Persistence of memory

So, Rememberance Sunday. There is no glory in war and conflict, wherever it occurs. One of the the best evocations of that is Australian songwriter John William’s song about serving in Vietnam. Few realise that the Australians served there alongside the Americans. Commonwealth troops involved in a massively futile, very modern battle. The lyrics and sentiment could apply to any war in history. Sorry, the video is a little choppy.

It’s important to me that we should remember that it’s the ordinary people who bear the brunt of war; the leaders who declare it are rarely victims. The human cost of armed conflict is massive. We should endeavour, after Remembrance and thanks, to show our huge debt of gratitude by attempting to prevent war occurring. Sadly, I don’t think our current crop of world leaders are up to the task.

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Wilfred Owen
8 October 1917 – March, 1918

During the Great War, the Walsall Observer used to print pictures of the dead, wounded and awarded in the paper mixed in with the news. Reader [Howmuch?] has kindly found out loads of these for blog readers. Here, I present a random twelve lads. Some died, some wounded, one medal recipient. These were local chaps, like me or you. Sons, brothers, maybe fathers. Their names familiar to Brownhillians.

We will remember them.

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2 Responses to Persistence of memory

  1. sabcat says:

    The picture of William Malpass looks a lot like my girlfriends dad, a Malpass from Walsall Wood. Probably related.

  2. Pingback: The Fallen of Walsall Wood: a project | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

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