Cleanliness & Godliness – January 13th, 1918

Sunday Jan 13th, 1918

Grand day.  Lovely day.  Service morning – enjoyed it fine.  Wrote few letters and fifth letter home.  Washed underclothes.  Had a nice walk around camp after tea – nice and mild.

Godliness & Religion

Compared to the firing, bayonet and bomb practice of yesterday, Frank starts off his day in a far more genteel fashion with a religious service. Religion played an important role in the lives of men serving at the front line, at home many of them would have been regular church goers. Consequently a religious service provided them not only with spiritual fulfillment but also a sense of normality and home. Frank was a deeply religious man, evident by his own inscription inside the front page of his diary which reads “GOD IS MINE AND I AM HIS. ARE YOU HIS?”.  Additionally, while on the boat to Salonika, Frank often bemoaned the lack of Sunday service questioning why God would tolerate such an affront. As Frank moves up to the front his religion will retain its importance and he often thanks God when he emerges unscathed from conflict.

Attributing battlefield events to the intervention of God and other supernatural forces was a frequent occurrence in World War One and soldiers would often trade tales of their own experiences of the divine. The most famous of these legends is surely that of the Angels of Mons who supposedly aided the highly outnumbered men of the BEF in repelling the German forces in August, 1914. This supernatural tale gained great traction and was reported widely in the British press. Some commentators now attribute the promotion of the legend to British Intelligence, eager to instil the narrative that God was on the side of the BEF.

Letters Home & Cleanliness

A soldier washes his clothes*

After service Frank writes two more letters home. Unbeknownst to Frank, he was unlikely to receive any mail from home for some time. As the 13th Battalion War Diary recorded the previous day: ‘A portion of the letter mail for Salonica which reached London on 3rd Dec 1917  has been lost at sea owing to enemy action.’ 

Frank, like the soldier in the photograph, also washes his clothes; an important and rewarding task for any soldier.

13th (Service) Battalion War Diary – 13th January 1918 – Minden Camp, No.1 Sector

Artillery active on both sides and in evening, Trench Mortars and Machine Guns harassed working party. Patrols had nothing to report. 5 OR struck off effective strength from 13-1-18 under GRO (General Routine Order) 1011. Divine Service as usual.

References & further reading

* from Field Marshal (Earl) Haig’s papers, National Library of Scotland

13th (Service) Battalion War Diary, Manchester Regiment from The National Archives

Angels of Mons, Wikipedia

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