With Our Soldiers in France
WITH THE BRITISH ARMY
In sheltered America we cannot realize what war means, but when we entered the warring countries of Europe, in an instant we were in a different atmosphere. We landed in England upon a darkened coast, we entered a darkened train, where every blind was drawn lest it furnish a guide to London for invading Zeppelins or aeroplanes. We passed through gloomy towns and villages, where not a single light was showing from a window, where every street lamp and railway station was darkened or hidden. Automobiles with a dim spark of light groped through the black streets of the metropolis.
In London we saw a great Zeppelin brought down in flames. It was a sight never to be forgotten. At half-past two in the morning we were awakened by the roar of the anti-aircraft guns in and around the city. After traveling all night from Germany, one Zeppelin had arrived over London and a whole fleet of them was scattered over the coasts and counties of England.
We sprang to the window and found the sky swept by a score of searchlights with their great shafts of piercing light, shooting from the dark depths of the city high into the sky, where they all converged on a single bright object that hung nine thousand feet above us. Long, and shining like silver with its flashing aluminum, the Zeppelin seemed held as if blinded by the fierce light. Bombs were dropping from it and explosions followed in rapid succession in the city beneath.
It was a battle to the death, high in the air with all London looking on. The guns were in full play and the shell and shrapnel were bursting all about the Zeppelin. Sometimes you could trace the whole trajectory of a projectile, as a spark of light swept through the sky toward the Zeppelin and then burst to the right or left, above or below it. Most of the shots seemed to go wide of the mark. More than a score of aeroplanes had been sent up to attack it, with one plane to guide the rest and signal to the guns below by wireless or lights. The battle finally developed into a duel to the death between the machine guns of the Zeppelin and Lieutenant Robinson of the Flying Corps, who was up for two hours in his aeroplane after the enemy---one man fighting for a city of five millions. He attacked from below and bombs were thrown at his plane; then he attacked from the side as he circled about the monster, but he was driven off by their machine guns. At last, mounting high in the sky, he attacked from above. The guide-plane flashed down the signal for the guns to cease firing and give him a chance.
For a few moments all was silent; the battle seemed to be over. The great airship, which had swung sharply to the left, was triumphantly leaving for home. Then it was that Robinson dropped his incendiary bomb. Suddenly there was an explosion. A flame of burning gas leaped into the sky. London was lit up for ten miles round about. Our room was instantly as bright as though a searchlight had flashed into the window.
Far above us was the Zeppelin in flames. Now it began to sink---first it was in a blaze of white light, then its outline turned to a dull red, finally it crumpled to a glowing cinder, sank from sight, and fell crashing to the earth. Then all was dark again. Death had fallen suddenly upon the men in the Zeppelin and upon some in the sleeping city below.
As we drove through London we passed the draper's shop, near St. Paul's Cathedral, where George Williams and a group of twelve young men met in a little upper room on June 6, 1844, to organize the first Young Men's Christian Association. A dozen young men with little wealth, influence, or education might not seem a very formidable force, but twelve men have upset the world and changed the course of history before now. They had only thirteen shillings, or $3.25, in the treasury, and were too poor even to print and send out a circular announcing their little organization. But George Williams brought his fist down on the table, with the confident words, "If this movement is of God, the money will come."
It has come. The twelve men have been multiplied now to a million and a half, scattered in forty lands. Girded with new strength and with the dauntless optimism of youth, the movement has risen up to minister not only to the millions of British and American soldiers and munition workers, but also to the men in the camps, hospitals, or prisons in most of the nations now at war. The thirteen shillings have been multiplied until now the permanent Y M CA buildings are worth over a hundred million dollars. An average of two new huts or centers have been erected and opened by the British or American Associations every day since war was declared; while two permanent buildings in brick or stone rise each week in some part of the world.
Wars are the birth-pangs of new eras. A new day dawned for the Young Men's Christian Association with the present war. At midnight on August 4, 1914, the British Association as it had been for seventy years was buried and forgotten, and a new movement arose on the ruins of the old. Ninety per cent of its former workers left to join the colors, but a new army of over thirty thousand men and women was mustered and trained within its huts for the service of the British soldiers. The Y M C A had suddenly to "think imperially," and to minister to a world at war.
Seventy years ago George Williams was the man of the hour, but a leader of the British war work of the Y M C A was found in the present crisis in the person of Mr. A. K. Yapp, General Secretary of the National Council of Great Britain, who has recently been knighted by virtue of his distinguished service for the nation. He had spent Sunday, August second, in deep searching of heart and had caught a vision of what the war would mean, and the opportunity that would be presented to an organization that was interdenominational,. international, readily mobile, and adaptable enough instantly to meet a great national crisis.
Within a fortnight the British army and the whole British navy were mobilized for war. During that time the Y M C A was represented in four-fifths of the camps of the territorial forces and 250 centers were opened. In six months 500 centers were occupied; at the end of the first year there were 1,000, and after two years of the war 1,500 such centers were in full swing. The area of operations includes the British Isles, Egypt, the Dardanelles, Malta, the Mediterranean ports, India, Mesopotamia, East and South Africa, Canada, Australia, and out to the last limits of Britain's far flung battle line.
The Y M C A has a strong homing instinct, aiming to provide "a home away from home." In the dugouts behind the trenches, in the deserts of Egypt, or in the jungles of Africa, it has been forced to make a home in every kind of shelter. It was significant that its first three successive dwelling places seventy years ago were a little bedroom, a coffee house, and a room in a tavern. During the present war, one may see Associations in actual operation along the fighting line in France, in a cowshed, a pigsty, a stable, a hophouse, dugouts under the earth; in battered and ruined buildings in Flanders; in tents in the Sahara and on the ancient Peninsula of Mt. Sinai; at the bases of the big battle fleets; in the rest houses of the flying corps; on the Bourse in Cairo; in hotels taken over in Switzerland and France, and in the great Crystal Palace of London. In four centers it has used and transformed a brewery, a saloon, a theater, and a museum. Its dwellings stretch away from the tents of "Cæsar's Camp," where the Roman Julius landed in 55 B. C., on the southern shores of Britain, to the far north, in the new naval institute at Invergordon, erected for the sailors of the Grand Fleet at a cost of more than $20,000. They range from the battered dugouts at the front in France to the Shakespeare hut in London, costing more than $30,000. They stretch from the rest huts of the great metropolis, with sleeping and feeding accommodations for some ten thousand men a day during the dangerous period of leave in London, away to the hut in "Plug Street" Woods, recently blown to atoms by a shell, where the secretary escaped by a few seconds and returned to find literally nothing left save the rims of his spectacles and two coins melted and fused together by the terrific heat of the explosion. Several of the secretaries and workers have been killed by shell fire, or in transit by torpedoes from submarines, while other Association men have received the Victoria Cross for heroism in action.
Let us visit a typical hut to grasp the significance of its work, in order that we may realize what is going on in the fifteen hundred similar centers. We are on the great Salisbury Plain, in the midst of thirty miles square of weltering mud during the long winter months. To realize what a hut means to the men in such a place, we must understand the unnatural situation created by the conditions of war. Here are multitudes of men far from home, shut out from the society of all good women, taken away from their church and its surroundings, weary and wet with marching and drilling, often lonely and dejected, in an atmosphere of profanity and obscenity in the cheerless barrack rooms, and tempted by the animal passions which are always loosed in wartime. The men need all the help we can give them now, and need it desperately.
Now can you measure just what a big warm hut means to these men as a home, far away from home? The red triangle at the entrance gleams across the whole camp and stands for the three things the soldier most needs.
It stands, in the first place, as a pledge for supplying the physical need of these hungry, lonely, and fiercely tempted men. A dry shelter, a warm fire, a cheerfully lighted room, the bursts of song, and the hum of conversation make the men forget the wind and rain and mud outside. Supper and a hot cup of coffee satisfy their hunger. On the notice-board is the announcement of the outdoor sports, football tournaments, and the games, where the thirty thousand men of the division will compete in open contest on the coming Saturday, under the direction of the Y M C A. Whatever the soldier needs for his physical life, whether it is to eat or to sleep, a bed in London, a cool drink in the thirsty desert, or hot coffee in the trenches, it is furnished for him by the Association.
The hut also provides for the soldier's intellectual and social needs. The piano and the phonograph, the billiard tables, draughts and chess boards, tables for games, library, and reading room keep him busy; and the concerts, stimulating lectures, moving pictures, educational classes, and debating societies provide him with recreational and mental employment.
The far deeper moral and spiritual needs of the soldier are also met. As the evening draws to a close, one sees the secretary in his military uniform stand up on the table; hats are off and heads are bowed at the call for evening prayers, which are held here every night. On Sunday the parade services of the different denominations take place in turn in the Association hut. Weekly voluntary religious meetings are also held. At one end of the building is the "quiet room," where groups of Christian soldiers can meet for Bible classes or for prayer. At regular intervals evangelistic meetings are held. On our last night at this hut, on a Sunday evening, twelve hundred men gathered to listen to the Christian message.
Of the three bars of the triangle, it is this which stands at the top, which unites the other two and which is the dominating factor of the whole. And yet nowhere is religion forced down the throats of the men. Rather it is the aim to make it the unconscious atmosphere of the whole hut. It is a striking fact, to which every soldier will testify, that while the language of the barrack room and beer canteen is often reeking with the profane and the obscene, the whole tone of the Association hut is entirely different. As one soldier says: "You don't realize the enormous difference of atmosphere between this and any other place where soldiers congregate. A man simply does not talk bad language and filth here; he learns to control himself." Thus the threefold work of the Association stands for the whole man and for the whole manhood of the nation.
In many ways the Y M C A hut seeks to meet the soldier's every need.
1. It is his club, where he meets his comrades and in the freedom and friendship of the place forgets the irksome drill, the endless restraints, and the stern discipline of military life.
2. As we have already seen, it is his home, the place where he writes his letters and keeps in touch with his family and distant friends. Nearly twenty million pieces of stationery are sent out free for the soldiers each month from the London central office, and the sign of the red triangle on the letter head brings weekly joy and cheer to the broken circle in the distant home. It is here that the lad is helped to "keep the home fires burning" in his heart and to hold true to those high ideals. One little girl when visiting the Crystal Palace, upon seeing the sign of the red triangle, said: "My daddy always makes that mark on his letters when he writes to us at home."
3. It is his church, for out on the desert, or in the jungle, or at the front, there is usually no other church building for religious services. The following is taken from a typical Sunday program in one of the huts: "6:30 a. m., Roman Catholic Mass; 7:30 Nonconformist service; 9:00 Anglican service; 2-3 p. m., Bible class; 6:45-8 United Song Service." Thus each denomination is allowed to have its own service in its own way on Sunday morning, while the evening meeting is interdenominational and open to all.
In one place where the young Hebrews were being sadly neglected and were falling away from their former moral standards, the secretary arranged with the Jewish rabbi to have a weekly service in the Y M C A tent for his men. It has been held ever since. The Jews of the neighboring city were so grateful that they started a campaign to raise a fund of $10,000 for Y M C A huts. The Rev. Michael Adler, the head Jewish rabbi with the forces in France, has time and again expressed his cordial appreciation of the help rendered to the men of his faith. The doors of the Association will always remain open for men of all creeds. As wide as the needs of men, as broad as democracy, as unified as humanity, and as tolerant as its Lord and Master, the movement will ever aim to be.
4. The Association hut is the soldier's school. Here his classes are held. A program taken at random from a single hut will show the scope of a week's work: "Bible classes; religious services; lecture on The Town Where We Are; lecture on South America; lantern lecture on Russia; debating society; impromptu speeches; history class."
5. The Association hut is also his place of rest, and the shop where he buys his supplies. Here he can procure almost anything he needs that is decent, and read anything that is wholesome. Usually this hut is the only clean place of recreation in the camp, and without it he is left to choose between the cheerless tent and the beer canteen.
6. The Y M C A is the center of his recreation and his entertainment bureau. Under the leadership of Miss Lena Ashwell and scores of others, concerts and entertainment parties have been organized and have toured continuously in France, Great Britain, Egypt, and the more distant camps. The six artists of each party are received with tremendous enthusiasm and become the fast friends of Tommy Atkins. One writes: "Last time the party came here the press of men waiting on the verandah to go into the second performance was so great that our brand new verandah collapsed with the sound of a bomb explosion! Luckily the mass was so tightly packed that they fell through in a solid heap; no one was hurt, and all were able to enjoy the concert thoroughly."
7. It is the soldier's bank, and his postoffice. We were in one hut alone where more than fifteen thousand dollars were on deposit in the savings bank. The sale of stamps in this hut amounts to fifteen hundred dollars a month, and of postal orders for the remittance of money home to more than four thousand dollars. Every week an average of 28,000 letters are written and posted in this one room, while thousands more are received and handed to the men.
8. The Association is the soldier's friend and tourist guide, while he is visiting London, Paris, or the other great cities. In some places one table is set apart where a chaplain or secretary is always on duty to help the soldiers make their wills, find out their trains to London, answer their questions, or give them the friendly help they need.
The Y M C A stands by the soldier to the last and even after he falls. After the boy has fought his last fight and lies wounded or crippled or dying in the hospital in France, it meets his parents and relatives and provides for their entire stay in the country. Each relative of the wounded proceeding to France receives printed instructions from the War Office that the Y M C A will meet all the boats and provide transportation and accommodations for all who need it while at the front. Our friend , Mr. Geddes, broke down as he tried to tell us how he and his wife had been met on the lonely shores of France by the Y M C A, secretary and motored quickly to the bedside of their dying son, only to find that they were just too late. The funeral was arranged, even to the providing of flowers. The last ministry was performed for the young man away from home and for the loved ones left behind, under the triangle that will forevermore be red.
Thus the Association is at once the soldier's club, his home, his church, his school, his place of rest, his entertainment bureau, his bank and postoffice, his tourist guide, and the friend that stands by him and his bereaved parents at the last. Fifteen hundred just such huts and centers stretch away from Scotland to East Africa, from France to Mesopotamia, from Egypt to India. Could any other single organization have met all these needs of the men under arms, mobilized so quickly, united all denominations, entered all lands, and embraced all forms of work secular and religious?
We conducted meetings for several months throughout the camps in the British Isles. At our last parade service with the brigade out in the open field there were several thousand seated on the grass, with their eight bands drawn up in front. In every service the battle was on between good and evil, between God and mammon, between sacrifice and sin.
One night we visited the sailors' training camp. It was a great meeting, with two thousand of the sailor boys crowded in a big theater. The concert was going on when we arrived and the jeers and yells of the crowd drowned some of the voices of the performers; it was evident that we were going to have a hard time to hold the audience. Captain "Peg" stepped to the stage and soon had/ them singing, "We'll Never Let the Old Flag Fall." Roars of applause followed and they clamored for more. Out in the glare of the footlights and looking into that sea of faces, we began to fight for that audience. There were two thousand tempted men whom we should never see again. In five minutes the whole theater was hushed---you could hear a pin drop. After half an hour the meeting was interrupted by the noise of the band outside. Surely the men will bolt and leave the meeting. We said to them: "Boys, there is the band. Let everybody go now who wants to go! We are going on. Every man that wants to make the fight for character, the fight for purity with the help of Jesus Christ, stay with us here." There was a shout from the audience, and not a man left the theater. The band thundered on, but the crowd was with us now, and the hopes of hundreds of hearts for the things that are eternal surged to the surface. Several hundred men signed the War Roll, pledging their allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. One sailor boy came up to thank us, saying that he had all but fallen the week before; and simply for the lack of a sixpence he had been saved from sin. With God's help he would now live for Christ. Another came up who had been drinking heavily and had quarreled with his wife. He did not have the price of a postage stamp to write to her. He wanted to know how he could be saved from drink. Man after man came forward, hungry for human help and longing for a better life.
Fig. 3. HARRY LAUDER SINGING AT Y.M.C.A. MEETING.
The officer seated at the extreme right is Captain "Peg".
On another occasion we were with the army of Australian and New Zealand troops, as they were marching by the King at their last review before going to the front. Fortunately, we had secured standing room near the King's side, where we could watch every smile and action as he saluted each passing battalion, and we could even hear him speak a kind word now and then to some officer. There were generals to the right of us and to the left of us, colonels, majors, captains, officers of every rank, and prominent civilians; but the greatest man on that field was the soldier himself. With what a swing those clean-cut young Australian boys marched past; every man was a volunteer and part of that great first army of over four millions of men who came forward for the defense of the Empire without conscription.
Hundreds were playing in the massed bands, as the long file of men marched by. But time and again the firm columns seemed to fade before us, and we could not see them for tears, as we realized that many of these brave boys were going forward to die for us. Above, a great aeroplane was looping the loop and warplanes were darting to and fro.
Away on the horizon stood the great boulders of Stonehenge, erected long before the time of the Saxons, the Britons, or even the ancient Druids, by the sun-worshippers, who offered their human sacrifices on the ancient altar there nearly forty centuries before. We looked at those stones, where through a mistaken conception of God and an inadequate conception of man, human sacrifices were offered long ago. Suddenly we heard the crack of the rifles of a body of troops at practice, moving forward in open line of battle. Today, through a mistaken conception of God and a low conception of man, over 5,000,000 of men have already been killed, offered in human sacrifice; while many millions in lands devastated are homeless, starving, or ruined in body or soul----these are part of the offering, forced upon humanity by a godless materialism, while a divided Christian Church stands by impotent.
Let us now visit Egypt where we shall witness very different scenes. Away on the distant horizon are the two triangular points, which grow as we approach into the outlines of the great pyramids. Beyond are the fifty-eight centers which have risen along the banks of the Nile, in the metropolis of Cairo, and in the harbors of Port Said and Alexandria, and which line the Suez Canal and dot the desert even out into the peninsula of Mt. Sinai. The sun is setting as we climb the great pyramid, which stands a silent witness to forty centuries of history which have ebbed and flowed at its base, but surely no stranger sight has it ever seen than these armed camps about it, engaged in this titanic struggle of the world. Away to the south towards far Khartoum, like a green ribbon in the yellow desert, stretches the irrigated basin of the Nile. Beyond it is the bottomless burning sand of the Sahara.
Here on the site of Napoleon's ancient battlefield is the largest concentration camp in Egypt. The white tents of the Australasians shelter a population as numerous as many a city, with three Association buildings for the men. From out the great pyramid there is a constant stream of soldiers passing to and fro. And there under the shadow of the Sphinx are two more Y M C A huts. Jessop, the former secretary at Washington, has been in charge here, with a large staff of secretaries from Australia and New Zealand. General Sir Archibald Murray, in command of the Egyptian Expeditionary Forces, says: "First of all, the men must have mess huts; then we want the Y M C A."
Cairo is the throbbing center of Egypt's life, where vice does not lurk in secret, but flaunts itself in open effrontery. Our secretaries have been at work there in the long lines of men that stand outside the places of vice, handing them Testaments and urging them to come away. The Y M C A has taken over a large amusement center in the Ezbekieh Gardens in the very heart of Cairo; and in spite of the public saloon nearby, with its attraction of music and wine, from two hundred to two thousand men are constantly thronging the Association rooms. The attractive equipment of a garden, an open-air theater, a skating rink, baths, supper counters, and a meeting place, but most of all the personal touch of the two earnest secretaries, make the whole work effective. The Association has also rented the spacious Bourse, where it houses several hundred men who are in the city on short leave, while its lobby is used for concerts and entertainments. During the last action five of the Y M C A huts on the Canal Zone were under fire. But there is no day passes but that the men under canvas in this hot land of Egypt are under fire from temptations more deadly than Turkish bullets.
Leaving Egypt, we passed over the hot and stifling Red Sea, across the Indian Ocean, toward the sunny plains of India. Away from the snowy ridge of the Himalayas, down across the bare plains of the north and the rice fields and cocoanut palms of the tropic south, India lies like a vast continent, embracing one-fifth of the human race. It was held before the war by some 75,000 British and twice as many Indian troops. The numbers are completely altered now. Almost the whole regular force, both Indian and British, are away fighting in Mesopotamia, East Africa, France, and Egypt, while a new territorial force of Kitchener's army of London clerks and English civilians has taken its place.
One hundred and fifty secretaries in India were ready upon the outbreak of the war. All across India the Y M C A has opened huts, buildings, or tents for the territorial and other forces.(1) A writer in the Journal of the Royal Sussex Regiment, at Bangalore, said: "Somehow the very letters, Y M C A have gathered to themselves an implication of comfort, pleasure, and welcome; we instinctively feel among friends."
We visited one night the great tent generously given by the Viceroy for the work of the territorials in Delhi. General Sir Percy Lake took the chair and the men gathered in the large marquee for the meeting. Sherwood Day, of Yale, had been in charge of this work during the Winter, providing a home for the men of the territorials in this ancient Indian capital. A series of lectures by leading Indians served to interpret Indian life and thought to these soldiers, who were seeing at once the needs and greatness of the Indian Empire at first hand, while leading Indian Christians of the type of Mr. K. T. Paul, Dr. Datta, and Bishop Azariah told them the fascinating story of Indian missions and the history of Christianity in Asia. A new sense of race brotherhood is taking the place of the old antagonism and prejudice, and Indian secretaries stationed with English Tommies have become exceedingly popular with them.
From India as a base, the Association has gone forward with the advancing columns into Mesopotamia and East Africa. As we cross the Persian Gulf and follow the winding courses of the Tigris and the Euphrates up into the heart of Mesopotamia, we find a group of Princeton men and some sixty secretaries stationed here with the troops, under Leonard Dixon of Canada. The men affectionately call him the "padre"; anyone who has ever boxed with Dixon and felt the force of his right, knows that he is a man who has both drive and "punch." The troops in Mesopotamia have been fighting often under terrible conditions, marching through ooze and slime, drinking the yellow unfiltered water, decimated by the attacks both of sickness and of the enemy. In summer the alkali dust lies four inches deep on the floors of their tents, and the thermometer stands at 120" in the sultry shade. Dixon racked his brain to provide recreation and helpful entertainment for these hard fighting men. A bioscope, competitive concerts, a Christmas tree, a New Year's treat, football and hockey tournaments, and entertainments of various kinds have been improvised to make the men forget the awful hardship of the march and of the battle. On Sunday the writing tables are full from dawn till dark and tons of stationery have been used to keep these men in touch with their distant homes.
The secretaries have been kept busy handling the big convoys of wounded as they come down the rivers in the boats from the fighting at the front. One colonel got up from his sick bed to give his testimony unasked as to what the work of the Association had meant to these wounded men. He said that it was not only the big kettles of hot coffee and the caldrons of soup which the secretaries brought aboard the boats, not only the warm blankets, beef tea, and other comforts which had helped the men so much, but the fact that when those men entered that barge with its weight of human suffering and misery, it seemed that the touch of Another hand unseen was resting on the hot brow and feverish pulse of those wounded soldiers.
Bovia McLain, an American secretary, gives us a glimpse of a night on a hospital barge, with a cold wind and rain-storm. sweeping down the river. The canvas tarpaulin began to leak like a sieve and most of the wounded were cold and drenched to the skin. Soon the men were lying not only under wet blankets, but actually in two or three inches of water on the undrained decks. They were packed in like sardines, without pillows or comforts. "The whole thing was ghastly and terrible. Men wanted to change their position or have a broken limb slightly moved, and a dozen other wants seemed to demand attention all at once. At times I felt the strain so that it seemed to me I could not control myself longer, but must break down and weep, it was so appalling." After the men had been made comfortable, the workers were ready in the morning with supplies of chocolate and tobacco and other luxuries. It is no wonder that up at the front when the secretary invites the men to remain for evening prayers sometimes nearly the whole battalion stays, and one can understand the new interpretation given by some soldiers to the letters Y. M. C. A.---"You Make Christianity Attractive."
When the war broke out the Association was ready to enter Africa also. With the first contingent of 60,000 South African troops a number of Y M C A secretaries were sent. They erected large marquees in local training camps, and there prepared the way for the even greater opportunity which was to follow in the East African campaign under the Northern Army. The military authorities cabled the Association headquarters at Calcutta, offering to hand over the army canteens of East Africa to the Y M C A and to cut out liquor if the Association would take them over and be responsible for the welfare work among the troops, looking after their physical, social, and moral needs. Instantly, Mr. E. C. Carter, the National Secretary of India, cabled back accepting the offer.
The first score of men were sent over to open up nineteen centers with the advancing column in the jungles of Africa. The 20,000 troops were then occupying Swakopmund, a desolate little town surrounded by a sea of burning sand. There were no trees, not a blade of grass, nor even the song of a solitary bird to relieve the monotony. The men called it "the land of sin, sand, sorrow, and sore eyes." Soon, however, the large hall of the Faber Hotel was procured, with accommodations for a thousand men. It became the social center of the whole camp. So popular was the place that the men fairly fought and struggled to get into the building. Every night at 7:30 the war telegrams were read, and as it was the only way to hear the news from the front, each tent appointed one man to be at the Y M C A at that hour. On the occasion of the opening of the work, one man wrote home: "Two great events have happened today---the Y M C A has commenced and I have had a bath." The story will never be written as to what the Association meant in the hearts of those men who laid down their lives fighting in East Africa. On the cross at the head of every grave in one section of the dark continent is the sentence: "Tell England, ye that pass by, that we who lie here, rest content." Thus, from Cairo in the north, from Swakopmund in the east, clear to Cape Town in the south, the red triangle has followed the army to its last outposts. Space will not permit us to describe the huts which have been opened at Salonica, the twelve centers at Malta, and others dotted along the ports of the Mediterranean.
A new development has now been undertaken by the Association among the thousands in the munition works in Great Britain. With the whole nation organized for war, there are millions of workers busily engaged on ten and twelve hour shifts, turning out that steady stream of munitions which must ever flow up to the guns at the front, to supply the army fighting there. Here are men. and women without the excitement and the adventure of the front, toiling all day under a strain, far removed from home, congested in unattractive surroundings, and it is of the utmost importance that these workers be kept healthful and happy.
We motored down one afternoon to see the work that is going on in the great arsenal at Woolwich. Outside, where a year ago were orchards and pastures, are long rows of permanent buildings which have sprung up on every side. To meet this situation the Y M C A has within recent months erected more than a hundred huts in the different munition centers, which can provide meals for thousands of tired workers. These huts have already placed the Association in touch with half a million workers. In the first hut we visited, three thousand of them were seated at meals in two relays, while two thousand soldiers were accommodated in the hut during the afternoon and evening. A platform at one end had been put up for musical concerts and entertainments. The price of meals varies from twelve to twenty-five cents. Lady Henry Grosvenor and other leaders have marshalled a force of fifteen hundred voluntary workers in this group of huts.
So appreciative has the government been of this new development, that in addition to providing their own government welfare workers to look after the women and girls, they are permitting the munitions manufacturers to build new Y M C A huts at government expense for the accommodation of the men. We passed down long rows of dormitories, erected almost in a night, where thousands of weary workers were sleeping during the day, preparing for their night shift. It was almost a sad sight to see whole huts filled with hundreds of boys from fourteen to sixteen years of age, all sound asleep at midday. The secretaries look after these boys in their rest and play and provide healthful surroundings, a clean moral atmosphere, and attractive religious influences.
The Young Women's Christian Association has entered the open door for work among the women. In one place where a young girl from the country had been led astray by the temptations of this new and monotonous life and had committed suicide, the Young Women's Christian Association has erected a large hut to provide for the moral welfare of thousands of other girls faced by the same temptations. Oh, the dreary drudgery that faces these tired women!
"Rattle and clatter and clank and whirr,
And thousands of wheels a-spinning---
Oh, it's dreary work and it's weary work,
But none of us all will fail or shirk;
Not women's work---that should make, not mar,
But the Devil drives when the world's at war;
And it's long and long the day is."
The Y W C A has adopted the sign of the blue triangle, to distinguish it from the red triangle of the Y M C A. The huts bore the touch of deft women's hands in the decorations, flowers, and signs of cheer and comfort which the ladies have provided for these hard worked girls. Before the huts were erected some girls had to sleep in the streets all night in the unsanitary communities about the works.
Both the government authorities and the Association workers have seen a large open door for social service among these millions of munition workers. For the work here is permanent. These great buildings will remain as manufacturing centers of some kind after the war. The huts will still be occupied. Already a new and growing body of legislation is being introduced to improve the conditions of the toilers of old England.
It is little wonder that the whole nation has responded to this work so boldly undertaken on such a large scale. From the first gifts have been pouring in unsolicited. His Majesty the King, patron of the Young Men's Christian Association in Britain, has inspected many of the buildings, and sent in his contribution, with the following note: "His Majesty congratulates the Association on the successful results of its War work, which has done everything conducive to the comfort and well-being of the armies, supplying the special and peculiar needs of men drawn from countries so different and so distant. It has worked in a practical, economical, and unostentatious manner, with consummate knowledge of those with whom it has to deal. At the same time the Association, by its spirit of discipline, has earned the respect and approbation of the Military Authorities."
The Queen Mother donated the Alexandra Hut in London, which makes provision for the accommodation of soldiers on leave in the city. She was seen recently serving tea behind the counter in the Association hut to the happy Tommies who had come back strained and tired from the front to "Blighty" once more. The Princess Victoria has been most tireless in opening Y M C A huts, and has given unsparingly of her time and effort for the men.
No one has been more appreciative than the military authorities themselves. Lord Roberts, four days before his death, wrote expressing his appreciation of the work being accomplished. His secretary adds: "He hears on all sides nothing but praise for what the Y M C A is doing at the camps." Lord Kitchener, who had inspected the huts of the Association in England, France, and Egypt, wrote: "From the first the Y M CA gained my confidence, and now I find they have earned my admiration and gratitude." Mr. Asquith, when Prime Minister, after visiting the Association huts and attending the religious meetings said: "The Y M C A is the greatest thing in Europe." Lloyd George, the present Premier, said recently: "I congratulate the Y M C A. Wherever I go I hear nothing but good of the work they are doing throughout the country, and we owe them a very deep debt of gratitude."
1. In addition to the existing work at Bangalore, Maymyo, and Poona, Association privileges have been provided for soldiers in Lahore, Delhi, Multan, Ferozepore, Jhansi, Lucknow, Mhow, Trimulgherry, Jubbulpore, Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Ahmeduagar, Rangoon, Dalhousie, Naini Tal, Karachi, Allahabad, and Jutogh. Back to text.
LIFE IN A BASE CAMP
The man who inaugurated Y M C A army work in France was Joseph Callan. In 1903 he became a secretary of the International Committee in Allahabad, North India, and later in Colombo.
Ten years ago in Bangalore he began his wonderful work for soldiers, which, in time, was to set the pace and furnish the standard for the Association work of the present war.
When the British troops were out in camp, Callan opened his big Y M C A tent and beat the army canteen in open competition, so that at the end of the maneuvers the contractors had to haul back much of the liquor unsold. While the canteen was being drained of men, Callan was running a full show almost every evening. He had powerful arc lights placed over the athletic field, and night after night tournaments were played off, company against company, regiment against regiment, until the closing hour of the canteen had passed. Lectures, moving pictures, and concerts were followed by straight religious meetings, with lasting results. The cooperation of the Bishop, clergy, and chaplains, helped to relate permanently these results to the Church.
As soon as the commanding officers saw the value of this work, they began to cooperate and insisted upon its being carried on in every camp. In the great maneuvers at Dacca, Callan was invited to Bengal to run the institutional work for the troops at the expense of the government, which he did with striking results. Each success made the work known to a widening circle of officers and men.
When the war broke out, Callan and Carter approached the Viceroy and Commander-in-Chief to ask if they could serve the Indian Army as it was to start as an expeditionary force to France. Since the Mutiny of 1857, with its religious superstition and prejudice about the greased cartridges, etc., no Christian work had been permitted in the Indian Army. Finally, however, permission was given to the Association to begin work with the troops before embarkation. Upon arrival in Bombay, our secretaries called upon the Commanding Officer, who had wired to the General at Headquarters to know what he could do to hold his discontented troops together in the flooded and crowded quarters about the docks. The general had just wired, "Consult the Y M C A and ask them to send for their army department." He had known of Callan's work at Bangalore, Dacca, and other centers, and believed it would supply just the missing link with the dissatisfied men. When our secretaries called, the Colonel had just received the telegram and was prepared to give them a chance to see what they could do for the troops.
Within twenty-four hours a work was organized which kept the sepoys occupied for all their leisure time. Football and hockey and outdoor athletics, excursions down the harbor, sea bathing, lectures, and entertainments were soon in full swing. This was the first work of the kind ever done for the Indian Army. So instantly and obviously invaluable did it become that the Commanding Officer insisted that the secretaries should accompany the troops on the long and much dreaded trip to France, which was a bold and untried venture for Indian soldiers.
It was a historic event when that great fleet of some seventy-five ships, the largest assembled since the Spanish Armada, freighted with about 25,000 troops bound for France, East Africa, and Persia, weighed anchor, and sailed out of Bombay harbor with the first twelve YMCA secretaries on board. Arrived in France, permission was finally obtained from the Commander-in-Chief to land and begin work on French soil.
Here the moral problem made the work of the Association a crying necessity. Soon there were some 25,000 Indian troops concentrated around Marseilles. These men could neither safely be let out of bounds nor kept contented within bounds. A cordon of troops around the camp could not keep vice out. The Y M C A was needed as a counter attraction. Upon an outbreak of drinking and immorality on the part of a group of Sikh soldiers, the whole garrison was called out to witness these men stripped and flogged in exemplary punishment. The Sikhs felt this to be such a public disgrace that they asked for the use of the Y M C A hut in which to hold a council meeting. They finally decided to ask one of the secretaries to address the whole body of Sikhs on the subject of intemperance and impurity, for the Association was already tacitly recognized by all as the dominant moral force in the camp.
One of the Indian secretaries, Mr. Roy, addressed the soldiers at their own request for an hour and a half, and a remarkable scene of repentance was witnessed. Men arose on all hands, confessing their sins in respect to these two special failings and requested that penalties be imposed upon them by their own priest in accordance with the custom of their religion, as a punishment for the past and as a guarantee for the future. For nearly two hours the men filed by their priest receiving penalties. Later on they held a service of their own in the Y M C A hut on Christmas day and took up a large collection of copper coins as a thank-offering to the Association. They felt that it had been their one friend in a strange land.
It should be clearly understood, however, that of necessity, in the very nature of the case, the Government of India imposed upon the secretaries the strict obligation of silence regarding the propagation of Christianity. They entered the work on the understanding that the men could live out the spirit of Christ and express it in silent ministry under the motive of Christian love.
It was striking to see how much real Christianity could be packed into life when speech was forbidden. The pent-up prayer and love and sympathy of the workers was forced into the single channel of silent service. It reminded one of those thirty years in our Lord's life, in simple secular toil, which could only minister to the needs of men over a carpenter's bench.
It is no small task to undertake to occupy all the leisure time of 25,000 men far from home, shut up in irksome camps, easily aroused by rumor or superstition. The numbers increased until there were finally some 50,000 men to be cared for. Athletic fields were secured and games were started. Football and hockey were more played by the Indians than by the British troops. Badminton and volley ball, races and track events, were also useful. Indoor games, the gramophone, cinemas and concerts, and especially Indian dramas, were popular in the evening. Lectures on geography, history, and moral subjects were well attended, and French classes were of practical benefit.
An incalculable service has also been rendered in writing letters for the great mass of ignorant soldiers to their families in the far-off Indian villages, miles away from a railway. Illiteracy, superstition, and false rumors existed at both ends of the line. Here is a man who has had no word from home since he left a year or more ago. He hears a baseless rumor or heeds some inborn fear that his child is sick, or his wife unfaithful, or that be has been cheated out of his property. Hundreds of homesick men whose whole lives have been bound up in the family circle pour in upon the secretaries, begging that they will write letters home for them. Here you may see six or eight secretaries writing for hours each day, as fast as the men can dictate their messages and tell their stories.
Then there arose the problem of how to keep these men in touch with their households in isolated and illiterate villages in India. Mr. Hume, one of the secretaries in Lahore, devised a far-reaching plan whereby every letter was forwarded through missionaries or Christian workers or officials to the distant home of the soldier. The whole community gathers to hear the news from the Indian regiment on the other side of the world, and a shout goes up from the village street when they learn that their brave Sepoy is not dead, as rumor had whispered. A message is sent back in eager gratitude from the wife, children, and neighbors, and from the united heart of the little village to the distant soldier and his fighting comrades. The Red Triangle has spanned the gulf from the winter cold and the dreary trenches in France to the little village on the plains of sunny India, and the grateful hearts at both ends somehow dimly know that all this silent ministry is in the name of the White Comrade who is the Friend of man.
Here in France the hut must stand as the friendly home that gathers up all the best traditions of Indian life. It takes the place of the banyan tree in the heat of the day, the village well, and the meeting place for the men in the cool of the evening. Even beyond all hopes it has proved a potent factor for unity, harmony, and peace in a time of unrest. It draws the British officers and the Indian men closer together, and the Indian secretaries have served time and again as the mediators between the two, who could so easily have misunderstood each other. It provides a common meeting place between the caste-ridden and divided Indians themselves, who had no other ground of unity.
Here are men of different languages and races and traditions, from the Gurkhas, the brave little hill men, to the stalwart Pathans, who come as fighting men from far beyond the borders of India for the sheer joy of battle. The chances for supposed loot in the fabled wealth of the West and the accumulation of merit by slaying the "unbelievers" of the enemy, prove an added attraction to men born and bred in border warfare. Here also are men of three separate creeds, who have often fought with one another over the issues of their faiths---the big bearded Sikhs, with a soldier's religion, the warlike Mohammedans, who fight according to their Koran, and the caste-ridden Hindus.
As you walk among the tents the smoke of the fires hangs heavy over the camp; there is the familiar sound of the bubbling rice pots, the smell of pungent curry, the babel of many oriental tongues, and you seem to be back in the very heart of India itself. We gather with the reverent Sikhs for their religious worship. They meet morning and evening for their prayer service, and turn out almost in a body for the weekly Sunday meeting. The service consists principally of singing and the reading of their sacred scripture, the Granth. Seated on the ground, the men show deep reverence, and seem to have a sense of the presence of God in their midst. Their religion has a real restraining influence and there is at present little immorality amongst them.
A little further on in the camp one comes upon an improvised Mohammedan mosque. Five times a day a devout soldier calls the faithful to prayer, and on Friday about three-fourths of them come out to their voluntary service. The Hindus, on the other hand, dependent upon ceremonial rites, without their temple or priest and with no organized public worship, have not a religion which holds them in such a vital grip in this distant land.
As you pass down the camp, the band is playing for the draft that is marching off to take its place in the trenches. The last good-bys are being said and little groups are round the secretaries. The stalwart Sikhs are wringing their hands or kneeling down to wipe the dust from their shoes, or thanking them with tears of gratitude. They are great child-like men, simple of heart, affectionate, but lonely and homesick in a distant land. Here is a man who was once a hard drinker, living an immoral life, but today he is keeping straight. Here is another who has resolved to go back to India to lead a different life. There were tears in the eyes of the secretaries themselves as they came back after bidding good-by to the draft, and there was compensation after long months of service in the gratitude of the men and in that inner voice which says, "I was a stranger and ye took me in."
After Callan had launched the work among the Indian troops, he was called upon to open up the work at a large British base camp behind the lines in France. Here, beside the vast drill ground where Napoleon used to marshal his troops, is a white city of tents, and between 100,000 and 200,000 men are always encamped there for training.
Life in the trenches for the moment drives men to God, but the life in a base camp is one of fierce and insidious temptation. To hold the men in the face of such temptations, Callan has erected his buildings in the thirty principal centers of this base. Here is a typical hut before us, built of plain pine boards, 120 feet long and 60 feet broad. It accommodates from 2,000 to 3,000 men a day and is used by three-fourths of the men in the camp, by practically all, in fact, except those who are confined to their hospital beds. These thirty huts will be filled all winter with an average of 60,000 men a day. Each night at least 15,000 men will be gathered in meetings, lectures, and healthy entertainments. Twice each week there are 12,000 men in attendance at religious meetings, and not a week passes without hundreds of decisions being made for the Christian life. In the course of the year a million men will pass through these camps, or one-sixth of the manhood of the nation now marshalled under arms. These are the men who are to be made or marred by life in the army, and who will go back to build the new empire in the great era of reconstruction that is to follow the war.
To minister to these 60,000 men who daily crowd these thirty huts, there are 167 workers sent over from England, 100 of them men and 67 of them women. The latter are nearly all selfsupporting and not only receive no salary but pay all their own expenses. The self-sacrificing toil of these helpers, who form part of a vast army of 30,000 heroic women who are voluntarily serving without compensation in the Associations of England and France, is beyond all praise.
Fig. 4. WHOLESOME AND ENTERTAINING
Fig. 5. HOME REFRESHMENTS IN LONDON
Their very presence in the camps is the greatest single moral factor for the creation of that indefinable atmosphere which pervades every hut. Even rude and coarse men never think of swearing or speaking an indecent word within these walls. Nor do they forget to be grateful for the tireless service of these women, who stand for hours day and night serving them and providing for their physical necessities. The women workers are under the direction of Lady Rodney, who has had four sons fighting at the front, one of whom has already fallen in action. The men have been thrilled and moved to the depths as Lady Rodney has addressed them on "What Are We Fighting For?" and by her message to the men from the women at home. Several hundred of the choicest women of America will be needed for service among our own troops. They should be women who can stand for the whole principle of the red triangle. They must be ready for tireless and exhausting physical service, able to work with others without friction, prepared to meet the social needs of the men and to give a sympathetic hearing to the tales that will be poured into their ears, but above all they must be able to give a definite Christian message to men fiercely tempted and beset by doubts and difficulties. The soldier cannot live by bread alone, nor by the tea and coffee of a Y M C A counter; he needs God, and the friendship of good women, and the spirit of home which they carry with them.
The hundred men who are working in these thirty British huts are worthy of note. A score of them are clergymen, who have resigned their churches for the period of the war. Many others are well-known ministers, laymen, or professors who have come over for a period of several months of service. The list of the men who have been serving here contains many distinguished names. There is Professor Burkett , the New Testament scholar of Cambridge, in charge of one of the huts; Professor Bateson, the great biologist of Cambridge, who has been lecturing on his subject, and who was swept off his feet by the response which he received from the troops. He stated that he was able to learn more from these men than in months of research in his laboratory, where he had been shut up for most of his life. Professor Holland Rose, also of Cambridge, has been lecturing to the troops on European history, interpreting the war to the soldier. Professor Oman, of the same university, has been dealing in his lectures with the historical problems of the war. Rev. E. A. Burroughs, of Oxford, has been giving religious lectures. Principal D. S. Cairns, of Aberdeen, has had crowded meetings night after night for his apologetic lectures, and the questions raised in the open discussions would make one think he was in a theological seminary. Principal Ritchie, of Nottingham, has been lecturing on European history and the Balkan situation. Bishop Knight is giving his time seven days a week to looking after the spiritual and ecclesiastical needs of the men, as many seek confirmation and partake of the Holy Communion before going up to the front. Here are Scotch ministers, Anglican clergymen, and laymen, working side by side in a great ministry of service.
A series of missionary lectures has helped to give the men a new world view of Christianity. It has lifted the simple villager, and the man who has never known anything save the narrow ruts of his own denomination, above the petty interests and divisions of his former life to face world problems and the wide extension of the Kingdom of God. Four lecturers have followed each other to present a great world view to the men in these thirty huts: Butcher of New Guinea showed the effect of the impact of the Gospel upon primitive native races; Farquhar of India showed the power of Christianity over the great ethnic religions of India; Lord Wm. Gascoyne Cecil came next on the transformation of China, and was followed by Dennis of Madagascar and Dr. Datta, a living witness of the power of Christianity in the great Indian empire. John McNeill and Gipsy Smith, the well-known evangelists, have spoken to thousands and have brought the challenge of the Christian Gospel to the men, calling upon them for decisions and a change of life in harmony with the teachings of Christ.
Here are some of the finest spirits of England, some of its intellectual and spiritual leaders, brought into daily contact with the manhood of the nation in this formative period and epoch. making crisis. Before us hangs the program for the week. It looks like the schedule of classes and lectures for some great university. It is drawn up in seven columns for the seven days of the week, and includes a score of centers, with an average of three events for each hut per day. It would cover several closely printed pages. Here are some of the events scheduled for a single night:
Hut No. 1, lecture on "The Meaning of Christianity," by Mr. A. D. Mann; choir rehearsal; devotional meeting. No. 2, Rev. Butcher of New Guinea, lecture on "The Failure of Civilization"; French class; Clean Talk League. No. 3, lecture by Lord Wm. Cecil on China; French class; hobby class. No. 4, cavalry band orchestra; Communion Service; evening prayers. No. 5, Lena Ashwell Concert Party from London. No. 6, Rev. N. H. M. Aitken, Bible lecture and discussion; orchestral band. No. 7, concert party; general hospital show. No. 8, lecture on Napoleon by Mr. Perkins; Mrs. Luard's concert-party. No. 9, concert given by the men of the auxiliary park camp; draughts tournament. No. 10, religious discussion class; Lord Wm. Cecil; service conducted by Chaplain Berry. No. 11, Professor Thos. Welsh's Bible class; mid-week rally. No. 12, fretwork and carpentry class; games; letter writing. No. 13, mid-week service; Bible class; letter writing. No. 14, cinema show; indoor games. No. 15, lantern lecture on "India in the Trenches." No. 16, ladies' concert party; Hindi and Urdu classes; letter writing; games. All of this covers only the program for half of the huts on a single night!
Principal Fraser, of Ceylon and Uganda, but equally conversant with present-day problems in Britain, has been conducting a weekly parliament in different camps on the great questions of reconstruction after the war. For here are men away from home, lifted above the toil and narrow drudgery of their former cramped lives, and they have learned to think.
There is evidence of wide industrial and social unrest. The men are conscious not only of world wrongs which threaten their country from without, but of wrongs within as well, and they are going to demand that these wrongs shall be righted. A deep tide of feeling runs through the audience, as these men, blunt of speech but clear of brain, openly and frankly discuss the future, and they hang eagerly upon the words of Principal Fraser as he guides their thought to higher ideals for the period of reconstruction that is to follow.
One night they are discussing the present social order, and what is wrong with it; they are dealing with bad housing, employment, low wages, the cleavage between the rich and the poor, industrial oppression, and social injustice. The next night they consider the dangers of demobilization. What will be the effect upon hundreds of thousands of women workers? Here are more than five million soldiers in the army, and a large number of men and women, boys and girls, working on government orders. What steps must be taken to minimize the dislocation of industry and to prevent unemployment? On the night following, they discuss the question of industrial reorganization. They resolve that "the time has come, as the only means of averting social disaster, to grant a constitution to the factory, and quite frankly to recognize and insist that the conditions of employment are not matters to be settled by the employer alone, any more than by the workmen alone, but in joint conference between them; and not even for each establishment alone, but subject to the National Common Rules arrived at for the whole industry by the organized employers and employed, in consultation with the representatives of the community as a whole."
At the next parliament they discuss the future of education in England. What should be its aim, how far should it be technical, and how far should it aim at the development of personality? Should the school-leaving age be raised to fifteen, or half-time education be given up to the age of eighteen? One night in the parliament they discuss the problem of drink and the war; on another night, gambling; and on another, the social evil. The men who attend the lectures and parliaments of these camps will almost get a liberal education during the three years.
We have spoken of the vast work going on in the thirty huts conducted by 167 workers in this single base camp. Let us now pass into a typical center and observe the work a little more in detail. For our first illustration, let us take the Y M C A hut in the Convalescent Camp. We select this because it is the model of the new huts for the American army which are now being constructed. It is a moving sight simply to step inside its doors. Here are two parallel structures of simple pine boards, each 120 by 30 feet. They may be used separately, in eight different departments, including the lecture hall which will seat 500, or with the partitions raised they may be thrown into one large audience hall, holding 1,200 men.
A glance at the crowd within, or at the great city of white tents without, shows that even this building is utterly inadequate for this convalescent camp holding 4,000 men. It is a center for a dozen surrounding hospitals, each containing from 1,000 to 4,000 patients. As the men are cured in these hospitals they are sent up to the Convalescent Camp to be made fit to return to the trenches. It is worth remembering that every one of these 4,000 patients is a wounded man, all of whom have seen service and suffering.
Let us enter first of all the large social hall. Several hundred men are seated at the tables, playing games or chatting over a cup of tea. At one end is the counter, where three women and five men take their turn serving during the day and evening. Two or three thousand of these men will pour in every day this winter. They will stand in a long queue filing by the counter for more than two hours. Here are large urns, each holding ten gallons of tea. Cup after cup is rapidly pushed across the counter without turning off the tap; as 160 men are served in ten minutes, and there is no stop save to place a fresh urn full of tea. As fast as the workers can move, not only hot tea and coffee, but bread and biscuits, cake and chocolate, tobacco, matches, candles, soap, bachelor buttons are furnished, and every other need of the soldier is supplied. The aim is to meet his every demand, so that he will not have to go into the city to places of temptation and evil resorts.
While these men are being served or are seated in the social room, meetings and lectures are conducted at the same time on the other side of the partition in the audience hall, which is occupied several times a day, and is used for social purposes between the meetings. We now pass into the lounge, which is filled with men, busy at their games. Next is the Quiet Room, where no talking or writing is allowed. Men come into this room for quiet meetings or private prayer, and here small group prayer meetings and Bible classes are held.
Just outside the hut is a wide wooden platform which accommodates several hundred men. There nearly a dozen different games are in full swing, all at the same time. Each one is designed to help the patient recover his health. Here are badminton, tennis, volley ball, indoor baseball, quoits, deck billiards, bagatelle, ping-pong, and other games. The front of this platform forms a grandstand for the cricket field beyond.
Here for three nights we conducted meetings, with five or six hundred men in attendance. More than a hundred men signed the decision cards each night, and when asked it was found that one-third of them had made the decision for the first time, about one-third of them were backsliders who had been living as Christians before the war but who had gone down before temptation, while the remaining third had been maintaining a consistent Christian life during the war.
In a second after-meeting in the Quiet Room one night, men from almost every quarter of the globe spoke and gave testimony. Here was one poor fellow who had come over after several years in the States. He had had delirium tremens three times, and showed the effects of it on his face. He had formerly been the center of the foul talk and vulgar language of his tent. He had now come straight out for Christ and had boldly witnessed for Him before the men. The second boy, the son of a prominent officer in South Africa, arose under deep emotion. He had been living a wild and reckless life and was known as the "Red Light King." After his conversion, he went out and brought in another comrade who openly decided for Christ. There were boys from Canada , Australia, and England who followed, many of them with tragedies in their past lives.
It is impossible to calculate the vast influences for good that have been flowing from this hut to the thousands of men who pass through it. The aim of the young Scotch minister who is the leader has been to make it for all the men "a home away from home." The life in the army, with its irksome toil, daily drill, cold and wet and mud, the horror of battle and the pain of wounds, is all for the moment forgotten as the men enter the place.
We tell the leader that we are taking this building as the model for our new American camps. He says: "Large as this hut is, it is not large enough or good enough for the men. Daily we have need for better equipment. This hut as it stands will serve from two thousand to three thousand men in a day, but nothing is too good for these boys who are coming here to suffer and die in this faraway land. You will send your sons over from America to spend this cold winter on the bleak plains of France in open bell tents. They will be fed on canned goods and corned beef, and they will be housed in the most unattractive towns of France, where there is absolutely no interest or diversion apart from drink and women. You can hardly realize what it means to sit down in a homelike place, to get a hot cup of tea served on a white tablecloth. This is the only home these boys will see in France, and they will either come here or go to the red light resorts. I wish I could tell the men of America what their boys will face here, what they will suffer, what temptations will assail them. The best equipment you can give them is not good enough, for the people at home little realize to what a life their boys are coming, and what hardships will face them here in France."
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