Sunday, November 09, 2008

Lest We Forget

Meet my great grandfather. I never had the chance to meet him myself. His name was Samuel Walter Bolch, and he was killed on the Somme on the 15th September 1916. He has no known grave. If only it had really been the war to end all wars.

* * *

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 good-byes.
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.

- Anthem for Doomed Youth, Wilfred Owen.


  1. How poignant, John.

    Both my Grandfathers were at the Somme and both, thank God, survived, but not without wounds which never really healed, both physically, and emotionally.

    There is a family story concerning my Maternal Grandfather, who was declared missing, presumed dead. My Grandmother, bieng , as he was, Italian and devoutly religious, began to pray every day to the saint from whom he took his name - Anthony- for his safe return.

    My Grandfather was eventually found, with a gaping wound to his thigh, the sole survivor in a muddy trench where everyone around him had died of food poisoning.
    The twist to the tale was that he was actually found on Saint Anthony's Day, which is ironic, since Anthony is also the patron saint of lost things......

  2. Thanks, LM. Interesting story about your maternal grandfather - the law of coincidence strikes again!


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