March 19th, 1915.
Dear Mr. Horne:
I did not get the enclosed posted so will bring the news up to-date. Monday night I went into the trenches at one end and went through the labyrinth and out at the other. Have a doubt that most people think of the trenches as one straight line or ditch in the fields, in which men stand watching for the enemy over a pile of sand bags. As a matter of fact in going through the trenches one walks about four miles in going one. Then, too they (the trenches) are not always connected up. At one place we had to leave the trench, climb over the parapet and walk over the field in front of the trench towards the German trench in order to enter our other line of trenches. While going over this open with my guide, the Germans put up five of their bright star flare lights and turned their search lights on us. We bit the dust, that is, we threw ourselves flat in the mud, and lay perfectly still till the lights went out and then up and on a few steps more, and again down in the mud. All the while bullets whizz around us. The terrifying 'ping' of those bullets as they whizz by or strike nearby is something one cannot describe - it must be experienced, I can assure you that I was glad when we reached the other trench in safety. To my horror, though, three hours later I found my guide bringing me out over the safe place again, Then before leaving the trench to come home we had a bit of excitement. It was past twelve o'clock midnight, I had just arranged to come out with a party when a terrible rattle of rifle fire began on our right, and word came down the line 'Stand to' the Germans are attacking,' and every man hurried out of his dug-out, For some time it went on. Flare lights were put up by our side and our men fired. The attack, however, did not spread to the portion in front of us, and half an hour later I was led out over the open field behind the trenches, where I got a road that I knew. This road is commanded by enemy rifle fire, Machine guns and artillery. It was pitch dark and all one could see is what rose against the bit of brighter skyline, or when a flare light would go up, Of course every tree and stump resolved itself into as enemy moving with stealthy tread towards me. Was I frightened? Well that lonely road I knew well was the place where snipers had picked off several of our men, and I confess without shame that I was mighty glad when I got back to my billet in safety. That is but one night's experience in the trench. Think of our boys doing this night after night four nights at a stretch. Every man who lives and fights in the trench is a hero, It is one thing for a chaplain to go into a trench once in a while and to go as I go night after night up to the outposts behind the trenches, but these brave fellows who go in for four days subject to sniping, rifle fire, machine guns, trench mortars and shell fire are worthy of their country's best honor and support.
I was on my way to the advanced post the other night, and was challenged by a sentry, who shouted out in the darkness, 'Who goes there?' 'Friend', 'Advance and be recognized, who are you?' 'Major Beattie, Chaplain First Brigade,' 'Oh, hello Major Beattie,' replied the Cobourg boy, 'This is Major Ralston's billet,' I went in and joined Major Ralston, Lieut, Craig, Ted MacNachtan and spent a jolly hour discussing events. Ted came on with me to the outpost, where we buried a man in our Battalion graveyard, in a field 50 yards from where Ted had been lurking four days on watch. As the four of us stood around the shallow grave, with the stillness of the night broken only by the swish of bullets, and the distant crack of an occasional rifle, one's sad heart turned to the home far away that in a day or two would receive the little yellow missive saying, 'Your son was killed in action,' May God comfort the sorrowing hearts.
Yours very sincerely.
(Signed) WM. BEATTIE.