LETTERS FROM MEN AT THE FRONT.
Major Beattie Writes Again.
Dear Mr., Horne:
I have received neither letters nor papers from Cobourg for a long time, so am out of touch with you all, But I am right in touch with things of utmost interest out here, I have a very wide parish just now as I am still acting senior chaplain to the whole of the Second Division, It takes me further afield than my former brigade work with, I am afraid, the result I am not quite so intimately connected with the boys. I see a good deal of them, however.
Yesterday being Sunday, I had three services, two others having failed by reason of duties which cropped up. Last night we got a brazier and carried it to the sheltered side of a hut where we had a delightful evening singing hymns. We sang' Abide With Me,' 'Nearer My God To Thee,' 'Lead Kindly Light,' 'All Hail The Power of Jesus Name,' 'The Glory Song,' 'Tell Mother I'll Be There,' and many others. Then I spoke, led in prayer and all united in The Lord's Prayer. These little informal trysting times and places exert an influence that is well worthwhile.
In the morning I went to K to bury two men out of twenty-two who were killed when the Germans set off a mine under our trench. The big grave was prepared for all but only two bodies had as yet been brought out. The two silent forms were tenderly lowered by kindly comrades and my associate chaplain began the service by reading throughout the hymn, 'Peace Perfect Peace in this Dark World of Sin.' Just then the big guns of near- by artillery tore the air with their hellish noise - 'Peace, perfect peace, death shadowing us and ours, Jesus hath vanquished death and all its powers,' read the chaplain. Boom! Boom!! Boom!!! answered the death dealing weapons. 'It is enough earth's struggles soon shall cease, and Jesus calls us to Heaven's perfect peace,' replied the man of God, and the prayer went up from our hearts that the God of peace would hasten the day when the mad folly of war should be no more known in the earth. We turned away leaving the great gaping trench- like grave waiting the broken 'habitors.'
While I write, the big guns or trench mortars or bombs are booming away. There has been heavy shelling to-day on the South of us and we hear that again large numbers of Germans have been taken prisoners. The enemy seems to have an almost inexhaustible supply. It must come to an end sooner or later but the end is by no means yet.
We have had a few days of fine dry weather which has very greatly improved the trench life: It looks like rain again to-night. Imagine trying to live for over a year in the trenches which you have seen workmen in Cobourg digging when laying sewers. Men become very ingenious in their devices for making life possible. Underground dugouts are made in both sides of the trench. Here and there someone has built a fireplace and enjoy the luxury of a charcoal fire. When it rains his roof of mud leaks so his rubber sheet is tacked to the ceiling directly over his so called bed. It does more good than under him.
One day last week I went up to bury a man at the trench, leaving here about 4 a.m. I got there just after morning 'stand to'. The sleepers at dawn are all roused and 'stand to' at the parapet until it is clear light. Those who have been on watch part of the night turn in again and sleep. In the trench about a foot or two from the bottom there is a step against the parapet on which men stand to fire. Along this lay, sound asleep, many of the poor fellows. It was raining and they were vainly trying to cover both head and feet with the rubber sheet. One bank clerk said to me 'I used to grumble about the office work at home, but I tell you Major, that teller's cage looks pretty good to me right now. If I ever get back to it you will never hear me grouse again.' It is perfectly splendid to see the good cheer among the men. They take the hard-ships and the difficulties as part of the grim business of war.
The medical and hospital departments are all that could be desired for caring for the sick and wounded. The men are well off in this regard. We have here a rest station where the men who need four or five days of complete rest can get it.
I am very pleased to hear such excellent reports of the rally Sunday in the Sunday School. I hope that every department of the church will rally to the work of the "winter. It is pleasing to know that while we do our part in the defense of the Empire here you are doing yours there. The boys love to sing that song.
Keep the home fires burning
While our hearts are yearning
Turn the dark clouds inside out
Till the boys come home.
And I know you will do this.
My very best pastoral love to all my dear people. Believe me,
Yours very sincerely,