In Flanders Field

My very dear friend David Prosser, whose blog Barsetshirediaries always brings a smile to my face, recently introduced me to his second blog, The BUTHIDARS. This second blog (you’ll have to ask David where he got the name, as I have no idea) is one of peace, love and hugs. It is based on kindness to all, and is a place where “smiling and hugging are the order of the day”. The most recent post on this blog begins with a poem we have all heard many times, In Flanders Field by John McCrae. Reading the story behind the poem, and then David’s beautifully written commentary brought a tear to my eye, but not in a bad way. David calls for peace, for an end to wars so that we can direct our attentions to more important things. Please take a few moments to read this exceptional post … and if you feel so inclined, give his blog a follow! Thank you, David, for pointing me toward this excellent blog and for permission to share! And … HUGS!

The BUTHIDARS

by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
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.

During the early days of the Second Battle of Ypres a young Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed on 2nd May, 1915 in the gun positions near Ypres. An exploding German artillery shell landed near him. He was serving in the same Canadian artillery unit…

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11 thoughts on “In Flanders Field

  1. Today we have to strike a delicate balance between supporting war or remembering those who were slaughtered. One of the the great poets who first put the ordinary soldiers point of view was Kipling.
    ‘ For its Tommy this , an’ Tommy that, and Chuck him out the brute!
    But it’s ‘ Saviour of ‘is country’ when the guns begin to shoot.’
    Tommy Atkins was the name used to represent the common soldier, who was often , like a pawn , taken for granted by his superiors.

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    • I agree. The common soldier is to be remembered with compassion and dignity, for he was doing his patriotic duty as he saw it. It is the ones who plot and plan the wars who may have been less noble. And today .. with nuclear weapons added to the equation … we simply cannot afford to even consider wars or armed conflict. Especially with certain volatile, immature leaders in some nations!

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  2. My Grand Uncle served at Passiondale between the second and third battles. In fact, he was removed after severe wounding in May 1917 only two months before the third offensive.
    He was chaplain to the Lancashire Heavy Brigade based near Ypres. Having no wish to engage in conflict, he nevertheless was there on the front lines when a shell removed most of his lower leg. He was so badly injured that he had the rest removed up to the knee by the battlefield surgeons. Removed to Calais, surgeons further removed most of his thigh (now gangrenous) and patched up an injured arm.
    He survived his injuries and despite pleas by many officers not to return him to active service in France, he was sent back to the war zone in early 2018. He did not leave service until October 1919.
    The British did not recognise his service…and being Irish and effectively working for the British along with some siblings, he was not welcome back in Ireland after the uprising in 1915. He fled to Australia. He was recognised by the Belgians for his bravery (he saved the life of a Belgian officer) and they awarded him the Croix de Guerre with three palms (their highest award and equivalent to the highest order of the British Victoria cross).
    Britain later awarded him too, but only after they had been shamed into it.
    The Irish were treated as canon fodder and at least half of the Lancashire Heavy Brigade were Irish. Passiondale was considered to be the worst battle area for the allies. The mud was defeating and demoralising, let alone the horrific conflict.

    We must always remember what war looks like!
    ‘Lest we forget!’ 🌸

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    • Wow! That is an amazing … and very sad story. Your poor uncle. I hope he had a happy life after the war? Thank you for sharing that story to remind us that war is not a noble thing, but a tragic circumstance that should be avoided at all costs. Sadly, those who make the decisions to enter into was do not often see the true cost up close and personal.

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      • Well, he was called up just months before the Irish uprising, so had no choice.
        He lived with an uncomfortable wooden leg until the mid 1960’s. I never met him, and and indeed didn’t know much about him until more recently. He has been featured in a book. The author contacted me from Australia and I gave some old photos for the publication. He actually became a very prominent clergy member in Australia, equivalent to a a Cardinal in the Catholic Church. He was listed in the ‘Who’s Who’ guide for Sydney. He apparently instituted many good works (college, parish community) but I am not overly familiar with them. He had a stroke later in life, leaving him debilitated for years before his death. I don’t know if he was happy, but I think he was (I hope) one of the good Catholic clergy… So many are not! I guess like my Dad, he would be very disappointed to see me disown the faith. I am afraid, good as most religious principles may be, practice of them often shoots people directly in the foot!

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