100 years on: the hell that was Passchendaele

July 31, 2017 at 7:43 am (capitalism, Europe, hell, history, imperialism, posted by JD, war, workers)

More than 271,000 men from the ‘British and Dominion’ forces killed or wounded and German losses of 217,000. Many drowned in the mud or died in agony because stretcher-bearers could not reach them. The third and final battle of Ypres (Passchendael) began 100 years ago and went on for three months. The British and Dominion forces gained five miles in total.

Memorial Tablet
By Siegred Sassoon

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell—
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare:
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’ … that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west…
What greater glory could a man desire?

*****************

“We’ve had 70 years without major war. I hope we remember that we need to work together in Europe” – Mike Copeland, veteran’s son, yesterday.

1 Comment

  1. Robert R. Calder said,

    The “Squire” of the poem was possibly the man who became Sir John Squire, who had views about fit subjects for poetry.
    A leading figure in pre-1939 in the sense of pre-War poetry, and the poetry of that later war where among much else his poetry suffered after his wife was killed by a bomb, was J.F. Hendry.
    He reflected on the nature of Mandarin-Gauleiters in poetry with reference to Squire, whose name was published as “J.C. Squire” — and who was in some quarters regarded as if J.C. stood for Jesus Christ. Amazing how these trumped-up reputations get into positions where their words (not THE WORD) get taken so seriously. He was a prominent propagandist mistaken for a poet of note (happens a lot, even with propagandists of the sub-political).
    “Beware,” said the original Jesus Christ, “false prophets”. Some of them deny being prophets, but indeed false prophets aren’t prophets.

    Some would deny the charge of not being worth much qua poet. The wider point of the poem quoted is not merely the one of a soldier disappearing into the glabber after disablement and a show of courage on the literal battlefield — it’s about the power to eclipse, for which according to Jim Hendry’s quip the sometime Sir John was well named.
    SQUIRE
    And in the end the departed soldier says he fought for SQUIRE
    and Squirearchy is a good name for a bad thing!

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