The great advance

Capt. Perry at Newport leapt into grave to avoid shells

Stories from the front

CAPTAIN the Rev. C. L. Perry was in the blood stained trenches in Flanders on Saturday morning- the scene of one of the most brilliant engagements in the war; the following evening-less than 36 hours later-he was preaching with surprising vigour and eloquence in his old pulpit at the Great Central Hall, Newport.

His Brigadier General said to him ‘Captain Perry, you can go home for a week.’ “Before the General had left the trenches” said Captain Perry, “I was out of them, had mounted my horse, and was riding to the nearest railway station, because I did not want the permission to be withdrawn.”

His sermon contained frequent reference to incidents at the front. They would expect him, he said, to talk of the war; but he really wanted to get away from it, away from the booming of the guns for a time.

A few days ago he was burying one of the brave soldiers when a piece of a shell skimmed his belt. They went on with the service. A moment later, however, he heard the whizz of another shell and he dived into the grave with the body so as to avoid it. He had lived with Tommy under various circumstances and had a great admiration for him. He was going back in a few days.

“There is one day,” Mr Perry continued “I shall never forget. It was the 25th of last month upon which day the great advance was made. At six o’ clock in the morning a rocket went up and was the signal for attack.

"Thousands and thousands of men climbed the parapets of the trenches to face death. The flower of our manhood were mown down like corn before the scythe. An officer commanding a certain regiment gripped me by the hand and said “Perry, I shall never be quite the same man again. I shall tread softly.”

That officer had been face to face with a crisis in his life - a crisis which will either lift a man to a higher plane or will crush him altogether. In the case of the officer I have mentioned the crisis will prove an inspiration and an incentive. I am perfectly certain I shall never myself be quite the same man again, having seen men face death on that memorable morning as I never did before. Such an occasion makes men move with measured tread.

“I am glad of this war for one reason. It is going to elevate and mould our national life as nothing else could have done. Before the war we, as a nation, were much too selfish, too luxurious. There are many at home who have not realised what sacrifices are being made. All they think is how much they can get out of life, not what they could give.

"I question whether some at home are worth the sacrifices made on their behalf. Too many people lived only for what enjoyment they could get out of life. Theatres and picture shows were full to overflowing nightly. It is only in great crises such as the country is now passing through that the men get the spirit of great sacrifice or chivalry, of heroism. Young men are the flower of the Army-men have left good homes and situations, luxurious homes some of them, to fight for their king and country."