Armistice Day

November 11th, 2018 4 Comments

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the most senseless waste of human life in history, and to honor the gallant military, dead and alive, who helped and help still to keep America safe and free, I offer a poem by one of the lesser-known War Poets of World War One:

In Memoriam

Private D. Sutherland killed in action in the German trench, May 16th, 1916, and the others who died.

So you were David’s father,

And he was your only son,

And the new-cut peats are rotting

And the work is left undone,

Because of an old man weeping,

Just an old man in pain,

For David, his son David,

That will not come again.

 

Oh, the letters he wrote you,

And I can see them still,

Not a word of the fighting

But just the sheep on the hill

And how you should get the crops in

Ere the year get stormier,

And the Bosches have got his body,

And I was his officer.

 

You were only David’s father,

But I had fifty sons

When we went up in the evening

Under the arch of the guns,

And we came back at twilight–

O God! I heard them call

To me for help and pity

That could not help at all.

 

Oh, never will I forget you,

My men that trusted me,

More my sons than your fathers’,

For they could only see

The little helpless babies

And the young men in their pride.

They could not see you dying,

And hold you while died.

 

Happy and young and gallant,

They saw their first-born go,

But not the strong limbs broken

And the beautiful men brought low,

The piteous writhing bodies,

They screamed ‘Don’t leave me, sir,’

For they were only your fathers

But I was your officer.

 

E. A. Mackintosh, killed in action, 1916

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful.
    JT

  2. Anonymous says:

    My favourite song for Remembrance Day is “Fires of Calais” by James Keelaghan, although it relates to WWII rather than WWI. To fully appreciate it, I suggest listening to him sing it on YouTube.

    The Fires of Calais
    James Keelaghan

    The fishing boats roll out across the dark green channel water
    As they gather speed for Flanders they cut their nets away
    It’s not herring they’ll be pulling from the waters on this morning
    But they’ll reap a bitter harvest from the fires of Calais

    Twenty leagues from France I saw the amber soaked horizon
    In our lee the cliffs of Dover fall beneath the channel waves
    Where waters used to sing a song to soothe the hearts of fishers
    Now we hear the rolling thunder from the fires of Calais

    As we pull in tight to shore, this armada bent on rescue
    I could curse the men behind the desks who sell our lives this way
    I never signed aboard to save them from this bloody lack of planning
    That strands these fine young men beneath the fires of Calais

    On the beach allied confusion, will they stand or are they running
    If it’s run, where will they go to between the sea and the melee
    On the flanks the troops advancing and with heavy guns they’re firing
    And not a mother’s son could save them from the fires of Calais

    In scattered groups upon the shore some look towards a safer harbour
    Some fix their eyes upon the flames that turn night to day
    Some yet standing bold and ready to stoutly guard the rear from Jerry
    They’ll need no flares to see him ‘neath the fires of Calais

    I’ve fished these channel waters since I was man enough to face them
    For the herring and the flounder I have often hauled away
    But a catch like this I’ve never had in forty years of sailing
    Saving Tommies as they flounder ‘neath the fires of Calais

    The fishing boats roll out across the dark green channel water
    As they gather speed for Flanders they cut their nets away
    It’s not herring they’ll be pulling from the waters on this morning
    But they’ll reap a bitter harvest from the fires of Calais

    My maternal grandfather was a motorcycle courier in Germany and my paternal grandfather was a guard at a POW camp in Czechoslovakia during WWI. So you might say they were on the “wrong side”. However, they were who they were and did what they had to do and all three of their children emigrated to Canada in the time span between the two World Wars.

    Nora M

  3. Anonymous says:

    Les lettres des soldats écrites à leur famille, sans savoir s’ils allaient pouvoir les embrasser un jour sont très émouvantes.
    J’ai suivi un peu les commémorations du centenaire de l’Armistice à Paris. J’étais impressionnée de Voir tous ces grands dirigeants de tous ces pays réunis. Dommage que ça ne dure qu’un jour !!! S’ils pouvaient tous s’entendre et se réunir main dans la main !!!! Je sais, ce n’est qu’utopie, mais les rêves ne font pas mourir et me rendent plus sereine.
    Le moment où les jeunes de l’union européenne ont interprété le Boléro de Ravel m’a ému…… Cette musique a traversé tous les continents !!!
    Anita

  4. Anonymous says:

    What a nice tribute for Armistice Day. May we never forget.
    Best wishes,
    MH

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