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Old 03-07-2011, 01:31 PM   #1
Wamy Einehouse
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The First World War

Supposedly the war to end all wars, the First World War to this day invokes true horror in people due to the abject waste of human life, the squalor, danger and fear of the trenches, the first use of gas and other chemical weapons, the influenza epidemic that followed and the political choices after that started the complex road to the start of the Second World War.

At points in the First World War people died at rates that were totally unheard of up to that point in history. During some moments at Verdun as many as eight men a second were being killed, and for the period including Verdun and the Somme, five men a minute died for a period of five months - a figure close to a million dead in areas not much larger than suburban Berlin.

Such conditions created not only abject horror amongst those involved, but also some of the most powerful poetry and war art ever seen. In this thread it would be good to post pictures, poems, art, books, quotes and general discussion about the First World War, and I'll kick off here with a small selection:



Ernest Shackleton, after landing at South Georgia in the South Atlantic in 1916 after two years stuck around Antarctica, asked:

Quote:
'Tell me, when was the war over?'
To a manager at a small British whaling station, and recieved this simple response:

Quote:
'The war is not over. Millions are being killed. Europe is mad. The world is mad.'


Men at the Somme:



French soliders cutting through the wire at Verdun:



Weapons of war soon to be consigned to history by the terrifying power of the Maxim gun, Russian Cavalry:





Suicide in the Trenches By Siegfried Sassoon:

Quote:
I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.
A painting of gas victims by Constance Oliver:


Last edited by Wamy Einehouse; 03-07-2011 at 01:42 PM.
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Old 03-07-2011, 03:52 PM   #2
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Re: The First World War

It is sad that we are losing the last remaining veterans of this war and in just a couple of decades we will lose the last of the WW2 vets.
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Old 03-07-2011, 05:11 PM   #3
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Re: The First World War

Alright. I'll be the one who pastes the most famous poem of the war.

It's a kick in the solar plexus. A slow, careful reading proves quite profitable and sobering.

Dulce et Decorum Est
by Wilfred Owen

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.
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Old 03-07-2011, 05:18 PM   #4
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Re: The First World War

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Originally Posted by Gibby_73 View Post
It is sad that we are losing the last remaining veterans of this war and in just a couple of decades we will lose the last of the WW2 vets.
As much as these war veterans did incredible things, and should be celebrated for their bravery, the end of yearly celebrations of war would be nothing but a positive.

If we stop glorifying war and the people who fight it, maybe people will stop and think about what it really means to invade a country and fight a war, and be a little less eager to do so.
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Old 03-07-2011, 05:24 PM   #5
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Re: The First World War

Some more Wilfred Owen in the form of an opening to a letter to his mother in 1917:

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I can see no excuse for deceiving you about these last four days. I have suffered seventh hell. – I have not been at the front. – I have been in front of it. – I held an advanced post, that is, a dug-out in the middle of No Man’s Land. We had a march of three miles over shelled road, then nearly three along a flooded trench. After we came to where the trenches had been blown flat out and had to go over the top. It was of course, too dark, too dark, and the ground was not mud, not sloppy mud, but an octopus of sucking clay, three, four and five feet deep, relieved only by craters full of water…
And another of his most famous poems, The Sentry:

Quote:
We'd found an old Boche dug-out, and he knew,
And gave us hell, for shell on frantic shell
Hammered on top, but never quite burst through.
Rain, guttering down in waterfalls of slime
Kept slush waist high, that rising hour by hour,
Choked up the steps too thick with clay to climb.
What murk of air remained stank old, and sour
With fumes of whizz-bangs, and the smell of men
Who'd lived there years, and left their curse in the den,
If not their corpses. . . .

There we herded from the blast
Of whizz-bangs, but one found our door at last.
Buffeting eyes and breath, snuffing the candles.
And thud! flump! thud! down the steep steps came thumping
And splashing in the flood, deluging muck --
The sentry's body; then his rifle, handles
Of old Boche bombs, and mud in ruck on ruck.
We dredged him up, for killed, until he whined
"O sir, my eyes -- I'm blind -- I'm blind, I'm blind!"
Coaxing, I held a flame against his lids
And said if he could see the least blurred light
He was not blind; in time he'd get all right.
"I can't," he sobbed. Eyeballs, huge-bulged like squids
Watch my dreams still; but I forgot him there
In posting next for duty, and sending a scout
To beg a stretcher somewhere, and floundering about
To other posts under the shrieking air.

Those other wretches, how they bled and spewed,
And one who would have drowned himself for good, --
I try not to remember these things now.
Let dread hark back for one word only: how
Half-listening to that sentry's moans and jumps,
And the wild chattering of his broken teeth,
Renewed most horribly whenever crumps
Pummelled the roof and slogged the air beneath --
Through the dense din, I say, we heard him shout
"I see your lights!" But ours had long died out.
Killed exactly a week (nearly to the hour) before the signing of the Armistice, having served for years in some of the worst conditions of the war, Owen provides one of the most poignant, articulate and disturbing insights into the reality of combat in the trenches, and probably rightly deserves his place as one of the most renowned poets of the era.

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Old 03-07-2011, 05:33 PM   #6
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Re: The First World War

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Originally Posted by Zurvan View Post
As much as these war veterans did incredible things, and should be celebrated for their bravery, the end of yearly celebrations of war would be nothing but a positive.

If we stop glorifying war and the people who fight it, maybe people will stop and think about what it really means to invade a country and fight a war, and be a little less eager to do so.
I don't think I have ever met a veteran of either of these wars who even considered themselves as brave, let alone glorious. These are connotations added by people who have very little idea about the realities of large-scale mechanised warfare, and is probably the reason that I chose Suicide in the Trenches as the first poem in this thread, as it perhaps sums up like no other the huge the polarisation of opinion and motive that existed between those who actually fought in these wars, and those who cheered them off on their way to die.
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Old 03-07-2011, 05:41 PM   #7
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Re: The First World War

need moar trench stories.

maybe i'll go find some. WW2 may be more "interesting" due to varying factors, but the sheer brutality of WW1 is completely unmatched. the rules were completely out the door.

i think it is the book "on killing" (which is excellent b/t/w, on the psychology of killing from different ranges) that talks about how there was an 80% non-fire rate in WW1. no one talks about it, but most soldiers were so terrified in battle that they physically *couldn't* fire their weapons.

book went on to describe how the army got it down below 5% by Vietnam. i tend to believe WW1 and Vietnam were very different, but the book makes a good case for army techniques in bootcamp/training.

i really, really hope some of these threads take off. i definitely took the lazy route in the political forum haters draft and just leeched off the effort of others, hopefully i can do that here too??
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Old 03-07-2011, 05:43 PM   #8
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Re: The First World War

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Originally Posted by Wamy Einehouse View Post
I don't think I have ever met a veteran of either of these wars who even considered themselves as brave, let alone glorious. These are connotations added by people who have very little idea about the realities of large-scale mechanised warfare, and is probably the reason that I chose Suicide in the Trenches as the first poem in this thread, as it perhaps sums up like no other the huge the polarisation of opinion and motive that existed between those who actually fought in these wars, and those who cheered them off on their way to die.
how so?

they don't say that they are 'brave', because that's just what they did.

but your post has a tone about it that i can't place. can you elaborate on the bolded a bit? what were the realities of mechanized warfare? it almost feels like you're trivializing the individual soldier in WW1.
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Old 03-07-2011, 05:48 PM   #9
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Re: The First World War

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Originally Posted by wiper View Post

maybe i'll go find some. WW2 may be more "interesting" due to varying factors, but the sheer brutality of WW1 is completely unmatched. the rules were completely out the door.
I'm not sure this is entirely true. WW2 made WW1 look like something pretty small scale in terms of casualties - the brutality of WW1 was in many ways limited by the static nature of the lines. The flowing and fast moving lines of WW2, coupled with the highly racist/political nature of many of the parties, created conditions of unparalleld brutality and death.

The general estimates for WW1 casualties are around 10-15 million dead - WW2 made this look positively small scale, with over 60 million dead.
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Old 03-07-2011, 05:52 PM   #10
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Re: The First World War

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Originally Posted by Wamy Einehouse View Post
I don't think I have ever met a veteran of either of these wars who even considered themselves as brave, let alone glorious. These are connotations added by people who have very little idea about the realities of large-scale mechanised warfare, and is probably the reason that I chose Suicide in the Trenches as the first poem in this thread, as it perhaps sums up like no other the huge the polarisation of opinion and motive that existed between those who actually fought in these wars, and those who cheered them off on their way to die.
I agree

I didn't mean to imply that the veterans themselves were putting themselves forward as heroes; that's an attribute being applied to them by others. Every veteran I've met is incredibly humble about what they did in the war, and most of them say it was the worst thing that ever happened to them.
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Old 03-07-2011, 05:56 PM   #11
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Re: The First World War

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how so?

they don't say that they are 'brave', because that's just what they did.

but your post has a tone about it that i can't place. can you elaborate on the bolded a bit? what were the realities of mechanized warfare? it almost feels like you're trivializing the individual soldier in WW1.
Most veterans who have I spoken too (and this includes a few WW1 vets - including Somme survivors - as well as family and friends who survived both Europen and Asian theatres of WW2 as well as imprisonment in two cases), generally consider themselves as cowards relative to most of those around them (particularly the dead).

Mechanised warfare is not brave or glamorous pretty much regardless of rationale. You blow up and maim other young men in the prime of life with small and large bits of metal and explosive for gains which appear highly abstract at best during the points of contact. Actually watching this and taking part of it in any kind of scale is not something to be proud of even when facing great evil from what I have seen/heard/read from those sane and actually involved in it - anyone who does say it is so is either a sociopath or wasn't there as far as I have ever learnt.

It might have been something that had to be done, but it certainly is not something we should be proud of doing - it is humanity at it's worse, even if our worse was slightly less than someone else's.
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Old 03-07-2011, 05:56 PM   #12
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Re: The First World War

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i think it is the book "on killing" (which is excellent b/t/w, on the psychology of killing from different ranges) that talks about how there was an 80% non-fire rate in WW1. no one talks about it, but most soldiers were so terrified in battle that they physically *couldn't* fire their weapons.

book went on to describe how the army got it down below 5% by Vietnam. i tend to believe WW1 and Vietnam were very different, but the book makes a good case for army techniques in bootcamp/training.
Now, soldiers are taught to point and shoot. No aim required. The goal is to get rounds downfield, and make the enemy stop shooting. The role of riflemen in modern warfare is to make the enemy duck; they're killed by machine guns and other heavy ordnance.

Being able to blindly squeeze a trigger while hiding is much easier, mentally, than trying to aim at a target
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Old 03-07-2011, 05:58 PM   #13
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Re: The First World War

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Originally Posted by Wamy Einehouse View Post
I'm not sure this is entirely true. WW2 made WW1 look like something pretty small scale in terms of casualties - the brutality of WW1 was in many ways limited by the static nature of the lines. The flowing and fast moving lines of WW2, coupled with the highly racist/political nature of many of the parties, created conditions of unparalleld brutality and death.

The general estimates for WW1 casualties are around 10-15 million dead - WW2 made this look positively small scale, with over 60 million dead.
i know that.

trenches, and everything that they produce (weapons, situational strategy, effect on cleanliness/disease, etc.) is just scary.

i know town-to-town fighting across france is just as, if not more deadly, but the idea of being stuck in a ditch, sleeping standing up so you don't lay in 100's of other soldiers' ****, in the winter just HAS to be more psychologically damaging. also, gas. at any given time you could take a breath that causes your insides to bleed. that has to be really comforting.

i guess it depends on your definition of 'brutality', because 4X the deaths worldwide would definitely affect things, but WW1 was old school fighting. yuck.
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Old 03-07-2011, 06:00 PM   #14
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Re: The First World War

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Most veterans who have I spoken to generally consider themselves as cowards relative to most of those around them (particularly the dead).
that's true of any war, and i'm sure any country's veterans. it's awesome.
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Old 03-07-2011, 06:06 PM   #15
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Re: The First World War

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i know that.

trenches, and everything that they produce (weapons, situational strategy, effect on cleanliness/disease, etc.) is just scary.

i know town-to-town fighting across france is just as, if not more deadly, but the idea of being stuck in a ditch, sleeping standing up so you don't lay in 100's of other soldiers' ****, in the winter just HAS to be more psychologically damaging. also, gas. at any given time you could take a breath that causes your insides to bleed. that has to be really comforting.

i guess it depends on your definition of 'brutality', because 4X the deaths worldwide would definitely affect things, but WW1 was old school fighting. yuck.
Town-to-town fighting in France is an odd example from WW2. That's pretty tame by the standards of the Russian front, the Holocaust, or the conduct of the Japanese, but whatever; the trenches clearly invoke a specific type of war that we all consider extraordinarily hellish for a variety of reasons.
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Old 03-07-2011, 06:06 PM   #16
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Re: The First World War

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Now, soldiers are taught to point and shoot. No aim required. The goal is to get rounds downfield, and make the enemy stop shooting. The role of riflemen in modern warfare is to make the enemy duck; they're killed by machine guns and other heavy ordnance.

Being able to blindly squeeze a trigger while hiding is much easier, mentally, than trying to aim at a target
nah, it's not that.

you should really pick that book up, it's called "on killing: the psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society" by lt. col. dave grossman.

you may be right, this obviously isn't an area i'm familiar with. but the author talks about the great lengths our military had to go through in changing the psychological aspect of training.

face-to-face killing, especially with weapons other than guns, is soooo much harder than say, firing a .50 cal from several hundred yards...and that's easier than dropping a bomb from 30,000 feet.

that's what the book is about, how distance affects the psychology of killing. has stats/interviews/stories from every war.

good book, if that's your thing.
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Old 03-07-2011, 06:07 PM   #17
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Re: The First World War

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Originally Posted by Wamy Einehouse View Post
Town-to-town fighting in France is an odd example from WW2. That's pretty tame by the standards of the Russian front, the Holocaust, or the conduct of the Japanese, but whatever; the trenches clearly invoke a specific type of war that we all consider extraordinarily hellish for a variety of reasons.
ha, you're right.

at this same time i'm responding here i'm also listening to my wife's phone convo upstairs and awaiting the firestorm coming on me from whatever she's talking about.
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Old 03-07-2011, 06:15 PM   #18
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Re: The First World War

One of the most interesting and astonishing pictures of World War One in my humble opinion, citizens of Munich welcome war in 1914, with a young Adolf Hitler circled and inset:


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Old 03-07-2011, 08:58 PM   #19
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Re: The First World War

WW1 or WW2 more brutal? Just how brutal WW2 was depends on what you include and how hard you try to be objective. I'm pretty sure the commonly accepted figure of 60 mil casualties includes ones that go as far back as 1937 China. Wiki says 10-20 mil Chinese ww2 casualties. It seems to me that the most brutal wars in history were fought in Asia and that this may be true of ww2 time. But let's disregard Asia. I even want to disregard soldiers in combat because brutality is what they're supposed to be living. Reading about brutality towards European civilians, particularly Germans for some reason, is the only thing that has nearly brought tears to my eyes. During and after which war were the most people tortured, starved, raped and mistreated outside of combat in Europe? Has to be ww2 by far. Looking strictly at how battles were fought in western europe I understand that one could try to argue WW1 was even more brutal. By all accounts the soldiers were in hell.
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Old 03-08-2011, 02:04 AM   #20
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Re: The First World War

I highly recommend Good-bye to All That, by Robert Graves:

http://www.amazon.com/Good-Bye-All-T...9562094&sr=1-1


This is an excellent book; much of it is a first-hand account of WWI battles and soldiering, including the battle of the Somme. But it is also a great book in that it is an all inclusive look; of the pre-war conditions and up bring of an English Gentleman, then WWI, and the aftermath. This makes the book all the more interesting and telling. It is not just a cut and paste job of a few years of war - Really an autobiography that includes much about WWI. All the better for it.

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Old 03-08-2011, 11:13 AM   #21
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Re: The First World War

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I´ve read this classical picture is a fake. Apparently they came to the conclusion, that he doesn´t fit into the picture properly.

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Old 03-08-2011, 01:53 PM   #22
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Re: The First World War

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I´ve read this classical picture is a fake. Apparently they came to the conclusion, that he doesn´t fit into the picture properly.
Hmm still seems to be a big debate on this.

4:36 onwards in this video seems relatively convincing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPvV4WPwlyg
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Old 03-08-2011, 09:50 PM   #23
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Re: The First World War

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"Good-morning; good-morning!" the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
"He’s a cheery old card," grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

But he did for them both by his plan of attack.
.
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Old 03-08-2011, 09:52 PM   #24
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Re: The First World War

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We’d gained our first objective hours before
While dawn broke like a face with blinking eyes,
Pallid, unshaved and thirsty, blind with smoke.
Things seemed all right at first. We held their line,
With bombers posted, Lewis guns well placed,
And clink of shovels deepening the shallow trench.
The place was rotten with dead; green clumsy legs
High-booted, sprawled and grovelled along the saps
And trunks, face downward, in the sucking mud,
Wallowed like trodden sand-bags loosely filled;
And naked sodden buttocks, mats of hair,
Bulged, clotted heads slept in the plastering slime.
And then the rain began,—the jolly old rain!

A yawning soldier knelt against the bank,
Staring across the morning blear with fog;
He wondered when the Allemands would get busy;
And then, of course, they started with five-nines
Traversing, sure as fate, and never a dud.
Mute in the clamour of shells he watched them burst
Spouting dark earth and wire with gusts from hell,
While posturing giants dissolved in drifts of smoke.
He crouched and flinched, dizzy with galloping fear,
Sick for escape,—loathing the strangled horror
And butchered, frantic gestures of the dead.

An officer came blundering down the trench:
‘Stand-to and man the fire-step!’ On he went...
Gasping and bawling, ‘Fire-step ... counter-attack!’
Then the haze lifted. Bombing on the right
Down the old sap: machine-guns on the left;
And stumbling figures looming out in front.
‘O Christ, they’re coming at us!’ Bullets spat,
And he remembered his rifle ... rapid fire...
And started blazing wildly ... then a bang
Crumpled and spun him sideways, knocked him out
To grunt and wriggle: none heeded him; he choked
And fought the flapping veils of smothering gloom,
Lost in a blurred confusion of yells and groans...
Down, and down, and down, he sank and drowned,
Bleeding to death. The counter-attack had failed.
.

I Sassoon.
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Old 03-10-2011, 12:48 PM   #25
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Re: The First World War

I am fascinated by WWI... have been hoping for a "Saving Private Ryan" style epic about the Great War to no avail.
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