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

resting place.

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.



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.