‘Yesterday with exultation Joined the world in celebration Of her promised Saviour’s birth’. (1)
Having no calendar I conclude from the above words that today is – – – – – –
St Stephen’s Day, Sunday 26/ 15.
‘Being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love & bless our persecutors by the example of Thy first Martyr, Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers.’ (2).
My Very Dear Sister,
How grateful I ought to be that I have had such an enjoyable & happy Christmas Day, to think of those who are worse off than I was, I am speaking of those in the trenches. Yes, I believe, at least some of them were quite as happy as we were, and we were as happy as those at Home, for inspite of all the delicacies of the Christmas Menu at Home, you know ye olde proverb goes, as Mum often told me when I was greedy or sullen:- What the eye never sees the Heart never grieves. Compris? And so we were Happy & for many reasons too, one being:-
Oceano divisi Eclesiastia conjuncti (sic) (3). Compris? No – well ask me pater and you will be happy on hearing his interpretation thereof. Results of the above solution of the aforesaid to be sent to me when I am in that station of life to be writable to by persons.
Well the concert was fine and its Homely handmade get up reminded me of you & The Ghost, – that Pickwick Club affair (4). You know how men shape when there’s such a thing as decorations to be done, – why, me dear, they who decorated the Concert Hall made as good an effort as any feminine worker.
– – – We all stood up as the orficers (sic) came in & sat themselves down in the front seats, basket chairs, and the orficers all stood up as the nurses came in at the stage entrance. They looked so Christmassy in their red & grey uniforms. Then the concert began. The stage was admired by the audience & ‘oo oo’ said we as we saw the successful scene – a room with a table on one side with a red cloth & shaded lamp, two basket chairs, a piano & modern water colour prints of the American style of girl hanging on the wall. The Programme was topping & nearly every item encored, & nearly every class of person in the Hospital, except patients gave a turn. A nurse was greatly clapped as she appeared on the stage to sing us a song, a good song too it was, & well sung too. She sang the epilogue and then all of us men joined in the chorus:-
Keep the Home fires burning While our Hearts are yearning. Though the lads are far away They dream of Home. There’s a silver lining Through the dark cloud shining.Turn the dark cloud inside out& show the lining (5).
And then we all clapped & clapped & clapped & stamped & shouted ‘Encore, Encore, Hurray’.
Alas alack I am undone, this is my last sheet of paper. Verily, indeed, whateffer, I have indeed devoured all those sheets of paper that have been sent me. And I hope they have found & warmed up the hearts of those I’ve sent them to.
Well the Programme was varied, just as we liked, comic songs there were, & there were sentimental ones, & there were sketches, original too. The Last one ending in a Tableau was absolutely ripping, topping. Hurrah. It was a grand homely affair. Some show not ’arf – ‘and so the poor man died and she – married the barber!’
You like the pictures do you? I know you do. But the disadvantage of them is there is no frame for them. A present of a picture alone invites the recipient to buy a frame, rather insinuating ain’t it? Well if you like the picture, Mum & I give you the one I sent Mum. I did not know who to send it to. I thought of Mrs Penning, but I must confess, at the time of sending it off I forgot you. The Chaplain of the C. of E. gave me a Souvenir as he called it, a little cross . I cannot find any other gift I can send you. I make it my resolution that if I can possibly send anything in the way of a gift I will do so.
The cross will serve as a bookmark for your Bible. The Latin inscribed on it means ‘By this sign you will gain the Victory’.(6)
Hoping you have all had a very Blessed & Joyous Christmas Day & you have felt the reward of your good & preserving effort in munitions.
Wishing you a Bright & Prosperous & Peaceful New Year.
Your loving brother, Bertie.
PS NB Tell me if Mum & Dad visited Sydney. Yes they dream of Home & we do more than that – if I am not encroaching upon self- commendation I have dreamt of you all – how queer ain’t it?
25th/26th Dec. Entrained for Marseilles and arrived on 27th (en route for the Eastern Front).
(1) ‘Yesterday in exultation’ (Heri mundus exultavit): Hymn to St Stephen, first Christian Martyr (stoned c. AD 34). One of The Seven/ Deacons appointed to supervise fair distribution of welfare to the poor/ widows in the Church. cf. Acts 6. Text. Adam of S. Victor (d. AD 1192). Translation, John Mason Neale 1818-1866. (Hymns of the Eastern Church). Music: Walter Cecil Macfarren 1826 -1905.
(2) Collect for St Stephen’s Day. Thomas Cranmer. Book of Common Prayer. 1662. (3) ‘Oceano divisi … ‘. ‘Though the ocean divides us the Church unites us’? cf. Christmas Day 1915 Letter: ‘Though the oceans & lands divide us we think of each other at the Holy Eucharist‘.
(4)The Pickwick Club. Childhood Club for adventures/ literary observations. Formed 1905. Ida Hibbett editor. cf Hibbett Letters: 23rd April 1915; 7th Sept. 1915; 13th Sept. 1915.
(5)’Keep the Home Fires Burning‘/‘Till the Boys come Home’. 1914. Music: Ivor Novello. 1893-1951. Welsh Composer. Text Lena Ford.
(6) ‘By this sign you will gain the victory‘. Latin ‘In hoc signo vinces’. Constantine the Great AD 272-337 (first Christian Emperor) saw the Chi Rho sign in the sky before the Battle of Maxentius, AD 312 and heard these words. In Edict of Nantes AD 313 Constantine proclaimed religious freedom throughout the Roman Empire: ‘With free minds all are to worship their Gods’ . (Source: Eusebius c. AD 260 -340 (Bishop of Caesarea/ Early Christian Father & Historian).
NEXT POST: 28th Dec: 1915. ‘The Innocents’ Day’.