Monday, 31 March 2014

First World War - Y.M.C.A.

It was originally published in ‘The War Budget’, dated February 10th, 1916. It describes in ‘lovely and free-flowing’ language the wonderful work of the Y.M.C.A.

"Our Warrior’s Camp Comforts in the Role of the Good Samaritan

In the classic story a certain man on the Jerusalem-Jericho road, as our war writers would phrase it, fell among thieves. This may not be literally true of the road from city office to country camp; but the incident is not without its parallel in the moral and physical trials that lie ambushed among the camping grounds of our growing Army.

Laying aside any claim he may have to fellowship with priest and Levite, the Y.M.C.A. worker makes it his business to travel Tommy's way and see that misfortune gets little chance to trip him up.

"Whatever should we do without the Y.M." is a phrase that has been uttered by thousands of soldiers at home and abroad. The war has provided golden opportunities which the Association has made use of in remarkable fashion, and even its most severe, critics of bygone days now acknowledge with wholehearted enthusiasm the splendid work that is being done.

At the end of a hard day's work the open door of a Y.M.C.A. hut draws as if by magnetic power, and for many a man the building stands as a temporary home. Here he can obtain appetising refreshments at the lowest possible price; chocolates, cigarettes, soap, candles, polishes, button-sticks, and camp requisites galore. Writing-paper, envelopes, pen, ink and blotting-paper arc all provided free, and no less than 12 million pieces of stationery are thus given away every month.

Though the camp may be far from a town, Tommy still has his Free Library, for books are lent out and newspapers and magazines are at hand. In addition all kinds of games are provided, such as draughts, dominoes, quoits, chess, and, of course, billiards. A billiard "final" is fought out in deadly earnest, and the fortunate prize- winners retire with beaming faces.

Another evening it is, perhaps, a concert that draws an enthusiastic audience. Sometimes the men themselves provide the programme, and a wide-awake camp leader soon discovers the stars, whether pianist, elocutionist, clog-dancer, or ventriloquist, or local talent may rise to the occasion, and "The Follies" or "The Bonbons" appear in appropriate costumes.

In some of the larger and more important camps concerts are frequent and quite up to professional standard, and the theatrical profession has responded generously to calls on its time. Concert or no concert, a Y.M.C.A. piano is given little rest, and any budding Paderewski can give his comrades a great deal of pleasure.

Occasionally a travel lecture fills the evening hour; or the draught players arrange a tournament. In some camps this, pastime has been revived to a remarkable extent, some of the men playing a very brainy game.

In the village camps the great moment of the evening is that when the cry of "Post" goes up. A great rush and much shouting heralds the arrival of letters. The men crowd round eagerly, and eventually retire pleased or disappointed according to their luck.

From the early morning hour when the Hut floor is swept down, till late at night when the money accounts are balanced up, it is to the Leader an almost unceasing round of duties. Whatever may have been the occupation of the Leader in days gone by, here he has to turn his hand to everything, and for the time being he is Jack of all trades, from scullery maid to parson, errand boy to banker, bar assistant to general manager. Stores have to be ordered, concerts arranged for, the billiard table overhauled, or the pressing need of the moment may be the necessity for washing- up. No one could complain of lack of variety, but neither, can any Y.M.C.A. worker be accused of having a soft job, for the hours of sleep are his only rest hours.

The "Huts" themselves comprise all manner of buildings adapted for the purpose, and in this way a hotel or an old barn, a garage, or a Church Hall or Chapel Schoolroom may be turned to account. But the typical Y.M.C.A. Hut of modern erection is admirably planned for the purpose in view. Lighted by electricity, with staff rooms and kitchen complete, with post-office, bar-counter, stage, piano, and billiard tables, nothing is lacking which would prevent it ministering to Tommy's needs.

As a frankly religious organisation the Y.M.C.A. boldly assumes that man's three- sided nature is not to be sealed in water-tight compartments. . Religion is not thrust down the men's throats, but an endeavour is made to create an atmosphere favourable to the best type of manliness. "Lantern" services are held in many camps on Sunday evenings. The soldiers attend in large numbers and heartily join in well- known hymns.

The average Tommy has a good standard of conduct, and well deserves the efforts made to make his soldier life a little, more bearable. Quick of repartee, cheerful in spirit, and with a genuine appreciation of services rendered, the soldier in training to- day is a man worthy of the remarkable efforts being made on his behalf. When the war comes to an end the Y.M.C.A. will be able to claim that during the long dreary months of training and warfare they helped to keep the men fit and well and happy. No wonder the soldiers say, "Whatever should we do without the Y.M.?"

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Grace Gems - Joy

Here is the secret source of my joy: I simply realized that I have been crucified with Christ! Nothing strange or elusive about it whatsoever! Everything that separated me from God was abolished once and for all. No matter what I’m feeling at the moment about myself or my circumstances, this single truth trumps it all. When I wake up everyday, I just know that my old depressed self went into the grave with Jesus. It is difficult for a dead man to be worried about his bank statement or a bad doctor’s report. No circumstance can dictate my emotional state. The gospel tells me that my old critically religious self no longer exists! If I’m feeling bored with my Christian walk, the message of the gospel quickly snaps me out of that lie! My old boring self is dead. The new me is intoxicated on the wine of the new covenant. I can “reckon myself dead” with Christ … simply realize that I do not own those negative feelings any longer.

John Crowder

Friday, 28 March 2014

Friday's Five - Praise

In almost everything that touches our everyday life on earth, God is pleased when we're pleased. He wills that we be as free as birds to soar and sing our maker's praise without anxiety. - Aiden Wilson Tozer
When you focus on how wonderful God is and all the great things He's done... is doing... and even will do in your life, your natural response will be praise, adoration and awe. Don't let yourself ever get used to it... stay amazed! - Joyce Meyer
Praise now is one of the great duties of the redeemed. It will be their employment for ever. - Albert Barnes
Nature is the one song of praise that never stops singing. - Richard Rohr
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow! Praise Him, all creatures here below! Praise Him above, ye heavenly host! Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! - Thomas Ken

Thursday, 27 March 2014


Praise is a delightful perfume
A single note ignites a symphony of grace
A touch of joy dispels a cobweb of pain
A taste of honey rejoices over a pleasant feast
A scent of beauty banishes a troubled memory
A flowering garden refreshes a longing embrace
A word of affirmation fills an empty heart
 Praise is a sweet rose
Praise is an orange sun
Praise is a joyous love
Praise is an anthem of grace.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Forgotten Heroes - Lieutenant Edgar Thomas Towner VC

Lieutenant Edgar Thomas Towner VC!

Edgar Towner enlisted in 1915 and soon established himself as an outstanding soldier. Fighting in France, in the 2nd Australian Machine Gun Battalion, he was commissioned, won the Military Cross and was twice Mentioned in Despatches before receiving the Victoria Cross for the attack on Mont St Quentin, on 1 September 1918. In the battle, constantly under fire, he undertook dangerous reconnaissance and bravely led his machine-gunners. At one point he personally captured a machine-gun and turned it on the enemy. After 30 hours' fighting he was evacuated, wounded and exhausted.

After the war Towner returned to rural Queensland, but served again in the Second World War. A pastoralist at home in the bush, he was a life-long bachelor.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

10,000 reasons...: God is With Me

I love this poem from Kathryn at 10,000 reasons- Beautifully reassuring that wherever we go, whatever we do God never leaves us or forsakes us : -

...The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.'

Joshua 1:9

So, that means...
-Right now, God is with me!
-As I'm writing, God is with me!
-As I eat, God is with me!
-As I sleep, God is with me!
-As I wake up, God is with me!
-As I brush my teeth, God is with me!
-As I go on facebook, God is with me!
-As I travel,God is with me!
-As I walk down the street, God is with me!
-As I breathe, God is with me!
-As I watch TV, God is with me!
-As I talk, God is with me!
-As I worry, God is with me!
-As I study, God is with me!

God doesn't leave me.

10,000 reasons...: Reason no. 182...: '...The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.' Joshua 1:9 So, that means... -Right now, God is with me! -As...

Monday, 24 March 2014

From A Park Bench - A Member of God's Family

Ephesians 2 v 19 -
So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.

Because of Christ’s reconciling work of the cross, I have a new position in Christ. I am a fellow citizen of heaven with all of God’s children. I am part of the same household of God and I am now part of God’s building. I am united by new birth into Christ and I am now inseparably part of God.

Jesus was raised back to life and made perfect by his very own blood. The bible says he is the first fruit and the first born among many brothers. That means that just as he was raised and made perfect, so too am I when I believed in Him I was “raised and made perfect. Perfectly righteous, perfectly born-again, perfectly set apart unto him, perfectly right with God, perfectly permanently and eternally saved.

God never intended for me to be righteous of myself but, by faith, to enter into the rest of being made his righteousness. That is why when Jesus walked the earth he fulfilled the six day covenant on my behalf. He fulfilled the law for me. He did the work. And once fulfilled he said, “It is finished.” And then laid his head to rest.

He sweated drops of blood from his brow to break the curse. His body was lashed open for my healing and bled for my forgiveness. The punishment that was on him was for my peace. He became sin so I could become his righteousness. He took my poverty so I could receive his riches. His death was my victory. He is my perfect and complete salvation. I cannot add anything to it but simply believe it and rest in it.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

First World War - How Dogs Become Good Soldiers

This article was published during the war in the ‘War Illustrated.’ It is interesting how the publishers sold the public the idea of the usefulness of dogs helping the soldiers in the trenches.


The training of intelligent animals like these is carried on in five different ways, for various uses.

1. As Ambulance Dogs. The animal seeks for wounded men lost on the battle-field; he searches in holes, ruins, and excavations, and hunts over wooded places or coverts, where the wounded man might lie unnoticed by his comrades or the stretcher-bearer. The dog is especially useful at this work in the night-time, when he can often by his scent discover fallen men who would otherwise be passed over, for at night-time ambulance-men often have to work in the dark, as lights would attract the enemy's fire. Having found a wounded man still alive, the dog brings his master (or the ambulance-man to whom he is attached) some article belonging to the sufferer. This object tells the master, "I have found someone - search!"
Usually the object brought is the fallen man’s képi (or nowadays his helmet), and the trainers teach the dog to find the man's headgear, but if this is missing some other object must be brought. It is a fatiguing operation for the animal, as he has to return with closed mouth. The ambulance-man who receives the article at once puts the animal on a leash, and is immediately led to his wounded comrade. The leash is about two yards long, so that the movements of the animal shall be hindered as little as possible.

If dogs were utilized in this service long during wartime, their value would be incalculable; and their use is all the greater when fighting takes place over an extended area. The situation of the wounded man overlooked or abandoned on the battle-field is a truly horrible one; he has to wait in the forlorn hope that he will be found, for the army has gone on, and the more victorious it is the farther it will push ahead. In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1 more than twelve thousand men were thus lost to the French alone, while in the Russo-Japanese War the Japanese lost over five thousand in this manner, showing that the methods then used for the exploration of the battle-fields were inadequate. In that war three dogs sent by a military dog society found twenty-three wounded men who had been abandoned after the battle of Cha-ho. In the Boer War the collie dogs taken out by the men, it is said, saved hundreds of wounded men who would never have been found by the ambulance-workers in the difficult country where fighting mostly took place.

2. As Trench Dogs or Sentinels. The sentry or trench dog is trained to stay in the trench itself or in a small "listening-post" made for him, either on the edge of the trench, outside it, or at a little distance away. There he remains on the qui vive, ready to signal the least suspicion of a noise or the presence of the enemy. In this work both his eyes and his scent help him. He is kept on the leash, and he gives the signal of danger by a slight growl, without barking, which would give the alarm. The greatest difficulty in the training of dogs for this work has been to rid them of the habit of barking, but this has been overcome with care and patience. The training of dogs for this class of work can be - and has been-carried to great lengths. A man crawling on patrol work takes a dog with him, also in a crouching position, on a leash. A little tug at the leash causes the dog to rise, to retire, or to change its direction, and a properly-trained animal will answer to the leash as satisfactorily as a horse does to the reins. Such a dog is of immense help at night, when he can be taken quite close to the enemy.

3. As Patrols or Scouts. The dog accompanies the human scout in his reconnaissance, and helps in finding advance posts or sentinels, and locating small groups of the enemy.

4. As Couriers or Messengers. The animal acts as a messenger, carrying written orders or information, and is used according to circumstances. He can carry messages between groups in the rear and fighting formations in the front - for example, between the artillery and the infantry, and vice versa; between two fighting forces, such as battalions, companies, or sections; between the headquarters and the various positions of the army; or between the main body and detached posts, such as patrols, scouts, etc. Taken along by a patrol or scouting party, he can be sent back to the main body with a message fixed to his collar. The note having been removed and read, a reply can be attached to his collar, and the dog sent back to the original body of men, even if they have changed their position, since he finds them again by his scent. A dog is not only much quicker in carrying these very special qualities, so that only a very few animals have been found capable of the work. It consists in sending him after a patrol en route with a message, or even in finding a lost patrol or scouting party and bringing it back to its base. It will readily be understood that an exceptional scent is required in a dog to do work of this sort.

In the two last-named classes of work dogs can pass swiftly backwards and forwards through brisk firing and run much less risk than a man.


There are several societies in Paris which choose suitable dogs in order to make soldiers of them. The "Central Society for the Development of the Breeds of Dogs" gave three thousand dogs to the French army last August. After they have been tested, an operation which takes about three weeks, they are sent to special stations in the rear of the armies to be trained, and five or six days are all that are necessary for the training of animals for the simpler kinds of work. For more difficult tasks the training is naturally a longer business. When dogs are to be trained as communication agents the in- struction may take several weeks. They are taught to go from one master to another, first by a call, then by a whistle, then simply at a mere gesture. Distances are gradually increased, obstacles are placed in the way, the animal's goal becomes invisible, and so on. Much patience is required in this kind of work; and it is found that the best results are obtained by kindness and giving rewards for good work accomplished. The animals are taught to recognize only two masters, and to obey them alone. Outsiders are not allowed to pet or feed them. When they understand that they have to obey only one or two men, they have to learn to follow one or both of them when marching in a column of infantry, to recognize them when in a group, and so on. They are taught to endure the sound of gun-firing or explosions quite close to them. Above all, they are strictly trained never to pick up articles on their journey and to refuse delicacies offered them by strangers.

Specially-trained dogs only are chosen for this work, and they are mostly sheep-dogs or collies or animals whose business it was in civil life to be guardians or watchers, and always on the alert. These are all the easier to train for the special work - somewhat of the same order - which they are set to do in war.

When the question of transport through the mountain snow had become a matter of urgent importance, the French authorities conceived the idea of using dog-drawn sleighs for carrying supplies. Some hundred "huskies' - a cross between the Eskimo dog and the wolf -and other trained dogs from Alaska, North-Western Canada, and Labrador were brought over by Lieutenant René Haas, a Frenchman who had spent fourteen years in Alaska. Mr. Warner Allen, the representative of the British Press with the French armies, describing the work of these dogs, says the snow in the neighbourhood of the Schlucht Pass was deep enough until almost the end of April for the dogs to render yeoman service. "They were able," he says, "to draw heavy loads over almost inaccessible country, and to supplement to a valuable extent the wheeled transport. But their utility has not ceased with the disappearance of the snow. They are now being harnessed to trucks on small two-foot-gauge light railways, which run everywhere behind the Front, and they are capable of drawing the heaviest load up the steepest gradient. Eleven dogs, with a couple of men, can haul a ton up some of the most precipitous slopes in the mountains, and I was assured that two teams of seven dogs each could do the work of five horses in this difficult country, with a very great economy of men."

This correspondent adds that the best of these imported breeds of dogs is the Alaskan, as "his courage never fails, ani he will work until he drops, though he is perhaps the weakest of them. They are all shaggy dogs, with prick ears and bushy tails, their colour ranging from black to white, between greys and browns. Their chest development, so necessary for hauling, is remarkable. They are mainly fed on rice, horse-flesh, and waste military biscuits, and this fare appears to suit them admirably, as they are always in splendid condition, and disease is practically unknown. The experiment of transporting these do as to France has shown that they can be of real service in mountainous country, and represent a real economy."
Dogs that are specially adapted or have been trained for hunting or sporting purposes are of little use in war, as they have acquired habits incompatible with the work now demanded of them, Certain breeds, such as the Great Dane, and others of limited intelligence, are of no value at all. Some of these have the habit of rushing forward at the slightest alarm, which is of more danger than advantage to the soldiers to whom they might belong.


The "dog soldier," like his master on special missions, has to see and hear without being seen or heard. It is amusing, but nevertheless true, that the dogs of smugglers and poachers, as well as those of coastguardsmen, have been found to be most useful animals in the army. A well-trained dog, acting with a sentinel or scouting party may be the means of preserving numbers of lives by saving them from unpleasant surprises,

The use of dogs in warfare was, of course, not invented in the present war, though their utility had been systematized and given more scientific scope than was ever the case before. In no previous campaign have men understood the full use that could be made of these highly-intelligent creatures.

It was the Belgians who first turned their attention to the subject of employing dogs more extensively. Everybody who has visited Belgium knows the use that is made of dogs for traction purposes all over the country. Nearly all the peasants who bring agricultural or dairy produce to market employ dogs to draw their small carts, sometimes harnessing whole teams to heavy loads. The dog is also greatly used in Belgium for sport, and from the sporting dog to the police dog is but a step. The dog in war - as sentinel, courier, scout, or ambulance worker - followed, and was the idea of Professor Reul, of the Veterinary School of Cureghem, and two journalists named Van der Snick and Sodenkampf. In 1885-6 the 11 first dogs trained to some of these purposes were shown at a dog show at Ostend, and shortly afterwards societies were started at Brussels, Liége, Lierre, Ghent and other places, not merely for the training of dogs, but to improve the breeds. Lieutenant van der Putte, of the Belgian army, started the Société du Chien Sanitaire for the express purpose of training dogs for ambulance work and soon afterwards similar societies were organized in Paris and Berlin.

It was quite natural that the Belgians should also think of using these draught-dogs for small machine-guns, thus providing an inexpensive but efficient light artillery. The Germans wished to imitate them, but it is related that when they tried to buy dogs from the Belgians, as they had no indigenous animals suited to the purpose, the Belgians refused to sell. In other ways, however the Germans were at the beginning of the war well provided with dogs for various purposes, including the ambulance service.

Since then the use of dogs in the German army has assumed considerable proportions. The animals used are mostly of the German sheep-dog variety, and a register of these, numbering several thousands, is kept for mobilization purposes by the German Sheep-Dog Club. Other breeds used by the enemy are terriers, red-haired griffons, Doberman pinchers, Airedale terries, and a sort of bull-terrier known as a "Boxer." Dogs, it appears, have been used by the German army chiefly on the Eastern Front, where the fighting was of a more open description than on the Western Front. The German papers published appeals from the authorities asking dog owners to offer their pets for war purposes, and many thousands were obtained as a result.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Friday's Five - Patience

"The work that God does in us when we wait is usually more important than the thing for which we wait!”
― Erwin W. Lutzer
"Patience is not the ability to wait but how you act while you are waiting.” 
― Ziad K. Abdelnour
"Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.” 
― David G. Allen
"Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you, all things are passing, God is unchanging. Patience gains all; nothing is lacking to those who have God: God alone is sufficient.” 
― St. Teresa of Avila
“There are seasons when to be still demands immeasurably higher strength than to act.” 
― Margaret Bottome

Thursday, 20 March 2014


Patience is a waiting comfort
A ray of sunlight cheers a heavy heart
A drop of dust crowns an ocean of trials
A beautiful song immerses a symphony of heaven
A gentle kiss ignites an expectation of heaven
A lonely tear comforts a soul with hope
A star lit night engulfs the cares of longing
Patience is a longing embrace
Patience is a coming reward
Patience is a trial endured
Patience is expected grace.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Kissed Our Frailty

Before time
Crowned with glory
Pure radiance
Everlasting beauty
Unparalleled honour
Absolute reality
Invincible creator
Infinite deity
Revealed in flesh
Hidden in mystery
Embraced our world
Kissed our frailty
Knew temptation
Wore my humanity
Died in my place
Reconciled eternally.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified by Joseph Prince

1 Corinthians 2:2

For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Corinthian church, said that he determined to know nothing among them except “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”. In other words, Paul, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament, had his mind full of Jesus and His finished work.

Beloved, God wants your mind full of the cross of Jesus. He wants you cross-conscious.

But what does it mean to be cross-conscious?

To be cross-conscious is to see Jesus, who loves you so much that He willingly died for you on the cross. To be cross-conscious is to look to Jesus, who offered His own body to be punished, so that your body can be free from all punishment.

To be cross-conscious is to fix your eyes on Jesus, who has provided for your deliverance and victory at the cross. At the cross, all your enemies were vanquished. All your diseases were destroyed. Your poverty was removed at the cross. Your sins were wiped out at the cross.

When the Israelites tasted bitterness in the waters of Marah, God showed Moses a tree, which he cast into the waters, making them sweet. (Exodus 15:23–26) The tree represents the cross, which turned the bitter waters sweet. Today, Calvary’s tree has turned your bitter situations sweet. Because of the cross, you can expect to see the bitter situations in your life made sweet!

When the Israelites were bitten by serpents in the wilderness, God told Moses to put a bronze serpent on a pole. The pole represents the cross and bronze speaks of judgment. Those who beheld the serpent on the pole lived because they saw their problem—the deadly serpent—nailed and put to death on the cross. (Numbers 21:6–9)

Today, you too will not die but live when you see all your sins judged at the cross, and with them, all your sicknesses, diseases, pains, failures and defeats! At the cross, all that is deadly in your life has been removed!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

First World War - First Night In A Trench.

The book Bullets and Billets by Bruce Bairnsfather, gives a fantastic account of Bruce’s first night in a real trench in Belgium. This was a trench of 1914 and describes how uncomfortable and awful it must have been in those early days on the Western Front.


“An extraordinary sensation—the first time of going into trenches. The first idea that struck me about them was their haphazard design. There was, no doubt, some very excellent reason for someone or other making those trenches as they were; but they really did strike me as curious when I first saw them.

A trench will, perhaps, run diagonally across a field, will then go along a hedge at right angles, suddenly give it up and start again fifty yards to the left, in such a position that it is bound to cross the kitchen-garden of a shattered chateau, go through the greenhouse and out into the road. On getting there it henceforth rivals the ditch at the side in the amount of water it can run off into a row of dug-outs in the next field. There is, apparently, no necessity for a trench to be in any way parallel to the line of your enemy; as long as he can't shoot you from immediately behind, that's all you ask.

It was a long and weary night, that first one of mine in the trenches. Everything was strange, and wet and horrid. First of all I had to go and fix up my machine guns at various points, and find places for the gunners to sleep in. This was no easy matter, as many of the dug-outs had fallen in and floated off down stream.

In this, and subsequent descriptions of the trenches, I may lay myself open to the charge of exaggeration. But it must be remembered that I am describing trench life in the early days of 1914, and I feel sure that those who had experience of them will acquit me of any such charge.

To give a recipe for getting a rough idea, in case you want to, I recommend the following procedure. Select a flat ten-acre ploughed field, so sited that all the surface water of the surrounding country drains into it. Now cut a zig-zag slot about four feet deep and three feet wide diagonally across, dam off as much water as you can so as to leave about a hundred yards of squelchy mud; delve out a hole at one side of the slot, then endeavour to live there for a month on bully beef and damp biscuits, whilst a friend has instructions to fire at you with his Winchester every time you put your head above the surface.

Well, here I was, anyway, and the next thing was to make the best of it. As I have before said, these were the days of the earliest trenches in this war: days when we had none of those desirable "props," such as corrugated iron, floorboards, and sand bags ad lib.

When you made a dug-out in those days you made it out of anything you could find, and generally had to make it yourself. That first night I was "in" I discovered, after a humid hour or so, that our battalion wouldn't fit into the spaces left by the last one, and as regards dug-outs, the truth of that mathematical axiom, "Two's into one, won't go," suddenly dawned on me with painful clearness. I was faced with making a dug-out, and it was raining, of course. (Note.—Whenever I don't state the climatic conditions, read "raining.") After sloshing about in several primitive trenches in the vicinity of the spot where we had fixed our best machine-gun position, my sergeant and I discovered a sort of covered passage in a ditch in front of a communication trench. It was a sort of emergency exit back from a row of ramshackle, water-logged hovels in the ditch to the communication trench. We decided to make use of this passage, and arranged things in such a way that by scooping out the clay walls we made two caves, one behind the other. The front one was about five yards from the machine gun, and you reached the back cave by going through the outer one. It now being about 11 p.m., and having been for the last five hours perpetually on the scramble, through trenches of all sorts, I drew myself into the inner cave to go to sleep.

This little place was about 4 feet long, 3 feet high, and 3 feet wide. I got out my knife, took a scoop out of the clay wall, and fishing out a candle-end from my pocket, stuck it in the niche, lit it and a cigarette. I now lay down and tried to size up the situation and life in general.

Here I was, in this horrible clay cavity, somewhere in Belgium, miles and miles from home. Cold, wet through and covered with mud. This was the first day; and, so far as I could see, the future contained nothing but repetitions of the same thing, or worse.

Nothing was to be heard except the occasional crack of the sniper's shot, the dripping of the rain, and the low murmur of voices from the outer cave.

In the narrow space beside me lay my equipment; revolver, and a sodden packet of cigarettes. Everything damp, cold and dark; candle-end guttering. I think suddenly of something like the Empire or the Alhambra, or anything else that's reminiscent of brightness and life, and then—swish, bang—back to the reality that the damp clay wall is only eighteen inches in front of me; that here I am—that the Boche is just on the other side of the field; and that there doesn't seem the slightest chance of leaving except in an ambulance.

My machine-gun section for the gun near by lay in the front cave, a couple of feet from me; their spasmodic talking gradually died away as, one by one, they dropped off to sleep. One more indignant, hopeless glare at the flickering candle-end, then I pinched the wick, curled up, and went to sleep.

A sudden cold sort of peppermint sensation assailed me; I awoke and sat up. My head cannoned off the clay ceiling, so I partially had to lie down again.

I attempted to strike a match, but found the whole box was damp and sodden. I heard a muttering of voices and a curse or two in the outer cavern, and presently the sergeant entered my sanctum on all fours:

"We're bein' flooded out, sir; there's water a foot deep in this place of ours."

That explains it. I feel all round the back of my greatcoat and find I have been sleeping in a pool of water.

I crawled out of my inner chamber, and the whole lot of us dived through the rapidly rising water into the ditch outside. I scrambled up on to the top of the bank, and tried to focus the situation.

From inquiries and personal observation I found that the cause of the tide rising was the fact that the Engineers had been draining the trench, in the course of which process they had apparently struck a spring of water.

We accepted the cause of the disaster philosophically, and immediately discussed what was the best thing to be done. Action of some sort was urgently necessary, as at present we were all sitting on the top of the mud bank of the ditch in the silent, steady rain, the whole party being occasionally illuminated by a German star shell—more like a family sitting for a flashlight photograph than anything else.

We decided to make a dam. Having found an empty ration box and half a bag of coke, we started on the job of trying to fence off the water from our cave. After about an hour's struggle with the elements we at last succeeded, with the aid of the ration box, the sack of coke and a few tins of bully, in reducing the water level inside to six inches.

Here we were, now wetter than ever, cold as Polar bears, sitting in this hygroscopic catacomb at about 2 a.m. We longed for a fire; a fire was decided on. We had a fire bucket—it had started life as a biscuit tin—a few bits of damp wood, but no coke. "We had some coke, I'm sure! Why, of course—we built it into the dam!" Down came the dam, out came the coke, and in came the water. However, we preferred the water to the cold; so, finally, after many exasperating efforts, we got a fire going in the bucket. Five minutes' bliss followed by disaster. The fire bucket proceeded to emit such dense volumes of sulphurous smoke that in a few moments we couldn't see a lighted match.

We stuck it a short time longer, then one by one dived into the water and out into the air, shooting out of our mud hovel to the surface like snakes when you pour water down their holes.

Time now 3 a.m. No sleep; rain, water, plus smoke. A board meeting held immediately decides to give up sleep and dug-outs for that night. A motion to try and construct a chimney with an entrenching tool is defeated by five votes to one ... dawn is breaking—my first night in trenches comes to an end."

Monday, 10 March 2014

Radiant Love

Glory shines through inexhaustible vastness
The heavens sing with magnitude greatness
Unimaginable riches reached out
Through untracked galaxies heaven shouts.

Unparalleled splendour fills my vision
As I behold your incomparable reflection
Flaming, all attracting beauty
Embrace the healing power of your glory.

Infinitesimally small I look and wonder
That you should endow me with your power
This gift of grace, your reconciliation
Now made manifest in my adoption.

Every ache wrapped in my frailty
Once held captive with enslaving misery
Released by you mercy, now totally free
Radiant love overflowing to me.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

First World War - The Life Expectancy of a Junior Officer.

There has been a common legend that the life expectation of a junior Officer in a front line battalion was only 3 weeks. While it is true that battalions suffered severe losses, Martin Middlebrook in his book 'The Kaiser Battle' points out that the 3 week life expectation is an exaggeration.

He studied an Infantry bridage in the 17th Northern Division. The 10th West Yorks was the 1st Btn listed it served on the Western Front from Aug 1915 until the Armistice, taking part in all the major battles.

It was found that 174 officers joined the battalion as lieutenants or 2nd lieutenants. After the allowances for temporary absence had been made, it was found that the average subaltern spent not 3 weeks but 6-17 months of front line service with the battalion before becoming a casualty or leaving for some other reason. Only 1 in 5 of these subalterns was actually killed and almost half left the battalion unhurt.

Killed 37 (21.3%)
Wounded 48 (27.6%)
Prisoners 6 (3.4%)
Other Reasons 83 (47.7%)

The 'wounded' total does not include those slightly wounded who returned to the battalion. The 'other reasons' include transfer to other units usually trench-mortar, machine-gun, tank or flying units those officers returned to England for various reasons, and those still with the unit at the Armistice. The shortest stay was 2nd Lieutenant Banks who arrives at the battalion on 23 August 1918 and was killed 4 days later.

Although these figures debunk the '3 week theory' it should not be forgotten that the figure of 174 subalterns serving with the 10th West Yorks during a period of 38 months service on the Western Front shows that the battalion had to replace its original complement of junior offices 6 times.

In contrast no 56 squadron RFC which served on the Western Front April 1917 until the Armistice.A total of 109 pilots were included in the survey; a further small number, who were transferred to other squadrons almost as soon as they arrived or who returned home, presumably as unsuitable for front line duties. The average stay with the squadron worked out at 10 weeks. five days.

Killed 45 (41.3%)
Wounded 17 (15.6%)
Prisoners 31 (28.4%)
To home establishments 16 (14.7%)

It can be seen that comparing the 10th West Yorks to the 56 Squadron, being a pilot was far more hazardous that a front line junior officer.

A junior Officer could hope for a stay of 6-17 months, while you were lucky to last beyond 11 weeks as a pilot and if you were not killed, it was more that likely you would be captured.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Friday's Five - Light

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness. - Mother Teresa
In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't. - Blaise Pascal
In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength. - Robert E. Lee
The stars, that nature hung in heaven, and filled their lamps with everlasting oil, give due light to the misled and lonely traveller. - John Milton

Thursday, 6 March 2014


Light is a reflected glory
A promise possessed ignites the blessings of heaven
A divine prism magnifies the glory of creation
A falling raindrop mirrors the essence of mercy
A revealed light destroys the power of darkness
A word in season banishes unbelieving fear
A scarlet cord overwhelms beautiful garments
Light is heaven with us
Light is illuminated hope
Light is a ray of salvation
Light is radiant grace.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Forgotten Heroes - Captain Clarence Jeffries. V.C.

Captain Clarence Jeffries, 34th Battalion, Victoria Cross action at Passchendaele, Belgium It was a posthumous award.

The 9th Australian Brigade suffered bitter losses in its ill-fated attack on Passchendaele on 12 October 1917. Before he became one of the officers killed there, Clarence "Jeff" Jeffries had led attacks on German machine-gun posts, capturing several guns and killing or capturing their crews.

Jeffries was just 22 and his family was well known in the Newcastle region, where he had been a mining surveyor on the state's northern coalfields. After the war his father went to Belgium and for a while personally led an ultimately successful search for his grave.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Congregation of Geese

Stand to attention and doubters retreat

Into silent reeds, as high above

Ducks circle the lake in scheming flight.

The listening pilgrims with their nonchalant stare

Sense divinity within the assembled throng.

In the visible the lake reflects their glare

And glimpses an unsuspected mood

Even the crows hidden from view

Move to the marshalled sound of silence

A strange stillness captures the congregation.

This is the mirror of tentative dreams

Suggested words draw the stream

Of prophecy beyond the ravens movement,

The air is full of hope, as we seek

Uniqueness in created things and the hand of the creator.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

First World War - Why We Joined Up.

The First World War started on 4th August 1914 and this year marks the centenary.

Over the coming months i will post a few articles that relate to the conflict from different perspectives. These are not academic works but just interesting observations on the Great War. To begin with we have an interesting passage from the book 'Twice in a Lifetime' by M.L.Walkinton. He was just 17 when he enlisted in September 1914 and was soon a rifleman in the Queens Westminster Rifles. Three months later in December he was in the trenches in France. Reflecting years later, this is what he has to say about the reason he joined up.

'Thirteen years have passed, and looking back it is not easy to see just why we were so desperately keen to slaughter a lot of decent Germans. I suppose that we were a normal lot of healthy young men afflicted with romantic minds and large reserves of pent-up energy. Our real need was to rescue beautiful maidens from terrible dragons; but the beautiful maidens were so capable and stand-offish, and all the dragons had been slain long ago, that when the Daily Mail told us that beautiful Belgium had been violated and France was in distress we all rushed to the rescue. But I think we did it for own sakes very largely. The uniforms, the bands, the open-air life and most of all, the feeling that one was a devil of a fellow attracted us irresistibly. We felt, of course , that England was in danger and we did honestly want to defend her, and we knew that it might cost us our lives, but there is no doubt that the wave of patriotic emotion which carried us into the army received much of its impetus from the publicity and glamour of it all.'


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