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Title: One Young Man - The simple and true story of a clerk who enlisted in 1914, who fought on the western front for nearly two years, was severely wounded at the battle of the Somme, and is now on his way back to his desk.
Author: Hodder-Williams, J. E. (John Ernest), 1876-1927 [Editor]
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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ONE YOUNG MAN

Published in 1917 by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.

_The simple and true story of a clerk who
enlisted in 1914, who fought on the Western
Front for nearly two years, was severely
wounded at the Battle of the Somme, and
is now on his way back to his desk_

Edited by

SIR ERNEST HODDER-WILLIAMS, C.V.O.,

Author of
"The Life of Sir George Williams."



Printed for private circulation
Printed in Great Britain by
C. F. Roworth Ltd., 88 Fetter Lane, London, E.C.4



  TO THE GREATLY BELOVED MEMORY

               OF

         ONE YOUNG MAN

     WHO FOUNDED THE Y.M.C.A.

            MY UNCLE

      SIR GEORGE WILLIAMS



FOREWORD


I am glad that this very personal little book is to be re-published,
if only for private circulation, for it rings as true to-day as it did
yesterday.

It tells the story of one young man in the Great War, but, in fact, it
reveals no less the personality of the writer who knit the young man's
story together.

The young man continues--the writer has passed on.

My brother is revealed here, not as the famous publisher, but as a man
whose sympathy was so quick and passionate that he literally lived the
suffering and trials of others.

It is this living sympathy, given so freely, that lies like a wreath
of everlasting flowers on his memory now.

It is no longer a secret that the real name of the "Sydney Baxter" of
this story is Reginald Davis; and those of us who know him and have
watched every step of his progress, from his first small job of the
"pen and ledger" to the Secretaryship of a great Company, are
astonished at the understanding and accuracy of this portrayal of a
young man's inner self and outer deeds.

It is true that Sir Ernest Hodder-Williams did little more than
comment on the diary written by Davis himself. But how well he
explains it; how well he reads into its touching cheerfulness and its
splendid sorrow the eternal truth that only by suffering and obedience
can the purposes of God and man be fulfilled.

Davis has won his spurs. He bears the marks of his service in the
Great War with honour and with never a complaint. His old chief and
chronicler was proud of him then. He would be proud of him to-day.

                                        R. PERCY HODDER-WILLIAMS.



                  CONTENTS

                                          PAGE
                 CHAPTER I
  INTRODUCES ONE YOUNG MAN                   3

                 CHAPTER II
  ONE YOUNG MAN JOINS THE ARMY              15

                 CHAPTER III
  ONE YOUNG MAN IN CAMP                     21

                 CHAPTER IV
  ONE YOUNG MAN ON ACTIVE SERVICE           31

                 CHAPTER V
  ONE YOUNG MAN AT HILL 60                  41

                 CHAPTER VI
  ONE YOUNG MAN RECEIVES A LETTER           57

                 CHAPTER VII
  ONE YOUNG MAN IN THE SALIENT              65

                 CHAPTER VIII
  ONE YOUNG MAN'S SUNDAY                    71

                 CHAPTER IX
  ONE YOUNG MAN ON TREK                     79

                 CHAPTER X
  ONE YOUNG MAN ANSWERS QUESTIONS           91

                 CHAPTER XI
  ONE YOUNG MAN'S LEAVE                     99

                 CHAPTER XII
  ONE YOUNG MAN AGAIN IN THE TRENCHES      105

                 CHAPTER XIII
  ONE YOUNG MAN GETS A "BLIGHTY"           119



Introduces One Young Man



ONE YOUNG MAN



CHAPTER I

INTRODUCES ONE YOUNG MAN


The boys in the office were, I fancy, a bit prejudiced against him
before he arrived. It wasn't his fault, for he was a stranger to them
all, but it got about that the dear old "chief" had decided to engage
a real good Sunday-school boy. Someone had heard him say, or, more
likely, thought it would be funny to imagine him saying, that the
advent of such a boy might "improve the general tone" of the place.
That, you'll admit, was pretty rough on Sydney Baxter--the boy in
question. Now Sydney Baxter is not his real name, but this I can vouch
is his true story. For the most part it is told exactly in his own
words. You'll admit its truth when you have read it, for there isn't a
line in it which will stretch your imagination a hair's breadth. It's
the plain unvarnished tale of an average young man who joined the
army because he considered it his duty--who fought for many months.
That's why I am trying to record it; for if I tell it truly I shall
have written the story of many thousands--I shall have written a page
of the nation's history.

And so I need not warn you at the beginning that this book does _not_
end with a V.C. and cheering throngs. It may possibly end with wedding
bells, but you will agree there's nothing out of the common about
that--and a good job too.

I think on the whole I will keep Sydney Baxter's real name to myself.
For one thing he is still in the army; for another he is expected back
at the same office when he is discharged from hospital. It's rather
beginning at the wrong end to mention the hospital at this stage, but,
as I've done so, I'd better explain that after going unscathed through
Ypres and Hill 60, and all the trench warfare that followed, Sydney
Baxter was wounded in nine places at the first battle of the Somme on
that ever-glorious and terrible first of July. He is, as I write,
waiting for a glass eye; he has a silver plate where part of his
frontal bone used to be; is minus one whole finger, and the best part
of a second. He is deep scarred from his eyelid to his hair. I can
tell you he looks as if he had been through it. Well, he has.

He was nicknamed "Gig-lamps" in the office. He wore large spectacles
and his face was unhealthily lacking in traces of the open air. He was
in demeanour a very typical son of religious parents--well brought up,
shielded, shepherded, a little spoiled, a little soft perhaps, and
maybe a trifle self-consciously righteous. A good boy, a home boy. No
need for me to pile on the adjectives--you know exactly the kind of
chap he was. One more thing, however, and very important--he had a
sense of humour and he was uniformly good tempered and willing. That
is why, in a short time, the prejudice of the office gave way to open
approval. "Young Baxter may be a 'pi' youth, but he's quick at his
job, and nothing's too much trouble for him," said his boss. And
against their previous judgment the boys liked him. He could see a
joke. He was a good sort.

Curiously enough it was the Y.M.C.A. that first introduced Sydney
Baxter to what, for want of a better term, we will call the sporting
side of life. There's a fine sporting side to every real Englishman's
life--don't let there be any mistake about that. "He is a sportsman"
is not, as a few excellent people seem to believe, a term of reproach.
It is one of the highest honours conferred on an officer by the men he
commands. And in the ranks "a good sport" is often another way of
spelling "a hero."

It was, as I say, at the Y.M.C.A. that this one young man was first
taken out of himself and his quiet home surroundings, first became
interested in the convivialities of life. In those days, to be quite
frank about it, a certain settled staidness of demeanour, a decided
aloofness from the outside world, marked many religious households. A
book of unexceptional moral tone, and probably containing what was
known as "definite teaching," was the main relaxation after working
hours--that, and an occasional meeting and some secretarial work for a
religious or charitable society. Companions, if any, were very
carefully chosen by the parents. Well, war has changed all that--it
has even chosen our very bed-fellows for us. And no questions to be
asked, either.

It is often assumed by those who know no better that such a home as
Sydney Baxter's produces either prigs or profligates. As a matter of
fact, one of the reasons of this book is to prove that out of such a
home may come, I believe often does come, the best type of
Englishman--a Christian sportsman, a man who fights all the better for
his country because he has been taught from childhood to fear God and
hate iniquity.

But it was well for Sydney Baxter that he prepared for the chances and
quick changes of his military life by learning how to make the best of
his hitherto hidden gift of companionship.

This is how it came about. He writes:

     "One afternoon in early autumn a card was put into the hands
     of every young man in our office, inviting us to a tea and
     social evening at the Y.M.C.A. Headquarters. The chaps said
     to me, 'Of course _you_ are going, Baxter?' and I answered,
     'Why not?' They, however, seemed to be of the opinion that
     the tea was, more or less, a bait to a prayer-meeting or
     something of that kind. However, several went, expecting,
     and preparing themselves for, the worst. We were welcomed by
     a group of gentlemen who seemed to be possessors of smiles
     of permanency; they conducted us to a large room already
     well filled with others like ourselves, whom we incorrectly
     judged to be members, as they seemed to be quite at home. In
     every corner of the room were lounge chairs and on the
     tables games of all description. Here and there small groups
     were being entertained by the members, and, judging by the
     unrestrained merriment, they were proving themselves very
     capable hosts.

     "We were told to make ourselves absolutely at home; and
     although we entered with zest into all that was going on, I
     don't think really that we quite lost the feeling that a
     prayer-meeting was bound to follow. Much to our surprise no
     one came up and spoke to us about our souls; indeed our
     hosts led the way into all the fun that was going, and none
     of them had the milk-and-bun expression of countenance that
     we had conjured up in our mind's eye. You can see what our
     conception of Y.M.C.A. members was. We imagined them a
     narrow-minded set of some mild kind of religious fanatics."

I promised a veracious chronicle, and I am quoting Sydney Baxter word
for word. I am inclined to believe that here he is expressing his
companions' anxieties rather than his own.

     "The tea gong sounded and our hosts led the way to another
     large room, and upon the tables was a sumptuous spread.
     Being young men we did full justice to it, and throughout
     the whole of tea time this same atmosphere of sociability
     surrounded us.

     "After tea we were escorted to the lecture room, and,
     although it is too long ago to remember who the speakers
     were, and what the subjects, I do know it was most
     enjoyable. At the conclusion we were given a hearty welcome
     to come and use the rooms every evening for reading,
     writing, or social intercourse and games. The following
     morning in the office we all agreed that we had had a most
     enjoyable evening, and that we had badly misjudged the
     Y.M.C.A. A few of us took advantage of the invitation and
     went again, and received the same warm welcome and had
     another enjoyable evening. Shortly afterwards three of us
     joined the Association. Until this time I had no idea of the
     magnitude of the Association's work; my idea was that little
     existed outside of the Headquarters and the smaller branches
     over the country. This was some eight years ago. Now every
     one knows the Y.M.C.A. I soon got into the stream and found
     I was in the midst of a large number of football, cricket,
     swimming, and rowing enthusiasts. The teams that the
     Association clubs put into the field and on the river were
     very strong. The sports side of the Y.M.C.A. was indeed a
     revelation."

So it was that Sydney Baxter's evenings and week-ends were often spent
with his fellows in various Y.M.C.A. organisations. He was anxious to
get on, and the Association classes helped him, too, in his business
education. Ambitious of advancement in the office, he had noted that
his schooling was lacking in certain essentials if he was to be fit
when the opportunity arrived. He rose quickly in the business and was
soon doing responsible work. He was one of those fellows who get ready
for the time when their chance may come. It always does come to such
as Sydney Baxter.

The Association tackled the holiday problem for this young man too.
This is how he describes his first visit to one of the Y.M.C.A.
hotels. He calls them hotels himself, and I am not surprised, for such
they really are. A "home," though a beautiful word, does not, somehow,
in this connection convey the proper idea of these Y.M.C.A. holiday
resorts. "A home from home"--well you know!

     "I went down entirely on my own. I was at that time a very
     reserved chap, and I had misgivings as to the probability of
     making chums. I shared my room with a young Frenchman, who
     fortunately could speak English quite well, and thus we were
     saved embarrassing silence and aloofness.

     "Tea gong sounded, and as we made our way into the passage
     we were literally carried along in the stream of young men,
     newcomers in their lounge suits, the others mostly in
     flannels. On we swept, down the stairs into the large
     dining-hall. Sit where you please, act as if you had been
     here all your life and treat everyone as an old pal, seemed
     to be the order of the day, and in that atmosphere it was
     impossible to feel anything but quite at home. Before tea
     was over we new arrivals were infected with the same spirit
     of joviality, and were ready for the first 'rag.'

     "I was shown the house and grounds by an old boarder. In
     addition to the lounge, writing and smoking-rooms, there was
     a dark-room for developing, a fully rigged 'gym,' and
     billiard-room; and so, in inclement weather, every amusement
     was at hand. In the grounds were tennis courts and croquet
     lawns.

     "Every week drives were arranged to the beauty-spots and
     historical places round about, but I appreciated most the
     facilities offered by a temporary membership of the boating
     club for the absurdly small sum of 3_s._ 6_d._ per week. For
     this one could have a skiff or, if a party, a large boat,
     any day for any length of time, bathing costume and fishing
     tackle thrown in. I took full advantage of this, and most
     mornings and afternoons were spent on the water. We used to
     pull over to the obsolete battleships that lay in the
     stretch of water between us and the mainland. Here we would
     tether up and turn the gangway into a diving platform. Happy
     indeed were these days spent with companions who were in
     every sense of the word sportsmen and gentlemen."

Sportsmen and gentlemen--a new designation, perhaps, to some who have
judged these Y.M.C.A. members by hearsay only. It's Sydney Baxter's
not mine. And he ought to know well what the words mean after two
years in a line regiment at the front.



One Young Man Joins the Army



CHAPTER II

ONE YOUNG MAN JOINS THE ARMY


Sydney Baxter was most decidedly getting on in business. And then the
war came. I do not want you to have the impression that, at this time,
he was one of those sturdy, strapping young fellows who gladly rushed
into the ranks for the very joy of fighting. There were thousands of
them, I know, a glorious breed, but Sydney Baxter was not of that
build. So that there may be no mistake let me give his own words. They
are frank enough to be convincing.

     "When war fell upon Europe I was one of those foolish people
     who imagined that the Kaiser and his army would be
     completely crushed before Xmas, 1914. For the first two
     months I never gave a thought to the possibility of my
     becoming a soldier. I couldn't imagine myself with a rifle
     and bayonet chasing Huns, or standing the rough-and-ready
     life of the soldier, and the thought of blood was horrible.
     I had worn glasses since I was a boy of twelve, and for
     that reason, among others, I had not learnt the art of
     self-defence where quickness of vision is half the battle.
     From appearances and manners one would have ticketed me as a
     Conscientious Objector. I thank God I had not _that_
     conception of my duty to Him."

And so Sydney Baxter went on with his work. There was plenty to do.
Reservists had been called up. Opportunities of advancement were many.
Some must stay and "keep the home fires burning." You know all the
arguments, all the self-justification of those days. His chance had
undoubtedly arrived. He was badly needed in the office. You shall read
his own confession.

     "It was well into October before I realised the Call to Arms
     was a personal one, and that the Hun was not so easily to be
     beaten. The treatment of the Belgians hit me very hard, and,
     but for my home circumstances, I should have donned khaki
     straight away. My position was just this. My father had died
     some few months before, and left to my care my mother and my
     sister. Their protection was my solemn charge--there was no
     doubt about it in my mind. And yet, what was my duty? To
     fight--or to stay and look after our little home? It is a
     problem that thousands of us young men have had to wrestle
     with, and for several days I wrestled with it alone. Mother
     was purely neutral; she refused to influence me either way.
     Mother-like she could not encourage my going, but she would
     never lift a finger to deter me. Her answer was that it was
     entirely a matter of what _I_ conscientiously felt was my
     foremost duty. I never went near a recruiting meeting, so
     that I should not be carried away by enthusiasm to the
     recruiting office. I must decide when my thoughts were cool
     and collected. The second week in November brought the
     climax. I knew my duty was to fight.

     "So I enlisted in a London Territorial Regiment whose first
     battalion was already in France and would require frequent
     drafts. I did not hesitate about joining a fighting unit.
     Other units are very necessary, but I wouldn't let another
     man do _my_ fighting for me. I had some difficulty about a
     slightly weak heart caused by a severe illness a few years
     before. However, with the words that 'the life would either
     make or break me,' I was accepted for active service."

I am told that Sydney Baxter omits one thing here. Unlike so many in
those early days, when he announced to the chief that he had joined,
he asked no question about any possible allowance. He asked no advice,
he suggested no help. He just joined. All he said was, "I felt I had
to go, sir, and my mother says it will be all right. She says she will
be able to manage quite well." Let me pay my tribute to this one young
man's mother. There are so many like her that I pay it to thousands.
Not only did she refuse to put obstacles in the way, but she would
have no bargaining with patriotism. "She would manage quite well." It
meant more boarders in the little home, it meant the breaking up of
the old sweet privacy and quietude of the household, but--she would
manage quite well. God knows the heartache and the sorrow behind the
sacrifice she and the thousands like her have made--surely a sacrifice
very acceptable in His sight.



One Young Man in Camp



CHAPTER III

ONE YOUNG MAN IN CAMP


Within a fortnight this one young man was in camp at Crowborough. The
contrast to his previous life as a city clerk, where mud was unknown
and wet feet a rare occurrence, was marked indeed. The camp was
sodden, the mud ankle-deep, and, what with that and the cold November
weather, times were pretty stiff. He writes home:

     "Our camp is about a foot deep in mud and slosh, and every
     time you go out your boots are covered and you have to be
     careful or you slip over.

     "Our huts are like Church Missions. There are sixty-one
     fellows in this one, and all along the sides are our
     mattresses which we fold up. They are made of straw and are
     really very comfortable. The only drawback is that in the
     morning you find your toes sticking out at the other end of
     the bed. I must tell you how these beds are made. There are
     three planks about six feet in length, and these are placed
     side by side on two trestles about ten inches high. They
     give us three blankets, very thick and warm, and you can
     roll them round yourself.

     "Right down the centre of the room are long trestled tables
     with forms to sit on, and this is where we feast. We sleep,
     eat, drink, play games, write letters, and do everything in
     this room.

     "It's very funny to hear the bugle-calls. Everything is done
     by bugles. At 6.30 in the morning there is the first call
     and everyone gets up. If you don't--the sergeant comes along
     and pulls you out. To wash we have to run down to the other
     end of the camp and fill our buckets. There are only two
     buckets for sixty chaps, so you can imagine the scramble.
     For a bathroom we have a large field, and we nearly break
     our backs bending down over the basins. For about one hour
     before breakfast we do physical drill with our coats off.
     And hard work it is. For breakfast we have streaky greasy
     bacon. Funny--at home, I never ate bacon, I couldn't stick
     it, but here I walk into it and enjoy it. The tea they give
     us is not ideal, but so long as it is hot and wet it goes
     down all right. For dinner it's stew--stew--stew, but it's
     not bad. Of course, some day I get all gravy and no meat,
     another day meat and no gravy. Tea is quite all right. We
     have plenty of bread, butter, jam, and cheese. All food is
     fetched in dixeys (large boilers), and tea, stew, and bacon
     are all cooked in turn in these, so if the orderlies don't
     wash them clean at dinner time we have greasy, stewy tea.

     "I am getting a bit used to the marching, especially when
     there is anyone singing. The favourites are 'John Peel,'
     'Cock Robin,' 'Oh, who will o'er the downs so free?' 'John
     Brown's Body,' 'Hearts of Oak,' and 'Annie Laurie.' We all
     have little books of Camp Songs, and we learn them at night;
     it makes all the difference to the marching. One of the
     songs is:--

          "Oh, Mother is the leader of society, and
          You can see her name is in the papers every day.
          She was presented at the court
          For fighting Mrs. Short
          Down our way.

     "Not an exactly edifying song, but it goes with a swing. I
     can hardly keep my eyes open as I write this."

On the whole and considering everything--a wide phrase covering many
things unspoken--Sydney Baxter enjoyed his camp life, but Christmas
was certainly a hardship. He writes:


                                        _Christmas Day, 1914._

     "All day yesterday I was on fatigue work, and did not finish
     until 7.30 to 8. We started the morning by building a hedge
     with bushes gathered from the Heath, and then we unloaded
     trucks of hay and straw and built them in a stack. I got
     several stray pieces down my neck. After that we had to
     unload a traction load of coal in one-cwt. sacks, and oh,
     they were dirty and awkward too. We had sacks over our heads
     like ordinary coalmen, and you ought to have seen our hands
     and faces when we had finished. We could not get any tea, as
     we were expecting three more trolleys. After about two hours
     the trolleys came, and we unloaded some meat; it took three
     of us to lift some of the pieces. Then after that bacon,
     oats, tea, jam, and about 1,000 loaves of bread. We were
     proper Jacks-of-all-trades and were thoroughly tired out.

     "This seems a funny sort of Christmas Day, but it will be
     all right after five o'clock. Of course I'd rather be in
     London and see you all. Still, all the same I'm rather
     enjoying myself this afternoon. I have a big box of chocs.
     by the side of me, and they are gradually diminishing. And
     now I feel in a better mood."

The Y.M., as it is now always called by the men at and from the front,
played a very important part, an invaluable part, in Sydney Baxter's
camp life. He writes:

     "We were about twenty minutes' walk from the village, and at
     first there was absolutely nothing there to go down for,
     and we seemed doomed to a very uncomfortable winter.
     However, the words of a well-known war song, 'Every cloud is
     silver lined,' are very true. _Our_ cloud was soon brightly
     lined by the Y.M. people, who discovered the best way to do
     it in no time. A hall was acquired in the village for the
     sale of tea and eatables, and for facilitating writing and
     reading for the troops in camp. It was staffed by ladies in
     the locality and was a real Godsend to us all. Picture us
     from 6.30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on and off parade, in a muddy camp,
     without even a semblance of a canteen or writing-hut, always
     within sound of the bugle with its ever-recurring call for
     Orderly Sergeants, tired out and wet through and inwardly
     chafing at the unaccustomed discipline. Our spirits were on
     a par with Bairnsfather's 'Fed-up one.' At the last note of
     'the Retreat' we were free. Without the Y.M. touch we should
     have had to stay in our bleak huts, constantly reminded of
     our surroundings and discomforts. But these Y.M. people had
     provided a comfortable, well-lighted, and, above all, warm
     room, with plenty of books and papers and any amount of grub
     and unlimited tea to wash it down. Isn't it wonderful how
     many sorrows the British army can drown in a cup of tea?

     "Apparently there's no need to tell the Y.M. people to 'get
     a move on,' for before two months had elapsed they
     installed in the very centre of the camp a large canteen,
     with a reading and writing room. It made a big difference to
     us, as we had the advantage of procuring a midday cup of
     tea, coffee, or cocoa, and such luxuries as biscuits and
     chocolate, also an evening's enjoyment, without the weary
     trudge to and from the village. As the vaccinations and
     inoculations were in progress at that time, the warm room
     was a blessing and eased the wearisome day which would have
     had to be spent in camp. More and more huts were erected,
     and more and more men occupied them; so a very large new
     Y.M. hut was quickly built near the camps and was opened in
     state, some fifty of us forming a Guard of Honour. It was a
     splendid building--its greatest attraction the billiard
     tables. Night after night we waited our turn for a game. At
     the long counter were a library and post office; the latter
     was most useful, for a letter could be written and posted
     without any delay whatever. Refreshments were, as usual,
     obtained at any time. There was not the slightest fuss;
     anyone could enter and do exactly as he wished. There is a
     genuine Y.M. atmosphere which makes a fellow feel 'at home.'
     It says, 'We are here because we feel we are "kind of
     wanted" here for your individual comfort: this is _your
     show_, and we are happy and anxious to do all we can for
     you. Come at any time and bring all your chums.'"

Sydney Baxter's chief saw him once or twice during these camp days.
And he marvelled. The spectacles had gone. The lank, round-shouldered
figure had filled and straightened. Suddenly a man had been born. A
soldier, too. This fellow of the pen and ledger, this very type of the
British clerk who had never handled a rifle in his life and didn't
know the smell of powder from eau de Cologne, who had never
experienced anything of hardship or even discomfort; whose outlook in
life had hitherto never stretched beyond a higher seat at the office
desk, to whom the great passions of life were a sealed book--this
fellow passed his shooting and other tests in record time.

He was in France within sixteen weeks of joining the army.

Those were very dark days in England, but the sight of this one young
man cheered the chief. We were arrayed in battle against men who had
been trained through all the years of their manhood, the whole course
of whose lives had been shaped for this Day. And we had to meet them
with--clerks! It seemed hopeless and a mockery. But when he saw
Sydney Baxter the chief realised that often when the spirit is willing
the flesh becomes strong; that the British fighting breed was not
dead, though the black office coat had misled the German. How many
times have you and I said "he was the last man I should have thought
would have made a soldier." Well, Sydney Baxter was that last man. And
he made a first-class soldier. Let this country never forget it. He,
and the thousands like him, outnumbered and outgunned, fought the
Prussian Guard, the most finished product of the German military
machine, and halted them, held them, beat them. In equal fight they
thrashed them. Think of it in the light of history. The greatest and
most wonderfully equipped and trained army the world has ever known
beaten in fair fight by an army of clerks, schoolmasters,
stockbrokers, University men, street waifs, shopkeepers, labourers,
counter-jumpers, most of whom did not know one end of a rifle from the
other when war was declared. Sydney Baxter was one of that army. That
is why I am telling his story. It will make strange and very salutary
reading for Prussian arrogance--some day.



One Young Man on Active Service



CHAPTER IV

ONE YOUNG MAN ON ACTIVE SERVICE


Sydney Baxter was sent with his unit to Rouen. He writes:

     "We were tightly packed in a small tent at Rouen Camp. The
     following morning and afternoon we were busily engaged in
     being fitted out with extra equipment and ammunition, and so
     did not have time to look around. We had great hopes,
     however, of seeing the city in the evening, but we had to
     'Stand by' and on no account leave camp. This was horrible.
     The tents were too dark to play cards, we had no reading
     matter or letters to answer, and once more seemed doomed to
     an evening of deadly dreariness. However, we decided to
     patrol the camp, my chum and I. As we walked off together we
     little dreamed that exactly one month from that day he was
     to be called upon to pay the supreme sacrifice of all. We
     walked round that camp, feeling that in each other we had
     our only link with home, with past associations. We did not
     speak much. Each had his own thoughts, each was
     subconsciously leaning on the other for support, for the
     coming unknown experiences. It was a cold March evening, and
     for want of anything to do, and in the hope of getting a
     little warmth, we decided to go back to our tent and turn
     in. I have tried to give an idea of how we were feeling; it
     can be summed up as tired and cold--and a bit homesick.

     "It was just then that we spotted a tent with the sign of
     'The Red Triangle.' We had visions of hot tea. An oasis in
     the desert could not have been more welcome. We entered the
     large tent; it was very full, and a long line was patiently
     awaiting the turn for purchasing. There was no shouting, no
     pushing or elbowing to get up to the front and be served
     first. The tent was really and truly a haven of peace--such
     a welcome port of call. On the small tables were magazines
     and 'Blighty' newspapers, paper and envelopes were given for
     the asking, and a gramophone was grinding out the tunes we
     all loved. We sat at one of the tables, so thankful for such
     a change of scene, and for the warmth of the hot tea. The
     same welcome, the same homely atmosphere, were here as in
     the other Y.M. centres. One felt, _one was made to feel_,
     that his was the right to enter and stay and enjoy himself
     each in his own way, and that is why the Y.M. is so popular,
     and why both the taciturn and the jocular find their way by
     common consent to these Y.M.C.A. tents."

In a few days came the order to proceed to Ypres. He writes:

     "We swung round into the station yard, and were allotted to
     our compartments, fondly imagining we should be off in a few
     minutes. We took off our equipment and other paraphernalia,
     and settled down for our journey. A minute or so afterwards
     the order was passed down that the train would not start
     before 7 o'clock, and that men might leave their
     compartments but not the station. Here was a fine look-out.
     It was only about 2 o'clock, and we had to look forward to
     at least five hours of weary waiting, without anything hot
     to drink and only bully and biscuits to eat. It was not a
     pleasant prospect, you will agree, but apparently it was
     nothing out of the usual, for the 'Association of the Red
     Triangle' was ready and waiting for us, and had a large
     canteen, run entirely by ladies, on the station. Here we
     were able to provide for our journey, fill our water-bottles
     with tea and our haversacks with ham, rolls, and fruit. This
     was the best refreshment room I have been into, and it was
     our last glimpse of English ladies for many months. These
     ladies are doing a splendid and most self-sacrificing work,
     for their hours are long and their duties heavy. I wonder if
     it has ever occurred to them how much their presence meant
     to us boys? For many they were the last seen of the
     womanhood of our race."

I wonder too. Will any of those ladies read these lines? I hope
so--I'd like them to know what their presence meant to just one of the
boys they have been serving so well. They will have their reward. I
should like them to have just one word of a Tommy's thanks now. He
continues:

     "In our little compartment of six two were killed within a
     month and one wounded; the other three survived until the
     first of July, when one was killed, one was taken a prisoner
     of war, and I was wounded and rendered unfit for further
     service. When at last our train started, amid rousing cheers
     for the ladies and a fluttering of white handkerchiefs from
     the little group on the station platform, we seemed to leave
     the last of civilisation behind.

     "Before midnight we were under shell-fire in the Infantry
     Barracks of Ypres."

He writes to his mother:

     "My word we _were_ tired at the end of the journey. We are
     stationed in the military barracks of the city, and have had
     a chance of looking round the town. The buildings,
     especially the cathedral, are very much damaged. The only
     discomforts are the lack of food and the absence of money to
     buy it. Both G. and I landed here without a penny, but
     managed to borrow enough to buy a loaf. We know now what it
     is to be hungry; we have 1/4 lb. of bread a day only, and no
     milk in the tea, so you can see that what you want you must
     buy, and it's terribly expensive here, 6_d_. for a loaf,
     etc. But we shall be paid in a day or so. The only things
     which are really necessary, and which we cannot get here,
     are candles and Oxo cubes. Although I don't want to be a
     burden to you, I should like you to send 1 lb. of candles
     and some cubes. The candles are used for boiling water or
     tea, etc., in the trenches, and it is the only way we can
     get anything hot. Of course anything in the way of food is
     acceptable, but I can understand that you have enough to do
     without extra trouble and expense. Anyway, should any kind
     friends wish to send, please let them do so.

     "We are two miles from trenches, and shall be going in on
     Sunday. A few shells are knocking round, but we take no
     notice and sleep well. Well, don't worry. We are in
     comfortable billets and with very decent fellows, and they
     have shared their bread, etc., with us."

I shall not attempt to picture Sydney Baxter's daily life in the
terrible salient of Ypres in any detail, but that I may prove my words
that he was a typical soldier let me quote just one letter received at
this time.

     "MY OWN DEAR MOTHER,

     "I have not been able to write before as we have just come
     out of the trenches after being there since Monday. Thanks
     very much for sweets and letters. They are very acceptable
     indeed. Thanks for P.O. We have now been paid, and so shall
     be all right. Chocolates, handkerchiefs, etc., are fine.
     Neither George nor I felt anything peculiar when coming
     under fire as I expected we should. We were all right in the
     trenches, which are very good indeed. They are a bit
     different to what I expected, but of course they vary. It
     seems to me safer to be in the trenches than out; however,
     it is bad luck if you are hit. No one was killed in our
     company all the time we were in, and only three wounded, so
     you will see there is not much to worry about; and with some
     pay and parcels which I have received, and about twelve
     letters, I feel much better."

Sydney Baxter often mentions his chum in this record and I think the
following extract from George's letter about this time may well be
inserted here. The two boys were inseparable until the last and
absolute bodily separation between the living and the dead.

     "Everything is going on all right with us. We have finished
     our first taste of trench life, and on the whole it was
     rather enjoyable. We went in last Monday and came out late
     on Saturday. The first two or three days were wet, so our
     opportunities for sleep were few, especially as at our part
     of the trench there were no dug-outs and our sleep had to be
     obtained in the open air. In fact, until the fourth day I
     only had one hour's sleep, and on the last day I managed
     about five hours. The chief trouble was trying to boil
     water, but we managed by cutting a candle into small pieces
     and putting this, with a piece of rag, into a tin, using the
     rag as a wick.

     "Our five days and nights were on the whole fairly quiet; in
     fact, during the day hardly any shots were exchanged, most
     of the firing being done at night. During the day it was
     impossible to look over the trench, as we were only fifty
     yards from the Germans, so we considered it advisable not to
     exhibit too much curiosity in case our health suffered
     thereby. At night time the Germans use star-shells to
     illuminate the proceedings, and they always seem nervy and
     think we are going to attack their trench. If we start
     firing a little more than usual they think it is the signal
     for an attack, and they blaze away like fury. We had a good
     example of this on our last night in the trenches.

     "Someone started firing, someone else took it up and in no
     time the noise was like the final end-up of fireworks at the
     White City. From that it got much worse, and I suppose they
     really thought we were going for them, so their artillery
     sent us a few shells; but they did no damage. Eventually
     they seemed satisfied that we were quite safe, so they wound
     up the proceedings.

     "There is one lot here who, whenever they go into the
     trenches, shove their hats on their rifles, wave them about,
     and then shout across to the Germans to come out in the open
     and have a proper fight. Whenever this happens the Germans
     lie low and hardly fire a shot.

     "One advantage of being so close to the Germans is that they
     cannot shell us without damaging their own trench as much as
     ours, so that, although we heard plenty going along
     overhead, we had none very near us."



One Young Man at Hill 60



CHAPTER V

ONE YOUNG MAN AT HILL 60


Many have described in vivid, and none in too vivid, language the
fighting in the spring of 1915. This one young man went through it
all, through the thickest of it all. He can tell a tale which, if
written up and around, would be as thrilling as any yet recorded of
those heroic days. But I prefer, and I know he, a soldier, would
prefer, to chronicle the events of his day after day just as they
occurred, without colour, and without comment.

I print, then, Sydney Baxter's account of the fighting as he wrote it.
I promised that this should be an altogether true chronicle, and it is
well that some who live in the shelter of other men's heroism should
know of the sacrifices by which they are saved. And then, too, as I
read his pages, I heard a suggestion that we were all in danger of
"spoiling" the wounded who come back to us after enduring, for our
sakes, the pains he here describes.

     "For three nights the bombardment had been tremendous.

     "It was 7 o'clock on the Sunday morning when we first got
     the alarm--'turn out and be ready to march off at once.' We
     heard that the Hill--the famous Hill 60--had gone up and
     that we had been successful in holding it, but the rumours
     were that the fighting was terrific. We were soon marching
     on the road past battered Vlamertinghe. Shells of heavy
     calibre were falling on all sides, and we made for the
     Convent by the Lille gate, by a circuitous route--round by
     the Infantry Barracks. We dumped our packs in this Convent,
     where there were still one or two of the nuns who had
     decided to face the shelling rather than leave their old
     home.

     "We were sorted up into parties. Our job was to carry barbed
     wire and ammunition up to the Hill. I was first on the
     barbed-wire party; there were about fifty of us and we
     collected the 'knife-rests' just outside the Lille gate, and
     proceeded up the railway cutting. Shells were falling fairly
     fast, as indeed they always seemed to along this cut. At
     last we got our knife-rests up by the Hill and dumped them
     there. Fortunately we had very few casualties. We started to
     go back, but, half-way, we were stopped at the Brigade
     Headquarters, a badly damaged barn, and were told that we
     had to make another journey with bombs. We were just getting
     a few of these bombs out of the barn when the Boches landed
     three shells right on top of it. Many of our men were laid
     out, but we had to leave them and try to get as much
     ammunition out as possible. The barn soon caught fire, and
     this made the task a very dangerous one indeed. Every minute
     we were expecting the whole lot of ammunition to go up, but
     our officer had already taken a watch on it and gave the
     alarm just a few seconds before the whole building went
     clean up into the air.

     "We then began to retrace our steps along the railway out to
     the Hill. Each man carried two boxes of bombs. Just as we
     reached the communication trench, leading on to the Hill
     itself, the Boches sent over several of the tear-gas shells.
     We stumbled about half-blind, rubbing our eyes. The whole
     party realised that the boys holding the Hill needed the
     bombs, so we groped our way along as best we could,
     snuffling and coughing, our eyes blinking and streaming. We
     stood at intervals and passed the bombs from one to the
     other, and had nearly completed our job when the word came
     down that no one was to leave the Hill, as a counter-attack
     was taking place a few minutes before 6 o'clock. We had
     then been at it for nearly ten hours. By this time the
     bombardment from both sides was stupendous; every gun on
     each side seemed concentrated on this one little stretch, on
     this small mound.

     "Six o'clock came and I heard a shrill whistle and knew that
     our boys were just going over the top. Immediately there was
     a deafening rattle of machine guns and rifle fire. And then
     a stream of wounded poured down this communication trench.
     The wounds were terrible, mostly bayonet. None were dressed;
     there had been no time, they were just as they had been
     received. Many a poor chap succumbed to his injuries as he
     staggered along our trench. To keep the gangway clear we had
     to lift these dead bodies out and put them on the top of the
     parapets. It was ghastly, but you get accustomed to ghastly
     things out here. You realise that fifty dead bodies are not
     equal to one living. And these poor fellows, who only a few
     minutes before had been alive and full of vigour, were now
     just blocking the trench. And so we simply lifted the bodies
     out and cast them over the top. By this time the trench was
     absolutely full of wounded, and our little party was told to
     act as stretcher-bearers, and to get the stretcher cases
     down. We were only too glad to do something to help. The
     first man that my chum and I carried died half-way down the
     cutting. We felt sorry for him, but could do nothing. He was
     dead. So we lifted his body on to the side of the track and
     returned for the living. This work lasted some considerable
     time, and when more stretcher-bearers came up, most of the
     cases had been carried down, so we returned to the Convent
     exhausted, nerve-shaken, and very glad of the opportunity of
     a few hours' sleep. The sights we had seen, the
     nerve-racking heavy shelling had upset our chaps pretty
     badly. Many of them sobbed. To see and hear a man sob is
     terrible, almost as terrible as some of the wounds I have
     seen--and they have been very awful. However, as quite a
     number of the men had only recently come out, it was natural
     enough that we should be upset by this ordeal. Time and
     repeated experiences of this kind toughen if they do not
     harden a man--but for many this was the first experience.

     "Early the next morning the whole battalion made a move
     nearer to the Hill. For the greater part of the day we stood
     to in dug-outs on the side of the railway embankment, but at
     dusk we lined up and received instructions as to the work we
     had to do that night and the following day. Our officers
     told us that we were going to the Hill to hold off all
     counter-attacks, and that if any man on the way up was
     wounded no one was to stay with him. He must be left to wait
     for the stretcher-bearers. Every man would be needed for
     the coming struggle, and although it seemed almost _too_
     hard that one must see his chum struck down and be unable to
     stop and bind up his wounds, there was no doubt that the
     order was very necessary.

     "We started off in single file by platoons. This time we did
     not go up the cutting, but made our way round by the
     reservoir and the dilapidated village of Zillebeke. The
     first man to go down was one of my own section. We
     remembered the order not to stop, although the temptation
     was very strong. So we left him, wishing him the best of
     luck and hoping that he would soon be in Blighty. After this
     the casualties came faster and faster as we entered into the
     shell-swept area. The machine guns were sweeping round and
     were making havoc in our ranks. Gradually we drew near to
     the little wood just beside Hill 60, and were told to occupy
     any dug-outs there until further orders. It was at this time
     that the whizz-bang shell made its debut. We had not
     encountered this kind of shell before; it was one that gave
     absolutely no warning and was used for quite small ranges.

     "We had been in these dug-outs for about half an hour when
     we were told to fall in and each man to carry two boxes of
     bombs. We then went into the communication trench of the
     old front line. At this stage our company commander was
     wounded.

     "However, we got on to the Hill, and each man was
     detailed--some for firing, some for bombing, and some for
     construction. All the trenches were blown in entirely, and a
     large number of us, including my chum and myself, were
     detailed for this construction work. Under heavy shelling we
     tried to build up the blown-in portions of the trenches.
     This was just at a corner leading right on to the Hill and
     part of our old front line. We laboured here all night
     through. Just before dawn the shelling increased, and the
     bombardment grew very terrific. All possible were rushed up
     into the crater to take the places of the fallen. Casualties
     were terrible, and the wounded came past our corner in one
     stream; several of my own friends were amongst them, and two
     of them, who had come out with me, were killed just a few
     yards away. This terrific cannonade continued until dawn,
     when things quietened down a little. Every one's nerves were
     on edge, and all of us were thoroughly tired out. In every
     part of the trench lay numbers of dead bodies; in fact, to
     move about, one had to climb over them. I sat down, dead
     beat, for some time on what I thought was a sandbag. I
     discovered afterwards it was a dead body.

     "Shortly afterwards we were relieved by another regiment,
     and in small parties of tens made our way back into Ypres.
     This was done in daylight, and we were spotted and shelled
     by the Boches. However, we were only too glad to get away
     from that ghastly hell, and literally tore along the hedges
     down past the reservoir into Ypres. At the hospital, at the
     other end of the town, the remnants of the battalion were
     collected, and it was there that Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien
     spoke to us, congratulating our battalion on its stand the
     night before. Worn out, we lined up and marched back along
     the road to Vlamertinghe, fondly imagining we were going
     back to our well-earned rest (as a matter of fact that was
     the programme), but we had not been in these huts more than
     half an hour when down the road from St. Julien there rushed
     one long column of transports, riderless horses, and wounded
     (mostly of the French Algerian regiments). And everywhere
     was the cry, 'The Boches have broken through!'

     "Orders were soon forthcoming, and we turned out, loaded
     magazines, and marched off in the direction from which the
     Boches were supposed to be coming. On our way up many
     dispatch riders passed, and each one had the same comforting
     message--'The Canadians are holding them.' We went no
     further, but received orders to dig ourselves in across the
     road, and that in the event of the Boches getting as far as
     this we were to hold them until the last man. Fortunately
     the splendid Canadians had not only held their ground, but
     with terrible losses had pushed the enemy two or three miles
     back; had, in fact, practically regained all the ground
     lost.

     "At nightfall we drew picks and shovels and made our way in
     the direction of St. Julien. We got to the Yser Canal, and
     in crossing the bridge met the batch of wounded coming back.
     This was not heartening, but certainly gave all of us a
     keener desire to get to grips. On the side of the banks of
     the Yser we were formed into three waves and received
     instructions that we were going over in extended order to
     drive the Huns from the position. But the Canadians had done
     so grandly that we were not needed until the following
     morning, when, in broad daylight, the remnants of the once
     whole battalion, in single file, made their way along the
     hedges, taking advantage of every possible cover, up to the
     village of St. Jean.

     "Much to our surprise we did not stop there, but went right
     through and came within view of the Boches. Immediately we
     were under the special care of their artillery, and within a
     short space of time lost half of our numbers. We had to dig
     ourselves in with entrenching tools, but after having got
     fairly decent cover, had to move on again over to the left.
     We got right forward into the front line, and found it held
     by a mere handful of the Canadians, who received us with
     enthusiasm and were so heartened by our reinforcements that
     they were more determined than ever to hang on to the last.

     "Meanwhile between the two lines our wounded lay unattended,
     those who were able made their way, crawling and rolling
     through the barbed wire, into our lines. At dusk half of the
     Canadians occupying the trench made one rush after another
     to bring in their wounded and helpless comrades. It was a
     wonderful sight. Again and again these fellows went out,
     each time carrying back a wounded man. I was the extreme end
     man of our regiment, and so was right next to the Canadians
     themselves. Their officer, who was hit some time during the
     evening, came back with his arm in a sling, refusing to go
     down the line to the dressing station, as he preferred to
     stay with the remnants of his company. He was a most
     encouraging chap, and it was here that I noticed the
     difference between the companionship of these officers and
     men and those of our own army. The ordinary private would
     pull out his small packet of Woodbines and offer one to his
     officer, who would accept it with the same feeling of
     gratefulness as he would a cigar from a brother officer.

     "We stayed with these Canadians for two days. For some
     reason or other the transport had failed to bring up our
     rations, but we did not suffer for lack of food, for
     whatever the Canadians had, we had too. They shared with us
     all their rations and kept us for those two days.

     "At the end of that time, during which we had witnessed
     several attacks on the right, we were relieved from those
     trenches and marched back to the farm on the other side of
     the Canal. But it was not for a rest; for every night we had
     to go up digging and consolidating the trenches regained and
     digging communication trenches.

     "It was on one of these digging fatigues that my chum was
     killed. He and I had been given a small sector to dig, and
     it was really a fairly quiet night, as far as firing was
     concerned. We had dug down a depth of about three feet and
     had secured ourselves against rifle fire and were putting
     the final touches to our work, which we had rightly viewed
     with pride and satisfaction, when the order came--'D Company
     file out towards the left.' We were terribly disappointed
     for we had worked all that evening on digging ourselves in
     here and we knew that it meant a fresh start elsewhere. We
     were just clambering out when there rang out one single shot
     from a sniper, apparently lying in front of the German
     lines.

     "We all got up with the exception of my chum. I did not for
     a minute imagine he had been hit, but merely thought he was
     making sure that the sniper had finished, so I touched
     him--and he half rolled towards me. I lifted him up and
     said, 'Did you catch it?' All he could do was to point to
     his chin. He was an awful sight. A dum-dum or explosive
     bullet had caught his jawbone and had blown the left lower
     jaw and part of the neck away. I realised at once that it
     was hopeless, for it took four bandages to stop the
     spurting. One of our fellows ran off for the
     stretcher-bearers. One of these came back, but he could not
     stop the flow of blood at all, and the corporal said, 'No
     good: it will all be over in a minute.' I could not believe
     it at all--it did not seem possible to me that George with
     whom I had spent every hour, every day in close
     companionship for so many months past, was dying.

     "The party went on and I was left alone, but I risked all
     chances of court martial and stayed with my wounded friend.
     I couldn't leave him until I was absolutely certain that he
     was past all aid. He did not last very many minutes, and I
     knelt there with my arm round his shoulders, hoping against
     hope that something could be done. He was called to pay the
     supreme sacrifice of all. And with just one gasp he died.

     "I was in a terrible condition. My clothes were soaked in
     blood, my hands all red, my mind numbed. Nothing could be
     done, so I went and joined my company, but first made
     application to the sergeant-major that I might help to bury
     my chum. This was granted, and as three other men were
     killed that evening, a party of us were detailed to make
     graves for them. I can see now those four graves in a
     square, railed off by barbed wire, on the cross-roads
     between St. Jean and St. Julien. On one corner stood an
     estaminet and trenches ran all round. A chaplain was
     passing, and we had a service of a minute or two. The time
     was about 2 o'clock on Saturday morning. We were only able
     to dig down a couple of feet, and these graves must, I fear,
     have suffered from the heavy shelling which followed, but I
     like to think that my chum still rests there undisturbed.

     "How I got back to the barn that night I do not know. I
     certainly was not my natural self, and it was more a stagger
     than a march. It was impossible to realise that I should see
     George no more. And on the following day I had to face the
     still harder task of writing to his parents and to the girl
     he had left behind."

To this, written by Sydney Baxter, I add nothing. Not to me has it
come to dig a shallow, shell-swept grave for my chum. What words,
then, have I?



One Young Man Receives a Letter



CHAPTER VI

ONE YOUNG MAN RECEIVES A LETTER


George's stepfather wrote to Sydney Baxter as soon as he received the
heartbroken letter telling of his chum's death. To this letter from
the father I devote a chapter. It must stand alone. In all the
glorious annals of the war it is, to me at least, unique. Nothing that
I can write can add to its pathos or increase its heroism or enhance
its beauty. I leave it to speak for itself--this letter which will
live, I believe, as the most beautiful expression of a stepfather's
love and devotion in our language.

     "MY DEAR LADDIE,

     "Our hearts are breaking for you, and our thoughts and
     prayers are much taken up on your behalf. All along we have
     united you and George in our petitions, and all that was
     sent addressed to George was meant for Syd and George. We
     never thought of you separately at all, but just as sure as
     you shared all in common, so our thoughts were for you
     both.

     "George's call home was undreamt of by me. It was dreaded by
     his mother, but I hardly think the possibility of such a
     thing had entered into the minds of his sisters or brothers.
     I cannot explain it, but I never expected him to give his
     life out there. I knew many were praying for you both, and
     must have rested my mind completely on the expectation of
     our prayers being answered in the way we wanted. It was not
     to be. And at the first look one feels rebellious in that
     God permitted his death to take place. But who am I, and of
     what account am I, in the scheme of things? Can I understand
     the infinite thought of God? Can I see the end, as He can? I
     can only bow my head, with a heart full of sadness, and
     accept the ruling of my God; and hope for a reunion with our
     dear lad when my call shall come. It was something for me, a
     stepfather, to have had the fathering of such a dear lad. It
     is a heart-break to me that that is ended, and never more in
     reality (though I expect often in mind) shall I hear his
     voice or feel his kiss, or see the dear lad, as he used in
     these later years to do, standing in front of the fireplace
     talking down at me on the chair or listening to me talking
     up at him on Saturday nights. You can picture him, I have no
     doubt. Now all is over, his place in the home is empty--but
     in the heart that can never be. His Mum (as he always called
     his mother) is heart-broken, but very brave. The dear woman
     is worthy to have had such a son, and that is praise indeed.
     If she was prouder of one of the children or made any
     distinction between them, George held that place, and though
     I think we were all conscious of it, none of us grudged it
     him. And that is the greatest tribute that could be paid to
     him--when you think it out. We are all jealous of Mother's
     love. We all want it, and if one is first he must be good
     indeed if it is not a cause of trouble. And that it never
     was in his case.

     "Now, my dear lad, I have a proposal to make to you. We
     received some money to send things out to the lads at the
     front, and there is some left. Besides, George sent some
     home, so that he might get what he wanted sent him without
     asking if I could afford it, I suppose. Well, I am to send
     you some little thing every now and then; you are to get
     another friend and share with him, and you are to make every
     endeavour short of cowardice (of which you are not capable)
     to save your life, valuable to all who have the privilege of
     knowing you, doubly valuable to your mother, and precious to
     your many friends. We feel we have a personal claim on you,
     and I am writing you just as I would were you indeed my boy,
     and we entreat you to bear up, to do your duty, to be a
     brave and true and Christian lad, and to come back safe to
     us all. Oh, what a happy day it will be when we welcome you
     back home!

     "We shall always think of you as partly ours; and for what
     you were to and did for George we will ever bless you. Dear
     lad, get another friend to lean upon and be leant upon. It
     is a glorious thing--friendship. You risked your life to try
     and save George's. God bless you for it. I think He will. If
     you could read our hearts, you would feel afraid. I cannot
     write as I would like. It is in my heart, in my brain, but
     the pen won't put in on the paper. It couldn't. But it is
     there, a deep love for you, a great admiration for your
     bravery, and an earnest prayer that you may be preserved to
     live a happy and useful life for many years to come.

     "Mummie wishes me to say how her heart goes out to you, and
     how she feels for you in your loneliness. Be assured of a
     place in a good woman's prayers, and be assured also that
     all of us continue constantly in prayer for you. We did not
     know how constantly and continually we could petition the
     Great Father till you lads went away. We will not cease
     because one needs them no more. Rather we will be more
     constant, and perhaps that may be one of the results of this
     war. Think what a power the prayers of a whole world would
     have with God! If only they were for the one thing--that His
     Kingdom would come, it would be accomplished at once! May
     the knowledge of His all-pervading love dwell more and more
     in the hearts of the people of the world, so that wars and
     all kindred evils may cease and the hearts of the people be
     taken up with the one task of living for God and His
     Kingdom.

     "May God be ever present with you, watching over and
     blessing you, and may He come into your heart more and more,
     helping and sustaining you in your hard task, and blessing
     you in all your endeavours to be His true son and servant.

                                        "Your loving friend,
                                        G---- B----.

     "P.S.--We have not, up to the time of writing this, received
     an official notification of our poor laddie's death. I felt
     I must write you, however. You will perhaps be able to read
     into my letter what I have been unable to say, but all my
     thoughts for you are summed up in 'God bless you.' Thank all
     the dear lads for their kind sympathy with us."



One Young Man in the Salient



CHAPTER VII

ONE YOUNG MAN IN THE SALIENT


The city of Ypres, which Sydney Baxter had entered some few months
previously, was now a heap of ruins. The whole country was desolate:
the once picturesque roads lined by trees were now but a line of shell
holes, with here and there leafless, branchless stumps, seared
guardians of the thousand graves. On June 7th, 1915, Sydney Baxter
writes:

     "We have been having a very lively time, a second touch of
     real life-destroying warfare. Many of the boys have been
     bowled over. We have had a series of heavy
     bombardments--shells everywhere, so that it was a matter of
     holding tight where we were. However, I was again fortunate,
     and have proved to myself and to the Captain that I can hold
     my head whilst under heavy shell and rifle fire, although
     it's impossible to keep one's heart beating normal under
     such conditions.

     "We are now entrenched for a day or two, but it is not
     over-lively. A corporal who was a fellow bedman of George's
     and mine at Crowborough has just been killed. The poor chap
     died in agony.

     "It is indeed comforting to know that so many are
     petitioning 'Our Father' to spare me, if it be His will,
     through all the dangers and hardships of this uproar, and
     the confidence that the friends have in my return is very
     helpful. I have had the feeling that God will give me
     another chance of doing more work, but the thought of being
     killed has not the terror it had. The idea of joining George
     perhaps gives this comfort, but of course I know that it
     does not rest with me--unless of course by negligence.

     "Will you include, please, two fat candles as you sent
     before."


                                        _June 16th, 1915._

     "MY DEAREST MOTHER,

     "Just a short note in reply to yours received this morning.
     I am still as per usual. Depends on how much sleep I get as
     to how I feel. As I was able last night to get to bed before
     3 o'clock, and slept on to 10 o'clock this morning, I am A1.

     "We got drenched the night before last--every one soaked to
     the skin. We came out of the trench, and as there were no
     huts or dug-outs ready for us, we had to stand out in the
     rain for over an hour when we arrived at our destination.
     As the weather changed next day we managed to dry our
     things. It was a funny sight to see chaps walking about in
     pants, and some with sandbags for trousers.

     "It is rumoured we are leaving here to go ----, but being a
     rumour it won't come true. However, I shouldn't mind a
     change. We are all fed up with this spot.

                                        THE ALCOVE DUG-OUT,
                                        _July 8th, 1915._

     " ... How I long to be within the walls of our dear old
     church! Some of the fellows can't realise or understand when
     I tell them my church life and work are so much to me. I owe
     all my happiness to God through my home and to the
     associations and work at the church. I hope it will be His
     Divine Will to spare me for fuller activities and to make up
     for the sins of omission.

     " ... Don't imagine for a minute we learn French out here.
     We rarely see a civilian, and when we do we say, 'Avez vous
     du pain?' and the reply is generally 'How many do you want?'
     They know more English than we do French."

                                             _Later._

     "The fight for Hill 60 and the struggle with the Canadians
     against the Hun at St. Julien has weakened our division, and
     we are to be transferred further south to a quieter part of
     the line.

     "We are not sorry, for we feel sadly in need of a rest, and
     Ypres and its environments are _literally_ a shell-swept
     area of countless graves. The H.A.C. has relieved us, and we
     marched back the other night to huts a few miles behind the
     line. The following evening we marched still farther back,
     crossing the Franco-Belgian border to the rail-head. We are
     having a few days' rest, spending many hours cleaning up,
     not only our clothes and equipment, but our ceremonial drill
     and exercises."



One Young Man's Sunday



CHAPTER VIII

ONE YOUNG MAN'S SUNDAY



                                        _July 25th, 1915._

     "To tell you that I am at present on this Sunday afternoon
     lying on the grass watching a cricket match no doubt seems
     strange. But that is what I am doing--and with quite an easy
     conscience.

     "We are some miles from the firing line in a fair-sized
     French town. It's a treat to be away from the noise of
     battle, and from sleepless nights, and in a civilised place
     again. We are only here for a day or two, however, and then
     on we go--or at least that is the rumour.

     "We had Church Parade at 10 o'clock this morning, followed
     by a route march, and so we are free this afternoon.

     "Two matches are now in full swing, 13 and 15 _v._ the
     transport, and 14 and 16 _v._ the new platoons. The platoons
     have licked them by 30 runs, 61 to 31 runs. I may say my
     interest keeps wandering from the letter, although no slight
     to you is meant.

     "Now please don't think that Sunday is taken up entirely
     with cricket matches and things of that sort. When the Padre
     can get round to our battalion there is always a service on
     the Sunday. Sometimes a full-blown Church Parade, like this
     morning, but these are not what we call Sunday services. The
     real Sunday services are voluntary ones, either in the open
     or in a Y.M.C.A. hut. The fellows that go--and there are
     quite a large number--really go because they feel the need
     of such a service--not because it is a parade and they
     _must_ turn out.

     "Our Padre has been able to get round to us about every
     Sunday, when we have been out of the trenches. He is a very
     broad-minded chap--is not shocked to see us playing cricket
     on Sundays, for he realises that whilst on rest men _must_
     have exercise and enjoyment, whatever the day may be. I
     asked him once whether he would feel justified in playing a
     footer or cricket match on a Sunday, and he said that if he
     had been in the trenches for several days, and the day that
     he came out happened to be a Sunday, he would certainly
     play.

     "The services are generally held about 10 o'clock in the
     morning. We simply go down and enter the hut or tent and
     take our seats. There is nothing formal; the Padre is sure
     to be there first, and he sits about and has a chat with
     each man before the service begins. The hut is more or less
     divided by a curtain or something like that, which separates
     the service from the part given up to refreshments, and we
     generally sit round in a circle. There is no set form of
     worship, and even the hymns are not settled beforehand. The
     Padre just says, 'Well, boys what shall we have?' and the
     men ask for their favourites, mostly the old-fashioned
     hymns, such as 'Abide with Me' or 'Rock of Ages.' Then
     follows a Bible reading and then more singing of hymns. The
     sermon is generally more of a chat than anything else. The
     Padre does not take a text, but talks of the troubles and
     difficulties of the day in the most practical manner. I
     remember one talk I heard on swearing, and another on
     drinking. The Padre didn't preach at us, he did not condemn
     us at all. He just gave good, sound, hard reasons as to why
     we should not do these things. These friendly chats with
     their sound common sense do us far more good than hundreds
     of stereotyped sermons.

     "The service finishes up with many more hymns and the
     Benediction. But even then we do not leave. This particular
     Padre of ours has introduced what he calls
     'get-away-from-the-war chats.' We sit round and talk about
     everything in general--of home, of books, and all general
     topics. His idea is that we should try to forget about the
     war for that brief half-hour or so. These talks are very
     popular; we get large 'congregations,' and these services
     really do much more good than the official Church Parade,
     when the battalion often has to stand in the cold for about
     an hour on end before the service commences."

To this description of religious services at the front Sydney Baxter
adds the following note. You will remember that he writes of what he
himself has seen and felt. He has fought in the trenches, and we who
have not, have got to face life from his point of view if we are to
understand and help him in the days to come.

     "The majority of the men who used to attend these services
     would probably shock the ordinary church-goer. These chaps
     would occasionally swear, at times they certainly got too
     'merry.' But this did not make them any the less good
     fellows. Unless one has actually been at the front, it's no
     good arguing with him or trying to make him understand the
     front's point of view. What man who has not been through it
     can even dimly imagine the after-effect of continuous
     bombardment and heavy shelling? This I do want to say: the
     whole time these men were at the services they were far more
     reverent than many I have seen in churches in England. On
     leaving they would probably speak of the Chaplain as a
     _damn_, or even more expressive, fine chap; half an hour
     after the service one might find them playing cards, later
     on taking rather more than was good for them at the café,
     and yet there was absolutely no doubt as to their
     earnestness and sincerity or their attitude towards
     religion. On the whole they were a far cleaner-living lot of
     men than those one unfortunately sometimes finds in a place
     of worship in England.

     "_They were real good sorts. They would never go back on a
     pal._"



One Young Man on Trek



CHAPTER IX

ONE YOUNG MAN ON TREK


It was on August Bank Holiday Monday that Sydney Baxter's battalion
made its long journey south. He writes:

     "We were up at 2 o'clock that morning, and for two solid
     hours were loading up the trucks with our transport, G.S.
     waggons and limbers. It was real sport and we thoroughly
     enjoyed it. A long row of flat trucks was lined up, and as
     each limber drew up the horses were unharnessed and we ran
     the limber right along the whole line of trucks until all
     were filled. The work completed, we detailed for our trucks.
     Every trenchman knows those trucks neatly ticketed:

               40 Hommes.
                8 Chevaux.

     Forty of us packed into a van did not permit even sitting
     down, and we were very tired after our exertions, but the
     change of surroundings and the knowledge that we were for a
     time far away from the reach and sound of shells was
     sufficient to keep us merry and bright. The journey was very
     slow, and when we reached Calais it was just twelve hours
     since we had had a breakfast cup of tea. A few of us decided
     to run up to the engine and get some hot water and make some
     tea on our own, but the majority hadn't got any tea tablets
     or cocoa, and we hadn't enough to go round at a sip each.
     The cookers were tightly packed on a truck at the rear, and
     there was no hope from that quarter. And then once again,
     just as on other occasions where a chance of a hot mug of
     tea seemed hopeless, and where we were apparently doomed to
     a comfortless time, the Y.M. was at hand. There, as we
     glided into Calais station, we espied a long covered-in
     counter displaying the familiar sign of the red triangle.
     The order quickly came down, and was more quickly put into
     execution, that men could get out and go to the canteen. I
     have never seen such a rush. We were like a disturbed nest
     of ants. I wondered how on earth those ladies would cope
     with us, but I under-estimated their resources. As we came
     up we were formed into a column of four deep, and only a few
     were admitted at a time. At the entrance was a pay box. Here
     we had our franc and 5-franc notes turned into pennies, that
     the exact money might be given over the counter to save any
     delay. When I passed up to the counter in due time, I found
     that the first sector was solely occupied in pouring out tea
     into our quart mess tins, further along buttered rolls and
     cakes were piled high upon large trays, and at the last
     sector cigarettes of all varieties, chocolate, and nougat
     were obtainable. It was a splendid array of good things
     served by the ladies of our own land. Though, of course, we
     needed and enjoyed the hot tea and rolls, it was as much joy
     to hear our own tongue so sweetly spoken. The change from
     the deep voices of our officers and comrades thrilled us,
     reminding us of sisters and sweethearts just a few miles
     away, across the Channel, and yet so far off, for there was
     little chance of leave for a long time. What a pretty
     picture those ladies made in the midst of the khakied crowd,
     passing quickly from one to another with a smile for all! I
     am sure every one was over-stocked with chocolates and
     cigarettes, for we all kept returning to the counter to buy
     something just for the sake of a smile or a 'How are you
     getting on, Tommy?' from one of our hostesses. The whistle
     blew and we all made a rush for our trucks. The ladies stood
     in a body at the end of the platform, and as each truck
     passed waved and wished us good luck. The noise we made was
     deafening; we cheered and cheered until the little group of
     England's unknown heroines on the platform passed from
     sight. Our hearts were very full.

     "And so we passed down into the Somme district, the first
     English soldiers to hold that part of the line."

Here are a few typical extracts from Sydney Baxter's letters about
this time.

     "We are at rest after some days of trenches, and of course
     are not sorry to be able to walk about and get a brush
     up--apart from the catering side, which you can realise is
     no small item. The weather has been very good of late; and
     while we were in the trenches it was fine but cold, which
     makes life more comfortable. We had a new system of guards
     and work last time, and it was a treat. _I never enjoyed a
     spell of trenches as I did that_, although the time spent in
     work and other duties and guards was nearly twelve hours.

     "Thanks for chocolate, which found a ready home. Girls are
     not the only ones who like chocs., judging by the amount
     that disappears here. Sorry my last letter was censored. I
     am ignorant of what information I could have given; possibly
     I had a grumbling mood on and was somewhat sarcastic about
     the many defects and inconsiderations in army life."

                                             _Later._

     "MY DEAREST MOTHER,

     "Just a line to tell you I'm A1. By the time you get this
     our rest will be over, and we shall be entrenched. Thanks
     for socks. The stove is going a treat. We finished a fatigue
     at 4 o'clock this morning and made some porridge. It was
     great, and of course up in the trench it will be trebly
     handy. We are taking up two big packets of Quaker Oats, and
     with the tea, cocoa, coffee, and oxo we ought to do well.

     "Glad to hear about Herbert's wound. Sounds funny, no doubt,
     but he's lucky to get back at all, for he was at Ypres and
     it's hot there."

From a letter to a cousin in the United States.

     "I have sent you one or two photos which may be of interest,
     and which may be useful to check the 'strafe Englands' of
     the German who comes to your office. Ask him, if in these
     pictures the Huns look as if they believe they're winning,
     and then compare them with those of our boys and of the
     Frenchies in the trenches, and with those of our wounded.
     My! there's just all the difference between them!

     "I also send a French field service card, so you now have an
     English and a French one. I'm afraid a Russian card is out
     of the question, unless I get sent near them in the Balkans;
     and when I think of that I also think of a ditty that we
     sing, which runs:

          "I want to go home, I want to go home,
          The Johnsons and shrapnel they whistle and roar;
          I don't want to go to the trenches no more.
          I want to go home,
          Where the Allemands can't get at me,
          Oh my! I don't want to die; I want to go home.

     "You'd better not show this to that German or else he'll
     believe we _mean_ it as well as sing it. We have a rare lot
     of ditties. We often sing across--'Has anyone seen a German
     Band,' or 'I want my Fritz to play twiddly bits on his old
     trombone.' We really have a good bit of fun at times; other
     days are--crudely, but truthfully putting it--'Hell.' The
     first month I had out here was such. You heard of Hill 60
     back last April, and the second battle of Calais. It was
     during that time that I lost my friend, with whom I joined.
     Since we were thirteen years old we've been inseparable.
     Only 40 per cent. of the draft I was on are left, and in my
     pocket I have a long list of chums whom I shall never see
     again in this world. It seems wonderful to me that I should
     be spared whilst so many better men go. Naturally I am
     thankful, especially for mother's sake, that I have escaped
     so far. Only once during the eight months out here have I
     been more than ten miles from the firing line, and ten miles
     is nothing to a gun.

     "Well, now I must knock off for dinner, the variety of which
     never changes. You've heard of 'Stew, stew, glorious stew';
     perhaps, however, beer was the subject then. Well, I'll
     resume at the first possible moment; for, in the Army, what
     you don't go and fetch you never see, and then again, first
     come first served, last man the grouts."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "Here we are again; I was last for dinner, but didn't do
     badly by reason of it. I am writing this at a house which
     our Chaplain has put at our disposal. It's quite a treat to
     sit on a chair and write at a table, after sitting on the
     ground with knees up and a bad light.

     "The trenches are in a rotten state now owing to the heavy
     rain and the snow. It's like walking on a sponge about
     eighteen inches deep. Squelch, squelch you go and not
     infrequently get stuck; parts are knee deep in water, and
     icy cold water trickling into your boots is the reverse of
     pleasant or warm. Then the rain trickles through the
     dug-out roof--that caps it. I really don't think there can
     be anything more irritating than the drip, drip in the
     region of the head. Then of course your hands are covered in
     mud, for as you walk along you need your hands to keep your
     balance, and the sides are all muddy as well. You come
     inside then and eat your quarter of a loaf for breakfast and
     go without for tea--the usual ration is one-third of a loaf,
     which generally is found sufficient. We get jam, too, and
     bacon daily, butter three times a week, and stew for dinner
     every day in trenches or not.

     "Our sergeant took us to the whizbangs concert party last
     night. It was A1--one chap makes his fiddle absolutely
     speak. He played that Volunteer Organist and parts of Henry
     VIII., the basso sang 'Will o' the Wisp,' and most of the
     other songs were old 'uns. I tell you, you wouldn't believe
     we had such things a couple of miles behind the line.

     "On Sunday I went to church. It was the hall that the
     concert party use. Right glad we were to sing the old hymns
     again, for we only get one Sunday in two months down here on
     rest. We had five bandsmen to keep us in tune, and, with a
     good sermon, the evening was both enjoyable and helpful.
     Afterwards we came back and I had a discussion with two
     others on Christianity, the work of the Church, Salvation
     Army, Y.M.C.A., and other such organisations. It was very
     interesting, for one of them was an out-and-out atheist who
     was under the impression that Christians were all
     hypocrites, cranks, and prigs."

The last extract from a letter to Sydney Baxter's office.

     "My! I should like to be back working at the business in
     _any_ department. I reckon I shall not be much good the
     first six months, knowing practically nothing of what has
     happened since this time last year. However, no doubt,
     they'll find me a job somewhere. They'll certainly find me
     very keen. They say this life spoils you for the office, but
     I shan't be sorry to return to it. Mind you, I feel very
     much fitter and stronger in eyesight, less neuralgia and
     headache than before; but I shall go in for more fresh air
     and bring up the balance that way.

     "The trenches are in a lively state now, all mud and water;
     however, now November has come I expect they will generally
     be in a damper state, and so we shall have to get used to
     it, as we had to last March.

     "It has rained every day, and I can tell you we've been very
     fed up at times. It's hard to see the funny side of things
     when soaked through, caked in mud, and tired, but we feel
     different already after a couple of nights in our blankets
     and a few square meals.

     "I am keeping very fit, although the last spell knocked me
     up a bit; but a little rest will do wonders, and I shall be
     full of fighting strength again and ready for the Hun."



One Young Man Answers Questions



CHAPTER X

ONE YOUNG MAN ANSWERS QUESTIONS


Sydney Baxter's American correspondent has sent me a letter which
gives such an admirable picture of the day-to-day life of a Tommy at
the front that it merits a separate chapter.

     "I am glad that you like the idea of Questions and Answers.
     I should never have thought of explaining some of the things
     you mention had you not asked. Here goes:

     "_Question No. 1._--How do you find time to write so much?
     I've often wondered, as I should think you'd want to sleep
     when out of the trenches.

     "_A._--Well, for one thing, I am very fond of writing
     letters. To me it's not a bore as it is to some. To me it's
     a medium by which one can have a nice chat with one's chums
     (both sexes), and looking at it in that way you can
     understand. I write to you because I thoroughly enjoy the
     little talks between us. So much for the inclination, which
     has much to do with the time, as--where there's a will
     there's a way. When in the trenches the sentry duty usually
     runs two hours on, four hours off--all the way through. In
     addition, we get five hours' work a day. Now the total hours
     of duty are thirteen out of twenty-four: and as I only need
     six hours' sleep, that leaves five hours for cooking,
     eating, reading, or writing. I used to have a programme
     somewhat like this: rest hours at night--sleep; rest hours
     before 12 o'clock--sleep; and in the afternoon read or
     write. Starting from 6 o'clock one evening it works out: 6
     to 8 guard, 8 to 10 work, 10 to 12 sleep, 12 to 2 guard, 2
     to 6 sleep, 6 to 8 guard, 8 to 10 breakfast and odd jobs, 10
     to 2 work, 2 to 6 read and write, and afterwards tea. This
     will give you a little idea. I have only two meals a day
     whilst in trenches, and cocoa once in the night.

     "By the way, when out on 'rest' we sleep up to midday the
     first day, and as we go to bed at nine o'clock on the
     following evenings we get plenty of sleep. The chief
     advantage of 'rest' is the change of food and more exercise,
     which the officers see we get. Whilst on 'rest,' it's drill,
     etc., in the morning, sport in the afternoon, letters or
     reading in the evening.

     "_Q. No. 2._--Is a dug-out a hidden structure covered with
     sand-bags where you only sleep, and are there such luxuries
     as beds?

     "_A._--I think I could write a small book on dug-outs, then
     leave much unwritten. Let me describe two I have actually
     been in. My first was on Hill 60. It was a little sand-bag
     one that stood 3 feet high, 4 feet wide, and 5 feet long.
     This was shared by eleven of us, who had to take it in turns
     to sleep. This is the usual type of front-line dug-out. In
     most cases they are large enough to squeeze all men off duty
     into them, but of course shells and wet cause them to smash
     up at times.

     "Another dug-out I have been in was some 20 feet deep with
     iron bars supporting the roof, and capable of holding one
     hundred men. This was not in the trenches. It had sticks
     some 3 feet high, with wire stretched right across, making
     eight beds. However, I always prefer the ground; the wire
     beds are narrow and not long enough for me. I'm over 6 feet.

     "_Q. No. 3._--Do you stay in trenches forty-eight hours
     without ever taking off your boots or resting, and how do
     you get your food up, etc., if you are on duty all the time?

     "_A._--When in the firing line a soldier never takes off his
     boots, clothes, or equipment except for one thing, that is
     to grease the feet with an anti-frostbite preparation. As
     for rest, you can see that with one man in three on
     look-out, you get a little rest, at least six hours, which I
     found enough. When in a big attack you are of course
     scrapping all the time.

     "Rations are carried up by other men who are either on rest
     or in reserve. As a matter of fact when on rest you are
     seldom more than three miles away. The rations are carried
     up in sacks by limbers as far as the transport can take
     them--it varies according to the level of the ground and
     activities. These limbers are met by ration parties who
     carry two sacks each, right up to the trenches. Every sack
     is marked 'D' for company, '15' for platoon, and so we
     always get them. We carry an emergency ration of biscuits,
     bully beef, and tea and sugar in case of accidents. I have
     only once found it necessary to use mine.

     "_Q. No. 4._--In the battles you have been in, did you come
     face to face with the Huns, or just shoot at range?

     "_A._--Yes, once when we were driving them back, and once
     when they were advancing. Apart from that it has been
     shooting when a head shows. The nearest I've been in a
     trench to the Hun was 15 yards, but most of them range from
     60 to 150 yards. You see we are a rifle regiment and so do
     not do many charges, but occupy places for sniping, and
     relieve the line regiment after it has charged, and by the
     rifle fire keep the Hun from counter-attacking.

     "_Q. No. 5._--How do you get posts--are carriers in danger?

     "_A._--The letters are put in the ration sacks. The party
     often get some killed or wounded.

     "_Q. No. 6._--Do you get acquainted with French civilians,
     and have you picked up any of their language?

     "_A._--There are a few civilians in the deserted villages
     near the firing line, and by dint of repetition and purchase
     I have picked up a little, but I cannot possibly spell it.
     You see we do not enter towns.

     "_Q. No. 7._--When one series of trenches is built, how does
     the enemy get a chance to build close to them?

     "_A._--How? Why, under cover of darkness, either by putting
     a line of men to form a screen and keep up firing with men
     digging behind, or by digging a trench at right angles, and
     making a T. The first method is mostly used as it is
     quicker, but more casualties occur.

     "_Q. No. 8._--Do you have any fear of air raids over the
     trenches?

     "_A._--No, because a trench is too small an object to be
     likely to be hit by a bomb dropping from a height. The
     flying men would very possibly hit their own people instead.
     However they drop them on our rest billets. We get used to
     the shells, and this is only another way of presenting them.

     "_Q. No. 9._--What about gas?

     "_A._--They very seldom use it now. Our helmets are so
     efficient, they cannot do any harm in sending it over. They
     might catch one or two who were slow in getting their
     helmets on, but we have gongs to give warning."



One Young Man's Leave



CHAPTER XI

ONE YOUNG MAN'S LEAVE


He again writes:

     "We had done two days out of our six in the trenches a
     little south of Albert. They were in such a state that it
     was impossible to walk from one post to another. The mud was
     over our knees and all communication was cut off by day. At
     night we fetched our rations, water, and rum by going over
     the top--a little sought-after job, for Fritz was most
     active and cover scarce. I had just finished my two hours at
     the listening-post, and had crawled into my dug-out for a
     four-hour stretch. It was bitterly cold, and although I had
     piles of sandbags over me I couldn't get warm, and, like
     Bairnsfather's 'fed-up one,' had to get out and rest a bit.
     Two hours of my four had passed when word came down that I
     was wanted by the Sergeant-Major. Hallo, thinks I, what am I
     wanted for? Ah, letters! I was a source of continued
     annoyance to the Captain because of my many letters.

     "However, he that expecteth nothing shall receive his seven
     days' leave, for that's what it proved to be. I stood with
     unbelieving ears whilst the Serjeant-Major rattled off
     something to the effect that I was on the next party for
     leave, and was to go down H.Q. the following night. I
     crawled back to my dug-out, wondering if I was really awake.
     Eventually reaching our post, I cried, 'John, my boy, this
     child's on a Blightly trip.' No profuse congratulations
     emanated from that quarter, but a voice from a dug-out
     cried, 'Good! you can take that clip of German cartridges
     home for me.' This was our souvenir hunter; he'd barter his
     last biscuit for a nose cap of a Hun shell, and was a
     frequenter of the artillery dug-outs. My next two hours'
     guard was carried out in a very dreamy sort of way. I had
     already planned what I should do and how I would surprise
     them all. Next day I was busy scraping off the mud from my
     tunic and overcoat. I spent hours on the job, but they
     seemed very little different when I had finished.

     "That night I covered the three miles of mud and shell-holes
     to H.Q. in record time. There I met the other lucky ones and
     received orders to turn in and parade at 9 a.m. for baths
     and underclothing. There were no trousers, puttees, or
     overcoats in the stores, and so we had to come over as we
     were, a picture that had no fitting background other than
     the trenches. At dusk we boarded the motor-bus which
     conveyed us to the rail-head. That old bus had never had
     such a cargo of light hearts when plying between Shepherd's
     Bush and Liverpool Street. At the rail-head we transferred
     to the waiting train, and it was not long before we were on
     our way. Bully beef and biscuits were on the seats, our
     day's rations. Never mind--we shall soon be having something
     a good deal more appetising. We did wish we had something
     warmer than the water in our bottles, and at our next stop
     we found our old benefactors. This was another platform
     canteen, and we were able to refresh ourselves for the
     remainder of the journey, which was all too slow.

     "Two R.F.A. and one A.S.C. man shared the carriage with me
     up to London. We did not speak at all, we were far too much
     occupied with our thoughts and visions of our welcome. It
     was Sunday, and there were very few people about when we got
     in. I clambered out of the carriage prepared to rush to the
     Bakerloo, when a voice at my elbow asked, 'Is there anything
     I can do for you? Are you a Londoner?' and a host of
     questions bearing on my future actions. It was a Y.M.
     official. He took me to the little box where my francs were
     converted into English coin, then to Bakerloo Tube Station,
     got my ticket, and with a handclasp dashed off to help
     another. Had I been bound for the North he would have taken
     me and given me a dinner, and put me into the right train at
     the right time. I tell you these Y.M. chaps do their job
     uncommonly well."



One Young Man Again in the Trenches



CHAPTER XII

ONE YOUNG MAN AGAIN IN THE TRENCHES


On his return from leave Sydney Baxter writes:


                                        _January 29th, 1916._

     "I am writing this in a small estaminet which is much
     overcrowded, and in the conversation can only be described
     as a din. Madame is hurrying round with coffees and fried
     pommes de terre, whilst monsieur is anxiously trying to find
     out if we are moving to-morrow. He is much disturbed, no
     doubt thinking of the drop in the number of coffees après
     demain.

     "I am keeping very fit and well, and much to my surprise
     have not experienced any of the 'fed-up-ness' I anticipated
     on my return from leave. To my mind, there is only one
     experience to equal a leave from Active Service--that is the
     final home-coming. My leave was pure delight from one end to
     the other."

Sydney Baxter's Division was soon again on trek to a new position. He
writes:

     "We had stayed in, and passed through, many villages, had
     even had a fire at one, burning down one or two barns, and
     yet life was uneventful. Marching most days, or, when
     billeted, doing platoon drill, playing cards, reading or
     writing in the cafés or our barns. Company concerts were no
     good. We had heard all of our soloists' répertoire, which
     was _not_ very extensive. There came the day when we marched
     into Doullens. Strange were the sights of large shops and
     smartly dressed townsfolk--we were more used to the
     occupants of obscure villages. The Sergeant-Major came along
     with the message, 'Smarten up and keep step through the
     town.' We needed no bidding. A soldier doesn't want it, you
     know, when he becomes the object of admiration and the
     recipient of smiles from the brunettes of France. On past
     the Hôtel de Ville we swung--this was a G.H.Q., and 'Eyes
     left!' was given as platoons passed the guard. Staff
     officers, resplendent in red-tabbed coats and well-creased
     slacks, seemed to be showing the populace what fine soldiers
     they were, while the M.M. Police stood at the corners
     directing traffic as only the members of that unit can. Into
     the Rue d'Arras we turned, and outside an Ecole de Filles we
     halted. There was our billet, the best we ever had. In the
     playground stood our cooker. Upstairs we were packed into
     the classrooms, with just enough room allowed to stretch
     one's legs and to turn over should one wish. We had our
     stew, and quickly rushed off to see all the town. In the
     square a military band was playing 'Nights of Gladness,' and
     we found a crowd gathered round the bandstand, many of them
     civilians. We stayed and enjoyed the performance, and at the
     Marseillaise and our own National Anthem every khaki-clad
     man from private to general stood at attention, and the
     latter at the salute. It was a grand spectacle, and one felt
     proud to be a soldier. We went and had a look at the shops
     and into the church, until nearly 5 o'clock, when we debated
     amongst ourselves as to whether we should go back for tea or
     wait till 6 o'clock when the cafés open.

     "Running into a group who had been endeavouring to break the
     camera, we asked them what they were going to do. 'Why, go
     to the Y.M.C.A., of course,' they replied. 'Is there really
     one here? What luck!' We all followed the guide. It was in a
     market hall, but liberally placarded with the familiar Red
     Triangle, and so there was no mistaking it. Like most other
     canteens of the Y.M. it had a long counter and about twelve
     small tables. The ever-refreshing cup of tea and the good
     old English slab cake were in plenty, and we asked for
     nothing better.... It was quite exciting to sit and have tea
     at a table. Afterwards there was a concert. The artists were
     A.S.C. men, and, although very markedly amateur, we enjoyed
     the evening, which was decidedly a change from our usual
     evening of cards. Unfortunately we marched away next day and
     so were unable to get full advantage from that depôt. It was
     one of the Y.M.'s smaller ventures and lacked many of the
     usual articles of comfort that their huts are renowned for.
     However, it served its purpose. Troops were able to procure
     English cigarettes and chocolates, and at the same time have
     a good tea and a jolly evening. A toast to the Y.M. should
     always be drunk in hot tea, for supplying it to us in
     France. It's one of the chief blessings the Association
     confers on the army."

The battalion was soon in huts some way behind the firing line.

Sydney Baxter writes to one of his friends in the office:

     "Glad to hear everything is O.K., and that you are still
     smiling. Thank God for that. Whatever happens, still keep
     smiling. The greatest tonic out here is to know the girls
     are working so hard, and all the time willingly and
     smilingly. We know you all miss the boys as they do you, and
     to read that our friends at home are enjoying themselves is
     enjoyment to us. We are out to have the harder tasks, and we
     want you all at home to have the benefits. That's why we
     feel so bitter against the Air Raids.

     "Well now, I am glad to write the usual formula. I am very
     fit and well, and not having such a bad time; things are
     fairly quiet this side, but not for long, I hope. Everyone
     is expecting a move and looking forward to it in the sense
     that it will help to finish the war.

     "We have had much rain the last few days, and, as these tiny
     huts we're in are not waterproof, we wake up in the morning
     soaked and lying in puddles. It's the limit, I can tell you.
     However, we are on active service and so are not afraid of
     H2O. Now, as to my Eastertide. My Good Friday brought
     with it duty. I was on Police Picket, much the same as a
     village policeman. Our duties are to see every soldier is
     properly dressed with belt and puttees before going out, and
     that there are no suspicious persons around, that all lights
     are extinguished by 9.30, etc. It's not a bad job, but on a
     Good Friday it's tough.

     "Sunday was as usual,--Church Parade in the morning, and
     free in the afternoon, when we had a cricket match. Monday
     was the worst day of all. We were called out at 8.30, and
     from then to 12.30 had to clean up the roads, scrape mud out
     of ditches, and make drains in our village streets. Nice
     occupation, wasn't it? The afternoon was not so bad, but we
     might have had a holiday. Instead we had to go and throw
     live bombs for practice purposes. The evening, as usual, was
     free. That ends my Eastertide, and in spite of what sounds a
     far from good one I enjoyed it immensely and count myself
     lucky to be out of the trenches for it.

     "I ought to have mentioned earlier that we are in a village
     behind the firing line, in reserve; we shall be having our
     turn of trenches in a few days, and so we are making the
     best of our time out. The weather is glorious, and we are
     having a good time. I do not doubt that there will be some
     hard work shortly along the front, but it's difficult to say
     what will happen. Only the folk in charge know. We only
     obey, and really it's just as well to be in the dark and so
     escape the worry beforehand."

The death of his chum George was often in Sydney Baxter's thoughts. He
writes:


                                        _May 21st, 1916._

     "I have heard from ----; he also mentions to me the
     opportunity of revenge. I can quite understand and have felt
     that a life for a life would wipe out the debt, but when my
     mind dwells on these things I always try to think what
     George would have me do, and I know his answer would be:
     'Why, the German was only doing his duty. I should have done
     the same myself.' That is true. We fire, but we little know
     what suffering we cause. We do our duty and the Germans do
     theirs. It rests with the Heads as to clean methods or not."

The turn in the trenches soon came, and it was a rough turn too. The
following are extracts from letters written to his mother:


                                        _June 6th, 1916._

     "I have been unable to write before, as we have been having
     an extremely busy and horrible time. From the day we entered
     the trench till now has been one series of heavy
     bombardment, an absolute rain of shells everywhere--a whole
     week of it. How so many managed to come out alive I don't
     know.

     "We lost four killed in our platoon, including one of my
     section, a splendid chap, cool and jolly. Three of us went
     to see him buried yesterday--we had a short service. His
     brother is with us, a boy of eighteen, and is naturally very
     cut up. We have now sixteen graves where there were none a
     fortnight ago. Ten whom I knew personally are gone--such is
     war.

     "All of us have had a shaking up. To many it has been their
     first dose of real grim warfare, and it has been a sore
     trial for us to lie out in front with shells bursting all
     round and no cover. The natural tendency is to run back to
     the trench and get under cover. However, I managed to pull
     through, and feel much more confident of myself, and the
     Captain apparently is pleased, for on the strength of it all
     I have been made a lance-corporal--only do not yet get paid.
     That will come later. Of course, this is no big honour, but
     coming at such a time as this it shows they have some
     confidence in one's ability.

     "There are so many senior in front of me that the
     possibility of further promotion is somewhat remote. One of
     our majors has got the D.S.O., one of our company
     lieutenants a Military Cross, and a lance-corporal a D.C.M.,
     and so we have not come out without honour.

     "I am feeling O.K. myself, and by the time you get this
     shall be back on a month's rest right away from the line,
     and until I write again you will know I am out of danger.
     Your parcel arrived whilst in the trenches, and was very
     welcome indeed. As far as cash goes, don't worry. Don't send
     any money, and don't worry; there's no need."


                                        _June 8th, 1916._

     "We are now out on rest right away from our line, in our old
     village. We are not sorry, as you can imagine, and to sleep
     in our own little beds once again is lovely. I had a bath
     this morning, a nice change, and feel quite fit.

     "Having now my first stripe, I have to go to No. ----
     Platoon. They are a nice lot of fellows, and I shall be all
     right there with my old friend, another corporal, while an
     old section comrade of Crowborough times is platoon
     sergeant.

     "As to wants--if you have an old shirt at home I could do
     with it. But I don't want a new one sent. Also a pair of
     strong laces, a nail brush (stiff)--that's about all, I
     think.

                                        _June 11th, 1916._

     "Things are very active along the line, although very little
     appears in the papers. Our sector has been subject to heavy
     bombardments, and our first night in the trench saw three
     separate strafes, and the succeeding days brought a big list
     of casualties, which by now run well into three figures. The
     first strafe, which lasted ten minutes according to our
     artillery observers, brought 1,100 shells of all sizes from
     the Huns. I was half buried three times, and but for my
     steel helmet would have had a nasty scalp wound, whereas all
     that resulted was a dent in the hat and a headache for me."

There follows the last letter Sydney Baxter wrote to his mother before
the great Somme offensive. He was facing the possibilities himself
and trying to get her to do so too. I have not cared to print this
letter in full. Those who have written or received such a letter will
understand why.

     "My DEAREST OF MOTHERS,

     "Owing to increased activity at the front, I hear our
     letters are to be stopped and only picture, field, and plain
     postcards can be sent. Therefore you must not worry if you
     only get such. _If_ I can get a letter through _I will_. I
     do not disguise the fact that things are warmer, for you can
     read that in the papers, and anything may happen any day.

     "Thanks for the shirt, laces, brush, cards, and notebook
     which I received this afternoon; I had just returned after
     taking a party to another village on fatigue. The P.O.'s
     have arrived regularly, thanks, dear. I had a good lunch
     to-day, steak and chips and fruit after, at a little café
     where we went this morning. It was O.K.

     "As you will have noticed in the papers, our artillery has
     been very active along the front, and it's when the Hun
     replies that most of the trouble comes in, for the Huns
     won't take it quietly for a minute and will send some
     souvenirs across. It remains to be seen what will happen.

     "I like my platoon very much, and I have had a very happy
     time these last few months.

     "I often think of the time to come, après la guerre, when we
     shall have the old tea-time chats, a smaller house and less
     running about for you, of the time when I shall take up my
     Church secretaryship again and also my work in the City. I
     wonder what they will put me into?

     "Well, mother mine, don't worry about me. I'm all right and
     will be home sooner than you think, even if I last the war
     through and--I might, you know, unless I get wounded. And if
     I get that I shall be home sooner, and if I get the only
     other alternative, well, dear, it's merely a reunion with
     the others, and a matter of waiting for you. But it remains
     to be seen.

     "Well, mother darling, I must now close. I'll drop you both
     a line every day, so don't worry."

The next line that both received was from a hospital.



One Young Man Gets a "Blighty"



CHAPTER XIII

ONE YOUNG MAN GETS A "BLIGHTY"


Sydney Baxter's Division was on the left flank of the British attack
at Gommecourt, which met with great stubbornness on the part of the
enemy, and resulted in heavy losses. He writes:

     "I was in charge of the 'Battle Police' that day, and we had
     to accompany the bombers. We started over the top under
     heavy fire and many were bowled over within a few minutes.

     "Lanky of limb, I was soon through the barbed wire and came
     to the first trench and jumped in. Some seven of us were
     there, and as senior N.C.O. I led the way along the trench.
     One Hun came round the corner, and he would have been dead
     but for his cry 'Kamerad blessé.' I lowered my rifle, and,
     making sure he had no weapon, passed him to the rear and led
     on. We had just connected up with our party on the left when
     I felt a pressure of tons upon my head. My right eye was
     sightless, with the other I saw my hand with one finger
     severed, covered in blood. A great desire came over me to
     sink to the ground, into peaceful oblivion, but the peril of
     such weakness came to my mind, and with an effort I pulled
     myself together. I tore my helmet from my head, for the
     concussion had rammed it tight down. The man in front
     bandaged my head and eye. Blood was pouring into my mouth,
     down my tunic.

     "They made way for me, uttering cheery words, 'Stick it,
     Corporal, you'll soon be in Blighty,' one said. Another,
     'Best of luck, old man.' I made my way slowly--not in pain,
     I was too numbed for that. My officer gave me a pull at his
     whisky bottle, and further on our stretcher-bearers bandaged
     my head and wiped as much blood as they could from my face.
     I felt I could go no further, but a 'runner' who was going
     to H.Q. led me back. I held on to his equipment, halting for
     cover when a shell came near, and hurrying when able. I
     eventually got to our First Aid Post. There I fainted away.

     "I awoke next day just as I was being lifted on to the
     operating table, and whilst under an anaesthetic my eye was
     removed. Although I was not aware of this for some time
     afterwards I did not properly come to until I was on the
     hospital train the following day bound for the coast. I
     opened my eye as much as possible and recognised two of my
     old chums, but conversation was impossible; I was too weak.
     The next five days I spent at a hospital near Le Treport. My
     mother was wired for, and the offending piece of shell was
     abstracted by a magnet. It couldn't be done by knife, as it
     was too near the brain."

Thus far Sydney Baxter tells his own story of the great day of his
life. I leave it as it stands, though I could add so much to it if I
would. Will you picture to yourself this sightless young man, with
torn head and shattered hand piteously struggling from those shambles?
Will you look at him--afterwards? It's worth while trying to do so.
You and I have _got_ to see war before we can do justice to the
warrior.

The piece of shell which entered his head just above the right eye
opened up the frontal sinuses, exposing the brain. "It is wonderful,"
wrote the doctor who attended him, "how these fellows who have been
fighting for us exhibit such a marvellous fortitude." He had lost the
end of his fourth finger and another has since been entirely
amputated.

To the amazement of all, Sydney Baxter, within a few hours of his
operation, asked for postcards. He wrote three--one to his mother, one
to someone else's sister, and one to his firm.

This last postcard is a treasured possession of Sydney Baxter's
business. It runs as follows:


                                        _July 4th, 1916._

     "Have unfortunately fallen victim to the Hun shell in the
     last attack. I am not sure to what extent I am damaged. The
     wounds are the right eye, side of face, and left hand. They
     hope to save my eye, and I have only lost one finger on
     hand.

     "I will write again, sir, when I arrive in England. At
     present am near Dieppe."

"_Only_ lost"--that seems to me great.

Above the postcard on the business notice-board the chief wrote: "The
pluckiest piece of writing that has ever reached this office." And by
that he stands.

At Treport Sydney Baxter has his last experience of the Y.M.C.A. in
France.

     "One of its members came round the ward, speaking cheery
     words and offering to write home for us. It sounds a small
     work, but it was a boon to those of us too weak for even a
     postcard, or those who had lost or injured their right arms.
     The nurses are far too busy and cannot do it, and other
     patients are in a like condition. I always looked out for
     that gentleman of the Y.M. I was not allowed to read or sit
     up, and the days dragged horribly. Thursday evening came and
     many were sent to Blighty. I worried the doctor as to when I
     should go, and always received the non-committal reply,
     'When you are fit to travel.' Saturday, however, found me on
     board of a hospital ship, and at 9 o'clock that night we
     arrived at Southampton. Ant-like, the stretcher-bearers went
     to and fro, from ship to train. For some reason or other
     they dumped me in a corner with my head nearest the scene of
     activities, so that I was unable to interest myself in
     watching the entraining of others. I feverishly hoped they
     wouldn't forget me and put me in the wrong train. I was not
     forgotten by one person, however. He was not an official,
     not a R.A.M.C. man--no, just a Y.M.C.A. man, ministering to
     our comfort, lighting cigarettes for the helpless, arranging
     pillows, handing chocolate to a non-smoker, with a smile and
     a cheery word for every one. He asked me where I lived and
     spoke cheerily to me of soon seeing my mother and friends,
     and then left on a like errand to another chap. This, as I
     look back, was typical of all the work of the Y.M.C.A. Its
     helpers are always at the right place doing the right thing.
     That is why they have earned Tommy's undying gratitude."

Next day this one young man was being tenderly and graciously cared
for in a hospital in Wales. He had finished his bit. To the office he
wrote:


                                        _July 12th, 1916._

     "The Hun has put me completely out of action, and I hope
     within a few months to be amongst you all again--for good,
     and certainly in time for the autumn session.

     "The sight of my right eye has completely gone out, but as
     long as the left one keeps as it is I shall not be seriously
     handicapped. My glass eye will be an acceptable ornament.
     The left hand will mend in time; when healed, it will be
     pushed and squeezed into its original shape. Apart from the
     wounds I feel very well, and my rapid recovery has surprised
     all. The first three days in France were critical, and
     mother was sent for. However, I pulled through and feel as
     active as ever--at least, I do whilst in bed."

The hole in Sydney Baxter's nut--I use his own phrase--is healing. His
hand has been more than once under the surgeon's knife, and he can now
wear a glove with cotton-wool stuffed into two of the fingers. He sees
fairly well from the unbandaged side of his face.

_The chief tells me that Sydney Baxter will have the desire of his
heart: he will be "back at business in time for the Christmas
rush."_



London:
Printed By C. F. Roworth Ltd., 88 Fetter Lane, E.C.4.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "One Young Man - The simple and true story of a clerk who enlisted in 1914, who fought on the western front for nearly two years, was severely wounded at the battle of the Somme, and is now on his way back to his desk." ***

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