We will remember them
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.
Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ Fields.
‘We saw some infantry transport come up, and there was a lieutenant quartermaster there. I went over and he said: ‘How are you off for grub?’ so I said ‘We’ve only got biscuits and bully’. He gave us some bread and butter, tea and jam. He was chap who was getting on for fifty, I should think; a lieutenant quartermaster, not a fighting man at all, and yet he’s brought up all these rations.
He was practically in tears – he said his lads wouldn’t need it. You see, when you lost men it was a day or two before you could stop their rations coming up. The Army Service Corps would still be sending up the rations of so many men while you might have lost half of them. And what happened to all that grub? You’d live like fighting cocks on what was left for a day or two!
In the evening Noble, Robbins and myself went up to Trones Wood. There were no trees left intact at all, just stumps and treetops and barbed wire all mixed up together. And bodies all over the place, Jerries and ours.
Robbins pulled up some undergrowth and as we fished our way through there was this dead Jerry, his whole hip shot away and all his guts out and flies over it. Robbins just had to step back, and then this leg that was up in a tree became dislodged and fell on his head. He vomited on the spot. Good Lord, it was terrible.’
Gunner Leonard Ounsworth , Royal Garrison Artillery: The Somme 1916
The only way up from Ypres was by a plank road fifteen to twenty feet wide. All munitions had to travel a considerable distance up this plank road, and the mud was so deep that on one occasion, with drag-ropes, it was still impossible to pull the guns out of the mud.
The mud and the conditions were absolutely indescribable, You saw fellows coming down from the trenches badly wounded, covered from head to foot in mud and blood, and perhaps an arm missing. You saw some fellows drop off the duckboards and literally die from exhaustion and loss of blood. Horrible, it was.
I remember trying to help a lad in this copse about a hundred yards from our jumping-off trench. There was no hope of getting to him, he was struggling in the middle of this huge sea of mud. Then I saw a small sapling and we tried to bend it over to him. We were seasoned soldiers then, but the look on the lad’s face was really pathetic – he was only a mere boy. It pricked my conscience, I felt I should try to do something more for him, but I couldn’t do a thing – had I bent it a little more I should have gone in with him, and had anyone else gone near this sea of mud they should have gone in with him too, as so many had.
Sergeant Cyril Lee: Passchendaele 1917
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.