Montague, Charles Edward - Diary entry (29th March, 1918) & De Witt Mackenzie
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Charles Montague, diary entry (29th March, 1918)
With Philip Gibbs and Hamilton Fyfe to No. 3 Canadian C.C.S. in the Vauban Citadel, Doullens. Great smell of blood everywhere. Casualties coming in freely. 2,500 evacuated yesterday. 20,000 dealt with in last 8 days. Some of the cases mere bundles of cloth, mud, blood, and torn meat. Unpacked carefully by nurses, who despair of nothing still warm. While Gibbs and Fyfe circulate and question and take notes among walking wounded, an ambulance driver and a wounded Australian sergeant successively draw my attention to them as possible spies.
De Witt Mackenzie, an America newspaper reporter, recalled an incident that took place during the First World War.
Several of us, including Montague, were seated at a table one day. Fierce fighting was going on at the time, and everybody's nerves were on the ragged edge. Because of this there was a good deal of pessimism in the air. Somebody remarked:
"The whole world's gone crazy with the war lust." Nobody answered except Montague, who looked up with a whimsical smile and a questioning "Yes?"
"Yes", affirmed the other. "Mankind has sunk below the level of swine and is glorying as it wallows in the mire. Christianity is as dead as a door nail, and men are going out to slaughter one another for the pure joy of killing. There isn't a spark of mercy left in the human breast."
"I saw an incident up at the front today that might interest you", responded Montague. "While I was standing at an emergency in to receive attention. He was leading a German prisoner, who also was wounded - just a boy, of seventeen or so. I was interested in the queer pair and inquired about them. Tommy had been in a hot fight, and had already accounted for three or four of the enemy when he came upon the youngster. The boy was frightened, but he managed to shoot Tommy through an arm, and then prepared to use his bayonet as Tommy charged."
"Tommy undoubtedly was seeing red by this time, and was as near to the brute stage as he ever would get. He had been fighting hand-to-hand; he had killed, and now he was facing another who was trying to kill him. But instead of using his own rifle or bayonet, he closed on the German lad and disarmed him. Somebody asked Tommy why he hadn't killed the German.
"You see, sir," apologized Tommy, "he was such a little begger I didn't have the heart to do it."
That was all; there was no further argument at the table; indeed, there was nothing more to argue about. It was Montague's way of handling a situation. And it revealed again the bigness of his heart and the breadth of his understanding.