Lives complete in self-sacrifice

A naval and army chaplain with links to Windsor reports on his experiences at Gallipoli ad in Egypt. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he was open to learning from the non-white and non-Christian peoples he encountered, and respected the Turks as an honourable enemy.

The Vicar has received the following letter from Mr Everett:

Hospital Ship “Asturias”
Alexandria
February 1st, 1916

My dear Vicar

Since I last wrote I have seen so much, and gathered so many new impressions, that I find it difficult to decide what to write, and what to leave out. I have been several times through the Aegean Sea, either from Malta or Alexandria, on my way to Lemnos, the Gallipoli Peninsula, or Salonica [sic], from which places we, of course, brought back sick and wounded…

What thoughts are produced by Mount Olympus – hoary Olympus – once believed of men the home of the greater Gods! There, standing lofty and snowcapped, it has looked down through the ages on the surrounding country and the Gulf of Salonica. What has it seen in the past, and what now! Then, men seeking an unknown God in their own way, making wars, too, or carrying on their simple business, or cultured lives, on land and sea; using their frail ships with their banks of oars, or driven by contrary winds, and now, watching the great ships go by, battle cruisers and hospital ships (two strange contrasts), huge transports for the gathering of armies, and busy torpedo boats, all more or less independent of storm and tempest, and defeating space with their wireless installations.

But my pen has run away with me over my fascinating travels, nd I must turn to twentieth century history. The Dardanelles campaign is over, but I am not likely to forget my brief visits to Anzac Beach or Cape Helles; nor will those splendid men of all ranks, who spent months there and at Suvla Bay, under conditions which are well known. At Cape Helles I was sometimes ashore, and went over ground once held by fire and sword. It would take too long to describe it – the camps, landing places, “River Clyde”, and the town and fortress of Sedd El Bahr; but one enclosed space, of pathetic interest, held me – the little grave yard studded with crosses, some elaborate, but the majority rough and ready, marking the resting places of some of the many on the Peninsula whose lives, though so short, were so complete in their voluntary self-sacrifice. I eagerly scanned the names and rude inscriptions, in case I could recognise some brave friend from Windsor or elsewhere, in order to tell someone at home about it, and bring back a photograph, but found none I knew. I venture to think that the Turk, who has been an honourable foe, now that he is again in possession of Cape Helles, will reverence that little spot. I might add that I carefully looked at the crosses on Lemnos Island, over the graves of those who had died in hospital there, and have also seen the military burying place in Alexandria, but have only come across one name I knew.

My second and last visit to Cape Helles was on the final night of evacuation of troops from the Peninsula: a night thrilling and historic, the culmination of a finely combined effort of navy and army, an account of which has probably appeared in the home newspapers, so I refrain from giving details of what took place, while we were lying at anchor within easy reach of the shore. Those of us who were present at the early celebration on the ship in the early hours of that Sunday morning, after watching the greater part of the night, felt with others that we could not be sufficiently thankful that this evacuation had been completed without the terrible losses which were at one time feared.

I should have said earlier that I got a temporary exchange to another hospital ship in November, on which I made some of my travels, but am now back on the “Asturias”. While waiting to rejoin the latter I was sent for a time to act as chaplain in one of the important military hospitals in Alexandria, which was an encouraging experience. As patients are, as a rule, kept in land hospitals for a longer time than on hospital ships, it is possible to see more of the, and get to know them better. I started some Confirmation classes, and was able to hand over to my successor a number who were anxious to be confirmed, and I heard that Bishop McInnes was intending to hold a confirmation there shortly after I left the hospital. When we were lying in Alexandria harbour, I spent much of my time in the native quarter, trying to understand the oriental life. The East and West seem so far apart in thought, custom, and religious outlook, and I, so essentially a Western [sic], can only stand and wonder at it. I feel there is yet a great gulf fixed, but they have something to teach us.

Of the wounded, sick and others with whom I am brought into contact, what more can I add to my first letter? Perhaps this: the far-reaching value of that mysterious link between us out here and those at home. I mean prayer. Men have spoken freely about it, and delight in saying that they are known by name in their churches, in town and village; or the sure knowledge that the parents, or in so many cases the wife and children, or the sweetheart, never lets a day go by without intercession, means so much to them. Nor, on the other hand, are some of us unmindful of those at home in their anxiety. There is a reality in this common action, which helps here as elsewhere. The man on service is so delightfully human; the few words about his home, perhaps his children – though I could tell you pathetic stories – does him a world of good, and he talks freely about those waiting at home, and almost invariable produces from his kit bag a photograph of his wife, or family group, or very often the girl who is everything to him – priceless pictures, which he has clung to through thick and thin. Indeed, I am sure that there is no more powerful factor in a man’s life than the having at home a woman who cares. But all those who stand and wait have their share too in the common burden.

Yours very sincerely
Bernard Everett

New Windsor St John the Baptist parish magazines, March-April 1916 (D/P149/28A/21/1-2)

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