Montague, Charles Edward - In ecstasy
Type of Spiritual Experience
From other descriptions, it is clear that this was genuine ecstasy, not exhiliration. Meeting one's maker
A description of the experience
De Witt Mackenzie represented the Associated Press of America at the Western Front. He also commented on C. E. Montague's bravery under fire.
One finds difficulty in summing up Montague's complex characteristics. Had our friend lived a few hundred years ago he most certainly would have been a great explorer and discoverer. The times and circumstances made him an outstanding scholar and writer, but in his heart he was an adventurer. Never have I known another man who so loved to thrust himself into danger for the sake of the thrill he got from it. He was known as 'fire-eater' throughout the length of the British Front.
I shall remember to the end one trip with him into the zone of death during the never-to-be-forgotten Passchendaele push. The Germans had been driven back along the Roulers railway, and Montague and I decided that we would look the battlefield over. For hours we pushed forward through the frightful mud, making our perilously way between the huge, water-filled shell-holes which in many places almost interlocked. The German 5.9s were coming down about us like peas off a hot skillet. Everywhere was death and destruction. There was not a moment when we were not in danger of being blown to atoms. Frankly, I didn't like it, but Montague glorified in it. I had troubles of my own, but I watched him in fascination. His shoulders were squared, his head was thrown back, and his eyes were blazing with a strange fire. He was in the state of ecstasy - a man in a trance.
The real Montague didn't come to earth until we encountered a crisis. We finally reached a ridge, just back of the British advanced line, and so exposed to the enemy that we were shooting at our troops from shrapnel guns with open sights. We paused for a moment, and then Montague tossed his head like a charger and said: "Let's push on." We had barely resumed our journey when a piece of shrapnel hit my steel helmet. The metal rang like a church bell. For a bit I rocked about on my feet, wondering what had happened to me. Then I looked over at Montague. He was gazing at me with troubled eyes; he had come to earth again at last. "I think perhaps we have come a bit too far, Mackenzie," he said in his quiet way. 'Let's get under cover." He was thinking entirely of me. Shrapnel never worried him personally. However, we went over and sat down among the dead behind a concrete pill-box and rested. Then we started back home.