They marched to the tune of It's a Long Way to Tipperary. They marched into the hell of no man's land. A place of blood and mire pocked with blast craters filled with rain and soaking dead. An area that was fenced off on both sides by barbed wire and land mines. Wifred Owen saw thusly:
No Man's Land is pocketmarked like the body of foulest disease and its odour is the breath of cancer...No Man's Land under snow is like the face of the moon, chaotic, crater-ridden, uninhabitable, awful, the abode of madness.
Hideous landscapes, vile noises....everything unnatural, broken, blastered; the distortion of the dead, whose unburiable bodies sit outside the dug-outs all day, all night, the most execrable sights on earth.
The war to end all wars. The Great War until 21 years later a greater war over shadowed it. 1914 to 1918 the world was locked in that epic strugle. The European powers jumped into another clashing battle that spread into a world wide conflict. Smiling faces marched into recruiting offices to sign up. They wanted their chance to show the other guy how wrong he was to pick this fight. With high expectation and the thrill of adventure they trained for their moment in history as part of the great cause. They were positive the altercation would be over by Christmas.
Those hopes were completely obliterated. The modern age had surpassed the pettiness of men's quarrels. Machine guns raked the lines of soldiers marching to their deaths. Shells of great weight were lobbed into enemy lines. Gas was released liquifying the lungs. Bodies were shattered, limbs thrown far and wide.
The fabric of society was ripped asunder.
God is in His heaven and all is right with the world.
The spirit of the world was flayed.
It would be over by Christmas. It was over before Christmas but near four years intervened. A generation of young men and women was decimated. The flower of youth it was said. Then in the eleventh month on the eleventh day at the eleventh hour the armistice was signed to end the Great War. Some say it was only a pause in the conflict which heated up again in 1939. So the war to end all wars only spawned WWII.
It is true, then, there will always be wars and rumors of wars. Funny, I read that in the Bible.
11-11-11 should be remembered as it is each November. Veterean's Day here in America. Remembrance Day in what was once the British Commonwealth. A day to wear a red poppy showing one remembers the broken bleeding bodies planted in fields across Europe. A remembrance of the horrors of war in hopes that remembering will encourage an end to conflicts.
John McCrae said it best:
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.