The Cross and Flag: World War I Experiences – By George Ridout

Chapter 12

The Second Battle of the Marne

In the previous chapter I have described some thrilling experiences I had at the battle of the Marne, July 15th. At one time during that battle I was at Battalion P. C., that was almost surrounded by the enemy and as we sat in the big cave underneath the great Chateau we could feel the building tremble under the concussion of the big German guns that were pouring the iron on us at a ferocious rate, we could also hear the rattle of machine guns and the crack of the rifles as foe met foe, and at one juncture of the event I looked quite seriously at the question of how I would like to be a German prisoner and take a trip ‘into Germany at the Kaiser’s expense.

We YMCA men, chaplains, Red Cross workers, etc., are not permitted to use arms, we have no means of protecting ourselves, and if the enemy got too close to us and there was no escape, the only thing we could do would be to surrender, and then — well it would depend a good, deal on the temper of our captors whether we lived or died. At any rate I have found it a great comfort to be at peace with God and be ready for death or life in the war zone.

One thing I did. I had some notes and papers on me that I did not want to fall into the enemy’s hands if anything happened to me, so I did them up in a small package and tied them to the button-hole of a wounded American soldier Who yeas going into the hospital on the Ambulance, with the instructions that they be handed to some YMCA worker.

I also wrote a brief letter to my wife, that if she did not hear from me for a month or more to not be concerned, as it might be that I Shall be taking a trip to Germany. This letter I sent out also by a wounded soldier who was going to the hospital. About 3 p. m. word came up to our Major that the enemy was coming up the road. The Major sent word back that he intended to hold the lines. However the enemy was held back by the brave 38th against tremendous odds. Soon a great counter attack by the French was brought on, and the tide turned against the Germans, (“The Stars fought against Sisera!”) they were driven out, they retreated, they ran; they were routed, and the greatest victory was achieved for the Allies since 1914. I soon found myself on the victory side, got back my papers and instead of being a German captor myself, I had considerable work to do with German prisoners, helping the wounded, etc.

I remember how forcibly that Scripture came into my mind during those days that I ministered to them: “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” I can recall one nice looking young fellow about nineteen, his leg was injured severely and he was suffering greatly, he was very quiet but his face revealed his pain. When night came I hunted around till I got some bedding for the poor boy so that he could get some sleep.

On the morrow the ambulances managed to get through the shell fire and we sent all our wounded — American, French, and German to the hospitals in the rear, and let it be remembered, the German prisoners who are wounded, get just as good attention as any others.

During the battle I refer to we lost a lot of personal property. The German shells tore up my canteen, and I last some most precious, things, among them my handy Bible which had full line of helps, index, etc. It was a library in itself and so compact that I could carry it conveniently in my pocket. It had notes, etc., in it and I had preached much from it in France. It was like losing a dear friend. I had another Bible in my traveling bag in the rear, and lo! and behold that bag was lost also, containing not only my Bible, but a lot of valuable papers and other things including my dress suit — and so it goes when you get in the war zone.

But, in a bunch of mail there came to me a Bible — sent by someone whom I do not know, and I am real glad to have a whole Bible again — for several weeks I had been obliged to content myself with a pocket Testament.