Harry Lauder Sings
: Winning A Cause World War Stories
Harry Lauder, an extremely popular Scotch singer and entertainer, gave
his services to help cheer the soldiers on the western front.
The men went wild with enthusiasm and joy wherever he went. One day I
was taking Harry to see the grave of his only child, Captain John
Lauder of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, as fine a lad as ever
wore a kilt, and as good and brave a son as ever a father had.
As we were motoring swiftly along, we turned into the town of Albert
and the first sharp glance at the cathedral showed the falling Madonna
and Child. While we lingered a bunch of soldiers came marching
through, dusty and tired. Lauder asked the officer to halt his men for
a rest and he would sing to them. I could see that they were loath to
believe it was the real Lauder until he began to sing. Then the doubts
vanished, and they abandoned themselves to the full enjoyment of this
very unexpected pleasure. When the singing began, the audience would
number about 200; at the finish of it easily more than 2000 soldiers
cheered him on his way.
It was a strange send-off on the way that led to a grave--the grave of
a father's fondest hopes--but so it was. A little way up the Bapaume
road the car stopped, and we clambered the embankment and away over the
shell-torn field of Courcelette. Here and there we passed a little
cross which marked the grave of some unknown hero; all that was written
was A British Soldier.
He spoke in a low voice of the hope-hungry hearts behind all those at
home. Now we climbed a little ridge, and here a cemetery, and in the
first row facing the battlefield was the cross on Lauder's boy's
The father leaned over the grave to read what was written there. He
knelt down, indeed he lay upon the grave and clutched it, the while his
body shook with the grief he felt. When the storm had spent itself he
rose and prayed: O God, that I could have but one request. It would
be that I might embrace my laddie just this once and thank him for what
he has done for his country and humanity.
That was all, not a word of bitterness or complaint. On the way down
the hill, I suggested gently that the stress of such an hour made
further song that day impossible. But Lauder's heart is big and
British. Turning to me with a flash in his eye he said, George, I
must be brave; my boy is watching and all the other boys are waiting.
I will sing to them this afternoon though my heart break! Off we went
again to another division of Scottish troops.
There within the hour he sang again the sweet old songs of love and
home and country, bringing all very near, and helping the men to
realize the deeper what victory for the enemy would mean.
DR. GEORGE ADAMS.
Today the journey is ended,
I have worked out the mandates of fate,
Naked, alone, undefended,
I knock at the Uttermost Gate--
Lo, the gate swings wide at my knocking;
Across endless reaches I see
Lost friends, with laughter, come flocking
To give a glad welcome to me.
Farewell, the maze has been threaded,
This is the ending of strife;
Say not that death should be dreaded,
'Tis but the beginning of life.