ACS DB July 1916

Dear Father Spencer,

I am writing to you because I don't wish to unburden myself to my family and you have so often been a source of spiritual solace. It's true I haven't always been the most diligent churchgoer in town, but I left for this war with prayer in my heart, and your words when last we spoke have been ever-present in my mind. It can only be God's grace that allows me to write to you now, with so many of my companions suffering a worse fate. You may have read in the papers of the fighting happening by the river Somme. However terrible their accounts, and however alarming the number of casualties reported, nothing can come close to describing the horrors of the battlefield. All I remember is the noise and the sliding of my boots in the mud as I ran. Only it wasn't only mud, Father. It wasn't only mud. Once I fell and lay in it, mercifully unconscious. I woke to find something heavy weighing me down. I lay there for what seemed like hours, too afraid to move, until someone pushed the body off me and saw I still lived. How can such things happen in the world, Father? And how are we to bear them?

Stephen Bennings

(Sergeant Bennings returned home weeks after the Battle of the Somme and was diagnosed with shell shock.)

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