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Now It's 'All Quiet on the Western Front' - World War One in Life and Literature

'All Quiet on the Western Front' - Picardy, France - a Typical, Peaceful, Rural, Agricultural Scene - May 2011

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

The Western Front

In 1914, as a result of various causes but triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, the First World War ~ otherwise known as 'The Great War' or 'The War to End All Wars' ~ broke out.

Britain's entry into the conflict resulted from Germany's decision to illegally enter Belgium, in order to allow for their invasion of France, before France invaded Germany, which was what they apparently believed to be about to happen. Britain claimed to be protecting Belgium's neutrality. No doubt, in reality, matters were even more complex than this.

The theatre of conflict during the years 1914 to 1918 / 19 covered much of Europe ~ and spread into its seas.

The 'Western Front' was one of the large battle zones of World War One. The line of battlefields making up this 'front' stretched from Belgium, through northern France, almost to the Swiss border.

Of course there were changes to the Western Front as the war progressed.

It witnessed horrendous suffering and unbelievable numbers of deaths. Shells whizzed overhead. Young men fought bravely. And the war, which should have ended 'by Christmas', went on and on.

Nowadays, it is hard to believe, when one travels peacefully through Belgium and Northern France, just how much pain and misery were endured there ~ until one notices the myriad of military cemeteries, dotted throughout the landscape.

* * * * *

For information on other fighting fronts of World War One, see:

The Western Front 1918

'Map of the final German offensives on the Western Front (World War I), 1918 ~ From the History Department of the US Military Academy West Point' . See:

'Map of the final German offensives on the Western Front (World War I), 1918 ~ From the History Department of the US Military Academy West Point' . See:

Poppies in France 2011

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Zooming Past - Military Cemetery From the Motorway

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Northen France 2011

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Silent as the Grave

Some of the quietest spots currently on what was 'the Western Front' are the military graveyards.

They are easily recognisable by their military precision. Those young men are still very smartly lined up ~ though they lost their lives decades ago.

Amongst these memorials to 'the fallen', there are French, British & Commonwealth, American and of course German ones.

Youngsters, once so full of enthusiasm, excitement, pride, bravery and patriotism, mown down ~ many say as 'fodder'. Did they even know what they were fighting for ~ those boys and young men, on both sides of the lines?

The fact that some played football and sang carols together during that first Christmas of the war ~ 'The Christmas Truce' ~ shows that, for the most part, the English and German boys did not hate each other, or see each other as natural enemies.

Propaganda, and punishment for fraternizing, had to be set in place to ensure that friendship was replaced by suspicion and hatred.

And some really were only boys ~ children even ~ only perhaps 14 years old! Some were groups of school friends, or brothers, who enrolled together ~ the 'Pals' regiments.

They must have been chatty and lively once. Now they lie silent. If they were killed together, then whole families ~ whole villages ~ would have been destroyed by grief!


Tommies in Trenches - Soap Ad

Public Domain ~ Out of Copyright. See:

Public Domain ~ Out of Copyright. See:

Preparing for War?

Poppies and Other Wild Flowers - France 2011

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

"All Quiet on the Western Front"

'All Quiet on the Western Front'

'All Quiet on the Western Front' is a novel written in 1929 by Erich Maria Remarque.

It tells of life as a soldier on the Western Front ~ from the German perspective.

The story was made into an American war film in 1930.

On the front cover of my copy of the book it states: 'Largest sale of any war novel'.

On the back cover it claims that it is 'the finest novel to emerge on either side from the First World War'.

Quote from the 'Spark Notes':

"Paul and his friends have realized that the ideals of nationalism and patriotism for which they enlisted are simply empty clichés.

"They no longer believe that war is glorious or honorable, and they live in constant physical terror."

Picardy, France - a Typical, Peaceful, Rural, Agricultural Scene - But With Military Cemetery - June 2011

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Poppies - France 2011

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

The Modern Scene

When travelling through Northern France, nowadays, one is aware of the open fields ~ the agriculture, or agro-industry.

Fields are full of crops, bordered by wild flowers, including poppies ~ that flower, so reminiscent of First World War Battles.

Agricultural Scene - Northern France - June 2011

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

John McCrae. 1872-1918

Lieut. Col. John McCrae, M.D.

Lieut. Col. John McCrae, M.D.

Isaac Rosenberg. 1890 – 1918

Book Cover

Book Cover

Poppies and Military Cemeteries

The area known as Flanders ~ on the 'Western Front' ~ includes parts of Belgium, France and the Netherlands.

'In Flanders Fields' is a poem by John McCrae, which describes this area ~ but could equally describe much of the Western Front, where poppies sprang up, as they do, on disturbed soil.

The military graves stood 'row on row' even then.


In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae (Canadian) 1919.


McCrae was a Lieutenant Colonel and a surgeon. He died of pneumonia in 1918.


Extracts from: Break of Day in the Trenches

The darkness crumbles away
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
As I pull the parapet's poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Poppies whose roots are in men's veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe,
Just a little white with the dust.

Isaac Rosenberg 1916


Poppies at Vic Sur Aisne

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

My World War One Hubs

Vic Sur Aisne (2011) - Poppies

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

France Guides

Recent Visits to Northern France

My family and I visit France regularly, and we have recently returned from a brief holiday in the North of the country (May/June 2011). We caught the ferry to Calais and then drove to Vic Sur Aisne.

We travelled through vast agricultural areas, crossed rivers ~ including the Somme, scene of much WW1 devastation ~ and viewed churches and cathedrals, as we passed through villages, towns and cities.

The sun shone; the sky was blue; the poppies danced in the breeze ~ and all was quiet and peaceful.

It was not our first visit to the area. On earlier occasions, my family and I have visited the site of the signing of the Armistice and have explored the trenches and memorial at Vimy Ridge.

Quiet Rural Peace + Military Cemetery - France June 2nd 2011

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

The quiet little town of Vic Sur Aisne welcomes tourists

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Vic Sur Aisne

During our recent visit (2011) ~ as on former occasions ~ we stayed in Vic Sur Aisne for a few days.

It is a lovely little place, despite being semi-industrial ~ ie. the fact that it is near a large sugar refinery.

Though relatively small, it has its own castle.

There are some nice restaurants. (We were impressed by 'Le Donjon') and it has an attractive campsite, so it welcomes tourists.

It also has its own military cemetery ~ relatively large; situated on the outskirts of the town.

Life and death ~ side by side. A memorial to interminable months of fighting; of attrition; of death, disease, slaughter.

Vic Sur Aisne - Military Cemetery

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Vic Sur Aisne

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

US Memorial - Battle for Soissons

A Monument to the fallen of the US 1st Division, which was involved in the Battle for Soissons (2nd Battle of the Marne ~ 1918), can be found at Buzancy. (All US 1st Division memorial monuments are the same.)

There is a photo here:

US First Division Monument

This memorial is on the Meuse-Argonne Battlefield. 'The Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery is the largest American military cemetery in Europe.' See:

This memorial is on the Meuse-Argonne Battlefield. 'The Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery is the largest American military cemetery in Europe.' See:


Not too far from Vic is the larger town of Soissons.

The Battle of Soissons was fought between 18th and 22nd July 1918 ~ French and American troops fighting the Germans.

According to Wikipedia, there were 95,000 French casulaties, 13,000 British casualties, 12,000 American casualties ~ and 168,000 Germans casualties.

Soissons cathedral is worth a visit and contains some photos of the damage incurred as a result of World War One carnage.

Nearby are some large memorials. One is to the fallen French; the other recognises the British Commonwealth.

Eric Kennington's 'Monument to the Fallen' is between the River Aisne and the old abbey church and reconstructed cathedral. It was constructed, and is maintained by, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

According to Wikipedia, this Portland stone memorial lists nearly 4000 British soldiers, whose final resting places are unknown. They died nearby, during the 'Third Battle of the Aisne' or the 'Second Battle of the Marne'.

"Here are recorded the names of 3,987 officers and men of those divisions to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death."

The actual War Memorial of Soissons is nearby; between the old abbey church and the cathedral.

As a plaque in the cathedral reminds us, a million dead of the 'Empire' still lie dead on ~ or in ~ French soil.



Soissons: World War 1 ~ not all in English, but including photos:

Der Weltkrieg am 30. Mai 1918

Der Weltkrieg am 6. September 1918

Soissonnais : Cartes postales et photos anciennes

The Memorial to the US 1st Division

Photos du fonds Justin Hiriart

A Field of Poppies

Image licensed under the Creative Commons. Details:

Image licensed under the Creative Commons. Details:

First World War - Books and DVDs

Soissons Cathedral: To The Memory of One Million Dead of the British Empire - The Greater Part Rest in France

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Soissons Memorial - To The Missing

Photos: Copyright Tricia Mason

Photos: Copyright Tricia Mason

Soissons: The War Memorial

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason


Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Nampcel German Military Cemetery, France - Soldatenfriedhof

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Chemin Des Dames

Book Cover (Amazon)

Book Cover (Amazon)

Nampcel - Example of a German Cemetery

Built by the French, in 1919, the German cemetery at Nampcel was originally mixed ~ French and German ~ but it now contains the remains of only German (11,424) and 'Austro-Hungarian' (3) soldiers. The change was implemented in 1922.

The Soldatenfriefhof website states that 'Of those buried in the cemetery 6,574 have their own graves (93 of them are unknown) whilst in the four mass graves there are 4,750 victims, of whom only 894 have actually been identified.'

Apparently, there was much violent activity in this area towards both the beginning and the end of the war, but the Soldatenfriefhof website notes that 'The majority of the graves though arise from the Kaiserschlacht in the spring and summer of 1918'.

Very close to Nampcel, is another, smaller, German cemetery ~ Moulin sous Touvent. There are 1,903 German soldiers buried at Moulin sous Touvent.

Nampcel Soldatenfriedhof

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

German Infantry 1914

'German infantry on the march on August 7, 1914.' ~ Underwood & Underwood. (US War Dept.). See:

'German infantry on the march on August 7, 1914.' ~ Underwood & Underwood. (US War Dept.). See:

French Bayonet Charge

Image scanned from "The Story of the Great War, Volume III", Francis Joseph Reynolds et al, 1916. See:

Image scanned from "The Story of the Great War, Volume III", Francis Joseph Reynolds et al, 1916. See:

Casualties of World War One

According to Wikipedia, there was a total of 16.5 million deaths, as a result of the First World War, plus 21 million wounded.

This included 9.7 million members of the military, plus around 6.8 million civilians.

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Attitudes to War Changed

At the beginning of the First World War, there was a feeling almost of excitement ~ certainly of patriotism.

However, reality soon set in. War was not glamourous or exciting; it was hideous and deadly.

The incredibly high number of deaths is reflected in the numerous war memorials and graveyards.

The change in attitude is / was reflected in literature ~ most famously in poetry.

More War Graves

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Rupert Brooke. 1887 – 1915


Rupert Brooke

Rupert Brooke's poetry is poignant, heroic, sentimental ~ and innocent of the true horrors of war.

The first few lines of his poem, 'The Soldier', illustrate this:

"IF I should die, think only this of me;
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. ......"

Rupert Brooke, one of the British solder-poets of 'World War One', was born in 1887 and died, on a French hospital ship, in April 1915. He was en route to battle at Gallipoli ~ another WW1 theatre of conflict.

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Wilfred Owen

From a collection of poems ~ 1920. Public Domain. . See:

From a collection of poems ~ 1920. Public Domain. . See:

Western Front 1918 - Detail

Detail from 'Map of the final German offensives on the Western Front (World War I), 1918 ~ From the History Department of the US Military Academy West Point' . See above

Detail from 'Map of the final German offensives on the Western Front (World War I), 1918 ~ From the History Department of the US Military Academy West Point' . See above

'The First World War' by John Keegan

Book Cover ~ Amazon

Book Cover ~ Amazon

'Dulce et Decorum Est' by Wilfred Owen

The poem 'DULCE ET DECORUM EST' was written between October 1917 and March, 1918, by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918). No poignant sentimentality here ~ this is the true horror of war. The title comes from Horace's Roman lyrical poetry. The full quote is; 'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori ' ~ or 'It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country'. But is it really 'sweet and fitting'? ~ No, Owen tells us ~ this is 'The old Lie'.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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.

British Troops - 55th Division - Casualties of Gas - 10 April 1918

artistic work created by the United Kingdom ~ artistic work  ~ public domain. See:

artistic work created by the United Kingdom ~ artistic work ~ public domain. See:

Now, as then, Poppies thrive in disturbed soil - Picardy 2011

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Vallee de la Somme. May 2011

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

We Crossed The Somme

As one whizzes along the French motorway, en route to holiday destinations, one is hardly aware of crossing one of the most famous rivers in WW1 history ~ the Somme ~ as it slowly meanders through the tranquil French countryside.

On our way to Vic Sur Aisne, we traversed the River Somme ~ by motorway bridge.

The river gives its name to the French Somme 'departement', which is in the Picardy (Picardie) region of Northern France.

Whizzing Over A Barely-Visible River Somme. May 2011

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Peaceful Rural Scene Near the River Somme - 2011

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Poignant Extracts from: 'Testament of Youth' by Vera Brittain

My diary for August 3rd, 1914, contains a most incongrous mixture of war and tennis:

"I do not know how we all managed to play tennis so calmly ... I suppose it is because we all know so little of the real meaning of war that we are so indifferent."


At the beginning of 1915 I was more deeply .. in love than I have ever been or am ever likely to be ...


Roland went to the front on March 31st, 1915


As Christmas Eve slipped into Christmas Day, I finished tying up the paper bags .... I felt wrought up to a high pitch of nervous emotion, that I ought to thank whatever God might exist for the supreme gift of Roland and the love that had arisen so swiftly between us.

When, by ten o'clock at night, no news had come, I concluded that the complications of telegraph and telephone on a combined Sunday and Christmas Day had made communication impossible.

The next morning ... the expected message came to say that I was wanted on the telephone. Believing that I was at last to hear the voice for which I had waited for twenty-four hours, I dashed joyously into the corridor. But the message was not from Roland ...; it was not to say that he had arrived home that morning, but that he had died of wounds ... on December 23rd.


Roland Aubrey Leighton was born in 1895 and died, age 20, in France, in 'The Great War', shortly before Christmas, 1915. His grave is in the military cemetery at Louvencourt, near Doullens ~ in the Somme region.

The Somme Offensive

The Battle of the Somme covered both banks of the River Somme and took place between 1st July and 18th November 1916 ~ French and British troops versus German troops.

According to Wikipedia;

'The opening day of the battle on 1 July 1916 saw the British Army suffer the worst one-day combat losses in its history, with nearly 60,000 casualties'.


Vera Brittain

Vera Brittain and Roland Leighton

Book Cover (Amazon)

Book Cover (Amazon)

Louvencourt Military Cemetery

'Louvencourt' is one of the Somme's military cemeteries. It is described on the site of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

It is here that Roland Leighton lies ~ the unfortunate one-time fiancé of Vera Brittain, author of 'Testament of Youth' and 'Testament of Experience'.

According to the CWGC site: 'There are now 151 Commonwealth burials of the First World War in this cemetery and 76 French war graves dating from 1915. ...The cemetery, one of the first three Commission cemeteries to be built after the First World War, was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield'.

The Somme - July 1916 - The Royal Irish Rifles - Ration Party

Created by the United Kingdom Government - public domain. See:

Created by the United Kingdom Government - public domain. See:

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme - Plus Military Cemetery

Forgotten Voices

Book Cover (Amazon)

Book Cover (Amazon)

Thiepval Memorial (Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens)

The enormous Thiepval memorial to the missing, records the names of 73,357 soldiers ~ British and South African ~ whose lives were lost at 'The Somme', but for whom there is no known grave.

The military cemetery, which is situated at the rear of this monument, contains the graves of 300 British and 300 French soldiers who died on the Somme.

According to the Commonwealth war Graves Commission, 'The Thiepval Memorial will be found on the D73, next to the village of Thiepval, off the main Bapaume to Albert road'.

The Thiepval Memorial is on the Bapaume to Albert Road ~ Somme

Vimy Ridge

Vimy Ridge was important, strategically, precisely because it was a ridge ~ the troops that held the high ground held an advantage!

As early as September 1914, German forces took Vimy Ridge and settled in. states that they 'constructed deep defensive positions comprising bunkers, caves, passages and artillery-proof trenches, heavily protected by concrete machine gun emplacements'.

From there, they attacked, and pretty much destroyed, the town of Arras.

The French attempted to dislodge them ~ incurring 150,000 casualties.

However, in April 1917, Canadian troops finally managed to overwhelm the entrenched Germans. notes: 'It did not come without cost however: 10,602 Canadians were wounded ... and 3,598 killed. The opposing German force suffered ... 20,000 casualties'.

Vimy Trenches - All Quiet and Peaceful Now!



Vimy Ridge - The Memorial Dedication 1936

Source: McMaster University Libraries, Identifier: 00000647 [1] Author: La Burthe & Warolin . ttp://

Source: McMaster University Libraries, Identifier: 00000647 [1] Author: La Burthe & Warolin . ttp://

Vimy Ridge Memorial (Designed by Walter Seymour Allward )

The huge memorial at Vimy bears many names, commemorating those Canadian soldiers, killed in France, but for whom no grave exists.

This overwhelmingly large memorial, plus the nearby 'restored' trenches, are also dedicated to the memory of all Canadian Expeditionary Force members, who were killed during World War One.

The whole area is very impressive. I can vouch for the fact that the size of the monument and the number of names inscribed is almost overwhelming.

Visitors can explore, and learn, throughout much of the area, but must avoid those parts where unexploded devices may still remain undiscovered.

Vimy Ridge and the Canadian Memorial

All Quiet in the Green and Pleasant Land

So, yes, for the most part it is, now, all quiet along the Western front as farmers get on with working the land; tourists drive through, or spend holidays there; fishermen sit patiently beside the Somme; birds sing and wild flowers, including the blood red poppies, grow along both country lanes and motorways.

The guns of war have been silent for decades now ~ even allowing for a Second World War, which erupted in 1939, despite the Great War being considered as 'the war to end all wars'.

It is hard to imagine just how much suffering was endured in this green and pleasant land.

Images of The First World War

Wikipedia montage - public domain. See:

Wikipedia montage - public domain. See:

Siegfried Sassoon

Photographed in 1915 by George Charles Beresford. See:

Photographed in 1915 by George Charles Beresford. See:

Dreamers - By Siegfried Sassoon (Published New York, 1918)

Soldiers are citizens of death's gray land,
Drawing no dividend from time's to-morrows.
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.
oldiers are sworn to action; they must win
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds, and wives.


I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.

World War One Poetry

WW1 Literature

Another Cemetery

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

France Has Some Very Impressive War Memorials - 2011

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Noyon War Memorial (May 2011)

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Carlepont War Memorial - Outside the Church - (May 2011)

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

War Memorial and Memorial Garden - Berneuil Sur Aisne (May 2011)

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason


Roses - Still Flowering in Picardy - May 2011

Copyright Tricia Mason

Copyright Tricia Mason

Roses of Picardy

The first two verses:

She is watching by the poplars
Colinette with the sea blue eyes
She is watching and longing and waiting
Where the long white roadway lies
And a song stirs in the silence
As the wind in the boughs above
She listens and starts and trembles
'Tis the first little song of love

Roses are shining in Picardy
In the hush of the silver dew
Roses are flowering in Picardy
But there's never a rose like you
And the roses will die with the summer time
And our roads may be far apart
But there's one rose that dies not in Picardy
'Tis the rose that I keep in my heart


Lyrics by Frederick E. Weatherley (A British army officer )
Music by Haydn Wood

According to Wikipedia, 'it was one of the most famous songs from World War One'.


Two versions can be accessed here:

Ernest Pike ~ 1917

John McCormack ~ 1919.


There are also French and German lyrics to this favourite war song.


Roses still flower in Picardy and, like the poppies, these flowers, too, are reminiscent of the long years of the First World War.


Picardy (Picardie) is a region of Northern France.

'Roses in Picardy' - John McCormack


'Over The Top' - Blackadder Goes Fo(u)rth - Final Scene

'Blackadder' is a British comedy series - indeed a series of series, concerning various periods in British history - starring Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tim McInnerny and others.

This final scene of the final series, covering World War One, where they go 'over the top' was unexpected in a comedy show ~ exceedingly impressive and very emotional.

There are, in my opinion, similarities between 'Blackadder Goes Fourth' and 'Journey's End', the play by M C Sherriff.

'Over The Top' - Blackadder Goes Fourth - Final Scene

Aisne and Somme

Vic Sur Aisne: 'The Crosses, Row on Row'

Copyright tricia Mason

Copyright tricia Mason


Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on June 30, 2012:

I agree, MJFenn.

All those names!

Quite overwhelming!

MJFenn on June 28, 2012:

Vimy Ridge is very much worth seeing! (and not only for Canadians)

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on June 28, 2012:

Hello Cara :)

Thank you so much for responding to my article.

It's a lovely area and it is so hard to imagine what happened there during the war.

It is very easy to be moved, when one sees all of those graves, 'row upon row'.

Cara on June 28, 2012:

Hi Trish - fantastic hub, truly moving. Myself and my husband have just returned from a 2 week holiday in vic-sur Aisne and were in awe of the history, cemeteries and overwhelming calm and vastness of the now quiet Plateau's and Fields. I don't if its my love of history or the fact that all this is fresh in my mind since last weeks holiday but this blog made me cry twice - just thought you should know. Fantastic work ;)

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on March 09, 2012:

Thank you, Old Geezer ~ you are too kind :)

Much appreciated!

Old Geezer on March 08, 2012:

Absolutely marvelous blog, Trish! Not only helping to preserve knowledge of the past, but also beautiful. Best regards.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on March 08, 2012:

That shows a very sad lack of respect, Rod.

Rod Marsden from Wollongong, NSW, Australia on March 08, 2012:

At least the war graves in France and Belgium are protected and honored by the people living in those countries.

In Libya this week 50 Australian and 11 New Zealand war graves were desecrated. These were the men who pushed the German and Italian forces back during WW2. I dare say the Rats of Tobruk will live on in memory and gallantry long past the time when the cowards that disturbed the graves of those brave Aussies and Kiwis are forgotten dust on the wind.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on March 07, 2012:

Hello Brian. :)

Thank you for commenting. Your father must have suffered hell on earth ~ and at a very young age, too.

I can understand why he was wary of talking about his experiences, and why you were unwilling to press him on the subject.

I agree with your comments :)

Brian Sharp on March 07, 2012:

At the age of 17, in August 1914, my father joined the great adventure. It was all going to be over by Christmas. But four years later he was still fighting in the mud and hell of Flanders' fields. The picture that really gets to me is the one above, of the soldiers gassed, shuffling forward. My father could be one of them. He was gassed and spent 2 months with his eyes bandaged wondering if he would see again. He recovered, and returned to the front. I wish now I had asked him more about what he went through. He didn't talk about it much. And I didn't ever tackle him about the pointless carnage. It would have been wrong to have suggested that he fought, and saw so many of his comrades die, for nothing. Having fought though 'the war to end all wars', it took a bunch of half-witted politicians (is there any other kind?) to dictate terms to Germany that crippled and humiliated that country and led directly to WW2.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on July 22, 2011:

Hi :)

Feelings ran very high at the time, in France and Belgium ~ and continued to do so for many years. That is understandable, I think, in the circumstances. It is hard to divorce oneself from one's emotions. Politicians should try, though ~ while remaining sympathetic and empathetic.

It would have been easier for America to be objective, because the First World War was 'really a European affair'.

Sadly, the decision-makers seem not to have really understood the possible outcomes of their actions ~ or did understand, but felt powerless to do anything about it.

Rod Marsden from Wollongong, NSW, Australia on July 21, 2011:

MJFenn is right. Woodrow did want the League of Nations to have teeth. Members of the U.S senate were not only against American involvement in the league they were also against Woodrow spending too much time at Versailles. There was a general feeling that WW1 was really a European affair and that the European powers should sort it out. There was also the fear that if the USA got heavily involved in European politics the USA would be forever putting out brush fires, forever handling minor disputes. Back then the USA was not keen to be the guardian of the free world.

Woodrow's 14 points were not all taken seriously. Points 1, 2, 5, and 14 were definitely not taken seriously. Most nations gave at least lip service to 4, the general reduction of armaments.

1. No secret alliances between countries. (Well, that was a pipe dream.)

2. Freedom of the seas in peace and war. (Nothing can be guaranteed in war time.)

5. The adjustment of colonial claims in the interests of the inhabitants as well as the colonial powers.(Well, if this had happened the Middle East wouldn't be in the mess it is in today and there wouldn't have been a Vietnam War.)

14. A League of nations to protect political independence and territorial integrity.(When the Germans were too slow in a reparation payment to France and Belgium, the French and the people of Belgium sent troops into Germany to occupy the Ruhr until the debt was paid. This was in 1923. The League that was formed did not stop the French from taking this action. Both the political independence and the territorial integrity of part of Germany certainly had been trampled on and by French and Belgium boots. The result? In paying this debt by producing lots of paper money with nothing behind it resulted in super high inflation. Political fuel to be used against the Weimar Republic by both the Nazis and the German Communist Party.)

You could say Woodrow had his teeth pulled by the folks back home. The League of Nations from the start was a toothless tiger.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on July 21, 2011:

Hi MJFenn :)

It's amazing to discover what was really going on behind the scenes.

MJFenn on July 21, 2011:

Woodrow Wilson wanted teeth to the League of Nations, whereby countries which behaved aggressively toward the borders of other countries could be collectively restrained. (Leave aside the fact that the re-drawing of the map of Europe on ethnolinguistic lines at the end of World War One was somewhat haphazard.)

Instead, the Republicans in the Senate threw out US membership of the League. And Warren Harding and his 'normalcy' got the White House, before his Presidency dissolved in illicit drinking bouts, massive corruption around World War One veterans' affairs, and a cerebrovascular accident which fortuitously spared Mr Harding's funeral from being overshadowed by public knowledge of all the graft, still yet to emerge.

'Keeping cool with Coolidge', and in the supposed safety of isolation, the US instead sponsored the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact, which basically meant that nations were invited to say that they didn't like war. Which, as a former lecturer of mine, David Hanley, would comment, is rather like a bishop saying he is against sin and in favour of virtue.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on July 20, 2011:

Yes, Rod ~ a huge, huge pity.

Rod Marsden from Wollongong, NSW, Australia on July 20, 2011:

President Woodrow Wilson wanted to plan for the future rather than punish Germany but Britain and France were definitely in a punishing mood.

It was hard for the American president to argue for a less harsh treatment of Germany since the Americans had come in late into the war and had suffered fewer casualties.

Yes, if the USA president had been listened to and his advice followed there might not have been a WW2.

As for the need to punish, the Germans weren't the only ones keen for war in 1914. The British upper class and middle class felt that the working class was getting out of hand with unions and such. A good bloodying, a six month war was the ticket to sorting them out. It would, no doubt, stop the possible spread of communism.

In Australia there was the belief that anyone who joined the army to fight the Hun would, no doubt, arrive too late for any real fighting since Europe is some distance from Australia. The notion of seeing some other part of the world at the government's expense and having a bit of adventure was in the wind. A pity the war lasted more than six months.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on July 20, 2011:

Hi Rod :)

Perhaps, if the Allies had thought about the situation more carefully, when they decided upon Germany's 'punishment' post World War One, Hitler might never have come to power.

Rod Marsden from Wollongong, NSW, Australia on July 19, 2011:

Old Geezer is right about Hitler. One of the people the Americans were able to interview was Hitler's family doctor. Strangely enough he was Jewish. He had to flee Europe in Hitler's wake. The doctor tried to save his mother but there wasn't much one could do about cancer at that time. Hitler may well have blamed the doctor and thus the Jews for the death of his mother. There was a Jew who was one of the signatories for Germany when it came to the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler made much of this.

Hitler was also a survivor. A number of his siblings died while they were only children. His mother put it to him that he must be marked for greatness.

Hitler thought he was dying and had only a short time to make Germany great. He took medication to stay alive. Yes, he did also take drugs, uppers and downers, in 1945.

The Americans could have had Hitler assassinated or removed in some other way from office. There was a novel idea the Yanks came up with of slipping estrogen into his food so his moustache would fall out and his voice would sound more feminine. In the end it was decided that he was of more value to the American war effort being alive and in charge. When he made military decisions things tended to go very wrong for the Germans. He never made it past corporal in WW1 but that didn't stop him from taking charge and messing up during WW2. Mind you he was a runner during WW1 which in anyone's book is a very gutsy and dangerous job.

Germany was still holding some enemy territory when the armistice went into effect thus the Germans really did expect a better deal than they got. It was a question of food. Germany was starving. There had been bread riots in Berlin. The allies had the Germans over a barrel and so a very young democracy got the worst start you can imagine. The Weimar Republic tottered on for a while but, after the signing of that treaty, it was thoroughly despised by a lot of old soldiers who had fought hard for their country in WW1.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on July 18, 2011:

Hello Old Geezer :)

Thanks for the information on Hitler ~ very enlightening! If he was psychotic and drugged, then that explains a lot.

Old Geezer from Newport, Oregon on July 18, 2011:

Hi Trish, I recently came across a book by Walter C. Langer. It is called "The Mind of Hitler." Dr. Langer was a psychoanalyst commissioned by the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to write a study of Adolph Hitler. This study was written in 1944, but released from US Government files in 1969. The book was published by Basic Books, London. I, and others more qualified to judge, deem it to be classical.

Yes, Dr. Langer concluded that Hitler was "Psychotic" and Hitler's physical and mental health was complicated by over medication.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on July 18, 2011:

Thank you, ram_m ~ that's very kind of you :)

ram_m from India on July 18, 2011:

an excellent hub with beautiful pictures

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on July 15, 2011:

Robin ~ Hi and thank you very much for your kind words :)

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on July 15, 2011:

Hello Peggy :)

Thank you for your comments.

Yes, France is a lovely country. We visit quite regularly. And it still can be heart-wrenching, to this day, to consider what went on in that beautiful countryside.

Hitler hoped to bring Germany out of the doldrums, which followed the First World War, but his way of doing it was cruel and immoral. I'm sure that psychologists must have a field day, wondering if he were a sociopath, or something similar. Many followed Hitler out of fear, or ignorance, I imagine.

Robin Edmondson from San Francisco on July 14, 2011:

What an extensive Hub on the area of Northern France. I greatly appreciate all of your photos and history! Thanks for sharing!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 14, 2011:

My heritage is about 3/4's German and I remember my mother telling me that my grandparents found it hard to imagine that such horrors were being executed by Germans in Germany who followed Hitler. Of course it was true, and like others...they no longer sang German songs at the lake and generally kept their backgrounds as quiet as possible. Man's inhumanity to man is often astounding!

Thanks for sharing all of those cemetery photos with us and the beautiful fields of the Western Front filled with those gorgeous poppies.

So many people from many countries were never identified in this first world war. So sad! Will we ever as a human race learn from the past? Voted up and useful.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on July 10, 2011:

OK, then 'Old Geezer' ~ but I still feel uncomfortable :)

I don't blame you keeping your German roots quiet at the time. I think that most people would have done the same thing, in those circumstances :)

Old Geezer from Newport, Oregon on July 10, 2011:

Hi Trish. There is the stilted saying, "If it looks like a duck, talks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it probably is a duck." The same thought patterns might apply to 'Old Geezers'. There is nothing impolite about calling me that.

I might mention that, as a school boy during WWII, I rarely told people that my roots were German. I lived in a Scandinavian community and told people that I was an American. That was OK, and if nothing else, it kept me from getting beat up. I still relish lefse and Scandinavian cuisine. Best regards.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on July 10, 2011:

MJFenn, that certainly sounds very controversial.

Yes, I think that it is generally accepted that World War Two had some roots in World War One ~ Germany's punishment, to be precise, I would say.

But, due to propaganda ~ probably necessary to keep WW1 going ~ Germany was considered, by many, to be not just the enemy, but the very spawn of Satan.

Many soldiers, it seems, felt differently and were aware of the similarities between the young men on each side.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on July 10, 2011:

Hello 'Old Geezer' ~ I feel very impolite calling you that :)

Thank you for reading and responding.

Yes, ignorance is probably the root of as much evil as money is!

Your father must have endured some awful experiences, during WW1 in France. And I can certainly understand your interest in his thoughts on fighting against his home country.

I haven't read Buchanan's book ~ but Homo Sapiens certainly isn't always wise :)

All the best to you too :)

MJFenn on July 09, 2011:

Buchanan's book makes some interesting points but his apparent contention that Hitler and Churchill were morally equivalent in relation to Jews is frankly preposterous. Buchanan writes as a veteran isolationist with a background of speechwriting to make the Nixon White House look plausible. When he looks at some of the World War One roots of World War Two, and makes accurate observations, he is far from the only person to have done so, and it would be unfortunate if any accuracy to those observations were somehow to appear to confer legitimacy on the preposterous things he suggests about Jews in relation to the Nazi German and British leaders respectively.

Old Geezer from Newport, Oregon on July 09, 2011:

Marvelous pictoral history, Trish. My father was born in Bavaria, but raised in the United States. He fought in the American Army during WWI, and served in France. I asked him, on one occasion, whether it was difficult to fight against Germany. He said that the only time he was bothered was when some American, with a German surname such as Schmidt, would damn the Germans and suggest that they should all be killed. They didn't seem to realize that their own background was German. I think it was the ignorance that bothered him the most.

Have you read "Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War" by Patrick Buchanan? I found it very interesting, and it suggests to me that Homo sapiens is not always wise. Best regards.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on July 06, 2011:

Hi again MJFenn and Rod :) :)

Thanks for your comments and sorry not to have acknowledged them at the time!

Rod Marsden from Wollongong, NSW, Australia on June 23, 2011:

Thanks Trish for all the added information. The input from MJFenn is also important. Lest we forget.

MJFenn on June 23, 2011:

Re. New Zealand input to the war effort on the Western Front in World War 1, the Le Quesnoy area saw particular action.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on June 23, 2011:

Hi Rod,

You may find this interesting:

'The Joint Identification Board reconvened in London on 4 April 2011 as part of the continuing effort to identify some of the remaining 154 unknown soldiers. .... As a result of the 2011 Board, a further 14 Australian soldiers have been identified.'

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on June 23, 2011:

Hi Rod,

Here are some references to Fromelles, France, and to the Military Cemeteries in the area.

This item is about Buttes, in Belgium:

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on June 23, 2011:

Hi Stessily :)

Thanks for looking!

I had checked out 'Return of the Soldier'. It was definitely not Alan Bates in the part.

I don't know 'The Unknown Soldier', but I checked it out and it looks quite good.

Neither is the one I remember. It was definitely set in North America. The soldier comes home to his family, and his young wife, and he is like a stranger to them, because of what he has been through ~ and so far away, too.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on June 23, 2011:

Hello Rod, :)

Thanks for reading and commenting!

I am sorry not to have mentioned the Australians and New Zealanders. I have not actually seen the Australian cemeteries, but have visited Vimy Ridge and various other memorials and Cemeteries.

The large monument at Soissons, and the plaque in the Cathedral there, are both dedicated to Britain and to the (then) empire, so those include Commonwealth soldiers.

Yes, indeed, there were soldiers from all over the globe fighting on the Western Front ~ and, of course, on other fronts ~ including Indians, Africans, etc, etc, etc.

Thanks for adding these important points! :)

Rod Marsden from Wollongong, NSW, Australia on June 23, 2011:

Well done Trish. I will vote up. In my hub on 1919 I touch upon why there was a 2nd world war after the devastation of the first world war. You have covered very nicely the British and the Canadians.

I suppose it would have taken up too much time and space to have included the ANZACS (Australians and New Zealanders). There is a large Australian cemetery at Fromelles. There's the Buttes New British Cemetery which includes New Zealanders and Australians. Since it includes Australians from the battle of Passchendaele where Australians did a top job it is an important locale.

It was the fact that men came to the Western Front from all over the world that contributed to the idea that this war was a world war. Not that there wasn't fighting in Turkey, etc.

stessily on June 23, 2011:

Trish_M: Two movies come to mind about a shell-shocked WWI soldier. It's been a while since I saw them but I don't recall a North American setting. "Return of the Soldier," with Alan Bates, based on Rebecca West's debut novel, and "The Unknown Soldier," with Gary Mavers, which came out as a UK miniseries. Was it either one of those?

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on June 23, 2011:

Hello MJFenn :)

Thanks ~ I didn't know that. It sounds as if your McCrae article could be very educational and enlightening :)

MJFenn on June 22, 2011:

Interestingly, re. the poet John McCrae (whose grave I have seen near Ypres, Belgium) was a great-uncle to Mrs. Geillis McCrae Kilgour Turner, wife of former Canadian Prime Minister John N. Turner. The McCrae Museum is situated in Guelph, Ontario.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on June 22, 2011:

Hello Stessily :)

Thank you very much for reading this ~ and for commenting so positively ~ much appreciated!

Yes, a lost generation ~ so sad; and so wasteful of young life.

I look forward to reading your article on McCrae ~ I love his 'In Flanders Fields'.

Thanks again :)

stessily on June 22, 2011:

Trish_M: Your coverage presents so well the storm behind the quiet and the pathos of lost youth, lost lives, the lost generation of poets such as McCrae, Owen, Brooke, et al. I started a hub on John McCrae last summer and had to set it aside after immersing myself in background materials. I've been thinking of it lately, and I hope to return to it soon. I've often thought of all those cemeteries --- "still very smartly lined up" --- dotting Europe's landscape, and your photos and words give appropriate honor to those who do their perceived duty at full price of their lives. And one of your subheadings --- "We crossed the Somme" --- is perfect in its symbolism.

One of the most poignant films I've seen on World War I is "Gallipoli" by Peter Weir. Although Rupert Brooke did not escape death, at least he eluded the tragedy of Gallipoli.

Effective, intriguing, and timely. Voted up + awesome + beautiful

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on June 22, 2011:

Hi :)

Thank you very much, William! :)

I shall have to look up that Barbara Tuchman book .

William F Torpey from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on June 22, 2011:

Nicely done, Trish_M. It's good for all of us to remember the horrors of war and remember those in Flanders fields. I can't think of WW I without thinking of one of my favorite books, "Guns of August" by Barbara Tuchman. It's a fascinating subject. I particularly enjoyed the John McCormack video. Thanks.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on June 22, 2011:

Hello Scarytaff :)

Yes, there is a lot of history to soak up in France!

Thank you very much for visiting and responding! :)

Derek James from South Wales on June 22, 2011:

Well reported, Trish. A few friends and myself visited Northern France a few years ago, soaking up the history. Voted up.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on June 22, 2011:

Alastar Packer ~ Hello :)

Thank you for reading and for making such appreciative comments.

If it's a good hub, then it is because the subject matter really resonates and the French countryside is so photogenic.

Thank you again :)

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on June 22, 2011:

Hello again Diogenes / Bob :)

Your words are always very encouraging and too kind ~ and very much appreciated! :)

I love visiting France, I love taking photos, I love history ~ and I find the stories of the First World War very distressing. There was just so much death and unnecessary suffering.

France is so open and huge; it's a joy to see ~ but all those cemeteries; too sad!!!

Yes, the Poetry of War is especially beautiful and poignant ~ whatever its content.

Thank you, again!

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on June 22, 2011:

Hello Bretsuki ~ fellow Francophile :)

Thanks for reading!

Yes, it's hard to believe the suffering endured in Northern France. The first time I visited, I do remember feeling very sad, when I saw those names that I recognised ~ all looking so different from the images in our history books.

When I visited Verdun, though, I did feel a strong sense of sadness. It seemed to be settled over the town. Maybe it was just my imagination ~ I don't know :)

Thank you for your positive comments!

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on June 22, 2011:

Hello MJFenn :)

Thank you for adding that informatiom. I'm afraid that I was not aware of all those facts.

I watched a very good film, on TV, a few years ago, about a North American soldier ~ either Canadian or US, I forget which ~ returning from World War One. He was totally shell-shocked, with no-one to turn to who would understand. It was very moving, but I forget the title.

Maybe someone reading this will know it and remind me?

Thanks again :)

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on June 22, 2011:

My gosh Trish, this is a remarkable hub.You've done an excellent write and your photos.. its really how one should look. I also like the way Amazon is placed as it actually helps the article rather than turns one off. Up! n Awe.

diogenes on June 21, 2011:

Lovely and poignant article that reflects your usual talent and care as a writer and publisher. With the added joy of your excellent photos. Putting these great hubs on here is pearls before swine, really. I don't refer to the reders, but the lack of real attention they receive and the paucity of the rewards received by the author.

Some of this war poetry, especially from the Great War, tugs on the heart like no other. As if life - in its often trauma and always sad ending - is not enogh for mere man to bear without the added burden of having to wage war against our brothers.

Great work Trish, really, astonishing...Bob

William Elliott from California USA on June 21, 2011:

Hello Trish, really good hub. I too visited this region quite a few times. As you say the scenery around the Somme belies it's history as a battlefield, not just of the years 1914-18 but throughout European history.

Also love the Blackadder Goes Fourth Clip, a brilliant piece of writing, and full of irony. I wonder how many Americans might recognise Hugh Laurie as someone other than Dr. House?

MJFenn on June 21, 2011:


I was thinking historically that the experience of WW1 for North Americans proved to be profoundly significant as regarding US and Canadian approaches to WW2: FD Roosevelt, in mobilizing the 'Arsenal of Democracy', strove to ensure that corporations with military contracts did not take undue advantage of WW2; indeed, the Consolidated corporation basically went out of business rather than comply with Roosevelt's demands; indeed, also, Harry S. Truman's inclusion for VEEP on the 1944 had largely to do with his efforts, profile and popularity on the Senate for going after war profiteers and wastage. Here in Canada, revulsion at Arthur Meighen's boasting of imposition of conscription in Quebec, and his later 'Ready, Aye, Ready!' response in 1922 to the possibility of going to war again over the Chanak crisis, had significantly to do with the 22 years of Prime Ministerial Office of William Lyon Mackenzie King — his rival. It was also of some background significance to the Statutes of Westminster of 1931, whereby the legislative independence of British Dominions was confirmed: in other words, it would take a separate act of a Dominion's Parliament to go to war again.

Tricia Mason (author) from The English Midlands on June 21, 2011:

Hi MJFenn :)

Yes war profiteering leaves a nasty taste, doesn't it.

Thank you for reading, and for your kind comments!

MJFenn on June 21, 2011:

Excellent. Contributes to background to help understand why (here in Canada particularly) war profiteering was held in such revulsion. MJFenn, Ontario

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