Canon Carbonell’s message to his parishioners on the outbreak of war.
The German nation has torn up its treaties as so much waste paper. It had promised to respect the neutrality of Belgium. That promise meant that, in any quarrel with France, Germany would keep her troops off the neutral territory of Belgium. Germany broke her pledge word and insisted on marching through Belgium. The strong nation would bully the weak one and force her against her will to allow the German Army to pass. The Belgians were and are friends and good friends to England, so we could not in honour, stand aside and see them trampled on.
Nor could we allow a military despotism to override the rights of European nations and tear up treaties to which we amongst the rest were ourselves signatories.
Our government did all that was possible for the preservation of peace, and only after every effort had failed were they compelled to break off all communications with a country that refused point blank to be bound by its plighted word.
And so we find ourselves in a conflict such as the world has never seen before. Look at the map of Europe and mark off in your mind the countries which are at war. How large a part of the whole continent! And the issue at stake is almost incalculable. If England should be beaten in the struggle, then farewell, a long farewell to all her greatness.
It may be doubted whether, even now, our people realize how much success or failure means to them.
There are signs, however, that we are beginning to take the matter seriously. Luxuries are given up. Sports and games are abandoned. Recruits are rolling up. Selfishness is giving way to patriotism.
All this is good as far as it goes. It shows that we are beginning to realize how much humanely speaking depends on us, and the way in which we face our foes in the next few weeks, or perhaps the next few months.
This is not time for letting events take their own course. This is no time for hesitation or delay. No time for sitting still, amusing ourselves with sports and games, while we leave it to others to bear the brunt of the battle.
It is time when every Englishman who is worthy of so great a name should be up and doing.
The noble words which our great poet [Shakespeare] puts into the mouth of Henry the Fifth have a ring about them which fits the times:-
In peace, there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness, and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the actions of the tiger
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured rage…….
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot;
Follow your spirit; and upon this charge,
Cry – God for Harry, England, and St George!
From King Henry V. Act 3 Scene 1