03 November 2008

Remembrance: The Western Front

This is the second post in my short series on the First World War.

The Western Front is the most memorable part of the Great War- primarily for the blood, mud and stupidity.

Spending a good couple of weeks (units were rotated, if I recall correctly) in a muddy trench with frequent shelling, rats and gangrene for company must have been an awful experience. It's a credit to the British soldiers that they didn't generally mutiny when told to go back.

For one who has never seen combat, I can't pretend to begin to understand what it's like to charge a machine-gun post. It's not something I can imagine doing myself, but who knows- I might well have gone on autopilot when the whistles blew. It's certainly not rational to charge towards someone with a machine-gun, but rationality goes out of the window in a war.

It seems from the records that these attacks were "successful" at least for a little while- a machine-gunner can only gun down so many people before he/she is overwhelmed by numbers.

As a person who hates mud and the cold, I don't think I'd cope in the trenches. I'm glad that it's unlikely I'll ever have to face that.

For your clean tomorrow, they gave their dirty today.

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