Drum Head Service : Farewell
Address to Hunts. Cyclists.
Sunday was a memorable day in the annals of the 1/1st Huntingdonshire Cyclist Battalion. They were under orders for embarkation to join the British Expeditionary Force in France, and at the drum head service the Rev. K. D. Knowles, the Captain Chaplain, preached his farewell sermon. No chaplain in the Army has ever held the confidences of men as Padre Knowles, and every man in the Battalion is indebted to him not only as his spiritual adviser, but as a friend in the truest sense of the word. As a spiritual adviser he understood that he had directly under his care men of all denominations, and he always assisted the men to go to their own place of worship, but on Sunday all were present to hear the following sermon of praise, encouragement, and hope delivered: --
"Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. … Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." - Revelations ii., 10.
Men of the draft of the 1/1st Huntingdonshire Cyclist Battalion, I am very grateful that an opportunity has been granted us of holding this, the last, church parade service before you proceed overseas to make the grand adventure and to take a more active, more dangerous and more glorious part in this the greatest war of all time. You have waited your chance for nearly two years; you have trained with the one object of being ready and prepared for this opportunity, and at last it has come.
SORRY, DEEPLY SORRY,
as we are to lose you, we can only feel glad that the time has arrived when you go out to prove yourselves. Judging from the way in which you have played the game at home, we look forward with the utmost confidence to your future. We have no fears; we know that you will give a brave account of yourselves in the sterner, harder, more trying times you are about to face. Personally, I am glad you have got your chance and are going, because I believe it is what every man of you wishes: what every man worthy of the name of man would wish. You are showing the right spirit: you are doing the right thing. Even if I knew that not one of you would return, I should still be glad you are going, glad that you had the true manliness to wish to go, because I should feel that all the great faith I have always had in you had been justified, because when trial had been made of you had been true to your trust, had done the noble and honourable thing, had been ready to render true service and not to count the cost. But I pray God you will all come back, and I know if you do, that you will return having played a brave and courageous part. It will be with feelings of heartache and regret that your officers, who have become so attached to you and to whom, I believe, you are deeply attached, will see you go. Our late Adjutant, Captain Drew, looked upon this Battalion as his child. This Battalion has come to be the child of all the officers, as it were. They have brought it into being, reared it, trained it, educated it. They will watch you go with the same feelings of longing and regret with which a parent watches a son go out into the world to fight life’s battles. They would not keep you back, but they have that
SAME GREAT YEARNING TO GO
with you, to share your discomforts and your dangers; to lead you on to victory, and to face death by your side. That, unfortunately, cannot be – but, remember, they, your officers, are like the smith who has made and beaten out and tempered and tried the sword blade. The smith cannot use it himself, because he must be about his business making many more, but his reputation is lost if the blade does not ring true in the clash of battle. Your officers trust each man of you to ring true when the time comes, and I feel confident you will.
For my own part I could not have hoped for a better, more manly, more courteous body of men. You have played your part and stood the hardships and monotonies of these two years well. I, for one, am very proud of you. And now I ask you this – when you are over there in the trenches, with many things to distract you, with little time perhaps for prayer to God, still I ask you make use of that little time, and sometimes let your minds run back to these parade services we’ve had together in these last two years; services held in many stations along this coast, from Scarborough, through Filey, Primrose Valley, Hunmanby, Bridlington, Fraisethorpe, Barmston, Lissett, Nerome, Hornsea, Aldborough, Withernsea, to Easington, and in Grimsby on that first Sunday of the mobilisation, and the service we held together in All Saints’ Church, Huntingdon, on the eve of war. And when you are face to face with God and wounds and death, try too to remember this last text that I have given you: "Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer. … Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life."
In a weekly paper which is much read by you men there is a strong appeal to our soldiers at the front to push on in this the great crisis, the turning point, as we believe, in this war; to push on and not to fail that great General who raised those men and trained that army to which is now entrusted this supreme task. It asks those soldiers to justify the faith of the man who believed in them – "Kitchener," it says, "is watching you." How far the spirits of those who have passed the borderland are conscious of our life here I do not know. It would be
AN INSPIRING THING
to know they new, if it was only the good in our lives they saw and not the evil. Whether they know or not is an open question, a question we cannot answer – but of one thing we are certain, God knows, Christ knows all we are here, all we do here. And Christ too, raised and trained an army and sent it forth conquering and to conquer; sent it out to fight on the side of right against wrong, to make this world a better world. And He, too, has an unbounded faith in man, in you, the army He has raised; you men with His Cross like the cap badge of your regiment as it were, upon your foreheads. So my last word to you is this: Justify the trust of the officers who have trained you. Keep "fighting fit." Be over there the gentlemen you have been here – and in the many temptations you will meet, stand true to the girls you have left behind you. And justify the faith of Christ Who believes in you, Who died for you, Who raised you and trained you, and under the Banner of Whose Cross you go forth to fight. And if you are called upon to make the supreme sacrifice, remember such a sacrifice is the reflection of the sacrifice He made for you. "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer" – deprivation, hardship, pain, wounds, and even death – render true service, be brave, loyal, courageous: prove your true worth – be faithful through life right on even unto death, and leave all else in the hands of God Who will not fail you. So shall you gloriously crown your lives.
And may Christ hold you in His keeping, and if it be His Will, bring you home again tried and proved soldiers, who have been true to God, to King and country in the day of battle.
Many thanks must go to
Extract from a paper clipping found in the front of the prayer book owned by K. D. Knowles. [The source is not known, but as some of the adverts on the rear of the cutting indicate shops and services in Peterborough, it is thought to be from a paper form there].
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