C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Christmas of 1916 C. S.
'Jack' Lewis had a future few could have hoped
to have. The 18-year-old had just been awarded
a scholarship to Oxford University. His tutor,
an atheist like Jack who rarely praised, said
Jack was a phenomenon. His literary judgment
was extraordinary. He not only unerringly knew
first-rate literature but could explain why it
was so. It seemed inevitable that Jack would
triumph at Oxford, then make a great name for
himself as a literary critic. But inevitable
it was not. Less than one year later Jack
arrived on the front lines in France, a
lieutenant for the British infantry in World
On the dawn of April 15,
1918, he was atop Mount Berenchon, near the
village of Lillers. Overhead two-winged
planes, flimsy as dragonflies, scouted armies
and occasionally dropped bombs. The main
threat was down in front of Jack. Smoke spewed
from cannons and tanks. Dirt plumed up
from shell bursts. The German forces stretched
to the horizon. Several divisions had massed
against the First British Army between Bethune
and Armentieres. The great German offensive
was coming right through Jack's infantry unit!
"What the blazes was
that?" screamed someone.
Jack's mind was spinning.
He could see nothing. He must have been
leveled by the blast from a bomb or an
artillery shell. Was he crawling
momentarily like a squashed insect? He was
alive but surely he was dying. His thoughts
were dying embers. He felt nothing. No regret.
No sorrow. Nothing. But it was a cold end for
an atheist not yet 20 years old…
[sources: Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis, 1955,
of C. S. Lewis edited by Warren