Hi! Another essay by the master.
Don’t be childish! Follows us on FB!: https://www.facebook.com/robertwilsonlynd?ref=hl
Cairns Post – 30 December 1939
Even in the days of bombs, torpedoes, and mines, the age of chivalry is not dead.
Even amid the hell of war, the records of human strife are made brighter by noble, generous and courteous deeds. Amid all the horrors of modern aerial warfare, chivalry still remains. As in the last war, airmen honour and pay tribute to the gallantry and skill of their enemy.
So mixed are the elements of human nature that we hear of chivalry even in so inhuman a practice as unrestricted submarine warfare. Who can doubt that Pastor Niemoeller, in his submarine, was a chivalrous enemy? And already during the present war we have heard of the chivalrous behaviour of more than one U-boat commander.
There was the U-boat commander, for example, who, hiving sunk a boat, took the crew on board and fed them, and, finding that the captain had no coat, gave him his own, after which he conducted them to the safety of a neutral ship.
Then there was the story of the commander who, having captured a trawler, saw that there was only one small boat on board and that it could not accommodate the crew, and who thereupon, after putting the wireless out of action, spared the trawler and sent it safely on its way to port.
Incidents such as these do not mitigate the atrocity of the sinking of the Athenia, but they prove—what is sometimes difficult to remember during the horrors of war—that gallant and chivalrous men are to be found in all countries, and that to believe that any nation is a nation of mere wild beasts is to believe what is not true.
To believe that Hitlerism is a devilish religion is natural to anyone who cares for human freedom. To believe that all the Germans whom Herr Hitler controls are devils would be nothing less than a dangerous war-time delusion.
Even during the night of war good deeds shine like candles, and the light helps to keep alive our faith in human nature.
During the Black-and-Tan days in Ireland, the blacksmith of Ballinalee, Sean Mac Eoin, having ambushed a small British force, remained to attend to the wounds of a British officer who had fallen, and was captured and court-martialled as a result. The young officer gave evidence of the gallantry and chivalry of the man who was responsible for the ambush, and even the bitterest haters of Sinn Fein applauded when the life of so valiant an enemy was spared.
I think it is Lord Dunsany who tells the story of being shot in the fighting at the Four Courts in Dublin. He was then captured and carried inside, whereupon one of his captors, seeing how profusely he was losing blood, called out to a comrade: “Hi, Johnnie! Go and fetch a doctor quick, or the poor fellow will bleed to death.”
Here we are faced by one of the strange paradoxes of human nature—men trying to kill each other, and yet, as soon as they have wounded and captured an enemy, using all their merciful instincts to save his life.
A man I know was cruelly gassed by the Germans in the last war and injured for life, but as soon as he was made a prisoner, the men who had caused his troubles set about restoring him to health as though he had been a German whose life was essential to German victory in the war.
This does not make sense from one point of view, but then, as I once heard a blind Irish beggar saying to himself as he felt his way along a country road near Galway: “There is no sense in anything.”
Man does not live by reason alone, however, and we may be sure that, even if Armageddon came, he would at his best persist in living according to the unreasonable code of chivalry.
This is not an exclusively Christian virtue. The Mohammedans have shown many fine examples of it since the days of Saladin.
A good story of mutual chivalry between Christians and Mohammedans is told in M. de Saint Exupery’s new book, ”Wind, Sand and Stars.” He tells how during the war in the Riff, a French officer was in command of an outpost between two mountains occupied by hostile tribesmen.
From one of the mountains one day a delegation came down, asking for a parley. As Frenchmen and Arabs were talking over tea, the tribesmen from the other mountain attacked the outpost. The officer tried to dismiss his guests to safety, but they said:
“We are your guests. God will not allow us to desert you.”
And they fought beside his men and drove back the enemy.
Later on, when they wished to make an attack on the outpost themselves, sent another delegation to the French officer. “We came to your aid the other day,” said the chief Arab. “Yes.” “We used up three hundred of our cartridges for you.” “Very likely.”
“It would be only just that you replace them for us.”
And M. de Saint Exupery adds:
“The commandant was an officer and a gentleman. They were given their cartridges.”