CHAPTER VIII.

PLOEGSTEERT—A LULL IN OPERATIONS.

July to December, 1915.



    LEAVE in London during the war never appealed to me. I always felt like a fish out of water. When I went to concerts and theatres, all the time amid the artistic gaiety of the scene I kept thinking of the men in the trenches, their lonely vigils, their dangerous working parties, and the cold rain and mud in which their lives were passed. And I thought too of the wonderful patrol kept up on the dark seas, by heroic and suffering men who guarded the life and liberty of Britain. The gaiety seemed to be a hollow mockery. I was not sorry therefore when my week’s leave was over and I went back to the line. A staff officer whom I met on the leave boat informed me that the Division had changed its trenches, and my Brigade had left Bethune. We had a most wonderful run in the staff car from Boulogne, and in two hours arrived at the Brigade Headquarters at Steenje, near Bailleul. There, with my haversacks, I was left by the staff car at midnight and had to find a lodging place. The only light I saw was in the upper windows of the Curé’s house, the rest of the village was in complete darkness. I knocked on the door and, after a few minutes, the head and shoulders of a man in pyjamas looked out from the window and asked me who I was and what I wanted. On my giving my name and requesting admission, he very kindly came down and let me in and gave me a bed on the floor. On a mattress beside me was a young officer of the Alberta Dragoons, only nineteen years of age. He afterwards joined the Flying Corps and met his death by jumping out of his machine at an altitude of six thousand feet, when it was hit and burst into flames. The Alberta Dragoons later on became the Canadian Light Horse, and were Corps Troops. At that time, they were part of the 1st Division and were a magnificent body. The practical elimination of cavalry in modern warfare has taken all the romance and chivalry out of fighting. It is just as well however for the world that the old feudal conception of war has passed away. The army will be looked upon in the future as a class of citizens who are performing the necessary and unpleasant task of policing the world, in order that the rational [Page 93] occupations of human life may be carried on without interruption.
    Brigade Headquarters now moved to a large farm behind the trenches at Ploegsteert. I bid farewell to my friends of the Alberta Dragoons and found a billet at La Crêche. From thence I moved to Romarin and made my home in a very dirty little French farmhouse. The Roman Catholic chaplain and I had each a heap of straw in an outhouse which was a kind of general workroom. At one end stood a large churn, which was operated, when necessary, by a trained dog, which was kept at other times in a cage. The churn was the breeding place of innumerable blue-bottles, who in spite of its savoury attractions annoyed us very much by alighting on our food and our faces. I used to say to my friend, the chaplain, when at night we had retired to our straw beds and were reading by the light of candles stuck on bully beef tins, that the lion and the lamb were lying down together. We could never agree as to which of the animals each of us represented. At the head of my heap of straw there was an entrance to the cellar. The ladies of the family, who were shod in wooden shoes, used to clatter round our slumbers in the early morning getting provisions from below. Life under such conditions was peculiarly unpleasant. It was quite impossible too to have a bath. I announced to the family one day that I was going to take one. Murdoch MacDonald provided some kind of large tub which he filled with dishes of steaming water. Instead however of the fact that I was about to have a bath acting as a deterrent to the visits of the ladies, the announcement seemed to have the opposite effect. So great were the activities of the family in the cellar and round the churn that I had to abandon the idea of bathing altogether. I determined therefore to get a tent of my own and plant it in the field. I wrote to England and got a most wonderful little house. It was a small portable tent. When it was set up it covered a piece of ground six feet four inches square. The pole, made in two parts like a fishing rod, was four feet six inches high. The tent itself was brown, and made like a pyramid. One side had to be buttoned up when I had retired. It looked very small as a place for human habitation. On one side of the pole was my Wolseley sleeping bag, on the other a box in which to put my clothes, and on which stood a lantern. When Philo and I retired for the night we were really very comfortable, but we were much annoyed by [Page 94] earwigs and the inquisitiveness of the cows, who never could quite satisfy themselves as to what we were. Many is the time we have been awakened out of sleep in the morning by the snifflings and sighings of a cow, who poked round my tent until I thought she had the intention of swallowing us up after the manner in which the cow disposed of Tom Thumb. At such times I would turn Philo loose upon the intruder. Philo used to suffer at night from the cold, and would wake me up by insisting upon burrowing his way down into my tightly laced valise. There he would sleep till he got so hot that he woke me up again burrowing his way out. It would not be long before once again the cold of the tent drove him to seek refuge in my bed. I hardly ever had a night’s complete rest. Once I rolled over on him, and, as he was a very fiery tempered little dog, he got very displeased and began to snap and bark in a most unpleasant manner. As the sleeping bag was tightly laced it was difficult to extract him. Philo waged a kind of submarine warfare there until grasping his snout, I pulled him out and refused all his further appeals for readmission.
    My little tent gave me great comfort and a sense of independence. I could go where I pleased and camp in the lines of the battalions when they came out of the trenches. This enabled me to get into closer touch with the men. One young western fellow said that my encampment consisted of a caboose, my tent, a cayouse, which was Dandy, and a papoose, which was my little dog, friend Philo. Now that I had a comfortable billet of my own I determined that Romarin was too far from the men, so I removed my settlement up to the Neuve Eglise road and planted it near some trees in the field just below the row of huts called Bulford Camp. At this time, Murdoch MacDonald went to the transport lines, and his place was taken by my friend Private Ross, of the 16th Battalion, the Canadian Scottish. He stayed with me to the end. We were very comfortable in the field. Ross made himself a bivouac of rubber sheets. Dandy was picketed not far off and, under the trees, my little brown pyramid tent was erected, with a rude bench outside for a toilet table, and a large tin pail for a bath-tub. When the battalions came out of the line and inhabited Bulford Camp and the huts of Court-o-Pyp, I used to arrange a Communion Service for the men every morning. At Bulford Camp the early morning services were specially delightful. Not far off, was the men’s washing place, a large ditch full of muddy water into [Page 95] which the men took headers. Beside it were long rows of benches, in front of which the operation of shaving was carried on. The box I used as an altar was placed under the green trees, and covered with the dear old flag, which now hangs in the chancel of my church in Quebec. On top was a white altar cloth, two candles and a small crucifix. At these services only about ten or a dozen men attended, but it was inspiring to minister to them. I used to hear from time to time that so and so had been killed, and I knew he had made his last Communion at one of such services. It was an evidence of the changed attitude towards religion that the men in general did not count it strange that soldiers should thus come to Holy Communion in public. No one was ever laughed at or teased for doing so.
    Neuve Eglise, at the top of the road, had been badly wrecked by German shells. I went up there one night with an officer friend of mine, to see the scene of desolation. We were halted by some of our cyclists who were patrolling the road. Whenever they stopped me at night and asked who I was I always said, “German spy,” and they would reply, “Pass, German spy, all’s well.” My friend and I went down the street of the broken and deserted village, which, from its position on the hill, was an easy mark for shell fire. Not a living thing was stirring except a big black cat which ran across our path. The moonlight made strange shadows in the roofless houses. Against the west wall of the church stood a large crucifix still undamaged. The roof had gone and the moonlight flooded the ruins through the broken Gothic windows. To the left, ploughed up with shells, were the tombs of the civilian cemetery, and the whole place was ghostly and uncanny.
    Near the huts, on the hill at Bulford Camp was a hollow in the ground which made a natural amphitheatre. Here at night concerts were given. All the audience packed together very closely sat on the ground. Before us, at the end of the hollow, the performers would appear, and overhead the calm stars looked down. I always went to these entertainments well provided with Players’ cigarettes. A neat trick was played upon me one night. I passed my silver cigarette case round to the men and told them that all I wanted back was the case. In a little while it was passed back to me. I looked into it to see if a cigarette had been left for my use, when, to my astonishment, I found that the case had been filled with De Reszke’s, my favourite brand. I thanked my unknown benefactor for his graceful generosity. [Page 96]
    The field behind the huts at Court-o-Pyp was another of my favourite camping grounds. It was on the Neuve Eglise side of the camp, and beyond us was some barbed wire. About two o’clock one night I was aroused by an excited conversation which was being carried on between my friend Ross in his bivouac, and a soldier who had been dining late and had lost his way. The young fellow had got it into his head that he had wandered into the German lines, and Ross had great difficulty in convincing him that he was quite safe. He was just going off with mind appeased when he caught sight of my pyramid tent on a rise in the ground. “What’s that?” he cried in terror, evidently pointing towards my little house. “That’s the Rev. Major Canon Scott’s billet” said Ross with great dignity from under his rubber sheets, and the man went off in fear of his identity becoming known. He afterwards became an officer and a very gallant one too, and finally lost a leg in the service of his country. But many is the time I have chaffed him about the night he thought he had wandered into German lines.
    One day when I had ridden up to Court-o-Pyp I found that a canteen had just been opened there, and being urged to make a purchase for good luck I bought a large bottle of tomato catsup, which I put into my saddle bag. I noticed that the action was under observation of the battalion, which had just returned from the trenches and was about to be dismissed. I mounted my horse and went over to the C.O. and asked if I might say a word to the men before he dismissed them. He told me the men were tired, but I promised not to keep them long. He called out, “Men, Canon Scott wants to say a word to you before you are dismissed,” and they stood to attention. “All I wanted to say to you, Boys, was this; that was a bottle of tomato catsup which I put in my saddle bag, and not, as you thought, a bottle of whiskey.” A roar of laughter went up from all ranks.
    It was about this time that our Brigadier was recalled to England to take over the command of a Division. We were all sincerely sorry to lose him form the 3rd Brigade. He was ever a good and true friend, and took a deep interest in his men. But the immediate effect of his departure, as far as I was concerned, was to remove out of my life the hideous spectre of No. 2 General Hospital, and to give me absolute liberty in wandering through the trenches. In fact, as I told him sometime afterwards, I was beginning a little poem, the first line of which was “I never knew what freedom meant until he went away.” [Page 97]
    One day, General Seely invited me to go and stay with him at his Headquarters in Westhof Farm where I had a most delightful time. Not only was the General a most entertaining host, but his staff were very charming. At dinner, we avoided war topics and shop, and talked about things political and literary. The mess was in the farm building and our sleeping quarters were on an island in the moat. My stay here brought me into contact with the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, and fine lot of men they were.
    But a change in my fortunes was awaiting me. The Senior Chaplain of the Division had gone back to England, and General Alderson sent for me one day to go to Nieppe. There he told me he wished me to be Senior Chaplain. I was not altogether pleased at the appointment, because it meant that I should be taken away from my beloved 3rd Brigade. I told the General so, but he assured me I should not have to stay all the time at Headquarters, and could go with the 3rd Brigade as much as I pleased.
    This unexpected promotion, after what I had gone through, opened up a life of almost dazzling splendour. I now had to go and live in the village of Nieppe on the Bailleul-Armentieres road. Here were our Headquarters. General Alderson had his house in the Square. Another building was occupied by our officers, and a theatre was at my disposal for Church Services and entertainments. The town was also the Headquarters of a British Division, so we had plenty of men to look after. I got an upper room in a house owned by an old lady. The front downstairs was my office, and I had a man as a clerk. Round my bedroom window grew a grape vine, and at night when the moon was shining, I could sit on my window-sill, listen to the sound of shells, watch the flare lights behind Armentieres and eat the grapes which hung down in large clusters. Poor Nieppe has shared the fate of Neuve Eglise and Bailleul and is now a ruin. Everyone was exceedingly kind, and I soon found that the added liberty which came to me from having a definite position really increased my chances of getting amongst the men. By leaving my clerk to do the work of Senior Chaplain, I could go off and be lost at the front for a day and a night without ever being missed. I knew that each brigade must now have an equal share of my interest and I was very careful never to show any preference. A chaplain had at all times to be very careful to avoid anything that savoured of favouritism. I was now also formally inducted into the membership of that august body known as “C” [Page 98] mess, where the heads of noncombatant departments met for dining and wining. Somebody asked me one day what “C” mess was. I told him it was a lot of withered old boughs on the great tree of the Canadian Expeditionary Force—a description which was naturally much resented by the other members. I had no difficulty now in arranging for my billets, as that was always done for me by our Camp Commandant.
    Life in Nieppe was very delightful and the presence of the British Division gave it an added charm. We had very pleasant services in the Hall, and every Sunday evening I had a choral Evensong. So many of the men who attended had been choristers in England or Canada that the responses were sung in harmony by the entire congregation. On week days we had smoking concerts and entertainments of various kinds. I sometimes had to take duty with the British units. On one occasion, I was invited to hold a service for his men by a very staunch churchman, a Colonel in the Army Service Corps. He told me, before the service, that his unit had to move on the following day, and also that he was accustomed to choose and read the lesson himself. I was delighted to find a layman so full of zeal. But in the midst of the service I was rather distressed at his choice of the lesson. It was hard enough to get the interest of the men as it was, but the Colonel made it more difficult by choosing a long chapter from Deuteronomy narrating the wanderings of the children of Israel in the desert. Of course the C.O. and I knew that the A.S.C. was to move on the following day, but the congregation was not aware of the fact, and they must have been puzzled by the application of the chapter to the religious needs of the men at the front. However the reader was delighted with his choice of subject, and at tea afterwards told me how singularly appropriate the lesson was on this particular occasion. I thought it was wiser to make no comment, but I wondered what spiritual fruit was gathered by the mind of the ordinary British Tommy from a long account of Israel’s pitching their tents and perpetually moving to places with extraordinary names.
    We had several meetings of chaplains, and I paid a visit to the Deputy Chaplain General, Bishop Gwynne, at his headquarters in St. Omer. He was exceedingly kind and full of human interest in the men. The whole conception of the position of an army chaplain was undergoing a great beneficial change. The rules which hitherto had fenced off the chaplains, as being officers, from easy [Page 99] intercourse with the men were being relaxed. Chaplains were being looked upon more as parish priests to their battalions. They could be visited freely by the men, and could also have meals with the men when they saw fit. I am convinced that it is a mistake to lay stress upon the chaplain’s office as a military one. The chaplain is not a soldier, and has no men, as a doctor has, under his command. His office being a spiritual one ought to be quite outside military rank. To both officers and men, he holds a unique position, enabling him to become the friend and companion of all. Bishop Gwynne upheld the spiritual side of the chaplain’s work, and by establishing conferences and religious retreats for the chaplains, endeavoured to keep up the sacred standards which army life tended so much to drag down.
    The Cathedral at St. Omer is a very beautiful one, and it was most restful to sit in it and meditate, looking down the long aisles and arches that had stood so many centuries the political changes of Europe. One morning when the sun was flooding the building and casting the colours of the windows in rich patterns on the floor, I sat under the gallery at the west end and read Shelley’s great elegy. I remember those wonderful last lines and I thought how, like an unshattered temple, the great works of literature survive the tempests of national strife. My mind was carried far away, beyond the anxieties and sorrows of the present,

“To where the soul of Adonais like a star
Beacons from the abode where the Eternal are,”

In the square was a large building which had been used originally as headquarters for the Intelligence Department. Later on, this building was taken by the Bishop and used as the Chaplains’ Rest Home. There is an amusing story told of a despatch rider who came to the place with a message for its original occupants, but when he inquired for the Intelligence Department the orderly answered, “This is the Chaplains’ Rest Home, there is no Intelligence here.” At St. Omer also was the office of the Principal Chaplain who had under his charge all the Non-Conformist Chaplains at the front. The very best relations existed between the various religious bodies, and it was the endeavour of all the chaplains to see that every man got the religious privileges of his own faith.
    We arrived in the Ploegsteert area at a good time for the digging and repairing of the trenches. The clay in Belgium in fine [Page 100] weather is easily worked; consequently a most elaborate and well made system of trenches was established in front of Messines. The brown sides of the trenches became dry and hard in the sun, and the bathmats along them made walking easy. The trenches were named, “Currie Avenue,” “McHarg Avenue,” “Seely Avenue,” and so forth. The men had their cookers and primus stoves, and occupied their spare time in the line by cooking all sorts of dainty dishes. Near the trenches on the other side of Hill 63 were several ruined farm houses, known as “Le Perdu Farm,” “Ration Farm,” and one, around which hovered a peculiarly unsavoury atmosphere, as “Stinking Farm.” Hill 63 was a hill which ran immediately behind our trench area and was covered at its right end with a delightful wood. Here were “Grand Moncque Farm,” “Petit Moncque Farm,” “Kort Dreuve Farm” and the “Piggeries.” All these farms were used as billets by the battalions who were in reserve. In Ploegsteert Wood, “Woodcote Farm,” and “Red Lodge,” were also used for the same purpose. The wood in those days was a very pleasant place to wander through. Anything that reminded us of the free life of nature acted as a tonic to the nerves, and the little paths among the trees which whispered overhead in the summer breezes made one imagine that one was wandering through the forests in Canada. In the wood were several cemeteries kept by different units, very neatly laid out and carefully fenced in. I met an officer one day who told me he was going up to the trenches one evening past a cemetery in the wood, when he heard the sound of someone sobbing. He looked into the place and there saw a young boy lying beside a newly made grave. He went in and spoke to him and they boy seemed confused that he had been discovered in his sorrow. “It’s the grave of my brother, Sir,” he said, “He was buried here this afternoon and now I have got to go back to the line without him.” The lad dried his eyes, shouldered his rifle and went through the woodland path up to the trenches. No one would know again the inner sorrow that had darkened his life.
    The farms behind the wood made really very pleasant homes for awhile. They have all now been levelled to the ground, but at the time I speak of they were in good condition and had many large and commodious buildings. At Kort Dreuve there was a very good private chapel, which the proprietor gave me the use of for my Communion Services. It was quite nice to have a little Gothic chapel with fine altar, and the men who attended always enjoyed [Page 101] the services there. Round the farm was a large moat full of good sized gold-fish, which the men used to catch surreptitiously and fry for their meals. “The Piggeries” was a large building in which the King of the Belgians had kept a fine breed of pigs. It was very long and furnished inside with two rows of styes built solidly of concrete. These were full of straw, and in them the men slept.
    I was visiting one of the battalions there one evening, when I heard that they had been ordered to go back to the trenches before Sunday. I told some of the men that I thought that, as they would be in the trenches on Sunday, it would be a good idea if we had a voluntary service that evening. They seemed pleased, so I collected quite a large congregation at one end of the Piggeries, and was leading up to the service by a little overture in the shape of a talk about the war outlook, when I became aware that there was a fight going on at the other end of the low building, and that some of the men on the outskirts of the congregation were beginning to get restive. I knew that a voluntary service could not stand up against the rivalry of a fight, so I thought I had better take the bull by the horns. I said, “Boys, I think there is a fight going on at the other end of the Piggeries, and perhaps it would be well to postpone the service and go and see the fight, and then return and carry on.” The men were much relieved and, amid great laughter, my congregation broke loose and ran to the other end of the building, followed by myself. The fight was soon settled by the intervention of a sergeant, and then I said, “Now, Boys, let us go back to the other end and have the service.” I thought the change of location might have a good effect upon their minds and souls. So back we went again to the other end of the building and there had a really enthusiastic and devout service. When it was over, I told the men that nothing helped so much to make a service bright and hearty as the inclusion of a fight, and that when I returned to Canada, if at any time my congregation was listless or sleepy, I would arrange a fight on the other side of the street to which we could adjourn and from which we should return with renewed spiritual fervour. I have met many men at different times who look back upon that service with pleasure.
    We had a feeling that Ploegsteert was to be our home for a good long time, so we settled down to our life there. We had visits from Sir Sam Hughes and Sir Robert Borden, and also Lord Kitchener. I was not present when the latter inspected the men, but I asked [Page 102] one who was there what it was like. “Oh Sir,” he replied, “we stood to attention, and Kitchener passed down the lines very quietly and coldly. He merely looked at us with his steely grey eyes and said to himself, “I wonder how many of these men will be in hell next week,” General Hughes’ inspection of one of the battalions near Ploegsteert Wood was interrupted by shells and the men were hastily dismissed.
    A visit to the trenches was now a delightful expedition. All the way from Nieppe to Hill 63 one came upon the headquarters of some unit. At a large farm called “Lampernise Farm” all the transports of the 3rd Brigade were quartered. I used to have services for them in the open on a Sunday evening. It was very difficult at first to collect a congregation, so I adopted the plan of getting two or three men who could sing, and then going over with them to an open place in the field, and starting some well known hymn. One by one others would come up and hymn-books were distributed. By the time the service was finished, we generally had quite a good congregation, but it took a certain amount of courage and faith to start the service. One felt very much like a little band of Salvationists in a city square.
    In spite of having a horse to ride, it was sometimes difficult to cover the ground between the services on Sunday. One afternoon, when I had been to the Cavalry Brigade at Petit Moncque Farm, I had a great scramble to get back in time to the transport lines. In a bag hanging over the front of my saddle, I had five hundred hymn books. Having taken a wrong turn in the road I lost some time which it was necessary to make up, and, in my efforts to make haste, the string of the bag broke and hymn books fluttered out and fell along the road. Dandy took alarm, misunderstanding the nature of the fluttering white things, and started to gallop. With two haversacks on my back it was difficult to hold on to the bag of hymn books and at the same time to prevent their loss. The more the hymn books fluttered out, the harder Dandy bolted, and the harder Dandy bolted, the more the hymn books fluttered out. At last I passed a soldier in the road and asked him to come to my assistance. I managed to rein in the horse, and the man collected as many of the hymn books as were not spoilt by the mud. Knowing how hard it was and how long it took to get hymn books from the Base, it was with regret that I left any behind. But then I reflected that it might be really a scattering of the seed by the wayside. [Page 103] Some poor lone soldier who had been wandering from paths of recititude might pick up the hymns by chance and be converted. Indulging in such self consolation I arrived just in time for the service.
    Services were never things you could be quite sure of until they came off. Often I have gone to bed on Saturday night feeling that everything had been done in the way of arranging for the following day. Battalions had been notified, adjutants had put the hours of service in orders, and places for the gatherings had been carefully located. Then on the following day, to my intense disgust, I would find that all my plans had been frustrated. Some general had taken it into his head to order an inspection, or some paymaster had been asked to come down and pay off the men. The Paymaster’s Parade, in the eyes of the men, took precedence of everything else. A Church Service was nowhere in comparison. More often than I can recollect, all my arrangements for services have been upset by a sudden order for the men to go to a bathing parade. Every time this happened, the Adjutant would smile and tell me, as if I had never heard it before, that “cleanliness was next to godliness.” A chaplain therefore had his trials, but in spite of them it was the policy of wisdom not to show resentment and to hold one’s tongue. I used to look at the Adjutant, and merely remark quietly, in the words of the Psalmist, “I held my tongue with bit and bridle, while the ungodly was in my sight.”
    People at Headquarters soon got accustomed to my absence and never gave me a thought. I used to take comfort in remembering Poo Bah’s song in the Mikado, “He never will be missed, he never will be missed.” Sometimes when I have started off from home in the morning my sergeant and Ross have asked me when I was going to return. I told them that if they would go down on their knees and pray for illumination on the subject, they might find out, but that I had not the slightest idea myself. A visit to the trenches was most fascinating. I used to take Philo with me. He found much amusement in hunting for rats, and would often wander off into No Man’s Land and come back covered with the blood of his victims. One night I had missed him for sometime, and was whistling for him, when a sentry told me that a white dog had been “captured” by one of the men with the thought that it was a German police dog, and he had carried it off to company headquarters under sentence of death. I hurried up the trench and was just in [Page 104] time to save poor little Philo from a court martial. There had been a warning in orders that day against the admission of dogs from the German lines.
    The men were always glad of a visit, and I used to distribute little bronze crucifixes as I went along. I had them sent to me from London, and have given away hundreds of them. I told the men that if anyone asked them why they were at the war, that little cross with the patient figure of self-sacrifice upon it, would be the answer. The widow of an officer who was killed at Albert told me the cross which I gave her husband was taken from his dead body, and she now had it, and would wear it to her dying day. I was much surprised and touched to see the value which the men set upon these tokens of their faith. I told them to try to never think, say or do anything which would make them want to take off the cross from their necks.
    The dugouts in which the officers made their homes were quite comfortable, and very merry parties we have had in the little earth houses which were then on the surface of the ground. One night when some new officers had arrived to take over the line, one of the companies gave them a dinner, consisting of five or six courses, very nicely cooked. We were never far however, from the presence of the dark Angel, and our host on that occasion was killed the next night. Our casualties at this time were not heavy, although every day there were some men wounded or killed. The shells occasionally made direct hits upon the trenches. I came upon a place once which was terribly messed about, and two men were sitting by roaring with laughter. They said their dinner was all prepared in their dugout, and they had gone off to get some wood for the fire, when a shell landed and knocked their home into ruins. They were preparing to dig for their kit and so much of their dinner as would still be eatable. As they took the whole matter as a joke, I joined with them in the laugh. One day as I was going up the line, a young sapper was carried out on a sitting stretcher. He was hit through the chest, and all the way along the bath mats was the trail of the poor boy’s blood. He was only nineteen years of age, and had done splendid work and won the admiration of all the men in his company. I had a short prayer with him, and then saw him carried off to the dressing station, where not long after he died. The sergeant who was with him was exceedingly kind, and looked after the boy like a father. As [Page 105] the war went on, the men were being united more and more closely in the bonds of a common sympathy and a tender helpfulness. To the enemy, until he was captured, they were flint and iron; to one another they were friends and brothers.
    It always took a long time to pass down the trenches. There were so many men I knew and I could not pass them without a short conversation. Time, in the line had really no meaning, except in the matter of “standing to” or “changing guard.” On fine days, the life was not unpleasant. I remember, however, on one dark rainy night, being in a trench in front of Wulverghem. The enemy trenches were at that point only thirty-five yards away. I was squeezed into a little muddy dugout with an officer, when the corporal came and asked for a tot of rum for his men. They had been lying out on patrol duty in the mud and rain in front of our trench for two hours.
    Dandy was still the envy of our men in the transport lines, and one day I nearly lost him. I rode up to Hill 63. Just behind it was an orchard, and in it there were two batteries of British Artillery, which were attached to our Division. I was going up to the trenches that afternoon, so I gave the horse some oats and tied him to a tree near the officers’ billet. I then went up over the hill down to Ration Farm, and from thence into the line. It was quite late in the afternoon, but walking through the trenches was easy when it was not raining. I was returning about 10 o’clock, when the second in command of the 16th Battalion asked me to wait for him and we would come out together over the open. It must have been about midnight when I started with the Major, and another officer. The night was dark and it was rather a scramble, but the German flare lights would go up now and then and show us our course. Suddenly a machine gun opened up, and we had to lie on our faces listening to the swish of the flying bullets just overhead. I turned to the officer next to me and asked him how long he had been at the front. He said he had only arrived that afternoon at four o’clock. I told him it wasn’t always like this, and we laughed over the curious life to which he had been so recently introduced. We finally made our way to Ration Farm and as I had a long ride before me, I determined to go back. I was very hungry, as I had had nothing to eat since luncheon. I went into a cellar a Ration Farm and there found one of the men reading by the light of a candle supported on tins of bully-beef. I asked him for one of these and he [Page 106] gladly gave it to me. As I started up the hill on the long straight road with trees on either side, I tried to open the tin with the key, but as usual it broke and left only a little crack through which with my penknife I extracted strings of beef. I could not use my flashlight, as the hill was in sight of the enemy, so I had to content myself with what nourishment I was able to obtain. Half way up the hill I noticed a tall figure standing by one of the trees. I thought he might be a spy but I accosted him and found he was one of the Strathcona Horse who had a working party in the trenches that night. I told him my difficulty, and he got his knife and very kindly took off the top of the tin. By this time a drizzling rain was falling and the night was decidedly uncomfortable. I went over the hill and down to the orchard, and made my way to the tree to which poor old Dandy had been tied so many hours before. There, I found the tree just where I had left it—it was of no use to me, as, like the barren fig tree, it had no fruit upon it, but to my horror the horse, which was so necessary, had disappeared. I scoured the orchard in vain looking for my faithful friend, and then I went over to the Artillery officers’ house and told them my trouble. We all decided that it was too late to search any longer, I was provided with a mackintosh, and determined to make my way over to Petit Moncque Farm where the 3rd Infantry Brigade Headquarters were. It was a long walk and the roads were sloppy. The path I took led through a field of Indian corn. This, though not ripe and not cooked, would remind me of Canada, so with my search-light I hunted for two or three of the hardest ears, and then, fortified with these, made my way over towards the farm.
    From past experience, I knew that a sentry was stationed somewhere in the road. The sudden challenge of a sentry in the dark always gave me a fright, so I determined this time to be on the watch and keep from getting a surprise. However when I arrived at the place where the man usually stood, no one challenged me. I thought that perhaps on account of the night being rainy and uncomfortable he had retired to the guard room, and I walked along with a free mind. I was just near the large gateway, however, when a most stentorian voice shouted out, “Halt, who goes there?” and at the same instant in the darkness I saw the sudden flash of a bayonet flourished in my direction. Not expecting such an event, I could not for the moment think of what I ought to say, but I called out in equally stentorian tones, “For heaven’s sake, my boy, [Page 107] don’t make such a row; its only Canon Scott and I have lost my horse.” A burst of laughter greeted my announcement, and the man told me that, seeing somebody with a flashlight at that time of the night wandering through the fields, and searching for something, he had become convinced that a German spy was at work cutting the telephone wires that led back to the guns, so he had got near the guard room where he could obtain assistance, and awaited my approach in the darkness. It was a great relief to get to headquarters, and the officer on duty kindly lent me his comfortable sleeping bag. The next morning I made my way back to Nieppe, and telegraphed to the various units, searching for Dandy. Later on, in the afternoon, he was brought in by a man of the Strathcona Horse. His story was that the intelligent animal had untied himself from the tree and followed the working party home from the orchard. It is most likely that he had preceded them. Luckily for me, their quartermaster had recognized him in the Strathcona lines, and, being an honest man, had sent him back. The incident taught me a great and useful lesson, and in future I was very careful to see that my horse was safely guarded whenever I had to leave him.
    Our signallers had been active in setting up a wireless telegraph in a field near Headquarters and were able to get the various communiqués which were sent out during the night by the different nations. The information was passed round Headquarters every morning on typewritten sheets and made most interesting reading. We were able to anticipate the news detailed to us in the papers. Later on, however, someone in authority put an end to this and we were deprived of our Daily Chronicle.
    About this time we heard that the 2nd Division was coming to France, and that the two Divisions, which would be joined by a third, were to be formed into the Canadian Corps. This meant very radical change in the status of the old 1st Division. Up to this time we were “the Canadians;” now we were only to be one among several divisions. General Alderson was to take command of the Corps, and the question which was daily asked among the officers at headquarters was, “Are you going to the Corps?” It was a sundering of ties amongst our friends, and we felt sorry that our society would be broken up. One of the staff officers asked me to write a poem on his departure. I did so. It began—

“He left the war
And went to the Corps,
[Page 108]
Our hearts were sore,
We could say no more.”

My friend was not at all pleased at the implication contained in the first to lines.
    Bailleul was made Corps Headquarters, whither General Alderson moved. His place at the division was taken by General Currie, who afterwards commanded the Corps and led it to victory. The old town now became a great Canadian centre. The General had comfortable quarters in a large house, which was nicely furnished, and had an air of opulence about it. The Grande Place was full of activity, and in the streets one met many friends. The hotel offered an opportunity for afternoon tea and a tolerable dinner. Besides this, there was the officers’ tea room, kept by some damsels who provided cakes and served tea on little tables, like a restaurant in London. Here we could be sure of meeting many of our friends and very pleasant such gatherings were. In a large hall a concert took place every evening. We had a very special one attended by several generals with their staffs. The proceeds were given to the Canadian “Prisoners of War Fund.” The concerts were most enjoyable and the real, artistic ability of some of the performers, both Canadian and British, was remarkable. It was always pleasant to live in the neighbourhood of a town, and the moment the men came out of the trenches they wanted to clean up and go into Bailleul. After a residence in the muddy and shaky little shacks in and behind the front lines, to enter a real house and sit on a real chair with a table in front of you was a great luxury.
    There were several well-equipped hospitals in Bailleul. One large British one had a nice chapel set aside for our use. In it one day we had a Confirmation service which was very impressive, a number of candidates being present.
    While Headquarters were at Nieppe the British attack upon Loos was to take place, and it was arranged that the Canadians, in order to keep the Germans busy in the North, were to make an attack. I happened to be visiting “the Piggeries” in the afternoon previous. The 1st Battalion was in the line. I heard the Colonel read out to the officers the orders for the attack. We were not told that the whole thing was what our soldiers call “a fake.” As he read the orders for the next morning, they sounded serious, and I was invited to be present, which of course I gladly consented to. The guns were to open fire at 4 a.m. I had been [Page 109] away from Headquarters for some time so I determined to ride back and return later. At three o’clock a.m. my servant woke me up and I had a cup of coffee, and started off on Dandy to go up to “the Piggeries.” I took a tin of bully-beef with me, and so was prepared for any eventuality. It was just before dawn and the morning air was fresh and delightful. Dandy had had a good feed of oats and was full of life. He seemed to enjoy the sport as much as I did. We rode up the well known roads, and round their curious curves past the small white farm houses, till we came into the neighbourhood of our batteries. All of a sudden these opened fire. It was a splendid sound. Of all the music I have ever heard in my life, none comes near the glorious organ sound of a barrage. I look back with the greatest pleasure to that early morning ride through the twilight lit up by gun flashes from batteries scattered along our whole front. One great dread I always had, and that was the dread of being killed by our own artillery. On this occasion, I had to ride down roads that looked perilously near batteries in action. When I got to a corner near “the Piggeries,” I was just stopped in time from what might have been my finish. There was a concealed battery among the trees by the wayside, and I, not knowing it was there, was about to ride by unconcernedly, when a gunner came out from the bushes and stopped me just in time, telling me that in half a minute the battery was going to open up. Dandy and I waited till the guns had fired and then went on. Along our front line there was much stir and commotion. Bundles of lighted straw making a hideous smoke were poked over the trenches, and the whole night previous, all the limbers available had been driven up and down the roads, making as much noise as possible. The Germans were convinced we were preparing for an attack on a big scale, and that the yellow smoke which they saw coming towards them was some new form of frightfulness. Of course they returned our fire, but our men knew by this time that the whole affair was only a pretence. Far off to the South, however, there was a real battle raging, and the cemeteries which we afterwards saw at Loos bore testimony to the bitter struggle which the British forces endured.
    The village of Ploegsteert behind the wood was very much damaged. Like the other villages at the front, it must at one time have been quite a prosperous place. The church, before it was ruined, was well built and capacious. There was a building on the main [Page 110] street which a British chaplain had used as a clubhouse, and handed over to me when his division moved south. It was well stocked with all things necessary to make the men comfortable. It had a kitchen, reading rooms, and upstairs a chapel. Two or three shells, however, had made their way into it, and the holes were covered with canvas. The Mayor’s house was on the other side of the street, and he had a young girl there as a servant, who kept the keys of the club. The chaplain who moved away told me that this girl, when the town was being heavily shelled one day, saved the lives of some men who were lying wounded in the house, by carrying them on her back over to a place of safety in a farmhouse. It was a deed that merited recognition, because she had to pass down the road which was then under heavy shell fire. I brought her case before the notice of the military authorities, and General Seely was asked to take the matter up and make an application to the King for a reward for the girl’s bravery. There was a doubt as to what award could be given to her. We got the sworn testimony of the Mayor and other eye-witnesses, and the document was finally laid before the King. It was decided that she should receive the bronze medal of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. Later on General Alderson sent for me and took me to the Mayor’s house in Romarin, where we had the ceremony of conferring the medal. It was quite touching in its simplicity. The girl, who had a fine open face, was on the verge of giving way to tears. The Mayor and some other of the chief inhabitants were arrayed in their best clothes, and a Highland regiment lent us their pipers. One of the citizens presented the heroine with a large bouquet of flowers. General Alderson made a nice speech, which was translated to the townsfolk, and then he presented the medal. We were invited into the house, and the girl’s health was proposed and drunk by the General in a glass of Romarin Champagne. We heard afterwards that the country people were much impressed by the way the British Army had recognized the gallantry of a poor Belgian maidservant.
    One day a German aeroplane was brought down behind our lines, near Ration Farm. Of it s two occupants one was killed. On the aeroplane was found a Colt machine-gun, which had been taken by the Germans from the 14th Battalion several months before, in the Second Battle of Ypres. It now came back to the brigade which had lost it. I buried the airman near Ration Farm, in a grave, which the men did up neatly and over which they erected a cross with his name upon it. [Page 111]
    Although our Headquarters were at Nieppe, the village was really in the British Area, and so we were informed towards the end of November that we had been ordered to move to St. Jans Cappel. On Monday, November 22nd I started off by car via Bailleul to my new billet. Although I had left Nieppe and its pleasant society with great regret, I was quite pleased with my new home. It was a small house belonging to a widow, on the road that led from St. Jans Cappel up to Mount Kemmel. The house itself was brick and well built. The landlady’s rooms were on one side of the passage, and mine were on the other. A large garret overhead gave a billet for Ross and my sergeant clerk. In the yard there was a stable for the horse. So the whole family was quite comfortably housed, and Ross undertook to do my cooking. The room which I used as my office in the front of the house had two large windows in it, and a neat tiled floor. The furniture was ample. At the back, up some steps, was my bedroom, and the window from it opened upon the yard. A former occupant of the house, a Major Murray, of King Edward’s Horse, had left a series of maps on the wall, on which pins were stuck with a bit of read cord passing through them, to show the position of our front line. These maps deeply impressed visitors with my military exactness. In that little office I have received many guests of all ranks. I always said that the chaplain’s house was like a church, and all men met there on equal terms. Sometimes it was rather difficult however, to convince them that this was the case. On one occasion two privates and I had just finished luncheon, and were having a delightful smoke, when a certain general was announced, and the men seized with panic, fled up the steps to my bedroom and bolting through my window hurried back to their lines.
    The landlady was quite well to do, and was a woman well thought of in the village. She both paid calls upon her neighbours and received callers in her rooms. Sometimes I used to be invited in to join these social gatherings and frequently she would bring me in a nice bowl of soup for dinner. Philo, too, made himself quite at home, and carefully inspected all visitors on their admission to the mansion. In front of the house, there was a pleasant view of the valley through which the road passed up towards Mont des Cats. Our Headquarters were down in the village in a large building which was part of the convent. General Currie and his staff lived in a charming chateau in pleasant grounds, on the [Page 112] hillside. The chateau, although a modern one, was reputed to be haunted, which gave it a more or less romantic interest in the eyes of our men, though as far as I could hear no apparitions disturbed the slumbers of the G.S.O. or the A.A. & Q.M.G.
    The road past my house, which was a favourite walk of mine, went over the hill, and at the top a large windmill in a field commanded a fine view of the country for several miles. My garden was very pleasant, and in it was a summer house at the end of a moss-grown walk. One plant which gave me great delight was a large bush of rosemary. The smell of it always carried my mind back to peaceful times. It was like the odour of the middle ages, with that elusive suggestion of incense which reminded me of Gothic fanes and picturesque processions. Many elm trees fringed the fields, and made a welcome shade along the sides of the road. A little stream ran through the village and added its touch of beauty to the landscape. We were only a mile and a half from Bailleul, so we could easily get up to the town either for a concert or for dinner at the hotel. The Camp Commandant allotted me the school house, which I fitted up as a chapel. It was very small, and not particularly clean, but it served its purpose very well.
    My only objection to St. Jans Cappel was that it was situated such a long way from our men, for we still held the same front line near Ploegsteert. It was now a ride of twelve miles to Hill 63 whither I frequently had to go to take burial services, the round trip making a journey of nearly twenty-four miles. The Bailleul road, which was my best route, was a pavé road, and was hard on a horse. I did not want poor willing Dandy to suffer from overwork, so I begged the loan of another mount from Headquarters. It was a young horse, but big and heavily built, and had no life in it. I was trotting down the road with him one day when he tumbled down, and I injured my knee, causing me to be laid up with water on the knee for about six weeks. The men used to chaff me about falling off my horse, but I told them that I could sit on a horse as long as he stood up, but I could not sit on the air when the horse lay down. I was very much afraid that the A.D.M.S. would send me off to a hospital, but I got private treatment from a doctor friend, who was acting A.D.C. to General Currie. Luckily for me, things were pretty quiet at the front at that time, and my being confined to the house did not really make much difference. I had a supper in my billet one night for a number of Bishop’s [Page 113] College men. Of those who attended, the majority have since made the supreme sacrifice, but it was an evening which brought back many pleasant memories of our Alma Mater.
    The roads round St. Jans Cappel were very pretty, and I had many a pleasant ride in our staff cars, which I, as Senior Chaplain, was permitted to use. It was always a great delight to me to pick up men on the road and give them a ride. I used to pile them in and give them as good a joy ride as the chauffeur, acting under orders, would allow. One day, in a heavy snowstorm, I picked up two nuns, whose garments were blowing about in the blizzard in a hopeless condition. The sisters were glad of the chance of a ride to Bailleul, whither they were going on foot through the snow. It was against orders to drive ladies in our staff cars, but I thought the circumstances of the case and the evident respectability of my guests would be a sufficient excuse for a breach of the rule. The sisters chatted in French very pleasantly, and I took them to their convent headquarters in Bailleul. I could see, as I passed through the village, how amused our men were at my use of the car. When I arrived at the convent door at Bailleul, the good ladies alighted and then asked me to give them my blessing. How could I refuse, or enter upon a discussion of the validity of Anglican Orders? The nuns with their hands crossed on their bosoms leaned forward, and I stood up and blessed them from the car, and departed leaving them both grateful and gratified.
    The village of St. Jans Cappel had been captured by the Germans in their advance in 1914, and we heard some unpleasant tales of the rudeness of the German officers who took up their quarters in the convent and compelled the nuns to wait upon them at the table. In 1918, when the Germans made their big push round Mont Kemmel, St. Jans Cappel, along with Bailleul and Meteren, was captured once more by the enemy, and the village is now in ruins and its inhabitants scattered.
    I do not look back with much pleasure to the cold rides which I always used to have on my return from the line. In frosty weather the pavé roads were very slippery, and I had to walk Dandy most of the distance, while I got colder and colder, and beguiled the time by composing poems or limericks on places at the front. Arriving at my billet in the small hours of the morning, I would find my friend Ross not always in the best of humors at being kept up so late. The ride back from Wulverghem or Dranoutre, owing to [Page 114] the narrowness of the road and the amount of transport and lorries upon it, was rather dangerous. It was a matter of ten miles to come back from Wulverghem, and the roads were very dark. One night in particular I had a narrow escape. I had mounted Dandy at the back of a farmhouse, but for some reason or other I seemed to have lost control over him and he was unusually lively. Luckily for me a man offered to lead him out into the road, and just before he let him go discovered that the bit was not in his mouth.
    The Alberta Dragoons had billets in a side road that led to Bailleul. It was a quiet and peaceful neighbourhood, and they had good barns for their horses. In the fields they had splendid opportunities for training and exercise. I often took service for them. One Sunday afternoon I had been speaking of the necessity of purifying the commercial life of Canada on our return, and I said something uncomplimentary about land speculators. I was told afterwards that I had caused much amusement in all ranks, for every man in the troop from the officers downwards, or upwards, was a land speculator, and had town lots to sell in the West. In conversations with privates and non-coms, I often found they had left good positions in Canada and not infrequently were men of means. I have given mud-splashed soldiers a ride in the car, and they have talked about their own cars at home. It was quite pathetic to see how much men thought of some little courtesy or act of kindness. A young fellow was brought in on a stretcher to the Red Chateau dressing station one Sunday afternoon at Courcelette. He was terribly wounded and gave me his father’s address in Canada so that I might write to him. He was carried away and I heard afterwards he died. Some months later I had a letter from his father, a Presbyterian minister in Ontario, thanking me for writing and telling me how pleased his son had been by my giving him a ride one day in a Headquarters car. I mention this so that people will realize how much the men had given up when they considered such a trifling thing worth mentioning.
    The position of a chaplain as the war went on became very different from what it had been at the beginning. The experience through which the army had passed had showed to the military authorities that there was something more subtle, more supernatural behind the life of the men, than one might gather from the King’s Regulations. Our chaplains had done splendid work, and I think I may say that, with one or two exceptions, they were idolized by [Page 115] their units. I could tell of one of our chaplains who lived continually at the advanced dressing station in great hardship and discomfort, sharing the danger and privation of his men. The curious thing about a chaplain’s popularity was that the men never praised a chaplain whom they knew without adding “It is a pity that all chaplains are not like him.” On one occasion when I was going through Division, I was told by the men of one unit that their chaplain was a prince, and it was a pity that all chaplains were not like him. I went to another unit, and there again I was told that their chaplain was a prince, and it was a pity that all chaplains were not like him. It seems to be a deeply rooted principle in a soldier’s mind to beware of praising religion overmuch. But it amused me in a general survey to find that ignorance of the work of other chaplains led to their condemnation. I fancy the same spirit still manifests itself in the British Army and in Canada. I find officers and men eager enough to praise those who were their own chaplains but always adding to it a condemnation of those who were not. An officer said to me one day that the war had enabled chaplains to get to know men. I told him that the war also had enabled men to get to know chaplains. Large numbers of men in ordinary life are very seldom brought into contact with religion. They have the crude notion of it which they carried away as unfledged boys from Sunday School, and a sort of formal bowing acquaintance through the conventions of later life. In the war, when their minds and affections were put to a severe strain, it was a revelation to them to find that there were principles and relationships of divine origin which enabled the ordinary human will easily to surmount difficulties moral and physical, and which gave a quiet strength that nothing merely earthly could supply. Certainly the war gave chaplains a splendid opportunity of bearing witness to the power of Christ. A great deal has been written about the religion of the men at the front. Some have spoken of it in terms of exaggerated optimism, as though by the miracle of the war men had become beings of angelic outlook and temper. Others have taken a despairing attitude, and thought that religion had lost its real power over the world. The truth is, I think, that there was a revelation to most men, in a broad way, of a mysterious soul life within, and of a huge responsibility to an infinite and eternal Being above. There was a revelation also, wide and deep, to many individual men, of the living force and example of Him who is both [Page 116] God and Brother-man. Where the associations of church and home had been clean and helpful, men under the batterings of war felt consciously the power of religion. In the life at the front, no doubt there was much evil thinking, evil talking and evil doing, but there was, underlying all this, the splendid manifestation in human nature of that image of God in which man was made. As one looks back upon it, the surface things of that life have drifted away, and the great things that one remembers are the self-sacrifice, the living comradeship, and the unquestioning faith in the eternal rightness of right and duty which characterized those who were striving to the death for the salvation of the world. This glorious vision of the nobility of human nature sustained the chaplain through many discouragements and difficulties. I have often sat on my horse on rainy nights near Hill 63, and watched the battalions going up to the line. With wet rubber sheets hanging over their huge packs and with rifles on their shoulders, the men marched up through the mud and cold and darkness, to face wounds and death. At such times, the sordid life has been transfigured before me. The hill was no longer Hill 63, but it was the hill of Calvary. The burden laid upon the men was no longer the heavy soldier’s pack, but it was the cross of Christ, and, as the weary tramp of the men splashed in the mud, I said to myself “Each one has fulfilled the law of life, and has taken up his cross and is following Christ.”
    I told the men this one day on church parade; and a corporal sometime afterwards said that, when next their battalion was moving up into the line, a young fellow beside him was swearing very hard over the amount of stuff he had to carry. My friend went over to him and said, “Don’t you know that Canon Scott told us that this really isn’t a pack, but it’s the Cross of Christ?” The lad stopped swearing at once, and took up his burden without a word. [Page 117]