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Title: On the King's Service - Inward Glimpses of Men at Arms
Author: Logan, Innes
Language: English
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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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Inward Glimpses of Men at Arms

SEPT. 1914-MAY 1916




This little book is written as a slight tribute of love and respect
for those with whom the writer had, for over twenty months, the honour
of association.






  I. THOSE GAUNT UNLOVELY BUILDINGS                              3
III. UBIQUE                                                     10



  I. THE SUNNY VALLEY                                           19
 II. THE MAN FROM SKYE                                          22
III. 'YOU CAN HEAR THEM NOW'                                    26



  I. FROM PARAPET TO BASE                                       33
III. THE NAME OF JESUS                                          50



  I. THE FLAVOUR OF VICTORY                                     57
 II. DOUBTS AND FEARS                                           63
III. OUR SHARE OF THE FIFTY THOUSAND                            69



  I. BACK AGAIN!                                                79
 II. THE FIRST SHOCK OF WAR                                     81
III. AT THE NOSE OF THE SALIENT                                 88



  I. THE SHELL AREA                                              95
 II. 'I HATE WAR: THAT IS WHY I AM FIGHTING'                    103
III. BILLETS AND CAMPS                                          106



  I. WAITING                                                    117
 II. THE BLUFF                                                  125


THE HISTORIC TRIANGLE                                            135





_Those gaunt unlovely buildings_

The War Office built Maryhill Barracks, Glasgow, to look exactly like a
gaol, but these gaunt unlovely buildings, packed beyond endurance with
men of the new army, were at least in some way in touch with what was
happening elsewhere. Even in that first month of the war it seemed
callous to be breathing the sweet, clear air of Braemar, or to let one's
eyes linger on the matchless beauty of mountain and glen. The grey spire
of my church rising gracefully among the silver birches and the dark
firs, bosomed deep in purple hills, pointed to some harder way than
that. Stevenson, who wrote part of _Treasure Island_ here, called it
'the wale (pick) of Scotland,' but just because it was so we saw more
clearly the agony of Belgium and the men of our heroic little Regular
Army dying to keep us inviolate.

Up to the 10th of September recruits poured in in such numbers that it
was hard to cope with the situation in the most superficial way. On that
date the standard was raised, and, as though a sluice had been dropped
across a mill dam, the stream stopped suddenly and completely. I suppose
that was the object of the new regulation, but it caused
misunderstanding, and to this day the spontaneous rush of the first
month of the war has never been repeated. Beyond doubt the numbers were
too great to be properly handled. Men slept in the garrison church, in
the riding school, on the floor in over-crowded barrack-rooms, in leaky
tents without bottoms to them. There were no recreation rooms. It rained
a great deal, and once wet a man with no change of clothing or
underclothing remained wet for days in his meagre civilian suit. There
were too few blankets, no braziers, and the cheap black shoes of civil
life were soon in tatters. Everybody became abominably verminous, and
though the food was good enough in its way the cooks were overwhelmed,
and it was often uneatable. Nobody was to blame, and in an astonishingly
short time order began to emerge, but in those early days one enormous
'grouse' went up continually from the new army that was not yet an army,
and those conditions were partly responsible for the fact that when the
standard was lowered again the flow of recruits was so much less than
before. This, the faculty for hearty grousing, in the army whimsical,
humorous, shrewd, sometimes biting, never down-hearted, is evidently an
old national custom, for Chaucer uses the word half a dozen times. But
the aggravated discomfort of men soft from indoor life was really

Before long all recruits except those for the Royal Field Artillery were
sent elsewhere, and the barracks became a great depot for this arm of
the service, with Colonel Forde in command. What marvels were done in
those early days, and how hard pushed the country was, will be realised
when it is understood that for months a body of men numbering never less
than two thousand, and sometimes as many as three times that number,
had only two field guns for training purposes, and that officers had to
be sent out to the Expeditionary Force who had worn a uniform only for
three, four, or five weeks.


_Why the First Hundred Thousand Enlisted_

The first hundred thousand had some characteristics of their own
compared with their successors. They contained a large number of men who
do things on the spur of the moment, the born seekers after adventure,
men to whom war had its attractions. Many a man who had never found his
place in life, because his was the restless, roving spirit which could
not settle, or that chafed against ordered conventional ways, found his
happiness at last in August 1914. Alongside those were the men who were
passionately patriotic and saw very clearly and quickly the long issues
involved to the country they loved. The fate of Belgium had a far more
moving influence with the ranks of the new army than the officer class,
I think, quite realised. Indeed, with the later recruits I gathered the
impression that indignation at the German atrocities in Belgium was the
prevailing motive in their enlistment. There can be no question in the
mind of any one who worked intimately among the men of the new armies in
the autumn and winter of 1914 that the invasion of Belgium was the one
shocking stroke that rallied the country as one man, and that nothing
else in the situation, as it was known, would have done this. The people
as a whole did not grasp the imminence of the German menace. Of the
torturing pressure on the thin khaki line that barred the pass to the
sea we knew nothing. Day by day and night by night we were regaled with
stories of 'heavy German losses' and futile tales of the deaths of
German princes; neither our manhood nor our imagination was fully
captured, for of the almost unbelievable heroism of our brothers we were
never told. Perhaps the silence was justified; the enemy might have
learned how near they were to victory, and with a supreme effort have
broken through. At all events, unavoidably or not, the youth of the
country as a whole was never, throughout this winter, really roused to
its best. All the more honour to the first hundred thousand!



After this war is over no soldier can ask 'What does the Christian
Church do for me?' The members of the Church, acting through its
organisation, or more frequently through other organisations of which
its members were the moving spirits, rose to the occasion nobly all over
the country. Glasgow was no exception. It did the Churches, too, much
good, teaching them to work together. Here is an example. The men were
lodged all over the city, two or three hundred in one hall, more than
that in another. In every instance arrangements were made for their
recreation and comfort. In a given district one congregation gave its
hall as a recreation room, another paid all expenses, a third supplied
a church officer for daily cleaning, the members joined in giving
magazines and papers, and in providing tea and coffee; the missionary of
one congregation held services, and all united in giving concerts. The
Y.M.C.A., which does not accept workers unless they are members of the
Christian Church, came on the scene and built a hut, through the
generosity of Mrs. Hunter Craig, in the barrack square.

On this, in the early months of 1915, there followed a revival of
religion among the Maryhill Barracks men, whose centre was the Y.M.C.A.
hut. This revival had the marks in it which we younger men had been told
were the marks of a true revival, but from which many had shrunk because
they were associated in our days with flaming advertisement, noise, and

A wise old Scots minister was once asked, 'How are we to bring about a
revival?' 'It is God who gives revival.' 'But how are we to get Him to
give it?' 'Ask Him,' he said. Perhaps in this case we may say humbly
that our asking was largely in the form of gaining the confidence of the
men, for when we had all become friends the movement began quietly one
night through the action of an agent of the Pocket Testament League, who
was spending the evening with us. The meetings looked prosaic enough to
the eye; there was no band or solo singing or outward excitement, and
the hut was a plain wooden building, but the strain was very intense at
times. Sometimes as many as a hundred in one week would stay behind and
profess conversion, desiring to yield to the profound spiritual impulse
urging them from within to make Christ's mind and spirit their principle
in life. All had been cast loose from their moorings and had been trying
to find their feet in new surroundings. Most of them were just decent
lads who had never thought much about it before. There were others who
at last saw a chance to make a fresh start and grasped thankfully at it.
A few were 'corner-boys,' learning in discipline and comradeship a
lesson they had never dreamed of. I think there was everywhere in the
new army a certain moral uplift arising from the consciousness of a hard
duty undertaken, and it was not difficult to lead this on to a more
personal and spiritual crisis. There was something very lovable about
them. A tall, handsome fellow from a Canadian lumber camp said, with
real distress in his face, 'I've tried and tried, and, God help me, I
can't. It's no use.' His chum tucked his arm through his and declared
with a warmth of affection in his voice, 'I'll look after him, guv'nor.'

Many months afterwards in a Flemish town I saw some of their batteries
go by clattering over the stony streets. The flashlight from an electric
torch lit up the riders flitting from darkness to darkness on either
side of the broad pencil of light. It showed bronzed faces, competent
gestures, stained uniforms, the marks of veterans, men who had been in
action many times with their guns. I am sure that they do their duty not
only to their king but to One Higher, too, in the words of the brave
motto of their corps, '_Ubique quo fas et gloria ducunt_.'

In April orders came to join the Expeditionary Force.





_The Sunny Valley_

The reinforcements camp lay pleasantly in a sunny valley. The nearest
town was Harfleur, besieged exactly five hundred years earlier by Henry
V. of England, who placed his chief reliance on his big guns and his
mines and was not disappointed. The camp commandant was insistent that
the ground round the tents and huts should be turned into gardens, and
before long the valley was bright with flowers. There was peace over all
the landscape here. Sometimes a train of horse trucks, crowded with men
standing at the sliding doors or sitting with legs dangling over the
rails, panted up the long slope past the foot of the valley, and every
evening the supply trains pulled slowly off on their way to the front,
each laden with one day's rations for twelve thousand men. Fresh drafts
for the infantry and artillery arrived every day, stayed a few days, and
then were sent up the line. Probably a thousand men a month would be a
fair estimate for the wastage from a division at that time, that is, the
whole Expeditionary Force had to be renewed completely once a year, as
far as its fighting units were concerned. Drafts therefore were
continually passing through our camp, and I had many opportunities of
studying the morale of individuals of all ranks. The result was
interesting and worth setting down. My experience was that the good
heart of fighting men was affected by only two avoidable causes. The
first was the large number of young able-bodied men engaged in
occupations, on the lines of communications and at the base, which might
have been carried through effectively by others. These young men never
were in danger, while those who happened to have enlisted in combatant
corps were sent back to face death again and again. This (we are told)
has now been rectified, but it was for long a source of great soreness.
The second influence making for soreness was the amazing amount of
wrangling that went on at home, among the newspapers, between masters
and men, and so on. Officers would get furious with the conduct of the
'workers,' and condemn them wholesale as a class. One had to be at once
cautious and persistent in bringing home to them the fact that their
own men, whom they admired and loved, whom they knew would follow them
anywhere, were drawn from just the same class as those men who were out
on strike. Another reason why it would have been better to have had
older men and married men at the bases lay in the temptations
surrounding the men there on every side. These also have to be reckoned
with as part of the inevitable cost of war. It says much for the grit
and character of the average Briton that so many come through unscathed.


_The Man from Skye_

As I was going round the tents one day I had a long talk with a man in a
draft just leaving for the front to join a Highland regiment. He had
not been long out of hospital, and, like his companions, had scarcely
pulled himself together after the sadness of a second farewell.
Following a good plan of always handing on any rumour, however
improbable, which is of a thoroughly cheerful nature I said, referring
to a report that was current in the messes that morning, 'They say Lord
Kitchener says it will be all over by September.' He looked at me very
seriously and said sternly, 'It iss not for Lord Kitchener to say when
the war will be over. It iss only for God to say that.' Presently he
said, 'And what iss more, I will nefer see Skye again.' I had tried
every way in vain to lift his foreboding from him, and now I said
sternly like himself, 'It is not for you to say whether you will ever
see Skye again; only God can know that.' He moved a little, restlessly,
and answered slowly, 'Yess, that iss so, but--yess, it iss so.'
Sometimes when we were asking one another that old familiar unanswerable
question I would tell the story of the man from Skye and his answer to
the problem. We were very glad to hear a few weeks later that he had
been discharged as permanently unfit, and was by then in his loved misty

The Principal Chaplain visited the camp during my chaplaincy there. The
Rev. Dr. Simms, who ranks as a major-general, has charge of all
chaplains other than those of the Church of England. His tall,
distinguished, unassuming figure will always stand, in the minds of
those who were under his administration, for infinite kindness, wisdom,
and scrupulous fairness between all parties. Dr. Wallace Williamson of
St. Giles', Edinburgh, who was visiting the troops in France,
accompanied him. Their service on Sunday was very moving. Hearts were
near the surface in those brief days between the farewell and the
battlefield. The three Scotsmen whom I knew best of those who were at
this service are all dead: one fell at Loos, one in Mesopotamia, and one
on the Somme. The oldest of them, who was an officer in a Guards
battalion, could not speak and his eyes were full of tears. There was no
possibility here of the remark that one Lowlander made to another after
listening to a very celebrated London preacher: 'Aye, it was beautiful,
and he cud mak' ye see things too, whiles; but, man! there was nae
_logic_ in 't.'

It was about this time that we heard of the sinking of the _Lusitania_.
Somehow from this moment we knew better where we were and for what we
fought. Every one's thoughts were very grim. This was sheer naked
wickedness done plainly and coldly in the sight of God and man.


'_You can hear them now_'

One broiling afternoon as I sat talking with a friend in my tent an
orderly came to the door and said to him, 'Message for you, sir.' He
glanced at it. It was his orders to join his battalion at the front. We
shook hands and he went off, glad to be on the move again after hanging
about waiting so long. In five minutes the orderly was back with orders
for me to proceed at once to the 2nd London Territorial Casualty
Clearing Station. I said good-bye to Adams, my servant. No man was ever
more fortunate in his batmen--Adams, a typical regular, fiercely proud
of his regiment; Campion, the London Territorial, a commercial traveller
in civil life; and Munro, the Royal Scot, who within a month or two of
the outbreak of war could no longer suppress the fighting spirit of the
Royal Regiment stirring within him, and voluntarily rejoined, leaving a
wife and six children behind him. He was a foreman in the Edinburgh
Tramways Company. Handy man that he was, he could turn his hand to
anything, whether it was devising a ferrule for a broken walking stick
out of the screw of a pickle bottle, or making a bleak-looking hut
habitable, or producing hot tea from nowhere, or transforming a
wet-canteen marquee into a decent place for Communion (empty tobacco
boxes for table, beer barrels discreetly out of sight), or building a
pulpit out of sandbags in the corner of a roofless saloon bar.

The supply train left at a very early hour, and by devious routes
reluctantly approached the railhead. The journey took thirty hours. It
was long enough to teach the lessons never to go on a military train in
France without something to read, or to drink rashly from an aluminium
cup containing hot liquid, or to rely on bully beef as a sole article of
diet. Towards evening the Irishman in charge of the train had pity and
took me along--we had stopped for the thirty-fifth time--to admire his
Primus stove in full blast, and to share his excellent dinner. But
(stove or no stove) the world is divided into those who can do that sort
of thing and those who cannot; who, wrestling futilely with refractory
elements, wish they had never been born.

He said that before we reached the railhead we would probably hear the
sound of the guns. The phrase is used to barrenness, even to ridicule,
but the reality when first heard rings a new emotion in your breast. The
night was windless and warm, and about ten o'clock as we stood in a
wayside station the Ulsterman came up to me and said, 'Listen, you can
hear them now.' And away to the east could be heard a deep shaking sound
rising and fading away in the still air--the sound of British artillery
fighting day and night against yet overwhelming odds.

Twenty hours later, after many wanderings, a friendly Field Ambulance
car deposited me at the door of the mess of the clearing station, where
the arrival of a 'Scotch minister' had been awaited with a good deal of
curiosity and possibly some apprehension.





_From Parapet to Base_

We sometimes hear of some man who with leg smashed continues firing his
machine-gun as though nothing had happened. How is this to be explained?
The answer is one that is a real comfort to those at home. The most
shattering wounds are not those which cause the greatest immediate pain.
It is as though a tree fell across telegraph wires. The wires are down,
and no message, or, at worst, a confused jangling message can come
through to the brain. I have known a man carried into an aid-post in a
state of great delight because he had 'got a Blighty one.' He lay
smoking and talking, little realising that his wound was so grave that
it would be many months before he could walk again--if indeed he would
ever walk with two legs. By the time the realisation of the pain has
come into full play the sufferer, in ordinary times, is in the clearing
station or, at least, the field ambulance, and has the resources of
science at his disposal.

Suppose that at three in the afternoon Jock is hit, in the front trench.
'Jock' is the name universally given to Scottish soldiers, Lowland or
Highland. It is not a melodious name, but there it is! And it somehow
expresses the Scotsman's character better than 'Tommy' does. He cannot
be carried down the communication trench because it zigzags too much:
he cannot be got round the angles. So he is taken into a dug-out and
gets first aid, and a tablet of morphine perhaps. The M.O. may possibly
come up to see him, but he may be too busy in his own aid-post. There
are stretcher bearers in the trench able to bandage properly. The
average 'S.B.,' by the way, is a man from the battalion, not from the
R.A.M.C. As soon as it is dark the stretcher bearers lift him and carry
him across the open to the aid-post, which is perhaps five hundred or a
thousand yards behind the firing trench, near the battalion
headquarters. It is an eerie journey, with a certain amount of risk. The
brilliant Boche flares rise continually--the enemy is sometimes called
'the Hun,' more often 'the Boche,' in more genial moments 'Fritz,' but
'the Germans' never--and light up the ground vividly. These flares are
very powerful. I have seen my own shadow cast from one when standing at
the time in a camp fully five miles from the trenches, and when you are
close up you feel that every eye in 'Germany' is fixed on you. The best
thing to do is to stand quite still, for artificial light is very
deceptive, and it is hard to make out what an object is. In any case,
the real danger area is 'No-Man's-Land,' for it is on that mighty
graveyard stretching from Switzerland to the sea that the enemy's eyes
are bent. The regiments used to get various kinds of flares to
experiment with. We used to laugh over an incident that occurred when a
new type, a species of parachute, had been served out. The
Second-in-command, who fired it, miscalculated the strength of the wind,
which was blowing from the enemy's trench, and the flare was carried in
a stately curve backwards until it was directly over battalion
headquarters. Here it hung for a long time, showing up all details very
successfully, to the C.O.'s great annoyance. Over this ground, very
slowly and carefully, the stretcher is carried. When the aid-post is
reached the M.O. takes charge, assisted by the sergeant or corporal of
the R.A.M.C., whom he has always with him, and the 'casualty' is laid
alongside others in the dug-out, or cellar beneath some ruined house,
that forms the aid-post and battalion dispensary. The first stage in the
journey is now over. Soon a couple of cars creep quietly up. One by one
the casualties are lifted in or climb in stiffly. The doctor who has
come up with them chats with the M.O., and the local gossip is exchanged
for the wider knowledge (or more grandiose rumours) of the field
ambulance. Our Jock, who has a bullet in his chest, is lifted in. Straps
are fastened securely and tarpaulins tied. 'All aboard, sir!' 'Right!
Well, so long, Hadley!' 'Cheero, Scott!' The ambulances start very
cautiously, and crawl up the road. It is in execrable condition, for
work in daylight here is impossible. It is all knocked to pieces with
traffic, and frequently pitted with shell holes, and as a rule very
narrow. There is no moon, which is just as well, and no lights can be
carried. The driver feels his way through inky blackness by some sixth
sense begotten of many such journeys. Every now and then a flare lights
up the broken cobbles for a few seconds. His wheels are only a couple of
feet from the mud on either side, and if he goes into that the car
would be there for hours. A little to the right a battery of 18-pounders
is firing slowly and regularly, and the shells scream over the road on
their way to the enemy. A corner is turned and the road gets better. We
draw up at a building with no light showing, and R.A.M.C. orderlies come
up the steps from a cellar. This is the advanced dressing station; it
collects from a brigade front and there are two doctors at work. A large
window covered with sacking opens at the level of the ground into the
cellar, and the wounded are lifted through it. Some will stay here all
night, but the most seriously hurt are sent on to the casualty clearing
station five or six miles back. Hot drinks are going and are welcome,
for the injured men are trembling and sick with shock. Two new drivers
come up from their dug-out, yawning, and take over; a message has just
come in that the 'P' trenches have been 'hotted' by trench mortars and
cars must go back again at once. The ambulances move off, leaving the
doctors busy, sleeves rolled up to the elbow. The second stage in the
journey has been completed.

The cars are moving much more quickly now. Lights are still burning in
divisional headquarters, but the field ambulance headquarters are dark,
save for the lamp burning before the gate. An ambulance may have two or
three advanced dressing stations collecting from a divisional front.
Twin lamps on a pole, white and red, draw nearer and faintly light up
two flags, the Union Jack and the Red Cross. The Union Jack in Flanders
is only seen in conjunction with the Red Cross, or perhaps over the
dead body at a funeral; unless the Commander-in-chief comes round, when
the flag is carried behind him on a lance. The cars turn at right angles
into a gravelled yard and draw up before a large door. A corporal, who
has been sitting in a glass vestibule, puts his head inside the inner
door and shouts 'Stretcher bearers!' An orderly crosses quickly to the
office and reports to the orderly officer, 'Two cars with stretcher
cases.' The doctor crosses to the reception room and begins to examine
the first case. The reception room is a concert or music hall in happier
days. Its stage is the dispensary, and the little room where the
performers 'make-up' is the mortuary. The doctor is joined by the sister
on night duty. Each man is examined rapidly in turn. The M.O., or the
doctor at the dressing station, has written some words about the nature
of the wound on a label very like a luggage label, and this has been
tied to a button-hole. An orderly comes forward and takes down
particulars: name, number, battalion, brigade, division. Jock is rather
tired of giving this information because he has already had it taken
down by his M.O., and at the dressing station. But he need not begin to
complain yet, for it will be repeated at every stopping-place. He is
carried off to another room. The third stage is over.

Jock is here a fortnight, for he is badly wounded and occupies one of
the few beds that the station boasts. One day he is borne, rather white,
into the operating theatre, and after a time is carried back, even
whiter than before. He has seen less of it than any one; saw only the
white walls and the mosquito curtains; smelled the heavy odours of ether
and chloroform and antiseptics; heard faintly and more faintly the drone
of an aeroplane overhead; saw also the padre, rather white too, but
determined to get accustomed to this sort of thing, in case they should
be short-handed when the great 'push' comes.

Jock cannot go by train because he could not stand the jolting, so he
must wait for a barge. He listens with evident pleasure to the
description of the electric lights and fans and white sheets and
pillows. There are six sisters in the station. They are the first
English women he has seen since his last leave, and he is glad to hear
there will be two on the barge. A barge comes and goes, but no one tells
Jock that. He is told the barges are always a long time coming, which
is true too. And, indeed, before the next one comes he is so much better
that it is decided he can go by train if it comes first. It does come
first. '_Train in!_' runs through the wards like lightning. There are
hurried good-byes, gathering together of souvenirs, wistful eyes of
those who cannot yet go, watching those who can. Cars are brought round
to the side entrance, stretchers slipped into their grooves, and the
convoy is off to the station. The long train, already half filled, lies
waiting. There is a last little passage across the platform, coming and
going of bearers, the inevitable argument with the R.T.O., a warning
shriek from the engine, and the train to the base has gone.


'_Do you think that sort of thing matters now?_'

A clearing station is just what its name denotes. It clears the wounded
from a large number of field ambulances, each of which is split into
several advanced dressing stations. Each of these in turn draws from
several aid-posts. All the wounded, and all the sick who get beyond the
ambulances, must pass through the station. There they are put in trim
for the journey to the base, or are sent to a convalescent depot if a
week or two will see them fit for duty again.

The Church of England chaplain was as friendly and accommodating as I
was anxious to be. We made sure that one of us saw every man to speak to
when he was brought in, and noted to which ward he was taken. For the
distribution of writing-paper, newspapers, and magazines, tobacco and
cigarettes, we divided the work, so that in one day each took half the
number of wards, on the next day reversing the half. In the case of
serious illness or trouble we kept more closely to our own men. We both
had our store of Testaments. Of all editions supplied to the troops that
of the National Bible Society of Scotland is the best. It is the most
attractive, in its bright red binding--one gets so tired of khaki--and
it contains the Psalms, so priceless and unfailing in time of war. I
think it a pity that they are in the metrical rather than the prose
form. On the other hand, an officer once told me he found it impossible
to settle to read the Bible. His experience was that a booklet of
familiar hymns was of most spiritual value to him. He would pull it out
in his dug-out and read a verse, and then put it back again. On Sundays
we held our morning services separately, in the reception room at
different hours. If it was possible there might be one or two quiet
services in the wards as well. Religion and science are sometimes
supposed to be hostile to one another. I must say this, and say it
gratefully--I always found doctors sympathetic, helpful, and
considerate, no men more so, in fact, none could have been more entirely
friendly. They are not lovers of creeds, but they are devoted servants
of humanity, and singularly responsive to any practical desire to be of
help. In the evening we held a united service. When the Presbyterian
gave the address the service was Anglican, and next Sunday the service
would be Presbyterian and the Church of England chaplain spoke. We took
our funerals to that so quickly growing cemetery with its six hundred
little wooden crosses, separately, though up the road those from the
other clearing station were taken by each chaplain on alternate days,
irrespective of denomination. We dispensed the Sacrament of the Lord's
Supper to our own people, using the beautiful little Communion set
issued by the War Office, and having as Table a stretcher covered with a
white cloth and set on trestles.

The drawing power of nationality is immense in the field. It is far more
emphatic and real than the sense of particular church connection. Even
men very loyal to their own branch of the Presbyterian Church, for
example, lay little emphasis on that in their minds. They delight in
meeting a Scots doctor or Scots padre. He understands all the twined
fibres of tradition and training that go to make up their character.
Every man, too, likes to worship according to the forms that he is
familiar with. But Church of Scotland, or United Free Church of
Scotland, and so on, is all very much the same to him. I am speaking of
Christian men, of men quite aware of the historical situation. There
grows upon a man in the field a deeper love for his brother Scot, so
profound a sense of essential oneness in tradition, in history, in
character, in faith, that he comes to look forward eagerly,
_passionately_, to a blessed day of complete reconciliation.

'Do you think that sort of thing matters now, Padre?' whispered a boy
who was desperately wounded, his skeleton hand picking restlessly at
the counterpane--a fine time for all our sound arguments! 'That sort of
thing' does matter, of course, but _then_ what could matter save to rest
wearily in the Everlasting Arms. I cannot believe that any one who has
knelt beside life after life passing forth in weariness and pain, cut
short so untimely, far from mothers' hands that would have ministered
love to them as they lay, and who has listened to the broken words of
trust, will ever allow his vision of the fundamental union of those who
are resting in the Eternal Love of God in Christ to be overshadowed by
lesser truths.


_The Name of Jesus_

There are two periods in a soldier's life when he is especially alert to
the appeal of religion. One, as we have seen, is just after enlisting;
the other is after he has been wounded. A clearing station is the first
resting-place he has. He has had a terrible shaking, seen his chum
killed perhaps, taken part in savagery let loose. He is often all broken
up, seeking again for a foundation. The difficulty is that his stay is
so short, as a rule only a few days. Our record patient was poor Burke,
an Irishman from an Irish regiment. He had been wounded when out with a
wiring party which scattered under machine-gun fire. He crawled into a
Jack Johnson hole and lay there out of sight of either side, between the
trenches, for eight days and eight nights. He had a little biscuit and a
water bottle, nothing more. Shells screamed overhead or burst near, and
bullets whistled backwards and forwards over the shell-hole. There were
dead men near in all stages of decay. When he was discovered by a patrol
he had lain there for over two hundred hours, and he was not insane. We
speak lightly of 'more dead than alive.' He was literally that when he
was brought in. Gangrene had set in long ago, and his condition was
beyond description. Surgeon-generals and consulting surgeons came long
distances to see him, an unparalleled example of the tenacity of human
life. He lingered by a thread for many weeks, sometimes a little better,
more often shockingly ill; but at last, six weeks after admission, it
was decided he could be moved. The whole station came to say good-bye to
old Burke, and all who could went to see him lowered gently by the lift
into the barge. Later, we had letters to say that he had survived the
amputation of his leg, and was slowly recovering. But that was the
longest period that any patient stayed with us. Short as the time
generally was, however, it was sometimes long enough to become very
intimate, since both were so ready to meet. There is not, and never has
been a religious revival, in the usual sense of the term, on the
Flanders front, and I am afraid it is true that modern war knocks and
smashes any faith he ever had out of many a man. Yet in a hospital there
is much ground for believing that shining qualities which amid the
refinements of civilisation are often absent--staunch, and even tender
comradeship, readiness to judge kindly if judge at all, resolute
endurance, and absence of self-seeking, so typical of our fighting
men--have their root in a genuine religious experience more often than
is, in the battalions, immediately evident. It has been my experience,
again and again, that with dying men who have sunk into the last
lethargy, irresponsive to every other word, the Name of Jesus still can
penetrate and arouse. The hurried breathing becomes for a moment
regular, or the eyelids flicker, or the hand faintly returns the
pressure. I have scarcely ever known this to fail though all other
communication had stopped. It is surely very significant and moving.





_The Flavour of Victory_

The jolliest man in the field is the man who, so to say, has been safely
wounded, that is, whose wound is serious enough to take him right down
the line, with a good prospect of crossing to Blighty, but not so
serious as to cause anxiety. I never met so hilarious a crowd as the
first batch of wounded from the fighting of 25th September 1915. We had
been prepared for a 'rush.' The growling of the guns had for days past
been growing deeper and more extended. It is, as a matter of fact,
impossible to keep a future offensive concealed. The precise time and
place may be unknown, but the gathering together of men, the piling up
of ammunition, and the necessary preparations for great numbers of
wounded, advertise inevitably that something is afoot. The ranks are not
slow to read the signs of the times: they say, for example, that an
inspection by the divisional-general can only mean one thing. How much
crosses to the other side it is hard to say, but the local inhabitants
know all that is common talk, and sometimes a great deal more. They have
eyes in their heads; they can see practice charges being carried
through, and note which regiments carry battle-marks on their uniforms;
and the little shops and estaminets are just soldiers' clubs where
gossip is 'swapped' as freely as in the London west-end clubs, and
unfortunately, is much better informed. A woman working on a farm once
told me to what part of the line a certain division was going on
returning from rest, and she gave a date. The commanding officers of the
battalions concerned knew nothing of it, and indeed a quite contrary
rumour was in circulation, but time proved the old woman to be right.

The Loos offensive was no exception, and for many days anxious thoughts
and prayers had filled our hearts. We went from hope to despondency, and
back to hope again. I dare say the talk round the mess table was very
foolish. Compared with the earlier days of the war the country seemed
full of men, and we heard stories of great accumulation of ammunition.
Anything seemed possible.

By nine o'clock on the morning of the 25th the convoys were coming in,
and the wounded streamed into the reception room. They were 'walking
cases,' men who had been wounded in the early part of the attack and,
able to walk, had made their way on foot to the regimental aid-post. All
had been going well when they left. They were bubbling over with good
spirits and excitement. Three--four--no, five lines of trenches had been
taken and 'the Boche was on the run.' They joked and laughed and slapped
one another on the back, and indeed this jovial crowd presented an
extraordinary appearance, caked and plastered with mud, with tunics
ripped and blood-stained, with German helmets, black or grey, stuck on
the back of their heads, and amazing souvenirs 'for the wife.' One man
with a rather guilty glance round produced for my private inspection
from under his coat an enormous silver crucifix about a foot long. He
found it in a German officer's dug-out, but probably it came originally
from some ruined French chapel. All souvenirs taken from dead enemies
are loathsome to me. It is merciful that so many people have no
imagination. I have never been able to understand, either, the carrying
home of bits of shell and mementoes of that kind. Any memento of these
unspeakable scenes of bloodshed is repulsive. Yet the British soldier is
as chivalrous as he is brave. He speaks terrible words about what he
will do to his foes, but when they are beaten and in his power he can
never carry it through. This was very striking when you consider that
until quite recently the German was 'top-dog' and how much our men had
suffered at his hands. But once the fight is over he is ready to regard
their individual account as settled. I remember so well one fire-eating
officer who was going to teach any prisoners that came into his hands
what British sternness meant. In due course twenty wounded Prussians
came in. He was discovered next day actually distributing cigarettes to
them. Now we must recollect that the British Tommy is not a class apart;
he is simply the 'man in the street,' the people. Sometimes there is
savage bitterness, not without good reason, and frequently the sullen or
frightened temper of the prisoners made friendliness difficult, but
Tommy--and by that name I mean the British citizen under arms--does not
long nourish grudges when the price has been paid. He is essentially
chivalrous, and even to his enemy, when the passion of fighting or the
strain of watchfulness is past, he is incurably kind.

An atmosphere of hope and cheerfulness pervaded the clearing station
this first morning of the 'great offensive.' Passing through a ward I
said to the nurse, 'Well, sister, everything seems to be going
splendidly.' She looked up sombrely from the wound she was dressing and
replied, 'So they said in the first hours of Neuve Chapelle.' I was
chilled by what she said and felt angry with her.


_Doubts and Fears_

As the day wore on the news was not so good. The Meerut Division, which
had delivered the containing attack in front of us on the Moulin du
Pietre, was where it had been before it attacked, so the wounded said,
with the exception of some units, notably Leicesters and Black Watch,
who had apparently disappeared. Perhaps all that had been intended had
been achieved. After all, the real battle--none could be more real and
more costly to those taking part in it than a containing attack, forlorn
hope as it often is--the _decisive_ battle was further south at Loos.
But the changed mood of the wounded now coming in was noticeable. Our
fighting men hate to be beaten, and the story was of confusion and lack
of support. Our own gas, too, had lingered on the ground and then
drifted back on our own trenches. A young German student who was brought
in wounded admitted the gallantry of the first rush, but he said, 'We
always understood those trenches could be rushed, but we also know that
they cannot be held on so small a front. They are commanded on either
side.' In all seven hundred wounded and gassed were brought in from the
British regiments of this division, and there was much work to be done.

Sunday was a bright, warm day, and in the afternoon we gathered all who
could walk to a service in the green meadow behind the operating
theatre. (There, too, they were busy enough, God knows.) The men came
very willingly. I spoke a few words from the text 'Blessed are the
peacemakers,' for that benediction was meant also for those lads who had
just struck so brave a blow for a decent world. A gunner said
afterwards, 'Do you know, I have only heard two sermons since I came out
ten months ago. The other was by the Bishop of London, and he took the
same text!' It is, as a matter of fact, very difficult to serve the
gunners properly; they were so scattered in little groups. It was very
peaceful that Sunday afternoon--no sign of war anywhere, except the
maimed results of it--as those men remembered with tears those whom it
had 'pleased Almighty God to take out of this transitory world into His

Every wounded man has a letter to write or to have written for him, and
it was essential that since the people at home knew there was heavy
fighting going on all messages should be sent off at once. This is one
of the chaplain's voluntary tasks, and we were kept close to it every
afternoon for some weeks after the offensive began. For some time the
number of letters was about four hundred every day. A number of men had
written farewell letters--very moving they seemed, but I did not think
it part of my duty to look too closely at these. They had addressed them
and then put them in their pockets, hoping that if they were killed they
might be discovered. Some had been finished just before the order to go
over the parapet. But the curious thing was that these were sent home,
with a few words in a covering note saying they were alive and well, as
a sort of keepsake. In those written after arrival in hospital a sense
of gratitude to God was very frequent, and a great longing for home and
the children. Some strange phrases were used: a mother would be
addressed as 'Dear old face,' or simply 'Old face.' But poets used to
write verses to their mistresses' eyebrows, and why not a letter to a
mother's face?

The German prisoners sent a message asking if they might speak with the
_Hauptmann-Pfarrer_. They besought me to send word to their relatives
that they were safe. I took the full particulars and promised to ask the
Foreign Office to forward, but could not guarantee the messages getting
through, as their government was behaving very badly over the matter.
They were all very anxious that I should be sure and say their wounds
were slight (_leicht_).

Next day came urgent orders that all wounded were to be evacuated who
could possibly be moved. So far as we had heard events seemed to be
moving fairly well at Loos, but there were some ugly rumours and the
atmosphere was one of great uneasiness. After dinner that evening the
commanding officer, Major Frankau, took me aside, and asked me not to
go to bed as they would need every available pair of hands throughout
the night.


_Our Share of the Fifty Thousand_

It was ten o'clock when the first cars came crunching into the station
yard, and the convoys arrived one after another until five in the
morning. Then, as we could take in no more, the stream was diverted to
the other clearing station up the road. Before the war the deep hoot of
a car always seemed to say: 'Here am I, rich and rotund, rolling
comfortably on my way; I have laid up much goods and can take mine
ease'; but after that night it had another meaning: 'Slowly, tenderly,
oh! be pitiful. I am broken and in pain,' as the cars crept along over
the uneven roads. These were our share of the wounded from Loos, the
overflow of serious 'stretcher cases' who could not be taken in at the
already overworked stations immediately behind their own front. Many had
been lying on the battlefield many hours. They were for the most part
from the 15th (Scottish) Division and the 47th (London) Division. Both
had made a deathless name. The former got further forward than any
other, and paid the penalty with over six thousand casualties. All this
night the rain fell in torrents. It streamed from the tops and sides of
the ambulances, it lashed the yard till it rose in a fine spray; the
lamps shone on wetness everywhere--the dripping, anxious faces of the
drivers, the pallid faces of the wounded, eyes staring over their
drenched brown blankets, eyes puzzled in their pain and distress, like
those of hunted animals; and the reception room was filled with the
choking odours of steaming dirty blankets and uniforms, of drying human
bodies and of wounds and mortality. As each ambulance arrived the
stretchers, their occupants for the most part silent, were drawn gently
out and carried into the reception hall and laid upon the floor. At once
each man--the nature of whose wounds permitted it--was given a cup of
hot tea or of cold water, and a cigarette. Two by two they were lifted
on to the trestles, and examined and dressed by the surgeons. Their
fortitude was, as one of the surgeons said to me, uncanny. It was
supernatural. I could not have believed what could be endured without
complaint, often without even a word to express the horrid pain, unless
I had seen it. Amid all that battered, bleeding, shattered flesh and
bone, the human spirit showed itself a very splendid thing that night.
The reception room at last filled to overflowing and could not be
emptied. All the wards and lofts and tents were crammed. By the time the
other station was filled the two had taken in three thousand men. They
remained with us for a week, because the hospital trains were too busy
behind Loos to come our way. Every day every man had to have his wounds
dressed. Some were covered with wounds; many of the wounds were
dangerous, all were painful; and gas gangrene, which the surgeon so
hates to see, had to be fought again and again. The medical staff, seven
in number, worked on day after day, and night after night, skilfully,
tenderly, ruthlessly. There were also a great many operations, and
scores of difficult critical decisions.

As we stepped out from among the blanketed forms I thought bitterly of
the 'glory' of war. Yet if there was any glory in war this was it. It
was here, in this patient suffering and obedience. These men might well
glory in their infirmities. This was heroism, the real thing, the spirit
rising to incredible heights of patient endurance in the foreseen
possible result of positive action for an ideal. The reaction from
battle is overwhelming. Passions that the civilised man simply does not
know, so colourless is his experience of them in ordinary days, are let
loose, anger and terror and horror and lust to kill. So for a while, as
nearly always happens, even wounds lost their power to pain in the
sleep of bottomless exhaustion. Those who could not sleep were drugged
with morphine. The moaning never stopped, but rose and fell and rose
again. It shook my heart. We turned from the ashen faces and went out
into the grey morning light. Everything seemed very grey. A mist was
drawing up slowly from the sluggish Lys, and we wondered as we went
shivering through it across the soaked grass what was happening beyond
it over there at Loos.

Next afternoon at tea we were all cheered by the news that a man who had
had his leg taken off three hours before was asking for a penny whistle.
At last it was discovered that one of the cooks had one. (Cooks in the
army are a race apart, possessors of all kinds of strange
accomplishments.) It was willingly handed over, and soon the strains of
'Annie Laurie' were rising softly from a cot in Ward VIII.

A month later the Principal Chaplain asked me to go to a battalion.
Chaplains who had been through the previous winter with battalions were
not anxious for another winter of it, if fresh men could be found. I was
thankful to go, in spite of all the kindness there had been on every
hand and the friendships made. The devilish ingenuity of wounds was
getting the better of me.

My charge was a brigade, containing a battalion of the Gordon
Highlanders, with which I was directed to mess. But the day I joined,
this battalion was taken out of the brigade, and as soon as the
rearrangement was completed I was transferred to one of the battalions
of The Royal Scots. While I was with this unit both its commanding
officer and its adjutant were changed. In both cases the cause was the
promotion of the officer in question.


_The Regimental Ribbon of The Royal Scots is shown on the wrapper of
this book_




_Back Again!_

The landing of the British Expeditionary Force in the far-away days of
August 1914 was one of the great moments of history. And Scotland has a
special share in the pride and sorrow that surround that great day, for
in her premier regiment centred memories of warfare and endurance, of
ancient alliances and ancient enmities, without a parallel in the story
of any other regular regiment. The oldest regiment in Europe was on the
battlefield once again. The First, or Royal Regiment of Foot, now known
as The Royal Scots, when it climbed the steep streets of Boulogne,
marched on a soil sacred to it by the memories of heroic campaigns.
Names that were as yet unfamiliar to the world at large were dear to it
as the last resting-places of its comrades of long ago--names such as
Dunkirk and Dixmude, Furnes and Ypres, Saberne and Bar-le-Duc. Hepburn's
Regiment had fought over every foot of the ground on which it was now to
share the waging of the greatest of all campaigns. Dumbarton's Drums
were once more beating their way through Europe to the making of
history. The trust of Gustavus Adolphus and Turenne, of Marlborough and
Wellington, marched with them as the promise of victory; and from the
old Royals, dustily climbing the cobbled street, spoke all the glamour
of 'age-kept victories.'

France was a smiling land in those days, for the sun shone in the hearts
of Frenchwomen as the rumour of war rose from the anxiously expected
British columns and drifted across the shining August fields. The 2nd
battalion--the 1st was still in India--tramped cheerily on its way. To
no one then was there revealed that dreary vista of trenches that was to
be war to the mind of the modern soldier.


_The First Shock of War_

Mons and the 23rd of August saw The Royals in action. With other
battalions they occupied the Mons salient, actually the point on which
the torrent of war first broke and for a brief moment spent itself. On
that still night it seemed to hang suspended as a great wave does
before falling. As the battalion lay in the shallow trench the pregnant
silence was at last broken by the high, clear call of a bugle, one
single long note, indescribably eerie and menacing, and then the
listening men heard the rustling tread of feet moving through the grass
with a steady, regular, ominous advance. The might of Germany was on the
move, and still the thin brown line lay tense and silent, until only
forty paces separated the two. Then, at a word, The Royals' line broke
into a storm of flame which swept the line of the advancing men as a
scythe sweeps through the corn; and for the British infantry the great
war had begun.

Mons was a victory; the German advance was held up temporarily. But all
night the British troops were being withdrawn. It was after five in the
morning before The Royals got their orders to move, and 'A' Company
claims to be the last of the British army to leave Mons. But Le Cateau
was another story. Here our men learned what the concentrated fire of
artillery could be. The shallow trenches were obliterated; our gunners,
hopelessly outclassed in weight and number of pieces, could do little,
in spite of the greatest gallantry, to protect the infantry; and that
the army was able to withdraw at all was a striking proof of its stern
discipline. Audencourt was a shambles. Colonel McMicking, wounded near
this village and left behind, as all the wounded who were unable to walk
had to be, was hit again while being carried out of the blazing church.
The command devolved on Major, now Brigadier-General, Duncan. From this
time onwards the German guns had the range of the roads, and such a
superiority of fire that they could do almost as they pleased. The
infantry, at first furious at the necessity of retreat, turned again and
again--as did the guns--on their pursuers, but even so the pressure was
perilously near breaking point. The enemy had every means of mechanical
transport, and was able to find time for rest. Our men had to press on
to the last point of human endurance. There was no respite. The French
Foreign Legion have a grim saying, 'March or die.' Here the word was
'March or be captured,' and even when every other conscious feeling but
that of utter exhaustion seemed dead, somewhere deep down in their
hearts the will to endure urged them on.

Is there no painter, no poet, who can enshrine for future generations
the memory of this historic scene? We have here a sudden glimpse of
Britain at her best. Hot sun, torment of burning feet on the cruel,
white, and endless roads, the odour and sight and sound of death and
wounds, pressure of pressing men, and love of life and the horrid
loneliness of fear--all that was Giant Circumstance; but he could not
extinguish the souls of men made in the image of God for suffering and
endurance and triumph. English and Irish and Scottish--but brothers in
hatred of retreat and in their determination to push on until they could
turn and strike--the glamour of great names hung round all those
tattered battalions; and the very essence of it was in the oldest of
them all, in history and in campaigns, this famous Lowland regiment. Of
that at such a time they thought little, if at all; sheer physical facts
pressed too hard, yet in their desperate victory over circumstance they
wrote the most golden page of their story, and enriched the blood of all
who follow them.

You can find a certain humour in war if you look for it, though war is
not amusing, and life at home has many more entertaining incidents in it
than life at the front. One officer of The Royals fell sound asleep in a
trench during the climax of a terrific bombardment, and awoke to find
himself alone among the dead. (He makes us laugh when he tells the
story, but at the time it cannot have been just very humorous.) He
pushed on after the retreating army, and though--owing to the mistake of
an officer at a cross-roads who stood saying, 'Third division to the
right, So-and-so division to the left,' when it should have been the
other way about--he lost his way, he found the battalion a fortnight
later. Two others came in sight of the last bridge standing on one river
just as the explosive was about to be detonated, and maintain that,
running furiously toward the bridge, they persuaded the engineer in
charge to postpone the fatal moment by brandishing a large loaf, rarest
of all articles on the heels of a retreating army. Another who had been
sent on ahead to find a billet in a château saw a beautiful bathroom,
and was preparing to make use of a priceless opportunity when he found
that the enemy was upon him, and fled in haste. The transport officer,
peering round the corner of a house, saw his beloved transport which he
had gathered and cherished until it was reputed the best in the army,
go up in matchwood and iron splinters. One subaltern, finding himself on
the ground, discovered to his horror that he had a hole in his chest,
but struggled gamely on, now walking, now stealing a ride on a
limber--just catching the last train of all--and finally arriving in
England with no other articles of kit or clothing but a suit of pink
pyjamas and a single eyeglass.

At Meaux the steeples of Paris were in sight; but the hour had struck,
and The Royals at last wheeled to pursue.


_At the Nose of the Salient_

The battalion had come through much since then, on the Marne and the
Aisne and the Lys, and in trench warfare from Hooge to Neuve Chapelle.
Here is a picture of a day's fighting from the diary of an eyewitness--a
bald note of facts. It refers to 25th September 1915:--

'The brigade formed up in the trench in the following order from left to
right, 1st Gordons, 4th Gordons, 2nd Royals, one company Royal Scots
Fusiliers. Each battalion received separate point of attack, namely,
Bellevarde Farm, Hooge Château, Redoubt, Sandbag Castle. Artillery
bombardment 3.50-4.20 A.M. General attack then launched. "B" Company was
at the nose of the salient; "C" Company on right of "B"; "A" Company on
left; "D" Company in dug-outs in reserve. At 4.20 A.M. the battalion
advanced to the attack. Complete silence was observed and bayonets were
dulled. The front line was captured with few casualties on our side, and
shortly after the final objective was successfully attained. Our line
was consolidated. One hundred and sixteen prisoners belonging to the
172nd Regiment of XV. Prussian Corps were taken and three lines of
trenches. All four officers of "B" Company were hit before German front
line was reached. Touch was established with R.S.F. on right and 4th
G.H. on left. There was heavy German shell-fire on the captured
trenches. A party from "D" Company tried to make communication trench
back to our old front line, 1st Gordons unfortunately were not able to
reach the German front line owing to wire being undestroyed and too
thick to cut. A gap was thus made between 1st and 4th Gordons. The enemy
pushed bombers through, thus getting behind 4th Gordons. Desperate
hand-to-hand fighting ensued. O.C. "A" Company was forced to defend his
left flank. A German counter-attack moving N. to S. by C.T. across the
Menin Road, The Royals' machine-gun did great execution. Terrific
bombardment by German heavies (H.E.). "A" Company was ordered to retire
on our old front line to get in touch with 4th G.H. on left. "B" Company
to keep in touch ordered to do the same. "C" Company rinding enemy on
left rear, position became critical. No battalion at all now on left,
1st Gordons having failed in their objective, and 4th having been
withdrawn owing to flank attack in front of 1st. No battalion now on
right either. "C" Company in danger of being surrounded. Captain N.S.
Stewart personally reported the danger of his position. A company of 4th
Middlesex were rushed up--all our men by this time having been used
up--to the nose of the salient, but could not man it owing to terrific
barrage of fire. "C" Company, completely cut off, fought its way with
the bayonet back to its former front line. Colonel Duncan reorganised
the firing line. Both sides spent the night in gathering in the

So ended the containing attack from the Ypres salient. But is not every
sentence a spur to the imagination?

Two days later, the Corps commander, in personally thanking the
battalion, complimented it on 'the smart appearance of the men who
_showed no signs of what they had gone through_.'

It was to this famous battalion of a great Regiment that I was now
attached as one of the four Presbyterian chaplains to the 'fighting
Third' Division.





_The Shell Area_

The shell area is all the land behind the trenches which is under fire
from the enemy's guns as a matter of course. It is not a pleasant place,
for that reason, to walk about in, and our own artillery, cleverly
concealed, is apt to open fire unexpectedly within a few yards of the
passer-by in a way that is very disturbing. It is a dreary land; a dank
air broods over it, an atmosphere of destruction and death, of humanity
gone awry and desolate. I remember the almost ecstasy with which one
April afternoon some of us found ourselves among the purple hyacinths
on Kemmel hill. Poor Kemmel, once a pleasure resort whither happy
Belgians went for the benefit of their health, now far from that--and
not particularly healthy! These battered villages are now merely sordid;
only Ypres maintains a personality, an air of undefeat all its own. It
too is a ruin, but unlike the others it is a splendid ruin. At every
cross-roads the brooding crucifixes hang. The British mind does not like
this constant reiteration of mishandling and defeat in the death of
Christ. It does not seem to it to be the final message of the Cross.
Indeed, it is the product of the mediaeval, monkish mind. It was not
until the tenth century that the representations of the Crucifixion
showed Our Lord as dead; it was much later before the emphasis was laid
on agony and despair. Once from among the debris of the convent in
Voormezeele I rescued such a representation of the Body of Christ, limbs
gone, broken arms outstretched, and it seemed a symbol. But that is not
the final truth, defeat and despair. The cross-road shrines would not
look down on those groups of tramping Islanders if it were so. And as
you look back over the parados of the firing trench, across the bleached
and scarred countryside, you remember that _that_, like the scenes of
agony in the clearing station after Loos, is the plain, visible proof
that His Spirit lives in the world of men. But what a Via Dolorosa it
is, that grim ditch dug across Europe, with its crouching men behind the
snipers' plates. Strange path for the twentieth century to have to walk
in, to prove that compassion and righteousness still live.

In all this area the British soldier walks with a singular
_insouciance_. It is not simply that he is brave. He is that, supremely
so, and not least when he is very much afraid and will not show it and
carries on with his job. But there is more in it than that. There is a
kind of warlike genius in him which makes him do the right thing in the
right way, so that he appeals to humour and comradeship as well as to
gallantry. It was one of our sergeant-majors who before a battalion
attack offered £5 to the man of his company who was first in the enemy's
trench. Think of it for a moment. He appealed to their sporting
instinct; he turned their thoughts from death and wounds and introduced
a jest into every dug-out that night; and he indicated, without
boasting, that he was going to be first over the parapet. He made it
certain that every sportsman in the company--and what British regular is
not--would strain every nerve to be first across. And the cream of the
jest was that, stalwart athlete that he was, he was first across
himself! The same may be said of the officer; he wins more than
obedience from his men. I have seen senior N.C.O.'s crying like children
because their young officer was dead.

Along with this courage and comradeship and humour there is often a
great deal of fatalism. It expresses itself in many ways, in the reading
of Omar Khayyam--'The Ball no Question makes of Ayes and Noes'--for
example, in the indifference so often shown by men if they lose through
their own fault some 'cushy job' and have to go back to the line, or in
the doing of really foolish things, foolish because dangerous, but
useless. I remember sitting outside the dug-out of Captain Chree (who
afterwards laid down his life on the Somme) at battalion headquarters,
and watching the shelling of one of our batteries of 18-pounders some
five hundred yards back. The Germans had searched for it repeatedly with
lavish expenditure of ammunition, and that afternoon they got it
repeatedly, with very unpleasant results. But of course there were many
misses. Whenever the German shells fell short they burst in the field,
in front of the battery, which was bounded on two sides by a road. In
the midst of the bombardment a soldier came down the road facing us and,
instead of walking round by the cross-roads, cut across the field in
which shells were bursting. He deliberately left comparative safety for
real danger simply in order to save himself five minutes' walk. On
another occasion, when I was at dusk one evening in Vierstraat, a Tommy
came along carrying some burden. At this point he got tired and planted
it down right in the middle of the cross-roads. Another man told him he
could not have chosen a worse place for a rest, that the Boche was
always firing rifles and machine-guns up the road, but he was prevailed
upon to move only with the greatest difficulty. Perhaps in another class
was the soldier the doctor and I came upon suddenly in a ruined house in
Ypres kicking with all the strength of an iron-shod boot at the fuse of
an unexploded German shell. A friend with his hands in his pockets was
watching the proceedings with much interest. He said he was only
wanting the fuse as a souvenir, but he would soon have got that to keep
and a good deal more. The doctor was quite peevish about it, as the
saying is!

When an attack is being made or repelled, the concentration of batteries
in action turns the country in front of them into a nightmare of
noise--'a terrific and intolerable noise' in Froissart's phrase. The
incessant slamming of the guns makes it impossible to hear enemy shells
coming. The first intimation is their arrival. But the orderlies go
backwards and forwards through it all with superb courage. Wounded
trickle down the trolley line to the dressing station, and an occasional
group of prisoners come through. It was on a day like this that I saw
Davidson and Rainie for the last time. When The Royals were moved up
from the support trenches to take over from the battalion which had
delivered the attack at St. Eloi, some one said to Captain Davidson, who
was going up at the head of his company through a terrible barrage,
'This is going to be a risky affair.' 'Yes,' he replied, 'but it's not
our business whether it's risky or not. My orders are to go through.'
Soon after he fell. He was barely twenty years of age.


_'I hate war: that is why I am fighting'_

There is a garden in Vlamertynghe with a marble seat overturned beside a
smashed tree, a corner just made for lovers, once. An enormous crump
hole fills the greater part of the garden, and the wall has fallen
outwards in one mass leaving the fruit trees standing in a line, their
arms outstretched. Across on the other side of the road Captain Norman
Stewart lies buried. But his memory lives in the hearts of men, and
wherever the 2nd battalion gathers round its braziers and in the glow of
them the stories of the heroes of the regiment are passed on from the
veterans to the younger men, Stewart will be remembered with reverence
as one who not only upheld but created regimental tradition.

It was a bombing affair in which he died, detachments of Suffolks,
Middlesex, and Royal Scots, under his leadership, being ordered to drive
the enemy out of the tip of the salient. Barricades made progress almost
impossible in face of a murderous machine-gun fire. Owing to the
confused nature of the fighting no quarter could be given, and
desperate fighting ensued with bombs, bayonets and hand to hand. Finally
ten yards were gained and the ground consolidated.

At one point of the fight, finding progress otherwise impossible,
Captain Stewart mounted to the top of the barricade in full view of the
enemy, with shells and bombs bursting all round and under machine-gun
and rifle fire. Though wounded he remained there in face of certain
death for over ten minutes. From bucket after bucket handed up to him he
still hurled bombs at the thronging enemy beneath, until a sniper crept
round to his flank, and this heroic Scotsman fell.

          'They pass, they pass, but cannot pass away,
           For _Scotland_ feels them in her blood like wine.'

The night before he died Stewart said to a friend, 'I hate war: that is
why I am fighting.'


_Billets and Camps_

The camps to which the battalion returned after each tour of the
trenches were for the most part out of danger except for an occasional
shell, but it was only when we were withdrawn to the 'rest area' that we
felt any sense of freedom to settle down and take stock of ourselves.
Both Colonel Duncan and Colonel Dyson, to whom I owe countless
kindnesses, were keen disciplinarians, and Major Everingham, the
Quartermaster, imperturbable, efficient, could really perform almost
superhuman feats. A man can only know his own department, and in mine
the standard of a battalion is shown by its attitude to religious
observances. A bad battalion finds too many engagements to turn out in
any strength on Sunday. I used to feel so proud as the old Royals, every
available man on parade, would march up behind their pipes and drums,
alert, well-groomed, punctilious in all the minor forms that are so
important an evidence of a battalion's condition. In rest billets we all
got to work; there were marches and manoeuvres, cinematographs and
cross-country runs, football matches and boxing competitions. These men
when stripped were so much more beautiful than in their clothes. Of how
many in civilian occupations could that be said? The battalion would be
refitted; a brewer's great vat was commandeered for a bathing-place;
the village school was turned, every evening, into a recreation room;
and a communicants' class was started. Not for the first time I longed
for a brief, clear statement of our Church's faith. The cumbrous
complicated Catechisms and Confessions are magnificent monuments, but
they are worse than useless under such conditions. A _Credo_ which could
be written on a blackboard and pointed to as the Church member's
essential Confession of Faith, to be developed and expanded according to
the need and circumstances, would be a real power in a chaplain's hands.
The men's behaviour in billets--ramshackle barns for the most part--was
almost exemplary. Only once or twice small episodes occurred in
connection with hen-roosts, and on one occasion a sucking-pig was
slaughtered amid its brethren at the dead of night. It must have been a
temporary madness that possessed the author of this escapade, for he had
no possible chance of escape. It was pleaded on his behalf, on his
appearance before the Colonel, that he had recently done a gallant deed,
but as some one said, 'If every man who did a gallant deed was allowed
to kill a pig there would not be a pig left in Flanders.'

It was the cleanness of the air and of the soil that made a rest back
among the far-stretching forests of the Pas de Calais so different from
one nearer the line. To get on bridle-paths and roads free from lorry
traffic and let your horse out at full stretch over the fallen leaves
down some long grey-purple vista of bare trees, and feel the clean wind
whistling past your ears and smell the fresh odours of the great woods,
to see the blue smoke drifting up from some forester's cottage, or for a
moment in passing catch a glimpse of a fairy-story scene of charcoal
burners grouped together in a glade, was to ride into another world of
thought and feeling. My little horse John, one of the five horses left
of those who crossed with the battalion, felt it too--thought perhaps he
was in old England again. But the British soldier hates manoeuvres and
marches and drills and inspections. He would rather be left in peace in
his trenches, in a 'quiet' part of the line at least, than bothered
about those things. Movement, too, has an exhilarating effect on him,
and so when orders come to go back into action he tramps off with
remarkable goodwill. I remember one battalion of Royal Welsh Fusiliers,
suddenly rushed up from rest, pulled out of the station singing a song
of which the refrain is something like 'Ai, ai! Vot a game it is!' at
the top of their voices. And it really is by no means a game. As the
Colonel used to say (very moderately), 'Life out here is not all joy!'

One November evening I was picking my way cautiously through the mud
camp near Reninghelst, and hearing the tune of a famous hymn, drew near
to listen, for Jock sometimes sings to hymn tunes words that certainly
never appeared in any hymn-book, and I wanted to make sure that it _was_
the greatest hymn in the English language which was being sung. It was a
quiet night. Now and again a heavy gun fired a round, and infrequently,
on a gentle wind blowing from the trenches, was borne the rattle of a
machine-gun. From all the camp arose the subdued confused noise of an
army settling to rest for the night. Some tents were in darkness, in
others a candle burned, and here and there braziers still glowed redly.
It was from one of the lighted tents that the singing came, each part
being taken, and a sweet clear tenor voice leading. The tune was old
'Communion,' and they had just come to this verse:

          'Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
           Save in the death of Christ, my God:
           All the vain things that charm me most,
           I sacrifice them to His blood.'

How often have we sung that, perhaps thoughtlessly, in comfort at home,
but these lads had in truth sacrificed the 'vain things.' With a lump in
my throat I waited for the last verse:

          'Were the whole realm of nature mine,
           That were an offering far too small;
           Love so amazing, so divine,
           Demands my life, my soul, my all.'






The beginning of March found me with a battalion of The Royals in a
rather battered Belgian town. Its centre received a good deal of
attention from enemy artillery, but it offered two attractions which
brought in officers from divisions all around. After all, to men
accustomed to living in the trenches, the atmosphere was one of almost
Sabbath peace. The hall where 'The Fancies' made much of the humours of
trench life to uproariously delighted audiences was crowded out night
after night. You could not find anywhere greater zest and enjoyment. The
striking comradeship of soldiering, the common experience of audience
and actors, and the abandonment of all thought for the morrow, gave that
impression of cheerful carelessness the root of which is not happiness
but the conviction that the future is so uncertain and the possibilities
so dreadful that he is wise who lives for the hour only, even as the
hour may snatch life from him. I thought I knew the head in front of me,
and, leaning forward, saw it was my brother-in-law. It has always struck
me as quaint that he, who had been with his battery for a year and a
half, and I, who had been out for nine months, should have met again
under such circumstances. I had pictured a stricken field and much
coolness exhibited in an admittedly dramatic moment--something in line
with Stanley's 'Dr. Livingstone, I presume.' It was comforting to find
it otherwise, but, as Smee says in _Peter Pan_, it was 'galling too.'
First when looking into a shop window, and now in a concert hall, in all
these months of war! We said, 'Not a bad show, is it?' 'Not half bad.'
But there have been some strange meetings in this war. A private in our
battalion discovered his son, a boy of seventeen, in a new draft which
had just come up to the line. He had run away from home and been lost to
sight. The father set matters on a proper footing by thrashing his son
there and then in the front trench!

War was not very far off after all. Two days later we were having lunch
in the comfortable warm restaurant which is this tedious town's other
attraction. We drank our coffee to the accompaniment of the nasty sound
of arriving shells. Every time a shell screamed towards us the stout
lady behind the counter dropped on hands and knees, emerging flushed and
trembling after each had burst. We were rather amused; but when we went
out and round the corner of the street, the body of a man was being
swiftly carried away wrapped in a brown blanket. Forty soldiers, it was
said, had been killed and wounded. Distracted women stood in little
groups in the passages of the houses, and there was much blood in the

Only a country invaded by the enemy drinks to its dregs the cup of war,
but the narrow belt a few miles behind the friendly army's trenches
enjoys great prosperity. The love of home or the love of money keeps the
population in many places where it would be better away. One beautiful
spring day I took shelter behind a farmhouse in the Hallebast-Vierstraat
area until some shelling on the path ahead had died down. The farmer's
wife came out and we got into conversation. A rise in the ground gave
some shelter from the German lines, but she told me that any movement on
horseback was immediately sniped with whizbangs. The day before all her
cows had been killed by shell-fire in the paddock behind the farmhouse,
but if she and her elderly husband let their land go out of cultivation,
how were they to live, and if they left, where could they go? When
high-explosives blew great holes in their sown land they just filled in
the holes and ploughed and sowed the place over again. The settled
sadness of her face and voice haunts me still. Others, however, stay in
danger because they are making so much money. Several shopkeepers in
this town admitted they had never known such prosperity. The estaminets
make enormous profits from the sale of very weak beer. A friend of mine,
having drawn battalion pay in notes of too large amounts, was told to
return to the paymaster and draw it in smaller sums. He found the office
closed, and turned into a little village shop to see if they could
change a part of it. To his amazement they changed the whole of it from
the till. The total amount was ten thousand francs. But how many
Belgians have lost their all?

Our billets were clean and very airy. For some reason, though all
furniture had been removed, the presses, which were all open, were full
of beautiful bed and table linen. It was very tempting, but fortunately
we resisted the temptation. The morning after we arrived, about seven
o'clock, a disturbance arose below. Angry women's voices were heard in
altercation with the servants, there were hurried footsteps on the
stair, and a moment later our door was thrust violently open. Two
strapping Belgian women strode in and demanded answers to many
questions. We adopted our friend the Major's plan, and feigned to know
even less French than we did. We were anxious to be very inoffensive as
we lay on the floor and watched these determined individuals throwing
open the presses and wardrobes. Inside the linen lay untouched, folded
neatly; we felt thankful we had left it so. They stamped out again, and
we heard the Colonel's voice raised in protest next door. The doctor and
I looked at one another. He seemed rather pale, and I noticed for the
first time that his head rested on an enormous soft pillow covered with
a spotless linen pillow-slip edged with beautiful lace.

But next morning we had a different awakening. Dawn was rising wanly
from the east to another day on the Salient. The broken windows were
rattling and the floor trembling under the dull continuous thudding of a
concentrated bombardment. We lay and listened, and for the thousandth
time hated war. We knew that men, some of whom we knew and loved, were
going over the parapet, many never to return.

That night, as dusk fell, the old steeple with its rent side looked down
on cobbled streets thronging with ordered ranks of men standing ready to
move. Here and there a few officers spoke together, or a man gave his
chum a light from his fag, or straps were tightened. A rifle butt rang
on the pavement, and the adjutant's horse moved his feet restlessly.
These men had no illusions as to what they would probably have to face;
but none guessed that there lay ahead the most dreadful test of physical
endurance which the old battalion, since the great retreat, had ever


_The Bluff_

What had happened was this. Soon after our division had been moved back
to the rest area, part of the line which it had been holding was
strongly attacked and lost to the enemy. Several counter-attacks failed,
and finally our own Division was brought back from rest to recapture
the lost trenches. One brigade attacked with great dash and success. The
lost trenches were re-occupied, and our own brigade, which had been
lying in support, was ordered to take over and hold them against the
expected counter-attacks. The Bluff, which was the main feature of the
position and the worst part of which The Royals, as the senior
battalion, were given to hold, was a low hill jutting out at the
re-entrant to the Salient, south-east of Ypres. It was a strong tactical
position commanding the approaches to our trenches, as the enemy well
knew. Seen from our front line farther south it had the dead, bleak
appearance of all ground that is much shelled. Pitted by high explosive,
burned yellow by fumes of gas and shells, and stripped of every living
thing, with blackened stumps of trees sparsely scattered on its summit,
this muddy hillock dominated the flat lands, and, on the sunny morning
when I first saw it, seemed indescribably sinister and menacing. It said
to me, 'I am war, the antagonist of everything clean and comely, of
everything fresh and young: misery of mind and body, torment of kindly
earth and all its little growing things, lover of all that is foul and


_'We've keepit up the reputation o' the auld mob, onyway'_

That night the weather suddenly changed. There had been a hint of spring
in the air, but in an hour that was wiped out by a bitter north wind
sweeping the bare fields with icy rain and snow. The transport, pitched
in the filthy morass known as 'Scottish Lines,' saw its labour of three
weeks thrown away in a couple of nights. For the human beings there were
a few tents and huts, but in face of the searching wind canvas seemed
quite porous, and the huts were badly built and had a hundred openings
to the bitter air. But up at the Bluff conditions were terrible. The
trenches had disappeared under repeated bombardments, and had become
mere chains of shell holes in which the men stood up to their thighs in
liquid mud. When the C.O. arrived to take over the headquarters' dug-out
he found it blown to pieces. Within lay the bodies of the previous
occupants--four officers. Another dug-out was finally found. It was deep
in a bank at the end of a narrow passage twenty feet long. Within was a
chamber six feet long, four broad and four high, and in this place, so
horribly like a grave, the C.O., second-in-command, and adjutant lived
for three days and four nights. A candle gave light, and whenever a
shell burst above the flame jerked out. The sergeant-major and the
orderlies and servants lived in the tunnel, squatting on their haunches
in the mud. Outside there were no other dug-outs at all. The shelling
was continuous, but the cold was far worse. Men sank in the mud and
remained motionless for hours. Many fell into shell holes and had to be
hauled out with twisted telephone wires. The wounded suffered horribly.
Owing to the mud and the German barrage no supplies could be brought up,
and it was impossible to light braziers. On the fourth night relief
came, but it was daylight before the last company sucked itself out of
its mudholes and waded back in full view of the enemy. Fortunately a
blinding snowstorm swept down from the north and hid all movement just
when it seemed certain that disaster would occur. Every available
vehicle was sent up to meet the battalion, but there was a long walk
before these could be reached. The men crept along on sodden, swollen
feet--no gumboots had been obtainable. They came along in groups, now of
two or three, now of six or seven, or one by one. They were bent like
old men, and staggered as they walked, their faces set and grey. The
most terrible thing of all was the utter silence. Snow muffled the fall
of the dragging feet; it lay thick on the masses of ruins in the
shattered empty villages; and when the brigade major's greeting rang
out men shrank and looked fearful at the sudden sound. Yet when I spoke
to any, as they staggered through the snow past the point whither I had
gone to meet them, life flickered up for a moment from the depths of
that final exhaustion. 'What price Charlie Chaplin now, sir!' said one
man whose wavering footsteps led him hither and thither. And another in
simple words summed up the heroic simple spirit of them all: 'Well,
we've keepit up the reputation o' the auld mob, onyway.' Indomitable
men! Who could ever vanquish you?

Rest meant tent boards under frozen canvas, but it was rest. On that
weary morning even the uninviting outline of Reninghelst village seemed
like home.




The last time I saw the Ypres salient was from the shoulder of the
Scherpenberg. The torn church tower of Dickebusch stood up darkly near a
leaden gleam of water. From St. Eloi in front of it trenches ran curving
up to Hooge and back again to within, on the north, a mile and a half of
Ypres, enclosing the level, sodden farmland four miles across its base,
two from base to nose, which is the Ypres salient. A reluctant dawn was
turning the darkness to a dull and threatening day, and as it grew
lighter the famous miles slowly came into view. It was the hour of
'Stand-to.' All round the Salient, and north and south of it far beyond
the horizon, the trenches were filled with watching men, weary from the
night's toil at digging or wiring or 'carrying' fatigues, but standing
ready until the dangerous hour of dawn should pass. It had been an
anxious week, for the wind was blowing from the enemy's lines, and night
after night the long warning call of the gas-gongs, followed in a moment
by the awakening of all the Salient into a ring of darting flames and
tremendous concussions as the guns were called into action, had brought
all ranks to their feet. But this morning no sound broke the strange
silence. It was hard to believe that hidden beneath the soil tens of
thousands of men were silently standing face to face. As the dawn lifted
I knew that everywhere in the ten-mile ring the British soldier was
boiling the water for his tea, very strong and very sweet, the first of
half a dozen tea brewings he would make that day. Another day of the war
had begun.

Surely so long as great deeds appeal to the British race those weary
miles will be always sacred. Within them lie the unnumbered British
dead, 'the dear, pitiful, august dead.' Comrades of the dauntless
warriors of Gallipoli, comrades of the sailors who have gone down
fighting in the cold waters of the North Sea, brothers of all brave men
suffering for a clean cause, they leave the issue with us. As long as
the British Empire endures, and it will endure so long as it works for
God and no longer, the memory of the heroes of the Ypres salient will
live and glow.

'I hate war: that is why I am fighting,' said one of them. They fought
not merely for their country, but because they believed they were
fighting war itself. We shall not be true to their memory unless we
remember that. 'Slavery will always be,' said the defenders of slavery.
'It is impossible to prevent those things, human nature being what it
is,' said others of schools like Dotheboys Hall. A little time ago
England and Scotland were at one another's throats; a little before that
clan fell upon clan with vindictive fury. When we have beaten Germany,
who stands for the old, rotten, pagan belief in old, rotten, pagan
things we must see that we do not betray the men who died fighting
because they hated war.

But war has good in it too, they say. Yes, and amid its hideous wrong no
doubt there was good in slavery, as there is in cancer or blindness.
Almost any evil or agony may be the root of noble qualities, and war is
no exception.

These men died in the hope that it might be impossible for a civilised
nation again to thrust this evil on the human race. They died trusting
us to see that Europe would not again have to choose the alternative of
entering upon such an agony or of forgetting its honour towards God.
Force, it would seem, must long remain the last remedy, but might it not
be force resting on a pivot and striking with effect wherever
international crime seeks to disturb the peace of the nations? The mere
knowledge of such a united determination would at least be a powerful
persuasive. That may be only a dream. The immediate fact is that the
doctrine of Will to Power must first be crushed, represented as it is
to-day by Germany and her dupes. But men who have been through the
furnace will not rest content with less than the solemn attempt, in the
name of the dead, to put the nations of the world in a worthier
relationship to one another than has so far prevailed. Our brothers who
have fallen died in the hope that for succeeding generations life would
be different. They died believing that because of their sacrifice it
might be possible to substitute for the German (or any other) Will to
Power the Christian Will to Righteous Peace. This effort alone can be
their fitting monument.

       *       *       *       *       *

Printed in Great Britain by T. AND A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty
at the Edinburgh University Press

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