We will remember them

Hooge crater cemetery, Ypres, Belgium,
Hooge Crater Cemetery Panorama of Graves

Langemark German war cemetery, near the village of Langemark, part of the municipality of Langemark-Poelkapelle, Belgium.

German War Graves, Langemark, Belgium

Tyne Cot war cemetery, near Zonnebeke, Belgium

Graves and Memorial Cross, Tyne Cot Cemetery

12 thoughts on “We will remember them

  1. Heart-rending, isn’t it.
    I attended an Armistice centenary commemoration in my town, and at the cinema saw the film “They Shall Not Grow Old”.

    I also had the sense that a hundred years is such a brief time – almost – almost – within living memory. When I was a child I would sometimes see elderly men with an empty sleeve, or on crutches with an artificial limb. Now I understand.

    Much sombre reflection.

    • Valerie,
      Visiting those cemeteries is shattering really, you can’t help thinking – what a complete waste. I too can remember old men who were still suffering from WW1 when I was wee, one local chap suffered from shell shock right into the 1970s. My own grandfather had been gassed and although he didn’t die until 1961 he had had bad health all those years. I’ve just been watching They Shall Not Grow Old tonight on TV, it’s amazing seeing it in colour.

  2. Katrina,
    Thanks so much for posting these photos. I imagine your trip to Belgium must have brought you so very close to all that happened there. The feelings one experiences are often indescribable. So much more immense than sadness.

    • Judith,
      It is very strange to stand somewhere that you’ve read about in history books as a strategic point and hell on earth and of course they’re so peaceful now. We have a weird feeling of going home when we visit Ypres anyway as every direction you turn to there are thousands of ‘sleeping’ lads. Sadness doesn’t come close to describing the experience. It’s only one of the reasons why I dread Brexit as the EU is the only thing that has stopped the French and Germans from being at war for so long.

      • Katrina,
        Your reply to me says it all. I think the feelings are so much more powerful for those who had family or lost family in WWI, and in other wars. Yet, too, I believe that especially for those who have been immersed in the literature of the war–in the literary works of those men and women who wrote of their experiences–allows readers “a way in” to glimpse and witness those experiences in a powerful way.
        In college, I spent the month of January in a “Winter Session” studying WWI Literature with a group of students and an English literature prof. The reading really drew me in and it was the poetry of Wilfred Owen that I most closely identified with. I bought a volume of it that January and have it with me still.

        I have another experience I’d like to share. When I was doing the research for my humungous volume Women during the Civil War: An Encyclopedia, I traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to the battlefield there, which covers an immense area of territory. I arranged in advance to hire a guide, a woman, who was expert not only in the battle and the sites, but also with sites particular to women’s participation/connection with this battle.
        I spent the entire day with her, driving from one site to the next–such an immense battle, fought over at least 3 days.
        But at various places on the battleground, where actual battles during the Gettysburg Campaign were fought, I sensed the spirits of those who had fought and died there. Since then I’ve found that other people have commented on the “feelings in the earth” on those sites. But I was not prepared for how immensely moving, how disturbing, or how immensely tragic it all felt. Gettysburg proved to be the turning point of the war, but no one knew that then or even in the months afterward.
        You asked me once about WWII American women’s diaries that are published. I found NONE. Although there may be some, in archives that are unpublished.
        HOWEVER, there are SO MANY women’s diaries from the Civil War that have been published. I couldn’t have written my book without them, I don’t think.

        • Judith,
          I’ve found (and I think J did too) that the war cemeteries feel peaceful, that’s probably partly because they’re so beautifully cared for, however when you go off the beaten track into the woodland they are full of what I can only call spirits, you definitely feel like you’re being watched, and I’m normally a very balanced person. It isn’t really scary but it is slightly unsettling, from the toes up. Those areas aren’t going to be disturbed now but you know that if they were then they would certainly find more bodies there.
          That’s strange that there aren’t any WW2 US diaries published by women. I bet the Civil War ones are interesting though.

          Of course Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon met each other when they were both at Craiglockhart hospital in Edinburgh. Owen was determined to go back to the front, I so wish Sassoon had been able to persuade him not to – such a waste.

          • I agree wholeheartedly, and to think–wasn’t Owen killed on November 11th? If not, it was the day before or so. His work made a huge impression on me.

          • Judith,
            He was killed on November 4th but I believe his mother got the telegram on the 11th.. My grandfather was one of those mad lads who lied about their age to get in, thinking it was all going to be over quickly. He survived although he was gassed and had poor health for the rest of his life although he creaked on to 1961 so I have a dim memory of him.

      • Katrina,
        I’m heartsick. I wrote you a very long, too long, very long reply. I believe I hit “Post Comment” twice and it is gone! The comment said it was a duplicate reply, but something is wrong. Oh, gosh. If you don’t have it, I will try to rewrite it. Oh, no!
        Judith

  3. Beautiful post, Katrina. My father’s cousin lies in Tyne Cot. He was killed, aged about 23, late 1917 with his fourth serious injury during the previous years of his war. He fought at Gallipoli, then France, recovering from earlier injuries in England. He joined up in Ballarat, Victoria. His mother, a woman of simple, firm religious conviction, later living in Perth, Western Australia, looked forward to “seeing” him again at her own passing.

    • Catherine Middleton,
      It is horrific the way men were thrown back into action when they really hadn’t recovered from previous wounds. He was incredibly lucky to have survived Gallipoli. Tyne Cot is enormous, really breathtaking, bad enough at first glance but when you begin to look at the gravestones a lot of them say – ‘here lie six unknown soldiers’ – all in one grave space. I think the kind of religious belief that some people had back then was probably what kept them going. I know that our Granny who lived to 93 feared that God had forgotten her as she was the only one left of her generation and had outlived the others by many years.
      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment.

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