Dedicated to the memory of all the men and women of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, who died during the two World Wars.
ARCHDEACON SOUTHWELLS CHEERY LETTER FROM THE FRONT. [Bridgnorth Journal, 10th April, 1915]
The Ven. Archdeacon of Lewis, Canon Southwell (a son of the late Mr. T. Martin Southwell, of Bridgnorth), who recently relinquished his duties as Chaplain to the Forces at Newhaven, and proceeded to France, has addressed a cheerful letter to the 'Chichester Diocesan Gazette,' the April number of which is now in the hands of its usual readers.
Archdeacon Southwell says:— "Mr. Bean, who usually presides over the sanitation of our schools, would find occupation in these parts for the rest of his life, and probably die of a broken heart. But our medical and sanitary services are excellent and watchful. Big London doctors and surgeons career about in motors, and pathologists with travelling shops make curious and intimate inquiries, so that you cannot nurse a friendly bacillus without official interference. The one thing they can't cure is a bronchial cold brought from England, and they have also much difficulty with frost-bitten feet, as they are not allowed to remove them and supply rubber substitutes, which would defy the wettest trench. As to the 'Diocesan Gazette,' the fear of the Censor sits heavily on one; it's hard to know what you may or may not say, and so widely read a periodical might land me back in Lewis Gaol, if I escaped being shot. It's all the worse when you censor your own letter, for if you fail the privilege is removed - and so are you!
"My daily routine is practically unvaried. A casualty clearing station receives the sick and wounded at any hour from the field ambulance parties, washes, feeds, clothes, dresses wounds, and then sends them on to the base by hospital trains at the earliest possible moment, the great object being to 'clear' quickly and be ready forthe next lot. I succeed. I think, in seeing every man who comes through, and I have a hope, vain no doubt, that some cheery words in passing may be of help, and let them know that 'her watch Thy church is keeping.' Sometimes men stay a bit, either too bad to move, or because they are liable to be able to go to the front again in a day or two, and then there is an extended opportunity.
"On Sunday I get a mixed bag — last Sunday; Holy Communion. 7 30, in a room; short Matins at 10 in a cinema ; hospital service in a ward and R.C. Chapel at 10.45 and 11.30 Then a motor run across country, and short evensong in a barn,which had been shelled and was draughty, finishing with Evensong at 6 in a theatre at a seminary school. Five addresses and much vain repetition.
"I am living with our medical staff, six doctors, a dentist and the quartermaster, good chaps, all rish [sic] and hard workers. The medical organization is wonderful. This is a generous war, and nothing is stinted. We live on rations which are plentiful, and the men are really well fed. Anything necessary may be had for the asking. Motor ambulances, all provided by private donors, are here by the hundred, while motor transport of every sort makes the roads dangerous. Petrol does everything, and our Army short of petrol or rubber would no longer be a force in being.
"Boyd, of Shaugham, who is With the 3rd Cavalry Division, has his head-quarters close by. He has done great work, and fully earned theen from the trenches have been through so much that it is a great joy to be of any service to them, and a Chaplain fills a gap which no one else could quite do. The fighting line and the doctors have their job, and the people who wish the clergy to leave theirs to fight don't know anything about active service or the needs of the front. I only wish we could do more, for sometimes it seems little enough but leaving out all else, it is good for the Church to be in evidence."
This memorial has mostly been compiled from official sources. It would be good to be able to expand it with more personal material - memories, stories, photos, etc. If you have any suitable material or any corrections please contact Greg. For news of updates follow @BridgnorthHeros on Twitter.