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STORIES OF THE GREAT WAR

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Eileen Boland Comprising STORIES OF THE WAR 1915

MORE STORIES OF THE WAR 1915

CATHOLIC TRUTH SOCIETY PUBLISHERS TO THE HOLY SEE

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War, with all its horrors, is lightened by the instances of devotion and sacrifice which always emerge from an otherwise tragic and terrible record.

Eileen Boland was married to CTS’s General Secretary.

CTS ONEFIFTIES Originally published as Stories of the War and More Stories of the War: both 1915. Published by The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society, 40-46 Harleyford Road, London SE11 5AY www.ctsbooks.org All rights reserved. Copyright Š 2017 The Incorporated Catholic Truth Society.

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ISBN 978 1 78469 538 5

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STORIES OF THE WAR Mrs John Boland [Eileen Boland]

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STORIES OF THE WAR It is some consolation that war, with all its horrors, is lightened by the instances of devotion and sacrifice which always emerge from an otherwise tragic and terrible record. The war now being waged has already supplied an abundance of such material, gratifying not only to Catholics, who note the heroism of priests and nuns, and the religious revival in France, with special pleasure, but also to those “other sheep” of the Christian flock who have written and spoken with so much sympathy of these things. Out of this abundance the following pages have been compiled; they relate some of the many stories which throw into vivid light the power of Faith to serve the cause of Fatherland. We begin with a few instances of work accomplished by

Priests in Action. “Eighty-seven Catholic priests and 127 nuns have been awarded the Legion of Honour by the French Government for the services rendered to troops in the field of action.” So says the Times (December 4th) within four months of the outbreak of the war of 1914. We have not all the details of the heroic acts which earned this distinction, but enough has been published to show that the priests have followed, in the letter and in the spirit, the instructions of the Bishop of Poitiers: “Before all and above all be a priest; that is, a man of duty among your heroic brothers in arms. By word and example raise their hearts to God. The reputation and honour of the clergy of France are in your hands; it is your duty to preserve

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this treasure and make it at once more glorious and greater.” How well the priests have succeeded, the Paris correspondent of the Times shows: “One result of the war has been a distinct religious revival in France. The so-called clerical peril has disappeared from the popular imagination in the face of the real peril of the German invasion. Everywhere the priests have been distinguished for their heroism, and their devotion to the patriotic cause is shared by many members of religious orders, both men and women. Abbé Luchat, a sergeant in a cyclist corps, was killed on the field of battle, after having been mentioned in dispatches on the previous day. Abbé Monbru, a lieutenant of infantry, fell at the head of his company. Another clerical lieutenant, Abbé Grenier, was struck down in leading his men in a charge. Abbé Fumin, an ensign, died also in battle. In the imperishable roll of soldier-priests figure twelve abbés who were either officers, non-commissioned officers, or private soldiers. “The Journal Officiel contains the following lines, typical of the gallantry shown by French priests in the present campaign: ‘Abbé Buscoz, adjutant of the 97th Infantry, has died as a hero. He had just been promoted a second lieutenant on the field of battle for two acts of bravery. His last hours were admirable. He dashed to the attack with his men, while crying, “I am a priest; I fear not death; en avant! ’ ” (October 2nd). Another décoré, the Abbé Lamy, a priest-sergeant of the diocese of Amiens, continued fighting and looking after his men in spite of five bullet wounds. When unable to walk, he crawled about to assist his wounded comrades in arms, giving them brandy, and, as a priest, ministering to them the consolations of religion (Tablet, October 24th). Sergeant Lemoine, a priest of Bourges, himself wounded, rescued his officer from among the dead amid a storm of bullets and carried him to safety (America, November 21st). Another priest-sergeant, the Abbé Féval, of Vandré, offered himself for service at the front in place of a father of a family of five children. 6

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Mgr. Ruch, Bishop Coadjutor of Nancy, and Mgr. Perros, Vicar Apostolic of Siam and Titular Bishop of Zoara, are both in the French Army, the latter as a sub-lieutenant.

French Jesuits and their Work. Members of religious orders, too, are sharing in this fine work. “There are at the front 99 Jesuits from the Province of Paris and 183 from the Province of Lyons; 144 French Jesuits exiled in England have returned to their regiments; 12 have been killed and 20 wounded. The Rector of the French Jesuit College at Jersey is at the front” (Stella Maris, December). A correspondent comments thus on the position of these returned exiles: “I met a Jesuit the other day on sentry go. He had been in Canterbury for years. ‘Curious,’ he said; ‘I was expelled from France as a Jesuit. Now I come back to fight for her.’ ‘Curious, do you call it?’ I replied; ‘I call it magnificent.’ ” Studies for December gives the following story of one of these priests, modestly veiled under the initial “de G.,” as related in a letter from a chaplain:— “I have just heard the confession of a man, when another calls me: ‘Father, give me absolution!’ ‘Most willingly,’ I answer, hastening to his side; ‘but what has happened to you?’ ‘Well, the truth is, my thigh has been broken by a shell; but let me tell you how I came to be carried in here. A comrade did it, who is a soldier and a priest like yourself. A fine fellow he is! If you only knew what he has gone through for us! He would rush through a hail of bullets to lend us a helping hand, without seeming to notice the danger he was running. To tell you the truth, Father, after he had saved me and placed me here, I threw my arms round his neck and kissed him!’ ‘Where is he?’ I asked. ‘Gone back to the firing line,’ he replied. ‘And what was his name?’ ‘His name is de G.’ At the sound

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of that name all the poor fellows around joined in: ‘That’s a man for you! He’s more than a man, he’s a hero. Talk about bravery— and then the way he worked for us without a thought for himself. No one will ever know, Father, all he has done for us.’ ” In another letter the following is told apropos of the same Jesuit: “You may, perhaps, have heard of de G. He has just received la médaille militaire et la citation à l’ordre du jour of his regiment, both on the battlefield and in the depôt of Montpellier. Five reasons were assigned for the award. It appears that the officer who read the dispatch in the barrack-square at Montpellier paused and said: ‘Those are excellent reasons. Who is this M. de G.? Does anybody know him?’ A soldier (a Benedictine) replied, ‘I know him; he is a Jesuit priest!’ Tremendous applause on the part of all the soldiers.”

“Died Hand in Hand.” An unnamed priest is the central figure in this story from the Daily Chronicle of October 31st:— “In the hall of a great railway terminus in Paris a number of wounded were laid out on the straw waiting to be taken to a hospital. Eight of them were very badly hurt, and some of them were evidently not long for this world. “One of them seemed to be very uneasy. A nurse went up to him and offered to rearrange his bandages. His reply was, ‘I want a confessor very badly.’ “ ‘Is there a priest here?’ asked the nurse. “Just then another soldier lying mortally wounded plucked the nurse by the sleeve. ‘Madame,’ he said, ‘I am a priest; I can give him absolution. Carry me to him.’ “The nurse hesitated. The soldier was suffering from the effects of a horrible shell-wound, and the least movement gave him 8

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excruciating pain. But again the feeble voice quietly said, ‘You are of the Faith, and you know the price of a soul. What is one more hour of life compared with that?’ And the soldier raised himself by a supreme effort to go to the side of his comrade. “But the effort was in vain. He had to be carried. The confession did not take long, and the strength of the soldier-priest was ebbing rapidly away. When the time came to give the absolution he made a sign to the nurse. ‘Help me to give the sign,’ he said. “The nurse held up his arm while this was being done. Death followed quickly for the soldier-priest and his penitent. They died hand in hand, while the nurse and the ambulance men fell on their knees on each side of them.”

A Priest-Volunteer. The death of the soldier-priest Emmanuel Demoustier took place on the battlefield of Arras. “Towards evening on October 3rd, the ammunition was exhausted owing to the violence of the struggle. The captain of Private Demoustier’s company asked for a volunteer to warn the supply convoy, and in making the request he did not hide the fact that the mission was a dangerous one. Père Demoustier offered himself at once, and before leaving said to his neighbour: ‘If I do not come back, take what is in my bag.’ Then he set out bravely. Struck by a shell on the way, he fell not far from a captain of artillery who was riding by. He had the strength to give him a pencilled note. Half an hour later the ammunition arrived and the fight went on. Père Demoustier died in the night. His noble action was mentioned in the order of the day to the Army” (La Liberté, December 16th).

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MORE STORIES OF THE WAR

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Mrs John Boland [Eileen Boland]

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MORE STORIES OF THE WAR The C.T.S. pamphlet in which Some Stories of the War are brought together has proved so acceptable that almost from its first appearance there has been a demand for more of the same kind; hence this second collection. Here and there matter has been included which hardly comes within the strict category of “stories”; but all has a bearing upon the main purpose of the selection, which is to exhibit further instances and proofs of the part being played by the Catholic Faith in connection with the present War. We will open with another note of consolation for our French allies—the

Religious Revival in France. One of the most remarkable examples of the change effected by the increase of religion in France is afforded by the alteration of the rules governing the admission of chaplains to military hospitals. The Minister for War, M. Millerand, has himself stated the position in an official circular dated October 1, 1914. “By the terms of the regulations in force, and particularly of the circulars of November 15 and January 24, 1906, ministers of religion specially approved by the military authority to exercise the duties of the ministry in the hospitals under the Department of War, are allowed to enter the hospitals only at the express wish, in each particular instance, of the sick man or of his family.” This meant that the sick man had to sign a formal written declaration before being allowed to receive the visit of a priest, and

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moreover this formality had to be repeated as often as he wished to see one. M. Millerand continues: “The Government desires to assure to every soldier the right to practise his religion as he sees fit. I have decided, in consequence, that, throughout the duration of the War, ministers of religion approved of individually by the local military authority will be authorized, without having to prove that they have been specially asked for, to enter the military hospitals daily.” The Evening Standard (December 17, 1914) publishes the following from its Paris correspondent:— “Among the changes wrought by the war in the psychology of the average Parisian none is more noticeable than the revival of religious devotion on the part of the people who hailed with shouts of approval the warfare waged against the Church by MM. Combes and Briand. Necessity makes strange bed-fellows; but, nevertheless, it was somewhat a surprise to find in the crowds that filled all the Paris churches last Sunday—the day set by Cardinal Amette for prayer throughout France—some of the leading Radicals, their heads reverently bowed in supplication, their attitude that of profound faith. The words of Cardinal Amette—who said that while Our Lady of Victories is also Our Lady of Peace, no peace but one worthy of France and her Allies could, and should, be concluded—have found a ready echo in the hearts of Parisians, and the days when the sight of a curé provoked ridicule and abuse have, apparently, passed, never to return.” “Being Sunday, we went to the Church of St. Jacques, an old Gothic building, and were greatly struck by the large numbers of French officers and men present at Mass. This was also the case when in Paris a few days previously I was passing ‘Notre Dame des Victoires,’ and, seeing the crowds going in and out, I myself entered. The spectacle was a memorable one. The great dim aisles were thronged with reverent worshippers, hundreds, even thousands, of candles burning brightly in the obscurity around the 38

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altar of Our Lady of Victories. To whatever faith we may belong, it is impossible to fail to be deeply touched by the wave of religious devotion that is at present sweeping over this country and the knowledge that over two thousand priests are fighting in the ranks of the French Army” (Westminister Gazette, January 27th). Describing a Mass in the cathedral at Nancy for the repose of the souls of those who have fallen on the battle-field, the Times special correspondent says:— “In all this there was nothing different from what must always be seen in any country at a time of national mourning. But there was something else. It was a time and an occasion, not only of national mourning, but of national pride. And it was also an occasion and a proof of national unity. In the choir just within the rails of the chancel was the Prefect of Meurthe and Moselle. To an Englishman that may not sound in any way remarkable. But the French congregation knew what his presence there meant. It is probably the first time for at least fifteen years that a Prefect, wearing his official uniform, has taken part in a religious service. That is what has been done for France by the war and the sacrifice of its soldiers’ lives.”

The Soldier-priests. Writing in the Daily Chronicle (February 10th) Mr. Philip Gibbs says:— “The priest-soldier in France is a spiritual influence among his comrades, so that they fight with nobler motives than that of bloodlust.… A young priest who says his prayers before lying down on his straw mattress or in the mud of his trench puts a check upon blasphemy, and his fellows—anti-clericals perhaps in the old days, or frank materialists—watch him curiously, and are thoughtful after their watchfulness. It is easy to see that he is eager to give

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up his life as a sacrifice to the God of his faith. His courage has something supernatural in it, and he is careless of death.” “We are very ready,” the Gaulois says, “to speak ill of the Jesuits, and to charge them with all sorts of misdemeanours, and with every kind of intrigue. This is how they have been intriguing, and the nature of their misdeeds: ‘Of 502 Jesuits who became French soldiers when war was declared, forty-two have been killed by the enemy, ten are reported “missing,” nineteen are prisoners of war, six have received the Cross of the Legion of Honour, six have received the Medaille Militaire, one has received the Russian Cross of St. George, and another the Medaille des Epidémies. Finally, thirty of these Jesuits have been mentioned in dispatches [cités à l’ordre du jour]’ ” (Westminster Gazette, July 13th).

Another Priest-hero. The story of the Abbé Armand, in the 14th Battalion of the Chasseurs Alpins, is that of a hero. A simple man, he used to open his heart to his rough comrades, and often in the trenches, under shell fire, he would recite the Psalms in a clear voice, so that they could hear him. On November 17th, to the south of Ypres, his company was selected to hold a dangerous position, swept by the heavy guns of the Germans and near the enemy’s trenches. All day until the evening the priest and his comrades stayed there, raked by a hideous shell fire. At last nearly all the men were killed, and on his side of the emplacement the Abbé Armand was left with only two men alive. He signalled the fact to those below by raising three fingers, but shortly afterwards a bullet struck him so that he fell and another hit him in the stomach. It was impossible to send help to him at the time, and he died half an hour later on the tumulus, surrounded by the dead bodies of his comrades. They buried him up there, and that night his loss was mourned, not without tears, by many rough soldiers who had loved the man for his cheeriness, and 40

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honoured him for the simple faith which seemed to put a glamour about the mud-stained uniform of a soldier of France. The Abbé Bertrand, vicar of St. Germain de Coulamer, was mobilized on the outbreak of war, and for his gallantry in the field promoted successively to the ranks of sergeant, sergeantmajor, sub-lieutenant, and lieutenant. He fell on November 4th, at the battle of Audrechy, leading his men to the assault. A few days before his death he wrote: “I always look upon this war as an expiation, and I am proud to be a victim.” And again: “Oh, how cold the rain is, and how severe the weather! For our faith in France I have offered God to let me be wet and soaked to the very bones.”

How Father Finn Died. The first British chaplain to fall at the post of duty was Father Finn, of the Middlesbrough diocese, whose heroic death in the Dardanelles operations is thus recorded in the Daily News (June 7th):— “The losses sustained by the Dublins and King’s Own Scottish Borderers in the Dardanelles have been greatly felt by the many friends of these two regiments in Cairo, where they did garrison duty some five or six years ago, but perhaps no death has been more keenly felt than that of Father Finn, the Roman Catholic chaplain, who was so well liked in English circles here. “Father Finn was one of the first to give his life in the landing at Sedd-ul-Bahr. In answer to the appeals that were made to him not to leave the ship, he replied, ‘A priest’s place is beside the dying soldier,’ whereupon he stepped on to the gangway, immediately receiving a bullet through the chest. Undeterred, he made his way across the lighters, receiving another bullet in the thigh, and still another in the leg. By the time he reached the beach he was literally riddled with bullets, but in spite of the great pain he must have been

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suffering he heroically went about his duties, giving consolation to the dying troops. It was while he was in the act of attending to the spiritual requirements of one of his men that the priest’s head was shattered by shrapnel.” A noble sense of duty; and a fine end. May he rest in peace!

A Ger man Priest’s Bravery. T.P.’s Journal of Great Deeds relates the following story of priestly courage in the enemy’s lines:— “I went to occupy a trench from which the Germans had lately been evicted. It was quite dark, and on entering the trench at the head of my party I heard some one talking in a low voice. I crept forward as quietly as I could, and saw what I imagined must be a doctor supporting the head of a wounded man. I called upon him to surrender, and he held up a crucifix towards me, so I knew he must be a priest. The priest was giving absolution to a dying Bavarian, who expired a few minutes later. I went up to the priest, who, however, could not understand English or French. I know very little German—only a few words in fact; so we fell back on Latin, in which tongue we held a short and very halting conversation. As far as I could make out, he said that the Germans were suffering much from sickness, and he disliked the Prussians most cordially. Eventually I allowed him to return to the German trenches, which I expect and hope that he reached in safety. The courage of the German priest in remaining to give absolution to his dying countrymen surpasses anything Ï have heard myself in the course of the present war, as he must have known that he would fall into the hands not of British soldiers, who might possibly have respected his calling, but into those of men who must have been represented to him as barbarous savages.”

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