Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Great War 100 Years Ago

We began following some of the events of World War I in July of last year, and by 1915 the Western Front had been pretty well established.  During the next four years the front would move very little as both sides tried new plans and strategies to break the stalemate.  Here is a good video from the BBC that brings us up to 1915. There is a good segment about the Royal Horse Artillery.  Kaiser Wilhelm called the Brits who came over in 1914 a "contemptible little army,"  but they fought his armies to a standstill.

1915 would see the introduction of poison gas and the flamethrower.  Machine guns and bolt action rifles ruled No Man's Land, and the lights were out for the duration for all of the areas around the front until the Armistice.

Folks at home were still full of optimism and fighting spirit at the end of 1914.  Entertainers were doing their part to keep spirits up.  Tipperary came out in 1914, and it is still popular today.

The reality of war on the Western Front was more like this:

A Casualty by Robert Service

 That boy I took in the car last night,
With the body that awfully sagged away,
And the lips blood-crisped, and the eyes flame-bright,
And the poor hands folded and cold as clay --
Oh, I've thought and I've thought of him all the day.

For the weary old doctor says to me:
"He'll only last for an hour or so.
Both of his legs below the knee
Blown off by a bomb. . . . So, lad, go slow,

And please remember, he doesn't know."
So I tried to drive with never a jar;
And there was I cursing the road like mad,
When I hears a ghost of a voice from the car:
"Tell me, old chap, have I `copped it' bad?"
So I answers "No," and he says, "I'm glad."

"Glad," says he, "for at twenty-two
Life's so splendid, I hate to go.
There's so much good that a chap might do,
And I've fought from the start and I've suffered so.
'Twould be hard to get knocked out now, you know."

"Forget it," says I; then I drove awhile,
And I passed him a cheery word or two;
But he didn't answer for many a mile,
So just as the hospital hove in view,
Says I: "Is there nothing that I can do?"

Then he opens his eyes and he smiles at me;
And he takes my hand in his trembling hold;
"Thank you -- you're far too kind," says he:
"I'm awfully comfy -- stay . . . let's see:
I fancy my blanket's come unrolled --
My feet, please wrap 'em -- they're cold . . . they're cold."

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