Spencer, Stanley - 1917 Macedonia
Type of Spiritual Experience
During World War One Spencer spent thirteen months at Beaufort Beaufort War Hospital, Bristol, before the RAMC transferred Spencer to overseas duties. He left Beaufort in May 1916 and after ten weeks training at Tweseldown Camp in Hampshire, the 24-year-old Spencer was sent to Macedonia, with the 68th Field Ambulance unit. In 1917 he subsequently volunteered to be transferred to an infantry regiment, the 7th Battalion, the Berkshire Regiment. In all, Spencer spent two and a half years on the front line in Macedonia, facing both German and Bulgarian troops, before he was invalided out of the Army following persistent bouts of malaria. His survival of the devastation and torment that killed so many of his fellows, including his elder brother Sydney, in action in September 1918, indelibly marked Spencer's attitude to life and death. Such preoccupations came through time and again in his subsequent works.
A description of the experience
River Nareta Mostar painted 1922
The Art and Vision of Stanley Spencer - Kenneth Pople
Metaphysical thoughts - incomprehensible to most of his comrades - sustained in Stanley the hope that he would eventually be able to decipher some totality of meaning in his War experience. But for the time being all he could do was store in his mind occasional glimpses of it. In this, his powers of auditory and visual recall came to his aid, as in a moment on active service in Macedonia in which he recalled his pianist brother Will practising Bach after breakfast
“Since I have been out here I have dreaded [times] of awful empty silence, and just as if some divine presence has seen my fears, he has intensified my memory and has caused me to hear four or five of the 48 Preludes so clearly that I have instinctively stood still to listen...I shall always have the atmosphere then created with me”.