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

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Eleven Memorable (Somewhat) Forgotten Quotes About the Great War

Champagne, 1917
Jean-Georges Cornelius

Rain in East Africa, 1916

It was at this stage, and after our initial success, that the rainy season set in; and that is another great feature of German East Africa. I had read much about it, and I had heard more; but the reality far surpassed the worst I had read or heard. For weeks the rain came down ceaselessly, pitilessly, sometimes three inches in twenty-four hours, until all the hollows became rivers, all the low-lying valleys became lakes, the bridges disappeared, and all roads dissolved in mud. All communications came to an end, and even Moses himself in the desert had not such a commissariat situation as faced me.

General Jan Smuts, 1918 

Not Really a Pacifist

Never mind about that now. The Germans are frightfully efficient and will invade us too. We must have a levée en masse. We must get out our shot guns and man the hedges and ditches, but it will be the end of civilization.

H.G. Wells, August 1914

WWI & European Self-Loathing

The Europeans, "torch bearers of civilization," are eating at each other, trampling down civilization, ruining Europe; and who will be the better? It is like an avalanche, growing ever more ravaging, as it falls sweeping away trees, woods, homesteads, farms. The catastrophe gets greater and greater. All know the avalanche will consume the valley but no force can stop it . . . European civilization has failed — it was rotten to the core.

Future Nobel Laureate Fridtjof Nansen of Norway, 1916

At the Paris Victory Parade: 14 July 1919

Bitterness! Disgust! I have recognized the crowd. . . It is the brutish elemental crowd which does not change, which slavishly acclaims Caesar or Boulanger, which yells at the vanquished, which chooses indifferently its heroes among boxers, gladiators and captains.

Marcel Cachin, Editor, L'Humanité

A Zeppelin Crew Member Speaks

Our nerves are ruined by mistreatment. If anyone should say that he was not haunted by visions of burning airships, then he would be a braggart. But nobody makes this assertion; everyone has the courage to confess his dreams and thoughts.

Pitt Klein, German Navy Airship L31

The Somme—After That First Day, the Next Phase

This woodland fighting has been as bad as anything in this war — most frightful and bloody. Dead bodies lie strewn beneath the trees, and in the shell-holes are wounded men who have crawled there to die. There is hardly any cover in which men may get shelter from shell-fire.

Philip Gibbs,  Daily Chronicle, 17 July 1916

At the Hour of the Armistice

As noon approached, we became conscious of an unusual quietness all around us. Firing of all kinds had almost entirely ceased. . . After eleven o'clock, all firing ceased entirely, not a sound anywhere. Soon everyone was talking about it. No word had reached us yet. . . While we were getting ready to take our wounded man to the rear, a runner appeared with the official news that an Armistice had been signed. Most everybody let out a few healthy yells, but I did not. For one reason, I didn't feel much like yelling. I had some difficulty getting three more fellows to help me carry the stretcher. The one I did get had to stop every few minutes and rest. I kept urging the necessity of getting the fellow under medical care as soon as possible, for he was badly in need of attention.

Private Clarence Richmond, 5th Marines, 
on the East Side of the Meuse, 11 November 1918

Death at the Labyrinth

Come, my old dads, you're not going to let your child die alone.

Aspirant Augustin Leuregans, 236th RI., 
KIA Almost Immediately Afterward

Facing the Russians

The Russians attack with incredible fury. . . in sovereign disregard for human life, attacking and attacking until piles of corpses make the land almost unpassable.

Unknown German Soldier, Letter

Keeping Still

I think it better that in times like these

A poet keep his mouth shut, for in truth

We have no gift to set a statesman right;

He has had enough of meddling who can please

A young girl in the indolence of her youth,

Or an old man upon a winter's night.

W.B. Yeats

A Long Look Back

We have discovered that the scheme of 'outlawing war' has made war more like an outlaw without making it less frequent and that to banish the knight does not alleviate the suffering of the peasant.

C. S. Lewis, Somerset Light Infantry

1 comment:

  1. Believe Georges Clemenceau said that the cemeteries are full of indispensable men.