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100 years since WWI started

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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Thu Nov 03, 2016 6:03 am

"Attack" by Siegfried Sassoon

AT dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun
In the wild purple of the glow'ring sun,
Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud
The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one,
Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire.
The barrage roars and lifts. Then, clumsily bowed
With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear,
Men jostle and climb to meet the bristling fire.
Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear,
They leave their trenches, going over the top,
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists,
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,
Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop!
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Fri Nov 04, 2016 5:10 am

I'm more of a fan of the short, snappy to-the-point War Poets, like Robert Graves

A Dead Boche

To you who’d read my songs of War
And only hear of blood and fame,
I’ll say (you’ve heard it said before)
”War’s Hell!” and if you doubt the same,
Today I found in Mametz Wood
A certain cure for lust of blood:

Where, propped against a shattered trunk,
In a great mess of things unclean,
Sat a dead Boche; he scowled and stunk
With clothes and face a sodden green,
Big-bellied, spectacled, crop-haired,
Dribbling black blood from nose and beard.
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Sat Nov 05, 2016 5:12 am

Disabled - Poem by Wilfred Owen

He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light blue trees,
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,-
In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands.
All of them touch him like some queer disease.

There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now, he is old; his back will never brace;
He's lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.

One time he liked a blood-smear down his leg,
After the matches, carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he'd drunk a peg,
He thought he'd better join. - He wonders why.
Someone had said he'd look a god in kilts,
That's why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts
He asked to join. He didn't have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie: aged nineteen years.

Germans he scarcely thought of; all their guilt,
And Austria's, did not move him. And no fears
Of Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then enquired about his soul.

Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
Tonight he noticed how the women's eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don't they come
And put him into bed? Why don't they come?

Quite apt, considering Corbyn's criticism of May's benefit cuts to war veterans at PMQs this week....
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Tue Nov 08, 2016 4:35 am

Does It Matter?

Does it matter? -losing your legs?
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When others come in after hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.
Does it matter? -losing you sight?
There’s such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.
Do they matter-those dreams in the pit?
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And people won't say that you’re mad;
For they know that you've fought for your country,
And no one will worry a bit.

Siegfried Sassoon
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Thu Nov 10, 2016 6:52 am

Mental Cases....

Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?
Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,
Drooping tongues from jays that slob their relish,
Baring teeth that leer like skulls' teeth wicked?
Stroke on stroke of pain,- but what slow panic,
Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?
Ever from their hair and through their hands' palms
Misery swelters. Surely we have perished
Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?

-These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished.
Memory fingers in their hair of murders,
Multitudinous murders they once witnessed.
Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander,
Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter.
Always they must see these things and hear them,
Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles,
Carnage incomparable, and human squander
Rucked too thick for these men's extrication.

Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented
Back into their brains, because on their sense
Sunlight seems a blood-smear; night comes blood-black;
Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh.
-Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous,
Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses.
-Thus their hands are plucking at each other;
Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging;
Snatching after us who smote them, brother,
Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.

Wilfred Owen
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Fri Nov 11, 2016 4:08 am

Norman Manley, however, outside of his well-known early life at Belmont in St Catherine, and his outstanding athletic and sports career at Jamaica College, lived through a traumatic experience some 100 years ago on the battlefields of Europe, when he was exposed to the horrors of World War I.

His autobiography, cut short by ill health and published both by Rex Nettleford in his Manley and the New Jamaica, and the Institute of Jamaica's Jamaica Journal, gives an explicit picture of a period of his life that the biographical sketches -- which merely refer to him as a gunner in the British Army -- have failed to do.

The in-depth story adds a special new dimension to any assessment of Manley's persona, great physical strength and mental powers, as well as the emotional drainage incurred upon him by the war.

On a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford in 1914, he enlisted in the British army with his younger brother Roy. In short order, they found themselves on the battlefields of France in 1916. They were trained as gun layers, which involved moving guns into position for firing and taking up new positions in the trenches. They fought for over four months at Sommes in one of the bloodiest battles of the time, and then retuned to Ypres to prepare for the greatest offensive of the war timed for June 1917.

As gun carriers and loaders they followed waves of infantry across unfriendly and dangerous terrain, crawling miles and miles to secure positions for building dugouts for the guns and ammunition.

"Preparation was hard work", says Manley. "For about one month about thirty of us used to leave camp at 5:00 pm to walk 10 miles to retrieve shells which were then moved a further two miles to the gun pits. The Germans knew very well what we were doing and all the roads were constantly and heavily shelled by enemy artillery."

It was while setting up gun positions in a wood glade one evening that his squadron came under terrific German gunfire. "In five minutes, half our men were dead or wounded. Those who could, ran out, and among them was my brother Roy, 23 years, carrying on his back a man thought to be wounded -- it turned out he was dead -- and then he too fell, killed by a fragment that sent a casing into his heart."

Roy was buried thousands of miles away from his home in a barren winter's field, wrapped in a blanket. It was the most poignant moment of the war for Norman. "I cannot speak how I felt. We were good friends, and I would be lonely for the rest of the war."

Shortly after he was again engaged in an assault, this time surrounded by thousands of guns making an unforgettable sound that remained inside him all his life. "Sounds like a great wave drowning every feeling and every emotion, sounds broken every minute by the vast roar of our own machine gun fire." Worse still, they had no dugouts, no shelter, were exposed to merciless rain for 11 days, and under siege from the enemy advances that twice nearly took his life. Once when a shell split the air and he dived just in time to escape, ending up in the bottom of a crater made by the shell.

On another occasion he was on guard duty when a sudden shower of gas shells exploded. "My duty was to wake up everyone and see that they ran out of danger. This was done, but next morning I found my sleeping area upset and riddled with fragments of the shell which exploded right beside my lean-to shelter. If I had been there, and not on duty, I would have been as riddled as my blankets were."

There are many stories in his narrative that bring the horrors of war close to the reader. A famous battle at Paschendale Ridge lasted five months and is estimated to have cost the British 750,000 men. At one stage during the melee Norman's squadron came under attack from a surprise onslaught launched during the early morning fog. "I loaded my rifle and prepared to sell my life dearly, not in the cliché sense, but for the practical reason that I was half negro and the stories of what happened to coloured men taken prisoners of war were very grim and, of course, believed by us implicitly."

In retreat following this episode, the army travelled light, with very little food and water, and living off the French countryside as they tried to keep away from the still advancing Germans. They slept each night until 2:00 am and then woke nearly frozen to walk until dawn. "We eventually stopped at a little town comparatively near to Paris. We had been on the go for 11 days on starvation diet with little sleep."

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/ ... y_18198263
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Sat Nov 12, 2016 10:28 am

The first line says it all....

The rank stench of those bodies haunts me still
And I remember things I'd best forget.
For now we've marched to a green, trenchless land
Twelve miles from battering guns: along the grass
Brown lines of tents are hives for snoring men;
Wide, radiant water sways the floating sky
Below dark, shivering trees. And living-clean
Comes back with thoughts of home and hours of sleep.
To-night I smell the battle; miles away
Gun-thunder leaps and thuds along the ridge;
The spouting shells dig pits in fields of death,
And wounded men, are moaning in the woods.
If any friend be there whom I have loved,
God speed him safe to England with a gash.
It's sundown in the camp; some youngster laughs,
Lifting his mug and drinking health to all
Who come unscathed from that unpitying waste:
(Terror and ruin lurk behind his gaze.)
Another sits with tranquil, musing face,
Puffing bis pipe and dreaming of the girl
Whose last scrawled letter lies upon his knee.
The sunlight falls, low-ruddy from the west,
Upon their heads. Last week they might have died
And now they stretch their limbs in tired content.
One says 'The bloody Bosche has got the knock;
'And soon they'll crumple up and chuck their games.
'We've got the beggars on the run at last!'
Then I remembered someone that I'd seen
Dead in a squalid, miserable ditch,
Heedless of toiling feet that trod him down.
He was a Prussian with a decent face,
Young, fresh, and pleasant, so 1 dare to say.
No doubt he loathed the war and longed for peace,
And cursed our souls because we'd killed bis friends.
One night he yawned along a haIf-dug trench
Midnight; and then the British guns began
With heavy shrapnel bursting low, and 'hows'
Whistling to cut the wire with blinding din.
He didn't move; the digging still went on;
Men stooped and shovelled; someone gave a grunt,
And moaned and died with agony in the sludge.
Then the long hiss of shells lifted and stopped.
He stared into the gloom; a rocket curved,
And rifles rattled angrily on the left
Down by the wood, and there was noise of bombs.
Then the damned English loomed in scrambling haste
Out of the dark and struggled through the wire,
And there were shouts and eurses; someone screamed
And men began to blunder down the trench
Without their rifles. It was time to go:
He grabbed his coat; stood up, gulping some bread;
Then clutched his head and fell.
I found him there
In the gray morning when the place was held.
His face was in the mud; one arm flung out
As when he crumpled up; his sturdy legs
Were bent beneath bis trunk; heels to the skye.

Siegfried Sassoon
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Sun Nov 13, 2016 5:21 am

Yes, the boys and girls of the BBC and ITV, and all our lively media and sports personalities and politicians, are at it again. They’re flaunting their silly poppies once more to show their super-correctness in the face of history, as ignorant or forgetful as ever that their tired fashion accessory was inspired by a poem which urged the soldiers of the Great War of 1914-18 to go on killing and slaughtering.

But that’s no longer quite the point, for I fear there are now darker reasons why these TV chumps and their MP interviewees sport their red compassion badges on their clothes.

For who are they commemorating? The dead of Sarajevo? Of Srebrenica? Of Aleppo? Nope. The television bumpkins only shed their crocodile tears for the dead of First and Second World Wars, who were (save for a colonial war or two) the last generation of Britons to get the chop before the new age of “we-bomb-you-die” technology ensured that their chaps – brown-eyed, for the most part, often Muslims, usually dark skinned – got blown to bits while our chaps flew safely home to the mess for breakfast.

Yes, I rage against the poppy disgrace every year. And yes, my father – 12th Battalion The King’s Liverpool Regiment, Third Battle of the Somme, the liberation of burning Cambrai 1918 – finally abandoned the poppy charade when he learned of the hypocrisy and lies behind the war in which he fought. His schoolboy son followed his father’s example and never wore his wretched Flanders flower again.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/pop ... 94976.html
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Tue Nov 13, 2018 4:20 am

‘Today on the Western Front,” the German sociologist Max Weber wrote in September 1917, there “stands a dross of African and Asiatic savages and all the world’s rabble of thieves and lumpens.” Weber was referring to the millions of Indian, African, Arab, Chinese and Vietnamese soldiers and labourers, who were then fighting with British and French forces in Europe, as well as in several ancillary theatres of the first world war.

Faced with manpower shortages, British imperialists had recruited up to 1.4 million Indian soldiers. France enlisted nearly 500,000 troops from its colonies in Africa and Indochina. Nearly 400,000 African Americans were also inducted into US forces. The first world war’s truly unknown soldiers are these non-white combatants.

Ho Chi Minh, who spent much of the war in Europe, denounced what he saw as the press-ganging of subordinate peoples. Before the start of the Great War, Ho wrote, they were seen as “nothing but dirty Negroes … good for no more than pulling rickshaws”. But when Europe’s slaughter machines needed “human fodder”, they were called into service. Other anti-imperialists, such as Mohandas Gandhi and WEB Du Bois, vigorously supported the war aims of their white overlords, hoping to secure dignity for their compatriots in the aftermath. But they did not realise what Weber’s remarks revealed: that Europeans had quickly come to fear and hate physical proximity to their non-white subjects – their “new-caught sullen peoples”, as Kipling called colonised Asians and Africans in his 1899 poem The White Man’s Burden.

These colonial subjects remain marginal in popular histories of the war. They also go largely uncommemorated by the hallowed rituals of Remembrance Day. The ceremonial walk to the Cenotaph at Whitehall by all major British dignitaries, the two minutes of silence broken by the Last Post, the laying of poppy wreaths and the singing of the national anthem – all of these uphold the first world war as Europe’s stupendous act of self-harm. For the past century, the war has been remembered as a great rupture in modern western civilisation, an inexplicable catastrophe that highly civilised European powers sleepwalked into after the “long peace” of the 19th century – a catastrophe whose unresolved issues provoked yet another calamitous conflict between liberal democracy and authoritarianism, in which the former finally triumphed, returning Europe to its proper equilibrium.

With more than eight million dead and more than 21 million wounded, the war was the bloodiest in European history until that second conflagration on the continent ended in 1945. War memorials in Europe’s remotest villages, as well as the cemeteries of Verdun, the Marne, Passchendaele, and the Somme enshrine a heartbreakingly extensive experience of bereavement. In many books and films, the prewar years appear as an age of prosperity and contentment in Europe, with the summer of 1913 featuring as the last golden summer.

But today, as racism and xenophobia return to the centre of western politics, it is time to remember that the background to the first world war was decades of racist imperialism whose consequences still endure. It is something that is not remembered much, if at all, on Remembrance Day.

At the time of the first world war, all western powers upheld a racial hierarchy built around a shared project of territorial expansion. In 1917, the US president, Woodrow Wilson, baldly stated his intention, “to keep the white race strong against the yellow” and to preserve “white civilisation and its domination of the planet”. Eugenicist ideas of racial selection were everywhere in the mainstream, and the anxiety expressed in papers like the Daily Mail, which worried about white women coming into contact with “natives who are worse than brutes when their passions are aroused”, was widely shared across the west. Anti-miscegenation laws existed in most US states. In the years leading up to 1914, prohibitions on sexual relations between European women and black men (though not between European men and African women) were enforced across European colonies in Africa. The presence of the “dirty Negroes” in Europe after 1914 seemed to be violating a firm taboo.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/n ... are_btn_tw
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Re: 100 years since WWI started

Postby mikesiva » Wed Nov 14, 2018 1:01 pm

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?

Siegfried Sassoon
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