Infomotions, Inc.With The Immortal Seventh Division / Kennedy, Edmund John, -1915



Author: Kennedy, Edmund John, -1915
Title: With The Immortal Seventh Division
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): seventh division; expeditionary force; field ambulance; army
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Title: With The Immortal Seventh Division

Author: E. J. Kennedy and the Lord Bishop of Winchester

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                 WITH THE IMMORTAL
                  SEVENTH DIVISION

                    By the Rev.
                    E.J. KENNEDY
     Chaplain Major to The Expeditionary Force.


      With a Preface by the Right Reverend the
             LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER


                HODDER AND STOUGHTON
              LONDON NEW YORK TORONTO
                       MCMXVI




                         TO
                      MY WIFE
                        AND
              HELP-MATE OF MANY YEARS.




PREFACE


This little record bears the impress of the character of its
writer--simple, manly, open-hearted towards man, and devout towards God.

I have read a great part of it with keen interest. Written without
strain, from fresh personal experience, and with great sympathy for the
officers and men of our Army, it gives a very lively picture of a
chaplain's work at the Front, and the scenes and conditions under which
it is done.

Mr. Kennedy's commanding stature, and fine physical manhood, gave him
advantages which his fine character and genial nature used, by God's
grace, to the best effect.

Having known him, and admired him from the time when I admitted him to
Priest's Orders in South London, down to the day when at my request he
addressed our Diocesan Conference upon the challenge given to the Church
by the war, and the claims and needs of the men of our Army returning
from the Front,--a subject on which he glowed with eagerness,--it is a
happiness to me to bespeak for his words an attention which will
certainly be its own reward.

I trust the book may do a little to lessen the loss which (to human
vision) the best interests of our country and her people have suffered
by his early and unexpected death.

                        EDW. WINTON.

  FARNHAM CASTLE,
    _November, 1915._




EDITOR'S NOTE


Chaplain Major E.J. Kennedy, the writer of this little book, returned to
his parish of St. John the Evangelist, Boscombe, in September 1915,
having completed his year's service with the Expeditionary Force. Fired
with a deep sense of the need of rousing the Home Church and Land to a
clearer realization of the spiritual needs of 'Our Men' and armed with
the approval of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the approval and
consent of his Diocesan, he determined to spend a certain amount of his
time in the strenuous work of lecturing up and down the country, in
addition to his many parochial duties. Immediately on his return he
plunged into this work, without taking any rest after his arduous
labours at the Front. On Tuesday, October 19, he was lecturing in
Liverpool and Birkenhead. On Wednesday he was taken ill, and on Thursday
he returned home. On the following Monday he succumbed to the disease
which doubtless he contracted at the Front.

In the passing of Major Kennedy the Church and Nation have lost a man
who could ill be spared. So simple in his faith, so fearless and
powerful in his preaching, he was a man who wielded an influence almost
unique in this country. Those who have been benefited by his ministry
are not counted by hundreds but by tens of hundreds. His influence with
the men at the Front was extraordinary. A soldier writes, 'I was awfully
sorry to hear of Mr. Kennedy's death. It came so sudden too. I expect he
would not wish for a better death than dying practically in his
country's cause. He will be greatly missed, his place will not be easily
filled. Unfortunately there are not many men of his stamp in the world.
He was "white" all through, a thing as rare as it is valuable. He was a
real manly Christian gentleman.' This letter is typical of hundreds
which have been received from all parts of the world, including the
Front, so wide and far reaching was the sweep of his influence.

Of him it may be truly said, 'He was God's man.' Many in all schools of
thought and walks of life, as they think of him to-day will
unconsciously say to themselves what the poet has expressed--

    "This is the happy warrior, this is he
    Whom every man in arms should wish to be."

Well done! thou good and faithful servant.

                        J.H.




CONTENTS


                                                        PAGE

CHAPTER I
THE SEVENTH DIVISION                                       3

CHAPTER II
THE TREK THROUGH BELGIUM                                  27

CHAPTER III
THE WELCOME OF A PEOPLE                                   69

CHAPTER IV
A CHAPTER OF INCIDENTS                                    79

CHAPTER V
THE FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES                                 99

CHAPTER VI
CONCERNING OFFICERS AND MEN                              121

CHAPTER VII
THE WORK OF A CHAPLAIN IN THE FIELD                      139

CHAPTER VIII
THE CARE OF THE WOUNDED                                  159

CHAPTER IX
WORK AT THE BASE                                         177

CHAPTER X
A CLOSING WORD                                           195




THE SEVENTH DIVISION




CHAPTER I

THE SEVENTH DIVISION


'A telegram, sir!' and a mounted orderly who had ridden over from
Larkhill, stood outside my tent at the Bustard's Camp, Salisbury Plain,
at 5 a.m., on September 17, 1914.

In that remote part of the world so removed from the benefits of
ordinary life, we were yet in receipt of our daily papers at that early
hour in the morning, and I was enjoying a twenty-four hours' history of
the world, at the moderate price of a penny, when the brief tones of the
orderly aroused me from its perusal. Its contents were startling: 'You
have been selected for immediate foreign service. Report yourself early
to-morrow morning at the War Office.' For some days past I had been
doing duty with my Territorial Battalion, the 7th Hants; but daily I had
been hoping that I might be able to throw in my lot with the great mass
of men, who had volunteered at the call of King and country.

During the month of August I had been shut up at the Riffel Alp with
some seventy other unfortunates; kicking our heels in enforced ignorance
when we would fain have been near the centre of information, if not of
service. Unable to travel owing to the railways of Switzerland and
France being required for the mobilization of troops, we could only
possess our souls in patience. It was a time never to be forgotten, for
although our English blood was stirred by the rumours that reached us of
an expeditionary force being landed in France, under General Sir John
French, and of even greater significance, the mobilization of the
English Fleet, yet our only source of information was derived from the
Corriere della Sera, the communiques of which were supplied by the Wolff
Agency. Our state of mind can be readily imagined when I mention such
points of _reliable_ news as the 'Destruction of the English Fleet;
Death of Sir John French; Invasion of England; London taken; Bank of
England in flames.' Of course we knew that this was false, and yet there
was no possibility of rebutting the statements.

For nearly a month we alternated between hope and fear. The effect of
the bright Swiss sunshine would at times render us optimistic, and then
the fall of night would once more see us plunged into the depths of a
helpless pessimism. However, the time came when the little English
colony struggled through the difficulties of railway transport, and
arrived once more in the region of authentic information. The journey
home, which occupied three days, was full of interest, for France was
throbbing with 'la guerre' and 'la gloire'; train after train with
troops bound for the Front, swept by us; while at Lyons we encountered
an ambulance train full of wounded, and another of German prisoners. My
party had the advantage of travelling with the wife and son of a Cabinet
Minister, and through Sir E. Grey's kind solicitude for his colleague's
people, the best possible accommodation was provided for us, but even
that powerful interest was not always sufficient to prevent delay and
discomfort. On reaching Creil, the junction for Belgium, we found the
station full of English troops in their retreat from Mons, and many were
the stirring stories gathered from our retiring, but not disheartened
men. The spirit of the French troops much impressed us; unaccompanied,
my ladies went among them with confidence, and on every hand were
treated with the consideration of gentlemen. I remarked on this to a
French gentleman who was travelling with us, and he said with warranted
pride, 'But they are gentlemen, monsieur.' Some of the wounded French
took the greatest interest in describing to us the circumstances under
which they had been hit,--some, as the manner of soldiers is, displayed
the bullet or piece of shrapnel which had laid them low.

Nearly all the troop trains going to the Front were decorated with
flowers and evergreens, whilst the stations and villages were alive with
enthusiastic people assembled to cheer their men onward to their
glorious and dangerous task.

It was with thankful hearts and very travel-stained persons that we
finally reached home, heartily agreeing after our exciting experiences
that a little goes a long way.

I had at the earliest moment possible volunteered my services to the
Army Chaplains Department, but was informed that there was no prospect
at that time of my being called upon; accordingly I joined my
Territorial Battalion, under Colonel Park, and was awaiting a summons to
service, here, there, or anywhere, when, as I have described, the call
came. I have often wondered why the War Office always springs upon one
with such alarming suddenness; possibly it is the way of the Army; it is
certainly disconcerting, although it is educational, for it teaches one
to be always ready and alert for any emergency.

And now the order had come, and there was hurrying to and fro; a rapid
dash home; a putting together of kit which would be required in the
unknown life about to be entered upon. A last night at home; and then
the reporting of oneself at the War Office; the signing of a contract
for twelve months' service; a medical examination as to physical
fitness; an hour or two's shopping at Harrods (where one developed a
tendency to think of everything not wanted, and to forget what was
really useful); and finally Waterloo Station, that scene of many
farewells. 'Good-bye' has so many significations. It may be uttered at
the parting for a couple of hours; it may be uttered, and often is, in
these days as the final word on earth to much loved ones. Oh, these
partings! how they pull a man's heart to pieces; and yet, with that
remarkable insularity which characterizes our race,--or should I say
races--it is one of the things seldom or never mentioned among men on
service; and yet I suppose it is always uppermost in a man's mind. Again
and and again I have lit upon men in out of the way corners, reading a
well worn letter, or perchance gazing at a photograph, every facial
lineament of which was already well stamped upon the mind of the gazer.
It is one of the mental attitudes which go to form a spirit of
comradeship; the feeling that it is all part of the game, and we are
most of us tarred with the same brush.

I had received my orders at the War Office, to join the Seventh Division
then mobilizing at Lyndhurst.

The Seventh Division! that meant very little to me, and indeed to the
public generally at that time, but what it signified to the nation will
be more fully appreciated when the history of this war is written.

It may be interesting to give particulars of the composition of that,
which I believe is the first Division ever to march out of an English
camp fully equipped.

Under the command of Major-General T. Capper, C.B., D.S.O.,[1] now Sir
Thomson Capper, K.C.M.G., C.B., D.S.O., it represented the very flower
of our Army, possessing a Staff of most capable officers.

It consisted of:--

  Divisional Signal Company;
  Divisional Mounted troops;
  Northumberland Hussars;
  Cycle Company;
  Four Brigades of Artillery (R.H.A., R.F.A., R.G.A.);
  Two Batteries R.G.A.;
  Divisional Ammunition Column;
  Divisional Engineers, two Field Companies;
  20th Infantry Brigade,--
    Brig.-General H.G. Ruggles Brise, M.V.O.;
    Brigade-Major A.B.E. Cator.

  2nd Scots Guards;
  1st Grenadier Guards;
  2nd Border Regiment;
  2nd Gordon Highlanders;
  21st Infantry Brigade,--
    Brig. H.E. Watts, C.B.;
    Brigade-Major Captain W. Drysdale.
  2nd Bedford Regiment;
  2nd Yorks;
  2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers;
  2nd Wiltshire Regiment;
  22nd Infantry Brigade--
    Brig. S.T.B. Lawford;
    Brigade-Major Captain G.M. James, The Buffs.

  2nd The Queens;
  2nd Royal Warwick Regiment;
  1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers;
  1st South Staffs Regiment.

  Divisional Train;
  Four Companies Divisional Medical Units;
  21st Field Ambulance;
  22nd   "       "
  23rd   "       "

The mobilization of a Division for Active Service is a vast business;
everything has to be thought of and provided; there must be a thorough
equipment for the men, horses, and transport; medical stores, saddlery,
farriery, etc., etc., not a thing must be forgotten, for in those early
days of the war there was no well-equipped Ordnance Department on the
other side. Each Field Ambulance is a dispensary on wheels, comprising
the hundred and one field comforts which warfare rightly provides for
the lamentable wrecks that pass through the hands of the R.A.M.C.

The question of horses is no slight undertaking, and certainly gives
rise to no little heartburning, as every mounted officer naturally tries
to secure a good mount. To me it was a specially serious matter; when a
man walks 15.8 and rides another two stone at least, considerable care
has to be exercised in the selection of his equine friend, who has to
bear with him the fatigues, trials and risks of a campaign. I shall ever
feel the deepest obligation to Captain Kennedy Shaw, O.C., Remounts
Department, Salisbury, for supplying me with one of the best horses I
have ever ridden; a big upstanding bay, with black points; deep chested;
good quarters; with the most perfect manners, even under the heaviest
fire, which could be desired. Strangely enough his name (which was tied
to his halter) was 'Ora Pro Nobis,' a not inapt cognomen for a padre's
horse. He must have come out of a good stable, and I often felt that
someone must have hoped that he would fall into good hands. Should this
by any chance be read by the owner, let me say that both my groom and I
took the greatest care of my good steed until the day when German
shrapnel ushered him into 'the eternal hayfield.'

They were happy days at Lyndhurst, where the Division remained for a
fortnight. The future stress of awful losses was only a bare possibility
then, although it was on the horizon of many men's hearts; but at the
time it was ignored, for many of the officers had their women folk
staying, either in the village, or near at hand; and the lawn of the
'Crown,' the Divisional Head-quarters, was a bright and happy centre of
pleasurable intercourse.

It was a strange experience to be ushered into the very vortex of a
soldier's life, although my experience of military camp life was not a
new one; in far back years happy service in a kilted regiment had left a
mark which time has not effaced.

A very cordial reception from General Capper set me at my ease; whilst
Brig.-General Ruggles Brise, to whose Brigade I was attached, and to
whose kindness and courtesy I owe much, assured me of the good will of
the powers that be. The General posted me to the 20th Brigade--a noble
appointment indeed; for such troops as the Grenadier Guards, Scots
Guards, Gordon Highlanders and Border Regiment were good enough for any
man.

The Parade Services I held while at Lyndhurst were an inspiration. The
prayer card issued by the Chaplain-General was greatly appreciated by
officers and men. I arranged for the distribution of 15,000 of them in
the Division, and they were eagerly accepted by all from the Generals
downwards. On many an occasion in the after days I came across these
cards tucked away in the lining of the caps of dead and wounded men.
Nothing can exceed the beautiful simplicity of the prayer, a copy of
which I venture to insert:--

A SOLDIER'S PRAYER.

    Almighty and most Merciful Father,
    Forgive me my sins:
    Grant me thy peace:
    Give me thy power:
    Bless me in life and death,
      For Jesus Christ's sake.

                            Amen.

    (On the reverse side.)

    Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy
    kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our
    trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us. And
    lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil: For
    thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and
    ever.

                        Amen.

The other Chaplains of the Division were:--

  Church of England: The Rev. Hon. T. George Maurice Peel, 21st
    Brigade.

  Presbyterian: The Rev. W. Stevenson Jaffray.

  Roman Catholic: The Rev. Father Moth.

It was on October 4 when my wife, daughter and myself were about to
take tea with Captain Douglas of the Staff--alas! now dead--and his
wife, that he hurriedly rode out of the 'Crown' saying, 'The order has
come to stand by.' The news was welcome, for we were growing weary of
waiting. Immediately the troops began to move off; the unit to which I
was attached--23rd Field Ambulance which served the 20th Brigade--left
at 2.45 a.m., reaching Southampton about six. It is of interest to note
that a Division of troops of over 15,000 men makes a brave show upon the
road, its length from the van to the rear being not less than twelve
miles.

Apparently the cheering folk along the road passed a sleepless night,
for at every hamlet and village people lined the road, waving us their
farewells; and from many a cottage window kindly faces could be seen
silhouetted against the light of the room, cheering us onward with
hearty words.

The embarkation at Southampton was a busy scene, and took many hours to
accomplish, but finally fourteen huge transports got under way, and
steamed up Channel for Dover. There we 'stood off and on' until 9 p.m.
on October 6, when picking up our pilot we steamed out into the Down in
the quiet of the autumn night.

The names of the officers who composed the mess of the 23rd Field
Ambulance were: Major Crawford (now Lieut.-Colonel), Major Brown,
Captain Wright, Lieut. McCutcheon, Lieut. Mackay, Lieut. Hart, Lieut.
Priestly, Lieut. Wedd, Lieut. Beaumont, Lieut. Jackson (quartermaster),
Col. the Rev. W. Stevenson Jaffray, and the writer; on the whole a very
cheery, hard-working set of officers, whose work met with high
appreciation of Head-quarters, in due course.

Many conjectures were on foot as to our destination, but when we found
the course was north-east, we knew that France was out of the question,
and Belgium loomed large in our imagination.

The scene was an eerie one as the black hulls of the vessels moved
quietly over the placid sea, with a protective squadron of torpedo
destroyers surrounding us. It was sufficiently risky to give a piquance
to the experience.

The Admiralty had laid mines from the Goodwin Sands to the Belgium
coast, and it was a remarkable feat of pilotage which took the whole
fleet through this mine zone in safety to its destination. The naval
officer who acted as pilot to the _Victorian_, on which I was aboard,
informed me the next morning that it had been the most anxious night of
his life, and I can well understand it, for the responsibility upon a
man, under such circumstances, was a heavy one.

Coming on deck in the early hours of the following morning I saw the
low-lying Belgium coast bathed in sunlight; Zeebrugge lying a couple of
miles to the east. It was with a very thankful heart that I realized
that the first risky stage of our movement towards the Front was over.

In due course we warped in alongside of the massive Mole at Zeebrugge;
and admired the huge proportions of a quay, which I understood had been
built by the Germans. Large as it was, there was not sufficient room for
all the fleet of transports, so half the Division landed at Ostend and
joined us later.

The landing scene was stirring, and full of interest. All sorts of
troops were mixed together in apparently inextricable confusion;
Guardsmen, Highlanders, Linesmen, Sappers, Gunners, Cavalry and the
ubiquitous A.S.C. were moving about in the keen delight of being on the
soil that they had come to free from the oppressor; but the miracle of
military order and discipline soon evolved order out of chaos; and the
whole column moved off for its nine or ten mile trek to Bruges.

With elastic step and cheery voice the men swung along to the inspiring
strains of 'Tipperary.' The road was typical of Belgium; the long avenue
of poplar trees, flanked by broad ditches, being the distinguishing
feature of this and most Belgium roads (the centre being composed of
cobbles, with macadam tracks on either side). Every one felt keen, and
the horses, fresh from forty-eight hours' confinement in their very
close quarters between decks, enjoyed the freedom as much as the men.

On reaching Bruges, which was in total darkness, owing to the fear of
enemy aeroplanes, we received our instructions to proceed to an outlying
suburb of the city; and presently drew up in a field, bounded by houses
of the humbler description. The early morning was distinctly autumnal,
and a ration of biscuit, bully beef and steaming hot tea was not to be
despised. Late though it was, many people were about, occupying
themselves by gazing, half in wonderment and half in admiration, at the
first visit of khaki to their neighbourhood.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] This brilliant officer was killed in action at the end of September,
1915.




THE TREK THROUGH BELGIUM




CHAPTER II

THE TREK THROUGH BELGIUM


My first experience of billeting was sufficient to prove the very
arbitrary character of the whole proceeding. Imagine some one hundred
and fifty men, and twelve officers, suddenly appearing in a small
outlying street of the far-famed Belgian city, at the untimely hour of 4
a.m., and all clamouring for a night's lodging. To begin with, it was
not an easy matter to arouse the slumbering people; and the billeting
party had to wait long before each door, ere slippered feet were heard
along passages, and drowsy voices inquired suspiciously as to our
business; then appeared more or less clad figures, who gazed anxiously
at the cloaked men standing at the door (for the Germans lay at the back
of every mind). However, the talismanic charm of 'Englishmen' did
wonders. It was 4.30 a.m. before I tumbled into an extremely comfortable
bed, and had barely laid my head upon the pillow--so it seemed--when a
great knocking at the door aroused me with a start from vivid dreams of
home, as an orderly entered the room with the alarming statement that
the column was moving off in ten minutes. It was seven o'clock, and I
felt inclined for another twelve hours in bed; there were no ablutions
that morning. A flying leap into my clothes; a most indiscriminate
packing of my valise, which I left my servant struggling with, in an
inexperienced attempt to roll it up correctly, and I swallowed a cup of
coffee which my kind hostess had provided for me (why is coffee always
so hot when one is in a hurry?), and I mounted my horse in the nick of
time to fall in with my column as it moved off.

It was a long weary march over a very flat country, intersected with
dykes, and only broken by the ubiquitous poplar trees; and one had ample
time to think, and sometimes doze, as we marched along on our
twenty-five mile trek. At the midday halt, a little diversion enlivened
the proceedings in the shape of pulling two bogged horses out of a
narrow cut where they had been 'watered.' We managed with the help of
ropes and planks to get the poor brutes on to terra firma again, more
dead than alive.

Then on and on, hour after hour, halting ten minutes each hour for a
needed breather and rest, until Ostend hove in sight. Visions of a
comfortable billet rose before one's luxurious mind, but no such luck;
right through the city we marched, finding the station square crammed
with terror-stricken and most wretched-looking refugees; until, some
four miles out, we lighted upon the most filthy and forsaken place to be
found on the map of civilization--Steene. The houses were so vile and
malodorous, that it was with great reluctance the O.C. allowed the men
to enter. By this time it was very dark and very cold, and it was with
purely animal instinct that we found the way to our mouths in the
darkness, and tried to make believe that we enjoyed the biscuit and
bully beef which formed our rations.

Then came the somewhat important question of where to sleep. I deemed
myself among the fortunate in securing a stretcher, and dossed in a
transport wagon; a tired man might have a worse bed than that, and I
slept the sleep of the weary and, as I would fain hope, of the
righteous.

The following morning, as it seemed likely that we should remain at
Steene for at least another day, I cast round for something more
comfortable in the way of a billet, and had secured three rooms at the
worthy Burgomaster's for the O.C., Mr. Jaffray and myself, and was about
to enjoy a more or less comfortable tea in the open, when an orderly
rode up with orders to trek back to Bruges.

In a few minutes the camp was struck, and once more we moved on. I felt
that I could enter into the spirit of the well-known refrain--

    The brave old Duke of York,
      He had ten thousand men.
    He marched them up to the top of a hill,
      And he marched them down again.
    And when they were up, they were up;
      And when they were down, they were down:
    And when they were half-way up the hill,
      They were neither up or down.

As we retraced our steps through Ostend, we found a large and acclaiming
crowd lining the route. As I rode just behind the Gordons, who were
marching with their usual swinging step, I was amused to hear a Belgian
woman ask her friend, 'And who are those?' pointing to the Highlanders.
'Oh,' was the reply, 'those are the wives of the English soldiers.' The
gay Gordons were greatly incensed on my setting before them their new
status.

In the centre of the city I came across my friend Peel (padre of the
22nd Brigade; he has since won a military cross, and gained the
universal love of his men by his gallant conduct and splendid ministry).
He had somehow or other lost his Brigade, and being thus stranded, had
slung his batman up behind him on his horse and was proceeding with
unruffled dignity in the direction of the line of march.

It was late at night and raining as it seldom rains in dear old England,
when we splashed ankle deep in water, over the cobbled streets of
Bruges, the stones being too slippery to permit of riding. Hungry and
tired we slouched along, until we came to the Monastery of St. Xavier,
at St. Michel, some two miles out of the city. Never shall I forget the
kindness extended to us by the lay brothers; especially one, Brother
Sylvester. I hope if these lines should ever reach his eye, that he will
accept the grateful thanks of those who benefited by the charitable
goodness of the Order, and especially his own.

The men were speedily billeted in sweet straw, laid down in the upper
dormitories of the building; whilst the hundred and twenty horses were
stalled in the spacious stables; and beds provided for the officers in
the dormitories. But what was better still, after the men had been
attended to (and this is the invariable rule, men first) we regaled
ourselves upon tea and bread and butter in the bakehouse, where, in
front of the huge fire, we toasted our benumbed extremities and dried
our sodden clothing. After such a night's rest, as only comes to
fagged-out men, we awoke to a golden-tinted autumn morning, which
brought to us the joy of living; and once more we felt ready for the
onward trek. I have since learned that the Division was originally
destined to relieve Antwerp, but the sudden fall of the city set the
enemy free to march on Calais; and so the Seventh Division, with the
Third Cavalry Division, under Sir Julian Byng, the whole commanded by
Sir Henry Rawlinson, was sent post haste to intercept his advance in the
neighbourhood of Ypres. And thus the small force of under thirty
thousand men pressed on to the heroic task of holding up the main body
of the enemy; not less than two hundred and forty thousand men.

Later on I shall have something to say about the prolonged encounter
which is historically known as the 'first battle of Ypres.' But
meantime it may be of interest to my readers to give an outline of our
rapid trek through Belgium.

Leaving our hospitable quarters at Bruges, the column, which seemed
interminable, marched to Beernem. At this place I was fortunate enough,
with my brother chaplain, Mr. Jaffray, through the forethought of Mr.
Peel, to secure a bed. The accommodation was rough, and the little
estaminet was crowded with officers, who were only too thankful to sleep
on any floor where there was a chance of putting down a valise. I
particularly remember this billet, for I thought that I had a chance of
distinguishing myself by capturing a spy. Orders had been issued,
stating that a certain 'Captain Walker,' posing as a R.A.M.C. officer,
was visiting our troops, and picking up stray crumbs of information;
should such a person be encountered he was to be immediately arrested. I
had just turned in, when amid the babel of conversation which came from
downstairs, I caught the name 'Walker.' Slipping quietly down the ladder
which served as a staircase, I listened for a moment or two at the door,
and from what I heard, gathered that I had spotted my man; and suddenly
appearing as an apparition in pyjamas, I inquired in somewhat stentorian
tones which was Captain Walker? A rosy-cheeked subaltern somewhat
sheepishly admitted that he was Lieut. Walker, and I found my hopes
dashed to the ground. This was not my only encounter with spies,
supposed or real, of which more anon.

A morning stay at Beernem enabled me to improvise a Parade Service, it
being Sunday; which was apparently heartily joined in by those
attending. The opportunities for such work by chaplains on the trek are
few and far between, and it is a question of

    Seizing the current when it serves,
    Or losing our ventures.

Leaving Beernem, our route led us through Wynghene. It was here I seized
the opportunity of displaying my undoubted ability as mess president, to
which post I had been appointed. At the midday halt in this village, I
was anxiously looking about for bread, eggs, vegetables or any other
commodity which would embellish the festal board of the mess, and thus
win the gratitude of my always hungry brother officers, when, through an
open door, I caught sight of fowls in a backyard. I promptly jumped off
my horse, and entered into negotiations with the owners of the chicken
run, which speedily resulted in the decapitated corpses of three plump
fowls being slung from my saddle. Amid the envy of the column, I proudly
rode down to the transport of my unit with my spoil, the result being
that in a short time not a fowl remained alive in the village; and that
night every mess was redolent with the delicious scent of roast fowl.

Our next billet was at Eeghem, where a stone kitchen floor was the
utmost we could secure for the officers, after having bedded the men in
barns on luxurious beds of sweet straw. In the early morning, in company
with Mr. Peel, I enjoyed a brief stroll in the neighbourhood. In the
course of our walk we passed one of those small wayside chapels, which
are dotted here and there all over Belgium; not larger than some eight
feet square, it offered all the facilities that we needed for prayer and
quiet thought.

As we approached Roulers, we found the town alive with people who had
assembled to welcome that which they regarded as an army of deliverance
from the dreaded Germans.

After billeting the officers with considerable difficulty--for naturally
people at times resented the intrusion of hungry and travel-stained men
into their spic and span houses--I secured a most comfortable room for
myself in the house of an old widow lady; one of those charming old
world persons who are occasionally met with on life's journey, and who,
by their innate courtesy and sympathy, accentuate the oneness of the
human family. When a country is under martial law one cannot, of course,
take 'no' for an answer in applying for a billet, and therefore, in the
case of Belgium, one made the demand with the authority of 'in the
king's name,' which invariably brought about the desired result. My dear
old hostess could not do enough for me; with quavering accents she
remarked, 'Thank God you English have come, for now we feel safe.' I
must confess I felt very much of a hypocrite, for I knew that the enemy
was pursuing us in hot haste. Indeed, a few hours afterwards they
marched into the city, which they have held ever since.

As we pressed on to Ypres, via Zonnebec, our route ran alongside of the
railway, and it was a stirring sight to see the naval armoured train
dash along, seeking for a pot shot at the enemy who was not far distant,
the sailors forming the crew regarding the work as a sporting venture.

The first view of Ypres was glorious. As we marched through the great
square in front of the Cloth Hall, I was struck with the mediaeval aspect
of the place. The gabled houses carried one's imagination into the long
ago; whilst the glorious Cloth Hall of the eleventh century, backed up
by the equally fine cathedral of similar age, presented a picture not
easily to be forgotten. Alas! when I next saw it, the place was a heap
of crumbling ruins.

The Germans had passed through the city four days before we arrived; and
according to their wont, had helped themselves very liberally to what
they fancied. Many of the shopkeepers were loud in their complaints of
the shameful manner in which they had been robbed.

I was able to secure most excellent billets for the mess in the house of
Monsieur and Madame Angillis. These good people were in a state of
considerable fear, for, not only had they two sons fighting in the
Belgian army, one of whom had been wounded, but as the owners of
considerable property in the city and the neighbourhood, they were
anxious as to what the future would bring. Their worst fears have been
realized, and I am afraid they are among the great mass of sufferers in
unhappy Belgium. Their daughter was rendering splendid service in the
Belgian Red Cross, and proved a great help in directing me to wounded
British soldiers, who might otherwise have been lost sight of.

By this time fighting was in full swing, and our men had thrown up the
first line of trenches in semi-circular form, some six or seven miles to
the east of the town.

Very soon the wounded and German prisoners made their appearance, and
doctors and chaplains were busily engaged. Most of the prisoners had a
very scared look, for we learned afterwards that they had been told that
we cut our prisoners' throats, or shot them out of hand, and their joy
was great at finding even their personal belongings restored to them.

I was much struck with the characteristic behaviour of 'Tommy Atkins' to
these men; even to the extent of sharing his rations with them, and
handing out his 'fags,' which was an act of real self-denial.

I owe my grateful thanks to one Uhlan, whose saddle fell to my lot, and
which I henceforth used, and regarded as one of the most comfortable I
have ever ridden on.

A singularly unfortunate case came under my notice among the first batch
of wounded brought in. An officer of the 'Borders' in the dead of
night, hearing as he thought a German advance, left his trench to
reconnoitre, and after a fruitless search was returning to his men in
the thick early morning mist, when a sentinel, ignorant of his having
gone out, shot him as he approached the trenches. The poor chap was
badly hit in the lungs, and made a brave struggle for life, but alas!
died a few hours afterwards.

The Divisional Head-quarters being established at Ypres, my unit moved
out to its Brigade, which occupied the line of trenches in the
neighbourhood of Zandvoorde.

Arriving at our position in the dusk of a quickly parting day, we found
ourselves actually posted in front of the firing line. Disagreeable as
the experience was, there was nothing for it but to stick it. In a wood
close by, the enemy had machine guns, supported by a body of Uhlans.
Disturbing sniping took place at intervals through the night, which
rendered the bivouac unpleasant in the extreme. We slept on the ground
between the wagons; and under the circumstances I felt it wise to keep
as low down as possible, as 'fire' is in no sense discriminating.

Our Brigade Head-quarters were at Kruiseck, to which place I rode early
one morning with our Major, to inspect farmhouses, with a view to
arranging Field Dressing Stations. Later in the day calling at
Head-quarters to inquire if there were any funerals requiring my
attention, I found the whole place in extreme excitement; Uhlans were
advancing in force. Every hedgerow and wall was lined with our men; the
scared inhabitants, utterly unnerved by shell fire, were fleeing from
the place. Their appearance was heartrending, and revealed the
unutterable horror of war as carried into the midst of a peaceful
population.

My ride back to my unit in the gloaming was sufficiently adventurous to
please the most reckless man, owing to the proximity of the Uhlans, and
gave a zest not often met with to the three or four miles which had to
be traversed. Never did I strain my eyes more eagerly, and somewhat
after the fashion of Jehu of yore I made my way along the deserted track
into a place of comparative safety.

From the neighbourhood of Zandvoorde my unit was hurriedly moved to
Gheluvelt, which was then threatened by a German force approaching from
the direction of Bercelaire.

Here the whole population was in a state of indescribable anxiety and
fear, which it was impossible to remove, for the shells were more
convincing than any arguments we could bring to bear.

Our Head-quarters were established at a Xaverian Brotherhood; the
superior of which--a dear old gentleman--did his utmost to ensure our
comfort. It was weary work hanging about all day awaiting results.
Towards evening I thought it wise to get a sleep, and so turned in about
five o'clock. During these days of constant anxiety, owing to the
proximity of the enemy, we seldom or never removed our clothes,--I had
not had mine off for over a week at that time--thus we were ready for
any emergency, at any time.

From the village of Gheluvelt we moved on a mile nearer to Ypres, where
we billeted in the Chateau de Gheluvelt, from which the owner (Monsieur
Peerebone) and his family had evidently departed in great haste. Finely
situated in a well wooded park, the house was most splendidly equipped
in every respect. The pictures, statuary and furniture were in keeping
with the outward appearance of the place. It was interesting to notice
the different manner of dealing with other people's property in vogue
with the British, in contrast with the German method; so rigid was our
O.C. that not even a vegetable was allowed to be taken from the
well-stocked walled garden, close by the mansion; a sentry being placed
to prevent any hungry 'Tommy' gratifying his desire in that quarter.

Towards evening a general engagement took place, and there was very
heavy shelling. Several shells struck the house, but none of us were
injured. On the following morning I was called to an advanced outpost of
the Scots Guards, to bury Sergeant Wilson, of Lord Esme Gordon's
Company. On reaching the line I found the Battalion about to advance
into action in extended order, and the man had been hurriedly buried. On
my way back I joined Captain Hamilton Wedderburn, Adjutant, who had been
ordered to the rear suffering from appendicitis. I had met this
officer's father, Colonel Hamilton, who resided in my neighbourhood at
home.

During the night several wounded men came in, and the large salon
presented a weird appearance as the doctors attended the suffering men.
No cooking was allowed, and all windows were carefully curtained, in
order not to draw the fire of the enemy, who were in very unpleasant
proximity to the house. I well remember next morning, because the
Germans had got the range to a nicety, and the otherwise enjoyable place
was rendered unbearable by the crash of shells. So unhealthy grew the
position, that the transport was moved a mile away; but we who composed
the tent section remained to deal with any men who were brought in. It
is astonishing how quickly one grows accustomed to 'fire,' and a very
short experience enabled us to go about our work, under risky
circumstances, in the most ordinary manner.

The nights at this time were very dark, and at several points we could
see burning farm homesteads and villages, which to the thoughtful mind
denoted the awful destruction and suffering envolved by the ghastly
outrage upon humanity, being perpetrated by the enemy.

We left the chateau very suddenly, owing to heavy shelling. Some of our
men were hit, and two of our 'mess' had horses killed under them, but
otherwise we managed to get clear from a decidedly dangerous position.
That night it was pitch dark, and we halted on the roadside, some two or
three miles west of Gheluvelt. It was pouring with rain as we ate our
meal of cold rations; we could not even enjoy a comforting smoke, as the
lighting of a match would have been certain to draw the fire of our
vigilant foe. Mr. Jaffray and I both agreed that a night's lodging in a
damp ditch was hardly consonant with our wishes, and therefore we set
out for the hamlet of Halte, where the railway crosses the road, in
hopes that we might find cover of some sort.

Leading our horses very cautiously along the road, for sentinels were
posted in every direction, and at such 'nervy' times men frequently fire
before they challenge, we made our way to a small estaminet which we
found crammed with French soldiers. I pleaded hard for even a chair, but
the proprietor assured me of the impossibility of offering even this
very slender hospitality. I was fortunate to meet MacKenzie, the
Transport officer of the Scots Guards, who introduced me to a French
officer, who in turn interested the landlady's daughter in our forlorn
condition. This kind angel of mercy informed me that her married sister
lived at a farm near by, and she thought that there was a bedroom that
Mr. Jaffray and I might make use of. Accordingly, holding my reins in
one hand and my fair guide's hand in the other, I was led through pitch
darkness for some distance, and presently found myself in a huge Belgian
farm kitchen, crammed with French soldiers and smelling horribly of
garlic. Yes! the farmer could let us have his bedroom for the night, at
a small remuneration, as he and his wife had decided to stay up;
accordingly, we were shown into an exceedingly small room, some eight
feet square, in which was a bed the covering of which made one shudder
to look at; but any port in a storm; and we accordingly doubled up the
best way we could on a bed some two feet too short for us. As we vainly
tried to fall asleep, my batman suddenly turned up,--how he found our
quarters will always be a mystery to me--with the news that the column
had moved off to some place which he could not pronounce. I showed him
my map and asked him if he recognized any name in the locality, but
finding that he was as much at sea as to the destination of the unit as
I was, I determined that it was useless to attempt to explore that part
of Belgium in the darkness of a soaking night; so stowing my servant
away in the corner of the kitchen, we did our best to get a few hours'
sleep. In the first grey of the dawn we arose and ate a little black
bread and very salt bacon, washed down with some execrable coffee, then
leading our horses out of the cowhouse in which we had installed them
the night before, and from which we had had to turn out a couple of very
evil-smelling beasts, we sallied forth to the apparently hopeless task
of discovering the direction in which the column had moved. One's
deductive faculty had to be drawn upon largely. Presently we found
ourselves at Zillebeke, where we were held up by the Northumberland
Hussars, who came by in splendid order on their way to entering action.
Standing by my side was a Staff officer who had dismounted from his car,
awaiting the passage of the cavalry. I explained to him our difficulty,
and he said that he rather thought our unit was with the 10th Hussars
at Zandvoorde, some four miles away, and very kindly offered me a lift.
My horse had contracted a terrible cold and was hardly fit to ride, so
placing him in charge of my batman, I arranged to drive on in the car,
leaving Mr. Jaffray and my servant to follow. The friendly officer
turned out to be Lord Nairne, who was, unfortunately, killed a few days
afterwards.

On reaching the village of Zandvoorde, I encountered a terrible sight.
The enemy was approaching from two sides, and shelling hard. The place
was a slaughter-house; never have I seen so ghastly a sight. The
doctors, with their coats off and shirt sleeves rolled up, looked more
like butchers than medical men, and for an hour or two I found my hands
full in the saddest of all work, dealing with dying men.

As I was eating a hasty breakfast--for in campaigning one learns the
value of sleeping and eating whenever a chance presents itself--the
O.C. came to me saying that some one must get through to Ypres, to stop
the transport that was about to come out, and also to warn the major of
the serious condition of affairs at Zandvoorde. Would I go? Such an
opportunity of doing 'a real bit' only comes now and again, therefore it
was not difficult to decide.

I had a foretaste of what I was presently to pass through, as, sitting
on the doorstep of a cottage, I was changing into riding boots, out of
the heavy Swiss climbing boots that I had been wearing, and which
threatened to be awkward in the stirrups, if by any chance I was thrown,
a not unlikely event under fire, when a shrapnel burst some twenty feet
from me, with an explosion which almost lifted me from the ground. The
door before which I sat, and the front of the cottage, were liberally
studded with bullets and pieces of the casing, but in a most
providential manner I was untouched. Very quickly I completed my change
of boots, and got my kit-bag once more stowed away in a transport wagon.
Strictest orders had been given that no kits were to be removed from the
wagon, and I hope that the O.C., if ever he discovers my delinquency,
will take into consideration the urgency of my desire to fulfil
instructions in the carrying of his orders into Ypres.

For three miles, right over 'Hill 60,' I had the ride of my life. Shells
were bursting in every direction, but my good horse struggled on gamely.
By this time he had come to know the import of the shrieking whistle
which betokens the approach of a shell, but he displayed no more concern
than a momentary quiver as it burst. As for me I could only place myself
in God's hands, and well remember how, as each shell approached, I
repeated that comforting word from Isaiah xxvi. 3, 'Thou wilt keep him
in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in
thee.' Over and over again I repeated 'because he trusteth in thee.' And
then bang! bang! and once more the danger was past.

The road was crowded with terrified people, literally fleeing for their
lives, and as I got out of the range of fire, I tried to comfort them in
the best way I could.

Reaching Ypres I delivered my message, and then sank down and fell into
a deep sleep for four hours. I suppose it was a kind of reaction from
the nervous strain.

I found Ypres crammed with wounded men, and worked hard there for the
next day or two. Many were the distressing cases that came under my
attention.

It was on October 23 that I received my first batch of letters from
home, and the first opportunity I stole away into a quiet corner and
enjoyed myself to my heart's content.

Those were wonderful days, in which all sorts and conditions of men,
from officers of the Household Troops downwards, passed through my
hands. Of course there were many funerals to conduct, and in connexion
with the funeral arrangements and the system of tabulating I came much
into contact with Major the Hon. ----. Collins, one of the most charming
and courteous of men.

On October 31--that fateful day, when it seemed impossible for the thin
line of khaki to further withstand the tremendous onslaught of the enemy
which had placed the Prussian Guard in its front line--the sad duty of
burying young Prince Maurice of Battenburg fell to my lot. It was a
strange coincidence, for I had met him in bygone years when he was a
bright, attractive boy. Such a task awakened the greatest interest in
my heart, for sad as the ceremony was, I keenly felt the privilege of
rendering this last act of tender duty to a young prince so universally
beloved. One of his men, in relating the manner of his heroic death,
afterwards said to me, 'I loved him, sir, as a brother.' The funeral,
which was attended by Prince Arthur of Connaught and several Generals,
took place under heavy fire. So continuous indeed was the roar of the
shells, that an officer, writing to the papers some time after, related
that it was impossible to distinguish the chaplain's voice. The service
was therefore necessarily brief, and at its conclusion the crowd of
officers quickly dispersed.

An order had been issued for a withdrawal from the Front, and the Menin
road into Ypres was blocked with troops and transport.

A short time previous to this I had the misfortune to be somewhat
seriously injured, for my horse--frightened or struck by a shell which
burst near by, I have never been able to determine which,--fell heavily
on me, severely crushing my left leg. I had been taken in a Staff car to
the 6th casualty clearing station and attended to, but the injured limb
grew steadily worse. In the course of the afternoon, to my great joy,
the 23rd Field Ambulance passed me on its way from Hooge, and I was
promptly placed on an ambulance wagon, on which I trekked through Ypres;
until we reached Dickebusch, some three miles on the south of the city.

As we halted for a time at the square at Ypres, a young officer, seeing
me in the ambulance, came up with a cheery 'Hallo, padre! what's up?
Last time I saw you was in your pulpit at St. John's, Boscombe; life's a
funny game, isn't it?'

Such interviews are of frequent occurrence at the Front, where lives
momentarily touch, and then, possibly, for ever separate.

Lying on a stone floor of a deserted cottage in Dickebusch that night, I
passed one of the most painful, wretched and sleepless nights of my
life. My brother officers were all snoring comfortably, when suddenly a
knock at the door placed me on the alert. My first thought was that the
Germans had got through, accordingly I made no reply; presently a gruff
voice said, 'An orderly, sir,' and I cried out, 'Come in.' He had
brought a dispatch to say that the whole German line had been forced
back, and that the Ambulance was immediately to take up its old position
on the farther side of Hooge.

In a very short time an early breakfast was quickly disposed of and the
column was ready to move off.

The O.C., finding me utterly incapacitated by reason of my injuries,
decided that I must go into hospital, for wounded men are not much use
in a life where a man's fullest powers are daily called for.

Fortunately, at that moment, Colonel Swan, A.D.M.S., and Lieut.-Colonel
Guy Moores, D.A.D.M.S., came up in their car, and learning my condition,
very kindly brought me and my kit into Ypres; saying that I must proceed
to the Base.

Accordingly I was deposited at Ypres station, where the R.T.O. most
kindly had me cared for in his office.

During the long hours of Sunday, November 1, I spent a miserable time
waiting for the hospital train to start. In the course of the day, an
officer in my Brigade, Lord Bury, had a chat with me, and committed to
me an urgent telegram for his wife. In the course of the morning he had
been arrested as a spy; and seemed very amused at the uncommon
experience. At 6 p.m. I was placed on the train, and with some two or
three other fellow sufferers, gradually rolled away from the sound of
fire, which for three weeks past had been the daily accompaniment of
one's life.

I cannot speak too highly of the great care and solicitude bestowed upon
the wounded in the train. For the first time one came into touch with
those splendid women, literally angels of mercy, the nursing sisters.
Never shall I cease to remember their loving care, and the skilful way
in which they bandaged up my crushed leg.

It was a long journey. Leaving Ypres at 6 p.m. on Sunday night, we
didn't reach Boulogne until 3 p.m. on the Monday afternoon, a distance
of not more than eighty miles.

On reaching the Base I was informed that I was to be sent to England, on
a hospital ship about to leave. Accordingly, with some twenty or thirty
other officers, and a large number of men, we were conveyed to the
ambulance, through a dense crowd of sympathizing French people.

I have certainly never seen such a collection of scarecrows as we
presented to the public gaze; and in much pain though we were, we could
not help being struck with the ludicrousness of our condition.
Bespattered with mud; filthy in appearance; beards of several days'
growth; legs of trousers, and sleeves of coats cut away; bandaged and
bloody; we must have presented a truly remarkable sight.

On the hospital ship, the _Carisbroke Castle_, the arrangements were
perfect. It was almost worth being injured to lie in such a comfortable
bed; and the food was beyond description of delight.

On board, every case was speedily dealt with by medical men, and
everything done to ensure the comfort of the sufferers.

Whilst the life at the Front is exceedingly rigorous and claims the
utmost of one's strength, and the word and act of sympathy does not come
much to the surface of men's lives, yet, when once a man is bowled over,
a careful country certainly does its best to alleviate his suffering.

On reaching Southampton the following morning, finding that I lived in
the area of a military hospital (The Royal Victoria and West Hants), of
which I have been chaplain for many years, the senior officer, as a
great concession, very kindly allowed me to be sent home.

Home! Do those who always live in the blessed shelter of this sweet
spot, really know the fulness and sweetness of 'home.' Truly the English
classic song, 'Home, sweet Home, there is no place like Home,' comes
with a new, full, deep meaning to men who have passed through the ordeal
of fire.

Bed claimed my presence for many a weary day, and it was March 16
before a Medical Board permitted me to resume my duties with the
British Expeditionary Force. My further experience of service must be
related in the subsequent chapter on 'Life at the Base.'




THE WELCOME OF A PEOPLE




CHAPTER III

THE WELCOME OF A PEOPLE


There was no mistaking the enthusiastic welcome accorded to the Seventh
Division, as it moved south through the well cultivated country,
thriving villages, and prosperous towns of Belgium.

Already the deeds of German 'kultur' had reached the ears of the
inhabitants; indeed, many of those who had fled from the barbarous enemy
bore signs of the gross ill-treatment inflicted by the 'kultured' foe,
in furtherance of the advice of General Bernhardi and others to carry
'terror' into the hearts of the invaded people. And nearly all of them
had some dread story to relate, of wanton destruction to public and
private property, and of vile wrongs perpetrated upon an unoffending
people. Small wonder that they welcomed us; for Great Britain meant more
to them than the name of a powerful nation; it rather conveyed the idea
of the strong, active principles of liberty and justice, which they felt
were about to be set free in their unhappy country.

In contradistinction to the Germans, this people of a small country
seemed to unconsciously uphold the marked differentiation between the
laws of might and right, as exhibited by the two nationalities, Germany
and Belgium.

Germany, the former land of light and learning, has gradually slipped
downwards from her high ideals. A sure and sad process of religious and
moral declension has ensued; until, under the baneful influences of
Nietzsche, Treitschke, Bernhardi, and their like, the land of the
reformation has become the land of militarism, employing forces without
justice, discipline without pity, and annexation without consideration.

All this lies at the back of the mind of the best part of Europe to-day,
and more especially of Belgium.

Belgium is a Christian country. The religious houses have the words of
Scripture prominently inscribed upon them. On one house of a Religious
Order I saw painted, 'All for God.' On the cross roads there is
frequently found a life-size crucifix, which points its wondrous
teaching to many a weary soul.

A valued friend of mine,--an officer in a kilted regiment--writing home
a short time ago described his sensations, as, emerging from the bloody
ruck of his first engagement, he presently found himself, worn and
spent, gazing at the figure of the Crucified One. And as he very
beautifully said, 'Jesus came afresh into my heart.'

Again, one has not to travel far along any main road without
encountering a small shrine, open day and night, for those who desire
to draw aside from the ordinary pursuits of strenuous life, and enjoy
prayer to God; and that almost lost art, meditation.

Thus we see a striking contrast between the conquerors and the
conquered, exhibited in the ruthless invasion to which Belgium has been
subjected. Roman Catholics as they are, the Belgians whom I met--and I
conversed with many--seemed to realize that England, Protestant England,
is honestly striving to exhibit 'the righteousness that alone exalteth
the nation.'

It was in a state of the deepest gratitude, based upon such principles
as I have set forth, that the people flocked to receive us. True, at
times they revealed their feelings in very unorthodox fashion. For
example, I remember at a midday halt one day, while the men stood
preparatory to breaking off, an ecstatic Belgian girl rushed up to a
'Tommy,' and flinging her arms round his neck, kissed him warmly. I have
no doubt that on occasion the man could have returned the salute with
interest, but the suddenness and the publicity of the attack rendered
him both speechless and powerless. There he stood blushing like a school
girl; the while his comrades urged him to retaliate. He bore himself
like a martyr; but when a man immediately afterwards proceeded to kiss
him on both cheeks,--as foreigners often do--then 'Tommy' recovered his
mental equilibrium; and his language, well! it was more forcible than
elegant.

A far more pathetic welcome fell to my lot, as I walked across the
square at Ypres, in the early days of the British occupancy. While
talking to a brother officer, I suddenly felt my hand seized, kissed,
and then stroked; and looking down, I saw a sweet little blue-eyed maid
of some five years, not much above the level of the bottom of my tunic
in height, who said in the prettiest broken English, 'Brave Ingleese.'
The memory of a certain other blue-eyed kiddy, away in England, was too
much for me, and this time _I_ was the aggressor, for I took the little
maid up in my arms and kissed her, much to the amusement of the
passers-by I have no doubt.

Nothing seemed too good for the people to offer us. In our billets,
indeed, the very best the house could produce was set before us.

As we marched through one town--I think it was Wynghene, which was
evidently the centre of the tobacco industry, for tobacco is largely
grown in that part of Belgium--thousands of cigars were handed to the
column, and for days after the men would not look at the humble 'fag.'
In country districts, too, the people were not to be outdone, for
strapping farm wenches and men lined the road and literally showered
apples and pears upon us.

At the gates of one fine park, the owner, his wife and servants bestowed
cigarettes, matches and other acceptable gifts upon the men as they
marched past. Oh, yes! those were brave days, and made us feel
considerably pleased with ourselves, but do not grudge us such joys, for
just below the horizon of that time dark clouds were fast rising, which
soon darkened the skies of many and many a life. Anyhow, I will
undertake to say that none who were on that trek will ever forget the
enthusiasm of the people, as day by day we marched on to do battle for
them, and the great principles which surely have made our nation
great.




A CHAPTER OF INCIDENTS




CHAPTER IV

A CHAPTER OF INCIDENTS


Life at the Front cannot fail to be full of stirring incidents; indeed,
I very much question whether any experience comes up to it for interest
and excitement. I am not speaking of the ding-dong trench warfare which
has characterized the campaign on the Western front for so many months
past, but refer more particularly to those early days when both armies
were exceedingly active; and the operations very much resembled a game
of chess, with not too long an interval between the moves.

In the early days of the war in Flanders, the times were wondrously
stirring; one never knew where an attack would be launched, and what
would happen next. With such huge and mobile opposing forces in front of
us, every day had some fresh surprise in store. 'From early morning till
dewy eve' we lived on the tiptoe of expectation; for, indeed, the early
morning carried its message, but generally of discomfort, for not the
least discomfort of a campaign is the very early hour at which reveille
is sounded, usually at five, but sometimes at four; or, in the case of
emergency, at any hour of the night. But generally it comes just as the
attitude necessary to comfort has been discovered, and the somnolent
individual is ready for the luxury of what I may call a half and half
snooze. It is at that moment, in that mysterious borderland of sleeping
and waking, that the strident and compelling sound of the bugle falls
upon the unwilling ear. There is no turning over for another spell. One
comfort is, there is always very little toilet to perform; and in a few
minutes the place is alive with dishevelled and half-awake men. Where
water can be easily procured, cleanliness is the order of the day; and
with all our faults, one essential feature stands to the credit of the
British soldier: he _is_ a clean man. Never does Tommy miss his wash and
shave if there is half a chance of gratifying this admirable instinct.

All visitors to the Front are struck with the glorious health and
fitness of our lads. In fact, I have never seen such a collection of
healthy manhood in my life. This is attributable in the first place to
the natural open-air life which the men lead, but in the next place to
the excellent sanitary arrangements and precautions adopted and insisted
upon by the authorities, which very largely account for the remarkable
immunity from disease enjoyed by the troops.

Behind all this, comes the most important question of 'grub.' The
commissariat of the British Expeditionary Force is a marvel of
organization. During the last six months of my military service I
enjoyed the advantage of travelling up and down the lines from Ypres to
Bethune, and everywhere I was most profoundly impressed by the marvel of
supply. Scattered over the whole front are units, large and small, each
of which has to be fed daily; and woe to the unlucky A.S.C. officer who
is responsible for delay in forwarding or conveying rations. 'Tommy' is
nothing without a good 'grouse,' but in this respect he is not always
logical; bread which is stale will give him cause to grumble for hours;
but he will rush into the most desperate and bloody work, and suffer
untold misery, without a murmur.

Alluding to the masterpiece of organization, which enables our army to
be fed while in the battle front, Mr. Philip Gibbs, writing in the
_Daily Chronicle_, says: 'The British soldier has at least this in his
favour, in spite of all the horrors of war which has put his manhood to
the test, he gets his "grub" with unfailing regularity, if there is any
possible means of approach to him, and he gets enough and a bit more. It
is impossible for him to "grouse" about that element of his life on the
field. The French soldier envies him and says,--as I have heard one of
them say--"Ma foi! our comrades feed like princes! they have even jam
with their tea! The smell of bacon comes from their trenches and touches
our nostrils with the most excellent fragrance, more beautiful than the
perfume of flowers. The English eat as well as they fight, which is
furiously."'

It may interest my readers to see what a man's daily ration consists of.
This table refers to officers and men alike, for there is no difference
in this respect:--

  1-1/4 lb. fresh meat, _or_, 1 lb. preserved meat;
  1-1/4 lb. bread;
  4 oz. bacon;
  3 oz. cheese;
  4 oz. jam;
  3 oz. sugar;
  1/2 lb. fresh vegetables, _or_, 2 oz. dried;
  5/8 oz. tea, coffee, _or_ cocoa;
  2 oz. tobacco per week, _or_ 50 cigarettes.

This ration is more scientifically arranged than its recipient imagines;
as a matter of fact, it comprises all the essentials which go to build
up the stamina of the fighting man; and thus, well provided with fresh
air, good food, to say nothing of hard exercise, the animal side of Mr.
Thomas Atkins is kept in the pink of condition, and he is able to face
the burdens of life which are incidental to his calling, and which are
not a few, with remarkable ease and success.

Life at the Front is a strange compound of the grave and the gay. One of
the most appealing features is witnessed in the sad lot of the Belgian
refugees, who, often at a moment's notice, have fled from their homes,
leaving all their property to the devastation of war. I have frequently
seen mournful processions on the road, consisting of old and young. It
is heartrending to witness the pitiable look of an aged couple, who
through a long life have lived in some happy homestead, taking their
last gaze at the house with its trim garden, which one knows in a few
hours will be shattered past recognition; women, sometimes in a most
delicate condition, struggling bravely on; children crying; and the men
with set teeth and despairing faces striding on, carrying the few
articles which they have hurriedly snatched up, as the whole family has
escaped from the hell which has so suddenly befallen them. Where are
they to go to? God only knows what becomes of them. I have seen them
lining the road on a pouring wet night, outside a town already full to
overflowing with like unhappy sufferers; the while Belgian soldiers,
with fixed bayonets, have prohibited any further entrance to that which
promised a lodging place. Soldiers are not proverbially given to
overmuch sensitiveness where human suffering is concerned, for a daily
intercourse with terrible scenes cannot fail to harden a man, but I
declare that I have seen strong men burst into tears as they have gazed
at one of these processions of great mental and bodily agony.

One serious aspect of life at the Front is found in the remarkable
system of espionage which unfortunately abounds. One lives in a constant
state of suspicion, for in this respect the enemy is as daring as he is
resourceful.

The first time I passed through Hooge we suddenly saw a homing pigeon
let out of the loft of a cottage; immediately the house was surrounded
and entered. I speedily made for the back of the premises, hoping to
intercept any one who had been responsible for a most suspicious act. A
boy of some eighteen years was discovered in the loft, with a large
number of carrier pigeons, which were immediately confiscated, and the
boy was arrested. I rode off to Head-quarters, some mile and a half
away, and reported the occurrence, with the result that the boy was
marched off for close examination. The pigeons, however, formed a very
agreeable addition to the men's menu that night. I believe the boy was
released; but whilst he was under arrest, a very personable and
well-dressed individual approached, and introduced himself as Count
----, stating that he had known the boy for years, and that the keeping
of pigeons formed his hobby. Something in the manner of the man aroused
our suspicion, and after careful examination it was found that he
himself was a spy; and in due course he was shot.

Another somewhat remarkable instance of the ramifications of this aspect
of warfare occurred in a certain well-known town; one of the high
officials of which--whom I knew well--a most courteous gentleman--proved
to be in close touch with the enemy. He, too, was shot. Daily there are
men, and sometimes women, who risk their lives in securing items of
information as to the disposition of troops, guns, etc., which are
likely to prove of value to the enemy. Notwithstanding the strictest
orders, I am afraid our men are not always wise in their intercourse
with strangers. On one occasion, very stringent orders from
Head-quarters had been read out to the men, prior to moving off in the
early morning, informing them that on no account were they to disclose
any information whatsoever as to the movements or disposition of
troops; and yet, during a ten minutes' halt later in the day, as I rode
by a transport wagon, I heard the driver gassing on with refreshing
innocence, as he retailed to a civilian where we had come from; where we
were going to; where our Brigade was situated, etc. I am afraid I raised
my voice in hot anger, and riding round to the other side of the wagon
was just in time to see the eager listener disappearing across country.
It was impossible to arrest him, and the incident closed; not altogether
to the satisfaction of the thoughtless purveyor of news I imagine.

Amid men so full of such animal life as our brave lads, it will be
readily imagined that existence is not wholly composed of shadow;
indeed, few careers are so full of brightness and geniality as those of
our fighting men. 'Tommy Atkins' is a unique creation. I know not from
whence he springs. There is something in his environment which evolves
him, I suppose; it is not a question of years of association with men of
his like, for the New Army which has only been in being for a few months
produces precisely the same type; and men whom this time last year were
far removed from the very thought of soldiering, are now found to
possess all the attributes and qualities--good, bad and
indifferent--which formed the traditional soldier in the ranks. His
cheeriness is unbounded. For some time the pronunciation of Ypres
bothered him seriously, but he soon settled the difficulty by calling it
'Wypers.' Etaples was also another stumbling block, but 'Eatables' soon
revealed Tommy's way out of another difficulty. Ploegstreete, which for
centuries has been an insignificant hamlet, is now known throughout the
British Army as 'Plug Street'; well known for possessing some of the
finest trenches along the line.

One afternoon I had ridden back into Ypres to purchase a note-book, and
had procured what I wanted, when two privates who stood by my side in
the little stationer's shop determined on the purchase of some small
article; the difficulty at the moment was to find out its cost. One of
them, who acted as spokesman, held up his selection, and astonished the
woman at the other side of the counter by saying, 'How mooch monnee?'
Naturally enough the woman gazed at him with a bewildered air, when
'Tommy' turned to the pal by his side and said, 'Silly swine, they don't
know their own language.'

A remarkable feature which I frequently encountered in connexion with
what I may call the soldier's social life, is the great facility with
which he introduces himself to the native inhabitants. In a very few
minutes he seems to be thoroughly at home with them, girls and all, and
is in some mysterious way holding conversation, or at all events
conveying his meaning, to the satisfaction of both parties. In the
gloaming you will see him strolling about with the girls of the village,
as much at home as in the lanes of his own countryside. What they talk
about I can't tell, but talk they do; and as far as one can determine,
to their mutual pleasure.

Even in the deadliest moments, the wit of the man is to the front. At
the battle of Neuve Chapelle, at the beginning of March, a bomb-thrower,
rushing through the village, came upon a cellar full of Germans in
hiding. Putting his head in at the door, at the risk of his life he
cried: 'How many of yer are there in there?' The answer came, 'Ve vos
twelve.' Then said Tommy, throwing in a bomb, 'Divide that amongst yer,'
with the result too ghastly for words.

Such humour, coarse though it may be, is not by any means confined to
terra firma. On the first of April, a British aeroplane sailed over the
German lines, and when over the first line of trenches, dropped a
football. The Huns were simply terrified, as they saw this new kind of
bomb slowly descending, and fled right and left. With amazement they saw
it strike the ground, and then bounce high up, until it gradually
settled down; then very cautiously the bolder elements amongst them
crept up and found a football, on which was written, 'The first of
April, you blighters.'

It is strange to see this remarkable spirit evinced in the most
hazardous moments of life. Right out in front of the trenches one night
a man was badly hit, and his chum, at the risk of his life, rushed out
to his help, saying, 'Get on my back, mate, and I will carry you in,'
only to be met with, 'Not darned likely; I shall be shot in the back,
and you will get the V.C.'

A further illustration of this most remarkable military production
occurs in the following incident. A friend of mine, who has himself been
twice wounded, on the last occasion of injury was in the trenches, when
suddenly a man by his side was hit in the wrist; clapping his hand upon
the wound he exclaimed, 'Got it! I've been waiting for this since last
August.' Then, putting his left hand into his pocket, he pulled out a
mouth-organ and played 'Home, Sweet Home.' Who but an English 'Tommy'
could, or would, do that. No wonder that the French are puzzled by this
strange composition of humanity with which they are fighting as allies.

The enemy, too, wonders, as he comes across a foe so remarkable in his
words and methods. A German officer--a most charming man--lying in the
next bed but one to me, on the hospital ship which brought me home from
France, was asked what he thought of the comparative fighting values of
the allies, and he remarked, 'Well! we can manage the Belgians, and we
understand the French, but we cannot comprehend you English, for by
every known law of war you are beaten again and again, but you never
seem to know it!' This is, of course, not an original utterance, but
derived from one of Napoleon's great Generals; but at all events it
shows the estimate placed upon our fighting capacity by an enemy who at
one time styled us as 'that contemptible little army.' There is
sometimes a weird sense of disproportion revealed, as in the case of a
Highlander who was visited by a brother chaplain at a Base hospital some
two or three months ago, and who remarked to the patient, 'Well, Jock,
what do you think of Jack Johnsons? They put the fear of God into your
heart, don't they?' 'Aye, sir, they do, but let's hope it will soon wear
off.'

My readers will see that we are a strange compound of grave and gay at
the Front, as I have already said. There is, however, a deeper side of
the soldier's life, which after all is even more correctly
characteristic of the man than that which only appears upon the
surface.




THE FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES




CHAPTER V

THE FIRST BATTLE OF YPRES


Until October, 1914, Ypres was generally regarded as a quiet Belgian
town, celebrated for its most interesting and valuable buildings, and
relics of a past age; but owing to its strategic importance in this war,
it has from that time onwards been lifted out of its somnolent life into
a world-wide importance, as one of the greatest battle-fields of the
world.

In explaining the great part which the Seventh Division took in this
front-rank battle, I cannot do better than quote from _The Times_ of
December 16, 1914, in describing the heroic effort of our troops in
resisting the furious onslaughts of the Germans in their vain endeavour
to reach Calais; to which point the Kaiser had commanded a road 'to be
forced at all costs.' Under the heading--

                 THE DEFENCE OF YPRES
            BRILLIANT WORK OF THE SEVENTH
        DIVISION STUBBORN VALOUR AND ENDURANCE

the writer proceeds to say:--

   'The full story of the gallantry shown by British troops in their
   stubborn defence of Ypres has yet to be told, but the orders
   which we publish below, with the detailed official narrative of
   events in Flanders which accompanies them, give some indication
   of the fine work which has been done by the Seventh Infantry and
   Third Cavalry Divisions.

   The following order, which accompanied an order issued by General
   Sir Douglas Haig, published in _The Times_ of November 30, was
   issued to the Seventh Division by Lieut.-General Sir H.S.
   Rawlinson:--

   In forwarding the attached order by G.O.C. First Corps, I desire
   to place on record my own high appreciation of the endurance and
   fine soldierly qualities exhibited by all ranks of the Seventh
   Division from the time of their landing in Belgium. You have been
   called to take a conspicuous part in one of the severest
   struggles in the history of the war, and you have had the honour
   and distinction of contributing in no small measure to the
   success of our arms and the defeat of the enemy's plans.

   The task which fell to your share inevitably involved heavy
   losses, but you have at any rate the satisfaction of knowing that
   the losses you have inflicted upon the enemy have been far
   heavier.

   The Seventh Division have gained for themselves a reputation for
   stubborn valour and endurance in defence, and I am certain that
   you will only add to your laurels when the opportunity of
   advancing to the attack is given you.

       *       *       *       *       *

   Such Army orders are necessarily written in general terms, and
   are invariably marked by a disciplined self-restraint. It may be
   of interest, therefore, to give some account of the circumstances
   in which "the stubborn valour and endurance" of which Sir Henry
   Rawlinson speaks were displayed. The work of the Seventh Division
   and the Third Cavalry Division to the date of the issue of this
   order at about the end of November, was of a kind which strains
   the mental and physical strength of troops, beyond any other form
   of operations. The two Divisions were sent to the aid of the
   Naval Division at Antwerp, and they were landed at Ostend and
   Zeebrugge about October 6. They occupied the regions of Bruges
   and Ghent, and they had to suffer the initial disappointment of
   finding that they arrived too late. Two days later Sir Henry
   Rawlinson moved his Head-quarters from Bruges to Ostend. The
   enemy were advancing in great force, and the position of our
   troops became untenable; indeed, the situation was so serious
   that the troops which had been detailed for lines of
   communication at the base were forced to embark again and return
   to Dunkirk.


   A POSITION OF GRAVE DANGER

   The position of the two Divisions from this point onwards was one
   of grave danger. They were forced by the overwhelming superiority
   in numbers of the enemy to retire. From Ghent all the way to
   Ypres it was a desperate rearguard fight. They had to trek across
   a difficult country without any lines of communication and
   without a base, holding on doggedly from position to position,
   notably at Thielt and Roulers, until they took up their final
   stand before Ypres. What that stand has meant to England will one
   day be recognized. What it cost these troops, and how they
   fought, will be recorded in the proudest annals of their
   regiments.

   After the deprivations and the tension of being pursued through
   day and night by an infinitely stronger force, these two
   Divisions had yet to pass through the worst ordeal of all. It was
   left to a little force of 30,000 to keep the German Army at bay
   for some days while the other British Corps were being brought
   up from the Aisne (the First Corps did not come to their
   assistance till October 21). Here they hung on like grim death,
   with almost every man in the trenches holding a line which was of
   necessity a great deal too long--a thin, exhausted line against
   which the prime of the German first line troops were hurling
   themselves with fury. The odds against them were about eight to
   one, and when once the enemy found the range of a trench, the
   shells dropped into it from one end to the other with the most
   terrible effect. Yet the men stood firm and defended Ypres in
   such a manner that a German officer afterwards described their
   action as a brilliant feat of arms, and said that they were under
   the impression that there had been four British Corps against
   them at this point.

   When the two Divisions were afterwards withdrawn from the firing
   line to refit, it was found that in the Infantry alone, out of
   the 400 officers who set out from England, there were only
   forty-four left, and out of 12,000 men only 2,336. So far, little
   has been published about the work of these Divisions--probably
   because the bulk of the various dispatches is so great. It may be
   well, therefore, to place on record now an achievement which will
   one day be reckoned, no doubt, among the finest of the kind in
   British military history.'

One's own view and conception of so huge a movement was necessarily
small, for in a 'far-flung battle line' the ordinary individual could
only see very little of the main operations. Yet the little I saw
revealed to me the splendid heroism of our men, and the carefully
thought out disposition of our troops; a heroism so perfect that one
attenuated line of khaki, consisting of under 30,000 men, held 240,000
Germans at bay. For a week this small force clung to their positions by
dint of magnificent fighting and dauntless pluck, until the main army
from the Aisne under General Sir John French joined forces with them.

During these stirring and most eventful days the scenes of ordinary life
often came before me in striking contrast to what was being thus enacted
in the very forefront of England's effort. For instance, sometimes amid
a very hell of noise and carnage, the thought of Regent Street or
Cheapside in their work-a-day aspect, or again, the peaceful
surroundings of 'home, sweet home,' would find a momentary lodgment in
my mind, only to be dispelled by the sounds and signs which betokened
that the sternest game of life was being played before my eyes. Each
hour seemed to promise the break of our lines by the vast masses of the
enemy, which were always pressing us hard, and indeed the promise would
have been fulfilled but for the grit of men who never acknowledged
defeat.

I have always been proud of being a Briton, but seeing what I did, and
knowing what I know, I feel immeasurably prouder now, than ever before,
of belonging to a nation which can produce such men. Even nature
presented its remarkable contrast to the clamour of war, for in the
interlude of the firing of a battery of eighteen pounders I have heard
the birds singing as peacefully and merrily as in quiet English fields.

It is difficult to convey to my readers the prodigies of valour which
daily took place in the course of the great struggle in front of Ypres.
One dark night a young R.A.M.C. officer, who until quite recently had
been pursuing his quiet round of work as a medical practitioner in
England, but who at the call of country had pressed to the front, was
out with his bearer company attending the dying and wounded men, when
suddenly a Battalion, which had lost all its officers, momentarily broke
from the trenches. Quickly gathering the dread import of their act, this
young hero rushed into the ruck of men, who amid that awful hell had
been seized with panic. Calling to a sergeant he directed him to shoot
the first man that came by, then rushing into the disorganized
rabble--for it was little else at that time--he shouted to them, 'Men!
men! have you forgotten that you are Englishmen,' and quickly bringing
them into order headed them back again to their grim work. I have been
pleased to see that this brave lad has received a well merited
distinction from his Sovereign, but at the time the only comment made
upon his behaviour by his O.C. was, 'The young beggar ought to get a rap
over his knuckles for exceeding his duty.' Such feats are constantly
occurring, so often indeed as to hardly excite comment.

Two officers from a Guards Battalion in my Brigade died the death of
heroes in the dark hours of one early morning, endeavouring to fulfil
the hopeless task of capturing a German gun, the while they had only six
men with them. The whole party was blown to pieces in the endeavour.
Some may think it a useless waste of valuable life; in degree it is, but
these daring deeds go far to preserve that glorious spirit of heroic
venture which characterizes the whole fighting line of our men. The
value of systematic training, which at the time it is being undergone is
often regarded as a weariness of the flesh by the men undergoing it, is
strikingly exhibited in actual warfare. I was much struck with this late
one afternoon, as I saw the 2nd Gordons enter action in extended order.
Their 'dressing and distance' was most admirably preserved, the while
they took advantage of every inch of cover that presented itself. It
was indeed a thrilling sight to see these brave lads advancing under a
murderous fire, with as great a steadiness as if they were in the Long
Valley at Aldershot.

Moving about near the firing line requires considerable circumspection,
and a fairly accurate knowledge of the disposition of troops. For lack
of this, I once found myself in a most unenviable position. I had been
called to bury an officer of the Guards, who had died under
circumstances of singular gallantry--alas! leaving a wife and two
charming children. On nearing the spot where I had been told the body
was lying, I was informed that it had been arranged to convey the
remains to England. There was nothing for it but to retrace one's steps,
but by this time the firing which had been unpleasantly heavy on the way
out, had waxed in intensity, when suddenly emerging from the shelter of
a wood, I found myself between the two lines of opposing forces. A
British sergeant roared lustily to me to stay where I was and lie down,
and I never obeyed instruction with greater alacrity. Fortunately for
me, the line of battle steadily shifted and I was enabled to ride
onwards with some degree of security; but I inwardly registered a vow
that in the future I would make sure of what was taking place before I
rode into such a mare's nest.

The methods of warfare, as now conducted, are entirely removed from
those of previous campaigns; for instance, the ranging of guns to-day is
most correctly determined by aeroplanes. But not only do these war
scouts render this important service; from the air they are enabled to
detect the disposition of troops, gun emplacements, and all other
movements of the enemy, which heretofore it has been difficult to
determine.

Very frequently most thrilling duels take place between opposing
aviators, and certainly nothing is more exciting than to watch such a
struggle in mid air. One is lost in wonderment at the pluck and the
skill of the aviators, as one sees them man[oe]uvring for place, the
while subject to heavy fire. One of the most notable aviators at that
time was Commander Samson, commonly known as Captain Kettle, owing to a
likeness to that far-famed character of fiction, which was to be faintly
traced in the hero of real life. Commander Samson was not only a 'flyer'
possessed of intrepid courage and great skill, but he further possessed
an armour-plated car, in which was a high velocity gun; this he
manipulated in a manner which struck terror to the German's heart; and
one was not surprised to hear that the Kaiser had offered a reward of
four thousand marks to the man who brought him down, or put him out of
action. I enjoyed a marked illustration of his prowess one afternoon,
near Hooge. A German aeroplane was sailing majestically over our lines,
the observer no doubt making notes of everything which he beheld, when
suddenly Samson dashed up in his car, and after very deliberate aim, hit
the aircraft in the oil tank, which resulted in the whole falling to the
ground a burning and crumpled mass. Such episodes appeal to the sporting
nature which characterizes most men, and tend to relieve any monotony
which may at times threaten to settle upon the men.

From boyhood one has delighted in reading the vivid accounts of such
campaigns as the Peninsular, or Crimea; and in later days in taking part
in the autumn man[oe]uvres held in such open country as Dartmoor, or
Salisbury Plain. One well remembers the fascination of watching a
General, surrounded by his Staff, sending orders and receiving
dispatches at the hands of his 'gallopers.' But all this has changed.
No longer do we see cocked hat Generals, on the summit of rising ground,
spying the position of troops through his field-glasses. To-day some of
the most notable actions are fought by a General who the whole time may
be three or four miles away from the seat of the struggle. Picture him,
pipe in mouth, working out the movements of the troops on a large map in
front of him. Every moment the Field telephone is at work; dispatch
riders breathlessly deliver their messages, the while the Staff are
carefully noting every fresh movement reported. Not an unnecessary word
is spoken, and all hinges upon one figure whose whole attention is
centred, by the aid of his vivid imagination and definite information,
upon a battlefield, the ground of which he probably knows, but which at
the moment is far out of sight. Such is the science of war up to date.

Since the early days of the war methods have considerably changed. Both
sides have dug themselves in, until the allied lines stretch in one
continuous chain of over 500 miles. The trenches to-day are monuments of
masterly skill and construction. Gazing over a line of such earth
fortifications--for that is what they are--from the summit of a hill, it
is very difficult to realize that at one's feet there are thousands of
men lying hidden from each other, but ready at a moment's notice to
spring into deadly activity. An occasional shell bursts here and there,
but beyond that the characteristics are apparently peaceful; such is the
appearance at the present stage of warfare. But it must be always borne
in mind this is only preparatory to great and far-reaching movements.

Ever and again a scrap takes place, and a few hundreds or thousands of
yards of trenches are taken or lost. To the ordinary civilian mind this
all seems very haphazard, but it is not so; every movement is made with
a purpose, and the result carefully noted by the master mind behind the
whole.

The first battle of Ypres lasted somewhere about a month. Since then
other sanguinary battles have taken place on the ground which has become
historic. But October and November, 1914, will ever stand in the annals
of war as the occasion of one of England's greatest triumphs, for
notwithstanding Germany's costly endeavours to reach the coast, she
failed.




CONCERNING OFFICERS AND MEN




CHAPTER VI

CONCERNING OFFICERS AND MEN


In considering the constituent elements of an army, the first avenue of
thought must lead to the primary essential--discipline. The realization
of this most important military virtue is one of the most difficult for
the young soldier to apprehend and appreciate, and yet it must underly
the whole system of the army. By discipline, I do not merely mean
smartness, which is involved in quick and correct response to the word
of command; that, of course, is part of it; but I refer more
particularly to that grip of self which enables a man to force himself
into subjection to authority, which may be entirely inimical to his own
will. One of the most striking illustrations of this remarkable mental
condition came under my notice on October 27, 1914. I had ridden up to
the front to see some of the men in my Brigade. The Grenadier and Scots
Guards had for days been holding the line with dogged pluck, and now had
withdrawn from the trenches for a brief respite from their most arduous
duties. Falling back a mile or so, they were rejoicing in the prospect
of a hot meal. Very speedily the trench fires were dug, and the
dixies[2] were filled with a savoury stew; the while the men were lying
about enjoying their well-earned rest. In the midst of their brief laze
an urgent order came down from General Capper, commanding the men to
return to the trenches immediately, as the enemy were approaching in
strong force. At once the brave lads kicked out the fires and stood to
attention, and moved off to a task from which many of them never
returned. An eyewitness assured me that the Brigadier[3] gave the order
in a voice which was broken with emotion, for he knew full well the
desperate nature of the task he was setting his men. In this grand
response to a most unpalatable order, the very highest discipline is
noticeable; it embodies such an act of devotion to duty as reveals that
mastery over self which lies at the very root of success in warfare.
Such a discipline cannot fail to evoke admiration wherever it is
witnessed. It is noticeable among officers and men alike, and tends to
weld both in that splendid spirit of comradeship which is so peculiarly
a feature of our army at the present time.

In considering the relationship of those in command and those commanded,
I must deal with them separately.

(1) Officers: Many years ago--I think it was during the Crimean
war--_Punch_ gave a very admirable setting of the British officer in two
phases. In one picture was a ball-room in which the whiskered exquisites
of that period were seen in the mazes of a dance, and underneath was
written: 'Our officers can dance.' The next picture revealed the same
men charging up to the guns at the head of their men, and underneath the
words: 'But by jingo they can fight too.' There is no doubt that the
English officer is good at enjoying himself, and no small blame to him,
but when it comes to the stern days of war, he is as keen and gallant as
ever. It must have struck the most casual observer that the proportion
of officer casualties during this war is entirely disproportionate to
the numbers engaged. Again and again this striking fact has met with the
severe stricture of those competent to judge; but it is useless to
attempt to alter the glorious traditions of the English army in this
respect: our officers will lead; and although it may be at a terrible
cost, the results are seen in the splendid backing up of the men. In the
early days of the war, on more than one occasion, I met with such a
remark from working men as 'Let the rich do their bit.' I hold that they
have done it, and done it magnificently. No one can read the list of
casualties without being struck with the enormous number of what I may
call the cultured classes which have fallen in the operations we are
engaged in. Indeed, there is hardly a titled family in England but is
mourning its dead. Our young officers are entering action with a wild
abandonment which it is impossible to realize unless witnessed. Writing
home to his people, a subaltern recently declared that he was at the top
of the fulness of life. Small wonder that our men will go anywhere and
do anything behind such magnificent leading as our officers are giving
them.

But this splendid attribute of the British officer is not only seen amid
the excitement of conflict. At the end of a weary march when all alike
are fagged out and ready to throw themselves upon the earth and rest,
the first consideration on the part of the officers is the men; their
food, their billets; and when these important questions are dealt with,
then, and not till then, with wearied frames, these gallant gentlemen
begin to think of themselves. This evokes a feeling which I may not
inaptly style, hero worship, on the part of the men. Frequently, in
describing the glorious death of some favourite officer, a man has said
to me, 'I loved him like a brother'; and this condition of regard is
mutual, for it is no uncommon thing (on the occasion of the departure of
the 'leave' train) to see an officer, frequently of senior rank, on
spotting in the crowd a non-commissioned officer, or private, from his
regiment, go up to him and with a hearty grip of the hand, say, 'Well,
my lad, hope you have had a good time!' Such a state of things would, of
course, be impossible in the German army, but we Englishmen have proved
that the most solid foundation of a true relationship between officers
and men is respect and love, and right happy are the results attained.

(2) Our men: It is not possible to speak too highly of the splendid
manhood embodied in our ranks to-day. Their language is certainly
reprehensible, but after all we must realize that their vocabulary is
not an extensive one, and the employment of adjectives which, to a
refined ear, sounds deplorable, is only used by them to describe an
intensity which no other words they possess would be capable of
rendering. I am, of course, not referring to blasphemy or obscenity,
which is immediately checked by every right-minded man in authority.

During the whole of my experience in Flanders, I did not come across
one case of drunkenness; my experience may be peculiar, but I do not
think so. To begin with, there is, of course, the very strong deterrent
of rigid punishment for such an offence. Again, there are not the
facilities for the purchase of strong drink, such as unhappily
characterizes the condition of affairs in Great Britain; but away and
beyond these preventives lies the fact that every man is imbued with the
idea that he must keep himself fit and 'play the game,' and the result
is that at the Front to-day we have a sober army. I cannot too strongly
warn the men who are at home, preparing for the Front, to watch
themselves closely in this respect, and for the following reasons:--

  (a) A man who drinks renders himself physically unfit for the
      tremendous strain involved by a campaign. A short time ago
      I was travelling in France, from General Head-quarters to
      Bailleul, and riding past a certain Brigade which had
      landed two days prior, I was struck with the very
      considerable portion of men who had fallen out on the
      march. This was partly due to the very painful process of
      marching over cobbled stones to which they were new, but I
      knew full well that it was also attributable to the fact of
      the soft condition which some of the foolish fellows were
      in, through the unwise use of stimulants in the near past.

  (b) Sobriety is an absolute essential, for again and again the
      security of a Platoon, a Company, a Battalion, a Brigade, or
      even of Division, may depend upon the alertness of a
      sentinel.

We observe, therefore, the urgent importance of a man placed in so
responsible a position being in the fullest possession of his powers of
mind and body; therefore, I say with emphasis, and I say it to every man
going out, keep clear of the drink.

One cannot fail to be struck with the supineness of certain Generals
who, possessing the power of placing public houses out of bounds,
excepting for one hour morning and evening, yet allow the men under
their command to soak in bar parlours for hours at a time. There are
magnificent exceptions to this, and all honour to those Divisional
Commanders who have taken the trouble to ascertain the conditions of
social life under which their men exist when off duty, and who make
adequate provision for the ordinary means of recreation and enjoyment.

But to pass to the men of whom we are all so justly proud. Their
cheerfulness is truly remarkable, and indeed it requires somewhat of
the spirit of a Mark Tapley to 'stick it' in such weather as
characterized the campaign of last winter.

Their hopefulness, too, is a glorious possession, and a grand incentive
to any man. _Nil desperandum_ is the watch-word which flashes down the
ranks of our men, even in the tightest corners.

Their courage! who can describe it? for it stands at the very apex of
human glory. Again and again the enemy has paid admiring tribute to the
splendid dash and invincible determination evinced by our men. I am
confident that if it were only a question of man against man, the war
would speedily be ended.

I have had many opportunities of watching the fortitude of our brave
lads. I should be sorry indeed to attempt to describe what one has
witnessed in field dressing stations; suffice it to say that in moments
of greatest agony I have seen men bite their lips almost to the flow of
blood, rather than emit a groan. Such are the men to whom England has
committed her honour, her prestige, even her destiny; and the commission
has not been made in vain.

In dealing with 'our men' it would be a serious omission not to pay a
tribute to the remarkable collection of Imperial manhood which is now
gathered together under our flag. I need not refer to the Canadians or
Australians, for they are of our own flesh and blood, but the Indian
soldier deserves a word of high appreciation. Side by side with his
white brother in arms he has fought magnificently. True, his methods of
warfare are different, but in their own particular manner they are just
as effective. One of their officers described to me the very great
relish with which the Ghurkas approach a German trench. Slinking over
the ground with the stealthiness of tigers, kukri between their teeth,
they lie silently under the thrown up earth, then flipping a piece of
dirt into the air, wait for the German's head to be suspiciously raised;
a flash of the keen knife, and the German ceases to exist! No wonder
that such men are regarded with terror by the Huns. One day, when a
batch of prisoners were brought in, an Indian approached one of them
with a broad grin; displaying his teeth, which shone like pearls, he
proceeded to show his good feeling towards the German by stroking the
man, as a token of amity; but the poor fellow before him imagined that
he was seeking a soft place in which to insert his deadly knife, and
fairly howled with terror.

From a military point of view one of the strangest aspects of this
campaign has been the little use made of cavalry during the first battle
of Ypres, and indeed right up to the present the horses of our cavalry
have, for the most part, not been required. It was strange to see the
Household Cavalry working in the trenches side by side with infantry of
the Line, but doing their work as effectively, and uncomplainingly, as
any other section of the army.

As the winter draws on apace, the heart of England will once more open
in a response to the necessary comforts which her brave sons call for at
her hands, and for which they will not call in vain. Let me give a few
hints: Tobacco and cigarettes are, of course, always in demand, and
under the peculiar circumstances of this nerve-racking campaign, are
more or less of a necessity. Socks, too, are needed, for whether the
weather is hot or cold, socks will wear out. The men dearly love sweets,
such as toffee, chocolate, peppermints. Cardigan jackets--not too
heavy--are largely called for; a packet containing writing paper,
envelopes and an indelible pencil are very acceptable; woollen sleeping
helmets, and, of course, mittens will not be refused; boracic acid
powder for sore feet; anything to do with a shaving outfit (especially
safety razors) are gladly welcomed. From country districts a local paper
means a great deal to a man, for it keeps him in touch with home
affairs. But above all, keep up a regular correspondence with your men;
it is difficult for the home folk to realize how much a letter means. A
striking object lesson is afforded on the arriving of a mail, by the
hurried withdrawal of the fortunate receivers of letters from the mail
bag, like the lions at the Zoo which, on receiving their food, withdraw
to enjoy it in solitude. In a word, our men are worth all you can do for
them; do not spare yourselves in alleviating the inevitable discomforts,
privations and trails which are involved in such work as they have set
themselves to accomplish.

FOOTNOTES:

[2] Dixies: camp kettles.

[3] Brigadier-General Ruggles Brise, who was very badly wounded shortly
afterwards, and returned to England.




THE WORK OF A CHAPLAIN IN THE FIELD




CHAPTER VII

THE WORK OF A CHAPLAIN IN THE FIELD


In the care of an army on active service the most complete arrangements
exist for every requirement of the soldier. As far as possible nothing
is omitted that will conduce to his comfort, well-being and usefulness.

    His food is, as we have already seen, most scientifically
        devised.

    His equipment is adjusted on the most anatomical principles.

    His arms are the most up to date that science and money can
        provide.

    His medical and surgical supplies are the most perfect that
        science can apply.

    And not least, his spiritual needs are increasingly well
        attended to. There are over six hundred chaplains now in
        the field.

Many people have queer notions as to the methods and objects of a
chaplain's work. Some years ago I was on my way to conduct a Mission in
Yorkshire, when I happened to meet an R.A.M.C. friend. On my telling him
of the errand upon which I was bound, he expressed some surprise, and
displayed complete ignorance as to the character of my intending duty.
Accordingly I endeavoured to remove his ignorance by establishing a
parallel between his work and mine. I pointed out that in the visitation
of the hospital wards at Aldershot he doubtless became interested in
his patients, especially any uncommon or obstinate cases, and to these
he would pay especial attention, applying every specific which lay
within his knowledge. In pursuance of my purpose I then proceeded to
point out that a clergyman's work proceeded upon precisely the same
scientific lines. First of all a diagnosis of the difficulties was made,
then the specific was applied, but with this difference; medical science
is again and again beaten by the ignorance of the precise remedy to
apply, even presuming that it has been discovered; whereas the clergyman
sets before his patient the unfailing Christ, Who is sufficient for
every need of sinful man. I left him I hope somewhat enlightened as to
the definite character of a clergyman's ministry. The difficulty of my
friend is much the same as that experienced by a large number of people
as regards the work of a padre in the field. Let me set before you the
different phases of the work which commonly fall within the allotted
sphere of a chaplain's duty at the Front.

To begin with there are now two[4] chaplains appointed to a Brigade (in
the early days of the war there was only one, and he was usually
attached to a Field Ambulance), the one is more particularly responsible
for the active men of the Brigade, whilst the other works with the Field
Ambulance. (Each Brigade consists of from three to five thousand men and
has a Field Ambulance attached to it.)

  (1) As occasion offers church parades are held, to which the
      attendance is compulsory. But many a time the padre will
      arrange voluntary services of the most informal character;
      in barns, in a wood, sometimes in the reserve trenches. The
      chaplain, by order, has no right in the firing trenches
      except on urgent duties: such as ministering to the men, or
      conducting funerals.

  (2) Men who are communicants greatly value the Means of Grace,
      and possibly the great sacrament of the Lord's Supper is
      never administered under more remarkable circumstances than
      at the Front. At times the setting of the service is of the
      very crudest form, but none the less it is highly prized. I
      know full well the objection that is felt by some clergy to
      Evening Communion, but in the British Expeditionary Force at
      times it is absolutely necessary, unless the Church is
      prepared to practically excommunicate men for a longer or
      shorter period. I may add that personally I have no
      sympathy with limiting the Means of Grace instituted by our
      Blessed Redeemer to any particular hour of the day, and
      certainly the Divine Institution was made after the Last
      Supper, or during that meal.

  (3) One of the saddest features of the padre's round of duty is
      the burial of the dead. Funerals often take place in the
      firing line, or immediately behind it, when, of course, the
      ceremony is of the very briefest duration. At others the
      remains of the brave dead are interred in the nearest
      cemetery, but in either case, as far as possible, a cross is
      placed on the grave recording the name, number and regiment
      of the interred. The visitation of the dying, especially
      during a 'push,' entails a great deal of time on the part
      of the chaplain. If the dying man is conscious and realizes
      his position, there will be the last messages for the loved
      ones at home; the disposition of property; the setting right
      of some existent wrong; for as the moment of dissolution
      approaches, men's minds are usually keenly alive to the
      urgency of the position.

  (4) One of the most harrowing duties is ministering to the
      wounded, especially in the Field Dressing Station of an
      Ambulance, where the men are first attended to after being
      brought in from the field. Their condition is often
      indescribable, and opportunities of a word of comfort
      abound. Even as a man lies upon the table, his wounds being
      probed and dressed, the Message of God, coupled sometimes
      with so material a solace as the placing of a cigarette
      between the lips of the sufferer, will help him to bear his
      agony. In Casualty Clearing and Base Hospitals there are, of
      course, always a number of sick to be visited, and this work
      falls within the region of ordinary civilian hospital work.
      In many cases where a man is first hit and he is not in a
      too collapsed condition, his first thought is of home; and a
      painful anxiety is often evinced by the sufferer to get a
      message through, describing his condition, before his name
      appears in the casualty list; for, unhappily, no distinction
      is made in the published lists between slight and serious
      cases.

  (5) All this involves a large amount of correspondence on the
      part of the chaplain, and there are busy times when a
      'scrap' is proceeding. Every spare moment is occupied with
      writing letters for those who are unable to do so
      themselves. On the top of all his other work the padre is
      constantly receiving letters from home, asking him as to the
      whereabouts of this or that man, who may be dead, wounded or
      missing; and this phase of the work of itself takes up a
      great deal of time.

  (6) A not unimportant duty which falls to a chaplain's lot is
      the recreation of the men, and if he is a good sort he will
      endeavour, during periods of rest, to enliven the lot of his
      men with sing-songs, boxing competitions, football matches,
      athletic sports, etc., etc.--anything to buck up the men and
      keep them cheery. In addition to this, many nondescript
      duties fall to the chaplain's lot. Sometimes he is mess
      president, and that will give him an anxious half hour. The
      solicitude of a young wife who asked a matron of mature
      experience as to the best method of keeping the affection of
      her husband and preserving his interest in the home, was
      answered by, 'Feed the brute.' A mess president knows to the
      full what this means. The padre will sometimes have
      difficult and perchance dangerous work allotted to him, such
      as carrying messages under fire, or tending wounded men in
      exposed places. He must also be prepared to lend a hand in
      carrying the wounded; and, in short, render himself as
      useful as possible, and thus prove himself a friend of
      officer and man.

The question is often asked, 'Should a chaplain be under fire?' It is
impossible to avoid it if he is serving troops under fire, and he must
take his chance with every one else. Many times I have been asked, 'Were
you afraid?' I am only a normal person, not conspicuous for undue pluck
on the one hand, or, I hope, undue funk on the other, but I never got
over my fear; of course one grew accustomed to the deadly visitants
which were constantly in our midst. After all, if there is no fear,
there is no courage. I sometimes hear of men, of whom it is said, 'They
do not know what fear is.' Well, if that is so, such an individual is
devoid of courage, for the very essence of courage consists in the
appreciation of fear, and a persistence in duty notwithstanding. Doctor
Johnson was passing through a cathedral when he noticed a tomb on which
was written, 'Here lies the body of a man who never knew fear.' 'Then,'
said the witty Doctor, 'he never tried to snuff a lighted candle with
his fingers.' General Gordon has told us that he was always subject to
fear. 'For my part,' he once said, 'I am always frightened and very much
so.' And yet no one in history has a reputation more honestly earned for
this real kind of courage, a courage won by personal victory over fear.
Herein lies the essence of the experience of the vast majority of our
men; fearing fire, and loathing it as they do, they yet 'stick' it,
because it is their duty.

It is astonishing how soon one grows accustomed to death at the Front.
It cannot well be otherwise; the man you have been chatting to five
minutes before is presently borne along dead. The officer who was the
life and soul of the mess on the previous night, in some ruined
farmhouse, is gone before the morning; and as a man well put it, 'Dying
men out here are as common as falling leaves in autumn.'

The religious atmosphere at the Front is unique. I can hardly say that
there is what one may term a general turning to God, but certainly the
realization of the nearness of God and eternity are very present to most
men's minds. As a man said up at the Front, 'Out here every man puts up
some kind of a prayer every night.' The superficial scepticism which is
so largely ethical, or the result of indifference, and which is assumed
by many men in England, has no hold at the Front. One of our best known
Bishops was telling me when I met him 'somewhere in France' that a short
time back he was about to conduct a service in a hospital ward, in his
own city, and upon handing a hymn-book to one of the patients lying in
bed, he was met with, 'Thank you, I would rather not, I am an agnostic'
Hearing this, the man in the next bed raised himself up on his elbow,
and looking at the objector, tersely remarked, 'You silly young fool, a
week at the trenches would take that nonsense out of you.' Undoubtedly
our men are being awakened to the tremendous reality of eternal
verities, and it behoves us to help them all we can. In this respect the
experience of the padre is intensely happy; no work on which he engages
is more fruitful than that of upholding Christ before men who have come
near the end of their earthly course. Said an officer to me--who had
just been brought in badly wounded, and I had written to his wife
assuring her that all was being done to alleviate his suffering and to
effect his recovery (which happily took place)--'Padre, I have been a
wild man all my life, but last night as I lay wounded in the trenches,
for the first time I realized God, and perfect peace came into my
heart.'

A captain in the Guards, badly hit through the lungs with shrapnel,
demanded a good bit of my attention. When he was sent to the Base I
hardly thought that he would survive the journey; however, in due course
he reached England. Some months afterwards I received a letter from his
mother, stating that her boy was slowly climbing back to recovery, and
thanking me for what I had been able to do for him; which was little
enough. At the bottom of the letter was a postscript: 'My darling boy
died at twelve to-day. Just before he passed away he said, "Mother, I am
in perfect peace with God. Give my love to padre."' Those are the kind
of things that make a man thank God for having volunteered to do one's
'bit' in that particular line of life in which he has been placed. No
work is grander than a chaplain's; but I must lay it down as a general
axiom, that no man should undertake this particular kind of work unless
he knows that he is charged with a message from God.

In the Neuve Chapelle dispatch, Sir John French writes: 'I have once
more to remark upon the devotion to duty, courage and contempt of danger
which has characterized the work of the chaplains throughout this
campaign.' The padre's work is not to fight; indeed, he is not armed
(anyhow, he is not allowed to be by the authorities); and certainly one
of the difficulties experienced is to withhold oneself as one sees the
brave lads go to their daring and glorious work.

    Ambassador of Christ, you go
    Up to the very gates of hell,
    Through fog of powder, storm of shell,
    To speak your Master's message: 'Lo,
    The Prince of Peace is with you still,
    His peace be with you, His goodwill.'

    It is not small, your priesthood's price
    To be a man and yet stand by,
    To hold your life while others die,
    To bless, not share the sacrifice,
    To watch the strife and take no part--
    You with the fire at your heart.

            W.M. LETTS, in the _Spectator_.

FOOTNOTES:

[4] There are now three appointed to each Brigade.




THE CARE OF THE WOUNDED




CHAPTER VIII

THE CARE OF THE WOUNDED


Among the many sad sights witnessed in modern warfare, I question
whether there is any more pathetic than a train of wounded men passing
down from the Front. Every description of injury is noticeable, for shot
and shell are not discriminating. From cases of the severest abdominal
and head wounds, the patient being in a more or less collapsed
condition, one turns to the laughing lad, with only a clean shot through
his forearm, and who still has the exciting influence of the 'scrap'
thickly upon him. But slight or dangerous, each requires attention, for
owing to the grave danger of septic trouble, the smallest scratch may
prove fatal. In their handling of the enormous number of casualties,
the work of the R.A.M.C. will stand out in luminous letters when the
history of the war is written. From sanitation, to a major operation,
this Department is equal to the occasion, and one is lost in admiration
at the splendid devotion to duty exhibited by this strictly scientific
branch of the service.

Wounded men always possess a sad and enthralling interest to the public
mind. It is not morbid curiosity alone which draws men and women to gaze
upon the unhappy sufferers, rather I think it is a feeling akin to awe,
for it is recognized that these men have been in the thick of it, and
the imagination of the onlookers sees the courage they have displayed,
and peering through the veil beholds the terrible sights they have seen.
These, and similar thoughts cast a glamour over the most ordinary
wounded man, and clothe him with a heroism which in all probability he
of all men is most unconscious of possessing.

The variety of circumstances under which men get wounded is unbounded.
Multitudes of those bowled over have never seen a German. It may be far
back in the rear that a 'Jack Johnson' or 'Black Maria' (for we have
many names for the German high explosive) has knocked a man out. It is
all over in a moment; in the quiet of the night, or amid the bustle of
the day the deadly shriek of an approaching shell falls upon the man's
ear, and before he can seek for cover--even supposing there is any to
hand--the roar of the explosion will probably be the last thing that he
will remember before he awakes to his agony. Or nearer to the line, the
whistle of an approaching shrapnel speaks of coming danger, and then a
prone figure on the ground tells of one more who has been 'pipped,' to
use a colloquialism of the Front. When we consider the extreme range of
a seventeen-inch gun as being not far short of thirty miles, the
difficulty of being out of range is at once apparent. Nearer at hand,
within a few yards, an accurately thrown bomb is a fruitful source of
injury to our fighting men, whilst in these days of accurate rifle fire
'snipers' mark the slightest movement at a thousand yards. In the fierce
rush of the taking of a trench, men are as thick on the ground as the
leaves of Vallombrosa. At such times, notwithstanding the specific
orders to the contrary, men are constantly helping each other. For
brotherly love will assert itself even amid the rush of battle. Here is
an order from the 'Standing Orders' of the Seventh Division:--

'Wounded men.--All ranks are forbidden to divert their attention from
the enemy in order to attend wounded officers or men.'

But notwithstanding this command, again and again heroic deeds are
performed by combatants in their endeavour to get their wounded comrades
out of imminent danger.

It was a noble deed of the Rev. Nevile Talbot, who, learning that his
brother in the Rifle Brigade was hit, rushed into the zone of fire, only
to find his beloved relative dead; straightway he immediately diverted
his attention to the need of a wounded 'Tommy' near by. The Rev. and
Honourable B.M. Peel was badly hit in the head and left leg, in charging
with the Welsh Fusiliers; true, he had no right to be there from a
military point of view, but I believe the O.C. had given him permission,
and certainly his heroic action inspired the men, and has left a
splendid memory in the minds of those who were with him. In such ways
the front line of casualties occur. How are they dealt with? I will
describe as briefly as possible the procedure which governs the
handling of the wounded from the fighting line to the Convalescent Home
in England.

  (1) Nearly every Battalion has its Regimental Surgeon and
      Bearers; the latter are men who are specially trained to
      render First Aid, and to carry the wounded out of the zone
      of immediate fire.

  (2) At this point the stricken one is taken in hand by the
      Bearer Section of the Field Ambulance, under the command of
      an R.A.M.C. officer, who, where necessary, quickly renders
      First Aid by applying a tourniquet where there is arterial
      bleeding, or bandaging up an ordinary wound. These men,
      whether attached to the Field Ambulance or a regiment, are
      worthy of the highest praise. No courage is of a higher
      order than that which enables men, devoid of the excitement
      of fighting, to pass within the deadly hail of lead.

  (3) The wounded man is then conveyed to the Field Dressing
      Station of the Field Ambulance. This may be located in a
      deserted building: a barn, a farmhouse, or some such place.
      It may be even placed behind a haystack, or in a wood, but
      certainly in the most sheltered position that can be found.
      Here the man's wound receives more careful attention, but
      with a rush of such cases it is impossible to bestow all the
      care that is desired. Very hurriedly the man's clothing is
      cut open, the wound cleansed with iodine, or some such
      disinfectant, bandaged up again, and the sufferer is ready
      for evacuation to a Casualty Clearing Station.

  (4) Some miles behind the firing line, a convent, schools, or
      any suitable house, or group of buildings, has been set
      apart as a hospital, and under the present system greater
      assistance can now be rendered to the patient. Even
      operations may be performed if the case is one of special
      urgency. At this point I would call attention to the
      remarkable revolution that has taken place in the transport
      of the wounded, through the agency of Motor Ambulances, in
      lieu of the pair horse Ambulance formerly in use, and which
      rumbled along the uneven roads, thereby causing an
      intolerable amount of suffering to the badly stricken men
      therein. The sufferers are now conveyed swiftly, and with
      far greater comfort, to their temporary destinations; and
      hundreds of lives are being preserved by means of this
      miracle of modern times.

  (5) The hospital train at the 'rail head' which serves the
      district is the next experience of the wounded man. Those
      who have examined these wonderful accessories to modern
      warfare will have been struck by the completeness of the
      arrangements. Beds of the most comfortable description,
      having regard to space, are provided, whilst sitting cases
      are arranged for in ordinary carriages. Furnished with a
      well-appointed kitchen, nothing is left to be desired as
      regards the food, and this, I need hardly say, appeals very
      strongly to a man who has been living upon Army rations for
      weeks or months past. There is even a small operating
      theatre in the best equipped hospital trains.

  (6) This brings us to the Base Hospital, where is found the
      finest talent, both medical and surgical, that the country
      can produce. Some of our greatest civilian medical men, in a
      temporary capacity, are now rendering invaluable aid to the
      remarkable cases which proceed from the fell work of shot
      and shell. These hospitals, some of which are due to the
      magnificent enterprise of private individuals, provide for a
      very large number of patients. In one centre alone there
      are eight hospitals, with fourteen beds in each. Here, too,
      are working the most highly trained nursing sisters, and the
      wounded man will, to his dying day, remember the patient
      skill bestowed upon him by these devoted women. A patient
      recently remarked to a friend of mine, who asked him whether
      he didn't think the sister was an angel, 'Indeed she is,
      sir, a regular fallen angel.' His adjective was a little out
      of place, but he meant to describe exactly what we all feel
      with regard to these splendid ministers to our need.

  (7) The hospital ship next receives the sufferer, and herein
      everything that modern ingenuity can devise is applied to
      the necessities of the case. Landing at some convenient
      British port, an English hospital train receives the wounded
      man, who is speedily whirled away to--

  (8) The Home Hospital, where, of course, the man remains under
      the ablest care, until he is happily classified a
      convalescent.

  (9) The Convalescent Home is perhaps the happiest stage of the
      whole curriculum, and Tommy runs a chance of being spoiled
      ere he is ready for the fighting line, or, in case of
      permanent disablement, for the care of his own kith and kin.

I must not forget the remarkable qualities of the Orderlies of the
R.A.M.C. I have often been struck with the tender care and solicitude
which they bestow upon the wounded coming under their attention. In
their ranks are found all sorts and conditions of men: clergymen,
medical students; indeed, the premier Earl of Scotland, the Earl of
Crawford and Balcarres, enlisted as a Private in the R.A.M.C. and is now
a Corporal in a Field Ambulance. Such an example cannot fail to place
this distinguished branch of the Service on the highest level of utility
and importance.

So far, I have more particularly dealt with the care of the wounded.
This, however, is only one side of the vast work under the care of the
medical side of the Army. With the lamentable effect of the evil of bad
water experienced in the South African war, the Authorities have been
most drastic in their insistence of a pure water supply to the Army.
To-day every unit has its filter cast, and most urgent orders are in
circulation forbidding men to drink from any other supply. This alone
has prevented a large amount of disease.

One of the ills that our men have to contend with is 'feet.' No one,
excepting those who have had to march on French and Belgian roads, can
realize the pernicious effect of cobbled stones, with their many
inequalities, upon the feet of the men; hence in every well-commanded
Battalion frequent feet inspections are held--in many instances daily.
This simple preventive, coupled with a copious supply of socks sent out
by the people at home, has helped the great majority of 'Tommies' to
keep their pedal extremities in going order.

The inspection of kit, from a sanitary point of view, is another
important phase of the hygienic question. Where men have to exist for
days without a change of clothing, it will be readily understood that
the effect is extremely prejudicial to health, and therefore a medical
supervision of the clothing of the men is of supreme value to their
health. In many places facilities for hot baths are provided for the men
coming out of the trenches, and greatly is this boon prized. One of the
commonest sights behind the firing line is a detachment of men swinging
along, with towels in their hands, on their way to or fro the tub.

In some places whilst the men are in the bath their clothes are
carefully disinfected, and then handed back to them thoroughly cleansed
and fit for further use. Notwithstanding all these precautions, there
is, of course, a certain amount of sickness which is inevitable among so
great a number of men, but it is significant in proportion to the
numbers employed. After many months with troops I can emphatically say
that the bodily care of our men, by the medical authorities, is beyond
all praise, and has done much to preserve the redundant health which is
characteristic of our Army in the field. 'Cleanliness is next to
Godliness,' and I must add that it comes in a good second in the British
Expeditionary Force in Flanders and France.




WORK AT THE BASE




CHAPTER IX

WORK AT THE BASE


At various centres in France are established Bases, where all the
necessary supplies and ammunition are landed, and thence transported to
the various Units in the Field. To cope with this vast system of
distribution an army of men is employed. It will help the reader to form
an estimate of the labour involved in this enormous undertaking if I
briefly refer to the various branches of the British Expeditionary Force
which are specially engaged in ministering to the Force as a whole.

  (1) _Army Service Corps._--These are men drilled and practised
      in supply and transport. They are ubiquitous, and without
      them it would be impossible to maintain the operations in
      hand.

  (2) _Army Ordnance Department._--The men of this section are
      skilled in the manipulation of ammunition, and in the
      tabulation and distribution of a hundred and one articles of
      equipment. It is a striking object lesson to make a tour of
      inspection of this important Department of the Army. It
      would be interesting to know how many hundreds of thousands
      of miles of barbed wire have passed through the hands of the
      A.O. during the war. Everything from a screw to a howitzer
      comes within their attention. As to the supply of guns and
      ammunition I am, of course, forbidden to say anything,
      excepting to share with my fellow-countrymen the greatest
      satisfaction that the grave difficulty noticeable earlier in
      the war has to so large an extent been overcome.

  (3) _Army Medical Stores._--Here again we have another striking
      object lesson in the wonders of detail. Everything required
      by Hospitals, Field Ambulances, Casualty Clearing Stations
      is herein stored and ready to be dispatched in response to
      the indents which are daily pouring in; the requirements of
      the R.A.M.C., from a surgical bandage to an operating
      table--to say nothing of drugs--must be ready for use. This
      involves the most careful attention on the part of the
      staff, which is, of course, composed of picked men.

  (4) _Railway Engineers._--In each Base will be found one or more
      companies of Sappers, who are responsible for the
      maintenance of telegraphic and telephonic communications,
      within the area of the Base; and also the construction and
      upkeep of military railway lines and buildings.

  (5) _Sanitary Department._--In Bases where permanent Garrisons
      are stationed (in some instances amounting to many
      thousands) much care must be exercised with regard to the
      ordinary hygienic conditions of life; and under highly
      qualified officers the most careful supervision is exercised
      in this respect.

  (6) _Army Post Office._--The correspondence of the Expeditionary
      Force is enormous, and involves a large staff in keeping
      'Tommy' well posted with news from home. The efficiency of
      this important adjunct to our Army is as highly valued as it
      is admirably carried out.

  (7) _Army Bakers._--The men composing this Unit are of course
      selected from a particular calling. Their work is beyond all
      praise. In one Base with which I was more particularly
      connected during the latter part of my service abroad, no
      less than 220,000 two and a half pound loaves are baked
      daily. This represents bread rations for 440,000 men. The
      labour involved in such a vast production is very great.
      Weekday and Sunday alike the Army Bakers are grandly
      proceeding with their monotonous but most necessary work. So
      complete is the system employed in the making and
      distributing of 'the staff of life' that no Unit, however
      far distant, receives bread older than four days. A French
      General of high position, lately visiting one such Bakery,
      expressed his unbounded admiration at the system employed,
      saying that in the French Army bread fifteen days old is
      very usually met with.

  (8) _Army Service Corps Labourers._--These men are specially
      enlisted from stevedores, dock labourers, etc. Their work
      consists, in the main, of unloading vessels, and shipping
      supplies on to trains.

  (9) _Remounts and Veterinary Department._--It would rejoice the
      hearts of all lovers of dumb animals to visit these great
      repositories of whole, sick and injured horses. The saving
      in horse flesh represented by these carefully administered
      camps is of the utmost value to the Army as a whole, for
      although motor transport is playing so important a part,
      horses are a necessity in many phases of Army work.

  (10) _Military Police._--Under the Assistant Provost Marshal, a
      military Base is controlled by a staff of picked men, who do
      their work most admirably. Their duties are varied; they
      have the oversight of the conduct of the men, and are most
      particular in regard to the appearance of men in public. Woe
      be to the man who is not properly dressed as he passes under
      the lynx-eye of one of these military custodians of the
      peace. Such supervision is not even altogether uncalled for
      among the officers of the new Army; one has been much struck
      with the slovenly, and at times grotesque, appearance of men
      who have suddenly assumed the position of officers and
      gentlemen. The somewhat apt epigram which is current to-day,
      is not wholly unmerited, "Temporary officers are expected to
      behave as temporary gentlemen."

  (11) _Convalescent Camps._--On men leaving hospitals, prior to
      their rejoining their Units at the Front, they are usually
      placed in Convalescent Camps, or in what are called Base
      Details. Here they are employed in various light duties
      until such times as they are fit for more active service.

It was at a Base comprising a Garrison of such Units as I have mentioned
that I spent the greater part of my closing months of service in the
Army. I was not attached to any hospital, but had placed in my care the
greater part of what I may call the active men. The work was of the most
interesting description, and following as it did a strenuous experience
with the fighting forces, I am enabled, in consequence, to form a fairly
sound judgment on the work of the British Expeditionary Force as a
whole.

On leaving home on March 16 for a fresh spell of service, I proceeded,
in obedience to orders received, and reported myself to Doctor Sims, the
principal chaplain, and received from him my orders as to my allocation.
On reaching my Base I was most cordially received by the Rev. E.G.F.
McPherson, C.M.G. Senior Church of England Chaplain to the Forces. This
officer, who ranks as Colonel, has had many years of distinguished
service in the Army, and is universally respected. Prior to his taking
up the position which he occupied when I reported to him, he was in the
retreat from Mons and the battle of the Aisne. The regard evinced for
him by all ranks is unbounded. On one occasion I was with him visiting
padres at the Front, when an officer pointing to him said, 'There goes
the best loved man in the Army,' and I can well believe it. He is at the
present time rendering very important service with the Southern Command,
in the Salisbury training centre.

Allocated to me were the A.S.C., Army Ordnance, Mechanical Transport
Base Regiment (employed on Guard duty), Firing parties at funerals,
Escorts, etc., Military Police, Army Bakers, and A.S.C. Labourers.

My work at the Base necessarily differed largely from that at the Front.
The men being stationed at one place it was possible to arrange a
regular system of services; but these were at times exceedingly
difficult to sustain, owing to the very heavy pressure of work with
which the men had to cope; but notwithstanding such difficulties and
discouragements, I have every reason to be thankful for the great
opportunity which was afforded me.

It was my privilege to prepare men for Baptism, and on two occasions for
Confirmation. This solemn rite of our Church was taken on the one
occasion by Bishop Bury, and on the other by the Bishop of Birmingham;
at each service admirable addresses were delivered.

The Bishop of Birmingham--an old Territorial officer--has taken the
greatest interest in the work of the British Expeditionary Force, and is
thoroughly conversant with the whole line at the Front.

It was a great pleasure to meet the Bishop of London, just before
Easter, on his way to the firing line, where he received a wonderful
welcome from all ranks.

Spiritual work among soldiers is very real and deep. I question whether
there is any more difficult place for a man to endeavour to live up to
his convictions than in the Army; and to the Christian soldier, one of
the surest tests of the reality of his religious profession is the
simple matter of saying his prayers in the barrack room or tent. If a
man persistently does that, you may be sure there is something real in
his profession.

I have already alluded to the deep impression created by the experience
of being under fire. A somewhat remarkable instance in support of this
condition of mind came under my notice a few weeks ago. The officer to
whom it relates will, I am sure, pardon my introducing his experience to
point my moral. He was standing with a brother officer amid the ruins of
Ypres, when, realizing that the position was distinctly 'unhealthy'
owing to the heavy shelling which had commenced, he suggested a
withdrawal from the locality. They had walked but a short distance, when
a high explosive shell burst behind them, and a piece of the casing
whizzed between their heads. 'That was a near shave,' said one; 'let's
go back and see where it fell.' It had fallen on the precise spot where
they had been standing but a minute or so before. The result of the
condition of mind produced by this remarkable 'let off' was a visit to
the chaplain's office. On asking what I could do for him the officer
replied, 'I hardly know, but I want your help. I have never been
baptized, so I suppose I ought to be baptized and confirmed.' I pointed
out to him that prior to the participation in the Sacrament of Holy
Baptism, he had to settle with himself his personal relationship with
Christ. By the goodness of God I believe that point was clearly
established in his mind, and it was my privilege to baptize him, and
then present him for Confirmation at the hands of the Bishop of
Birmingham.

This affords another illustration of the wonderful working of a man's
mind who comes face to face with Eternity and the reality of God. Some
men at home will possibly be inclined to sneer at such a condition of
mind, but those of us who have been through it know full well the
emptiness of such home-bred objections, which certainly do not hold amid
the issues of life and death which are found at the Front.

I have met many friends at the Base, both among officers and men. It is
a pleasing duty to record the gratitude I owe to those in command for
their invariable courtesy to me, in the prosecution of my work, and the
splendid personal support rendered to me. The personal influence of the
officers goes far in securing the sympathy of the men.

I have never had more attentive congregations than those which have
formed the various Church Parades and voluntary gatherings which fell
to my lot to conduct whilst working at the Base.

On one occasion it fell to me to conduct a 'Quiet Day' for Chaplains,
Hospital Nurses and Orderlies, and responsible though the work was, we
felt it to be a great lift up, coming as it did amid the stress of a
very arduous life.

I frequently had the experience of visiting the different sections of
the Front, and on two occasions in particular gave addresses to
gatherings of chaplains, drawn from various Divisions. Those were unique
occasions, for one felt the tremendous responsibility of trying to help
men engaged in such important work. I knew that I was addressing heroes
without exception, men who were daily counting their lives cheap for
Christ's sake.

A most interesting experience befell me on June 18. With a brother
chaplain I was visiting in the neighbourhood of Ypres, when ascending a
small hill from which one could survey the whole line of trenches,
extending from Zonnebec to Ploegstreete, we passed by some reserve
trenches in which were a considerable number of men, resting from their
duties in the front line trenches. I had taken with me in the car a
large number of packets of cigarettes, generously sent out by my
parishioners, and on asking the lads if they wanted any, I speedily
found myself at the head of a great following, like the Pied Piper of
Hamelin. The men streamed after me in hundreds down to the lane some
distance off, where the car was waiting. It did not take many minutes to
hand out a big supply of smokes. While thus engaged, a sergeant made
himself known to me as having heard me give an address down at the Base,
and with considerable _naivete_ he said, 'Cannot you give us a talk
here, sir?' Of course I could! and in less than five minutes there were
hundreds of men most picturesquely grouped on the hillside. It was
touching to see their faces as I spoke to them of 'the greatest thing in
the world,' the Love of God in Christ Jesus; and as I built up my
argument of the Divine love by means of the illustration of the love of
home, many a clear eye glistened. As I closed, I pointed out to them the
unique occasion of our meeting, June 18, 1915, therefore the centenary
of the Battle of Waterloo. There we were actually on Belgian soil,
almost within gun-sound of the celebrated battle-field itself. As we
sang the National Anthem I felt that never had I heard it sung in so
inspiriting a manner; and when I called for three cheers for the King,
the Germans in their front line trenches,--which were certainly within
earshot,--must have imagined an attack in force was about to take place.
Such desultory gatherings go far to cheer a padre's heart as he proceeds
on the daily round and common task.




CHAPTER X

A CLOSING WORD

[_Kindly written by_ Colonel E.G.F. MACPHERSON, _Senior Chaplain to the
Forces_ (_Church of England_).]


The completion of Mr. Kennedy's account of his work at Boulogne was not
finished ere he entered into his rest. As the senior under whom he
served during the latter part of his term with the Expeditionary Force,
I have been asked to add a few concluding remarks, relative to his
labours from the period his own narrative ends.

Part of Mr. Kennedy's sphere of work lay just outside the Base at a
certain place. Here was erected a camp of wooden huts, occupied by a
considerable number of A.S.C. Dock Labourers. In this camp there was no
building where the troops could pass a pleasant and innocent evening,
nor was there a church within reasonable distance of the place. This, of
course, was naturally a great disadvantage to any chaplain in his
endeavours to get a hold upon the men. Mr. Kennedy felt the need; with
him to think was to act.

He came to me and requested that I should write a letter to him, asking
him (as he was going immediately on short leave to England) to do what
he could to influence friends at home to supply what we both recognized
was a crying need.

Although Mr. Kennedy was only away about a week, he returned with
between two or three hundred pounds, to start the erection of a Hut for
recreational and religious purposes.

The next thing to do was to obtain a suitable site, preferably in the
midst of the camp.

Mr. Kennedy obtained the consent of the Base Commandant, and that of
the officer commanding the camp; the latter especially rendering all
the assistance in his power--particularly in obtaining for us the
services of a competent architect.

Plans were drawn up and approved by me. It was found that the expenses
of the Church Hut would be considerably more than was at first
contemplated: L600, not L400 as we thought. Mr. Kennedy appealed once
more to his friends and to the readers of certain religious papers.
Pecuniary assistance flowed rapidly in, and we were soon assured of
enough money to build a large and commodious Church Hut. There was to be
a large hall, a coffee bar, kitchen, and some small rooms.

Mr. Kennedy, in spite of much other work in which he was engaged, found
time to constantly trudge to and fro to the camp, watching, with zealous
care, the erection of the Hut. No less keen and interested spectators
were the A.S.C. men themselves, for it meant a great deal to
them--somewhere to go to when work was done, somewhere to pass an hour
or so.

Mr. Kennedy's idea was to supply wholesome refreshment, daily papers and
magazines, and games to play. This during the week.

On Sundays the place was to be 'rigged,' as sailors call it, as a
church. It was to be used also for Bible Classes and Instructions.

In wonderfully quick time the Hut was built, and duly opened. This
latter event happened after I was called home on special duty.

Needless to say the Hut has been greatly used, both from a social and
religious point of view; and has been directly and indirectly the means
of much good being done. It is another monument to the life's work of a
noble soul.



Printed in Great Britain by Butler & Tanner, Frome and London.

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