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.
ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH
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 .