LETTERS FROM MEN AT THE FRONT.
Major Beattie Writes:
France, October 4th, 1915.
My Dear Mr. Horne and People of St Andrews:
It is some time since you heard from me and it is just possible that my last letter went down with the Hesperian as others written about that time seem to have done.
Since coming back to France I have had the great pleasure of a visit to my old Brigade. When we came up from the rear we marched through the lines of the 2nd Battalion. Our band was playing and the boys of the 2nd who were enjoying their six day rest period rushed to the roadside to see what was coming in. One of them saw their old chaplain coming up the road and shouted 'Here comes Major Beattie!' The cheers that went up did me more good than anything that has happened in many a long day. Although having just finished a 12 or 15 mile march, I went over that evening and spent a very happy hour or two visiting among the officers and men. They have had a very quiet time since the Festubert and Givenchy battles and were only on the fringe of the recent big battle. We could hear the constant roar of cannon for several days. Night and day - day and night it went on and only those who had experienced a little of it at Ypres and elsewhere could imagine what a Hell it must have been where these shells fell. Some of the German prisoners told of the horrors. Added to grim terror of the fighting was the fact that the transports could not get up with food in places and they were nearly starving. The wounded that streamed out were in the finest of spirits, being buoyed up by the knowledge that victory was at last crowning the months of waiting. The one question was' Are we following them up?' As we were only on the fringe of the battle we did not see the real volume of wounded and prisoners. What a sight it must have been to see so many thousand of German prisoners being taken back. Eleven trainloads went through Paris in one day, I am told.
One of our Battalions had four men killed last week. Two of them died here in the village from wounds received in the trenches. The funeral was most unique. One was a R.C.; the other a Protestant. The R.C. Chaplain joined me and walked beside me ahead of the wagon in which lay the two lads stitched up in their grey blankets. Ahead of us the band marched playing the Dead March in Saul. When we arrived at the church door the R.C. was taken into the church while we proceeded to the grave. While I was still reading the burial service the other body was brought up and lowered into the same grave while the Latin of the R.C. service mingled with the English of our service. There we stood, side by side, at the common grave, he sprinkled the holy water and I sprinkled the dust of Mother earth as in reverence we committed them to the grave, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The benediction pronounced, the bugles played the last post (lights out) and the band struck up, 'Abide With Me Fast Falls The Even- tide.' We departed, leaving to their rest the brave warrior lads, who, companions in life, lay side by side in death. In a corner of a little Catholic Church Yard in far off France they lie waiting the bugle call that shall awake them to newness of life. How many more of our brave boys shall pay the uttermost price no one can possibly say but this we know, they have not sacrificed in vain who have laid down their lives for, 'Greater Love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.'
The other night I went into a billet - a school building where we had about 200 men billeted. Some were in bed, some writing letters, some mending clothes and doing this or that, I asked them if they would like to sing. They seemed pleased. We began with Annie Laurie and The Bonnie Banks o'loch Lamond. I then asked them to sing a song which I heard for the first time in England last winter - one which is a very great favorite with the boys here. Its chorus runs thus:
'/ wonder how the old folks are at home,
/ wonder if they miss me while / roam,
/ wonder if they pray for the boy that went away
And left his dear old parents all alone.
/ hear the cattle lowing in the lane,
/ see again the fields of golden grain,
/ think / hear them sigh as they bade their boy good-bye
/ wonder how the old folks are at home.'
From this we drifted into 'Where is My Wandering Boy To-night,' 'Nearer My God To Thee,' 'Oh, God Our Help In Ages Past,' and 'What A Friend We Have In Jesus.' A few words and a prayer and a warm 'good- night.' A lad comes outside with a box in his hand, 'Major, will ye hae a bit o'candy made by my ain mither in Scotland - it's guid - it's none o'thae shop Kind.' It was good too, but better still, a way is open to his heart.
My dear people, pray for all the Chaplains and especially for me that I may be faithful to this great trust.
Your devoted minister,
W. BEATTIE Major.
Address: 6th Brigade, Canadian Infantry.