Remembrance Sunday: A Flanders Story by Sarah Macnab

A Flanders Story
Prepared by Sarah Macnab for the Centenary Armistice Service
11th November 2018

The summer of 1914 was, by all accounts, a gloriously warm one, perhaps just like this year. My great-uncle, Alec Scott, had finished his final exams at Oxford. He and three friends had hired a horse-drawn caravan to travel to an English Country Dance festival at Stratford, camping along the way. They named the caravan The Fine Companion and one of the girls wrote a journal. Here are a few extracts from The Log of The Fine Companion.
August 3rd. This afternoon has seen a telegram from Rufty saying that there is fighting on the North Sea, and asking Alec to meet him in London tomorrow so that they can enlist together. Alec is going, but has telegraphed to his father as he may want him to be with him. P & D writing to Rufty.
August 4th. Alec arrived early with a telegram from London. He is to go tonight and enlist, they may be off at any minute. There wasn’t time for any supper. P. went to the station to say goodbye. D. didn’t go, because one was enough, and besides, he may never come back – and one doesn’t have scenes.
August 5th. War was declared last evening. Telegram from Alec. Rufty and I enlist London Scottish tonight. Love, Alec.
P. packing Alec’s things to send after him. Not a pair of socks or a shirt in decent repair – such darning and button sewing, but he will be comfortable for a bit, at any rate.
August 6th. Letters from Alec and Rufty. They have both signed on for four years. Poor K. She and Rufty won’t be married on 1st March now.
There the Log of the Fine Companion ends, but one of those girls added some after-words.
November 28th. A letter from Alec. He has been for eleven days and nights in the trenches at Ypres and is now off duty for a little rest. He has not been hit – so far – but is having to go to the Doctor every day.
And we at home knit and knit, and welcome those poor Belgians and try in some way to help in all this nightmare of so terribly altered social conditions. And all those boys out there – seeing Death like that – the Death that is not laid out.
Perhaps this is a Dream, and all the before was true – or was that the Dream. They cannot both be true – at least not in the same year?
Alec was killed in the Ypres sector early in 1915. I had a little note, written in pencil on a leaf from a note-book. He said “We are just going into action. It is all so beastly that is must be for some good purpose”.
It was his last remark, for he was killed that night. I sent the note to his mother.
Alec, with 13,400 others who have no known grave, is commemorated on the memorial at the Le Touret military cemetery
One of his Balliol friends who became a despatch rider wrote a memoir after the war which contains this epitaph:
I shall never be able to write “Alec and I” again – and he was the sweetest and kindest of my friends, a friend of all the world. Never did he meet a man or woman that did not love him. The Germans have killed Alec. Perhaps among the multitudinous Germans killed there are one or two German Alecs. Yet I am still meeting people who think that war is a fine bracing thing for the nation, a sort of national week-end at Brighton.
Will present and sadly future conflicts have such eloquence as this and so many others I wonder?