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: Funeral Amidst the Gunfire

Looking Back

Image: cemetery_cropped70884.jpg

Friday November 7 2014

Looking Back: Funeral Amidst the Gunfire

During World War 1, Life and Work printed letters from Church of Scotland chaplains nearly every month. This, published in April 1916, was written by the Rev John White.

FRANCE, 8/2/16

One of the saddest duties I have to perform is officiating at funerals. At night time we bury the brave lads who have fallen: it is dangerous to assemble men in day time in the little cemeteries at the lines. The old churchyards are crowded, and more ground has been set apart.

One funeral that I had not long ago impressed all who took part in it. It was growing dark when I set out to take the burial service for four men who had been killed by the same aerial torpedo. They were to be buried in a little cemetery up amongst the trenches. For the greater safety of the funeral party the interment was at night. The trench roads were heavy and slippery with mud, for rain had been falling for days. As we stood at the open grave a trench-flare lit up the darkness and silhouetted the little wooden crosses all around where we stood.

The service proceeded, at times inaudible amidst the rattle of the machine guns, and the spit-ping of the snipers’ bullets overhead; not a man moved, they stood in reverent attitude throughout it all. With a salute of respect and faith we passed out – the “Last Post”, that dared not be sounded, was felt by every heart. May they rest in peace amidst the sound of battle!

There is a hymn by John Oxenham that we sometimes sing here:-

For those to whom the call shall come
We pray Thy tender welcome home,
The toil, the bitterness, all past,
We trust them to Thy love at last.
O hear a people’s prayers for all,
Who, nobly striving, nobly fall!

Looking Back menu