The Price of War

A red commemoration poppy for ANZAC Day on the tiled floor of a war memorial.

Tomorrow is ANZAC Day when Australians and New Zealanders at home and abroad remember their countrymen and women who died in war, and honour those who returned. It’s a uniquely Australasian event first held in 1916 and is commemorated in addition to, not instead of, Armistice Day.

This poem, written at the time of the First World War by English woman Lorna Fane, pays tribute to the casualties we don’t hear about very often.

The Price

‘Tis women who have to stay at home,
Alone with their aching heart,
To wipe the tears from the children’s eyes,
To smile, and to play their part:
While the men-folk fight, and the deed is done,
In rivers of blood ‘neath the setting sun –
And the price is paid.

‘Tis women who have to face the world,
With never a glance ahead;
To lie awake through the midnight hours,
Praying for living or dead:
While the men go down to the gates of hell
To face the thunder of shot and shell –
And to pay the price.

‘Tis women who have to laugh and jest,
With courage that will not fail,
To earn the bread for the children’s mouths,
And trust, though their stout hearts quail:
While the brave men fight, and, if needful, fall,
To answer the cry of the bugle call –
And to pay the price.

‘Tis women who mourn, unheard, unseen,
While the cruel war goes on,
Who weep with anguish for what has been,
Yet hide it all ‘neath a song,
While their loved ones ride to the jaws of death,
To fight for their King with their last, last breath –
Then the price is paid.

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On Active Service

The Belgian village of Watou, on the border with France, lay behind Allied lines during the Great War (WWI) and escaped destruction.

Vintage postcard of a street scene in Watou, Belgium. Message dated 1915.

One soldier was able to send this postcard from there while he was being rested from the front. It is marked “On active service” and was sent from Field Post Office D. 49 to a Miss M. W. “Dalzell” in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Many thanks for letter. All continues to go well. Much rain lately. Have spelt your name wrong as usual! Pardonnez!! Best wishes to all for 1916. May its early days see Britannia gloriously triumphant and the war a thing of the past.
Am still very well.
Best Rgds, A. J.

The message is dated 3rd November 1915. A. J. would have to wait another three years and eight days before his wish came true. We have to wonder if he lived to see it.

Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of a three-month nightmare called Passchendaele that left over half a million men from both sides of the wire dead, wounded or missing.