France, March 15, 1915
Dear Mr. Horne:
Will you please make record of the enclosed in the Baptismal records. The service at which the Baptism of Private Sutcliffe took place yesterday was unique. We were assembled in a farmyard for Service. The French farmyards are unlike Canadian ones. The house and stables are built to form a court, stables on three sides and the house on the fourth. The centre of the court is invariably the manure heap and cesspool, around the walls is a four foot brick walk. Here the men lined up and with a box on top of a barrel for my pulpit, covered with a blanket and a white table cloth I conducted service. The young man had his courage with him when he came forward, and kneeling by the rude pulpit responded to my questions in a clear and audible voice. Every man stood with uncovered and bowed heads through the service. Among those present was Paul Skidmore from Cobourg.
On March 10th I went out to the trenches and buried the first of Cobourg's boys to fall, George Earle. There were four that evening, all from the same company. Picture if you can a score of men standing around four shallow graves of their comrades. To the right, and left, and behind were the trenches of the enemy. While we were at the gravesides two shells from trench mortars fell in or near the trench. Machine guns opened on our left, and rifles cracked out their unwelcome warning all around us. The star flarelights and searchlights of the enemy, gave us from time to time light to see in what a gruesome business we were engaged.
Big battles are being waged. Last night I went to a garret window and watched the artillery duel. We wait to hear of the Victory on our left corresponding to the one on our right on March 10th. For hours at a time the roar of guns is like the roar of an angry summer thunder storm. Shells whizz and scream through the air like mad demons. One shell fell in the street near here yesterday and killed a sergeant. The place I slept one night last week had the corner blown off and a gable and blown in and numerous holes all around. A village near by is a complete wreck. However the tide is with us and Victory will surely be ours. Our men are very confident and in the best of spirits. It is astonishing how quickly one gets used to danger. While I write the windows are rattling just as if a door were banging down stairs somewhere.
I am very sorry to learn of the death of dear old Mrs. Carruthers. I shall miss her when I go back. Her room was ever a Bethel.
Many thanks for your newsy letters. I hope you will continue sending them for I love to hear of all the doings of my dear people in Cobourg
With very best wishes for all, I am yours, very sincerely,
(Signed) Wm. Beattie.