E-newsletter

Sign up to our monthly newsletter

Please confirm that you are happy to hear from The Church of Scotland:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit the Privacy Policy on our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.

Home  >  Features  >  Looking back - September 1943

Looking Back

Friday September 6 2013

LOOKING BACK - SEPTEMBER 1943

Two wartime stories from the Life and Work of 70 years ago this month

 

THE KIRK IN THE DESERT*

There was something to thrill all Christian hearts in one piece of news which reached us last month. It told how, to the skirl of the pipes and the swing of the kilt, men of Scottish regiments marched to attend the dedication of the little stone Kirk which some of their own hands had built in the desert at Geneifa. The church, which is a memorial to the Scotsmen who have fallen in the Middle East, is the “dream child” of the Rev. T. L. Low, C.F.

It is a tribute, too, to the skill and diligence of Scottish soldiers temporarily or permanently unfit for other than base duties. It took four months to build. The architect was Capt. J. Wingate of the H.L.I.; the stained-glass windows are the work of a well-known  artist, Lieut. T. G. M. Eadie of the Gordon Highlanders. The communion table, pulpit, and lectern are memorials to three Scottish chaplains, Peter Hamilton, Vernon Clarke, and W. G. Mills, who lost their lives in the Middle East. The Regimental Crests of the Scottish regiments which fought in the desert have been carved in stone by a soldier craftsman.

Among the congregation were the men who had built the church – masons, joiners, tile-workers, plasterers, men from the Black Watch, the Camerons, the Gordons, the Seaforths, and other famous units. The Church was dedicated by the Assistant Chaplain General; the memorials were unveiled by by Lieut.-General R. G. W. H. Stone, G.O.C. British Troops in Egypt, and were dedicated by the Deputy Chaplain General.

One is glad to think that the most lasting memorial our troops will leave of their sojourn in the land will be, not a symbol of war, but a symbol of peace.

 

“TWICE MINE!”

By the Rev. A. D. Eunson, M.A., O.C.F.

This is the story of a Bible which was lost, and was found again. Of which its owner might say, like the boy in the story and with equally enduring pride, “twice mine!”.

The story begins in the village of Old Kilpatrick, some years before the war, with the presentation of a Boys’ Brigade Bible to one of our most popular and able young men. Since this is our Parish and he is our friend, we are privileged to call him Colin.

When, in due course, Colin went to France as an officer with the British Expeditionary Force in September, 1939, his Boys’ Brigade Bible went with him as part of his kit. There, in France, it served its various purposes throughout the long, cold winter of 1939-1940. But, as we all know, late in the spring of 1940, the mechanised mass of German armour broke through to the Channel ports, isolating the British Expeditionary Force around Dunkirk. In the confusion of these days, Colin was separated from his kit, and, like all his colleagues had more to think about.

It is, however, at this point that the “miracle” of the Bible begins. Colin himself thinks that the kit actually was carried by lorry to a point some five miles from Dunkirk. When the order was given there to abandon vehicles, everything went – lorries, guns, and all kinds of equipment, including, of course, the kits. From that point, the Bible must have been carried the remaining five miles to the beach. In what manner, or by whom, is not known. Then, in the later stages of the evacuation, a young soldier of the Northumberland Fusiliers – himself a member of the Boys’ Brigade – glanced down at a hard object, half-buried in the sand, upon which his foot had stepped, and was surprised to see a Bible with the familiar B.B. insignia upon it. Hastily he picked it up, and brought it with him when eventually he came home upon one of those “little ships of Britain” to which we, and those brave men of the British Expeditionary Force, owe so much.

Later, when this young Fusilier reached his own home at Hexham, Northumberland, he took the Bible to the Vicar of Hexham, and consulted him as to what to do about it. The Vicar wrote to the present author, in order that this token of a British officer, whom they thought to be “missing,” might reach his loved ones – perhaps as a last keepsake.

Fortunately this story has a happier ending. While the Bible was on its way home, Colin was playing his part in the hard and bloody battle of Abbeville and in those other encounters west of the Somme. By the grace of God, he was one of those who came home through Cherbourg, thus escaping the fate of so many of our gallant men of the 51st Divions. And, when he reached Scotland again, it was to find that the only part of his kit which had survived was his Bible.

 

*The church in Geneifa, Egypt, was closed in 1956 but the regimental crests and wrought-iron gates (which feature the burning bush of the Church of Scotland) found their way, via Cyprus, to St Andrew's Garrison Church, Aldershot.

Looking Back menu