“One pitch-dark night, about half-past twelve, a shell dropped in the entrance of the dug-out, smashing it up and setting fire to its contents”

Noncombatant workers behind the lines were also at terrible risk.

Trinity Hut

It is now pretty well known by members of the Church and congregation that our Trinity Y.M.C.A. Hut at La Clytte is no more. It was completely destroyed during the fighting in Flanders towards the end of March, and the young Y.M.C.A. Worker, Mr. L. Hutchinson, who took charge there soon after I left, was himself severely wounded, and is now in hospital at Chelsea. I called on him there recently, and learned from him some particulars which must not be published, and some others that will be of interest to all members and friends of Trinity.

The first accident that happened to the Hut was the bursting of a big shell a few yards away, which riddled the little cabin known as Hotel de la Paix, where I used to sleep, and wrecked some 40 feet of the main hut on that side. This was quickly patched up, and the work was continued until the military authorities decided that it was necessary to close the Hut. Then our workers obtained the use of a large dug-out in the vicinity holding about a dozen at a time, and carried on the canteen work there, sleeping in a smaller dug-out nearby. Finally one pitch-dark night, about half-past twelve, a shell dropped in the entrance of the smaller dug-out, smashing it up, setting fire to its contents, and badly wounding my friend Mr. Hutchinson just above the knee.
His colleagues, one of whom was slightly hurt, succeeded with some difficulty in extricating him from the wreckage, but it was more than an hour before an ambulance and medical aid was forthcoming. It was found necessary to amputate the injured lag. I am glad to say that my friend is now making excellent progress towards recovery.

Since the general facts became known to us, I have been asked by a good many of our friends, “What are we going to do about it?” and the desire has been expressed from many quarters first that we should do something practical to show our sympathy with this young worker who held the fort so faithfully to the very last in our hut, and our appreciation of all that he did as to that extent our representative; and in the second place that we should endeavour in some form or other to replace the Hut erected as a memorial to those of our boys who have made the supreme sacrifice during the war.

To rebuild the Hut as it was would of course cost a great deal more than the original £500. Nor is the Y.M.C.A. putting up so many buildings of that type in the battle area. A less expensive type of Hut, of which a number are now being set up in France, costs £300, and even this would be a great deal to ask of our people as things are at present.

Many who might fully sympathise with the object may be so placed that other pressing claims made it impossible for them to take part in any such effort as this, and I do not intend to put them in the position of having to say so. I shall not therefore be making any immediate public appeal from the pulpit, nor any personal appeal to individual members of the Church congregation. But on the other hand, I know that many of our members are not only able and willing, but eager to do something in this direction. I am therefore making it known in this way, with the consent of the Deacons, that I shall be very glad to give further information to any who ask for it, and to forward any gifts that may be entrusted to me for this purpose. At the time of writing I have already gifts and promises amounting to £85. If it should not prove possible to for us to find enough for a Hut, it may still be within our reach to provide a marquee in which the same type of work could be carried on. The more we can raise, the more can be done. But I do hope and believe that before very long we may have the satisfaction of knowing that somewhere at the Front some bit of work is again being done by the Trinity, in the Master’s Name, for those brave men who are facing such hardships and dangers on our account. P.N.H.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, August 1918 (D/EX1237/1)

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