At 11.00am on this day in 1918, the guns at last fell silent.
Of course, the armistice came too late for millions upon millions.
For the Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, 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.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
Called by some “The Kaiser’s War”. He started it. He lost.
Lesson: never take a politician’s word on trust.
A very large gathering at our town’s 11/11 ceremony this year.
Not forgotten; not forgotten yet, despite the school curriculum not bothering much with History.
Recording of the last sounds of the war.
Excerpts from diary and letters of my grandfather:
Feb 4 “…We pulled out and hiked about 18 miles in heavy marching order…and believe me we were some tired when we arrived at our destination: barns, from 12 to 20 in each. In our particular apartment we have cows, bulls, horses, pigs, rabbits, chickens, mice, and rats.”
Feb 23 “…and believe me it was some cold sitting there, jammed in so tight that you couldn’t even move your legs. We arrived at the end of our railroad journey at 8:30 P.M. Monday after 18 hours. We then travelled 22 miles of hard road before getting to our billets. I had slept 2 hours Tues. morning (the first since Sat. night) when I was hauled out to unload automobile trucks.”
Mar 8 “…We are now back in a place some humorist called a rest camp, but we never get any rest because the 75’s are banging away most of the time, and whizbangs, boxcars and gas play a lively tune all around.”
Mar 19 “..Trench life is a little better now. It is not as cold as it was, but there is still plenty of mud, and the cooties are working on us good. The Boches still have plenty of shrapnel…they shelled our positions all day.”
July 7 – “We arrived in this area a few days ago. The French and Germans have been fighting here for more than three years. The ground is white like chalk and chewed up with trenches and blown out dugouts and tangles of wire. There seems to be nothing alive here except cooties, rats and us. At least it’s quiet, but the word is we’re going to have a big battle. We dig all night and are not allowed to move in the daytime, so we try to sleep, but it is some hot….”
July 15 “HOLY HELL Fired on thousands of boches, tanks included. Positions very heavily shelled with gas and HE.“
Jul 17 “…24 hours without water, about 2 days without food. heavy rain flooded trenches”
July 25 “We hiked 18 miles in heavy marching order and when we arrived at our destination it was covered with dead men and horses everywhere. We had to be careful not to sleep downwind.”
Aug 5 “You would not expect it in August, but it is cold and raining. The flies are everywhere. There is so many, some of the boys are sick on account of the flies….”
Aug 13 “…Well after being in France 10 months, after the big drive, Harry and I finally got 24 hours leave to go to Paris. The marine MP’s stopped us and said our papers were no good, so we passed the day walking around ______. Well, I guess Paris would not come up to Baltimore in my estimation.”
Nov 13 “The French are sure having a big time over the happenings of the day before yesterday. All the American soldiers said when they found it out was, ‘well, that’s good’, nothing more.”
I sure hope Pop is all right now. I hold you and Pop much dearer to me than I ever did before.
The horrors I’ve seen and the hell that I have been through steadily since last Feb. sure does make a fellow think.
– My 20 year-old grandfather –
I’d suggest you try and watch this latest Peter Jackson film. It was on the BBC last night, and really brought it home
He’s taken vast amounts of grainy, jerky, B&W film of the Western trenches, and colourised, slowed, and tidied it up. Also added the dialogue spoken (with lip reading help). The only commentary is that from veterans (recorded in the 60s)
It does concentrate on the British involvement, and solely that of the Western trenches, but my word it’s amazing. Highly recommend every see it (and a copy has apparently been sent to all secondary schools)
I believe that WWI was a knife into the chest of Western civilization. It didn’t die, but it was sorely wounded.
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