NOV.11th- Flanders Fields -Remembering War

November 9, 2013 at 5:12 pm 5 comments

poppy

I use this video in most of my November 11th posts it tugs at my heart and my conscience. The Great War – 1914-1918 – my grandmothers and elderly aunts called it. When they spoke of the Great War it was not with the same camaraderie my mother and younger aunts and uncles who had fought and been “blitzed”. They, the aged, didn’t seem to have the same national fulfillment of achievement in their voices the attitude shown by those of the next generation.

Uncle Jim- lost two  legs RAF Pilot WW2

Uncle Jim- lost two legs RAF Pilot WW2


“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be” Winston Chruchill


The pride of watching the skies above as the Battle of Britain Pilots as they defended their “sceptered isle.” seemed missing as they talked of bombs and carnage, although on the side of victory , there was somehow something hollow in their remembrance of those years of World War 1.

This was a war that was so horrible, unthinkable with so many men lost, a generation lost , never had there been such human destruction on such a scale before or since. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars The Great War in Europe started in 1914- the 100 year anniversary will be noted in Europe next year.

man to  war

The number of men mobilised by both sides: the central powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey), and the allied powers (Britain and Empire, France, Belgium, Russia, Italy, USA), totalled over 65 million.

When the fighting was finally over, no-one could tell exactly how many had been killed but historians estimate that up to 10 million men lost their lives on the battlefield – and another 20 million were wounded…..it is perhaps best remembered for the staggering loss of human life. In the decade following the Great War many had the firm conviction that it should be “the war to end all wars”. …

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/special_report/1998/10/98/world_war_i/198172.stm

I wasn’t born during either of the “World Wars” but I do remember my grand dad who lived to a ripe old age . I remember his whiskers, the smell of beer ( which wasn’t that unpleasant) and of sweet-smelling tobacco, although I can’t remember him with a pipe or a cigarette. The roughness of his jacket on my cheek as he held me on his lap toasting bread by the fire .

He was an old reprobate (I later learned) but to me he was the one who would come home from the pub and always had a present in his pocket for me , sometimes sweets, sometimes a few pennies and on one brilliant occasion a kitten named Jimmy!
gradad ages and me

I was the youngest girl grandchild and he would tease me unmercifully ( or so it seemed) but I knew he loved me even if his nickname for me was “maggot”.

In fact I was just married when he died , he had been to my wedding just weeks before with his fancy woman as my one aunt called her. My grandmother had died 10 years before .
grandwed

We received a call he was in hospital and asking to see me . I went. I remember his little old face as white as the hospital pillow case upon which his head rested . He smiled , the twinkle had gone out of his blue eyes- he told my husband you take care of my little maggot in those United States of yours, squeezed my hand and said

come back tomorrow

and I said I would. What I didn’t know , he had told my aunt, who was a nurse at the hospital, he couldn’t die until he had seen me and then he could go.
grandadbs

As we drove down the country lanes in Suffolk to get to my other aunt’s, I could not shake the feel of his hand squeezing mine, it stayed with me the whole journey home. When we arrived my aunt told me he died not 5 minutes after I had left the room. He had made my grandmother’s life miserable, had given her 6 children , three sons and three daughters, and many, many hardships.

But as I read articles and history such as the Diary of Harry Drinkwater:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2491760/Harry-Drinkwaters-lost-diary-Great-War.html

After five days in the trenches, we’re thankful we can still walk. I’ve had approximately an hour’s sleep a day – always standing up.

Often, when from sheer exhaustion I doze off, I’m awakened by a fat squeaking rat on my shoulder or feel it running over my head.

Most of the rations fail to arrive – because the communication trenches are water-logged and being continually shelled. We eat with hands caked in mud, which has caused many cases of acute dysentery.

deluged

Deluged: Three members of Harry’s company can be seen here posing in a trench flooded with mud almost to waist height

In common with others, I’ve done regular turns at the firing line. It’s a very creepy business looking over the top, imagining every noise is a German. A rat skirmishing among empty tins in no-man’s land is sufficient to attract all our attention.

Each morning, one hour before daybreak, every man stands in the trench until daylight. This is in case the Germans follow the old custom of attacking just before dawn. The same happens an hour before sunset.

Last night, I had a narrow squeak. I was wedged in the mud when I heard a shell coming. Unable to move quickly, I crouched when it burst on the parapet and got covered in dirt.

Later, we marched to our billets [for rest days]. This morning, Christmas Day, I took my shirt off – thick with dried mud – and had a wash. We had one tub and no soap between about 50 fellows.

Friday, December 31

Back on the firing line, and nearly up to our waists in mud. We’ve found a new diversion — at dusk, we put a small piece of cheese on the end of a bayonet, wait for a rat to have a nibble, and then pull the trigger.

I think of my grand dad as a young man , a career soldier, who fought in those trenches, slithered in muck, covered with lice and blood , fodder for cannon and rats alike , living the horror of trench warfare, and ultimately being “gassed ” and shot. I am sure this had to change a man. He sent three of his sons to war 20 years later, and according to my mum they too came home different men, as did my father
https://thatwoman.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/long-time-passing-gone-to-fighting-part-4/
and millions of young men from around the world through the wars to follow .

Lyrics to I was only 19 at the end of the post

Today, more young men are returning home battle weary and scarred both physically and emotionally. And yet we count them among the lucky ones for many will never see the shores of home and we should never forget …………..

Photo Roger Brownson

Photo Roger Brownson


https://thatwoman.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/dedication-ceremony-eric-barnes-heroes-walk-the-coverage/

and grand dad this one is for you – Maggot

Lyrics to I was Only 19

Mum and Dad and Denny saw the passing-out parade at Puckapunyal
It was a long march from cadets.
The sixth battalion was the next to tour, and it was me who drew the card.
We did Canungra, Shoalwater before we left.

And Townsville lined the footpaths as we marched down to the quay
This clipping from the paper shows us young and strong and clean.
And there’s me in my slouch hat with my SLR and greens.
God help me, I was only nineteen.

From Vung Tau, riding Chinooks, to the dust at Nui Dat
I’d been in and out of choppers now for months.
But we made our tents a home, VB and pinups on the lockers
And an Agent Orange sunset through the scrub.

And can you tell me, doctor, why I stil can’t get to sleep?
And night-time’s just a jungle dark and a barking M16?
And what’s this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only ninteen.

A four week operation when each step could mean your last one on two legs
It was a war within yourself.
But you wouldn’t let your mates down til they had you dusted off
So you closed your eyes and thought about something else.

Then someone yelled out “Contact!” and the bloke behind me swore
We hooked in there for hours, then a Godalmighty roar
Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon,
God help me, he was going home in June.

I can still see Frankie, drinking tinnies in the Grand Hotel
On a thirty-six hour rec leave in Vung Tau
And I can still hear Frankie, lying screaming in the jungle
Til the morphine came and killed the bloody row.

And the Anzac legends didn’t mention mud and blood and tears
And the stories that my father told me never seemed quite real.
I caught some pieces in my back that I didn’t even feel
God help me, I was only nineteen.

And can you tell me, doctor, why I still can’t get to sleep?
And why the Channel Seven chopper chills me to my feet?
And what’s this rash that comes and goes, can you tell me what it means?
God help me, I was only nineteen.

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Entry filed under: a Cow -elle opinion, death, grief, Lest we forget. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

November 3rd- “take my breath away” -Chris Ritchey Away with the Fairies – Living in Lorain

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dave  |  November 9, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    Your beautiful piece puts me in mind of this excerpt from Laurence Binyon’s poem “For the Fallen”

    They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
    Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
    They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
    They fell with their faces to the foe.

    They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
    We will remember them.

    They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
    They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
    They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
    They sleep beyond England’s foam

    We will remember . . .

  • 2. Tony  |  November 10, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Nice piece Loraine I had the pleasure of meeting my Great Grandfather as a 5 year old and the woman who nicked all the family brass think her name was Olive I know Aunty Kath used to say a few choice words about that lady

    They have sadly all gone now RIP to all of them

  • 3. Loraine Ritchey  |  November 10, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    we have such an interesting family 🙂 I posted on fb a thought to you thanks to your branch of the family he has had 5 generations of young men following the army life…..

  • 4. US Army Veteran  |  November 19, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Thank you for your story. It was very touching.

  • […] recent post about my Granddad Hines and World War 1 https://thatwoman.wordpress.com/2013/11/09/nov-11th-flanders-fields-remembering-war/ brought to the surface other memories , of my Nanny Hines ( his wife and my Nanna) tucking me into […]

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