05 June 1917

Archive Ref: IE IJA /J2/83_Letter to his Father_ (140) (6/6)

8th R. Dub. Fusiliers

5/6/17

My Dearest Father,

We came back to” reserve “ on Sunday morning the 3rd , after a rather strenuous time of sixteen days at the front, more than usually trying for want of sleep. The mass for the men was not til mid-day. I had planned a glorious “soak” in the convent and unblinking gluttonous feast of blankets for the poor old tired ‘ oss. Once again Le Bon Dieu was good to me, this time in the best of all ways by quietly upsetting all my plans. By some misunderstanding my orderly did not meet me as arranged and I had to march home with my heavy pack ( of sins) on my back instead of riding. I reached my billet at 2 am only to find that someone had locked the door of my room and there was no getting in.

I had not the heart to waken up the poor man after all when one is fast asleep is not a hard plank just as soft as a feather bed ? You see I am becoming a bit of a philosopher. The next morning I led mass in a field close to the camp. I wish you could have seen the men as they knelt in a hollow

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square round the improvised altar, brilliant sunshine over head and the soft green of Spring about them. They looked so happy, those lads as I went down one line and up the other giving them the “ bread of the Strong”, and I could not help thinking of another scene long ago when Our Lord made the multitude sit down upon the grass and fed them miraculously with the seven loaves.

Before got to the end of my 700 communions I felt wondrous pity for the twelve apostles for they must have been jolly tired also.

At present I am living in the camp, which is further back even than the convent, out in the green fields of the country, most peaceful and restful. I have a little tent to myself but have but have rosary, mass, confessions out in the open. The men have absolutely no human respect and kneel in rows waiting for their turn “ to scrape”, as if they were in the church at home, paying no heed to the endless stream of traffic. I am sure non Catholics must wonder what on Earth we are at.

Thank you ever so much for sending the letters to Fr Brennen has always been a good kind friend to me and I know he is anxious to know of my doings.

I am grateful, too, for your friend: criticism and words of praise.as I said to Mai recently I often wonder what you can find interesting in these hastily scrawled letters, so that you have given me such encouragement to continue in the hope that they will give you all pleasure.

I have no further news to give to you nor do we know anything about our future movements. We may remain

 Here a considerable time and possibly receive orders march elsewhere, in which case I shall send a post card as often as I can, if it is only an official printed one, to let you know I am well “as this leaves me at present “

There is a letter of mine in last weeks “Irish Catholic about “Masses for our Dead Soldiers”

It is on the inside leader page + may interest you. I think the date is May 25th,

Au revior

As ever dearest Father

Your own loving

Will

there was really little danger, as shell holes were plentiful, but not a little consolation when I buried the dead the next day to think that none of them had died without absolution. I was more afraid getting back into our own trenches, for sentries seeing a man coming from the direction of Hunland do not bother much about asking questions and object to nocturnal visitors,

The following night May 24th , my own Dubs made another attack. Nothing of great interest happened except this., I told them it was a lucky night for such dangerous work as it was the Feast of “ Our Lady Help of Christians,” and Mary would surely help and protect them. Our Blessed Lady’ s mantle must be well mended by this, for not only did the raiding party return but there was not a single casualty either in the front or rear trenches in spite of the heaviest shelling I have seen for along time. I fancy Mary and all the Blessed in heaven will be very glad when the war is over as they must be working overtime to safeguard us from danger.

One German prisoner, badly wounded in the leg, was brought in. He knew only a few words of English but spoke French fluently.I tried to do all I can for the unfortunate prisoners sometimes not much

 

sympathy is shown them and they have evidently been drilled into believing that we promptly roast + eat them alive. I gave him a drink, made him as comfortable as possible and then seeing a rosary in his pocket asked him was he a Catholic.” I am a Catholic priest I said “and you need not have any fear,” a! monsieur” he replied “ vous etes un vrai pretre”( you are a true priest), I suppose he was thinking of the gentlemen in the gospel who left the bleeding man lying on the road and went on his way, which shows that even the maligned Hun can be grateful too. He gave me his home address in Germany and asked me to write to his parents. “Poor Father and Mother will be uneasy “,he said, as his eyes filled with tears.“ O mon dieu, how I am suffering but I offer it all up to you.”

I hope to get a letter through by means of the Swiss red cross which will be a comfort to his anxious parents who seem good pious souls.

I am going to take time by the for lock and get in an hours sleep while I have the chance. Much love to everyone and may God bless you all

As Ever Dearest Father

Your loving son

Willie.