LETTER FROM MAJOR (REV.) WM. BEATTIE.
The following letter from Major (Rev) Wm. Beattie, Chaplain, en route to England with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Canadian Contingent, was read in St. Andrew's Church on Sunday.
October 13, 1914.
To My Dear People of St. Andrew's Church, Cobourg.
Greetings from the sea. We are now within two days of landing, if all goes well. I am afraid you on shore will be anxious on account of the length of time we have taken but there is no occasion for it. We are all very well and as happy as the gloomy work ahead will permit us to be. The officers and men are all showing excellent spirit and are facing the awful realities of the war with remarkable cheerfulness, I do not think any are heedless of the danger but all feel that this thing must be seen through and we must do gravely our share. Our movements, since I left Cobourg, will interest you. On arrival at Quebec on Friday coming, September 25th, I met one of our officers who told me that my Battalion had embarked on S. S. Cassandra, of the Donaldson Line. After attending to some business I went aboard ship. We pulled out that evening, the first of the fleet to get away. We did not go far however, for 36 hours later we came to anchor in Gaspe Bay, where we laid for one solid week, while the other transports were loading at Quebec. We were protected by four cruisers of the British Fleet. We were joined here by the Canada having on board the regulars from Bermuda, who were relieved by the Canadians some weeks ago. On Sunday, October 3rd, all the ships of the fleet were flying the signal which read 'have steam up and am ready for sea.' At three o'clock the command came from the naval flagship and we were off, moving in a steady array of three columns, 32 transports and four cruisers. Since then we have been joined by the ships bearing the Newfoundland contingent and two large battle ships. One of the latter, The Princess Royal, which is of the very latest type, steamed in close yesterday and went up through our lines just to give us a chance to see her and to make us feel how well we are guarded. It was a thrilling moment when she came abeam of us and her band struck up 'The Maple Leaf and the thousand jolly tars gave three rousing cheers for the Canadian Contingent, while we responded with 'Rule Britannia' and round after round of cheering.
My work as chaplain is most gratifying, I am more than ever satisfied that I have done what God wanted me to do in coming with these boys. I have had more opportunity of doing good here in three weeks than I could have in Cobourg in a year. These weeks at sea are giving me a chance to get into personal touch with the boys and to bring spiritual truth and comfort to them, which will be hard to repeat when the busy life ashore begins. Every night I go below and have a service or spend the time in leading them individually to Christ. God has given me scores of souls for my hire. On Sunday I spent almost continually the hours from 2 until 10 P.M. in personal interviews. Each Sunday morning we had a church parade on the open deck. It is a fine sight to see 1,200 men at worship and have a chance to look down into the hungering souls and know you have the bread that will satisfy them. Although the men are all standing as closely as their ranks can be packed there is no restlessness but on the contrary the utmost interest is manifest. For two successive Sundays I have administered the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper from 6:30 till 8 o'clock in the morning to all who desired it. We have no room where all could come at once, so I took them as they came and while they knelt at the Communion Table I broke for them the bread and poured the wine. There was a constant stream coming and going. You have doubtless heard it said that there are hardly any Canadians in this contingent. This is a slander that should be put down, in this regiment there are seven more men born in England than in Canada. If a man came to Canada at one year old and has lived here all his life, he is recorded as born in England, so if we had called all Canadians who had been five years in the country we would likely show a very large percentage of them Canadians. As it is, we have 471 born in Canada, 478 in England, 96 in Scotland, 43 in Ireland, etc.
I have as yet not received news from anyone, so do not know what you have done concerning supply for the pulpit. I am sure you will choose a Godly man to shepherd the flock. I often think of you all and hope that you will be faithful in attendance and cultivate the utmost spirit of loyalty. I am anxious that the Sunday School, Bible Classes and Endeavour be specially remembered by all and that every encouragement be given to all working in these Departments.
I would like to write to you personally but that is almost impossible as I will have hundreds of letters to write for the men.
May God's richest and best blessing attend you and keep you until I return back from Berlin.
Your affectionate pastor,