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Although the legions of men who were actually there in the Great War are now hastening toward single figures, memories stay alive through the poetry of men like Siegfried Sassoon, Charles Sorley, Wilfred Owen and E M Mackintosh.
The poetry written by these, and many other poet-soldiers during the war, gives us a chance to grasp some of the emotions, from pride to terror, that arose through a conflict that cost the lives of millions.
Ten million known casualties to be accurate - not, of course, forgetting the countless hundreds who still rest below ground.
Although popular thought at the time was that the war would be "over by Christmas", it went on for four torrid years from 1914.
The pride of war
|A soldier's home, kitchen, lavatory and springboard to death|
Siegfried Sassoon was the quintessential gentleman officer, and his heroic
actions on the battlefields of Flanders were driven by vengeance for the
death of his brother in Gallipoli.
His poetry was a brutally honest reflection of his personal war within the campaign.
poem To My Brother, he proudly wrote of the death of his brother:
"In the gloom I see your laurelled head and through your victory
I shall win the light."
He shows his belief in the righteousness of the British cause for war: "they are fortunate who fight".
Poetry was something with which soldiers, with the gift of metered stanzas, were able to inform and inspire their colleagues and bring the brutal reality to the reader at home.
feelings of the war were not echoed by all.
Wilfred Owen, in his poem "Dulce Et Decorum Est" - "obscene as cancer" remonstrated against the horrors of the use of gas bombs.
|Has this soldier's remains been put to rest?|
His use of verbs vividly describes the state of panic in the trenches when the gas bomb struck:
An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
It was a poem of anger against an unnamed journalist who wrote "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori", meaning "it is sweet and honourable to die for one's country".
Second Lieutenant E M Mackintosh of the Seaforth Highlanders was awarded the Military Cross "For conspicuous gallantry". He too was an eminent soldier-poet.
He graphically brought to life the death of so many. The sheer scale of the conflict meant that it impacted upon nearly every family in Britain - there were very few who didn't lose a loved one.
"Recruitment" was a poem that gave pause for thought of the people who were shaping the war that became the slaughter of millions:
Waiting to be killed by you'
Go and help.
On the railway carriage wall
Stuck the poster
and I thought of the hands
that penned the call.
Could go and fight the Hun;
Can't you see them
Thanking God they're over forty one.
with feathers, vulgar songs,
Washy verse on England's need
God and don't we damn-well know
How the message ought to read.
you're wanted, over there
Shiver in the morning dew
More poor devils, like yourselves
Waiting to be killed by you.
But his life
too came to an untimely end on November 21, 1917 at the French battlefield
He is buried in Orival Wood cemetery, Flesquières, northern France (Plot I, row A, grave 26).
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