“In this wilderness of flooded shell holes:” Canadians remember Passchendaele

“After a march all night, losing our way, falling in shell holes, slipping, and losing our tin hats in them, and having to fish them out, and the odd shells dropping around us. We were getting nearer to where we were supposed to dig in and hold the line. We couldn’t see much in the dark and picked out the best shell holes we could find and mounted our guns… Our guns were useless, full of mud and the water cooling barrel was punctured. The wounded officer told me he was going to see the other guns but as he left me a shell landed under him as he was crawling away. He was blown several feet away. I crawled after him, expecting any moment to share the same fate… After that terrible night, the mist of morning creeping over the sea of mud, my hands were covered with blood, steaming from the work of dressing the wounded…Eleven days and nights were spent under these conditions, which I have only covered briefly, in the cold and wet with no sleep. Haunted by the cries of those we had left in the sea of mud and torture, as it is now called- “Flanders Field where the poppies grow” – about 14 years ago.” [1]

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“The Dead Marshes”: The Post-War Landscape of France and Flanders

In the second book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, “The Two Towers”, Frodo and Gollum pass through the Dead Marshes where, “The only green was the scum of livid weed on the dark greasy milky surfaces of the sullen waters. Dead grasses and rotting reeds loomed up in the mists like ragged shadows of long forgotten summers.”. The author of the trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien later attributed his marsh landscape to the fields of Northern France after the Somme, where he had fought as a second lieutenant with the Lancashire Fusiliers.  Continue reading ““The Dead Marshes”: The Post-War Landscape of France and Flanders”