CHAPTER XXX.

THE BATTLE OF AMIENS.

August 8th to 16th, 1918.



    IT was strange and exhilarating to go off on an expedition of that kind in the cool air and fading light of the evening. Something told us that at last the hour of victory was drawing near. The moving of the Corps had been so splendidly conducted and the preparation had been so secret that success seemed assured. This was an achievement which was completely different from all our past experience. The only question was, had we taken the Germans by surprise, or were they waiting with massed forces to resist our attack? As I left the outskirts of the wood behind me, and made my way over the green plain, now fading into the twilight, I passed a battalion of the 3rd Division manning a line of trenches. I had a talk with some of the men and told them that I had heard from a tank officer that nearly one thousand tanks were to be engaged in the attack on the following morning. Far over to the left, on a rise in the ground I saw the remains of a village, and was told that a mud road across the fields would lead me in the direction of the 1st Division front. I met as usual many men whom I knew, and finally some officers of the 15th Battalion in a dug-out. The light began to fade and I had difficulty in seeing far ahead of me, but the track at last brought me to a sunken road which turned to the right. Here on the hillside more men were waiting in dug-outs, and I was directed to a quarry, on the top of which I was to take a path that would lead me to a group of trees, where I should find the Headquarters of the 16th Battalion. When I got to the quarry I found many roads there, and whether it was that the information I had received was incorrect, or that I was more than usually stupid, I do not know. I wandered up and down for a long time, tripping over bits of wire and slipping into holes, before I was able to get to the top of the hill and look over in the direction of the German lines. At last I found a track which had evidently been used by men going up to the front. I went along it for a considerable distance and found myself on what appeared to be a plateau, but as far as I could see, no object stood out against the starry sky-line. Shells were falling in [Page 274] the fields to the left, and at different points on the eastern horizon the bright light of a German flare would tell us the position of the enemy’s lines. I went on for some distance, straining my eyes in the darkness to see if I could discover any trees. I thought I had lost my way again. Suddenly the dim figure of a man approached, and when he came up to me, I found he belonged to one of the Imperial Battalions from whom we were taking over the line. He asked me the way to the quarry, and I was able to tell him. Then he gave me the direction I had to take to reach my destination. I resumed my walk along the narrow path and at last, to my great delight, I saw a black object in the distance. When I came up to it I found it was the group of trees for which I had been looking. The trees were growing out of a curious round hole in the ground. Here, a signaller of the 16th Battalion happened to turn up and acted as my guide. He led me down a path to the bottom of the hole where were several dugouts. In one of these I found more men of the Battalion. They were intensely keen over the prospect of a great victory on the morrow. I was told that the battalion and the companies which were going over in the first wave were in advanced trenches to the left. So, after bidding the men good-bye and good luck, I started off. At last I reached the trench, and getting down into it found the Headquarters of the Battalion had arrived there not long before. On asking where the Colonel was, I was taken to a place where a piece of canvas hung down the side of the trench. When this was lifted, I looked down into a little hole in the ground and there saw the C.O., the Adjutant and another officer studying a map by the light of a candle. The place was so tiny that I had to crawl in backwards, and finding that there was no room for a visitor, I soon took my departure. The Colonel ordered me to stay in the trench, but I had made up my mind to go forward and see the companies which were going over in the first wave. They lay along the side of a road some distance down the slope in front of us. In making my way there I passed a trench where the 5th Battalion was waiting to follow up the advance. A German machine-gun was playing freely upon the spot, but no one got hit. When I came to the advanced companies of the 16th Battalion, I passed along their line and gave them my blessing. It was splendid to meet and shake hands with those gallant lads, so soon to make the attack. They were in high spirits in spite of the seriousness of their enterprise. [Page 275]
    The barrage was to start at 4.20, so I left them about 4.10 to go back to Battalion Headquarters in the trench, as I intended to follow up the advance with the stretcher –bearers. On my way back I met the Colonel, his orderly, and his piper, who a few minutes later was killed in the attack. I shook hands with them, and the Colonel said, “Now, Canon, if anything happens to me don’t make any fuss over me; just say a few words over me in a shell-hole.” I said, “You will come out all right, Colonel, there will be no shell-hole for you.” Then, as my senior officer, he ordered me back to the trench. I told him I would go over the top with him if he wanted me to do so, but he would not hear of it. When I got to the trenches only a few minutes remained till the barrage was to start. I climbed up on the parapet and waited, looking off into the darkness. It was a wonderful moment. When the German flarelights went up we could see that there was a wood on the other side of the valley in front of us, and its outline began to grow more distinct against the grey of the morning sky. I could see to right and left a great stretch of country sloping gradually into the darkness. Shells still fell behind our lines at intervals. Our own guns were perfectly silent. What did the enemy’s quietness portend? Were the Germans aware of our contemplated assault? Were they lying in full strength like a crouching lion ready to burst upon us in fury at the first warning of our approach? Had all our precautions been in vain? Or were we on the eve of a victory which was going to shatter the iron dominion of the feudal monster? This was one of those magnificent moments in the war which filled the soul with a strange and wild delight. For months we had been preparing for this event, and now it was upon us. The sky was growing lighter, and the constellation of the Pleiades was beginning to fade in the sky above the outline of the distant trees. I looked at my watch. Nearer and nearer the hands crept to zero hour, but they move slowly at such times. Then at 4.20 the long barrage burst in all its fury. The hissing rain of shells through the air on a twenty mile front made a continuous accompaniment to the savage roar of the thousands of guns along the line. Those guns sent their wild music round the globe, and sounded that note of victory which only ceased when the bells of the churches in all the civilized world rang out their joyful peals at the signing of the Armistice.
    Up went the German rockets and coloured lights calling for [Page 276] help, and ever and anon a red glow in the sky told us that we had blown up an ammunition dump. The noise was earth-shaking, and was even more exhilarating than that of the barrage at Vimy. I was so carried away by my feelings that I could not help shouting out, “Glory be to God for this barrage!” The German reply came, but, to our delight, it was feeble, and we knew we had taken them by surprise and the day was ours.
    A strange sound behind us made us look around, and we saw the advancing tanks creeping down the slope like huge grey beetles. Our men were just in time to divert the course of one which threatened to cut our telephone wires. Then the 5th Battalion got out of their trenches, and the stretcher-bearers and I went off with them down the slope. The wood through which the German lines ran was called Hangard Wood and lay on the opposite side of the valley. Here and there lying in the ripe grain which covered the fields were bodies of the wounded and dead of the 13th and 16th Battalions. The stretcher-bearers set to work to carry off those who had been hit. A sergeant followed me and we skirted the wood looking for wounded, while he was able to become possessor of a machine-gun and several German revolvers. The wheat had been trampled down by the men in their charge, but was still high enough in places to conceal a prostrate form. By this time the attack had passed through the wood and the enemy were running before it. The German artillery now concentrated their fire on the valley, which soon, in the still morning air, became thick with smoke. It was impossible to see more than a few yards in front of one. We heard the crash of shells around us, but could not see where they burst. The sun had not risen and we soon lost our way in the mist. We could not tell from the direction of the sound which was the German barrage and which was ours.
    I was going on ahead when I came to a large shell-hole that had been made in some previous battle. At the bottom of it lay three apparently dead Huns. I was looking down at them wondering how they had been killed, as they were not messed about. I though that they must have died of shell-shock, until one of them moved his hand. At once I shouted, “Kamarad,” and to my intense amusement the three men lying on their backs put up their hands and said, “Kamarad! mercy! mercy!” It was most humorous to think that three human beings should appeal to me to spare their lives. I told them in my best French to get up and follow me, and I called out to [Page 277] the sergeant, “Sergeant, I have got three prisoners.” My desire to take a prisoner had been a standing joke among our men. Whenever they were going into action I used to offer them $25.00 to bring out a little German whom I might capture all by myself. I used to tell them not to bring out a big one, as it might look boastful for a chaplain. Here were three ready to hand for which I had to pay nothing. We moved on through the smoke, a most comical procession. The sergeant went ahead and I brought up the rear. Between us went the three terror-stricken prisoners, crouching every now and then when shells fell near us. At last we stumbled on a company of the 2nd Battalion coming forward, and I called out to them, “Boys, I got seventy-five dollars worth of Huns in one shell-hole.” Our gallant Canadians at once took the three unfortunate men, who looked as if they expected to have their throats cut, and having relieved them of the contents of their pockets and removed their buttons and shoulder-straps, gave me one of the latter as a souvenir.
    When the prisoners were disposed of and sent back with others under escort, I started forward again and seeing a tank coming down the hill got on it and so went back into the battle. We passed quite easily over some wide trenches, then when the machine came to a stop I got off and made my way to the end of the valley and climbed to the higher ground beyond. There I found myself in a wide expanse of country covered by yellow grain and rolling off in hills to the distance. Here and there I met wounded men walking back, and many German prisoners. In the fields in different directions I could see rifles stuck, bayonet downwards, in the ground, which showed that there lay wounded men. I found that these were chiefly Germans, and all of them had received hideous wounds and were clamouring for water. Poor men, I was sorry for them, for I knew it would be long before they could be carried out or receive medical attention, owing to the rapidity of our advance. I made my way to each in turn and gave him a drink from some of the water bottles which I carried round my belt. I think all the Germans I saw that morning were dying, having been wounded in the stomach. After attending, as far as it was possible, to their bodily needs, I endeavoured to minister to their spiritual. As they happened to be Roman Catholics, I took off the crucifix which I wore round my neck and gave it to them. They would put up their trembling hands and clasp it lovingly, and kiss it, while I began [Page 278] the Lord’s Prayer in German. This happened many times that day. One man who had a hideous wound in the abdomen was most grateful, and when he handed me back the crucifix he took my hand and kissed it. It was strange to think that an hour before, had we met, we should have been deadly enemies. At a cross-road further on the Germans must have concentrated their fire when our men advanced, for many dead and wounded were lying about.
    The sun was now high in the heavens and it became very hot, but the autumn fields looked beautiful, and, as there were no hedges or fences, the low rolling hills gave one the sense of great expanse, and were an ideal ground for a battle on a large scale. While I was looking after the wounded I heard the cheering of the 16th Battalion who had reached their objective and were settling down to rest and to have some food. I made my way to them and found the Colonel in high glee over what his men had done. It had been a splendid routing of the enemy. The Battalions of the 1st and 2nd Brigades followed up the attack and were now moving forward, so I followed after them. It was a delightful feeling to be walking through the golden harvest fields with the blue sky overhead, and to know that we were advancing into the enemy’s land. It seemed as if by our own labours we had suddenly become possessed of a vast property and that everything we found was lawfully ours. It is no doubt that feeling which fills men with the desire to loot in a conquered country.
    I had a magnificent view from the hill of the British Cavalry going into action. Thousands of little horses in the distance on the vast plain were galloping in a long line across the yellow fields, which reminded one of the great battles of old, when mounted men, and not machine-guns and gas-shells, were the determining factor. The store of water that I had brought with me was now exhausted, but I was able to get a fresh supply from the waterbottle of a dead man. The road that leads from Gentelles to Caix winds through the valley to the right of the line of our attack and follows a little stream. It is very narrow, and on that day was so crowded with cavalry, ambulances and artillery moving forward that every now and then it would become blocked. In a mill, which the Germans had used partly as artillery headquarters and partly as a depot for military stores, our men found a quantity of blankets, coats and other useful articles. Our doctors established an aid-post in the out-buildings, and made use of the materials which the enemy had left behind [Page 279] in his flight. A section of our machine-gunners was resting there, and it was a great refreshment to stop for a while and have a good clean-up and a shave with a borrowed razor. We were so parched with thirst that we drank out of the stream, in spite of the fact that many shells had fallen into it. Our final objective was still some miles away, so I started up the road, following after the 1st Brigade.
    The Germans, finding the game was up, had left many guns behind them and blown up a large quantity of ammunition. One great heap of it lay beside the river. Very pretty hamlets lay along the valley; we passed one called Ignacourt, where there was a damaged church. We afterwards established an ambulance there. I was very tired with my long walk, not having had any sleep the night before, so was glad to get a lift on an ambulance and go forward in the afternoon to the village of Caix, which was the final objective of the 2nd Brigade. One of our ambulances had taken over a building in the Square, but was shelled out of it that night. The 10th Battalion had gone forward and taken possession of trenches beyond the village. I went out to them and there found the men in high spirits over the way the battle had gone. The old red patch Division had advanced 14,0000 yards, and so had beaten the record of any division, British or enemy, during the War. It was now late in the afternoon and no further attack that day was contemplated. Before us on a slight rise in the ground lay the village of Rosières, through which the road ran parallel to the trenches which we held. Between us and the village was a slight dip in the ground, and with glasses we could see lorries full of fresh German troops, amid clouds of dust, making their way to a point in the village. There they would stop and the men would get out and hurry down the fields into the trenches. It looked as if they were going to make a counter-attack. The situation was very disquieting. I was told by one of the sergeants in our front line that we were in need of fresh ammunition, and he asked me if I would let the Colonel know. I passed through the trenches on my return and told the men how glorious it was to think that we had pushed the Germans back and were now so many miles from where we had started. I went back to Battalion Headquarters and found that they were in a cottage on the eastern extremity of the village. Across the road was a cavalry observation-post, where some officers were watching Rosières and the arrival [Page 280] of German troops. Luckily for us the Germans had no guns to turn upon us, although the village of Caix was shelled constantly all night. Later on, some batteries of the Royal Horse Artillery and our field guns, which had come up, sealed the fate of the Germans and prevented a counter-attack. A glorious sunset over the newly conquered territory made a fitting close to a day of great deeds and high significance. When darkness fell and the stars looked out of the quiet sky, I said good-night to my cavalry friends, whose billets were down in a hollow to the right, and started off to find some place to sleep.
    The cellars of the cottage occupied by the Colonel were crowded, so I went to the village and seeing some men entering a gateway followed them. It was the courtyard of a large building, presumably a brewery. The runners of the battalion had found a deep cellar where they had taken up their abode. I asked if I might sleep with them for the night. The cellar was not particularly inviting, but it was well below the ground and vaulted in brick. The floor was simply earth and very damp. Two candles were burning in a box where a corporal was making out the ration-list for the men. I got two empty sandbags to put on the floor to keep me from getting rheumatism, and lying on them and using my steel helmet as a pillow I prepared to sleep. The runners, except those on duty, did the same. Our feet met in the centre of the room and our bodies branched off like the spokes of a wheel. When anyone turned and put his feet on one side we all had to turn and put our feet in the same direction. We heard a good many shells bursting in the Square that night, but we were safe and comparatively comfortable. Before I got to sleep, I watched with great admiration the two young non-coms who were sitting at the table arranging and discussing in a low tone the duties of the various men for the following day. The two lads could not have been more than twenty years of age, but their sense of responsibility and justice was well-developed. I thought what a fine thing it was that men were being trained like that to become useful citizens of Canada. We were up early in the morning and I made my way to Battalion Headquarters, where I heard that there was to be another attack in the forenoon.
    We were now to change places with the 2nd Division. They were to shift from our right flank to our left and take over the [Page 281] attack on Rosières while we advanced towards Warvillers. From the cavalry observation-post, I could see with a glass the 5th Battalion going up to the front in single file along a hedge. I had breakfast with the 7th Battalion officers in their dugout by the roadside near the cavalry billets, and then started off to join the 8th Battalion which was going to attack that morning. Machine-guns from Rosières were playing on the road near the end of the wood. I determined therefore not to go round the wood but through it and so reached the other side in safety. I was sitting on a fallen tree eating some lunch and wondering whether I should be able to get up in time for the attack, when, to my great joy, over the hill to my right, I saw some troops approaching in extended order. Hardly had they appeared on the crest when the Germans at Rosières opened fire upon them and shells fell on the hill. The men kept very steady and nobody, as far as I could see, was hit. When they got down to the wood I went forward and spoke to them and found they were the 22nd Battalion, and I met several Quebecers whom I knew.
    I saw the Battalion go off in the direction of Rosières and I renewed my journey to our own line. I passed the 24th Battalion who were going up on the left of the 22nd, and they told me that the 2nd Brigade were on their right. There were many trenches along the way which the Germans had abandoned on the previous day. I passed a poor horse which was badly wounded and still alive. I was attached to a broken German cart. I got one of our men to shoot the animal, and went on till I came to a railway in the hollow and followed it. There were many wooden buildings here and there which had been built by the Germans. These structures had been badly knocked about by shrapnel, and the litter of articles within showed how rapid the German flight had been. At a little distance on the east side of the track, there was a green wood, which was called, as I afterwards found out, Beaufort or Hatchet Wood. Every now and then as I walked, little puffs of dust would rise from the road in front of me, showing that machine-gun bullets were falling about. A cavalry patrol of three men, returning down the track from the direction of the wood, came towards me, and, taking me for a combatant officer, the corporal saluted and said, “That wood is very heavily held by machine-guns, Sir, we have just made a reconnaissance.” “That’s all right,” I said, “I do not intend to take it just yet.” I was going up the track, wondering [Page 282] where I had got to, when I saw a young officer of the 8th Battalion, followed by his men, coming towards me. I went to him and told him that I had heard the wood was very heavily held by machine-guns. He said he knew it and was going to attack from the side, so I went with them and, as they lay on the ground and got their Lewis guns in position, I pronounced the benediction over them and then continued my journey up the railroad. On the west side of the track at the top of the bank was a hedge. Here I found the 14th Battalion waiting to follow up the 8th. A young officer of the latter battalion was lying on the ground dying. He dictated a farewell letter to his wife, which I afterwards gave to the Adjutant. On the slope of ground down which the 8th had charged towards the railway I saw many bodies of dead and wounded men, so I went up to them to see what I could do. Several were dying, and I found one poor fellow who had never been baptized; so I took some water from my bottle and baptized him as he lay there. They would be carried off when the stretcher-bearers could begin their work.
    While I was attending to the wounded, I looked towards the wood at the other side of the track. I was on a higher level, and so had a view of the open country beyond, and there, to my astonishment, I saw the Germans leaving their ambush and running away. I hurried down the hill to the hedge and shouted out to the 14th Battalion that the Germans were running away, and an officer came up to make sure. Then orders were given to the men to charge and they crossed the track and took possession of the wood. As soon as I had seen the wounded carried off I followed after the troops, and there once more had the joy of advancing over newly-won territory.
    At a farmhouse a number of our men were gathered for a temporary rest, and there I learned that the colonel of the 8th Battalion and a large number of officers and men had been killed that morning. The battalion had to charge down the hill in the face of heavy machine-gun fire. Some tanks were standing by the farm and one of the officers offered to take me with him in the machine, but as it was to go into the 2nd Divisional area I had to decline the invitation and follow up our men on foot. I passed a number of German wounded. One of them, a young lad, was terribly alarmed when he saw me approaching, thinking I was going to murder him. He held up his hands and shouted, “Kamarad!” I think the [Page 283] Germans had heard wild stories of the ferocity of Canadians. The boy then began to implore me to send him to an ambulance. He was wounded in the leg, and had bound up his wounds very neatly and skillfully. I tried to make him understand that the stretcher-bearers would come up in time, and I stuck his rifle in the ground with his helmet on the top of it, as a signal to the bearer party.
    Before me at the end of the road, I saw amid trees the village of Warvillers. Many men were going towards it from all directions; and I saw our artillery brigades taking up battery positions to the left. I met two men of the 5th Battalion and we started off to the village together. The place was now in our hands, as the Germans had evacuated it some hours before. The houses were quite intact and offered prospects of pleasant billets. My companions and I, finding it was quite late in the afternoon, determined to go and have our meal in a garden near the Château. We sat down on the grass and opened our bully-beef tins, and seeing onions growing in the garden thought it would be a good thing to have that savoury vegetable as a relish. It added to the enjoyment of our simple meal to think that we were eating something which the Germans had intended for themselves. We managed to get some fresh water too from a well nearby, which looked quite clean. On the other side of a wall we could see the roof of the Château. One of the men thought he would like to go and explore and find out who was there. He came back a few minutes afterwards and said it was full of Germans. So, taking their rifles, the two men went off to attack it, thinking they had found a stronghold of the enemy. I was just having a smoke after my meal when the lads came back and said that the Germans whom they had seen were our prisoners and that the Château had been taken over by us as a dressing station. We made our way to it and found that it was a very beautiful place situated in lovely grounds. A card on a door upstairs bore the inscription, “His Excellency General,” and then followed a German name. The place had been the headquarters of some enemy corps or division on the previous day. At the back of the Château was a very strong concrete dug-out divided off into rooms, which were soon filled by our officers and men. All that night the wounded were being brought to the Château, and German prisoners also found their way there. Nobody was paying much attention to the latter, and, thinking it was unwise to let them wander about, and perhaps go back to [Page 284] their lines with information about our location, with the permission of the C.O. of the ambulance, who was up to his eyes in work, I had them all put into one large room over which I placed a guard. They were sent back to the corps cage in the morning. The Germans evidently expected that we would use the Château because they dropped some heavy shells in the garden during the night, and we had to get the wounded down in to the cellars in quick time.
    I had about three hours sleep that night, and in the morning I determined to follow up our men of the 1st Brigade who had now established themselves at a village ahead of us called Rouvroy. As I was starting off, a signaler came up to me and told me he had captured a stray horse with a saddle on it and that he would lend it to me to take me to my destination. I mounted the animal and went down the avenue in great pride and comfort, but after I got into the road a man came up and stopped me and told me, to my horror, that I was riding his horse which he had lost the night before. It requires great strength of mind and self-mastery to give up a mount to a pedestrian when you are once in the saddle. But the war had not entirely extinguished the light of conscience in my soul, so, tired as I was, I dismounted and gave up the steed. But as I saw the man ride back to the Château I began to wonder within myself whether he was the real owner or not. One thief does not like to be out-witted by another. However, there was nothing to do now but to go straight ahead. The road before me led directly to Rouvroy. Some German planes were hovering overhead, and in the fields to my left our artillery were going into action. As shells were dropping on the road I took a short cut over the fields. Here I found some of our machine-gunners, and the body of a poor fellow who had just been killed. I got to the village of Rouvroy about noon and made my way to a dug-out under the main road, where the colonel and some of the officers of the 3rd Battalion were having lunch. They gave me a cup of tea, but I told them I had taken my food on the journey, so did not want anything to eat. They looked much relieved at this, because rations were short. Their chaplain was there and gave me a warm reception. I was feeling rather used up, so lay down on a wire mattress and had an hour’s sleep. When lunch was over the chaplain and I went to see the sights of the town. The ruined church was being used for a dressing station and it seemed to me [Page 285] it was rather a dangerous place, as the Germans would be likely to shell it. We found an old bookshop which was filled with German literature and writing paper, some of which proved very useful.
    We had a good rest in a dugout, but I felt so seedy that I told him, if he heard that I had gone out of the line, not to think it was because I was suffering from “cold feet.” We went back to the village, and there we found shells dropping in the main street not far from the church. In fact, one came so close that we had to dive into a cellar and wait till the “straffing” was over. Then I bid my companion good-bye and started off over the fields back to Warvillers. By this time I felt so unwell that it was hard to resist the temptation to crawl into some little hole in which I might die quietly. However, with my usual luck, I found a motor car waiting near the road for an air-officer who had gone off on a tour of inspection and was expected to return soon. The driver said I could get in and rest. When the officer came back he kindly consented to give me a ride to my Divisional Headquarters. We did not know where they were and I landed in the wrong place, but finally with the assistance of another car I made my way to Beaufort. There I found our Division had established themselves in huts and dugouts at the back of an ancient château. With great difficulty I made my way over to General Thacker’s mess and asked for some dinner.
    During the meal, the General sent off his A.D.C. on a message, and he soon returned with no less a person than the A.D.M.S., who, to my dismay, proceeded to feel my pulse and put a clinical thermometer in my mouth. My temperature being 103 ½, he ordered me at once to go off to a rest camp, under threat of all sorts of penalties if I did not. I lay on the floor of his office till three in the morning, when an ambulance arrived and took me off to some place in a field, where they were collecting casualties. From thence I was despatched to the large asylum at Amiens which was operated by an Imperial C.C.S. The major who examined me ordered me to go to the Base by the next train, as they had no time to attend to cases of influenza. For a while I was left on the stretcher in a ward among wounded heroes. I felt myself out of place, but could do nothing to mend matters. Two sisters came over to me, and apparently took great interest in me till one of them looked at the tag which was pinned on my shoulder. With a look of disgust she turned and said to her companion, “He isn’t wounded at all, he has only got the ‘flu.’” At once they lost all [Page 286] interest in me, and went off leaving me to my fate. Stung by this humiliation, I called two orderlies and asked them to carry me out into the garden and hide me under the bushes. This they did, and there I found many friends who had been wounded lying about the place. My batman had come with me and had brought my kit, so a box of good cigars which I handed round was most acceptable to the poor chaps who were waiting to be sent off. By a stroke of good luck, an accident on the railway prevented my being evacuated that evening. I knew that if they once got me down to the Base my war days would be over.
    On the following morning, feeling better, I got up, shaved, put on my best tunic, and, with a cigar in my mouth, wandered into the reception room, where I found the major who had ordered me off on the previous day. Puffing the smoke in front of my face to conceal my paleness, I asked him when he was going to send me down to the Base. He looked a little surprised at finding me recovered, and then said, “Well, Padré, I think I will let you go back to your lines after all.” It was a great relief to me. The chaplain of the hospital very kindly took me in charge and allowed me to spend the night in his room. The next day I got a ride in a Canadian ambulance and made my way back to Beaufort. There, to my horror, I found that the Division, thinking they had got rid of me for good, had appointed another padré in my place. Through the glass door of my room, I could see him giving instructions to the chaplain of the artillery. I felt like Enoch Arden, but I had not Enoch’s unselfishness so, throwing the door wide open, I strode into the room, and to the ill-concealed consternation of both my friends who had looked upon me in a military sense as dead, informed them that I had come back to take over my duties. Of course, everyone said they were glad to see me, except General Thacker, who remarked dryly that my return had upset all the cherished plans of well-ordered minds. The A.D.M.S. had told them that he had thought I was in for an attack of pneumonia. It was really a very amusing situation, but I was determined to avoid the Base, especially now that we felt the great and glorious end of our long campaign was coming nearer every day. [Page 287]