Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Remembering a Veteran: Saki at the Somme

Among the 73,000 names engraved on the memorial to the missing of the Somme at Thiepval is that of Lance Sergeant H. H. Munro of the 22nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers. H.H. Munro, aka Saki, had gained popularity before the Great War for his witty and off-beat stories. He could have avoided serving, but Munro was the son of a soldier and a child of the Empire. And so he found himself at the Somme in November 1916 during the battle's final stages, when the high command decided that they damn well ought to capture the village of Beaumont Hamel, because they were supposed to take it on the first day of the fighting, July 1st. Munro's company had been put out to guard the left flank in a night attack on the village. It was a foggy night, and the fighting had died down by the early hours. Munro and some other men had taken cover in a shell hole. An English officer called across to a friend. A man struck a match, Munro snapped, "Put that bloody cigarette out!" whereupon he was shot in the head by a single round from a sniper. As Saki, he always appreciated a telling punch line.

Sometime before his death, he made this contribution to war poetry titled "Carol" —

While shepherds watched their flocks
     by night
  All seated on the ground,
    A high explosive shell came down
      And mutton rained around. 

Read a fine tribute to Munro at:

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