Rev. Father Rouillon (Dominican Order)
With his black cassock and cloak, fawn or white tunic and balaclava helmet on his head, one might think one saw the religious soldier monks of the League. On the front line, chaplains had a dignified bearing, their presence added to the show some kind of mysticism, and in death bestowed something sacred. Who does not remember the masses held in the open air? I have kept a poignant memory of a mass said in August 1914 whilst it was still possible to gather the troops together without danger just a short distance from the enemy. The whole division was there, formed into a square in the dazzling sunshine. The small altar cloth made a white splash on the grass. The chaplain seemed all golden: and truly from all those gathered souls as they repeated some statement of faith that they had learned by heart there arose a great burst of fervour and belief.
Later on, the service was made more modest, mass was said in barns, in shelters, in the corner of a bivouac. But always the chaplain fulfilled his mission of mercy, whether in the trenches, the billet or the ambulance. On days when there was an attack, he set off with the waves of the assault.
And the soldiers knew how to recognise his devotion. I never caught unawares a grin, a shrug of the shoulders, or sarcastic comment in the presence of the genuine chaplains, who knew their place wasn’t with the top brass but in the lines where the men lived in such harsh conditions, and where death came easily.