The Red Cross and the Red Triangle.
BY LADY RODNEY.
Two organisations alone have sustained our faith in the steady progress of the human species, in spite of appalling reversions. The Red Cross and the Triangle proclaim the forward march, the steady evolution of life. Surely an act of lunacy, this slaughter on the battlefield! necessitating this loving salvage of human wrecks by the angels of the Red Cross -- this re-building of the torn and lacerated body, this snatching of the dying out of the jaws of death! And yet here is the testimony of the modern mind to the sacredness of life in the body, and the triumph of mercy and love over hate and destruction; the perfection of science and surgery ever toiling to recover the lost. But the rescue of the wounded is nothing new: the utilitarian spirit of the past has always striven to save its man power if only to fight again!
What shall we say then of the Red Triangle in this war? That is a new sign of man's deep need of physical, mental and spiritual support. Man is after all a spirit, and not, as Germany has expounded, a machine. In every camp in England, France, and the East, where British manhood has withstood this false Teuton ideal, the Triangle -- the trinity of man's nature -- has raised a living protest. Wooden huts, canteens, music, games, religious services, a ministering womanhood -- these are the outward, visible sign of man's need of the humanities and the kindling fire of the spirit. The elemental courage and the robust endurance of an earlier age, man still shares with his ancestors, but the human and spiritual side of his nature has so developed that a righteous war needs the moral support of all that the Y.M.C.A. stands for, and all that the Triangle offers to the man at the front and the munition worker at home. Let it never be forgotten that the enemy is inflamed by the spirit of ambition, self-glory and hate, and the three are truly powerful levers. The wide-open doors of the Y.M.C.A. Huts, the incessant streams of khaki-clad soldiers, the peace of home in the camps of war, the loving service of the men and women who wait, the volume of song, sacred or profane, the letters home, the pipe of peace -- all these human needs supplied, speak of the evolution of man and the steady growth of Christian ideals and values on our earth. Let us take heart of grace; should the whole gamut of civilisation be swept from the face of the globe, to be replaced by some finer structure in the future, the Red Cross and the Red Triangle will still be found among the relics of our age, and tell the tale of the triumph of spirit over matter in the great Armageddon.
Y.M.C.A. Men Who Have Won the V.C.
BY BASIL YEAXLEE.
MANY thousands of Association men have joined the Forces during the War. Hundreds have laid down their lives on Active Service. Distinctions have been won by brave deeds and fine comradeship. The V.C. has been awarded to a number of Y.M.C.A. members, and the present volume would not be complete without a brief account, as far as information is available, of the achievements that won them the Cross.
Lance-Corporal Leonard James Key worth, V.C.,
of the 24th County of London Battalion, was long known in Lincoln as a good sportsman. A keen footballer, he was also a valuable "left-hander" in the Y.M.C.A. cricket team. Captain F. B. Galer, Adjutant of the 3rd Battalion, who enlisted him, says: "I well remember him as one of the pick of the finest Territorials you could wish to see." The Germans will doubtless cherish similar recollections of him, for during the British attack on Givenchy trenches, fifty-eight out of seventy-five men from his battalion were killed or wounded, but he stood fully exposed on the top of the enemy's parapet and threw about 150 bombs among the Germans, who were only a few yards away. Like Sergeant O'Leary, he thought this quite the obvious thing to do, and after being recommended for special mention, wrote: "It is supposed to be for bravery, but I cannot understand where it came in, as I only did my duty. But how I came out God only knows."
Like so many others who have won the supreme military distinction, he returned to the Front, after having been feted in his native city, to face again the ardours and perils of Active Service, only to fall in the fight.
Temp. Sec.-Lieut. Donald Simpson Bell, V.C.
The following is the official story of another who crowned his winning of the Cross by rendering the great sacrifice:
"Temp. Second-Lieutenant Donald Simpson Bell, late Yorkshire Regt., for most conspicuous bravery. During an attack a very heavy enfilade fire was opened on the attacking company by a hostile machine-gun. Second-Lieutenant Bell immediately, and on his own initiative, crept up a communication trench, and then, followed by Corporal Colwill and Private Batey, rushed across the open under very heavy fire and attacked the machine-gun, shooting the firer with his revolver, and destroying the gun and personnel with bombs. This very brave act saved many lives, and ensured the success of the attack. Five days later this gallant officer lost his life performing a very similar act of bravery."
The Secretary of the Harrogate Association writes: "D. S. Bell was an old member here, and one of the most popular ones; he represented Yorkshire in the International Y.M.C.A. Football Team that toured Denmark three winters ago."
Private Edward Barber, V.C.,
Grenadier Guards, aged twenty-two, a member of the Tring Y.M.C.A., was awarded the V.C. for bravery at Neuve Chapelle. He ran in front of a grenade company, and threw bombs with such effect that numbers of the Germans at once surrendered. When his company came up, Barber was found quite alone with the enemy surrendering all round him. He was afterwards killed by a sniper's bullet.
Sergeant Claude Castleton, V.C.,
late of the Australian Contingent, joined the Lowestoft Association in September, 1910, and was a member for two years up to the time of his leaving this country to seek a larger life in Australia. He is remembered by many of the present members as a keen gymnast and a strong, manly, open-air fellow. The record of his devotion, contained in a letter from one of his comrades, fully bears out their knowledge of his bravery and resolution of character.
"We were helping to hold a first line of trenches, when our infantrymen made an attack on the enemy. As may be expected, we had some casualties. Claude, knowing some of our wounded men to be out in 'No Man's Land,' could not resist going to their assistance. Amidst shrapnel and heavy machine-gun fire, rifle-fire, and gas, he leaped out, had rescued two wounded men, and was in the act of bringing in the third, when, to our sorrow, he was hit by either rifle or machine-gun fire. First-aid men went to his assistance immediately, but could do no good. He had done his last. We gave him a decent burial behind our front line, erecting a small cross with his name, number, etc., over his grave. His name will stand for ever amongst the officers and men of his company, and also with the infantrymen and officers to whom we were attached. His name is being mentioned by all, for not only is it on this occasion that we have found him a leader, but at Gallipoli, after losing an officer and sergeant, we looked to Claude as our leader, and from then up to the time of his death we were ready to follow him anywhere, having confidence in him as a leader of true British spirit, and we know how difficult it will be for a man of his ability to be replaced." He was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Corporal James L. Dawson, V.C.
The Victoria Cross was awarded to Corporal James L. Dawson, a former Alloa Y.M.C.A. member, for conspicuous bravery. A supplement to the London Gazette gave, amidst the particulars of deeds that had won the Cross, the following account of his achievement :
"No. 91608, Corporal J. L. Dawson, 187th Co. Royal Engineers, for most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on October 13th, 1915, at Hohenzollern Redoubt. During a gas attack, when the trenches were full of men, he walked backwards and forwards along the parades, fully exposed to a very heavy fire, in order to be better able to give directions to his own sappers, and to clear the infantry out of the sections of the trench that were full of gas. Finding three leaking cylinders, he rolled them some sixteen yards away from the trench again, under very heavy fire, and then fired rifle bullets into them to let the gas escape. There is no doubt that the cool gallantry of Corporal Dawson on this occasion saved many men from being gassed."
Corporal (Acting Sergeant-Major) Dawson is a native of Tillicoultry, was educated at Alloa, graduated M.A. at Glasgow University, and was, until enlistment in October, 1914, Science Master in a Govan School.
Corporal James D. Pollock, V.C.,
a member of the Paris Y.M.C.A. (Anglo-American Branch): "On September 27th last, when the enemy's bombers in superior numbers were successfully working up the Little Willie trench towards the Hohenzollern Redoubt, Corporal Pollock, after obtaining permission, got out of the trench alone, walked along the top edge with the utmost coolness and disregard of danger, and compelled the enemy's bombers to retire by bombing them from above. He was under heavy machine-gun fire the whole tune, but continued to hold up the progress of the Germans for an hour, when he was at length wounded."
Corporal Pollock has recently been granted a commission in the gallant Camerons.
Doubtless many more Y.M.C.A. men will win the Victoria Cross before the war is over. They will therein prove their loyalty to the motto written on the wall of every Red Triangle Hut in the world: "For God! For King! and for Country!"
Ghastly Experience of a 2nd Lieutenant.
BY CAPT. H. HARROP.
I AM very sorry that I did not tell you how, when, and where I got my little dose, but you will remember that my first inquiries when I got here were chiefly for cake and clothes, and I got so sick of telling people all about it, that I thought you surely must have been one of the many to whom I detailed "ye hystorie of my woes." I am afraid that I cannot describe it with the pathos of the "Oh, was-not-it-beastly-ness?" that I could have a week or two ago, as I am feeling much better now; but it will doubtless be a saner account.
You will know that there has been three great attacks on the push front so far -- July 1st, 14th, and 22nd. On the 1st, as far as I can remember, the battery was in our new position, south of Arras, at Wailly, ready for the show, but at the last moment the attack on the Arras-Gommecourt was cancelled and we trekked south. On the 14th we were in reserve and saw most of the fighting for Contalmaison and in Montauban and Trones Wood; we were moved to Montauban about the 17th, and had our Brigadier-Major killed by shrapnel as soon as we got up on the ridge. Two valleys end at Fricourt, one going S.E. to Comoy, one east to Longueval and Delville Wood, which are at the top of the valley, and there is another valley running from Longueval N.W. to Bayentin-le-Grand. Our head-quarters, just west of Montauban, on the top of the ridge, were under continual shell-fire. The valley (H.F.) was full to the eyes with our guns and Bosche shells, and along the northern ridge of the same valley was the old Bosche second line; then, more north still, came the Longueval to Bayentin Valley, and across that -- two miles away -- was High wood, Pozieres. What we were after was Highwood and the sunken road between it and Delville Wood. I went up into the trenches we were holding on the 20th (the old Bosche second line on the N.E. ridge of Gun Valley) and watched the Gordons attack Highwood from our side of the valley in the early morning mist. They were mown down in dozens, but at the end of the day we held a line from between Pozieres and Bayentin, along the west edge of Highwood and down to Longueval. You will see that we were on the crest of the ridge, which on our brigade front was the sunken road. Fritz had a battery of maxims at M.G. on the corner of the Wood and absolutely enfiladed the sunken road just behind, and east of which were his trenches. The distance from our trenches to the sunken road was about 350 yards, all corn and long grass and shell-holes. The brigade was to advance and take the sunken road at 1.30 A.M. on the night of the 22nd-23rd, and my job was to smash the guns at M.G., the east corner of the Wood. After a lot of casualties among the carrying parties, I managed to get four guns and five hundred shells up to (G), a point about two hundred yards from Fritz's guns, and out in the open, well away from the Wood, which was being shelled to blazes continually. We were in the open field with no possible cover of any sort, with shrapnel coming over ten a minute at us. We only had one or two men killed and a gun knocked out and "blown to bits by the time we were ready, so we lay down and smoked as it gradually got darker, and wondered what it was like to be blown to rags. By ones and twos we got to know, and then an
At 2 A.M. I was staggered by the arrival of a large party of fifty men with more shells, really intended for another battery which was now gone west poor beggars! So the party had been sent on to us and had had only two men hit on the way. Of all the luck! We started off with three men to a gun, and I went out 100 yards in front to get better observation. I got a good corrector for each gun, and was about half-way back when I heard a shell coming. There was a great crash behind me, and I was hit everywhere and knocked flying on my face. My head sang like a telephone. I saw a regular blaze of green flame in front of my eyes, and -------------
• • • • • • • •
It was daylight when I woke up, lying in a shell-hole with the wounded Corporal slitting my tunic and equipment off with a clasp-knife. My head was roughly bandaged, and I was a mass of blood from head to foot. My back was in "ribbons," as the Corporal said, and he added, "You ain't got no blood left, sir," and he went on, "nor no left ear, either." This was greeting too cheerful, and I felt as if I would like to die at once and get it over. Clarke, one of the officers, came up to see how we were getting on fortunately he had got some brandy, so I had a good gulp, and fainted. Clarke tried to find a stretcher for me, but they were all smashed, and the bearers dead. And still Fritz went on with his beastly guns. I heard Clarke and the Corporal say, "We must carry him, then." But I crawled to my feet and staggered round; only one gun was left, and all the wounded were dead or carried away by the shell-party. The next I remember was Clarke dragging me down into the valley towards "home." The shrapnel still roared over us, and I cried like a kid with sheer loss of nerve and terror. We stumbled over dead and dying men everywhere and I bled on like a pig, as I crawled along on Clarke's arm. He dragged me down into Gun Valley and up the other side of Montauban, and a mile down the Fricourt Road we found an ambulance. Five minutes later Clarke was blown to atoms by a 5.9. H.E. shell. He was a good sort. An hour later I was in hospital and feeding. Then some morphia and to sleep. Just pleased to be out of it all alive even if in rags.
An Exchange of Favours.
BY SAPPER ERIC DE BANZIE, R.E., B.E.F., FRANCE.
IF anyone asks Pte. Bill Holmes the time, nolens volens, he's his friend for life. . . . You're curious? I'm delighted to be able to tell you the reason.
In the days before the Allies commenced Big Pushing it was the keen desire of practically every regiment in the British Army to be placed opposite the mild and friendly Saxons. Thus the Tommies were assured of a comparative rest, and a tin of bully-beef could readily be exchanged for a passable cigar. If the enemy sent out a working party to repair their entanglements, we sent out another to rebuild the parapets battered and smashed by "whizz-bangs," and in possession of the welcome knowledge that not a shot would be fired.
This lack of the "strafing" propensity, it will be understood, was anathema to our Brass Hats, so when the men of the 5th Blankshires were informed that the General of their Brigade was coming to inspect their trenches, they immediately decided that a small "strafe" was necessary.
Unfortunately, however, it happened that a fat officer of the German Army, weary of a dark dug-out, chose that very morning to sun himself, seated in a comfortable arm-chair, on the top of the trench parapet! This implied a striking trust in the fair-play of the 5th Blankshires, but unhappily the compliment came at an inopportune moment, and eventually Pte. Bill Holmes, the look-out man, popped his head over the top and excitedly signalled to the fat German officer to get down and go away.
"Alley toot sweet," he wrote-- which, in case you don't know, is French for "Go away at once" -- adding, as an afterthought, the English equivalent, "Hop it quick!"
Herr Lieutenant shook his head uncomprehendingly, but smiled to atone for his ignorance.
Things were getting desperate. The Brigadier would be round at any moment, and Bill knew that if he saw a German lolling in calm security in the open he certainly would not be polite to the look-out man. . . . Accordingly, Pte. Holmes, after a spasm of concentrated thought, raised his rifle to his shoulder, taking careful aim at the fat German officer's big toe. He fired. The range was short; there was a wild howl as the chair toppled backwards, and the German disappeared with a somersault into his trench! . . .
Half an hour afterwards, when the satisfied General had been gone barely five minutes, Bill Holmes observed a message-board being pushed above the German trenches. With the help of his friends he deciphered the writing on it:
"Who shot our officer?"
"Charlie Chaplin," suggested Snooker Brown.
They all laughed -- except Holmes.
"I don't see anyfink to laugh at," said he, uneasily. "They p'r'aps mean to work off this 'ere vendetter stunt on me."
"Well, let 'em," said Snooker, valiantly. "I'll back you up."
So Bill wrote for the Huns' perusal: "Me -- Bill Holmes."
In the trench next morning a small package was found, to which was tied a label bearing the words: "To Mr. Bill Holmes." It was pointed out to the addressee, who picked it up gingerly.
"From Fritz" explained Snooker Brown expectantly, edging away. . . . "Don't open it, you fathead it'll go off!"
Holmes looked at it as a dog looks at a cat.
"Well, wot d'you fink I should do wif it?" he asked; but there was no reply. Bill was alone. His comrades were deep in the bowels of the earth listening for the bang.
At last he decided. With trembling fingers he opened the package -- to find therein a magnificent gold watch, heavy but elegant, and a short letter. He read the letter; then scratched his head in puzzled astonishment.
"Blimey," he said at last; "them blokes is almost human!"
For this is what he read:--
"My good friend, I send you the enclosed gift as a small token of my sincere thanks. You have to-day accomplished -- is my spelling correct? -- what I have been praying for for weeks. The wound is not serious, but now I shall be sent home for a time to see again my so-loved wife and children. So you see your so-much-to-be-admired shooting was kind to me. Good-bye."
And that is why if you ask Pte. Bill Holmes, of the 5th Blankshires, to tell you the time, and give him the opportunity to display a magnificent gold watch heavy but elegant you're his friend for life.
Concerts at the Front.
BY Miss LENA ASHWELL.
THE ancients symbolised war as a ravening beast -- armies as fierce dogs unleashed from hell; but this, the greatest of all the wars the world has ever seen, is only comparable to a flood, a devastating flood that has submerged all landmarks under the waste of its wild waters. But even as the rocks remain unmoved by the fiercest storm waves and emerge unchanged when the tide ebbs, so underneath the tumult of war the immutable facts of human nature remain. And the Y.M.C.A. realised in the early days of the war that the needs of our men would include not only food and shells, guns and hospital stores, but some of the amenities of civilisation -- food for the mind and spirit as well as for the body. It was when the war was six months old that the "Concerts at the Front" were started at the invitation of the Ladies' Auxiliary Committee, whose Chairman is H.H. Princess Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein.
In February, 1915, money was raised privately to send out a Concert Party to the Y.M.C.A. Huts at the Base Camps as an experiment. The troops were finding life under the conditions of modern warfare monotonous and boring; the hard work, an existence of rigid discipline in a sea of mud in a strange land, were enough to depress any but the irrepressible spirits of the British Army; and the rapturous welcome that greeted this first Concert Party was sufficient proof that some scheme for continuing the work was urgently needed.
The Concert Parties consist of six artistes as a rule soprano, contralto, tenor, bass, violinist or 'cellist, and entertainer -- often a conjuror or ventriloquist. But this August, by way of celebrating the tercentenary of Shakespeare and the centenary of Sheridan, we took a dramatic party to give scenes from "Macbeth" and "The School for Scandal," and modern one-act plays by Sir James Barrie and Miss Gertrude Jennings. We have only sent out good music, good literature; we find that nothing else is wanted -- we only offer the best. The men do not want what is ugly or base, and it is difficult to make people at home realise how much what is beautiful and joyous means to the men who have literally nothing but the bare necessities of life -- and death.
The concerts are given anywhere -- in huts and warehouses; in the summer by the roadside, in woods, or open fields; or in barns under heavy shell fire. A member of one of our Firing Line Parties wrote: "You will be sorry to hear that one of our huts near the line has been blown to pieces. We were singing there only a few nights before. The guns were very busy then. Can you imagine what it feels like to sing Handel's 'Largo' to the sound of cannon? . . . We have been bombed in our billets, gassed, and shelled. What more can a fellow want? We are the happiest of Concert Parties."
Another letter from another Firing Line Concert Party says: "Yesterday we performed in a Trappist monastery which has been turned into a Rest Home. We played in the refectory to about four hundred officers and men from the trenches, all with that dreadful 'trench look' in their eyes. But, glory be! We took it out for an hour and a half. Our reception was astounding. They went mad over every item -- seized everything with rapture. I got them nearly hysterical with laughter, and the important Army Medical Officer in charge assured us that the beneficial effects of our performance on the patients would be enormous, and that the work we are doing is of great military value."
As long as the war lasts, these Concert Parties must go out. The men regard them as a loving gift from those at home, a token that those for whom they are fighting and suffering, for whom they are enduring undreamed-of pain or discomfort, exiled from everything that life has hitherto held for them -- that those at home do care, are with them, and are trying their best to help. The message brought back by one of our Concert Parties from a Senior Chaplain to the Forces is: "Tell all who sent you here that we bless them; if they only knew how much the music means to the men they would send Firing Line Concert Parties out in crowds."
But the letters that reach me at 36, Grosvenor Street, from the men themselves, in all branches of the Army, are the most touching evidence of their appreciation. A private, who had been in hospital wounded and returned to the Front the day after one of our Concerts, wrote: "We all agreed that we would go back to the trenches and fight all the better for the happy remembrance. . . I was feeling rather lonely, not having anybody to write to me while I was out there; I began to feel I was fighting for no one until that cheery Party came along. I can even now fancy I hear the sweet notes of the violin." That boy went back to the trenches and was wounded four times and poisoned by gas. Another lad wrote to me that: "It just made all the difference going into the firing line with that music stirring one's heart." That is the keynote of many infinitely touching letters which we get from the men themselves --" that music just makes all the difference." So all who have helped and are helping by giving time and work and money to make this work possible, have the assurance that it is of tremendous importance and "of great military value."
These stories appeared in Told in the Huts: The Y.M.C.A. Gift Book published in 1916.