Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Chaplain B.H. Roberts Leads Memorial Services

Chaplain B.H. Roberts Leads Memorial Services

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 23, 2008

This newspaper article is posted as a followup to the post Chaplain B.H. Roberts Pleads for the Lives of His Men from a reference suggested by Justin. No, I don’t know whether the voice recording or the 1918 movie film is extant; I will be looking for them, and solicit your help in the search by Googling and checking databases with which you may be familiar.


Funeral Address by B.H. Roberts at Camp Recorded


By Henry Smith.

All of Salt Lake City, allo of Utah and the entire nation is preparing to observe Memorial Day, Monday, with appropriate services, graveside ceremonies and in other ways honor memories of their loved ones.

It is a day when the entire populace will live in the past. Cemeteries will be beautified more than usual. Military tributes will be paid heroes of war, and the comrades of these men will live over the eventful days of their lives when they stood side by side with these departed “buddies” facing the dangers of enemy fire and other ravages of war.

These military tributes will bring back many fond memories of associations in happiness and times of peace, and then again the sorrows and heartaches occasioned by former similar ceremonies will be vividly recalled.

To Utah’s native soldiery there is a recollection of one memorial service which will remain with them forever.

It is that service held at the general cemetery at Camp De Souge, France, in November, 1918, in honor of those who had been buried from the regiment of the 14th Field Artillery, First Utah.

This service was held a few days previous to the anticipated departure of the regiment for the front for which move they were under orders at the time.

A desire was expressed recently by some of the friends of B.H. Roberts, chaplain of the regiment at that time, and whose memory is honored by every living member of that group, that a recording be made of his voice.

Complying with this request Mr. Roberts selected some of the remarks he made at this memorial service in Camp De Souge, France. These remarks as well as a description of the march of the regiment from its camp to the cemetery for these services, with taps sounded at the close, as recorded, are given herewith:

Fourteen of these soldiers had died of the “Spanish flu” between Oct. 11 and Oct. 27, 1918.

The Utah state military unit, the 145th Field Artillery (First Utah), did not reach the front battle lines in the World war, but was in training at Camp De Souge, southern France (about 18 miles from Bordeaux) under orders to move to the front when the Armistice was signed.

In the American camps the 145th F.A. (First Utah) drilled as light horse-mounted artillery; but on reaching France, was “motorized” and given heavier ordnance (4 point 7 guns instead of French 7’s they had drilled with in their American camps), hence their delay for training with the new guns.

While at Camp De Souge the regiment was stricken with “Spanish flu,” 600 being taken down with it at one time. These were generally cared for in the barracks of the regiment, only the most serious cases being taken to the base hospital of the camp.

In this experience should be mentioned a very heroic action taken by Major Willard Christopherson, commanding the sanitary company of the regiment, who, with the approval of Col. Webb, ordered the men from the brick barracks of the camp to the “pup” field tents in the open air, on the sands of the old ocean bottom on which the camp was located. As a result he lessened the cases of “flu” in the Utah camp by one-half in the course of two or three days.

Preparatory to leaving Camp De Souge for the front it was decided to hold memorial services at the cemetery north of the camp for all the comrades buried there – fourteen in all.

Arrangements were made for these services by the chaplain. Abundance of flowers were obtained from the nearby city of Bordeaux for the decoration of the graves, a large wreath, a cross, and a spray for each grave, to be placed by comrades of the company in which the death occurred.

Moving pictures of the march of the regiment to the cemetery were taken by a young lieutenant from the navy department of photography, whose quarters were at Bordeaux, and also while the flowers were being placed upon the graves. These pictures were later brought to Utah and have several times been exhibited at the regimental reunions.

On the march of the regiment from its place in the extreme south end of Camp De Souge, the Utah regiment was accompanied as a guard of honor by the 143rd California regiment of the same brigade (65th, 40th division). These regiments were stationed side by side with only an open road between them at Camp De Souge.

The 143rd marched in the lead the whole length of the camp more than two miles, but on arriving at the north gate of the camp, the battalions of that regiment separated and formed in a line on each side of the road and the 145th passed between the lines and through the gate, and on a short mile further to the cemetery.

Colonel Webb and Chaplain Roberts made remarks at the services, at the close of which Taps were sounded. The remarks of Chaplain Roberts on this occasion in part, were as follows:

Speech of Chaplain Roberts

“These men who died of the Spanish flu at our camp in De Souge, France, beside whose graves we stand, have made just as complete sacrifice of their lives to the cause for which their country stands in this World war, and hence to their country, as any who have fallen or shall fall in the front line of battle.

“They faced conditions to them as deadly as charging through bursting shells or the patter of machine gun or rifle bullets.

“The miasma of the dread disease they breathed proved for them as deadly as the poisonous German gas waves or from gas shells; and their restless suffering from fever-tortured bodies and congested lungs was as pitiful as any death from bayonet thrusts or shrapnel rents.

“The heroism in the soldier consists in the fact he offers his life to his country, with full intent to meet whatever fate may befall him. It is not his prerogative to choose his place in the battle line, or say when, or how, or where he shall serve, nor when or in what manner he shall fall, if fall he must.

“He does his part when, in response to his country’s call for service, he says, ‘Here am I – send me’; or when, with equal cheerfulness, he responds to the law of his country providing for that country’s service in her defense or in her necessary aggression to maintain her rights and establish justice.

“Here he has some control of his actions, and especially of the spirit in which he answers the call to duty. If that answer rings true to patriotism, there his personal responsibility ends; others after that determine the time and place and kind of his service, and quite other powers determine the time, place and measure of his sacrifice.

“Those who died of disease in our stricken camp were among those who cheerfully and voluntarily placed their all upon their country’s altar in sacrifice, and that sacrifice in full measure was taken by powers they could not control; and, in the sum of things in this World war upheaval, their sacrifice and their heroism will count for just as much as the sacrifice and heroism of those who may fall in immediate action against the enemy.

“To you, our comrades, who sleep in this peaceful vale of France, among her pine-clad hills, we say Farewell.”

“Farewell! a word that must be and hath been –
A sound which makes us linger; – yet – Farewell!”


“When your last day is past,
from afar some bright star
o’er your grave,
watch will keep while you sleep
with the brave.”

[Deseret Evening News, 28 May 1932, sec. III]



  1. F.Y.I- One of the soldiers who died of flu and was one of the persons that B.H. Roberts preached a funeral serivice for was Stanford Hinckley , half brother of President Gordon B. Hinckley.

    Comment by john willis — August 23, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

  2. Thank you, John! I remember reading that Sister Hinckley had gone on one of the Gold Star Mothers’ pilgrimages to France, but I hadn’t connected that with this story. I wonder whether there will be any other familiar names when I finally get that list from the U?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 23, 2008 @ 2:50 pm

  3. Ardis:

    I am deeply grateful that you are pursuing this line. Latter-day Saints always have had a deep commitment to our soldiers. Yes, we love missionaries, but it is also important to think of our soldiers. The role of B.H. Roberts was something I had missed until you raised it.

    Comment by S.Faux — August 24, 2008 @ 4:21 am

  4. S.Faux, one of my favorite weeks to be in the Church Office Building is the week after Conference when the soldiers who are being certified by the Church as chaplains are there for their chaplaincy training. They’re there in every imaginable variation of American military uniform (so far as I know, though, only American; I have no awareness of the presence or training of chaplains in other countries’ service). They have a different bearing — something, I think, about combining military confidence with their errand of service to God and fellowmen — that is highly unusual. I always try to “just happen” to be walking through the lobby when they take their group picture in front of the “Christ Commissioning the Apostles” mural.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 24, 2008 @ 7:13 am

  5. A belated thank you, Ardis, for posting this poignant address. (I’ve been off-line for the past week.) I also look forward to learning all the names of the LDS soldiers. (I’ve identified a few names by searching through the pages of the Improvement Era.)

    Comment by Justin — August 29, 2008 @ 11:20 am

  6. Thanks, Justin — I wondered where you had been. I’ve been gathering material about a second LDS chaplain in WWI, too. (My mind blanks right now on his name, but you probably know who he was.) I’ll try to get up to the U next week for the papers there.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 29, 2008 @ 1:45 pm

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