Saturday 7 November 2009

Martinmas - Remembrance of the Dead

Lest we forget...

The Next War
By Wilfred Owen

Out there, we've walked quite friendly up to Death, —
Sat down and eaten with him, cool and bland, —
Pardoned his spilling mess-tins in our hand.
We've sniffed the green thick odour of his breath, —
Our eyes wept, but our courage didn't writhe.
He's spat at us with bullets and he's coughed
Shrapnel. We chorussed when he sang aloft,
We whistled while he shaved us with his scythe.

Oh, Death was never enemy of ours!
We laughed at him, we leagued with him, old chum.
No soldier's paid to kick against His powers.
We laughed, — knowing that better men would come,
And greater wars: when each proud fighter brags
He wars on Death, for lives; not men, for flags.

In 3 days time it will be Remembrance Day - Martinmas, the Feast of St Martin, the Roman imperial officer who became a bishop.

Let us remember those who are serving in Afghanistan and other theatres of war and let us especially remember the dead and pray for them.

Let us also remember those who died in the 2 world wars and wars since.

Tyne Cot cemetery near Passchendaele, Flanders

Once again, I would like especially to remember the officers and men from that most forgotten Division of all the regiments of the British Army at any time, anywhere, ever.

I mean the 10th and 16th Irish Divisions and their respective regiments.

These brave and dutiful soldiers are little remembered today because the Ireland from which they enlisted to fight for the freedom of small nations had, by 1918, undergone a radical sea-change in national aspirations because of the Rebellion of 1916, the reaction to it and the War of Independence of 1919-20 and the Civil War of 1920-21.

These most noble and brave Irish Divisions vanished into limbo, without honour, lying in an unquiet grave, forgotten by their own country and their own countrymen, save the brave and loyal families of the dead themselves, who were left to grieve alone, forgotten, even reviled, though their sons had faithfully answered the call of the Irish parliamentary leaders, John Redmond MP and John Dillon MP.

It is a little known fact that more Irishmen from the South served in the British Army and fought – in BOTH World Wars – than did those from the so-called “Loyalist” North.

Let us also remember the very young men from other parts of the British isles, too, who died in that terrible war that served to decimate Europe.

I can never help but think of the young lives lost in the First World War - that useless, pointless war brought about by the enemies of civilisation, of peace and - above all - of Christianity. Having started the war, the enemies of Christianity then did their level best to prevent it ending until every Christian nation had either toppled (like Austria-Hungary) or else had been bled half to death.

I think of young men like 19-year-old Roland Leighton, the poet and fiancée of Vera Brittain, who died of wounds on the Western Front.

"Goodnight, though life and all take flight, never goodbye..."
Inscription on the grave of Roland Leighton, the 19-year-old English poet.

God grant them all eternal rest...

In Flanders Fields
by Lt Col John McCrae, May 1915

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.

At a Calvary near the Ancre
by Wilfred Owen

One ever hangs where shelled roads part.
In this war He too lost a limb,
But His disciples hide apart;
And now the Soldiers bear with Him.

Near Golgotha strolls many a priest,
And in their faces there is pride
That they were flesh-marked by the Beast
By whom the gentle Christ's denied.

The scribes on all the people shove
And bawl allegiance to the state,
But they who love the greater love
Lay down their life; they do not hate.

St Martin of Tours, pray for our noble dead!



Anita Moore said...

Speaking of the 16th Irish Division (Royal Dublin Fusiliers)...don't forget Fr. William J. Doyle, S.J., "the Trench Priest." My post contains a link to his biography online, which contains many of his writings (mostly letters home from the front). I'd be surprised if he does not have a cause for sainthod pending.

Tribunus said...

No rpobem! I featured him last year if you check the archives!


Anita Moore said...

Just found it. Fr. Doyle deserves to be considered for sainthood.

PJMULVEY said...

Tribunus: From grandfather served in WWI in the 27th Division (USA) under the command of the British 4th Army. His Irish brother and uncles served with the Connaught Rangers. We have letters of them trying to communicate with one another at the front. My grandfather although a young lad of 18 y/o always spoke very well and had a high regard for the British soldiers and officers according to my mother.....he died of war wounds at the age of 42 y/o, twenty years after the war. Unfortunately the last few generations and the current zeitgeist forgets the heroism and sacrifices of these brave young men and thinks that life exists only for the pursuit of leisure and pleasure. Many thanks for your post of remembering the lost generations of boys who gave their lives (and limbs) in sometimes senseless wars but always with bravery and a sense of duty.

Tribunus said...

Indeed! Fine fellow everyone of them!

And thank you, Anita. Yes, Willie Doyle was a most inspiring character.

Tribunus said...

Indeed! Fine fellow everyone of them!

And thank you, Anita. Yes, Willie Doyle was a most inspiring character.