infidels—they did not believe in God—but after their experiences in the trenches they have lost their infidelity. They pray now. There are no infidels in the trenches."
Said another soldier, "We leapt from our trenches singing a rowdy song, but in a minute I was praying as I never prayed before. My mates were praying. We were all praying, and I have been praying ever since."
I do not wonder that "there are no infidels in the trenches."
The Rev. Cuthbert J. Maclean (Church of England chaplain), writing from France on November 3, 1914, tells us that he had been in the trenches continually under fire for three weeks, and had not even had a rough wash or taken off his boots. He has had several wonderful escapes from death, even being hit in the neck without, however, sustaining any injury.
"Four days ago," he says, "I spent some hours sitting in my 'funk-hole' in a trench, and then I left for a little exercise. About twenty minutes after I had moved out, a huge shell burst in the exact spot where I had been sitting for hours, and blew up the trench for some twenty yards."
It will be seen from this that the trenches are not always waist-deep or even knee-deep in water. It depends upon the weather. At first elaborate precautions were taken to make the trenches as comfortable as possible. They were deep and comparatively wide. All sorts of necessaries and, occasionally, luxuries were kept there. They were drawing-room and dining-room and kitchen.
But when the long continued rains came they were almost uninhabitable. Men stood in liquid mud, sometimes covered with frost. They stood day after day and suffered sorely. Many of them had to be invalided to the rear with rheumatism, and will never recover from the effect of those terrible days.
An elaborate system of network communication trenches was formed, communicating with the rear, but in the worst of the weather, the communication trenches became worse than the fire trenches, and in some cases the water in them was up to the necks of the men.
It was only when night fell that communication with the fire trenches was possible. Then it was that rations were conveyed to the men at the front—only then was it possible—and even in the dark it was a difficult and dangerous task. No light must be shown; to strike a match might be death. Says the non-commissioned officer to his men engaged in this hazardous task: "Whenever a searchlight is turned on you, or the country is lit up by a flare or a star shell, stand perfectly still. It's movement wot gives the show away. Keep still, an' they'll think you're a bush, or a tree, or what not. But as sure as yer move, you're a deader."
Under these circumstances, Christian work in the trenches would seem impossible, but the apparently impossible has been accomplished. The chaplains are from time to time with their men in the trenches. The experience of Mr. McLean has already been quoted, and many another might be added.
Christian men are there also in ever-increasing numbers, and these are themselves unofficial chaplains. We hear of at least one Methodist class meeting regularly held in the trenches, and there is many a prayer meeting there. Yes, and many a man has found his Saviour there, for the Lord Jesus is very near those who seek Him in the trenches.
Here is a sacred little letter scribbled in the trenches by a man who there gave himself to Christ:
"To my darling wife and children. Daddy fully surrendered to Jesus 20.11.14 at Ypres. Sudden death—sudden glory. Safe in the arms of Jesus."
A soldier, who has recently returned home for a brief rest after many weeks in the firing line and in the trenches, says that he is quite an altered man as the result of the war. As a boy he was never taught to pray; but in the trenches he began to pray, and prayed regularly. Hundreds of men, he says, are doing the same thing day by day. He also says that the men at the front expect and reckon upon the prayers of the people at home on their behalf.
And now a Salvation Army story. One day a man came into a Salvation Army hall in the East End of London, and when the officers were speaking to him they found that he had never been to a Salvation Army service before. They asked him what brought him there.
"In the trenches," he replied, "I made up my mind that the very first chance I had I'd come. You see, I was fighting next to a Salvationist. One morning he was hit and fell fatally wounded. I knelt beside him in the trench and asked if I could do anything for him.
"'Yes,' he said. 'In my pocket there is the address of my father and mother; if you live to get home, tell them how I died, and tell them that religion was good for me away from home in the trenches, and death has no terror for me.'
"I said, 'Yes, I'll tell them.'
"Then he opened his eyes and pulled me down. 'Supposing a shot came for you next,' he said, 'how would it be for you?' And although he only lived five minutes longer, he talked to me all that five minutes about my soul, trying to get me converted.
"Then he closed his eyes and died."
Yet another Salvation Army story. It is told in the War Cry by "Leaguer" John Coombs of the 1st Gloucester Regiment:
"The battle of —— was in progress, and our trenches were being raked by the enemy's fire. We were expecting any moment to be told that the German guns would have to be silenced, and presently along the line came the order 'Charge!' We scrambled into the open and rushed forward, met by a perfect hail of bullets. Many of our men bit the dust, but we who remained came to grips with the enemy. I cannot write of what happened then. The killing of men is a ghastly business!
"On the way back to the trenches I saw a poor German soldier trying to get to his water-bottle. He was in a fearful condition. I knelt down by his side. Finding his own water-bottle was empty, I gave him water from mine. Somewhat revived, he opened his eyes and saw my Salvation Army Leaguer's button.
"His drawn face lit up with a smile, and he whispered in broken English: 'Salvation Army? I also am a Salvation Soldier.' Then he felt for his Army badge. It was still pinned to his coat, though bespattered with blood.
"I think we both shed a few tears, and then I picked up his poor, broken body, and with as much tenderness as possible, for the terrible hail of death was beginning again, I carried him to the ambulance. But he was beyond human aid. When I placed him on the waggon he gave a gentle tug at my coat; thinking he wanted to say something, I bent low and listened, and he whispered: 'Jesus, safe with Jesus!'"
Sergeant-Major J. Moore, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, tells us that he had often spoken to one non-commissioned officer on the claims of Christ. Three days ago, he says, he was walking from his company officer's trench to another part of the company, when a bullet struck through his greatcoat at the right arm, passed through his right service dress pocket, then over his heart, and out through his left pocket. He was not touched himself, but as he dropped into the trench a little bit stunned, and saw how near he had been to death, he then and there lifted up his heart to the Lord, thanked Him, and gave his life to Him.
Sergeant-Major Moore tells another story of a lad brought up in a Sunday-school. He had had the best mother in the world, he said, but she was dead. He was sure she had gone to heaven. "Four days ago," says the sergeant-major, "his home-call came. Inside his war pay-book was found an envelope from his wife, and he had written the following while in the trenches:
That was the last he was known to write."
Sunday-school teachers may take heart of cheer. The work that they were tempted to think was thrown away is taking root and bearing fruit in the trenches.
Another sergeant-major writes:
"We are not able to meet so well, owing to the scattered condition of the battalions. But we have managed, when things are a bit quiet, to steal from the trenches this week, and hold prayer, praise, and testimony meetings, and it would have done your heart good to hear the dear brothers testify to the saving and keeping power of our adorable Saviour, and every one felt drawn nearer to each other, and to God."
What does a charge from the trenches feel like to a Christian "Tommy" who is taking part in it? Listen to this:
"We were in the trenches the whole time. Sometimes we had burning sun, at others pouring rain, and at nights heavy dews soaked you. At the end the order came to fix bayonets for a charge; then I just put my hand over my eyes—so—and asked God to help me to do my duty like a man. We rose up and ran forward a little way, and then fell flat while the bullets and shrapnel flew over us like hail; then on again. We hadn't advanced very far before their artillery was cutting us up badly. Our adjutant and the two mates either side of me were shot dead. Then I was hit in the leg. It made me go right silly like, and I didn't know where I was for a bit. When I came to my mates had gone, so I crawled away as far as I could. I didn't want them Germans to get at me, sir.
"Thank you, sir; I'm just fine now. Doctor says I'm doing marvellous. It's through living a straight life, 'e says. There's nothing like keepin' respectable. As you say, sir, the Lord heard my prayer, and He must have spared me for a purpose. I hope to be back again soon, and give 'em some more socks."
And now it is time that we retired from the trenches and saw these men when they come out. We will not retire far, but just far enough to the rear to see the men as they retire, and watch others who are just going in.
Here is one who has got a trench to dig, and it strikes me as a very quaint ending to a quaint letter. He has told us in the letter of a comrade of his who, when wounded in the foot by a shrapnel shell, exclaimed, "Never mind; thank God, I still have one left." And he concludes by saying, "I could still go on relating my experiences, but I am just about to dig another trench, so I will close now with 1 Peter i. 5, 'Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.'"
Evidently he was thinking of divine things all the time, and as he dug his trench he might truly sing—
See them as they come out of the trenches! Some of them during the terrible weather about Christmas time had literally to be dragged out by their comrades, for they stuck fast in the mud.
Talk about arctic or antarctic regions! In those regions explorers can at any rate move forward or move back, but to the men in the trenches during the worst of the weather there has been no possibility of movement. They could not even drag one leg out and put it down again. Many of them beat their feet with their muskets, or anything that came to hand, to keep some life in them.
But their relief time has come. Look at them, caked with mud, unshaved and haggard. A few days in the trenches makes old men of them. March! How can they march? They just shuffle along as best they may, comrade helping comrade.
But actually baths have been provided; and while a good hot bath is being enjoyed, their clothes are cleaned and sterilised, and then a hot meal and a good sleep, and you would hardly believe these were the same men. But they have never been down-hearted—not they. They have "kept smiling," as they are so fond of saying.
COMFORTING A DYING GERMAN.
When "Tommy" asked what he could do for his late antagonist, the latter replied, "Nothing, unless you would be so good as to hold my hand until all is over."
Drawn by F. Matania.ToList
What stories they have of their experiences. Here is one who writes to the Rev. J.H. Bateson:
"I want you to praise and thank God with me for sparing my life last Thursday, when I had a narrow escape from death. The enemy started to shell our trenches at 3 P.M. and continued until dark. One shell burst just outside the trench which I occupied with my section, blowing the trench right in and burying me in earth and mud. I was fast suffocating when God heard my prayer, and sent a corporal and private of my company who dug me out alive. Four of my section were buried up to the hips, but, praise God, they also were got out safely. Further along a shell burst right in the trench, blowing two men out of the trench, who were killed on the spot; a third was buried alive; a fourth was stunned and wandered out in front of the trench, and was shot through the head by the enemy and killed. We have had twenty-five days in the firing line out of the thirty days of November."
This soldier goes on to say that, when at last relieved from the trenches, he had held services in barns with some of his comrades, and had even been called upon to bury the dead. He closes his letter with the verse:
Mr. Bateson sends to the Methodist Times a letter which he received from a Christian sergeant at the front in January 1915. I quote it in full because it describes in such vivid detail the experiences of a Christian soldier in the trenches and during the charge. Only by listening to the men themselves can we fully realise what Christ is to the soldier, and how gloriously he is sustained in the most trying times.
"We are having some good times in serving the Master, both in the trenches and during rest periods in billets. It matters not where we are—we can still laugh and sing the praises of Him Who died that we might live. During the retirement, at the commencement of the campaign, when fatigued to the utmost, when drowsing or at least stumbling along as best I could, halts were given, and officers, non-commissioned officers and men simply fell down exhausted, you could notice here and there some kneeling in prayer. I have done the same, and after a few minutes in silent prayer, thanking our beloved Saviour for preserving us, I have gone off sound asleep, and have awakened and gone on again. Then with fresh vigour and a determined effort have managed to pass up and down the ranks under my command, to speak a few encouraging words and turn their thoughts heavenwards. At rest intervals I have managed to get one or two together for a Christian song and prayer, thank God for keeping us so well, and ask for strength to endure it all.
"Now, again, we are in the trenches. It is Sunday morning, my thoughts are of all in the Homeland, and more so about Him Who died for us, and as I think of it all out comes my Bible, and those who are near join in listening to a passage of Scripture; then a few words of prayer, then a chorus or two that we all know. We sing as heartily as if we were at home in our churches. Then over comes 'Jack Johnson.' For a time all is silent, excepting that lips are moving in fervent prayer—not through fear, but with thankfulness and praise. Glory! Glory!
"Another time we are in a different part of the country, and called upon to go into the attack. As we go, not seeing any danger, suddenly over us bursts a shrapnel and shells of the 'Jack Johnson' type, ploughing up the ground, and comrades fall. Some are killed outright; others are severely wounded. I rush here and there to assist with a handshake or a 'God bless you.' I pass on to lead those left, and then right into the thickest of the fray with heavy rifle and machine-gun fire. But nothing daunts the British soldier, and on we press until at last the enemy turns and runs in fear. Then we thank God for all His goodness in protecting and sparing us, and on we go, administering to the wounded and those whose life is fast ebbing away, and in a few words get the assurance that they hear the Saviour's welcome voice. I have felt Him so near at such times as these. Tears of joy and gladness—maybe of sorrow—well from the eyes. Jehovah is present, and after the busy day is done and the shades of night are falling, I again pursue my duties, collecting here and there a few men to establish a firing line and join up the gap between our regiment and those on the right. We start to work to dig ourselves in. When all is complete, we kneel reverently with a heart full of praise and thanks for being enabled to accomplish a little more for King and country, and, above all, to do something for others by grace and strength from on high.
"One day we had just finished trenching in a wood; it was Sunday afternoon. All was complete. I had been reading to four others in my 'dug-out,' and prayed. We were holding a short service. I had just finished speaking, and we were heartily singing that beautiful hymn, 'All hail the power of Jesu's Name,' and had got through the third verse, when we were suddenly called to man our rifles, as the sentry had seen the enemy approaching and given us the warning. Over us scream harmlessly the big shells; some fall in front, some behind. Over comes the shrapnel and bursts over us; then the spurt of rifle-fire begins. But the beauty of it is we are not troubled with fear at all—who could be in the presence of the Master?—but go on singing the chorus 'Crown Him' right on to the finish, although the enemy is only 150 or 200 yards away."
"The beauty of it is we are not troubled with fear at all—who could be in the presence of the Master?" That sentence seems to sum up the situation. Christ is there and He is all-sufficient. Strong in His strength the Christian soldier goes anywhere and faces anything. How grandly old "Diadem" would sound as these Christian soldiers sang it in the battle charge—"And crown Him, crown Him Lord of all." There was nothing in the situation incongruous to them. They did not think of the Germans—only of their Lord and Saviour. And so they went right on. Some of them were sure to fall, but they did not think of that. The fact of Christ dominated them. Every other idea was "a grand impertinence." He was with them here, and He would be with them—yonder.
Sergeant-Major Moore gives us a picture of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Writing to Mr. Bateson on December 17, he says:
"Last Tuesday, that is a week ago, they went into the trenches when it was pouring with rain. They were wet through to the skin, and then had to enter trenches where the water was in the majority of cases up to the knee, and in some as high as the waist. On being relieved some had to be lifted up with drag ropes, and then they had to be helped to walk. Others, after taking their boots off, were unable to put them on again, and I saw several who could not walk at all.
"I was able to have a few quiet talks with some of the young men and older ones, who during the past month have surrendered to the claims of Jesus. Their bright faces told very plainly that they have found the pearl of great price, and can say, 'What a friend I have in Jesus.'"
What a picture!—weary and worn, but not sad. Having to be dragged out of the trenches, unable to walk, and yet with "bright faces." It reminds us of what the Rev. R. Winboult Harding says of a wounded man in hospital at Cambridge: "He is of the Coldstreams and the Glory Room. He has ten shrapnel wounds in his legs, but he has heaven in his face."
Now was the time for services. And if no chaplain were available, the men held meetings themselves.
Writes one, a corporal, to his chaplain: "I thank you for your letter, also for the books for the little services which I hold amongst my comrades when out of the trenches, and in billets, which is not often the case, I am sorry to say. However, if our meetings are not frequent, I praise God my prayers for my comrades are being daily offered for them, in and out of the trenches, and on the march. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! Now it is Sunday night, the 20th, and I have just held a nice service among my comrades, who greatly enjoyed the singing and also the address. We came out of the trenches last night, and go in again on Monday, so far as we know."
After one such little service as these a corporal said to his lads before they lay down to sleep: "If any of you want to lead a Christian life, do so; I will see that no one interferes with you." Next day that corporal was killed.
And now was the opportunity of the chaplains. In the trenches they could only set an example of patient courage to the men and cheer them with words of faith and hope and love. But now they could get among them, hold services for them, and this they did incessantly. Chaplains of all denominations were thus engaged. We read of many united services,—a Church of England chaplain reading the prayers, the colonel of the regiment the lessons, and the Wesleyan chaplain giving the address, or vice versa. As the Rev. E.L. Watson (Baptist chaplain) says: "In the rush of work a chaplain has little time to inquire re denomination; he gives his help where most needed; he comes as a brother man and affords God's own consolation." The Psalmist said, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." To him all life was sacred, every place the House of the Lord. It is the same at the front to-day, every place sacred—trenches, farmyards, cellars, aye, even pig-sties—the House of the Lord.
Lieutenant Grenfell, R.A.M.C, describes one such service where Mr. Watkins preached his sermon from the door of a pig-sty, while a number of young porkers slept within. The men illuminated the scene with the light from an acetylene operating lamp, and so were able to have a good sing. Those were tender moments. The pigs were forgotten, everything was forgotten but the presence of God, and, wearied but not discouraged, they were able to say, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
Here, too, was the opportunity of showing kindness to one's enemy, which Tommy is always ready to show. Many a trembling German fallen into the hands of the British, terrified because of the frightful stories he has been told of British cruelty to prisoners, has been cheered by the kindly words and acts of British soldiers.
A young officer writing to the Times says: "We are out to kill, and kill we do at any and every opportunity. But when all is done and the battle over, the splendid universal soldier spirit comes over all the men.... Just to give you some idea of what I mean, the other night four German snipers were shot on our wire. The next night our men went out and brought one in who was near and get-at-able, and buried him. They did it with just the same reverence and sadness as they do to our own dear fellows. I went to look at the grave the next morning, and one of the most uncouth-looking men in my company had placed a cross on the head of the grave, and had written on it:
"And under that 'Got mitt uns' (sic), that being the highest effort of all the men at German. Not bad for a blood-thirsty Briton, eh? Really that shows the spirit."
It does, and a noble spirit too.
Now was the opportunity also for the chaplains to dispense the gifts from home to the war-worn men. How delighted the men were with them, and how every gift was regarded as the gift of love! Even war has its bright side, and surely one of the brightest spots on the bright side of war has been the spontaneous offering of kindly hearts at home to our soldiers abroad. In almost every home in the land skilled and unskilled fingers have been at work. Knitting had almost become a lost art, but now every school-girl knits, and knits not for herself but for the soldiers.
And the men who could not knit found the money, and sent their own special gifts. How they rolled in! What delightful work they gave the chaplains and those associated with them! Cigars, tobacco, cigarettes, candles, matches, soap, socks, mittens, body belts, gloves—and so we might go on quoting almost every article the soldier needs. "You see," said one Tommy, "I've lost all my shirts but one—the one I'm wearing—and that's borrowed. Thanks very much, that's just what I wanted."
And the Indians, too, how they appreciated their gifts! One of them wrote this characteristic little letter to his chaplain—the Rev. A.E. Knott—who had come with them from India.
"Honourable and most gracious Captain Sahib, Padre Sahib,—We are all delighted with the things you have sent us. Sir, may God bless you that you have remembered us. It is very kind of you, and we are very pleased, and for the ladies, our gratitude, who like mothers have regarded us. May no sorrow befall them. From many men, many, many thanks and salaams; also from the writer many salaams."
So hearts were gladdened, and bodies made warm, and our soldiers thanked God and took courage when they realised that they were not forgotten by "the old folks at home."
And now it is time to sum up this chapter. What is the general impression that it leaves?
The whole scene is weird in the extreme. Darkness hangs over the trenches. The work is done for the most part at night. When those of us at home are sleeping, our brothers and sons at the front are charging with the bayonet through the deep darkness. Others are quietly moving backwards and forwards—backward with the wounded, forward with food and reinforcements. Snow and rain and frost! Shrapnel, and rifle fire, and "Jack Johnsons"! Day after day, week after week, even month after month! The monotony of the day must be fearful, the horrors of the night recall the descriptions of the Inferno. I do not wonder that, in some cases, nerves have given way, and men have had to be carried to the rear suffering from complete nervous collapse.
But courage has never failed, though nerves have become unstrung. There used to be a story told in Aldershot of an officer who was about to take part in his first battle. His legs were trembling so that he could hardly sit his horse. He looked down at his shaking legs and said, "You're shaking, are you? and you would shake more if you knew where I was going to take you to-day, so let us get on." That is the highest courage, which realises and fears and yet goes.
This courage our soldiers in the trenches have possessed in the highest degree. The charge brought against them is that they have exposed themselves to the fire of the enemy. I do not wonder. They intend to "get on," however much they fear.
And through it all, as Tommy would say, they have "kept smiling." Wet through to the skin, or nipped by frost; sleepless for days together, only getting provisions replenished by night, comrades falling by their side! But they have "kept smiling."
And what about the Christian soldier? He has had all these qualities—for to none of his comrades is he inferior in courage. But he has had another—an added quality. Something—Someone—who has given him peace in the midst of privation and danger; Someone who has enabled him to exult in the battle. He has had a light in the darkness possessed by none else.
As I have written this chapter the words of Isaiah have been continually in my mind,—"But there shall be no gloom to her that was in anguish. In the former time He brought into contempt the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time hath he made it glorious.... The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light, they that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined."
Our soldiers have been called to walk in darkness but they have seen a great Light. They, too, have dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, and upon them also hath the Light shined. And so there is no "gloom" for them. It may be night all around, but the sun shines upon them, and it is always day.
The problem of death has been greatly puzzling us at home—the death of thousands of our best young manhood. Goethe says, "The spectacle of nature is always new, for she is always renewing the spectators. Life is her most exquisite invention; and death is her expert contrivance to get plenty of life." We probe into his meaning, and during these months begin to understand.
From the drawing by A. Michael.
A "PADRE" HOLDING A SUNDAY EVENING SERVICE ON THE FIELD.ToList
But the Christian soldier has no difficulty. Death is to him but an incident. Here and yonder he is in the presence of his King. He advances to his death singing "Crown Him," and then wakes up astonished to receive his own crown of life.
The Royal Christmas Message—A Christmas Communion—Services Held Anywhere—Carol Singing—The Soldiers' Christmas Day—Christmas in the Trenches—The Unofficial Trace—They did not want to Fight—Strangest Story of All—The Strangest Service.
Christmas 1914 will ever be remembered in this country. The message of peace and goodwill spoken from our pulpits, and yet half the world at war! Christmas carols, Christmas dinners, Christmas presents, and yet our sons out there in the trenches, and our fleet keeping constant watch at sea!
It was indeed a strange Christmas, and yet we could not forgo it, for the Christmas message was needed more than ever before, and the poor and needy and the little children must not be forgotten.
For weeks before Christmas we had been considering what we could do for our sailors and soldiers on Christmas Day. Our King and Queen had been busy sending out Christmas cards to their troops, bearing a Christmas greeting, and the message, reproduced in facsimile from the King's handwriting, "May God protect you, and bring you home safe."
All sorts of organisations had arranged for presents—they were sent from the ends of the earth. The newspapers made appeals to their readers, and arranged for the despatch of Christmas hampers and parcels. Nearly every church remembered its own men at the front, and sent kindly greetings and appropriate gifts. We were all thinking of those who were fighting our battles, and we strove to give them a bit of Christmas in the midst of the war. Not that we took any credit to ourselves for this—it was the very least that we could do. They were of us, and they had gone out from us. They were our very own, our best and noblest, and they were doing all that men could do. They were laying down their lives for their country—and for us, that we in peace and plenty might quietly spend our Christmas as of yore, "none daring to make us afraid."
And they? What of them? Well, our presents reached them. Not a ship bearing our gifts was lost. They had our presents on Christmas Day. In the trenches, in the rear of the firing line, in hospital and in camp there was the Christmas distribution, and the men looked up and thanked God that they were not forgotten on Christmas Day.
My purpose in this chapter is to tell how that strange Christmas at the front was spent.
Let us first hear our chaplains' stories, and then listen to the men.
Bishop Gwynne of Khartoum is again serving as a Church of England chaplain with our troops. He shall tell, first of all, how he spent his Christmas.
"When I woke early on Christmas Day," says he, "the tiny window in my small room at the farm-house was frosted over, and the rattle of the ammunition waggon on the road sounded like trolleys over an iron way.
"Our first Communion was in the mayor's office (the church was denied us), and was packed to the doors with generals, colonels, and 'Tommies.' We sang 'While shepherds watched their flocks by night.' The celebration of Holy Communion within the booming of the guns, where bodies were being broken and blood shed, brought vividly, as nowhere else on earth, the message and meaning of the sympathy of God in the sufferings of men, and each one was thrilled with the reality of it all, as men of all ranks partook of the Holy Sacrament, and thoughts turned homeward to those who thought and prayed at the same service, convinced of the reality of the Communion of Saints.
"My next service was under the shelter of a haystack along the side of a road, where a congregation of gunners in a semicircle sang the Christmas hymns with real feeling in the keen frosty air. It was too cold to keep them long, but I gave them the Christmas message, and wished them every Christmas blessing.
"A couple of miles further on, I found a congregation of about two hundred and fifty men assembled in the small theatre of a country town. With deep reverence and great heartiness they followed the service. These men were under orders for the trenches, and every word in every prayer seemed so suitable—'Defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies, that we surely trusting in Thy defence may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord.'
"As soon as my first lot finished, another lot of two hundred and fifty filled the room for another service. What struck me most was that, though the surroundings were strange, the men showed no more signs of emotion than if they were keeping Christmas at home. The sounds of artillery every now and then accompanied our prayers, but we all felt we were in our right place.
"I am convinced they envied not the man who sat down in comfort to his Christmas dinner at home; they had no wish to change places with those who, in luxury and ease, chose the easiest part in this time of war. In a few hours they would be in the forefront nearest their country's foe, and that was the place of honour this Christmas Day. Their hearts were warmed as I told them how many were thinking of them and praying for them to-day, but they needed no pity. They were where they would be,—where the bravest and best always want to be,—fronting the enemy who threatened their hearth and home.
"When the last lot went, I prepared for the Holy Communion on the theatre stage, and nearly a hundred came back to receive the Blessed Sacrament—officers, non-commissioned officers, and men kneeling on the muddy floor, remembering, worshipping, receiving into their hearts by faith, the vital power to fight, and, if need be, to suffer and die for the righteous cause. The Cross of Christ seemed to be so real, and its meaning so clear, to men who are really living away from the world's conventionalities, and up against death and the other life.
"On the way back to my billet I found my unit on the road, having orders to move off, and I had to march along with them until dark, when we were all crowded into a farm with outbuildings large enough for our men. We had our goose and plum-pudding at nine P.M., and after a chat round a wood fire, lay down to rest at midnight."
I have ventured to quote Bishop Gwynne's letter in extenso from the Guardian, as it tells us so delightfully how one chaplain spent his Christmas Day, and how worthily he earned his Christmas dinner. What an insight it gives us also of the power of religion in our British Expeditionary Force!
The Rev. E.R. Day, M.A. one of the senior Church of England chaplains, has a similar story to tell. He says that on Christmas Day there were no fewer than seven hundred communicants from one regiment and four hundred from another, and the service was held in a ploughed field with a packing-case for the Lord's Table. He adds that during the war he has conducted these Communion services in the back room of a public-house, in a stable, in a loft, in a lean-to shed, and in the open air—anywhere where room could be found.
Another Church of England chaplain, writing to the Church Times, describes an attempt he had made to hold "Early Communion" at 6.30 on Christmas morning. He had done his best, with the assistance of the Army Service Corps, to provide all the accessories of a High Church celebration, candles, &c., but that was a failure—no one came. We are not surprised, for Thomas Atkins, as a rule, does not care for these accessories. He succeeded better, later in the morning, on the straw-littered floor of a soldier's billet. As he quaintly says, "It seemed fitting that as He first came among the straw, He should come to His soldiers to-day as they knelt on the straw."
The Rev. J.D. Coutts, Wesleyan Chaplain with the First Division, describes another service. He says:
"I preached a Christmas sermon, and the men sang as only men can sing when they are having a good time. We went through the whole service in the small red book, the men reciting the responses with enthusiasm. After the service we held a Communion Service. We took Communion in the Town Hall of an old French town, and it will remain in my memory for a long, long time. Two planks on trestles formed our communion table.... An access of solemnity came upon us, and we knew ourselves to be standing in the presence of God. Seldom has it been given me to take part in such a service.
"This morning in going out to visit the regiment at dressing stations, I met a regiment returning from the trenches. There were not a hundred and fifty of them. The rest were put out of action in taking some trenches; they won their trenches, but were enfiladed. I thought of our Communion Service, for not one of the men whom I knew did I see."
I might go on recording many of these Communion services, but these will serve as specimens of similar services held throughout the Expeditionary Force. We at home and they abroad were one in this act of commemoration and communion. We at home thought of them and they of us, and said "Amen" to the prayer contained in the communion hymn, part of which I copy from the United Free Church of Scotland Record.
The Rev. Owen S. Watkins gives us another picture of Christmas at the front. The 14th Brigade had gone into the trenches, so those who were left sat disconsolately round the fire on Christmas Eve, and one of the number said, "Well, one thing's certain, we shan't hear any carol singers this year," but the words had hardly been spoken, when there came the sound of singing,—"Hark, the herald angels sing," "While shepherds watched their flocks by night," and so on through all the old familiar carols. Some of the musical members of the Ambulance had formed a carol party and proceeded to serenade the General and the others who were in the village. It made them all realise that Christmas was indeed here. Mr. Watkins then proceeds to describe Christmas Day:
"Christmas Day dawned bright and frosty, truly seasonable weather, and welcomed by the troops as far better than the pouring rain. For the chaplains it was a busy day. In the course of the morning Mr. Winnifrith held two celebrations of Holy Communion, conducted two Parade Services in the Brigade, and performed the last sad rites for three men who had been killed during the night. My work was found in the 13th Brigade, who were resting in the billets we had just vacated, and a good deal of my morning was spent in the effort to keep my horse on his feet, for the roads were like glass, and my journey occupied twice as long as I had anticipated. I had arranged for the service to be held in the village school, but the congregation was far too large for that, and when I arrived I found they had decided to hold the service in the school-yard, which was packed as close as men could stand with a congregation which swayed and made a noise like thunder as they stamped their feet on the stones to keep them warm.
"On my arrival the stamping ceased, and we at once began the service—Scottish Borderers and Yorkshire Light Infantry most of them were—and in spite of the bitter cold, both officers and men joined in the singing with a zest and heartiness which was most inspiring. My address was of necessity brief, but throughout the service there was that influence which it is the preacher's joy to feel.
"In the afternoon I held a service in the schoolroom of the village where our ambulance was billeted. It was attended by men of all denominations who had been unable to attend any of Mr. Winnifrith's services, and was chiefly composed of our own men and gunners belonging to some heavy batteries in the neighbourhood, some of whom had walked a couple of miles to attend the service. Once again I realised the joy of leading God's people in worship, and felt that, however unusual the surroundings, the true spirit of Christmas was resting upon us.
"In the evening the men feasted, had a singsong, and generally made merry, whilst in the officers' mess we also tried to celebrate Christmas in the old-fashioned way, but soon settled down to the fireside quietly to talk of other days and other scenes, and to think of those who missed us at this festive season."
We have seen how the chaplains spent their Christmas Day. How did the Christian men spend theirs? Perhaps one picture will suffice. Our old friend Sergeant-Major Moore shall draw it for us. On Christmas Eve he was occupied nearly all day giving out Christmas presents to the men. His regiment had come out of the trenches on the 23rd, and the men were, many of them, in a terrible condition. They had been standing in the water for days and numbers were frost-bitten. But how they appreciated their gifts! It was indeed good to see a cart-load of gifts, all of them sent direct from the homeland to this one Christian sergeant-major for distribution. Christmas Eve was spent in a barn, and as the sergeant-major spoke to the men, at least one soldier gave himself to Christ.
Christmas morning broke fresh and clear, and the staff-sergeant had a splendid menu for the day, provided so far as extras were concerned by friends from the homeland. Breakfast—Tea, sugar, and milk (the last a great luxury), bread, English butter, ham, tinned sausages, and cake. Dinner—Roast-beef, potatoes and cabbage, plum-pudding. Tea—Tea, sugar, milk, bread and butter, ham, honey, sardines, shortbread, Christmas cake, and chocolates afterwards.
Not a bad menu that for men fresh from the trenches! Let it not be supposed, however, that all fared so well. The Rev. A.D. Brown, chaplain with the Indian Cavalry Division, mournfully records: "We spent Christmas Day on the trek. My Christmas dinner consisted of bully beef and bread and butter."
But these men of the King's Own Yorkshire L.I. fared well, and the sergeant-major finishes his characteristic letter by saying: "After tea I had still a few parcels of comforts, chocolates, &c., which you so kindly sent me, and with a few tracts and Christmas letters, I visited the barns to find out those lonely ones who had not received a letter or parcel from the homeland, and before I left for my billet again I had the joy of knowing that, as far as I knew, every lad of the battalion had received a parcel of cheer, and many were the thanks, and 'God bless you, sir,' that night. Yesterday being Sunday we had three services in barns and a few hymns and prayers in a fourth, there not being time for more. It would cheer many a mother to hear her boy out here singing the old gospel hymn she taught him in his childhood days. Again, on the part of the men, thanking you for your splendid gift. Good-day! 494!"
IN THE TRENCHES.ToList
It is now time we got nearer the firing line and asked how our soldier lads in the trenches spent their Christmas. It is a strange sight which meets our gaze. I confess that when I first read the stories of that Christmas truce I thought that the reporters were romancing. But there was no romancing after all. Truth is stranger than fiction, and this was truth.
The French do not seem to have observed Christmas Day as did the British. The French Eye-witness records: "On Christmas Day the Germans left their trenches shouting 'a two days' truce.' Their ruse did not succeed. All were shot down." It is evident, however, that on some parts of the field there was fraternisation between even the French and the Germans.
The British soldiers took the law into their own hands, and unofficially themselves proclaimed a truce. In some cases the initiative lay with the Germans, and in others with the British; but in nearly every case, all along the line, the informal truce was accepted, and British and Germans fraternised. The Angels' Song was heard again, this time over the blood-stained trenches, and the bursting of the shrapnel ceased, the whizz of the bullets was heard no more, and, instead, the sound of Christmas carols dominated the firing zone.
The period of this truce varied in different parts of the firing line. One officer states: "The Germans looked upon Christmas Day as a holiday, and never fired a shot, except a few shells in the early morning to wish us a happy Christmas, after which there was perfect peace, and we could hear the Germans singing in their trenches. Later on in the afternoon my attention was called to a large group of men standing up half-way between our trenches and the enemy's, on the right of my trench. So I went out with my sergeant-major to investigate, and actually found a large party of Germans and our people hobnobbing together, although an armistice was strictly against our regulations. The men had taken it upon themselves. I went forward and asked in German what it was all about and if they had an officer there, and I was taken up to their officer, who offered me a cigar. I talked for a short time and then both sides returned to the trenches. It was the strangest sight I have ever seen. The officer and I saluted each other gravely, shook hands, and then went back to shoot at each other. He gave me two cigars, one of which I smoked, and the other I sent home as a souvenir."
Corporal T.B. Watson, Royal Scots (Territorials), says: "We were all standing in the open for about two hours waving to each other and shouting and not one shot was fired from either side. This took place in the forenoon. After dinner we were firing and dodging as hard as ever: one could hardly believe that such a thing had taken place."
Private J. Higham, of the Stalybridge Territorials, tells of a truce that lasted throughout Christmas Day.
"On Christmas Day the Germans never fired a shot, and we were walking about the trenches. In the afternoon about three o'clock the ——, who were on our right, started whistling and shouting to the Germans whose trenches were only four hundred yards away. They asked them to come down.... After about ten minutes two Germans ventured out, and the —— went to meet them. When they met they shook hands with each other, and then other Germans came, and so we went up to them.... I was a bit timid at first, but me and a lad called Starling went up and I shook hands with about sixteen Germans. They gave us cigars and cigarettes and toffee, and they told us they didn't want to fight but they had to.... We were with them about an hour, and everybody was bursting laughing at this incident, and the officers couldn't make head or tail of it. The Germans then went back to their trenches, and we went back to ours, and there was not a single shot fired that day."
"Elsewhere," says a subaltern writing to the Press Association, "I hear our fellows played the Germans at football on Christmas Day. Our own pet enemies remarked that they would like a game, but as the ground in our part is all root crops, and much cut up by ditches, and as, moreover, we had not got a football, we had to call it off."
One incident recorded by the Manchester Guardian from the letter of an officer is surely the strangest of all—the story of a friendly haircut.
"At eleven P.M.," says the officer, "on December 24, there was absolute peace, bar a little sniping and a few rounds from a machine gun, and then no more. 'The King,' was sung, then you heard 'To-morrow is Christmas; if you don't fight, we won't,' and the answer came back 'All right!' One officer met a Bavarian, smoked a cigarette, and had a talk with him about half-way between the lines. Then a few men fraternised in the same way, and really to-day peace has existed. Men have been talking together, and they had a football match with a bully beef tin, and one man went over and cut a German's hair."
I might multiply these extracts indefinitely, but sufficient has been said to show the spirit in which our lads and the Germans spent Christmas Day. I do not wonder that one soldier, after saying that some German officers took the photographs of our men between the trenches, adds, "I would not have missed the experience of yesterday for the most gorgeous Christmas dinner in England."
If the strangest incident of that strange Christmas Day was the cutting of a German soldier's hair by one of our lads, surely the strangest service was that conducted by the Rev. J. Esslemont Adams, Chaplain of the United Free Church of Scotland, of whom I have already had occasion to write.
I piece the story together from various reports that have been sent to Scotland, and then add Mr. Adams' own brief comments. He is attached to the Gordon Highlanders, and on Christmas morning visited the trenches to wish his men a happy Christmas. The Gordons had recently relieved the Scottish Borderers, and there were several dead bodies of the Borderers lying midway between the British and German trenches, the result of the last charge. Only about a hundred yards separated the trenches.
On Christmas morning some of the Germans astonished the Gordons by appearing on the top of their trenches, but the Gordons did not fire on them, and instead an officer went out to suggest that, as they had a "Padre" with them, and there were also several German dead, they should have a truce for a burial service. It was arranged, and the Germans lined up on one side of the chaplain and the Gordons on the other. The service began with the hymn "The Lord is my Shepherd," and then the "Padre" prayed. After the burial of the dead, of whom there were about a hundred, Mr. Adams gave an address, which was interpreted sentence by sentence by an interpreter sent forward by a German officer.
The service over, the German officer shook hands with Mr. Adams and offered him a cigar. Mr. Adams begged leave not to smoke it, but to keep it as a souvenir of that unique occasion. The officer consented, but said he should like some little memento in return. Hardly knowing what to give, Mr. Adams took off his cap and gave the officer the Soldier's Prayer he had carried in its lining since the war began. The German officer read it, put it in the lining of his helmet, saying, "I value this because I believe what it says, and when the war is over I shall take it out and give it as a keepsake to my youngest child."
Then the men gathered together, exchanged keepsakes, and spent their Christmas in perfect unity. Not a shot was fired that day, nor on the next. It seemed as though each side was reluctant to fire again, after the sacred service of Christmas morning.
During a brief visit home Mr. Adams occupied the pulpit of his own church—the West U.F. Church, Aberdeen. In the course of a sermon full of interest he referred to his strange service on the battle-field. The Aberdeen Daily Journal thus reports what he said:
"There had been some weird stories told about Christmas Day. He was not going to deny these stories. He was not even going to deny the cigar incident, but was going to show the cigar. Christmas Day made him understand something of the size of God. The day ended for him with the vision of a great German regiment standing behind their commanding officer bareheaded, and not so far distant as one gallery from the other of that church, British officers with their soldiers bareheaded, and between them a man reading the Twenty-third Psalm. In the name of the One Christ, these two foes, the most awful the world had ever seen, held Christmas. It was the fear of God—the need of God—that did it all."
I have told the story in the simplest language, without any attempt to give it colouring, because it seems to me it speaks for itself. It tells that deep down beneath the uniform, beneath all that makes man true Briton or true German, there is the bond of brotherhood. They were Scotchmen, these Gordons, and I wonder if they thought of the lines of their Scottish poet:
Is it not a grim tragedy that men who can thus fraternise on Christmas Day should a few hours after be sending each other to their death? We look forward to the day, and pray God it may not be far distant, when war shall cease.
Here at home and there on the battle-field, Christian men unite in the prayer:
A Picture in "Punch"—Tommy's Deep-rooted Religion—Courage of Chaplains—A Shell in His Back—Stories of Christian Soldiers—First Clergyman Soldier to Die—Driver Osborne—A Church Parade of Four—"Tell My Wife I am Ready "—Duty overcomes Fear.
There was a time when men thought that the reckless devil-may-care man made the finest soldier; that the hard drinker, the hard swearer, the riotous liver came out best in a fight. Wellington wrote of his "collection of ruffians" in the Peninsula: "It is impossible to describe to you the irregularities and excesses committed by the troops. We are an excellent army on parade, an excellent one to fight, but we are worse than an enemy in the country." How greatly times have changed since then!
Sir George White once said that recklessness and lawlessness will carry men a certain distance, but when men are half fed, when nights are wet and cold, and when nerves are broken down by shot and shell, then the lawless man disappears. It is when he is called upon to take the place of a comrade shot on a lonely picket that the man who has disciplined himself proves the true soldier.
General Nogi, who commanded the Japanese forces at Port Arthur, held the same view. His words may well be borne in mind at this time:
"Only he who has conquered himself in time of peace can aspire to be a fighting man under the Sun flag. The brilliant and faithful deeds of the soldier on the battle-field are nothing but the flowering and fruition of the work and training of his daily life in time of peace. A man whose life is in disorder in time of peace would have a rather difficult task if he tried to perform with correctness and success the duties of a true soldier on the field of battle."
If we carry these statements on to their issue, then surely the Christian soldier should fight best of all. He has not only the discipline and training of the Army, but moral discipline and training as well. And he has something more—the spiritual fact which dominates his being and transfigures and transforms him. To him death is not death, he lives and will live, and in the worst of all fiery furnaces there is always with him "the form of the fourth, like unto the Son of God."
Such men as these are unconquerable. They remind us of Punch's famous cartoon, "Unconquerable"; for Punch is not only a humorist, he is a preacher too.
The Kaiser: "So you see—you've lost everything."
The King of the Belgians: "Not my soul!"
The Kaiser has gained his victory and sheathed his sword. Belgium is his; there is nothing in that country left for him to conquer. A ruined building is behind him, on his left is the broken wheel of a gun-carriage. In the distance is a Belgian family—an aged man, a woman, a child. The woman's husband is not there—most likely he is dead.
The King of the Belgians has lost his helmet. His uniform is war-worn, his hair untidy. His scabbard is empty, but he has not parted with his sword. He still grasps it in his strong right hand.
"You have lost everything," says the Kaiser—"Liège, Namur, Brussels, Antwerp." "No, not everything. Not my soul."
But the King of the Belgians was not alone in the claim which Punch puts into his life. Every Christian man fighting for his country, and many another, wounded, frost-bitten, dying, can answer "Not my soul." You cannot take that from him, it is his own sacred possession, and the consciousness that he possesses it still nerves him to do and dare.
As the Rev. E.R. Day, Church of England chaplain at the front, says: "There were men to whom we might almost kneel down in reverence. The bravery, endurance, heroism, and patience of our men at the front are such that French people could not understand it."
It is not necessary to claim that these qualities are the sole possession of the Christian man. It is, indeed, far otherwise. But the Christian graces produce them best of all. Mr. Day is right when he says, "Though apparently careless and light-hearted, one realised that there was a deep-rooted religion in our soldiers, and that it was indeed a fool's game to judge a man by his outward appearance." It is largely because of that "deep-rooted religion" that the qualities of "bravery, endurance, heroism, and patience" are produced.
We must remember that our Army at the front is made up in no small degree of men from homes in which God is honoured, many of them old Sunday-school boys. They have been trained in religion, they have been taught to pray. Some have forgotten much that they were taught, but they have not forgotten the old hymns and prayers, and in their time of need that "deep-rooted" religious instinct has asserted itself. As one of them said to me, "I grew too old for Sunday-school, and I wandered far away from God. For years I never prayed; but in the battle of the Marne I began to pray again, and I have kept on praying. I tell you what it is, sir, most men out there are praying now." Yes, there is felt the need for God and so there is prayer. My point is that, all things being equal, the man who prays is the best soldier, because he possesses spiritual power as well as material.
Central News Photo.
THE BISHOP OF LONDON AT THE FRONT AT EASTER.
Addressing men of the Army Service Corps from a transport cartToList
I purpose therefore telling in this chapter of the heroism of the men who pray, while at the same time I do not overlook the heroism of the Army as a whole. My purpose will be answered if I convince my readers that, instead of religion impairing the courage of our soldiers, it is increased and intensified thereby.
May I first speak of the courage of our chaplains? Not every one expects a "parson" to be brave. The pulpit has been spoken of by the ill-informed as "The Coward's Castle," but hundreds of these parsons have been transferred to the forefront of the fight. As I write this, many of them are already fighting in the ranks, and many more will soon be there.
But the chaplain is not a fighting man. Not a shot does he fire, not a bayonet thrust does he give. He sees the shot and shell bursting round him, but he has not the stimulus of the fight. How have they borne themselves—these men who have been transferred from the pulpit to the battle-field? Two hundred of them are there. Has there been one lacking in courage? I doubt it. The stories I have already told are stories of conspicuous bravery. Let me add one or two more.
I have already mentioned the name of the Rev. Percy Wyndham Guinness, Church of England chaplain, 3rd Cavalry Brigade. He has been appointed by the King a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, in recognition of his services with the Expeditionary Force. The official statement is: "On the 5th November at Kruistraat when Major Dixon, 16th Lancers, was mortally wounded, he went on his own initiative into the trenches under heavy fire and brought him to the ambulance, and on the afternoon of the same day, being the only individual with a horse in the shelled area, took a message under heavy fire from the 4th Hussars to the headquarters of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade."
That is the bare official statement, but it is enough. We may read between the lines bravery pre-eminent, and right worthily does he wear the D.S.O.
"T.P.'s" Great Deeds of the Great War tells another story. "Some of the ministers at the front are doing great deeds of sacrifice. As I was coming away from the hospital, I met one of them accompanied by a corporal. The minister stopped and inquired from me the way to the hospital. Naturally enough, I asked the corporal what was the matter with him. Before I could get the words out of my mouth, the minister turned round,—and I don't think I could describe the admiration I had for that man. He had walked about a mile and a half with a great lump of shell in his back, the size of a man's hand." That was endurance if you like, and it was the endurance of a Padre.
I cannot better sum up the heroism of the chaplains at the front than in the words of Field-Marshal Sir John French in his despatch published on February 17, 1915. "In a quiet and unostentatious manner the chaplains of all denominations have worked with devotion and energy in their respective spheres. The number with the forces in the field at the commencement of the war was comparatively small, but towards the end of last year, the Rev. J.M. Simms, D.D., K.H.C, principal chaplain, assisted by his secretary, the Rev. W. Drury, reorganised the branch, and placed the spiritual welfare of the soldiers on a more satisfactory footing. It is hoped that a further increase of personnel may be found possible. I cannot speak too highly of the devoted manner in which all chaplains, whether with troops in the trenches, or in attendance on the sick and wounded in casualty clearing stations and hospitals on the line of communications, have worked throughout the campaign."
The day after this statement was published came the despatches mentioning the names of those noted for distinguished conduct in the field, and in this—the second list—we find the names of no fewer than sixteen chaplains, while the Hon. and Rev. Maurice Peel (brother of Lord Peel) has received the new Military Cross.
The stories, however, that I most want to tell are the stories of the soldiers, officers and men. They were all alike, but my stories are confined to the definitely Christian soldiers. Their spirit is indicated in the following letter from Captain Norman Leslie of the Rifle Brigade, who has since died for his country.
"Try not to worry too much about the war, anyway. Units, individuals cannot count. Remember we are writing a new page of history. Future generations cannot be allowed to read the decline of the British Empire and attribute it to us. We live our little lives and die. To some are given chances of proving themselves men and to others no chance comes. Whatever our individual faults, virtues, or qualities may be it matters not, but when we are up against big things let us forget individuals, and let us act as one great British unit, united and fearless. It is better far to go out with honour than survive with shame."
That is the true spirit of the Christian soldier—"Better far to go out with honour than survive with shame."
But again I am oppressed with a superabundance of riches. The stories of Christian heroism which could be told would fill this book. The Church's Roll of Honour lengthens rapidly. I choose at random.
There is, for example, Captain James Fergus Mackain, 34th Sikh Pioneers, a zealous member of the Church of England Men's Society, and before the war Honorary Secretary of its Union in the diocese of Lahore. "Always bright and hopeful, brave and zealous, ever ready to help anyone in any way he could, and yet so humble and retiring that it was always his beautiful Christian character rather than himself that seemed to stand forward. The quality of his handshake won all hearts, and even now one seems to feel his vigorous grasp so characteristic of his thoroughness. A great gentle plaything with the children, a pacifying, controlling influence with boys and lads, a quiet sure leadership with men, is it any wonder that such a man was loved and honoured?" He, too, laid down his life for his country.
There was Lieutenant David Scott Dodgson, R.G.A., who was killed in action ten days before his thirtieth birthday. Since his death his promotion to a captaincy had been gazetted. He was laying out a telephone cable for the battery—a particularly dangerous and important piece of work—and while doing so was shot. His father served through the Indian Mutiny and saved the life of Havelock at Lucknow. Like father, like son.
There was Second Lieutenant H. Arnold Hosegood, 5th Royal Fusiliers, who was killed in action near Ypres on February 24. A fine upstanding man, six feet three inches in height, a daring rider, a good shot. "Generous, chivalrous, and modest, he had a great gift of friendliness." Before the war he was for a time Superintendent of the Westbury Park Wesleyan Sunday-school, Bristol, and Secretary of the Trinity Guild. He was only twenty-three years of age.
There was Private Paul Holman of the H.A.C. He was killed while on sentry duty on February 17. A comrade writes: "His first thought was evidently that he must warn the guard; this he did, becoming unconscious immediately afterwards." His colonel says of him: "He was a splendid type of young Englishman and a fine soldier, greatly beloved by us all—officers and men." He had just begun to practise as a barrister before the war broke out.
There were Second Lieutenant J.C. Baptist Crozier, Royal Munster Fusiliers, nephew of the Archbishop of Armagh, and Captain L.A.F. Cane, East Lancashire Regiment, who died leading his men to capture a trench, and Lieutenant Compton, Royal Scots Greys, son of the late Lord Alwyne Compton, and scores of other officers, of whom we may say as was said of those of old, "Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, waxed mighty in war, turned to flight armies of aliens."
We expect, however, that officers will set an example of bravery to their men, and though we mourn the large percentage of officers who have fallen in the field, we would not have it otherwise. It is the tradition of the Army, and a noble tradition too.
Perhaps this is the place to record the death of the first clergyman-soldier who has been killed in this war. The combination of minister of the Gospel and soldier of the line is so remarkable that the death of the first of these marks an epoch in the Church's history.
Captain Lionel Fairfax Studd, of the Rangers, 12th County of London Regiment, died of wounds received in action on February 14, 1915. He was the son of Mr. J.E.K. Studd, of the Polytechnic, and nephew of Mr. C.T. Studd. He had been ordained by the Bishop of London to a curacy at St. James, Holloway, at Trinity, 1914. But, on the outbreak of war, he felt it to be his duty, after very grave reflection, to take his place with his old regiment. Devoted to Christ, he was devoted also to his country.
The deeds, however, upon which I wish to dwell in this chapter are the deeds of Christian non-commissioned officers and men. I must choose with care, and the stories I tell will, I hope, show different phases of Christian courage.
Let me first tell how Driver F.A. Osborne won the French V.C. For years Driver Osborne has been associated with the Wesley Hall Brotherhood, Leicester, and although now on the field still counts himself a member.
I quote from the Methodist Times.
"The story has been slowly imparted to us. In September the gloom of the long and terrible retreat from Mons was lifted by the announcement of the capture of ten German guns by the English. Then fugitive paragraphs made reference to three men who had fought alone, wounded, but undaunted. Only now can the whole story be pieced together, and it is a veritable romance—tragic, heroic, glorious.
"It was on September 1, 1914, in a village near Compiègne, that the L Battery of six guns limbered up on reveille at 2.30, waiting for a missing order to retire. The French cavalry they were supporting retired unnoticed in the mist, and at 4.25, as the light grew, the Germans were perceived, but were thought to be the French. At 4.57 their battery of eleven guns and two maxims opened fire. The first shell killed Driver Osborne's horse, and in three minutes the gun teams were destroyed, only six horses being left.
"Men fell in droves, but Captain Bradbury and the men available strove to unlimber the guns, and in five minutes three were ready for action. One was instantly disabled by a German shell, and Driver Osborne was thrice wounded. A shrapnel bullet deeply grazed his cheek, another caught his shoulder, a third grazed his ribs and inflicted a nasty chest wound. The second gun was shattered in ten minutes, and then for another hour and a quarter one gun fought the German battery. It was an inferno. The screaming dying horses, the shattered groaning men, the shells in hundreds digging holes of four to five feet deep, and shrapnel bullets by thousands searching the ground made it a Gehenna.
"Men fell fast. The officers were killed or wounded, but the one gun fought on. Driver Osborne, thrice wounded, fetched the ammunition from fifty yards away amidst showers of shrapnel. One shell dropped within six feet, but did not burst; another hit a gun muzzle, but the fragments missed him. He was running behind a shattered gun for ammunition when a shell hit the wheel, and the concussion of the broken wheel knocked his knee up, and he could go no more. An officer started for ammunition instead and was instantly killed.
"Osborne holds Captain Bradbury in high honour. 'He was a hero and a gentleman.' His courage, promptitude, and resource inspired his men. One by one the German guns were hit, shattered, silenced, and their gunners fell, under the terrible accuracy of that one British gun. Ten guns ceased fire, and the Germans fled from the other. The Middlesex Regiment of infantry arrived at this point and found three men wounded, covered with blood from horses and men, but working their one gun with their ebbing strength.
"Dashing forward, they captured the German guns, brought out the English battery and rescued the wounded men. The three men, with their fallen comrades, had saved the battery, destroyed the German attack, saved the village beyond, and secured the English rear."
For this splendid service Driver Osborne was rewarded with the Médaille Militaire for distinguished conduct. This is the French V.C. It is equivalent to the Legion of Honour in France, and carries with it a pension of a hundred francs a year.
Driver Osborne was also recommended for the British V.C., but it does not yet appear to have been given.
The first Wesleyan soldier in this war to receive the V.C. was Bandsman Thomas Edward Rendle, 1st Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. The reward was, according to the official notification, conferred—
"For conspicuous bravery on November 20, near Wulverghem, when he attended to the wounded under very heavy shell and rifle fire, and rescued men from the trenches in which they had been buried by the blowing in of the parapets by the fire of the enemy's howitzers."
Still another story of Christian heroism, the hero of this being a member of the Salvation Army. I quote from the War Cry of October 17, 1914.
"Jumping into a carriage of an already moving train the other day (writes a War Cry representative) I was seized by a soldier in war-stained khaki, who gave me a tight hand-grip and said, 'Good luck to you! God bless you and your people!'
"'I'm afraid I don't know you,' I replied.
"'Perhaps not,' he responded, 'but I know some of your people, and the one I met in the firing line was one of the pluckiest fellows I know of. We had been lying in the trenches firing for all we were worth. On my right, shoulder to shoulder, were two Salvationists. I remembered them as having held a meeting with some of us chaps about a week before. As we lay there with the bullets whistling round us these two were the coolest of the whole cool lot!
"'After we had been fighting some time we had orders to fall back, and as we were getting away from the trenches one of the Salvationists was hit and fell. His chum didn't miss him until we had gone several hundred yards, and then he says, "Where's ——?" calling him by name. "I must go back and fetch him!" and off he hurried, braving the hail of shot and shell. I admired his bravery so much that I offered to go with him, but he said, "No, the Lord will protect me; I'll manage it!"
"'So I threw myself on the ground and waited. I saw him creep along for some yards, then run to cover; creep along, and take shelter again; and, finally, having found his chum, he picked him up and made a dash for safety.
"'How the bullets fell around him! Into the shelter of some trees he went; out again and in once more; and when he did get into the last piece of clearing I couldn't wait any longer, so rushed forward to help him.
"'Then I got hit, and was, of course, bowled over. But your man quickly came to me.
"'What do you think the brave fellow did? He just put his other arm round me and carried us both off! Darkness was fast coming on, and presently he laid us down and bound the wounds, which he bandaged up with strips which he tore from his shirt. I shall never forget that terrible night!
"'The three of us struggled on, we two getting weaker and weaker, until just as dawn was breaking we all collapsed.
"'How far we had gone I don't know, for the next I remember was that I was in a field hospital. I could find no trace of my brave rescuer nor his chum, and have heard nothing of them since. But he's a brave boy, and if ever I chance to meet him again I'll ask his name, and the War Cry shall know it as soon as word can reach you.'"
The next story is one altogether different. I quote it from the United Free Church of Scotland Record. It speaks for itself.
"It was a Sunday morning in Belgium. There had been a sharp engagement, and the British troops holding a village had been hurriedly forced by great masses of the enemy to retire. In the confusion three Scottish privates and a corporal had been cut off in the streets and had backed into the first open door they came to. The occupants had fled, and they made their way up a long staircase, intending to find the roof and watch events from there. But it ended in an empty loft, where there was only a skylight beyond their reach.
"'Better lie low for a while,' suggested the corporal as they stood listening to the terrible sounds outside. The Germans were evidently burning, looting, and killing. Now and again they heard screams and the discharge of rifles: sometimes an explosion would shake the building, showing that houses were being blown up; while the smell of burning wood penetrated to their retreat. This went on for hours. The soldiers knew they would be discovered sooner or later, and expected no mercy, as the enemy would be sure to invent some excuse for putting them to death.
"Suddenly the corporal said: 'Lads, it's time for church parade: let's hae a wee bit service here; it may be oor last.' The soldiers looked a little astonished, but they piled their rifles in a corner and came and stood at attention. The corporal took out a small Testament from his breast pocket and turned over the pages.
"'Canna we sing something first? Try ye're hand at the 23rd Psalm. Quiet noo—very quiet.'
"There wasn't much melody about the tune, but the words came from the heart.
"Then the corporal began:
"'Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.'
"As he read there were loud shouts below: doors banged, and glass was smashed. But he went on:
"'He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.'
"He ended, and his grave face took on a wry smile.
"'I'm no' a gude hand at this job,' he said, 'but we maun finish it off. Let us pray.'
"He stood, with the book in his hand, and the others knelt and bowed their heads. His memory went back to the days of family worship in his father's cottage, and he tried to remember the phrases he had heard. A little haltingly, but very simply, he committed their way to God and asked for strength to meet their coming fate like men.
"While he prayed a heavy hand thrust open the door and they heard an exultant exclamation and then a gasp of surprise. Not a man moved, and the corporal went calmly on. After a pause he began, with great reverence, to repeat the Lord's Prayer.
"That a German officer or private was standing there they realised: they did not see, but they felt, what was taking place. They heard the click of his heels, and they knew that he also was standing at attention. For a moment the suspense lasted, and then came the soft closing of the door and his footsteps dying away.
"The tumult in the house gradually ceased, and soon afterwards the storm of war retreated like the ebb of the tide, and quiet fell upon the village and remained upon it. At dusk the four men ventured forth, and by making a wide detour worked round the flank of the enemy and reached the British outposts in safety."
One other story will suffice. Sergeant William Taylor of the 1st Royal Berkshire Regiment died of wounds in the Herbert Hospital, Woolwich, on Thursday, December 10. A beautiful character, a devoted Christian soldier, he was promoted on the field from the rank of lance-corporal to sergeant for conspicuous bravery. On one occasion he stood over a fallen comrade with bullets whizzing all around, until eventually the comrade was carried to a place of safety. On another occasion Sergeant Taylor volunteered with others to attack a position held by a strong force of the enemy. The Berkshires lost heavily until reinforced, and then the position was carried. He was the ideal soldier—the "righteous man" who is "brave as a lion."
The late Rev. T.J. Thorpe, who cared for him while he was in hospital at Woolwich, says: "The Lord Jesus was very precious to him amidst the agony of his last days, and he died more than conqueror." This grand Christian hero was only twenty-four years old.
Before I close this chapter, let me give extracts from two letters sent home by two Baptist chaplains and published in the Baptist Times and Freeman.
The Rev. T.N. Tattersall writes:
"I have made inquiries as to how the men behave in the trenches. What effect has the imminence of death upon the character of the men? Some use language more forcible than polite. Some find the Black Marias and shells a source of entertainment. Some turn their feelings into the songs of Zion. Many vows to God are made on the field of battle, and a Christian soldier has a great opportunity of which he is not slow to make use. In a chat with one such, Private J. Downs, of the Welsh Regiment, a good Baptist, whom I found in hospital recovering from a wound, he told me how he lost his chum. They were sharing a dug-out together, and had agreed, should either fall, to write home the terrible news. His friend said, 'You will tell my wife I am ready, that to God I have given my trust.' Just before he fell he sang 'Jesus is tenderly calling thee home.' Little did he realise how near was his own call. A bullet struck him in the head. Last Thursday the letter was written."
The second is from the Rev. E.L. Watson, and forcibly depicts to us the highest form of courage—courage that triumphs in spite of fear and triumphs through Christ. Such courage is the possession of every Christian soldier.
"At another farm-house in absolute darkness and silence we reached our second dressing station. The regimental medical officer was absent, but the sergeant in charge was ready to deliver over his charge. I stepped into what appeared to be a large living room covered with straw, upon which some fifteen men were lying in absolute silence. No groans, no word of complaint escaped the lips of a single man, no asking for drink, nor claiming first assistance. I felt my way over several, and was able to whisper a word of cheer here and there. One badly wounded man guided my hand to that of a lad near by with the words, 'Speak a word to that lad, chaplain, he must need his mother.' Out of that darkness one by one they were carefully lifted on to stretchers and put into the ambulances.
"One incident impressed me very much that night in that chamber of agony. Just as the last man was being carried out I heard a sob near by me, and putting out my hand touched a stretcher-bearer who had become jumpy. Poor boy, and no wonder. Only seventeen years of age, and away from home for the first time. Empty stomach and soaked clothes, bringing in and remaining with the wounded till relieved, with death outside at every step. This first night of his experience with war was trying his strength and testing his nerve. I took his hand, and whispered a message, and I heard him go out with his little company again towards the trenches over a fire-swept area.
"Men claim that heroism always comes to the front in a crisis, and so it does, but I have learned too that the heroic soul is not always the fearless one. In the case of this lad the sense of duty overcame his sense of fear, and away he went to face death, brave and heroic, in spite of a trembling heart and unsteady hand."
Yet one more picture of heroism, and it is, indeed, a strange one. There is a touch of unconscious humour in it, but for all that it is grandly heroic.
Six Royal Field Artillery men, soldiers of the King and of the Salvation Army too, have been holding daily prayer meetings just behind the guns, and have succeeded in capturing several of their comrades as "trophies." There was no "penitent rail" to which to invite them, and so, notwithstanding the cold, they piled their overcoats together, and kneeling at this improvised "rail" their comrades gave themselves to Christ.
What a picture it presents of absolute devotion and of the highest Christian courage! The guns hardly cool from their deadly fire, soon to belch out death again, the men in the depth of winter caring naught for the cold or for the enemy's shot and shell, using their brief interval to lead their comrades to Christ. Pray on, Salvation Army lads! You will fight all the better for your country because of your fight for the King of Kings, and if death stares you in the face you will know that you have spent your last moments in pointing your comrades to the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sin of the world.
A NEW FORM OF RED-CROSS WORK.
The Red-Cross Motor Field Kitchen, under the direction of Miss Jessica Borthwick, dispenses hot soup to the wounded on the battlefield.
Drawn by S. Begg.ToList
Regimental Aid Posts—What Night Fighting is Like—The Young Doctor—Making the Grave Bigger—Field Dressing Stations—Where Caution is Required—Where Pluck is Shown—When Does the Doctor Sleep?—Nothing but Tragedy—Those Grand Tommies—Winning a V.C. Clasp—A Dreadful Scene—A Kitchener's Train—Devoted Nurses—The Healthiest War—Preventive Measures—Hospital Ships.
So complete is the organisation of the Red Cross at the front that it is possible to indicate its work in four terms—Regimental Aid Posts, Field Dressing Stations, Clearing Hospitals, Base Hospitals. Add to these the Home Hospitals, to which the men are finally transferred, and you have the work of the Army Medical Organisation at a glance.
During this war the cryptic letters R.A.M.C. and M.S.C. have interpreted themselves into actual glorious service which the British public will ever delight to honour, and it will be borne in mind that most of the Christian ministers who have enlisted during this war, have enlisted into this branch of the service. They bear no arms, but theirs is the highest of all service, that of ministering to the wounded and dying. Such work as this requires heroism of the highest order.
Let us glance at each branch of the work, that the service of the Red Cross may live before us.
1. Regimental Aid Posts.—Just a little behind the firing line, as near to it as possible, often exposed to shell and rifle fire, is the Regimental Aid Post. It may be in a cottage, possibly in a cow-shed, perhaps only under the partial shelter of a hill, with a doctor and a few men of the R.A.M.C. in charge. To it are brought as quickly as possible the men wounded in the firing line. During recent months, however, it has been impossible to bring the wounded even this short distance during the day. It has only been at night that the men in the trenches could remove their wounded hither, or the stretcher-bearers could go out to seek for them. The fire has been so terrible that no one could venture into the open. The men have had to lie where they fell, often in agony, waiting until they could be carried to the aid post to receive first aid from the doctor waiting for them. But the doctor does not always wait; he goes where he is needed most, right into the trenches, risking his life at every step, and there ministers to those who cannot wait to be brought to him.
The Rev. E.L. Watson (Baptist chaplain) vividly describes one such outpost as I have indicated.
"In the vicinity of the trenches star bombs were constantly being thrown up, causing whole lines of trenches to be under the weird flare. German search-lights swept the whole of the surrounding country, bringing to light every movement of the troops not under cover.
"For one brief moment the shaft of light rested on me as I stood watching the scene of battle. The experience is equal to an unexpected cold douche. Night fighting under modern science is, I should imagine, hell let loose, and the surprise to me is that so many should survive the inferno.
"From 8 P.M. to 8 A.M. the rush was terrific. In one of the field hospitals no less than seventy odd wounded were treated, about twenty of these requiring chloroform.
"Be it remembered that each case is hastily but carefully dressed by the regimental doctor at the Regimental Aid Post before coming in to the field hospital for more thorough treatment, then one realises the enormous amount of work that often falls to the men occupying these positions of grave risk and tough work.
"These gentlemen are night and day at the call of the man in the trenches, and gladly make any and every sacrifice to render needed medical and surgical assistance. Each trip they make to the line of fire means that they carry their lives in their hands; for there is more danger getting into the trenches than actually exists in the trenches, because most of the fire passes over our trenches and sweeps the approaches night and day.
"Some few days ago, I had occasion to spend some time with a young regimental doctor in his lonely outpost. We were drawn together by common interests and promised ourselves a smoke night together. The first case that met my gaze in the field hospital was my friend the young regimental doctor, fatally wounded whilst going in the rush of work to render help to the wounded.
"Perfectly conscious, he said as he took my hand, 'You see, Padre, they have claimed me at last. I always felt it would come.'
"Calmly he dictated a brief message to his young wife and child, then bravely waited for the end. He knew exactly the nature of his wound and was quite prepared for the surrender of his soul to God. He accepted his end as nobly as he had striven to do his God-inspired work. The real tragedy of this is in the house yonder in England made desolate by this cruel war."
So does the Regimental Aid Post doctor give his life for his country.
The Rev. Owen Spencer Watkins (Wesleyan) gives us another picture of a Regimental Aid Post.
"Near the trenches in a deserted farm by the roadside is the Regimental Aid Post which last I visited. Two regimental doctors have made it their headquarters—Captain Brown and Lieutenant Eccles—and thither are gathered the sick and wounded belonging to the Manchester Regiment and the East Surreys. I had been sent for to bury the dead. As usual on such occasions, I went out with the bearers and ambulance waggons after dark, and when I arrived I found three men waiting burial. Two as they stood side by side had been killed by the same bullet, the other had been shot whilst issuing rations to his comrades in the trenches.
"'You've timed your visit well, Padre,' said Captain Brown. 'There's been a bit of an attack on. Enemy evidently got the wind up badly, and have been loosing off wildly in the air. Bullets have been falling around the house like hail; half an hour ago you couldn't have got to us. One comfort is that if the bullets were falling here, they must have been going high over the heads of our fellows.'
"'Yes, we're ready for you as soon as ever the waggons are loaded, but Eccles has a man of the East Surreys; perhaps the grave had better be made bigger, and then you can make one job of it.'
"A few minutes later we were passing through the farm-yard at the back of the house, mud over our boot tops, into a field, in the corner of which a little cemetery had sprung up. 'Twenty officers and men, most of them Manchesters,' Brown said in an undertone. 'Winnifrith buried three here last night, and two the night before. No, you need not be afraid to use a light to-night. The weather is too thick for it to be seen by the enemy, and in any case they're busy, for our fellows are attacking. Listen.' Again the angry voice of the machine-gun, the noise of rifle fire, so heavy that it sounded like the bubbling of water boiling in some gigantic cauldron."
2. We pass now to the Field Dressing Stations. It appears to be only when the fighting is severe that these are needed in addition to the Regimental Aid Posts. Sometimes the wounded are taken direct to the clearing hospital from the Regimental Aid Posts; but when the wounded crowd in upon the latter, they can only receive rough first aid treatment there, and are passed back as quickly as possible to the Dressing Station.
This is carefully explained in a letter by Staff-Sergeant Barlow, R.A.M.C., to the Vicar of Prestwich. "Perhaps it would be well to explain where our work as a field ambulance comes in. We are not in the sense of the word a hospital. In the first place a regiment is in the trenches, and in close proximity to the trenches, the regimental bearers carry their wounded to some place of cover or comparative safety, such as a barn or farm-house, or in the case of a town being shelled, cellars are used. These are called Regimental Aid Posts.
"As a Field Ambulance we follow from one to two miles in the rear of the firing line and form dressing stations, using schools or barns for the purpose. Our ambulance waggons and stretcher-bearers go out under cover of darkness to collect from the Aid Posts the wounded soldiers, the waggons halting perhaps half a mile away, while the bearers cross fields and roads to the Aid Posts where the wounded soldiers are.
"This is very dangerous and requires much caution; lights are prohibited, as even the flare of a cigarette becomes a good mark for the enemy's snipers, of whom they appear to have many.
"Each regiment forms its own Aid Post. One ambulance unit attends a brigade. After the wounded are brought to the dressing station, the wounds are redressed, and the soldiers are as soon as possible despatched to the clearing hospitals at the base."
Staff-Sergeant Barlow proceeds to describe his first impressions of this awful work:
"What were my first impressions? you may ask. They were such as I can never forget. We were halted near a farm-house, the tenants of which had cleared out, leaving fowls and pigs unattended. The pigs could not have been fed for several days, as they were shrieking for food; we called it crying. The pigs were fed with food from the lofts. Dinner was served to the men (army biscuits and jam), in the midst of which an order came for an ambulance waggon for a wounded man.
"We were all astir, and it was the first casualty we had had to deal with. The waggon went out, and later several stretcher squads and other waggons. The remainder had to fall back about half a mile to a small village to prepare a school and church for the receipt of the wounded.
"My first thoughts were: What is it like; shall I be able to stand the sight of it? In the evening our waggons began to return, bringing many wounded. The medical officers rolled their sleeves up and set to work. My duty fell to assisting by taking off the dressings from the wounds, the first one being that of a soldier with part of his elbow blown away. It looked awful, but I got over it very well. Why? Because we had not time to think of it. There were others to attend to, most patiently waiting—and I think it is in such circumstances as these that one can see the true pluck and courage of the British soldier,—with here and there one pleading for attention.
"Everyone worked hard; the hours passed as minutes, and when all were attended and we looked in solemn silence around, I turned to a comrade and asked the time. He answered it was after 4 A.M. I thought it was midnight. We had dealt with 134 wounded, among whom were several Germans. Under a shed in the school-yard lay five men who had died after being brought in; they were reverently buried in the local cemetery. Since this we have had worse and much of a similar nature, but they have become a conglomeration of events. It is the first night with the wounded that lives, and through it all a voice within me continually saying: 'And this is war.'"
3. Away behind the firing line, in some quiet spot unreached by shell or rifle fire, is the Clearing Hospital. To this spot come the ambulance waggons bearing their ghastly freight of broken bodies gathered from Regimental Aid Posts and Dressing Stations.
The doctors are busily at work. Night is their busiest time. We wonder when the doctor at the front sleeps. We wonder with how little sleep it is possible to support life. These men seem tireless. Hour after hour through the night they toil on, probing here, amputating there.
This is where we see in all its horror the meaning of that new word "frightfulness." I cannot describe the scenes that may be witnessed. I have before me, as I write, copies of Guy's Hospital Gazette from the beginning of the war, kindly supplied me by the Editor. It is necessary that descriptions of the horrors should be written for professional eyes, but I will not harrow the feelings of my readers. I turn away from their perusal echoing the words of Staff-Sergeant Barlow—"And this is war."
A RESCUE PARTY.
Systematic search is made for the wounded, who often crawl away in the hope of reaching their own lines.
Drawn by Sydney Adamson.ToList
I will rather let the Rev. E.L. Watson (Baptist chaplain) describe to us, as he saw it, the work at such a Clearing Hospital.
"In the same ward were many wounded upon the floor stretchers, lying still in their soaked and muddy clothes just as they had fallen, with bloody bandages showing up in dreadful contrast against their poor soiled bodies. Some delirious, others lying in profound silence, but noble fortitude. In a ward like this one sees nothing but tragedy.
"In the receiving room the R.A.M.C. officers were working at highest pressure to save life and limb, by steady hand and cheery manner imparting confidence and hope to every patient in turn.
"I could not help expressing admiration for the way in which each piece of work was carried out, but the officer commanding simply said, 'You know, Padre, we cannot sacrifice enough for the man who is standing up to this hail of hell for us.'
"I was surprised to see such a large percentage of officers among the wounded. No wonder our men are proud of their leaders; where risks must be taken, the officer claims this as his privilege and thus shows the way in every undertaking. One brave major leading his men into the German trenches, when hit, simply shouted "Go on!" as he fell wounded in the head. He is being buried to-day, as every brave soldier desires, in his uniform and blanket."
It will be perhaps as well to look at a similar scene through a doctor's eyes, and I therefore quote a letter from a medical officer at a receiving base in France published in the Scotsman.
"We get the wounded here at practically first-hand. They are brought in with all possible speed, dealt with at once, and sent out to other hospitals as soon as we can send them, to make room for the others who may (and who invariably do) come. They're wonderful chaps, those Tommies. Great stuff; too good to lose! They are brought to us at all hours. Exhausted, covered with mud, hastily but well bandaged on common-sense principles; and aye the quiet, plucky grin, or the patient, enduring set of the jaw.
"'What price this little lot, doctor? '—and the querist indicates where the bullet entered his thigh. 'And me futball leg, too!' growled another one, brought in dripping one night. 'And who will do the schorin' fur the ould tame now? All the same, sir, I schored ag'in' the man that did this, or wan av his side.' Man, they're wonderful! They tell us, under the nervous stress in which we usually find them, some things that have made me wish to lay my eye to the sights of a rifle, despite my bay windows. They tell them in such a matter-of-course fashion, too, that they simply sink in.
"'When did you get this?' I asked a man wounded in both thighs.
"'Yesterday morning, at eight, sir; chargin'. Dropped between their trenches an' ours. Half a dozen of others there too, all wounded, lay there all day. Those snipers poured lead into anything that showed signs of life. Chap next to me was badly hit, and inclined to move. I warned him twice to lie flat an' not squirm, as the Germans were watchin' for every move, an' would plug him, wounded or not. He stuck it steady for four hours. Then he tried to roll over, an' showed a shoulder. Got it. Soon's the snipers couldn't see me after dark, I started to drag myself back, an' met some of the boys out to look for us. It was more than seven to one against us that day.' And so it goes on.
"It's a great experience this. As a surgeon, I know its value. But I wish it was over. It's awful. The stream of wounded seems unceasing, and sometimes I ask myself, when I've time to realise it at all, how long I will be able to meet this strain. We must do our work, however, and I'm proud to do it for those grand men the Tommies."
It is, of course, difficult to single out for mention the names of doctors who are doing this heroic work at Regimental Aid Posts and Dressing Stations. Where all are heroic particular mention would be invidious. There is, however, one outstanding name—Lieutenant Arthur Martin Leake, R.A.M.C. I mention him because he has been the recipient of a unique distinction. He served through the South African War and there won the V.C. for conspicuous bravery. Having won the V.C. it could not be given to him again, and so a clasp has been added to the Cross.
The brief official record is as follows:
"Lieutenant Arthur Martin Leake, Royal Army Medical Corps, who was awarded the Victoria Cross on May 13, 1902, is granted a clasp for conspicuous bravery in the present campaign.
"For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty throughout the campaign, especially during the period October 29 to November 8, 1914, near Zonnebeke, in rescuing while exposed to constant fire a large number of the wounded who were lying close to the enemy's trenches."
So far as I know this honour is unique. Probably Lieutenant Leake would say that he is no braver than scores of other doctors who are nobly doing their work at the front, but he has had his opportunity and he has used it, and by so doing has brought honour upon the whole medical profession. Great is the man who fearlessly "takes occasion by the hand" in the cause of humanity.
When all that can be done for the men at the clearing hospitals is accomplished, they are despatched to the rear. Those who, in the opinion of the medical staff, can bear the journey to this country are despatched thither direct via hospital train and hospital ship. The majority, however, are taken to the base hospitals, where they lie until they are well enough to be sent home, or death eases them of their pain.
In the early days of the war this transit to the base was difficult in the extreme, and the wounded arrived there in a shocking condition. It is as well, perhaps, that we should know what really happened, so I copy a paragraph from Guy's Hospital Gazette of November 7, 1914. It is from a letter signed "G.H.F.G."
"The train has just arrived and even now some few wounded are being removed from the waggons, the gravest of all being given treatment in an improvised hospital by the sidings, others less serious, though bad enough in all conscience, are carried on stretchers to the central goods shed, where the commandant, aided by a large staff of excitable, bearded assistants, directs to what hospital they are to be sent.
"For some minutes we watch the unloading of these waggons. Preceded by orderlies the officer passes from door to door, entering some, and questioning briefly the men lying full length or sitting in what comfort they can upon the straw-covered boards. As the panel slides back a fetid odour of pus reaches the nostrils; startled by the unexpected brightness a couple of horses tethered at one end of the truck stamp and whinney. Carrying an acetylene flare, which makes weird effects of chiaroscuro on the bare walls and floor, an orderly comes in and collects the histories of the men. One man, wounded in the head, persists in taking him for a German, the others laugh and point to their foreheads. A little further on, in second and third-class carriages, men with arms in slings, and less serious body wounds, crowd in the corridors and clamour for food and drink."
What wonder after this that we are told that most of the wounds received in those early days were septic on their arrival at the base hospital?
How different it all is at the present time! Now well-appointed hospital trains move backwards and forwards from the clearing hospitals to the base. For the first time we enter the nurse's sphere. Everything changes when the nurse appears upon the scene. She loves order. Cleanliness is her life. She is trained in all the little arts of nursing which bring comfort and peace. She can do what no man can do. The doctor is splendid at his own special work, the stretcher-bearer, the ambulance man, and the hospital orderly at his. But it remains for women to do what man can never do, and with her light touch, and tender sympathy, to soothe and comfort and bless.
The hospital trains are called "Kitchener's trains"—another tribute to the great man who, from his room at the War Office, seems to overlook everything and forget nothing.
Miss Beardshaw, writing to her old hospital—Guy's—gives a description of one of these hospital trains well worth reproduction here.
"Ours is known as the 'Khaki Train '—a Kitchener's Train; it is half Great Eastern and half L.N.W. There are 220 beds, stretcher ones, two layers. In between each carriage is a little department, a place for plates, mugs, dressings, &c. The officers' and sisters' part is at one end with their kitchen. Dispensary in the middle. Patients' kitchen and orderlies' quarters at the other end. There are three medical officers, one army sister in charge of wards A and B and the general run of all our work. I have C, D, and E wards, and Miss Wilson has F, G, H; a 'London' nurse has the three others. The army sister is an old Guy's, so I think we shall be very happy together. There are forty-five orderlies. The paint of the train white, bed frames dark red, curtains green, and blankets dark brown, so the general effect is very pretty. It is kept most beautifully clean, and the orderlies are very proud of their train—the best on the line, they say. We go up and down to the clearing station, so I am greatly looking forward to seeing Sisters Kiddle and Ames. I do hope they will not be moved before we get there. We often take convalescent patients about, often to Havre. Have been between Havre and Rouen twice these last few days."
What a picture this gives us of organisation at its best! "Beautifully clean!" Surely this is just what is needed, and we cannot wonder that over sixty per cent. of the wounded are able ere long to return to the firing line.
4. And then after the journey in the hospital train de luxe, there is the Base Hospital, with everything in perfect order, and all that can be done for the wounded men. I have written about the work in the base hospitals in the chapter on "Work at the Fighting Base." It is not necessary, therefore, that I should linger here. I will, however, add a tribute which the Rev. R. Hall (Wesleyan) pays to the nursing sisters. Says Mr. Hall:
"I must say a word about the nursing sisters. No braver and truer women ever lived, kind and gentle and brave in the face of disease and death. By day and night they watch and care for our comrades; many a lad's dying hours are made more comfortable by the gentle touch and loving word of these devoted women.
"I heard one day that in another hospital seven miles away one of our own men was dying. I went over and found that he was isolated; he was dying of an infectious disease. He was in great agony. A sister stood beside him, and was trying to comfort him and ease his pain, at the same time the tears flowed freely down her cheeks.
"I have been profoundly impressed by the work of this branch of the Service. We forget sometimes that it is easier to face the shell and the bullet in the excitement of battle than it is to watch hour by hour and tend to those who are suffering from some deadly infectious disease, or from some ghastly wound received in battle."
Mr. Hall's tribute is surely well earned. In this war woman has been as brave as man or braver. She has given of her best and dearest, she has worked and prayed and endured. And away out there among our wounded and dying, far from the excitement of battle, by day and by night she has given herself—all she is and all she has—to the service of her country. And in doing so she has earned the undying gratitude of those to whom she has ministered, and of the land she loves so well.
I turn now to consider another branch of Red Cross work at the front—the treatment and prevention of disease.
This has been the "healthiest" war ever undertaken by the British Army. The great problem of all armies is how to keep out infectious disease, and never before has the problem been solved. If still not completely solved, it is certainly in the fair way to solution.
In the campaigns of the forty years previous to this war the proportion of sick to wounded was twenty-five to one, and of deaths through disease to death by shot, shell, or bayonet, five to one. In the South African War the proportion of sick to wounded was over four to one. We all remember the terrible share that enteric had in the wastage of that campaign. How the soldiers dreaded it. "Better," they used to say, "three wounds then one enteric."
Now enteric has almost entirely disappeared. Speaking in February 1915 the Under Secretary of State for War said that so far during the campaign there had been only six hundred and twenty-five cases in the British Expeditionary Force and of these only forty-nine had died—a percentage of deaths less than half as great as that among the victims of typhoid in the forces still in this country.
Of typhus and cholera there had not been a single case. Strange to say, one hundred and seventy-five of the men had had measles, and among these there had been two deaths. One hundred and ninety-six men had had scarlet-fever and there had been four deaths. How far the healthiness of the climate affects these figures it is difficult to say, but it must be remembered that it has been a terribly wet winter.
How far inoculation against typhoid has prevented the disease is also an interesting question. The doctors have a note of victory in all their statements on this subject, and the figures seem to justify their satisfaction.
Certainly preventive measures have counted for much. Early in the war the medical officers of the various ambulances acted, so far as time permitted, as sanitary officers, and in later days a well-organised Sanitary Section has accomplished great things. The cleansing of camps, the appointments of sanitary offices, the provision of baths, and, generally, every possible attention to hygiene, have kept our men exceptionally free from sickness, and no praise can be too high for the men who have accomplished so much for the British soldier.
ON THE MARNE.
The pet dog of a French regiment finds wounded soldiers and brings the stretcher-bearers to them. This dog has learnt to dig himself a hole when firing is going on.
Drawn by E. Matania.ToList
On the other hand, of frost-bite there have been over nine thousand cases. It is questionable, however, if the vast majority of these cases are really cases of frost-bite. Medical opinion inclines to the view that most of these are a new disease known as trench foot, caused by standing in the trenches with putties too tight and boots too small.
Guy's Hospital Gazette publishes some remarkable figures. "On one occasion a rifle brigade after marching fifteen miles went at once into the trenches, and within forty-eight hours, over four hundred were incapacitated through the foot trouble described in this report. One hundred and eighty men of the Cameron Highlanders were in the trenches without being relieved for eight days and only three suffered from slight frost-bite. None of them wore anything upon their legs and feet, except boots, which may explain the sparsity of cases."
If this be so, then frost-bite of this description is also largely preventable, and the recommendation of the doctors as to large, easy fitting, and water-tight boots, less tightly bound putties, &c., will prevent most of this trouble in future.
On the whole, the country can congratulate itself very heartily on the noble and successful work of the various Red Cross departments. The doctors who have sacrificed their lives will not be forgotten, and will be regarded as heroic as any officers who have led a charge from the trenches. The nurses have earned a debt of gratitude we can never repay. Nursing efficiency has gone far since "Our Lady of the Lamp" moved with such tender dignity up and down the wards in the hospital at Scutari. We would pay our tribute of admiration to the work of our nurses in this war, and say, "Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou—thou modern lady of the lamp—excellest them all."
I must not close this chapter without a word about the well-appointed hospital ships which ply backwards and forwards between the French and British coasts, each with its doctors, nurses, and chaplains on board, bearing a freight of suffering humanity, such as our coasts have never seen before. Everything in order, everything in the way of comfort and ease provided. It was a dastardly act to aim a German torpedo against the Asturias. Fortunately the attempt failed, but what profit would it have been if this life-giving ship had been sunk? Enough surely has been done to take life. The object of such ships as these—ships which cannot be mistaken for any others—is to woo back to life, until their suffering humanity can be tenderly placed in the care of loving hands and hearts at home. Here we are waiting for them, and here we have a right to expect them, that, nursed back to health in the hospitals of our land, they may, by and by, greet wife, and mother, and child, and sweetheart in their own homes once more.
But oh the cruel work of war! The legacy of broken bodies and broken hearts! We look on, and look up to the City of God even now coming down from God out of heaven. Sursum corda! The hour of redemption draweth nigh.
Always "Ready, Aye Ready"—The Deciding Factor—One Hundred and Fifty Chaplains—On the "Bulwark"—"The Church Pennant" Postponed—Sunday on a Battleship—The Sailor and the Thought of Death—Stories from the Fleet—From a Torpedo-boat—The Shore Chaplain's Opportunity—Christian Bravery—"Save Yourself; I'll let go."
Everybody is asking, Where is the Grand Fleet? And that is just what the Germans would like to know. It has a marvellous facility for appearing and disappearing. Occasionally we receive letters bearing the address, "In the North Sea or elsewhere," and sometimes we think it is more elsewhere than there. No postmark gives its location away, no newspaper paragraph lets us into the secret. And then suddenly it appears:
and the Germans find to their dismay a part of it off the Dogger Bank, and the sleepy Turk wakes up to find another part in the Dardanelles.
It is like one of the mysterious powers of nature—unseen, but ever exercising a powerful influence. Its existence is always felt—felt by our foes with ever-increasing pressure, and felt by us with influences always beneficial.
It sleeps not and rests not. It is always "ready, aye ready." From Admiral Sir John Jellicoe to the grimiest stoker, it is one in purpose and in action. And because it is there, we sleep well in our beds at night, and there are few of us, as we lie down to rest, but breathe a prayer for those who seem never to rest—
We have always been proud of our fleet, but never so proud as to-day. It expresses the genius of our nation. Our way has always been "in great waters." We talk of ourselves as "safe circled by the silver sea," but the sea would not save us without our fleet.
When the war broke out, we found ourselves asking, "How will it be with us now?" With forty million mouths to feed and only six weeks' supply of food in the country, how will it be with us now?
Our fleet has solved that problem, and food has poured into the country in plenty and everyone has been fed. It has been in every sea, chasing our enemies off the ocean, protecting trade routes, convoying troop-ships, and at the same time bottling up our enemies in their harbours.
Never was such a herculean task undertaken and never so well performed. Battleships and cruisers, torpedo boats, and submarines, all in their turn have done their work, and done it well. They are waiting they tell us for "the day" of which the enemy boasted so much, and when the day dawns they will be there.
We realise that our fleet will be the deciding fact in this war. Our soldiers have done splendidly and will continue so to do, but without our ships they would be helpless, and if once we lose command of the sea, the glory of our country will pass away. But we have no doubts and no fears. They are there—and here—everywhere.
The nation's gratitude has been shown in many ways during the war. Busy hands have worked for it, and numberless prayers have risen to God's throne on its behalf. As an instance of what has been done, I quote the figures of "comforts" sent from one girls' school to one ship—the Ajax. The school is the Girls' Grammar School, Bury, whose headmistress is Miss J.P. Kitchener (a relative of Lord Kitchener). Wristlets, 137; mufflers, 118; body bands, 120; socks and stockings, 35; sea boot stockings, 16; mittens, 142; jersey, 1; books and magazines, 500. Of course all the articles, except the books, have been made by the girls. In addition to these they have sent 1673 articles to the soldiers. I wonder if this is a record for such an institution? This, however, is only a specimen of what has been done.
Somewhere with that mysterious fleet are a hundred and fifty chaplains. No Free Church chaplains are afloat. It would be difficult to carry more than one chaplain on a ship, and, of course, many of the ships of war carry no chaplain at all. Where there is no chaplain the commanding officer conducts the ship's service. Nonconformists at sea have to lose for the time the ministry of their several churches, but when in port landing parties redress this inequality. Some ships, especially those belonging to Devonport, have a strong Nonconformist element in their crews.
The naval chaplain as a rule is an entirely different type of man from his brother in the Army. He is monarch of all he surveys. He has to face no competition in his work. He partakes of the freedom of the sea. For the most part he is a right down good fellow, but, so far as I can judge, he has not the type of spirituality of which we see so much in the Army. He is all sorts of things rolled into one—sea-lawyer, letter-writer, story-teller, lecturer, schoolmaster, game-director, and a host of other things beside. He must be absolutely sincere if he is to be any good at all, for he never gets away from the busy life of the ship, and he of all men "cannot be hid." Often he is the friend and counsellor of the men, sharing their joys and sorrows. He is the go-between for officers and men, and if he be efficient—and an inefficient man could hardly remain long on board—he makes himself indispensable.
Of course he shares all the dangers of the ship, and to-day if a ship be beaten it is also sunk. Never were the dangers of the sea so great. Dangers on the sea, under the sea, over the sea, crowd around. He never knows when or how suddenly the end may come, and it behoves him to be ready, and brave. We are told that, when the three cruisers were torpedoed in the North Sea, the Rev. E.G. Uphill Robson, chaplain of the Aboukir, went down cheering the men he loved so well. The Rev. A.H.J. Pitts, the chaplain of the Good Hope, died bravely with Sir Christopher Cradock. A petty officer who knew him in another ship says, "With him compulsory church was quite unnecessary. Nobody in the ship would be absent from the service if he could possibly manage to get there."
One of the most terrible catastrophes of the war was the blowing up of the Bulwark in Sheerness Harbour. The Rev. G.H. Hewetson, the chaplain, was on board and perished with the rest. He had only been married a few months.
"Only the other week," wrote a correspondent of the Church Family Newspaper, "I met a stoker, who told me he, Mr. Hewetson, held meetings for men every evening in his cabin, and he was constantly at their elbow when spells from duty would permit, guiding them in 'the things that matter.' It was also my privilege to know him as chaplain to the Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth, during his stay of nearly three years, which terminated with his taking up duties on the Bulwark at the outbreak of war. He was a man of God, also a sportsman of the highest tone, being an expert fencer, a runner-up in the Army and Navy championships at Olympia two seasons ago. He was a man of some literary ability, for which the Chaplain of the Fleet made him editor of the Church Pennant, i.e. the Church magazine of the Navy. Mr. Hewetson was an earnest believer in individual methods, and invariably worked sixteen hours a day, visiting all recruits, detention quarters, sick bay, and held no fewer than five services on Sundays."
I suppose we include our chaplains when we pray for those who "go down to the sea in ships"; but surely these men who are there, not to fight, but to preach and pray, claim a special interest in our prayers.
Prayers are read every morning on every large war-ship, and this is, of course, the chaplain's duty, if one is carried in the ship. The life and work of the day depends very largely on how this is done.
On Sunday there is a sermon—just a quiet, homely talk from heart to heart, and in these days we may well believe that men are thrilled by the message as never before. Of course, during the winter storms morning prayers on deck or Sunday parades are impossible, for many a great green sea will break over the decks even of a super-Dreadnought. At these times service is held below and men attend in relays. On some of the super-Dreadnoughts there are little churches. The Queen Mary, for instance, has one.
I have asked a few representative chaplains to tell me something of the spiritual work on board their ships.
The Rev. C.W. Lydall, chaplain of the Lion, which took part in the North Sea battle, says: "I can only tell you that in this ship our religious motto has been 'business as usual.' I mean the war routine has interfered as little as possible with our services, which have been attended well. There has been a decided increase in the number of communicants, and in many small ways the men have shown a fuller consciousness of their dependence upon God."
The Rev. Arthur C. Moreton, chaplain of the Invincible, which was engaged in the battle off the Falkland Islands, writes: "The usual services are held when practicable, and on Sunday and Wednesday nights I have a prayer meeting with Bible-reading in my cabin."
The Rev. M.T. Hainsselin, chaplain of the Ajax, writes: "The war has made little or no difference to my routine of church work on this ship. The only service I have added has been a second celebration of Holy Communion in addition to the usual 7.40 A.M. one, to enable men to come who could not be present earlier; and the opportunity has been much valued. The other services of Morning and Evening Prayer are continued as usual.
"As you probably know, sailors do not as a general rule care much about the Parade Service at 10.30 A.M., but I think I may truly say that since the outbreak of the war they have come far more to realise it as an act of worship due from them, and it has become a deep reality instead of—as it was to many—a formality.
"In the men's letters which I have had to censor, I have noticed a very strong current of devout religious sentiment, hitherto unsuspected, which encouraged me to think that one's ordinary teaching is not so much wasted effort, as one is sometimes faithless enough to think it is."
How heavy the veil of secrecy hanging over the fleet really is, will be seen from the fact that only one copy of the Church Pennant, which lost its editor in the Bulwark, was issued between the outbreak of war and Easter, and that in February last. The Church Pennant is the organ of the Naval Church Society, and records the Christian work on board H.M. ships. Several reports of Christian work are given in this solitary issue, but the names of the ships are only indicated by initials.
One report states that the place ordinarily used for celebrations and evening service had to be given up to the doctors, but that Holy Communion has been celebrated in the chaplain's cabin every Sunday. On Christmas Day there were two communions and the number of communicants was thirty-four. "The men in general are pleased to read religious papers, and readily accept prayer cards."
Another report says: "On board this ship we were able, in spite of now and then roughish weather, to keep up our regular daily prayers and Sunday services. On Sundays we had stand-up church and two hymns from the hymn cards, and all the responses of Matins with one lesson and one of the Canticles sung. We had the harmonium to sing to. These services were brief, but very heartily joined in. After stand-up Matins we were able always to have our celebration in the captain's cabin—there being no other place in the ship available. The attendance was very good and showed that the old prejudice against coming so far aft is at any rate moribund. Sometimes the weather made it a little difficult both for the priest and worshippers, but we soon got used to the necessary balancing.... Everyone throughout the ship was merry and bright; we only regretted not having a chance of meeting an opposite number of the enemy."
A third report is as follows:
"First of all, nightly Evensong has been held by the chaplain ever since the war broke out. On account of the smallness of our numbers, we meet in the chaplain's cabin, and there the service is performed. Every Sunday morning, at 7 o'clock, we have a celebration of the Holy Communion; and on the second Sunday in the month this service is repeated after morning service. Our flotilla forms rather a large parish for the chaplain, and to supply its wants we have a service specially arranged whenever it is convenient. After our usual 7 A.M. service, we sometimes proceed on board another ship, and have a celebration, to which all communicants from the other vessels in our company are invited by signal.
"The place allotted to us in each instance is the captain's forecabin, which in this ship is as suitable a place as service conditions will allow. On Sunday evenings we have Evensong at 8.30, followed by hymn-singing, and occasionally we get a good attendance. But this, like other services, suffers for want of good space, which is not always easy to find on board ship....
"Conditions on board ship render any efforts with regard to church work very difficult, and this is most marked during these trying times. No doubt many more would join in our united devotions did their duty allow. But we may well be content to go ahead and do the best we can, even if it should be rather disheartening at times. And it will be acknowledged that there has been at least some effort made to continue our duty towards the Church of which we are so proud to consider ourselves loyal members. Our daily evening service closes with a prayer, in which all are remembered, and this is a means by which all may help. We feel and know that those who are on shore are doing the same, and praying for guidance and protection for us from Him Who is above all this turmoil and strife, and Who alone is able to preserve us from peril."
Here is yet one more report:
"Owing to the outbreak of the war the Temperance and Bible classes in this ship have been discontinued, but the Daily Prayer Meeting has been kept going in almost unbroken line.
"The voluntary services on Sunday evenings have been well attended, also the weekly celebration of the Holy Communion is very encouraging."
Putting the chaplains' letters and these various reports to the Church Pennant together, it is evident that the "business" of the Church has been, so far as possible, carried on "as usual," and that from a Church of England point of view it has been satisfactory.
It does not, however, satisfy us. We want to get into the men's hearts and minds and find out what they are feeling and thinking in these strenuous times. Does the thought of death affect them? Have the things of eternity become more real? Are they conscious of sin within, and of their need of a Saviour? Light-hearted and merry as ever, have they the joy of the Lord?
All around them are terrible armaments. We are told that the 15-inch guns of the new Queen Elizabeth can send a shell weighing a ton for a distance of more than twenty miles. The destruction which can be wrought by one of these shells can be imagined when we read of the havoc wrought by one such shell in one of the great forts of Antwerp. It was not, of course, from a man-of-war, but its destructive force would be the same. Says Sir Cecil Hertslet, our late Consul-General at Antwerp:
"Another of these great shells, weighing nearly a ton, fired from a distance of about ten miles, rising three miles into the air, fell upon the cupola of another of the great outer forts of Antwerp. It went through the concrete roof of the fort, passed through the great hall where the garrison of the fort was assembled; it went down to the floor and lower still, and at last exploded, and with the explosion swept away everything—forts, guns, garrison, disappearing."
Are they conscious that they have such terrible engines of destruction on board which on occasion they will use? Does the thought of it ever appal them? Do they think that all around them are mines strewing the North Sea, and that submarines are lurking here and there waiting to launch the terrible torpedo? Do these thoughts ever come to a Jack Tar, and how do they affect him?
Photo Credit, Southsea.
A VOLUNTARY SERVICE ON A BATTLESHIP.
The church is "rigged" on the leeward side of a pair of 13.5 guns. A most impressive service.ToList
To the real Christian death has, of course, no terror. He swings himself into his hammock at night, knowing that to him sudden death will be sudden glory. But to the ordinary man-of-war's man has there come an accession of seriousness, such as has come to the men in the sister service?
We can as yet only answer this question in part, and must wait for a full answer until the veil of secrecy is lifted.
And in order to get as full an answer as is possible we must turn to the men themselves, and as we do so, we offer for all of them the beautiful prayer which the Archbishop of Canterbury has put into our lips:
"O Thou that slumberest not nor sleepest, protect, we pray Thee, our sailors from the hidden perils of the sea, from the snares and assaults of the enemy. Steady and support those upon whom the burdens of responsibility lie heavily, and grant that in dangers often, in watchings often, in weariness often, they may serve Thee with a quiet mind, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
We must remember that just as every regiment in our Army is to-day leavened by Christian men, so is practically every ship in our fleet. The work of our sailors' homes has been successfully done,—such Homes, for instance, as those of Miss Agnes Weston, and the Homes of the Wesleyan Church at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Devonport.
The previous work of the Sunday-schools and of the Salvation Army has also told, and the men have, many of them, become out-and-out Christians.
They have no difficulty in speaking:
And theirs is indeed a fascinating story. They have a way of making their presence felt. They cannot keep to themselves the love that has been shed abroad in their hearts, and so they gather their comrades round them, and have "good times" together, while God's blessing rests upon their work. Sometimes they meet in the chaplain's cabin, sometimes elsewhere, but night by night they meet, and in their own way worship God.
Let us listen to a few of their stories. They are most of them Methodists or Salvationists, so we will turn to the Rev. J.H. Bateson's reports in the Methodist Recorder or Methodist Times, and to the War Cry.
Mr. Bateson says:
"It is little that we know of our battleships in the North Sea. We know that they are there, because the havoc of war is kept away from our island home. The men, all Nelson's men, are doing their duty. A letter from one of them will be read with interest:
"'I must tell you we had a grand meeting last Sunday. We had thirty present. More would have been there only we were rolling and pitching heavily in a full gale, which lasted five days—the worst I have experienced for many a year. Can you just try to picture us trying to keep our feet and clutching at the piano (oh yes, we have one on board), occasionally. We started off with, "All hail the power of Jesu's Name," had prayer from our Blue Books, reading from Isaiah xlii. 1-7, and a talk on the same, then "Rock of Ages," prayers, "Nearer, my God, to Thee," Benediction, and Doxology. You should have heard us sing! I'm afraid some of the home praise and prayer meetings would be envious! This was our first attempt. I expect ere long we shall have to have the meeting on the upper deck, for the numbers will be too many for our enclosed reading-room. However, we intend to keep the flag flying. 'Tis little we feel able to do, but we will do our little best. It may, and should, have good results.'"
Here is the account of another service sent home by an engine-room artificer on one of H.M. battleships.
"It is Sunday evening, the time about 7.30, when upwards of seventy men may be seen sitting about the deck, under the fo'castle of one of His Majesty's cruisers. Outside all is dark, one watch of men are standing by the guns, trying to penetrate the darkness, in case of the approach of the enemy. A watch of stokers and engineers is below, humping the ship along. Another is resting, waiting for the time for their next trick to come round. What do we see in the gathering of men under the fo'castle? They have Sankey's hymn-books, kindly presented by Miss Weston. In one corner is an harmonium, assisted by a couple of violins. These supply the music. Presently a voice cries out, 'What hymn will you have, men?' and the chorus of replies makes it difficult to select one. This goes on for a while. Then all heads are bowed whilst prayer is made. Our quartette party renders a few pieces, after which —— gives the address, and right fine it is. He has some splendid topics, and, being a worthy Methodist local preacher, he is listened to with rapt attention. Another suitable hymn, and the benediction brings the service to a close. The roughness and simplicity of the service would cause some people surprise. Yet the shots get home. To hear the men sing is a treat not easily forgotten. The writer was much impressed by the singing of the hymn, 'Some one will enter the pearly gates by and by,' one side taking the question and the other the answer. Once during the week about eight gather in a cabin for Bible study and to talk of the things of God."
What a picture these letters present of Christian life upon a battleship! We could multiply them indefinitely, but must condense instead.
One young Christian sailor on a battleship tells of a Bible-class and prayer-meeting, held every Thursday, conducted by a naval lieutenant. Another tells of a Methodist class meeting on board conducted twice weekly. A third sends home the minutes of a meeting held by several of the men, at which it was resolved to hold a meeting every evening to be devoted to Bible study, except on Saturdays, when the hour would be spent in prayer. The Bible study, it was resolved, should begin with the Epistle to the Romans. We wonder if these sailor lads found any difficulty in that difficult Epistle. It was further resolved that every Sunday evening a Gospel meeting should be held, and that every Christian brother should be expected to take part. And, finally, the men's correspondent asks that Christian people at home will pray that he and his comrades may witness a good confession, and that they may tell forth "God's wonderful story of Christ's redeeming love."
A naval officer who is a Wesleyan local preacher says: "We are still going on well—class meetings in the cabin and meetings on the Sunday night. Wouldn't it be fine to have all the Service local preachers you could get for a service in the Central Hall after the war and the platform full of Methodist sailors and soldiers?"
Here is a touching little letter from a torpedo boat. It is full of a simple trust in Christ, and pulsates with sweetest fellowship in Him.
"The winter has been rather a trying one for us in this tiny little craft, but really I never knew the companionship of a present Saviour so thoroughly as I have since hostilities began. It would seem almost as if I were His only care, and that He made me a special study. The wonder of it all is the more marked when I remember how poor has been my service to Him, compared with all the great benefits with which He daily loads me. In answering my prayers, in subduing the storms just when they were at their worst, in giving me a thorough victory over my usual weakness, and in a thousand other ways He makes me to lie down in green pastures, satisfied and at rest, contrary to all the seeming laws of warfare. These things I tell you, not from any conventional compulsion, but because they really are so, and because I should be thrice unworthy of His name if I forebore to tell out what great things He has done."
I will quote one or two sentences, this time with reference to Salvation Army work. A lance-corporal on board the Centurion writes:
"The chaps on board H.M.S. Centurion expect much from us Salvationists these youthful days. There are five of us on this ship, and we are not only engaged in cheering up each other, but we are distributing as much cheer as possible. Our ship is called the 'Hallelujah Ship.'"
Another writes from the same ship: "We have had some glorious soul-saving times."
A Salvation Army sailor has been given permission by the commander to conduct meetings on the upper deck of the Majestic. He tells us that he is the only Salvationist on board that ship, but that there are fifty Christian men there, and that others are giving themselves to Christ.
We hear of stokers coming up from the stoke-hole grimed with dirt, so anxious to attend the services that they do not stop to wash, lest they should miss the precious hour; of men praying in public who have never prayed before; of heartfelt addresses delivered by men who had no idea they could speak in public for their Master.
There is no need, however, to multiply instances. We may take it for granted that, in most ships, there is a little band of out-and-out Christian men eagerly longing for spiritual fellowship, and finding it in services to which they invite their fellows, and in which they have the joy of leading many of their comrades to Christ.
When a ship comes into port for a few hours there is the opportunity for the shore chaplain. He holds services on board, distributes "comforts," leaves behind him books and magazines, cheers the Christian workers, and in his quiet way works wonders. And when the men are permitted to come on shore what a welcome they receive at the various Sailors' Homes, and hearts are gladdened and resolutions strengthened, for the return to sea. The work at sea must be trying in the extreme—the constant watchfulness, the eager waiting for the enemy who never comes, the patrolling in the midst of winter tempests, enough to try the nerves of the strongest—but all the time the certainty that the old-time message will receive fresh illustration each day—"England expects that every man will do his duty."
The wooden walls have passed away, and steel walls have taken their place, but the men are brave as of old—only better far and nobler. No longer the scum of our seaport towns, pressed into the service against their will, but men who are there because they choose and dare, and who are willing any day to die for their native land.
Christian bravery, too, is as much in evidence on sea as on land. Take this little story as an evidence of that fact. It is full of the joy of glad surrender for another.
"A sailor who had just got converted at the Sheerness Hall, when he rose from his knees at the mercy-seat, with the joy of salvation in his face, said, 'I am glad to be saved. I was on the —— (one of the cruisers torpedoed) when she sank. I and another member of the crew, a Salvationist, had been swimming about in the water for two hours or more, and were almost exhausted, when just as we were about to give up we saw a spar, made for it, and took hold. But, alas! it was not big enough to keep us both afloat. We looked at each other. For a time, one took hold while the other swam, and then we changed over.
"'We kept this up for a bit, but it was evident we were getting weaker. Neither of us spoke for a while, and then presently the Salvationist said, "Mate, death means life to me; you are not converted, you hold on to the spar and save yourself; I'll let go. Good-bye!"
"'And he let go and went down!'"
When we have Christian men like that on our men-of-war, we need not fear for our country, nor for the Kingdom of Christ. And so not only now, but when the war is over let us pray:
I close this chapter with one more quotation. It is from the Methodist Recorder. It may be a comfort to some who lost dear ones in the Hawke, or in some of the other ships which have met a similar fate.
"On the Sunday before the Hawke met her doom, one of our chaplains conducted Divine service on the cruiser. As soon as he went on board he was taken to the cabin of one of the warrant officers—a local preacher—who is one of the few survivors of the disaster. About thirty men gathered together. A few hymns were sung from the little blue books, which have quite captured the sailors' hearts. The chaplain read the latter part of Romans viii.—that great message of inseparable love and glowing assurance. He then spoke from the words, 'All things work together for good to them that love God.' The men listened most earnestly to the message. One of them asked that the hymn—which has such sad but heroic associations,—'Nearer, my God, to Thee' might be sung. The little service closed with prayer by the warrant officer. As the chaplain shook hands with each man, one and another said, 'Thank you, sir.' Arrangements were made to have another service when the Hawke next came into port. But that will never be. To those whose hearts ache for the brave dead of the Hawke, there is no sweeter message than that which was given to the men on their last Sunday morning, 'All things work together for good to them that love God.'"
Church of England Army Chaplains' Work at the Front—Permanently Commissioned Chaplains—Hospital Ministrations—Six Parade Services on one Day—Holy Communion in Strange Places—Services under Shell Fire—Tonic Effect of Difficulties—The Work of the Free Churches—The Salvation Army and the War—One Hundred and Thirty Best Rooms—A General's Testimony—He Plunged down on his Knees—In Belgium—At Hadleigh—Send them to the Salvation Army—S.A. Patrols.
Readers of this book will be glad to have first-hand reports of Christian work among our soldiers. I have therefore asked representatives of the different churches and religious organisations to give their own statements of the work attempted and accomplished. I do not purpose, therefore, in this chapter doing more than presenting to my readers the statements received, merely introducing them with a few explanatory words.
The first is the Church of England report. It is written by the Rev. J.G. Tuckey, one of the senior Church of England chaplains at the front, and has been prepared for me at the request of the Rev. E.G.F. Macpherson, the senior Church of England chaplain. Mr. Tuckey has had long experience of army work. He served through the South African War with distinction, and has served throughout the present war. Few know the British soldiers better than he.
I preface his report with a brief extract from a letter received from the Rev. E.G.F. Macpherson and dated March 8, 1915. He says: "We are kept very busy. In addition to my work in Boulogne, I have to keep in touch with Church of England chaplains at the front, and on the lines of communications. I went up to Ypres the other day, they were shelling the place, and I nearly got a shell in my car.
"The Church of England has a large number of chaplains at the front, and they are doing splendid work for God. Their number, though, makes it difficult for me to keep in touch with them all."
But now for Mr. Tuckey's report.
"You ask me about the Church of England work. Where am I to begin? How tackle it? It is so vast. As to number of chaplains, all details can be seen by reference to the Army List. It will be noticed that the very vast majority of permanently commissioned chaplains belong to the Church of England. The Presbyterians are now the only other body which has permanent commissions. The Roman Catholics do not now allow their men to accept them. They are only appointed temporarily for five years, and even if re-appointed can never rise above the rank of captain. This, of course, makes no difference to the Roman Catholic chaplains appointed before the new regulations, but they will gradually die out. As no doubt you know, the Wesleyans were offered four commissions and refused. But though we have such a relatively large number of chaplains to the forces, the work is so great that it has to be supplemented by a very considerable and increasing body of acting chaplains.
"Permanently commissioned chaplains are divided into four classes, the chaplains therein ranking as colonels, lieutenant-colonels, majors, and captains respectively.
"Now as to the distribution of Church of England chaplains on active service. They may be roughly divided into two classes:
"(1) Those with hospitals at the Base or on lines of communication—these hospitals being of three kinds, namely, general hospitals, the largest which are not moved; stationary hospitals, which are supposed to be mobile; and casualty clearing stations for receiving the sick and wounded from the front and forwarding them to stationary or general hospitals, whence they can, if necessary, be conveyed to England in hospital ships.
"(2) Those with Field Ambulances. By this term we should understand Field hospitals which receive the sick and wounded from their advanced dressing stations, which in their turn receive them from the First-Aid Posts just behind the firing line.
"To these two classes have recently been added another, namely, Senior Chaplains of Army Corps, whose duty it is to advise and direct chaplains of the divisions composing the corps in their work. For instance, I am now senior chaplain of the Third Army Corps.
"I have now been in each one of these three classes, for I came out with number four general hospital, though I was with them subsequently for only a very short time.
"The work of class (1) consists principally of ministering to the sick and wounded, holding services when possible, especially on Sundays, and giving the patients and staff frequent opportunities of the Holy Communion and other ministrations. It may often happen that chaplains of this class may find troops near to them, who are away from their own chaplain. It will then be their duty to minister to them so far as they possibly can. They, of course, also have to conduct many funerals.
"As to the chaplains of class (2), the Field Ambulance will be the centre from which the chaplain should work in his brigade, and such divisional troops (R.A., R.E., &c.) as are included in the brigade area.
"I was for some time with the Eleventh Field Ambulance in the Fourth Division, and as I was the senior chaplain in that division, the general asked me to take over the arrangement of things. My plan was that each chaplain in his area should endeavour to hold five or six large central parade and other services on Sundays, with perhaps celebrations of the Holy Communion after two of the ordinary services.
"Then, chaplains give special attention to particular units on weekdays. Here all days are alike and so are all times. So I would arrange with the commanding officer, and would set out on horseback carrying the requisites for the Holy Communion, for I always, when possible, had a celebration after the ordinary service. My servant would ride behind me with the service books. In this way it was possible to cover the ground in the division fairly well, and to see that each unit had its due.
"The ordinary services were taken usually in the open air, though sometimes some large building, a barn, schoolroom, or shed was available. Whenever it was practicable I had the Holy Communion indoors, and for this service I invariably put on my surplice. I have had to celebrate in many strange places—in lofts, kitchens of farm-houses, engine sheds, stables, and even in a slaughter-house. But there has been a devotion and a spiritual uplifting in these most unwonted surroundings which have been good to see, and officers and men have come to the Holy Communion in large numbers with a reverence and an evident longing for communion with God which one does not always see, even in the most splendid churches at home.
"When my stay in the Fourth Division was drawing to a close, Mr. Hall, whom you probably know, the Wesleyan chaplain at Chatham, was posted to the Eleventh Field Ambulance, and came to live with me at my billet. He and I did a great deal of work together, and he would tell you about it, for he is at home now. I shall never forget how we went together one night to a certain battalion which was going into the trenches the following day. We first had the ordinary evening service in an underground place, and afterwards there was the Holy Communion, to which came 122 officers and men. The room in which we were gathered was very dim, and we felt very deeply the immense solemnity of the hour.
"It was all very wonderful and very beautiful. During the actual administration, the commanding officer walked behind me with a lantern, up and down the rows of kneeling men, so as to make sure that all were cared for.
"We did not reach our billet until after eleven o'clock that night. The next day some of those who had made their communion on the previous night were killed in action.
"Very often our service had to be conducted under shell fire. I recall one amongst many instances. I was taking a service one weekday morning for a battery in the garden of a house at Houplines. A great number of shells went over us while the service was proceeding. Afterwards we had the Holy Communion in the house. During the service the houses on either side of ours were struck, and, finally, at the close there was a deafening crash and we found that the house in which we were had been hit, though not much damage was done.
"These circumstances of difficulty and danger seem to bring out the very best that is in men, and I have been immensely impressed by the craving for spiritual help shown by both officers and men, and their gratitude for anything I could do for them, as well as by the humble reverence and real devotion of all ranks.
"There are, of course, many other sides of a chaplain's work: the ministrations to the wounded and dying in the hospitals, and advanced dressing stations of the Field Ambulance, the burial of the dead—often at night and in strange weird circumstances—the visiting of men in the trenches when feasible, the writing of letters to relatives, the censoring of letters, and a number of other duties.
"It is often in a strange sort of place that one witnesses a poor fellow's last dying testimony, in some cellar possibly, where a wounded man has had to be conveyed so as to be safe from shell fire.
"In times of comparative quiet, and when troops are resting, I consider it most important that chaplains should try to organise some directly spiritual work, and also recreation daily during the trying hours after dark, until men have to be in their billets. For instance, in this place we have a room and a hall; in the room we have a Bible-class each evening, while in the hall there are papers and games, coffee can be procured, and there is an impromptu concert every evening. We have a stage with footlights, and a serviceable piano. On Sunday evenings there is a well-attended voluntary service there. Both places are well warmed and well lighted, with plenty of seats and chairs. This is most important.
"One great difficulty under which the Church of England has to labour in this country is that, with very few exceptions, the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical authorities will not allow us to use their churches. This is, I think, to be deplored, and I cannot understand how people can worship comfortably in their churches, while they know that fellow-Christians are obliged to hold their service in the open air, in cold discomfort, or in some quite unsuitable and mean building.
"Possibly, however, it is for our good that we should have these difficulties. These difficulties and trials are perhaps a tonic for our spiritual life. And after all we learn what every campaign has to teach us, and what I was first taught in South Africa, that often the truest worship can be offered in most uncongenial surroundings; and I have been myself strengthened and helped, and I have marked the reverence and devotion of officers and men at some service beneath the sombre skies of Flanders, or it may be in some comfortless or even squalid building.
"Out here one realises more what things really matter, and how to distinguish the essential from the unessential. One has so much to be thankful for and so much to help, strengthen, and inspire."
Hitherto I have given Mr. Tuckey's statement in his own words. Nearly all the rest does not concern the public, but ere he closes he acknowledges gratefully the kindness of the Archbishop of Rouen in allowing him the use of two churches or chapels, and speaks most appreciatively of the hospitality of some of the curés. We may hope and pray that he may be long spared to do such glorious work as his statement indicates.
Our next report is from the pen of the Rev. E.L. Watson.
Mr. Watson is the senior chaplain at the front representing the United Army and Navy Board. This Board, recently formed, comprises the Baptist and Congregational Unions, and the Conferences of the Primitive Methodist and United Methodist denominations. Until the outbreak of the war, Mr. Watson was minister of the Baptist Church at West End, Hammersmith. His report has been written at the request of the Rev. J.H. Shakespeare, M.A., Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland. I omit from it a few sentences covering ground already dealt with.
"The task that Great Britain has in hand is of such magnitude that the demand for fighting men is without parallel. Proud we are of the fact that every individual man now in the greatest army that Great Britain has ever raised is serving of his own free choice, and happy indeed to be of service to his King and country in the hour of need.
"This great body of men is necessarily composed of many types, drawn as it is from all quarters of the British Empire, and representing every political opinion and all religious denominations, but co-operating in perfect unity.
A FIGHT IN THE AIR.
Drawn by Christopher Clark.ToList
"Every provision has been made for the material comfort of the men, especially those in the firing line. Transport arrangements are in themselves a marvel, every modern appliance being requisitioned for the purpose. Letters and parcels can be received and posted every day if necessary. In like manner, also, is fresh food supplied, thus saving any unnecessary privation.
"Equipment is also as perfect as British science and common sense can make it. In these and many particulars the British Army has the reputation of being one of the best fed and equipped armies in the field, whilst the spirit of the men is recognised as second to none.
"Not only has the War Office spared neither expense nor pains to place everything that is essential within the reach of the average soldier, but it has also recognised the necessity of keeping the men in touch with those spiritual influences that count for most in the British soldier.
"To meet this spiritual need a new army of chaplains, in addition to those already in the regular list, has been appointed and sent forth with befitting rank to minister to their respective denominations. The field is a wide one and unreservedly open to the individual chaplain simply to care for his men as he may see best. Where desired and possible every facility is given to the men to attend the means of grace. It is also placed on record in the King's Regulations that, without distinction, every assistance is to be given to the chaplains in the performance of their duties.
"Regimental work where possible is always a satisfactory task, for the fortunate chaplain is then always identified with the men of his regiment, thus getting to know each individual as in a regular congregation.
"Brigade work is more difficult because of the number of regiments and width of operations, but even in this the work is within the reach of the brigade chaplain. The most difficult and almost impossible task falls to the lot of a Nonconformist chaplain who has charge of the whole of a division. Besides the three brigades there are the masses of men in the divisional troops. Under some circumstances the division may have an area of some three miles of front and reaching back some ten miles to the rear.
"To cover this ground and get into touch with my men scattered throughout the whole of the division and keep in touch with them is my task. The demands are so great upon time and capacity that I simply have to shoulder as much of the work as strength allows and pray God that my very best may count for most.
"For instance, there are three large and active field ambulances operating in the division, where it will be remembered that most of the collecting of the wounded is done under cover of darkness. Consequently the dressing and operations are carried out immediately upon their arrival, the cases rarely remaining more than a few hours in a field hospital, being of necessity hurried away to the base hospitals. Thus the time for visiting the sick and the wounded is limited.
"There are letters to be written for the badly hit men to the loved ones at home. There are the dying to be comforted and pointed to the Saviour. A word of cheer to be spoken to all. It is indeed in the field ambulance where valuable service is rendered to men and staff in a hundred ways.
"To keep in touch with most of our men thus passing through the ambulances, each ambulance operating in a different centre, necessitates from four to six hours' duty each night.
"Besides the work of the hospitals there are pressing day duties to be performed. Burials must receive attention. Regiments must be visited. Many calls are received from anxious and troubled men. Even the firing line claims attention at times in the performance of duty. Wherever the men are standing to their duty and where the greatest service could be rendered there I have striven to be. Identification with the men is the key-note of a chaplain's work. He shares in the recreations, pleasures, dangers, and sorrows of his men, and is looked upon as the soldier's best friend.
"The strain is incessant, but the work is most encouraging and filled with unequalled opportunities.
"The men prove responsive to the spiritual touch and take full advantage of the means of grace and communion afforded.
"The circumstances of the front bring one into closest touch with the men in such a way as is not possible at home, and it is indeed a joy and a reward to feel that one is helping to keep the men in touch with the faith and spirit of their fathers."
The public imagination has been touched by the part the Salvation Army has played in this great struggle. Its contribution to the fighting line and to organised works of mercy has been striking. I am grateful, therefore, to General Booth for the opportunity of including in this volume an authorised account of the Salvation Army's war work, prepared by Brigadier Carpenter.
"It is impossible to give in the brief space available anything approaching a comprehensive idea of the work the Salvation Army is accomplishing in the various new situations created by the war. The more outstanding features of its activities can be summarised, but such a statement appears—as do statistics to a lay mind—cold, lifeless, uninteresting, whereas the tangible facts which they represent glow with life and beauty and inestimable worth.
"On the outbreak of hostilities General Booth held conferences with his chief officers at headquarters in London, to determine upon what lines of action Salvationists would be of most service to the authorities and the people in the national crisis.
"Our naval and military homes at Harwich, Chatham, Plymouth, and Dover, and as many of our social institutions and halls as might be found necessary, were placed at the disposal of the government; those not taken for military requirements were offered to local governments for use as relief and industrial centres.
"With the formation of the Expeditionary Forces, General Booth dispatched to the continent a contingent of officers to minister to the troops in any way that might be found possible. These officers were placed under the direction of Brigadier Mary Murray, Secretary of our Naval and Military League. It might be mentioned that the Brigadier is a daughter of the late General Sir John Murray. Miss Murray went through the South African war at the head of a Salvation Army Red Cross contingent, and for her services was awarded the South African medal.
"When the Prince of Wales Fund was inaugurated, Salvation Army officers were appointed to most of the local committees formed in the country, their close touch with the poor and their willingness and practicality rendering them of great assistance in the wise administration of the funds. In many centres, Leagues were formed for looking out and caring for the wives and families of soldiers and sailors. The women are visited in their homes, difficulties concerning their allowances and other matters are straightened out; they are invited to cheerful meetings held at regular intervals at the Army halls, and when the sad news of disaster or death comes with its paralysing sorrow into their homes, the Salvationist is at hand with words of comfort and deeds of helpfulness.
"One of our first calls to serve the troops of the new Army was in Wales, when the men poured in from the valleys to enlist. Until these men passed the final attestment and had been enrolled, they were not under government responsibility, and arriving in such numbers as they did they could not be immediately dealt with. The Military Commander at Cardiff, explaining the difficulty in an evening paper, requested help. Within an hour of the edition leaving the press the Salvation Army had offered to cope with the emergency, and by six o'clock the next morning had actually commenced operations. The Council Cookery schools were handed over to us, and during the following days hundreds of men were suitably provided for. Not only were their temporal needs supplied, but our officers did much in the direction of advising and helping the men in an endless variety of ways. New Testaments and religious literature were distributed amongst them and their letters despatched to friends at home.
"More than 13,000 Salvationists have rallied to the Colours. Knowledge of the temptations and discomforts to which these men, in company with hundreds of thousands of their comrades in arms, are likely to be exposed in camp strongly appealed to General Booth, who determined upon providing as far as possible 'home away from home' for them. Thus there are over 150 halls and rest rooms provided for the use of the troops.
"During the warm weather the work was carried on under canvas, but with the approach of winter the marquees were replaced by wooden buildings. The men may procure wholesome refreshments, read good helpful literature, write and converse with the officers in charge; and in the evenings bright, interesting meetings are conducted. Attached to many of these rest houses is an authorised post office. At some of our huts bathing accommodation has been provided. The rest centres are in charge of experienced married men, and the presence of a good sympathetic, practical woman amongst the troops is of untold value. The wife, ready for any emergency, 'mothers' the men, corresponds for them with wives, parents, and sweethearts, advises them on a multitude of questions. She prescribes for their minor ailments, does bits of mending and various other little kindnesses, which all appeal to the best side of the men. These officers, as a rule, have some knowledge of First Aid, and cases of slight mishap are frequently ordered to the Salvation huts.
"The troops bear hearty testimony to the blessings these havens of rest and happiness have proved to be. Lord Kitchener himself has expressed appreciation, and there have been many other most generous expressions from highly placed officers regarding the Army's efforts on behalf of the men. A general commanding one of the great camps said, 'Please do not thank me for arranging sites for your buildings; it is for me to thank General Booth and the Salvation Army for rendering us such service. I know the value of the spiritual and moral influence which the workers of the Salvation Army exercise over the men.' The senior chaplain of a great camp applied for Salvation Army officers to go and work amongst the troops, and himself defrayed the cost of supplying and equipping a marquee for the purpose. 'Your men go for the soldier's soul; that's why I want them,' he said.
"The value of over 13,000 Salvationists scattered amongst the troops and the fleet can only be faintly suggested here. A Salvationist is trained, from the moment he kneels at the penitent form, to confess Christ by his life and testimony; and never has he taken a braver stand than he is doing to-day in the barrack-room, on ship deck, and in trench.
"The following incident, which has been multiplied a thousandfold, illustrates the power of example. A rough, illiterate Salvationist found himself in a barrack dormitory for the first time. Cursing, swearing, and ribaldry were going on all around him amongst a crowd of half-drunken, hilarious men. He knew he should kneel and pray, but never before did he understand the full significance of the Salvation Army song he had so often lustily sung: 'I'll stand for Christ, for Christ alone.' Surely it would be easier to go into action than to kneel and pray in such company! He turned hot and cold by turns, then decided: 'Here goes,' and plumped down upon his knees. A few whistles and jeers, a boot, a pillow followed, but he did not move. The cursing gradually died away and there was silence in the room.
"Next day several men sought him out to confess that they, too, were Christians, but had not dared to face that fire alone. Next night several of them knelt to pray unmolested, and by degrees the Salvationist became the conscience of the company. A military officer of high rank remarked to one of our leading men the other day: 'I really did not know the Salvation Army until the war, but I have watched your men. Now I deliberately place Salvationists with the wilder of our spirits, and invariably find that after a week or two the tone of the company has noticeably risen.'
"During rest time at the front, Salvationists hold meetings behind their guns and at their trenches. These 'unofficial chaplains' have won many souls for Christ. During the coldest weather of this winter some took off their greatcoats for their mates to kneel upon, and there, within sound of the enemy's fire, they pleaded with their comrades to turn from sin and seek the Saviour. One night twenty-two men responded to this invitation.
"The authorities in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have appointed Salvation Army officers as regular chaplains to the troops and conferred military rank upon them. These officers are serving with the Expeditionary Forces in Egypt and elsewhere.
"In this country and at the base on the continent special facilities have been granted to us for visiting the wounded in hospitals and also the prisoners of war. Services are conducted in the German language, and literature of that tongue is distributed amongst the German prisoners by Salvation Army officers who have been engaged in our work in the Fatherland.
"It is an interesting fact that sufficient men to form an entire battalion were recruited from our social institutions. Without exception, these men came to us in a state of complete physical unfitness. Drink and exposure, and in many cases other vices, had robbed them of all the spring and confidence so necessary in the soldier. After several months of good food, steady occupation, and the message of cheer which our homes bring to their inmates, these men, so recently the country's waste, marched out to serve their King and country. Two of the number from one Home formerly held commissions in the regular Army, but lost them through intemperance. Both were Reinstated. One clever fellow, speaking several languages, was attached to the Intelligence Department.
"To our home-loving nation one of the saddest circumstances of the war is the depopulation of Belgium. General Booth with his officers was among the first to come forward with offers of help when the destitute and stricken people poured into our country. Three of our homes in London were at once thrown open to receive them, and at port towns, such as Folkestone and Cardiff, where the refugees arrived in such numbers that they could not be distributed, accommodation was provided for thousands in buildings adapted by the Salvation Army officers. The refugees sheltered in one of our London homes despatched a message in French to His Majesty the King at Buckingham Palace, expressing profound thanks for the kindly reception they had been given in England, and for the way the 'Armée du Salut' was caring for them.
"The value of this effort has been fully recognised by the government, and a communication from the Local Government Board on the subject of the Army's work was expressed in the following terms: 'I am directed by the Local Government Board to express the Board's appreciation of the action of the Salvation Army, and its officers, which has been of great assistance to them in dealing with the situation, which for a time presented considerable difficulties.'
"The assistance to the Belgian people was not confined to those in England. General Booth despatched an experienced officer to Belgium with orders to visit every centre of Salvation Army work in that country. He succeeded in his mission and placed financial help with the brave officers who had refused to leave their posts, though many of them were right in the battle area, and had been exposed to the utmost personal danger. Thus assisted, they were enabled to succour hundreds of most deserving and starving people, and to continue their spiritual ministrations to the people who clung to them for comfort and support in their terrible experiences.
"A work of first importance was also undertaken by the Salvation Army at the request of the Belgian government, viz. the care of the wounded Belgian soldiers in this country. When fit to leave the hospital ward, the hospital authorities in whatever part of the country the soldiers were being nursed—from Aberdeen to Plymouth—communicated with our headquarters in London. The men were brought to the Metropolis under Salvation Army escort and provided for by our officers until they were fit to return to military service, or to civil life should they be permanently incapacitated. Our land and industrial colony at Hadleigh in Essex has proved to be a veritable boon as a convalescent depot for these brave men. More than 8000 Belgian soldiers in this way have passed through our hands. The efficiency of the arrangements for the comfort and well-being of these men has earned unstinted praise from the officials concerned of both the Belgian and our own governments.
"On one of the worst nights of this winter a party of 200 Canadians, Belgians, and a number of Russians arrived from across the Atlantic to join the forces. They had no place to go to. 'Send them to the Salvation Army' said the military authorities, and to the Salvation Army they came. Coming in such an unexpected number in addition to the hundreds of Belgians already under the Army's roof, they presented something of a problem, but a little rearrangement soon enabled us to warmly house and feed them all. The next night seventy more arrived and were similarly cared for.
"Salvationists are a poor people. Their only riches consist in love and power to serve. Nevertheless, out of their scant means they contributed between three and four thousand pounds to the Prince of Wales Relief Fund, and also raised a further £2500 for the purchase and equipment of a Motor Ambulance Unit consisting of five cars. The unit is manned by Salvationists. It is no new thing to send ambulance brigades to the front at war time, but it is a new thing to see that they are all conducted by Christian men.
"The cars have splendidly stood the severe tests imposed upon them, and the men in charge have borne themselves so well that they have become known as 'The White Brigade.' No drinking, no smoking, no swearing amongst them; always on time and carrying out the orders of the medical staff with the utmost satisfaction, it is not to be wondered at that our officer in command of the unit was promoted to the charge of a section—with the management of twenty-five cars. A second unit of six cars was despatched to France in February, with which Her Majesty Queen Alexandra was pleased to identify herself by personally dedicating the cars—now known as the 'Queen Alexandra Unit.'
"Apart from the work of the ambulance party, Salvation Army officers are exerting themselves for the comfort of the troops in the battle area and at the base hospitals. At Boulogne, Rouen, and Paris our women officers are continually visiting the wounded. In Paris alone, they visit seven hospitals for the British wounded. Hundreds upon hundreds of letters have been written to anxious relatives and friends, and where husbands have been in distress about their wives in ill-health or poverty at home, a swift message across the channel has been sent to our officer in the town mentioned, who has gladly gone to comfort and assist the distressed ones concerned, and our Army sisters have received scores of 'last messages' to wives and children as the brave fellows have been passing away. Testaments, papers, stationery, and chocolates are distributed, and a thousand and one of those gentle heart ministries peculiar alone to women, whose hearts are filled with love to Christ, are performed. Every week two large sacks of clothing made by Salvationists in England are sent to the visiting officers in France for distribution amongst the men.
"At Boulogne, Le Havre, and Abbeville rest rooms, similar to those in Great Britain, have been established.
"Passing mention must be made of the patrols of Salvation Army officers at the great London railway stations, such as Waterloo, Victoria, &c. The special work of these officers is to care for men stranded on Saturday and Sunday nights. Rooms have been opened in the neighbourhood where the men are provided with blankets and refreshments. Some of the men, whose troubles have resulted from drink, have been led to renounce their drinking habits.
Drawn by Paul Thiriat.
IN THE FORÉT DE LA NIEPPE.
An English private and a French sergeant bind each other's wounds, and then faint from loss of blood. Both were rescued, being discovered by a dog.ToList
"In this brief review reference has largely been confined to the Salvationists in Great Britain in connexion with the war. This serves as an index of similar efforts which are being actively carried forward by Salvationists in every part of the world, especially in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and even in Germany. They are caring for those reduced to poverty as a result of the war, caring for the wounded, succouring the refugees, and lending the hand of help in many other ways.
"We are unable to more than mention the splendid service rendered by Salvationists in the United States, who organised what was termed an 'Old Linen Campaign'; 300,000 articles for the wounded—comprising bandages, pads, &c.—in a large variety have already been made up, and after being sterilised and labelled, sent forward to France, Belgium, and Germany."
Church of Scotland Commissioned Chaplains—One Hundred Civilian Ministers of Scotland Offered Their Services—The Rev. W. Stevenson Jaffray's Report—Many Forms of Service at the Front—From No. 10 General Hospital, Rouen—The French Decorate Our Soldiers' Graves—Report of the 1st Echelon General Headquarters—A Chaplain's First Lesson—After Neuve Chapelle—The Work of the Y.M.C.A.—A Breathlessly Summoned Council—Six Hundred Centres—A Glorious Nine Months.
I am indebted to the Rev. J.A. McClymont, D.D., V.D., Convener of the Church of Scotland General Assembly's Committee on Army and Navy Chaplains, for the following account of Presbyterian work at the front. It will supplement and bring up to date references to the work of this great Church in the earlier chapters of this book.
"Before the outbreak of the war six ministers of the Church of Scotland held commissions as regular military chaplains, and all of them, along with four of our Indian chaplains, who accompanied their regiments from the East, are now serving with the Expeditionary Force. The names of the former are Revs. W.S. Jaffray (1st Class), J.T. Bird (1st Class), F.W. Stewart (3rd Class), A.R. Yeoman (3rd Class), J. Campbell (3rd Class), and D.A. Morrison (3rd Class); of the latter the names are Revs. G.E. Dodd, Andrew Macfarlane, G.C. Macpherson, and J.H. Horton McNeill. In addition to these, about two hundred civilian ministers of the Church have offered their services as chaplains at the front. Among them are many eloquent preachers, many distinguished scholars, and not a few accomplished athletes. Some have had valuable experience as chaplains in the Territorial Force, or have served as combatants in that force or in the Officers' Training Corps, while others can produce evidence of experience and skill in connexion with the Red Cross Society, the Boys' Brigade, or the Boy Scouts. Some of them can preach in Gaelic, others have a knowledge of French and German and other continental languages, and a personal acquaintance with the countries in which the war is going on. Some have served with acceptance in the Boer War or at a military station at home or abroad. Keen sportsmen are to be found among them who can shoot, ride, cycle, or drive a motor.
"Until lately the number of additional Presbyterian chaplains allowed by the War Office has been much smaller than was generally expected, considering the many thousands of Territorials who have volunteered for foreign service, and the immense multitude of recruits who have enlisted in Kitchener's Army. The ideal arrangement would have been to assign a chaplain to every battalion; but, instead of this, the appointments were at first made to divisions and hospitals, the result being that after eight months of the war only eighteen additional chaplains had been appointed for service at the front. Recently the number has been increased to thirty-eight, making fifty-four Presbyterian chaplains in all; and further additions will soon be made.
In the partitioning of these thirty-eight new chaplaincies among the several Presbyterian churches, the War Office has been guided by the Advisory Committee on the appointment and distribution of Presbyterian chaplains. This Committee was created by Mr. (now Lord) Haldane some years ago, and consists of a representative of the Church of Scotland, the United Free Church, the Presbyterian Church of England, and the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, respectively, with Lord Balfour of Burleigh, a trusted elder of the Church of Scotland, as chairman. The Convener of the Church of Scotland Committee on Army and Navy Chaplains was asked by Lord Balfour to nominate eighteen of the new chaplains, bringing the number of Church of Scotland chaplains on foreign service up to twenty-eight. The Revs. H.Y. Arnott, B.D. (Newburgh), H. Brown B.D. (Strathmiglo), Geo. Donald, B.D. (Aberdeen), A.S.G. Gilchrist, B.D. (Applegarth), Professor Kay, D.D., James Kirk, M.A. (Dunbar), Oswald B. Milligan (Ayr), A.M. Maclean, B.D. (Paisley), A. Macdonald (Glassary), D. Macfarlane (Kingussie), J. Campbell McGregor, V.D. (Edinburgh), C.G. Mackenzie, B.D. (Methlick), James MacGibbon, B.D. (Hamilton), J.J. Pryde (Penpont), D.A. Cameron Reid, B.D. (Glasgow), Thos. Scott, M.A., T.D. (Laurencekirk), Patrick Sinclair B.D. (Urquhart), and Geo. Thompson, B.D. (Carnbee), were so nominated. All of these and the other Presbyterian chaplains above referred to, with the exception of three who have gone to the East, are serving in France and Belgium under the direction of the Rev. Dr. Simms, K.H.C., a minister of the Irish Presbyterian Church, who, but for the war, would have retired on account of the age limit before the end of last year, but is now the responsible and honoured Head of all the chaplains of every denomination at the western seat of war.
Many grateful tributes have been paid to the faithful services rendered to their countrymen by Presbyterian chaplains in this war, and four of them have had the honour of being mentioned in despatches, two of whom are ministers of the Church of Scotland, namely, the Rev. J.T. Bird and the Rev. A.R. Yeoman. So far, only two chaplains have been wounded, namely, Mr. Yeoman and Mr. J.H.H. McNeill, who are both ministers of the National Church. Before giving a few extracts from letters and reports received from chaplains at the front, it may be well to mention that upwards of twenty ministers of the Church of Scotland and about fifty University students who were studying, or about to study, in the Divinity Hall have joined the Army as combatants—some of them as officers and some of them as private soldiers—while others are serving with the R.A.M.C. Several have done excellent work in connexion with the Y.M.C.A., notably the Rev. L. McLean Watt (Edinburgh), who was unable to accept a chaplaincy for the period required by the War Office, and the Rev. Hugh Brown (Strathmiglo), before his appointment to a chaplaincy.
"Rev. W. Stevenson Jaffray, senior Chaplain to the Forces, writes as follows:
"'On the evening of October 2, 1914, I received telegraphic instructions from the War Office to join the 7th Division, British Expeditionary Force and reported myself for duty next day. On Sunday, October 4—the last day and Sunday so many hundreds were ever to spend in England—the Division was suddenly ordered to proceed to embark. Few who were present at the open-air Parade Service that day are likely to forget the scene of the great square, composed of such famous units as the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Fusiliers, and 2nd Battalion The Gordon Highlanders, gathered together for divine worship. The Division—the first British force to land in Belgium—was, within a few hours of disembarking, holding in check no less than five German Army Corps. How the various units added fresh lustre to their glorious traditions is known to all who have read the story of Ypres.
"'The chaplain's work at the front is thrillingly interesting, frequently dangerous, and often pathetic, and may be briefly described under four heads.
"'1. Visiting men in billets.
"'The first duty of a chaplain is to get into intimate touch with his men. He can hope to be useful and influence the men when, and only when, by constant visiting he wins their confidence and goodwill. The shyness, stiffness, and indifference so familiar to chaplains visiting barrack rooms in peace time is altogether unknown at the front. On active service the chaplain is welcomed as a comrade and friend. The men are in billets for a fixed number of days, after which they return to the trenches. Every endeavour is made to get into personal touch with the men during the periods of rest, and to become acquainted with their difficulties and needs.
"'2. Visiting wounded and dying.
"'The wounded are removed from the trenches immediately it becomes dark and are brought to the Field Ambulance. The hospital work extends far into the night—at times all night, for nights in succession, particularly when a big fight is in progress. This is the most important and impressive part of our work. After the patient has been dressed by the medical officer, the chaplain kneels beside the stretcher and gives whatever comfort and cheer he can. The heroic and patient suffering of our men, their thankfulness and eagerness for spiritual help and consolation, their thought for wives and little ones, their absolute selflessness make one grateful and proud to minister to such noble souls. Many messages are entrusted to the chaplains. The wounded request a line to be written to allay the fears of loved ones at home. The dying whisper such noble words as these: (actual message) "Tell my wife I have merely done my duty." "I have a wife and five little ones, God help them. I never thought I would come to this, but I have done my best for my country."
"'3. Divine Service.
"'Sunday services are held whenever possible. When the men are in the trenches on Sunday, arrangements are made to conduct service as soon as they return to billets. These services are held in barns or, when weather permits, in the open air. At each service I have endeavoured to give the men a text or thought to strengthen and help them throughout the week. The intense interest taken by all ranks in these services renders them very impressive.
"'4. Soldiers' Clubs.
"'The comfort of men at the front has not been lost sight of. I was requested by Divisional Headquarters to establish clubs in every brigade area to break the monotony of life during the quiet winter months. These clubs contain reading, writing, and game rooms and a refreshment bar, where the men can obtain hot coffee. My thanks are due to the Convener of the Army and Navy Chaplains' Committee, who kindly sent me cases of general literature which proved most useful and interesting to the men. Friends at home supplied games of various kinds, as well as stationery, pencils, and such useful articles. Lectures and concerts have been given, and everything possible has been done to brighten the soldier's life.'"
"The Rev. J.T. Bird, M.A., C.F., writing from No. 10 General Hospital, Rouen, says:
"'In accordance with instructions from the principal chaplain I do what I can to minister to Presbyterian troops within reach, where no Presbyterian chaplain is available. This has usually meant, on Sundays, holding a service in a Reinforcements Camp (infantry or cavalry) in the morning, and two services in hospital: one in the forenoon and one in the evening. One of the hospitals here is the Scottish Red Cross Hospital—excellently equipped. I did what I could for this hospital in the way of visitation and Sunday evening services up till lately, when the Rev. A.M. Maclean of Paisley Abbey was able to undertake these duties in addition to his work at a neighbouring Infantry Camp. The attendance at my service held at the Reinforcements Camp, at St. Nazaire and here, has varied from about 50 to 600, according to circumstances. I have found the Church of Scotland Psalm leaflets and the little blue booklet With the Colours very useful for all services. During the week one is kept busy visiting sick and wounded in four hospitals; holding occasional week-night services for convalescents and assisting to get up concerts for them; writing letters for patients too ill to write themselves; and distributing gifts of all descriptions (literature, cigarettes; woollen comforts, &c., &c.) sent by kind people at home.
"'The Sunday evening service has always been a united one (Church of England and Presbyterian), and the Church of England chaplains I have found very willing to co-operate in this way.
"'I am glad to state that the number of Presbyterians who have died in hospital has not been at all large, considering the large number of patients treated, and this fact I think bears eloquent testimony to the excellent equipment and comfort of the hospitals, as well as to the skill of the medical officers and the great devotion of the nursing staff. The mother of a wounded Seaforth Highlander, who was lying in this hospital, came recently all the way from Inverness with two other friends to see her son, and they all seemed deeply gratified and impressed by the excellence and efficiency of the hospital. All funerals of soldiers are announced beforehand in the French local journal, and here, as at St. Nazaire, French ladies attend and reverently place flowers on the grave after the burial service. They specially decorated the graves for Easter. Such attention must, I think, be gratifying to the sorrowing relatives. The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper has frequently been dispensed, and the number of communicants is always much larger than in time of peace at home stations.'"
"The Rev. Professor Kay, D.D., A.C.F., writes from 1st Echelon General Headquarters, France:
"'A chaplain's first lesson, as I have learned it, is to give due honour to the men he serves. All combatants have offered the supreme sacrifice a man can make for any object; how can anyone not of their consecrated number be worthy to say anything at all to them? Their great vow is too sacred for words; the loss of comrades and the uncertain future are felt but not discussed. The example of Christ which made martyrdom an easy and a right thing for the apostles, the new Covenant in His blood, the grace of His redeeming sacrifice—these acquire fresh power and interest. The combatant understands them, if a chaplain be an adequate minister of Christ's Evangel.
"'An army on active service cannot guarantee food and shelter with certain regularity; far less can it provide fixed routine for common worship. Buildings, organs, choirs, Sabbaths are often unavailable. The army must be always ready to move and to act; it is not possible to set everybody free at one time. Hence one has to discover at what times there will be leisure among the various units. Recreation in clubs and reading-rooms is often easy to contrive, and hours for worship can also be arranged. In hospitals periodic services are possible. In any regiment there are likely to be various denominations of Christians, and minorities must sometimes do without their own type of chaplain. Hymns and Holy Scripture serve as uniting influences, and the fair and friendly feeling among the chaplains in this vicinity makes work easy. Work here makes it evident that the Church of Scotland as by law established is only one of a wide Sisterhood of Presbyterian churches. Canadian, English, Irish, Welsh Presbyterians have been nearly as numerous as those from Scotland, and one representative from South Africa appeared on the list.
"'The battle of Neuve Chapelle caused a stream of casualties to flow past this point for a week. Some died and were laid to rest beside their comrades, their last messages being sent to their startled kinsfolk at home. Some who were weary and willing to die took heart again through sympathy and skilful nursing. One boy of seventeen in sore torture was heard half-consciously crying: "Ah! bonnie Scotland, what I'm suffering for you now"; he slowly recovered and did not grudge his pains. Those at home for whom brave men are suffering and dying should be done with tippling and trifling.
"'The work at this point includes attendance at three hospitals and the conducting of services for troops as required. During last week there were only four cases "seriously and dangerously ill" and about thirty men sick and wounded. At a Rest Depot a class was formed to prepare for First Communion, and at a special service on Good Friday eleven soldiers were admitted. The Sacrament was administered on Easter Sunday morning, and there were about sixty communicants. These included a few Baptists, Congregationalists, and others, who, if members of their own churches, were admitted and invited to this Communion. A Church Parade with an Irish cavalry regiment followed at 11 o'clock. In the twilight the largest soldiers' club in the district was crowded for Evening Service. There the Bishop of London—candid as King Alfred and persuasive as Alfred Tennyson—encouraged and blessed us all, and his inspiring words hallowed the great enterprise which brings us here.'"
The following statement of the work of the Young Men's Christian Association at the front and at home has been written by the Rev. W. Kingscote Greenland, at the request of the General Secretary, Mr. A.K. Yapp.
"No branch of the religious and social work among our soldiers during the war, both at the front and in the home camps, has been so well known and universally acknowledged and appreciated as that accomplished by the Young Men's Christian Association. The press has spread the fame of it far and wide and devoted leaders and columns of details to it. Any exhaustive story therefore is as unnecessary as it would be disproportionally large. What makes it imperative, however, that at least a brief summary of its widespread and manifold activities should be included, is that it has been a work of quite interdenominational character—all churches equally contributing both workers and money—and therefore the credit, if credit there is to be, must be shared among all. The fact of it is that the Y.M.C.A. has acted throughout as a species of central bureau or clearing-house, by the ready and available means of which anybody and everybody desirous of assisting in the moral and spiritual welfare of our troops could do so without calling into existence new organisation and machinery.
"And here it must be mentioned that two facts were, humanly speaking, responsible for the striking emergence of the Y.M.C.A. into this unique position. The first fact is that for fifteen years past the Association has had great experience of this sort of work by reason of its tents in all the Territorial camps every summer, so that the war only meant an extension, though an immense extension, of activities to which it was no stranger. And, secondly, the courageous spiritual statesmanship and moral daring of the General Secretary, Mr. A.K. Yapp, who on the outbreak of war, and in the holiday season too, launched this policy.
"The story of that breathlessly summoned council meeting in the Headquarters of the National Council in Russell Square on August 5 is a veritable romance. Telegrams brought holiday-making secretaries hurrying from the seaside, and in a few hours it was decided to pitch canvas tents wherever the new recruits for Kitchener's Army were located, and issue a national appeal for the necessary funds. As everybody now knows, this was done—hundreds of tents for refreshments, reading, writing, and rest sprang up as if by magic all over the land; thousands of pounds of money flowed in from high and low; and the Young Men's Christian Association was swept forward in the tide from being a semi-disparaged adjunct of the Church's care for a certain type of young townsman, to that of a great ally of the nation in its hour of moral, no less than physical, agony. The tale of the swift adaptation of practically the entire premises, resources, and plant of the Association to the military and naval emergency, involving almost superhuman hours of thought and skill, can never adequately be told. The whole country was mapped out, committees formed, hundreds of workers engaged, stationery ordered, stores and motor-transport acquired, the patronage of the King and the approval of the War Office secured, and in a few weeks the machinery for the safeguarding of the leisure hours of the troops who were flocking to the colours was in working order.
"Then came the late autumn with its rains and floods, and the necessity for better accommodation than canvas tents. Wooden huts were obviously required. But these would cost money—roughly £300 at least apiece. A great appeal was issued for the necessary funds, and the response was amazing. Several hundreds of thousands of pounds were contributed, many donors presenting a hut and furnishing it, and as winter closed in comfortable and warm and well-equipped huts replaced everywhere the sodden tents.
"As the military situation broadened and developed, the Association followed suit, and huts were built and opened in the base towns in France, Egypt, and India, while many young men were sent on board the troop-ships as lay chaplains to take charge of the soldiers on these journeys and to look after them on their landing in foreign and colonial ports.
"And so the situation as it stands at this present time of writing is roughly as follows: 600 Y.M.C.A. centres in the home camps, of which 300 are permanent wooden huts. In France 50 centres, of which 36 are huts. In Egypt 8 centres in charge of 10 young Christian men sent out by the Association, and in India 30 centres, manned by 12 Association workers. To this record must be added over 2000 camp workers, only a very small proportion of whom are paid, and the innumerable ladies who either serve at the counters or are quartered with local committees of management. To this, further, several other inspiring features and items must still be added. Under the Y.M.C.A. auspices, Princess Victoria has a number of field kitchens across in France and Flanders which supply the men at the actual front. Also, and by no means least, scores of clergymen and ministers of all denominations give some, and a few all their time, to conducting services and "talks" in the huts in the evenings, while among the voluntary workers on Salisbury Plain, at the Crystal Palace, the White City, Harwich and Felixstowe, Hindhead, Milford, Southport, Alnwick and along the Tyne, and scores of other camps, are to be found university professors and students, men from all the theological colleges, retired city merchants, ministers with leave of absence from their churches, business men moved to leave their shops and offices in the care of wives and clerks and managers, and almost every type of Christian man and profession and occupation.
"All this deals, as it will be seen, with the many externals of the Association work, and takes little or no account of the various more directly spiritual agencies. Almost every well-known evangelist has given up his time to the Y.M.C.A. huts, including such men as Mr. W.R. Lane, Mr. C.M. Alexander, and the Rev. Canon Hicks, while the work of the Pocket Testament League and of Temperance has been wonderfully successful.
"Beginning on the Wednesday after Easter and continuing for seven days, a special effort was made throughout the camps to make it a Decision Week for the men of the new army. A pledge of acceptance of Jesus Christ as Saviour and King was to be taken and a War Roll signed. It is too early to give the final results, but already many thousands have signed, and the reports of camp workers, chaplains, clergymen, and ministers are most enheartening.
"Of the actual meetings held, of the conversations that have taken place, of the strange, moving, pathetic and thrilling incidents that have marked this tragic and glorious nine months, much has already been written, and books could be filled. Thousands of men of our homes and churches have written and spoken most affectionately of the service rendered to them in the Y.M.C.A. tents, and of the lessening of their temptations thereby, while many hundreds of thousands of dear ones have received letters written under the quiet conditions only obtainable in the Association's huts, and, be it added, on their millions of sheets of free notepaper.
"Of the generosity of the public, the kindness and appreciation of the generals and colonels and officers generally, and perhaps, most of all, of the untiring and self-denying labour of those who have manned the huts through these long months, short-handed, overworked, cheery, and eager, in cold and mud, it is impossible fully to speak. Let it suffice to say that the Young Men's Christian Association is deeply humbled and proud, by reason of the honour God has manifestly conferred upon it in giving it this supreme chance of serving the interests of His Kingdom."
Clergymen Serving in the Ranks—A Strange Burial Incident—When the New Army Comes Back—Will the Churches be Ready?—They are Coming.
The needs of the country led a good many men, already ordained to the Christian ministry, to enter the new Army. The question whether they should or should not do this was, as I have already indicated, a matter of some dispute, but as the war went on a testimony gathered as to the influence of such as did enlist. Thus "D." wrote to the Times:
"At our table, which served for meals and other purposes, sat opposite to me a clergyman of the Church of England, to do his best with us to fight and prevent his country being treated like poor Belgium. We knew what he was, and what he had given up to join us, and his influence in that hut, and in his platoon, was greater than that of the khaki-clad official chaplain who paid us occasional visits. We all respected him and knew his aversion to things which were often thought lightly of by us, and one look at his good and serious face would often keep back an oath, which would come out naturally to a troublesome steer or a slow and careless sailor, and many a tale which would have been thought appropriate in a smoking-room or round a camp fire remained untold in his presence. This has been my experience of one man, and I am glad to say that in this battalion there are already serving as private soldiers some half-dozen clergymen."
WHEN THE MEN COME HOME.
Drawn by Arthur Twidle.ToList
Let one of them also answer for himself. I do not know his name, but he is a young Wesleyan minister who enlisted in the R.A.M.C. last October, and who is, as I write, now at the forefront of the fight. The following extracts from his letter were published in the Daily News:
"The call comes for stretcher-bearers, and I volunteer to go with No. 3. The medical officer comes out, flashes his torch, and gives the order: 'Men to march in front of the waggon. Whole party walk—march!'
"We are off. Ten paces ahead walked the medical officer, a captain; behind him a sergeant and four men of the squad. Then comes the ambulance waggon, with the great Red Cross on both sides, one man driving. Inside are the stretchers (one man in the squad carries a surgical haversack), and behind the waggon comes the drag-horse, with a waggon orderly mounted on it. This horse will help us out of a ditch or the mud, if the waggon gets stuck in it.
"We head straight for the trenches. It is very dark; light rain splashes on our faces, and there is a cold wind. Occasionally the captain flashes his electric torch as we pass an outpost or a belated infantry man returning from the firing line. The rattle of the waggon sounds like the passing of heavy guns in the still night, and we wonder whether we shall draw the enemy's shell fire. A road with a waggon on it is a good spot to drop a 'Jack Johnson' on now and then.
"Suddenly the sky is illuminated by a brilliant German star-shell with a long white tail. Every figure, every tree, every stone in the road is revealed for one moment to the enemy's snipers and artillery. Egyptian darkness follows the flash, and out of it ahead we hear, coming towards us, the tramp of many marching men. Their officer stops us.
"'I have left two men on the road—ptomaine poisoning. Pick them up, will you?' he asks.
"On we go again. The rain pours, the wind is rising to a gale. The road is very narrow. The wheels of the waggon plunge into a deep rut and send a spray of mud up into our faces. Soon we pull up before a little building at the side of the road not far from our firing line. It is the dressing station where the wounded are brought until the waggons can come to convey them to the hospitals out of the fire zone.
"Our captain and the sergeant enter the building, and a corporal in charge of the place whispers, 'Sir, we have one dead here.'
"'One dead! We did not know that. We have no chaplain.'
"The sergeant whispers to the captain that I am a Wesleyan minister. The captain calls me.
"'Are you a minister?'
"'Can you bury this man?'
"'Carry on, then!'
"What is his religion—the dead man? No one knows. One of the soldiers has a Prayer-book on him, so we decide to read the Church of England service.
"Over the road, opposite the building, is a patch of ground—just a cabbage patch. A grave has been dug, just a few minutes previously, and the dead soldier lies in it uncovered, just as he fell in the trenches. His arms are folded on his breast. A piece of cloth hides his face from our sight. He lies two feet from the surface—no more. Three of us stand by the grave. The corporal hands me an electric torch, and I begin to read the burial service.
"'Ping-ping!' A bullet whizzes over us. Out goes the torch—and we finish with an extempore prayer. Five minutes later two of his mates are filling up this soldier's grave, and another is cutting out a rough wooden cross. Ten minutes more and we are away with our ambulance."
If they all acquit themselves thus we shall indeed be proud of Kitchener's Army.
The Christian work at the front becomes increasingly successful as the months go by, until one wonders whereunto it will grow. We must not exaggerate or make too much of momentary impressions of those at the front, but such scenes as the following, pictured to us by the Rev. Lauchlan McLean Watt in the Scotsman, will live in our memory. As we read it we can hardly wonder at his closing words declaring that it is Resurrection and Pentecost through which they are passing in France and Flanders to-day.
He had been in a deserted billet just behind the firing line, and was about to move on when a couple of soldiers of the Black Watch appeared on the scene. Here is the story he has to tell:
"They touched their bonnets, and said, 'We're going off to the front to-night, sir, and we thought we'd like to have the Sacrament before we go. Can you give it to us?' 'How many?' I asked. 'Oh, maybe sixteen,' was the reply. 'Well,' I answered, 'at six o'clock in the shed next to this one be present with your friends.'
"Off went the two with a deepened light in their faces, while I prepared the place that was to be for some of them the room of the Last Supper. A tablecloth borrowed from the officers' mess and a little wine from the same source helped to meet our preparations. A notice on the door that the place was closed for ordinary use until the Communion service was over did not keep us free from interruption, for the room was the ordinary one for the soldiers' 'sing-song,' and men would come and beat upon the doors and clamour for admission, not reading notices nor at first understanding.
"The men began to gather, and sat down there as reverently as though the dim, little, draughty hut were the chancel of some great cathedral holy with the deepest memories of Christian generations.
"'You might wait,' whispered one. 'The Camerons and Seaforths may be able to come.' So we waited—a hushed and solemn waiting. Then quietly some of them began to croon old psalm memories, and quiet hymns, waiting. And at length the others came, stepping softly into the place; and with them comrades, who explained that, though they were of a different country and a different church belief, they yet desired to share in the act of worship, preparatory to celebration. At length about one hundred and twenty men were there, and we began.
"It was the 23rd Psalm, the Psalm of God's shepherding, the comradeship of the Divine in the Valley of the Shadow, the faith and the hope of the brave. What a power was in it—what a spell of wonder, of comforting, and uplifting in this land of war! They sang it very tenderly, for it spoke to them of times when they had held their mothers' hands, and looked up wondering in their faces, in the church at home, wondering why tears were there.
"It means a big thing still, to-day, for our Empire, this heart-deep singing of our soldier men. I have never dreamed that I should see such depth of feeling for eternal things. Do not tell me this is Armageddon. It is not the end of things. It is Resurrection and Pentecost we are passing through. A harvest is being sown in France of which the reaping shall be Empire-wide. There will be angels at the ingathering.
"It only needed the simplest words to seal that sacrament. And next morning, in the grey light, the men who had been touched by the thought of home and the dear ones there, and the big throbbing thought of consecration, were marching off to grip the very hand of death, in sacrifice, like Christ's for others."
The Easter visit of the Bishop of London to the front is fresh in our memories. What a holy and triumphant progress it was! Vast bodies of men have listened to the addresses of the bishop, and joined reverently in the responses to the prayers. How grandly those glorious hymns, "Rock of Ages" and "Jesu, Lover of my soul" have swelled forth in the stillness which was only broken by the booming of great guns!
The programme of the visit had been arranged with much care. There were all sorts of services. Now the bishop was with the Flying Corps gathered in one of their great hangars, now with the Household Cavalry massed in the field, now with the Army Service Corps beside their big lorries. To all sorts and conditions of men the bishop spoke, and it seemed as though he had the right word for each man.
He passed along the whole British front often within the range of the German guns. At one part of the line, where there had recently been heavy fighting, some five hundred officers, many of whom had only just come from the battle, were present. The service was, of course, voluntary, and the fact that those officers were present because they wanted to be there made the service all the more impressive. Veteran generals knelt side by side with newly commissioned subalterns in reverent worship on the hard stoned floor.
Easter Day the bishop spent with the Territorial regiment of which he is chaplain. I quote the description of the services from the Manchester Guardian:
"The regiment is in a most exposed position, and the bishop motored into the village (a village that has been very much knocked about by shell fire) in pitch darkness, only broken by the weird glare of star shells fired from the German trenches about a mile away. A most enthusiastic reception awaited him from the two hundred and fifty men who were billeted in the village, the remainder of the battalion being in the trenches.
"Cheer after cheer greeted him as he entered the barn, where a 'sing-song' of the most lively nature was in progress. After giving a short address the bishop went with some of the men to their billets and had a cheery word for each. At seven A.M. on Easter Day he celebrated the Holy Communion in a barn, the roof and walls of which had been scarred and shattered by gun fire. Over two hundred men communicated. As this service ended we found at least a hundred and fifty men of other regiments outside the building, who had been waiting since seven o'clock, and had been unable to enter the crowded room. For these the bishop celebrated at once. Strange as the surroundings were, with guns firing and the crack of rifles distinctly heard, one would doubt if in any church, however beautiful, a more reverent congregation had ever gathered together on an Easter morning. On the evening of Easter Day the bishop preached his final sermon at General Headquarters in the presence of Sir John French, many distinguished officers, and a large body of men. One heard on every side how much the bishop's presence and his words had inspired and encouraged the gallant men who were present at the services. Easter Monday saw him leave the front to visit Rouen and Havre before returning to England."
So once more old England greeted her sons across the Channel, and commended them to Him who died and rose again for their Salvation.
But we are beginning to look forward to the future. The war will end some day, and then, what then?
A new army will come back from the fight, veteran as regards its fighting power, but new as regards its conduct and its spirit. Mr. Asquith said this was a "spiritual war." It is so perhaps in a deeper sense than Mr. Asquith meant. There has been "wrestling" out there, not only against "flesh and blood," but against the powers of sin and darkness. And there has been victory—victory over sin, victory in Christ. And back they will come to us—these new men who have been transfigured and transformed upon the battlefield. And the question is to what sort of a Church will they come? Shall the fires of their new love be chilled by the ice of our formality, or shall our worldliness seem strange to these new citizens of the City of God?
If we are not ready to receive these new men when they come home, God will send in a terrible account to us which we shall have to pay. Woe to the Church which quenches the fire of their devotion, to the so-called Christian who lives in Ease-in-Zion instead of in Beulah Land!
Now is the time for the churches to prepare. We are told that the enthusiasm of last September is dying out of our churches, that in the busy work of the following months we have forgotten to pray. We are even getting used to the war. Let the churches of our land bestir themselves. These men will need our choicest care, as they deserve our most brilliant example. Christ has not left Britain for Flanders. He is here too, and we must seek Him in penitence and prayer, that when the lads come home His Church shall be found ready for her Christian task.
What a welcome we will give them when they come! How the great hall will be hung with flags, and the homely hearth will be gay for once! What love light there will be in the eyes of the mother, the wife, and the maiden! How hand will grasp hand, and all the world will seem young again! They are coming—they are coming!
But not all are coming,—some have fallen in the fight, and sad hearts will weep in silence, and lives will seem worthless now they are no more. But it will not all be darkness even to those who mourn, for it is great to die with honour and in the service of one's country. And many a home will cherish the memory of its hero, and look forward to a meeting by and by. And Britain will emblazon their names on its roll of honour—this man and that man has died for her.
They are coming—they are coming, and we greet them one and all—the men who fought for us and endured nobly on our behalf.
Let us show them when they come a new Britain, freed from the curse of drink, purified as by fire—a new Britain which has crowned Christ as its King, fit mother of such sons as these!
The cross is still at the front—its power ever widening and developing. It will go wherever our troops go, carrying with it the life which is life indeed. Death cannot weaken its influence, it triumphs over death, and many a soldier lad will it draw to itself, and many a dying gaze will be fixed upon it, for it is there—always there—when men need the truths it reveals.
The cross is still at the front—many crosses. It has become a custom to fix crosses over the graves of our soldiers, most of them rudely and hastily shaped, but crosses still. Some of them large and strongly planted, others hardly showing above the earth. Not long will many of them last. Over some of them the feet of soldiers in the rush of the battle may tread, others may be overthrown by the storms of winter. But they are there now, and some day may be replaced by more permanent structures. Whether that be so or not, the truth they symbolise will abide—Christ died, Christ lives. He died the just for the unjust to bring us to God. He is the resurrection and the life.
As we visit those graves by the wayside or in countless little cemeteries, consecrated by our heroic dead, we thank God that over them all is the Sign of the Cross.
THE ROLL CALL
OF SERVING WOMEN
A RECORD OF WOMEN'S WORK IN THE WAR
BY MARY FRANCES BILLINGTON
Large Crown 8vo. Cloth Gilt. 3s. 6d.
LONDON: 4 BOUVERIE STREET. E.C.
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