Thursday, June 05, 2008

Goodbye to all that

I've been listening to Robert Graves' autobiography, "Goodbye to all that", with its harrowing tales of the First World War. In one of his letters in May 1915 he recounts an incident about a couple of soldiers who were so fed up with being picked on by their Platoon sergeant that they decided to murder him. They then went to see the Adjutant and said, "Sir, Sir, there's been an accident: we've killed the company sergeant-major!" "What do you mean, you idiots?" he replied. "Did you mistake him for a spy?" "No," they replied, "We mistook him for the Platoon sergeant!" They were court-martialled and executed by members of their regiment, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, against the wall of a convent in France. Before they were shot, they shouted the regimental battle cry, "Stick the Welch!" The incident was overseen by a local French governor who made a short speech afterwards, commenting on the glorious deaths of the English.

7 Comments:

Blogger kinglear said...

Don't know if you've been to Flanders Field and the Somme, but it's one of the greatest experiences of my life....

7:10 pm  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

I haven't been there KL

9:58 pm  
Blogger Ellee Seymour said...

Yes, I've been there, and it's truly harrowing, just like this tale about the luckless soldiers.

8:10 pm  
Blogger kinglear said...

Whilst staying in Albert, being a bit "fey" as they have it in Scotland, I frequently heard gun-carriages and marching troops. The climax was reached on a Saturday afteroon at the end of June, when I was sitting in the square having a beer. I distinctly heard bagpipes, very quietly, and from far away. I knew the 51st (Highlanders) had been headquartered in Albert, and I marvelled that the impression they had made all those years ago remained.
I told my wife I could hear the pipes. " Yes," she said" So can I".
Indeed they were getting louder.
And louder.
And eventually the Albert pipes and Drums marched into the square - practicing for July 1st - the start of the Battle of the Somme.

10:41 am  
Blogger Mountaingirl said...

I was reading a review of this just the other day (this whole week has been filled with co-incidences) and had put it on my list of books to keep an eye out for. Now that I read your post I know I will need to find it :-)

8:19 pm  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

That is very funny, KL. Hi MG - my favourite WW1 book is Siegfried Sassoon's autobiography: Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man and Memoirs of an Infantry Officer. It gives a wonderful account of his childhood in Edwardian England and how life suddenly radically changed, though I should warn you that his vivid descriptions of trench warfare gave me nightmares for a week.

7:59 am  
Blogger Welshcakes Limoncello said...

What a terrible war that was.

12:11 pm  

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