Maandelijks archief: september 2014

Assignment 3 with World War I – Letters from the Frontline

In WWI life at the frontline was a life of hardship. Soldiers lived in the trenches under constant bombing and other enemy fire. Each day, each hour could be the last one. Feet cloacked in the mud, rifle clung in the hands, waiting for the captain to blow the whistle for the next offensive. And when he’d blow the whistle soldiers, without protest, ran in to No Man’s land. Left and right they’d see soldiers, their mates that they had just been playing cards with, fall in the line of fire. Shouting they’d been hit, the lucky ones immediatly laying silently, face down in the mud. And then back after the offensive, back in the trenches, losses were counted. The surviving soldiers, no time for mourning their fellows, were fighting over the space and the food in the bunkers with the rats and lice. Sometimes a soldier suffering from shell-shock would suddenly start shouting out of nothing into nothing, traumatized by the war, ready for the asylum. If one had the guts to look out of the trenches into No Man’s land, they ‘d only see ravage, the same as yesterday, and sometimes some dead or dying soldier hanging in the barbed wire or the legs sticking out of a crater.

Two weeks the soldiers would spend at the front, before they’d have some days of leave, sometimes even longer. Two weeks in the mud, two weeks of whisteling bombs, dying mates, gas attacks.

 

Mostly life in the trenches was a day to day hell, dying the ultimate escape. But still soldiers tried to make the best of it, keeping hope they would win and be home soon. Some shot themselves in the feet, or mutilated themselves in another way, hoping for a longer leave far from the frontline. But if you were caught doing that, you’d be killed.

 

Sometimes special things happened, friendship between the rivalling soldiers. For days your enemy would be the only other human you’d see. With Christmas and New Years’ Eve war was pauzed, and the enemies would celebrate together at some places on the frontline. To kill each other the next day, without remorse. No hard feelings, that was war.

 

And in the moments of relative peace, many of the soldiers tried to find a place where they could get some silence to write. Write letters of comfort to the girlfriends at home, write in the notebooks, write in their dairies or make sketches of the world that the saw. And many of those papers are left and give us a very accurate picture of the life in the trenches.

 

The assignment

 

In this hand out, there are some thirty sources, pictures and eye-witness accounts. Before doing anything you are going to read them and look at them to form an idea of life in the trenches. After doing so, you are going to write a letter from the frontline to your family/lover as a soldier at the Western Front in the year 1916.

From your letter it must be clear:

  • What life in the trenches was like,
  • How offensives took place,
  • What you do in the blank time between the attacks,
  • What the world around you looks like,
  • Your basic day to day life,
  • Your rank,
  • Anything else you can think of.

 

You type the letter in point 12, TimesItalic, at least one A4. No more then two A4!

 

Godspeed

T. van Erve

Source with assignment World War 1

 

 

GOOD COURAGE

 

 

 

Good courage in the July drive


That’s why I did not die,


Whilst the fighting in the trenches
The first day of July.

 

In No Man’s land I took my stand
Where some bullets pierced my thigh,
And left me there a cripple
On the battlefield to die.

 

Where hundreds of our soldier boys
Lay dead upon the ground,
And no one there to say a prayer
As I gazed and looked around.

 

After seventy-three long hours
In a shell-hole where I lay,
The blood ran down like water
”Twas the horror of the day.

 

When down beneath the shell-hole
I could not rise my head,
And on top of my legs and body
Some soldiers lay there dead.

 

Whilst shells were flying all around
My puttees caught on fire,
But for the clay and mud that day
My frame began to tire.

 

For sixty-two long hours
The hun did blast away,
And ten thousand of our soldier lads
On the battle field did lay.

 

Oh! The bitter morning; I heard that day
From the whistling of the mortar,
And all the rats that roamed that day
Took part amongst the slaughter.

 

We were the 29th Division or the S.S. Brigade
As we advanced over No Man’s land,
”The penalty was great.” they said
But looking back over the past that’s gone
No more will I fight to die,
Way out there on Flander’s Fields
As sure as I am Kilfoy.

 

I am one of the lucky five hundred
Though my limbs are shattered and torn,
I will not forget that July Drive
Or those who are left to mourn.
Of glory to their memory
Where on the battle field they lie,
Down in those terrible trenches
Where they were left to die.

 

It was then I spied a soldier lad
Who wore a Red Cross band,
As he travelled alone that day
Out there on No Man’s Land.

 

Then he pulled the dead bodies of me
And lay them by my side,
Then wrapped me up in bandages
Where most men would have died.

 

Then he took me on his shoulders
Oh! What courage this man must find,
And he brought me to a dressing station
One mile down the line.

 

My boot and foot, part of my leg
Were left out there in the mud,
Which made his burden lighter
But his clothes were soaked with blood.

 

I do not know that good man’s name
As my strength was all but gone,
God will defend such courage
Is a prayer that guides us on.

 

It was my last time on that battle field
And no more will I want to see,
The horrors of a brutal war
No place on earth should be.

 

And as I look back on my memories
When we were in the prime of life,
Not thinking that this day would come
For me to have a wife.

 

Yes, today after forty long years
I have a good and faithful wife,
And am blessed with a family
To guide my crippled life.

 

My prayers have all been answered
And to the past, I’ll say good-bye.
Where we fought and died like soldiers
The first day of July.

 

 

By: W.S. Reardon For Private Soldier Leo Kilfoy, Soldier of War World One.

 

VERDUN

 

Three hundred thousand men, but not enough


To break this township on a winding stream;

More yet must fall, and more, ere the red stuff


That built a nation’s manhood may redeem


The Master’s hopes and realize his dream.

 

They pave the way to Verdun; on their dust


The Hohenzollerns mount and, hand in hand,
Gaze haggard south; for yet another thrust 
And higher hills must heap, ere they may stand 
To feed their eyes upon the promised land.

One barrow, borne of women, lifts them high,
Built up of many a thousand human dead.
Nursed on their mothers’ bosoms, now they lie –
A Golgotha, all shattered, torn and sped,
A mountain for these royal feet to thread.

A Golgotha, upon whose carrion clay
Justice of myriad men still in the womb
Shall heave two crosses; crucify and fray
The memories accurs’d; then in the tomb
World-wide execration give them room.

Verdun! a clarion thy name shall ring
Adown the ages and the Nations see
Thy monuments of glory. Now we bring
Thank-offering and bend the reverent knee,
Thou star upon the crown of Liberty!

Eden Philpotts

 

 

 

GOOD COURAGE

 

 

 

Good courage in the July drive


That’s why I did not die,


Whilst the fighting in the trenches
The first day of July.

 

In No Man’s land I took my stand
Where some bullets pierced my thigh,
And left me there a cripple
On the battlefield to die.

 

Where hundreds of our soldier boys
Lay dead upon the ground,
And no one there to say a prayer
As I gazed and looked around.

 

After seventy-three long hours
In a shell-hole where I lay,
The blood ran down like water
”Twas the horror of the day.

 

When down beneath the shell-hole
I could not rise my head,
And on top of my legs and body
Some soldiers lay there dead.

 

Whilst shells were flying all around
My puttees caught on fire,
But for the clay and mud that day
My frame began to tire.

 

For sixty-two long hours
The hun did blast away,
And ten thousand of our soldier lads
On the battle field did lay.

 

Oh! The bitter morning; I heard that day
From the whistling of the mortar,
And all the rats that roamed that day
Took part amongst the slaughter.

 

We were the 29th Division or the S.S. Brigade
As we advanced over No Man’s land,
”The penalty was great.” they said
But looking back over the past that’s gone
No more will I fight to die,
Way out there on Flander’s Fields
As sure as I am Kilfoy.

 

I am one of the lucky five hundred
Though my limbs are shattered and torn,
I will not forget that July Drive
Or those who are left to mourn.
Of glory to their memory
Where on the battle field they lie,
Down in those terrible trenches
Where they were left to die.

 

It was then I spied a soldier lad
Who wore a Red Cross band,
As he travelled alone that day
Out there on No Man’s Land.

 

Then he pulled the dead bodies of me
And lay them by my side,
Then wrapped me up in bandages
Where most men would have died.

 

Then he took me on his shoulders
Oh! What courage this man must find,
And he brought me to a dressing station
One mile down the line.

 

My boot and foot, part of my leg
Were left out there in the mud,
Which made his burden lighter
But his clothes were soaked with blood.

 

I do not know that good man’s name
As my strength was all but gone,
God will defend such courage
Is a prayer that guides us on.

 

It was my last time on that battle field
And no more will I want to see,
The horrors of a brutal war
No place on earth should be.

 

And as I look back on my memories
When we were in the prime of life,
Not thinking that this day would come
For me to have a wife.

 

Yes, today after forty long years
I have a good and faithful wife,
And am blessed with a family
To guide my crippled life.

 

My prayers have all been answered
And to the past, I’ll say good-bye.
Where we fought and died like soldiers
The first day of July.

 

 

By: W.S. Reardon For Private Soldier Leo Kilfoy, Soldier of War World One.

 

VERDUN

 

Three hundred thousand men, but not enough


To break this township on a winding stream;

More yet must fall, and more, ere the red stuff


That built a nation’s manhood may redeem


The Master’s hopes and realize his dream.

 

They pave the way to Verdun; on their dust


The Hohenzollerns mount and, hand in hand,
Gaze haggard south; for yet another thrust 
And higher hills must heap, ere they may stand 
To feed their eyes upon the promised land.

One barrow, borne of women, lifts them high,
Built up of many a thousand human dead.
Nursed on their mothers’ bosoms, now they lie –
A Golgotha, all shattered, torn and sped,
A mountain for these royal feet to thread.

A Golgotha, upon whose carrion clay
Justice of myriad men still in the womb
Shall heave two crosses; crucify and fray
The memories accurs’d; then in the tomb
World-wide execration give them room.

Verdun! a clarion thy name shall ring
Adown the ages and the Nations see
Thy monuments of glory. Now we bring
Thank-offering and bend the reverent knee,
Thou star upon the crown of Liberty!

Eden Philpotts

 

 

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