Monday, 4 August 2014

4th August 2014 - A hundred years ago today

Dartmoor View:

This afternoon, as I peeled and cut windfall apples to cook up for a pie, I thought how, on a summer's day, just like this one, a century ago, our ancestors went about their work pretty much as we are all doing today.  The young Swallows would have been skimming around in groups of 20 or more, practising their flying skills just as they are today.  The harvest would have been ripening, the hay would have been in stooks or carefully stacked and thatched, rowanberries turning orange on the trees and countrywomen would have been trying to make 6d do the work of a shilling, just as they have always done - and still do - whilst their menfolk laboured in the fields.

Down on Dartmoor my female relatives might have been amongst the tors gathering whortleberries for pies or to be sold at local markets at 6d or 7d a quart.  Staggering home with huge baskets full, their thoughts would doubtless have been more on events close to hand than those unfolding in a foreign country they had scarcely heard of.

I wonder how long it took for news of war to percolate to the more outlying farms?  I wonder if folk realized the impact it would have on their lives, and that by the end of four years, scarcely a household in the country would remain unaffected by lives lost - fathers, sons, brothers, cousins.

I thought today of the excitement the young men had felt at the idea of fighting for their country - those country lads especially thinking that at last they had a chance to get away from their humdrum life and have the chance to have a dependable regular wage coming in instead of every chance of being laid off because business was slow or the farmer could get a younger boy cheaper to do their work.  To escape their cramped living conditions and monotonous diet and to be the envy of their friends.  After all, it would all be over before Christmas.  It strikes me that they were full of such innocence.  They truly believed what their leaders told them.  Only the old sweats who had experienced war knew differently, but not even they could have dreamed of the carnage and futility and terror of trench warfare for years on end.

I hope that you will join me in lighting a candle of remembrance tonight and remember all those who fought, whether they returned or stayed, in the words of Rupert Brooke, who sadly fulfilled the prophecy of the poem he wrote in 1914:


IF I should die, think only this of me;
  That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
  In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,         5
  Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's breathing English air,
  Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
  A pulse in the eternal mind, no less  10
    Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
  And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
    In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Many thanks to from whence I copied the words.


Spare a thought, especially, for those 54,000 men whose bodies were never recovered, but are remembered on the Menin Gate, like my husband's Great Uncle, George Brown Bird, left mortally wounded in a bomb crater which later received a direct hit from another bomb.  Think too of those who were broken in body or in mind, yet returned home, and men whose mental breakdown was simply called Cowardice and punished as such by a firing squad at dawn.  Forgiveness is a word to choke on . .


  1. Your words touched my heart, and I always get goosebumps when I read that brilliant poem. You roam beautiful countryside, I see from your photos.

  2. Thank you for your comment Terra. The countryside is that of Dartmoor, to accompany my thoughts of my Devon grandfather who went to be a soldier, but was one of the lucky ones who returned, as did my maternal grandfather.

  3. Beautiful, thank you. Lots of wonderful things happening around the country to pay tribute to the fallen. I will be lighting a candle. I particularly like the poppies in the moat at the Tower Of London.

  4. Beautiful and very touching post today.

    cheers, parsnip

  5. Suzie - I missed seeing the poppies in the moat - didn't really watch much tv yesterday.

    parsnip - thankyou. The more thought I gave to that time today, the closer it got.

  6. A beautiful and very moving post. We lit a candle here and as Suzie above mentions the poppies at the Tower of London are such a poignant tribute.

  7. You have captured so poignantly an ordinary day which became one to conjure horrific memories. That poem always thickens my throat with unshed tears.
    I have often pondered how different the generations of my Mother's family might have been had Great Uncle Lawrence come home to marry his fiancee--instead of dying in a shell hole during the Second Battle of the Marne. Just one of so many families' lives who were unbearably altered.

  8. I missed this BB. Such a beautiful poem; I remember studying it at school. I'm barely managing to blog at the moment and was actually searching for your spiced meat pie recipe! X