Idling about the magnificent grounds

Monday April 24 1916

Moved to Mont des Cats. Lovely hospital here now. Lovely rest here too until May 2. Idling about the magnificent grounds, reading etc.

Also turned over new leaf here and scraped very dirty kettle (went to confession?). Mass every morning in monks’ chapel.

Very nice but awfully lonely without dear L’s letters. Miss them badly.

From The Great War as I Saw It – Frederick George Scott:

(in 1914, aged 53, Frederick Scott enlisted to fight in World War I. He held the rank of Major and served as the Senior Chaplain to the 1st Canadian Division. He fell from his horse, Dandy, shortly after Easter 1916 and spent time in Mont des Cats hospital.)

Mont des Cats hospital was a most delightful temporary home. There was a large ward full of young officers, who were more or less ill or damaged. In another part of the building were wards for the men. From the OC downwards everyone in the CCS (Casualty Clearing Station) was the soul of kindness, and the beautiful buildings with their pleasant grounds gave a peculiar charm to the life. My room was not far from the chapel, and every night at two a.m. I could hear the old monks chanting their offices. Most of the monks had been conscripted and were fighting in the French army; only a few of the older ones remained. But by day and night at stated intervals the volume of their prayer and praise rose up above the noise of war,  just as it had risen through the centuries of the past. There were beautiful gardens which the monks tended carefully, and also many grapevines on the walls. We used to watch the silent old men doing their daily work and making signs to one another instead of speaking. In the evening I would make my way up the spiral staircase to the west-end gallery, which looked down upon the chapel. The red altar lamp cast a dim light in the sacred building, and every now and then in the stillness I could hear, like the roar of a distant sea, the sound of shells falling at the front. The mysterious silence of the lofty building, with the far-off reverberations of war thrilling it now and then, was a solace to the soul.

A smaller chapel in the monastery, with a well-appointed altar, was allotted by the monks to the chaplain for his services. While I was at Mont des Cats we heard of the death of Lord Kitchener (June 5 1916). The news came to the army with the force of a stunning blow; but thank God, the British character is hardened and strengthened by adversity, and while we all felt his loss keenly and looked forward to the future with anxiety, the determination to go on to victory was made stronger by the catastrophe. As the chaplain of the hospital was away at the time, I held a memorial service in the large refectory.