Somewhat surprisingly there was far less in the Shipley Times & Express this week about the casualties of the SommeCoverage was largely restricted to this gallery of men with only brief details of their fate.
In his monthly message the Rev H W Burdett reflected on the recent surge of casualties, victims of the ‘Big Push’ and tries to make sense of the suffering and the lessons that can be learned.We had known that the war was expensive but the cost of it has been brought home tragically to Bradford and Shipley during the last week or two.Day by day the news has reached us of the finest of our manhood laid low and some of them we shall never see again.We thank God for those who have come through safely or with slight wounds but the many sad hearts all around remind us of the awful tragedy of a world which can find nothing better to do than to devour its own children.Ocean of BloodWhat we are feeling here is moreover what men and women are feeling in all the warring nations. All mankind seems to be standing by the side of a great ocean and in the dim light of the sun’s eclipse it can perceive that the ocean is of blood.All honour to the brave women, the wives and mothers who are bearing so nobly their burden of anxiety and sorrow. It is they who know what war means and perhaps it is they in time to come who will rise up and from their bleeding hearts say that this must no longer be.Here are some verses that appeared in the Westminster Gazette which help to show us the price that is paid and who pays it.Any MotherCan he be gone – my little son –He waits for me who thought to waitLong years for him – shot down they sayOh, babe of mine – Oh, man grown great!I know not what those dear eyes met –What glimpse of hell – what visions higher –For bloody battles are but namesTo women dreaming by the fire.
How brief are mother’s sweetest hours –Once I could shelter him from harmWithin my arms – so strong to him,What falls could hurt? What shapes alarm?So short a way, I held his handTo guide those steps – to still that fearUntil my care less needful seemedAnd he had grown so big, so dear.Ah, Mother Nature, gentle beAs I, once, by his little bedKnelt lovingly. So care thou tooSince to your heart you take my dead.And resting there he will not knowSuch tears as mine, nor find such pain –Maybe God sees that thus tis bestHis time for sleeping comes again.But even in the midst of these bewildering griefs the higher voices speak.1 We have to try to learn the lessons of sorrow. “There is nothing the body suffers,” said George Meredith, “that the soul may not profit by” and that is true not of physical suffering alone. “Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth.” People say “Why does God permit this suffering?” But it is plain enough that while there is sin in the world, it is better that there should be suffering even
though the innocent suffer with the guilty.This is a call to us to search out the hidden evil of the world, drag it to the light and by the grace of God, destroy it.God must think something of us or He could not take such trouble with us. If we will bow our heads and listen we shall hear God’s voice of comfort speaking in the dark.2 We have to be worthy of the brave men who have died. Extravagance, luxury, selfish living are unpardonable. We must be better citizens, more generous in spirit and more willing in service.Declare war on warWe must learn too the virtues of endurance, patience, cheerfulness and self-sacrifice as wonderfully illustrated in the trenches and on the battleship. These men are our friends and kindred. Let us imitate their faith and courage.3 We have to declare war upon war. The sacred duty of every man and woman from this hour is to do all possible to secure that this does not happen again. We must think things out and study the relations of states in the light of Christ. Whatever others may do we must seek to act lovingly and generously with everybody in the world. The greatest cause is the cause of peace and the first step towards it is for each of us to get into right relations with God and men by welcoming into the heart the peace and love of Jesus Christ.