Friday, 1 July 2016

One hundred years ago today

One hundred years ago today my grandfather advanced on the Somme.

One fifth of our men did not come back. Granddad was one of the lucky 80%. He came back with a disgust for Douglas Haig and a lifelong huge admiration for Lloyd George.

We used to have the playing cards my grandfather had in the First World War - but my sister or mother accidentally threw them away. That happened twenty years ago but I have not forgiven it.

I learnt today from the BBC that Hitler was there too.

                  After Blenheim

IT was a summer evening, 
  Old Kaspar's work was done, 
And he before his cottage door 
  Was sitting in the sun; 
And by him sported on the green         5
His little grandchild Wilhelmine. 
She saw her brother Peterkin 
  Roll something large and round, 
Which he beside the rivulet 
  In playing there had found:  10
He came to ask what he had found 
That was so large and smooth and round. 
Old Kaspar took it from the boy, 
  Who stood expectant by; 
And then the old man shook his head,  15
  And with a natural sigh— 
"'Tis some poor fellow's skull," said he, 
"Who fell in the great victory. 
"I find them in the garden, 
  For there's many here about;  20
And often when I go to plough 
  The ploughshare turns them out. 
For many thousand men," said he, 
"Were slain in that great victory." 
"Now tell us what 'twas all about,"  25
  Young Peterkin he cries; 
And little Wilhelmine looks up 
  With wonder-waiting eyes; 
"Now tell us all about the war, 
And what they fought each other for."  30
"It was the English," Kaspar cried, 
  "Who put the French to rout; 
But what they fought each other 
  I could not well make out. 
But everybody said," quoth he,  35
"That 'twas a famous victory. 
"My father lived at Blenheim then, 
  Yon little stream hard by; 
They burnt his dwelling to the ground, 
  And he was forced to fly:  40
So with his wife and child he fled, 
Nor had he where to rest his head. 
"With fire and sword the country round 
  Was wasted far and wide, 
And many a childing mother then  45
  And newborn baby died: 
But things like that, you know, must be 
At every famous victory. 
"They say it was a shocking sight 
  After the field was won,  50
For many thousand bodies here 
  Lay rotting in the sun; 
But things like that, you know, must be 
After a famous victory. 
"Great praise the Duke of Marlbro' won,  55
  And our good Prince Eugene"— 
"Why 'twas a very wicked thing!" 
  Said little Welhelmine; 
"Nay—nay, my little girl," quoth he, 
"It was a famous victory.  60
"And everybody praised the Duke 
  Who this great fight did win"— 
"But what good came of it at last?" 
  Quoth little Peterkin. 
"Why that I cannot tell," said he,  65
"But 'twas a famous victory."

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