Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The lost generation

In the Great War the Bretons fought for France and had the highest death toll of any region. twenty five per cent of the populace perished, leaving farms to fall into decay and families broken. The whole thing was repeated in second world war. Having grown up in poverty and hardship in a poor agricultural region the country boys of Finistrere, Cotes d'Armor and Morbihan were habituated to walking miles in wooden sabots and working long hours in rain on poor rations. Leather boots and heavy greycoats were for them a great improvement on sacking flung about thier shoulders to keep out the wet which is tradiionally what men wore in winter in the fields.

Today is a national holiday of rememberance, yesterday the school children in each village made wreaths from the last of the flowers in the gardens to lay on the village war memorials. Here , in communities where it is rare to move away from your home village the dead are not forgotten they are still part of the family of the commune.

The poem below by Rupert Brooke marks the lost youth of all those who fought in the "War to end all Wars" and sadly each War that has come with regular monotony after it, regardless of which side ,which nation, which creed or political belief they held they are all lost now and yet it continues. Little changes then except the uniforms.


What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

September - October, 1917

If you would like to more about the "war Poets" and the lost generation of modernist writers then you may be interested in this site .


gaelikaa said...

I find these Remembrance day posts very interesting...

ChrisH said...

Thanks for this post; it's interesting to see a different perspective on the wars. (btw, I couldn't make the link work - but that doesn't mean it isn't working!)

Fred said...

I found this year's school service so moving and spent yesterday observing the two minute silence in the newly opened eco garden of a local special school. I think the youth of today are much more aware of it than we were at the same age, when there wasn't really a war going on.

I have a first edition of Rupert Brooke's '1914 and other poems'
given to an aunt when she was nursing in a field hospital in Northern France. It is one of my most treasure posessions.

Elizabethd said...

Here too in the Morbihan we have the ceremony at the memorial, children singing, old men solemnly watching and remembering.

Sallys Chateau said...

We went to our village service too yesterday, somehow this year seems more poignant.

Friko said...

It is a very difficult time of year for me; the remembrance of past ills is all too clear in my mind. If I say there was much suffering on all sides, in every war before and since then, I sound trite and apologetic. What else can we use but platitudes.
If only mankind would finally learn that war is never good, will never achieve anything other than the death of young men and innocent civilians, but we are still at it, still right and righteous, still ready to use any megalomaniac reason to kill and maim.

If this is too serious a response, I beg your pardon.
Any or all of you may delete it.

mountainear said...

How true Friko - we're still at it. how much death and destruction will it take.

Death and destruction doesn't acknowledge national boundaries and right or wrong doesn't make personal suffering greater or less.

her at home said...

I so agree Friko it is a lost generation not for one nation but an entire world, each war destroys so much future promise and yet we rarely seem to learn from our mistakes. Yong men still rush to join up and fight and old men still choose war over talk. Each side thinks they are fighting the just cause but there are no winners in the end when so much suffering is involved. Wilfred Owen made that clear in his poems.

Fennie said...

When my father went to live in Brittany he used to say that his status as an 'ancien combatant' was recognised and respected in a way in which he felt it wasn't in the UK. Whether this is true I don't know. There used to be a cartoon about a soldier missing a few limbs (Loic?) debating with a pregnant woman as to which had the greater right to the seat on the metro set aside for 'mutil├ęs de guerre' and 'less femmes enceintes.' A brave and thought provoking post.

Tattie Weasle said...

I was shocked to find out how may Frenchman died in the Great War and how it devastated whole communites and regions. So glad though that those that died are remebered in their communities.

muddyboots said...

late again, always find this time of year fairly moving, time to stop & think, remember. made all the more poignant by current deaths in Afghanistan & Iraq, just foundthat a great uncle died on the somme, 4th dec 1916

annakarenin said...

Quick whip through your posts and can't believe how long it has been since I was last around but then suppose that is my way.

Was so glad to see mention of Celts and Halloween on last post as get really miffed when people write off important part of my own childhood as being ' an American import.' We have always done Halloween and my Mil in her 60's said they used to celebrate it in Scotland when she was a child.

We have an army base not far from us and far too frequently we are having to read in the local paper of another death of a local over in Afganistan. So sad that we have yet to find a better way of resolving things

Pondside said...

Lovely post. According to the papers, attendance was way up at all the services in Canada - a reflection of the realization that the WWII veterans are dying off and that there are too many casualties of the mess in Afghanistan.