Saturday, February 11, 2012

Kind of sad in a way

But it does kind of show the hand of chance.
94 years ago an Allied shell landed on a German underground shelter on the Western Front. 21 Germans were buried alive and only recently were discovered.


  1. Top comment: "Upon the discovery of German soldiers, I would assume that the French road workers immediately surrendered."

  2. "Upon the discovery of German soldiers, I would assume that the French road workers immediately surrendered."


    Great find and posted.

  3. Dugouts on the Western Front...described by a couple of WWI poets. Wilfred Owen:
    The Sentry
    We'd found an old Boche dug-out, and he knew,
    And gave us hell, for shell on frantic shell
    Hammered on top, but never quite burst through.
    Rain, guttering down in waterfalls of slime
    Kept slush waist high, that rising hour by hour,
    Choked up the steps too thick with clay to climb.
    What murk of air remained stank old, and sour
    With fumes of whizz-bangs, and the smell of men
    Who'd lived there years, and left their curse in the den,
    If not their corpses. . . .
    There we herded from the blast
    Of whizz-bangs, but one found our door at last.
    Buffeting eyes and breath, snuffing the candles.
    And thud! flump! thud! down the steep steps came thumping
    And splashing in the flood, deluging muck --
    The sentry's body; then his rifle, handles
    Of old Boche bombs, and mud in ruck on ruck.
    We dredged him up, for killed, until he whined
    "O sir, my eyes -- I'm blind -- I'm blind, I'm blind!"
    Coaxing, I held a flame against his lids
    And said if he could see the least blurred light
    He was not blind; in time he'd get all right.
    "I can't," he sobbed. Eyeballs, huge-bulged like squids
    Watch my dreams still; but I forgot him there
    In posting next for duty, and sending a scout
    To beg a stretcher somewhere, and floundering about
    To other posts under the shrieking air.

    Those other wretches, how they bled and spewed,
    And one who would have drowned himself for good, --
    I try not to remember these things now.
    Let dread hark back for one word only: how
    Half-listening to that sentry's moans and jumps,
    And the wild chattering of his broken teeth,
    Renewed most horribly whenever crumps
    Pummelled the roof and slogged the air beneath --
    Through the dense din, I say, we heard him shout
    "I see your lights!" But ours had long died out.

  4. And,

    Robert Service:

    Only a Boche

    We brought him in from between the lines: we'd better have let him lie;
    For what's the use of risking one's skin for a tyke that's going to die?
    What's the use of tearing him loose under a gruelling fire,
    When he's shot in the head, and worse than dead, and all messed up on the wire?
    However, I say, we brought him in. Diable! The mud was bad;
    The trench was crooked and greasy and high, and oh, what a time we had!
    And often we slipped, and often we tripped, but never he made a moan;
    And how we were wet with blood and with sweat! but we carried him in like our own.
    Now there he lies in the dug-out dim, awaiting the ambulance,
    And the doctor shrugs his shoulders at him, and remarks, "He hasn't a chance."
    And we squat and smoke at our game of bridge on the glistening, straw-packed floor,
    And above our oaths we can hear his breath deep-drawn in a kind of snore.
    For the dressing station is long and low, and the candles gutter dim,
    And the mean light falls on the cold clay walls and our faces bristly and grim;
    And we flap our cards on the lousy straw, and we laugh and jibe as we play,
    And you'd never know that the cursed foe was less than a mile away.
    As we con our cards in the rancid gloom, oppressed by that snoring breath,
    You'd never dream that our broad roof-beam was swept by the broom of death.
    Heigh-ho! My turn for the dummy hand; I rise and I stretch a bit;
    The fetid air is making me yawn, and my cigarette's unlit,
    So I go to the nearest candle flame, and the man we brought is there,
    And his face is white in the shabby light, and I stand at his feet and stare.
    Stand for a while, and quietly stare: for strange though it seems to be,
    The dying Boche on the stretcher there has a queer resemblance to me.
    It gives one a kind of a turn, you know, to come on a thing like that.
    It's just as if I were lying there, with a turban of blood for a hat,
    Lying there in a coat grey-green instead of a coat grey-blue,
    With one of my eyes all shot away, and my brain half tumbling through;
    Lying there with a chest that heaves like a bellows up and down,
    And a cheek as white as snow on a grave, and lips that are coffee brown.
    And confound him, too! He wears, like me, on his finger a wedding ring,
    And around his neck, as around my own, by a greasy bit of string,
    A locket hangs with a woman's face, and I turn it about to see:
    Just as I thought . . . on the other side the faces of children three;
    Clustered together cherub-like, three little laughing girls,
    With the usual tiny rosebud mouths and the usual silken curls.
    "Zut!" I say. "He has beaten me; for me, I have only two,"
    And I push the locket beneath his shirt, feeling a little blue.
    Oh, it isn't cheerful to see a man, the marvelous work of God,
    Crushed in the mutilation mill, crushed to a smeary clod;
    Oh, it isn't cheerful to hear him moan; but it isn't that I mind,
    It isn't the anguish that goes with him, it's the anguish he leaves behind.
    For his going opens a tragic door that gives on a world of pain,
    And the death he dies, those who live and love, will die again and again.
    So here I am at my cards once more, but it's kind of spoiling my play,
    Thinking of those three brats of his so many a mile away.
    War is war, and he's only a Boche, and we all of us take our chance;
    But all the same I'll be mighty glad when I'm hearing the ambulance.
    One foe the less, but all the same I'm heartily glad I'm not
    The man who gave him his broken head, the sniper who fired the shot.
    No trumps you make it, I think you said? You'll pardon me if I err;
    For a moment I thought of other things . . .Mon Dieu! Quelle vache de gueerre.