November 11, 2006

wwi Back more than fifty years ago, before President Eisenhower declared it to be from henceforth Veterans Day, November 11 was Armistice Day, a day to commemorate the end of hostilities in “The War To End All Wars” – World War I – which, as it turned out, wasn’t nearly the war to end all wars after all. But those who fought in it and survived – and precious few of them are left – remember it for its mass-scale brutality and as a sort of “coming of age” in their lives.

Looking for stories recalled by those who had fought in The Great War, I came upon this story by a A.B. Kenway, and was especially moved by a portion of a diary entry telling of an engagement he had been involved in just one month prior to the end of hostilities:

10.30 and no relief. Eleven o’clock and we were getting very impatient and angry, but still no sign of the relieving party. We were tired out. It had rained during the night, we were wet and cold and covered in mud; our eyes smarted and our feet felt like clay. We were grimy and lousy, and our cigarettes were all gone; we had descended to the depths of misery.

We were afraid to walk about in case we were spotted from the spire at Wervicq. Presently Frank Thomas said to me, “What about going across to the cook-house, Ken, to see if there is any tea?”

“Too much fag,” I replied. A quarter of an hour later something came over me, and I turned to Thomas and said, “Come on, Frank, let us go now. Come on, Bob,” but Bob wouldn’t come, so we promised to bring him some tea back if there was any.

So Thomas and myself scrambled out of the trench and, keeping the scarred trees between us and the church spire, we made our way to the cook-house, only to find biscuits, but no tea. We munched a few biscuits and begged a cigarette from our temporary cook, and warmed ourselves by the dying embers of his fire.

We had been there about ten minutes when Thomas suggested that we should go back to the trench, but I was in no hurry. If the relief came up we wouldn’t have so far to go from where we were. Just then we heard someone shouting “Is that –th Battery?” and, looking around, we saw it was one of our officers who had brought the relief along.

He sent Thomas and myself to tell Sergeant Ellis that the relief had arrived.

We were half-way back to the trench when suddenly there were four or five explosions, following quickly one on another. We flung ourselves flat on our faces and heard the “Whirr-phut! Phut! Phut!” as fragments of steel flew around.

I was scared stiff, and a cold sweat came over me. Bob wasn’t there to give me the comfort of his presence. We lay there a few minutes waiting; then there was another salvo of shells and, peeping up, I saw a cloud of black smoke and a fountain of earth rise in the air over the trench where Bob and the others were.

We waited a little while, but, as nothing else came over, we made a dash towards the trench.

God! what a sight met our eyes! A shell had landed right among the boys. It was a slaughterhouse – just a mass of mangled flesh and blood. Bob’s head was hanging off; you could only recognize it by his poor, worn-out, dirty little wig.

Jimmy Fooks was squatting on his haunches, not a mark on him, quite dead, killed by the concussion. You couldn’t tell which was Harris and which was Kempton – what was left of them was in pieces. I was numbed. I felt as if a great weight was pressing on my head. I was choking.

In a dream I heard the sergeant’s voice, “For God’s sake get away. Get to hell out of it before they start again.”

He had been asleep in the gun-pit and was untouched. Somehow I got back to the lorry which was waiting to take us back. Then I broke down and between my sobs I cursed the Germans. Though I had always felt I could not kill a man, at that moment I could have killed with my bare hands the Boche gunner who had fired that shell.

We knew the enemy was beaten; we knew it couldn’t last much longer, and at this time, after three years in France and the end so near, Bob must be killed! Harris, who had left a young bride in England – killed! Jimmy Fooks, whose time was nearly up – killed! And Kempton, who was due for leave – killed also!

Why hadn’t they come across to the cook-house with Thomas and me? Why hadn’t the relief come up to time? If either of these things had happened Bob would still be alive.

And then I remembered his fatalism – “It’s no use worrying, Ken. If a shell has got your name on it it win get you; it will turn round comers to get you,” and it had done that to Bob and the others; it had found its way into that trench and got them.

They left them where they fell and covered them over. The trench which they dug to give them shelter in life proved to be their grave, and sheltered their bodies in death.

A horrific story, to say the least – one that countless others have experienced down through the years, all the way from the Somme to Guadalcanal, from Korea to Vietnam, and, these days, in places like Fallujah and Kerbala. November 11 may no longer be Armistice Day, but, as Veterans Day, we remember those who have fought and served under the flag of our country to preserve the freedom and way of life we all take so much for granted, and we thank them all for their service.

May God bless all those who have served, fought, and died – and continue to do so – in the service of the greatest country on earth, the United States of America.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:25 | Comments (0)
No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment


goodboys.jpg


Search The Site



Recent Items

Categories

Archives
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006


Blogroll

Syndication

4 Goodboys Only

Site Info