INTERESTING LETTER FROM
MAJOR BEATTIE. (IN BELGIUM)
March 5th, 1916.
Dear Mr. Horne:
I don't know what happened to your letters but I have not had one it seems for months.
I have just finished a very busy and happy Sunday and now in the quiet of my own billet in this far away Belgian town my thoughts turn to you. It is just about an hour for closing Sunday School and I see the scholars and teachers reassembling in the school room after lessons. How I should love to drop in even through that trap door in the ceiling and spend the rest of the closing hour with you all. Or could I drop in to the evening service and take a seat in the Manse pew and enjoy the refreshing experience of listening to a sermon. What a joy it would be. But if those joys are not mine to-night, others are. I have had the privilege now for over a year of bring the message of hope to thousands of Canada's noblest fighting sons on the firing line - a privilege that I know many of my brethren of the ministry covet. I am, I trust not unmindful of the great responsibility that goes with the privilege and it is because I have to-night the consciousness of having tried my best to-day to appreciate my privilege and to measure up to the responsibility that I am happy. I have had a light day as far as the number of services is concerned (only four) but they were marked by the profound feeling and devotion that betoken- ed the Divine love and forgiveness. At times one could almost feel ones soul throb. The knowledge that death lurks upon their trail, I suppose, helps somewhat but one is seldom conscious of the presence that as a dominant thought. There is much more the feeling of the bigness and worth of the task for which they have given themselves. Here is a big service they are asked to render and its very difficulty and the sacrifices it involves prove to be an incentive and an inspiration. I wonder if the church at home has not failed because she has not seen the greatness of her task. I am hopeful that this magnificent spirit of self-sacrifice and service and the service you are all showing now will not fail to be transferred- at the close of the war to the greater war that the church of Christ must wage with unceasing vigilance and vigor.
Last night twenty five chaplains met at dinner, the Deputy Chaplain General, Major-General Bishop Gwynn spoke with the utmost appreciation, not only for the work done, but of the splendid spirit of unity shown by the Corps of Canadian Chaplains. We have the distinction of being the only corps that has no denominational parades. Our work for this reason is so much more acceptable to both officers and men. Today, the General visited our area and came to tea with me. In peace times he is (and still is I believe) Bishop of Khartoum. He has the delightful simplicity of the foreign missionary and speaks as man to man.
With the passing of the winter things are livening up. What a war it is! On the sea, under the sea, on the earth, under the earth, and in the air- everywhere there is activity. For days and nights lately the guns roared with their thunderous death dealing, like an angry thunderstorm. Great guns a mile away lit up the country for miles about and shook the roof off houses nearby. Every time they fired, the vibration made this house tremble to its foundation. I stood behind one huge engine of destruction and watched it fire great shells weighing nearly a ton. One could follow the shell for fully five seconds. One of them barely missed in its flight, an aeroplane at a height of probably 3,000 feet. It passed directly under it. A week ago yesterday an enemy dropped five bombs on this village, one of which hit this house and took out one corner. No one was hurt.
The real heroes of this war are the men in the trenches. Theirs is the constant peril and discomfort. Just now as I write these lines I can hear a terrible fusillade of what is probably bomb-throwing. The y never know the moment that either bullet or bomb or shell or mine they may get their call. The Artillery and many other units of an army have intermittent perils but the infantry incessant. How magnificent in the face of it all is the perpetual good cheer and optimism.
The Young Artillery officer from Cobourg who received his honors from the King recently (whose name I dare no mention) came and had lunch with me today. He has fully recovered and looks fit and well.
Last week I laid away to rest a fine you officer beloved and respected by all, who leaves a young widow and three little children, one a babe he had never seen. These are the heart-rending that keep us tender amid so much cruelty and destruction.
Give my kindest regards to all my beloved,
Yours very sincerely,