Rev. Frank Ford – Dear Mrs Glenn …
Mrs Glenn was mother to Reginald, who lived through the War and to a good old age.This letter below is from Reg’s front-line Chaplain, the Rev. Frank Ford, to Mrs Glenn – it seems that they had met at some time.
We don’t know who is the officer who wrote the poem included later in the letter, or whether the poem was, indeed, ever published!
Judith Lovely – “Oh What a Lovely War” cast member
(Click on the lower two letters for larger images)
Mar 14th 1917
Dear Mrs Glenn
Your good son has just been into my billet for a chat and this has given me an inspiration to send you a few lines. This letter requires no answer – I just thought you would like to know that we are now almost away from the sound of guns and also enjoying the greater comfort of billets. I am hoping to have a few rides on my splendid mare and you can think of the boys (illegible) our band again in the evenings and having tea with the Padre. We have had an exciting but very interesting time lately and for the greater part of the time we have living in German dug-outs. I went forward to keep an officer company several hours before the Battn and found many souvenirs which I have since sent to Mother. Mother is ill and I shall soon try to get leave now that I am not likely to be urgently needed for a time. It is a very trying time for Mothers but they would be very much consoled if they could half realise what we think about HOME out here!
Of course I cannot discuss the military situation but I may say that whatever recent happenings may mean, it has certainly added a new confidence to our lads, that is, the mere fact of having seen what our artillery fire can do. It is a mystery to us all how the enemy has managed to live so long in such places – we seem to want a stronger word than ‘destruction’ to express what we have seen. I have been with the lads all the time and I am sure that when we meet after the war, our experiences of the past week especially will be chatted over again & again. In the dug-out which I shared with the doctor we found among other attractive things 3 boxes of dynamite already detonated, which needless to say, we had removed speedily!! This was not uncommon. The Hun is a crafty old boy isn’t he? However I think we are up to his tricks now and he is undoubtedly feeling our superiority, though progress must necessarily be slow in modern warfare! I may not say more.
One little incident you will appreciate. When crossing ‘No man’s land’ with another officer we saw the dead of last years fight near the German wire. It was a heart-rending sight. The skeletons of heroes lying just as they fell because until now it has been impossible to get them in. To have attempted it so near the enemy lines would have resulted only in the loss of many other brave lives.
Chaplains who work always behind the lines will now come and collect and bury these lads. As a Chaplain of the line my work lies further forward! I was rather touched when my officer companion asked me specially to do something for these dead. He said I know others are coming to bury them in a selected place but I want our padre to something for them for me. At a suitable time Reg went with me and I said prayers for the repose of their souls and we stood (with an A & M hymn-book between us), amongst these heroes and sang together No 499 ?On the Resurrection morning? Poor Reg was very touched by this but he goes everywhere with me!
The morning after, they were buried in snow. Please keep this poem for Reg: It is the work of the officer who made the request
There they lay, as for months they had lain
In ‘No man’s land’ of the [Picardy] Marshy plain
Two long waves by the German wire
Advancing, caught by machine-gun fire.
With bowéd head and lips closed tight
We passed, deep moved by the tragic sight
Then, voicing the wish of the rest, one said
Oh Padre, pray for these heroes dead.
At break of dawn, to our surprise
The world was white before our eyes
A Mighty hand in answer spread
A pure white mantle o’er the dead.
The word Marshy in line 2 is a substitute for a place name which Reg will alter someday.
(Written in another hand) PICARDY
Please do not allow this poem to be copied because it will one day be published and it was given to me as a special favour.
Well, we are away from such sights now. I hope the papers will come through for Reg soon, though but it will be (illegible)???????????loss for me. How I shall miss his dear old smiling face! In the meantime think of us all enjoying happy times for a while.
Kindest regards to all.
Yours very sincerely
REV. FRANK FORD
CHAPLAIN TO THE FORCES