Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Canon Frederick George Scott on Vimy

The below selection is taken from The Great War As I Saw It - CHAPTER XVI - THE CAPTURE OF VIMY RIDGE: April 9th, 1917 By Canon Frederick George Scott (1862-1944)


We got into the field and climbed the hill, and there on the top of it waited for the attack to begin. The sky was overcast, but towards the east the grey light of approaching dawn was beginning to appear. It was a thrilling moment. Human lives were at stake. The honour of our country was at stake. The fate of civilization was at stake.

Far over the dark fields, I looked towards the German lines, and, now and then, in the distance I saw a flarelight appear for a moment and then die away. Now and again, along our nine-mile front, I saw the flash of a gun and heard the distant report of a shell. It looked as if the war had gone to sleep, but we knew that all along the line our trenches were bristling with energy and filled with men animated with one resolve, with one fierce determination. It is no wonder that to those who have been in the war and passed though such moments, ordinary life and literature seem very tame. The thrill of such a moment is worth years of peace-time existence. To the watcher of a spectacle so awful and sublime, even human companionship struck a jarring note. I went over to a place by myself where I could not hear the other men talking, and there I waited. I watched the luminous hands of my watch get nearer and nearer to the fateful moment, for the barrage was to open at five-thirty. At five-fifteen the sky was getting lighter and already one could make out objects distinctly in the fields below. The long hand of my watch was at five-twenty-five. The fields, the roads, and the hedges were beginning to show the difference of colour in the early light. Five-twenty-seven! In three minutes the rain of death was to begin. In the awful silence around it seemed as if Nature were holding her breath in expectation of the staggering moment. Five-twenty-nine! God help our men! Five-thirty! With crisp sharp reports the iron throats of a battery nearby crashed forth their message of death to the Germans, and from three thousand guns at that moment the tempest of death swept through the air. It was a wonderful sound.

The flashes of guns in all directions made lightnings in the dawn. The swish of shells though the air was continuous, and far over on the German trenches I saw the bursts of flame and smoke in a long continuous line, and, above the smoke, the white, red and green lights, which were the S.O.S. signals from the terrified enemy. In an instant his artillery replied, and against the morning clouds the bursting shrapnel flashed. Now and then our shells would hit a German ammunition dump, and, for a moment, a dull red light behind the clouds of smoke, added to the grandeur of the scene. I knelt on the ground and prayed to the God of Battles to guard our noble men in that awful line of death and destruction, and to give them victory, and I am not ashamed to confess that it was with the greatest difficulty I kept back my tears. There was so much human suffering and sorrow, there were such tremendous issues involved in that fierce attack, there was such splendour of human character being manifested now in that “far flung line,” where smoke and flame mocked the calm of the morning sky, that the watcher felt he was gazing upon eternal things.

[....]

The sight of German trenches was something never to be forgotten. They had been strongly held and had been fortified with an immense maze of wire. But now they were ploughed and shattered by enormous shell holes. The wire was twisted and torn and the whole of that region looked as if a volcanic upheaval had broken the crust of the earth. Hundreds of men were now walking over the open in all directions. German prisoners were being hurried back in scores. Wounded men, stretcher-bearers and men following up the advance were seen on all sides, and on the ground lay the bodies of friends and foes who had passed to the Great Beyond. I met a British staff officer coming back from the front, who told me he belonged to Army Headquarters. He asked me if I was a Canadian, and when I replied that I was, he said, “I congratulate you upon it.” I reminded him that British artillery were also engaged in the attack and should share in the glory. “That may be,” he said, “but, never since the world began have men made a charge with finer spirit. It was a magnificent achievement.”

[...]

About half-past six, when I started back, I met our Intelligence Officer, V.C., D.S.O., coming up to look over the line. He was a man who did much but said little and generally looked very solemn. I went up to him and said, “Major, far be it from me, as a man of peace and a man of God, to say anything suggestive of slaughter, but, if I were a combatant officer, I would drop some shrapnel in that valley in front of our lines.” Just the faint flicker of a smile passed over his countenance and he replied, “We are shelling the valley.” “No,” I said, “Our shells are going over the valley into the villages beyond, and the Germans in the plain are getting ready for a counter-attack. I could see them with my naked eyes.” “Well,” he replied, “I will go and look.”

[...]

Our men at once took possession of all the telegraph instruments and prevented information being sent back to the enemy in the rear lines. Having done this, our gallant Canadians ordered the prisoners out of the dugout and then sat down and ate the breakfast which they had just prepared. This was only one of many deeds of cool daring done that day. On one occasion the Germans were running so fast in front of one of our battalions that our men could not resist following them. They were actually rushing into the zone of our own fire in order to get at them. A gallant young lieutenant, who afterwards won the V.C., seeing the danger, with great pluck, ran in front of the men and halted them with the words, “Stop, Boys, give the barrage a chance.”

[...]

In spite of the numbers of wounded and dying men which I had seen, the victory was such a complete and splendid one that April 9th, 1917, was one of the happiest days in my life, and when I started out from the signallers dugout on my way back to Ecoivres, and passed the hill where I had seen the opening of the great drama in the early morning, my heart was full of thankfulness to Almighty God for his blessing on our arms. I arrived at my room in the Château at about half past two a.m., very tired and very happy. I made myself a large cup of strong coffee, on my primus stove, ate a whole tin of cold baked beans, and then turned in to a sound slumber, filled with dreams of victory and glory, and awoke well and fit in the morning, more than ever proud of the grand old First Division which, as General Horne told us later, had made a new record in British war annals by taking every objective on the scheduled dot of the clock.


Kipling (Publius)
Originally posted at The Gods of the Copybook Headings.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Beaverbrook said...

Wonderful, Kipling. I have the book myself and hugely admire the great Canon Scott. The sheer manliness of the writing and the writings of those times must be a ghastly thing to the modernist.

Younghusband said...

Fast forward to today. If it wasn't enough that the freed sailors & marines went over and beyond thecall of duty to kiss the Iranian leader's hand and praise his kindness and compassion while apologising for their own country, now they're allowed to profit from it. If THAT's not enough, the military is equating what they went through with VCs, saying similar concessions were made for Private Johnson Beharry when he was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery in 2005. Shame! This is supposed to encourage and foster our respect for what the army is about?

Younghusband said...

Is it true?!?!?
"The hostages yesterday were awarded the Victoria Cross, one of the highest British military honors."
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/wn_report/2007/04/08/2007-04-08_kin_of_fallen_brits_riled_as_captured_cr-1.html

Scott said...

It can't be. As the descendant of a VC winner, I'd feel sick to the stomach at that.

Re: the extract. Fantastic stuff. If only that was read along side the Sassoon and Wilfred Owen pieces in British schools; presently kids get only the dour, dire view of war, none of the uplifting glories of sacrifice and exertion in a just cause.