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

Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Dozen Great War Quotes

At first there will be increased slaughter — increased slaughter on so terrible a scale as to render it impossible to get troops to push the battle to a decisive issue. Everybody will be entrenched in the next war. The spade will be as indispensable for a soldier as his rifle. All war will of necessity partake the character of siege operations. Then we shall have a long period of continually increasing strain upon the resources of the combatants. Soldiers may fight as they please; the ultimate decision is in the hands of famine. 

Ivan Bloch, Modern Weapons and Modern War, 

What minister who declared war in August 1914, would not have recoiled with horror had he known the shape of the world in 1918, not to speak of the present? One who had such an intuition and did so recoil was, of course, the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Grey.

Henry Kissinger, 
A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh, and the Problems of Peace 1812–1822

You can be a virgin in horror the same as in sex. How, when I left the Place Clichy, could I have imagined such horror? Who could have suspected, before getting really into the war, all the ingredients that go to make up the rotten, heroic, good-for-nothing soul of man? And there I was, caught up in a mass flight into collective murder, into the fiery furnace. . . Something had come up from the depths. . . Men are the thing to be afraid of, always, men and nothing else. 

Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Journey to the End of Night

. . .thralled and breathless, I was watching the first big infantry charge I had ever seen. It was a glorious and terrible sight, and exultant. The infantry pushed and tore through the village of Sedd el Bahr up to the fort belching fire and death from the cliff beyond. . . A man who lived ten minutes under that Turkish fire seemed to have a charmed life. Most dropping within minutes. But before they dropped they worked — ah, how they worked while they lived! Each did his small vital bit; and when he lurched bleeding into his sea grave, a comrade, newly come, snatched up his job until he, too, died. . . 

Major A. H. Mure, aboard River Clyde, V Beach, Gallipoli, 
25 April 1915

It does not pretend to be impartial. I was fighting for my hand, upon my own midden. Please take it as a personal narrative pieced out of memory. I could not make proper notes: indeed it would been a breach of my duty to the Arabs if I had picked such flowers while they fought

T.E. Lawrence
Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Author's Preface

During the last days disorders have taken place in Petrograd, followed by force and assaults on the lives of soldiers and members of the police. I forbid every kind of assembly in the streets. I warn the population of Petrograd that commands have been issued and repeated to the troops to use their arms and not to stop short of anything in order to assure tranquility in the capital.

Lt. Gen. Sergei Semenovich Khabalov, 
Commander Petrograd Military Area, 25 February 1917 

And now I'm drinking wine in France,
The helpless child of circumstance.
Tomorrow will be loud with war,
How will I be accounted for?

Lance Cpl. Francis Ledwidge, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (KIA 31 July 1917) 

You know my system, I stick a bit of plaster here, then another there, then another there. The Boche doesn't advance so fast—hardly advances at all. I stick another bit there, and the Boche is stopped. You can always stop the Boche.

Ferdinand Foch, 26 March 26 1918
Just before he was named Generalissimo

My subject is war, and the pity of war. 
       The poetry is in the pity.
              Wilfred Owen, 

Richthofen has really been killed in action! I am completely shattered by the news. No words will suffice to do justice to his deeds, or to describe the grief which every German feels at the loss of this national hero; it is just impossible to grasp. . .
Herbert Sulzbach, German Artillery Officer
With the German Guns

There's absolutely nothing so uncanny as to hear a shell approach. It is not comfortable in broad daylight, but at night it is positively bloodcurdling. 

Sgt. John A. Cegner, 141st Infantry, AEF

[It's] another of those pesky half-holidays, with some things open, other things closed and everybody confused and/or uninterested. Now it's called Veterans Day, but when Nov. 11 was Armistice Day, it had meaning and poignancy — parades at slow time, muffled drums, black armbands, gold star flags in front windows of grieving mothers. The Civil War was a horror, but World War I was the real thing, dragging this coltish young nation into the international arena. It was all so innocent that those of our generation cannot hear "My Buddy" or "Over There" without a lump in the throat. I won't say "Happy Veterans Day" because the phrase makes no sense.

Herb Caen,  San Francisco Chronicle
9 Nov 1986 Column


  1. Great quotes all! I'm still looking for the British politician's quote about how the British couldn't let the Germans have the Chanel ports.