With my prayers; pob bendith,
“If someone had asked where was the worst place to hold a church service that would have been it, right on the brow of a hill in full view of the enemy. However 2nd Lt. Martin and I went in and the Padre was in there and three or four other men ready. We started the service. After a short time we heard shelling start….they were aiming at this hut we were in. They had seen us go in and probably suspected we were observing their positions from there.
The Padre’s name was Captain Barrett, a very brave man, and he continued the service – we had communion. When it ended he said, “I think you had better take what cover you can.” We all lay on the floor. Mr. Martin and the Padre went into one corner, they were the two officers, and a soldier I had never met before shouted, “Do you want to come and join me?” I crawled over to where he was and dropped into a small slit trench there. By that he certainly saved my life and I told him that fifty years later when we met. We remained there and the shelling continued fast and furious. On more than one occasion a shell came through one wall and out of the other and didn’t explode – if it had been brick or steel or anything like that it would have exploded.
The next minute a shell dropped in the middle of us. The place was covered with dust and the smell of cordite and I could hear groaning and moaning. I got up and crawled over to where the two officers were and I reached Mr. Martin first. I knew he was dying and as I put my arm under him he groaned and gasped and died. In his back was a terrific hole. Then we helped Captain Barrett, the Padre, and he was in a bad way, his legs were completely shattered.
When I went back to my Platoon they had had a few shells but no-one was hurt. I had to tell them what had happened and that I was now their Platoon Commander. One young man, whose name was Paxton, said, “Could we have a bit of a service for them?” Well, it had been a bit of a troublesome time for me, it was difficult to gather my senses together, but I said to Paxton, “All right then.” We sang a hymn and then we had a prayer and I had a New Testament in my pocket. I read something and then I said a few words. At the end I said, “God Bless and go back to your duties.” I know Paxton in particular was pleased with that.
In the event, he was killed in my presence about two weeks later. I had no opportunity to have a bit of a service for him – I was taken prisoner at that time and I have never met his family. That was many years ago now but I did go with my wife to Belper on holiday three years ago and we happened to see a war memorial. I went up and had a look at it – and Paxton’s name was on it.”