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In his monthly letter to his parishioners in Windhill, published 14 April 1916, Rev Whincup gave a picture of his life while serving as chaplain to the West Yorkshire Regiment in France, describing the small villages in which they were billeted as ‘a pathetic spectacle.’ They must be poor sorts of places even in in the most peaceable times but after months and months of neglect, together with the wholesale damage which the shells and the ravages of war generally have caused, they appear more uninviting than ever. Exultation And yet, however desolate the village looks, it is entered with a certain feeling of exultation for it often marks the end of the day’s march at any rate and in the minds of many it is heaven compared to the trenches. Amongst the chief thing for which most of those villages are noted are rat and stray dogs. The dogs, with
true military instinct, very soon attach themselves to the different regiments for “rations” while the rats manage to procure the rations without any very visible signs of attachment. Rats abound, rats of truly prodigious size according to all one hears. It’s an ill-wind that blows nobody any good and already the rat presents himself as a most convenient scapegoat for the loss, the theft and the waste of all manner of things. Being, however, entirely immune from field punishment and all such objectionable practices, the rat goes on his way rejoicing despite the fact that he may be called upon to bear the sins of many. I have not been much impressed by many of the French and Belgian churches which I have seen. With
all due respect to the deep religious devotion of many of the local people in this country, yet their churches seem to lack the quiet dignity of most of our English churches. Cathedral We recently marched through a city which has a very fine cathedral; some of the glass was exquisite and the whole conception of the building was most chaste and beautiful. But here again some very ornate decorations around the altar and the pulpit and in other parts of the edifice seemed to considerably spoil the general effect, but there was no mistaking the stately grandeur of the pile as one approached the city. I often wonder what the French really think about us British people. We seem to be so different from the French in all sorts of ways and there need be little surprise if all kinds of little misunder- standings occasionally arise. Here
we are, a perfect multitude of us, we seem to have practically taken possession of the country for miles and miles all around here. We have our own railways, all our own police, our own postal system, our own canteens, our own doctors, our own travelling entertainments etc., etc. No wonder if the French people at times ask each other whether the English will ever take their departure now that they seem to be so full in possession. But our French friends would soon have little doubt on this point if only we had a clear and honourable chance of departure. Personally I have received many kindnesses from the French people that I have come across and I am very glad to say that, despite the many faults which are so often found with us clergy in England, yet the French people seem to give the British chaplains a very, very good name. Possibly they do not know us sufficiently!!! I have even heard us referred to as ‘tres bon”!!!
“Rats abound, rats of truly prodigious size according to all one hears”
Even a desolate village is heaven after the trenches