Thursday, December 10, 2015

War

The Royal Irish Rifles at the Battle of the Somme (Source)
We often write of warfare here at the Chant du Départ. Pictures, discussions of history, the people, the equipment, the tools of warfare. But you must remember something, that I can't stress enough, we are three old warriors who know, some of us first hand, that there is no glory in war.

Yes, there are times when war is necessary. It is usually because someone in power did something stupid, or didn't stand up to an aggressor when it was necessary, but understand this, it nearly always flows from miscalculation, from greed, and from hubris.

The powerful don't pay the price. They sit in their nice offices, behind layers of security and make decisions that could send men and women to their deaths. Or to a lifetime of agony and pain, mental and physical.

There are just wars, there are righteous wars, but we here at the Chant du Départ do not celebrate war. We do, however, honor and remember the warriors who have gone before. Who have paid the price for our freedoms and still pay that price.

We will also forever despise and disdain the stupidity and cowardice of so-called "leaders" who let things get to a point where war is unavoidable.

I have another tune to share with you, another offering from the lads of Dropkick Murphys, a song about an older time, though written in 1976. I think it expresses my feelings on war to a tee. Beware, the pictures accompanying the video are not for the faint of heart.


The Green Fields of France

by Eric Bogle, as performed by The Dropkick Murphys

Oh how do you do, young Willy McBride
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside
And rest for a while in the warm summer sun?
I've been walking all day, and I'm nearly done.
And I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
When you joined the great fallen in 1916.
Well I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean.
Or Willy McBride, was is it slow and obscene?

Did they beat the drums slowly?
Did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the Death March as they lowered you down?
Did the band play "The Last Post" and chorus?
Did the pipes play "The Flowers of the Forest"?

And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined?
And though you died back in 1916
To that loyal heart you're forever nineteen
Or are you a stranger without even a name 
Forever enshrined behind some old glass pane?
In an old photograph torn, tattered and stained
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame

Did they beat the drums slowly?
Did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the Death March as they lowered you down?
Did the band play "The Last Post" and chorus?
Did the pipes play "The Flowers of the Forest"?

The sun shining down on these green fields of France
The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance
The trenches have vanished long under the plow
No gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing now
But here in this graveyard that's still no man's land
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man
And a whole generation were butchered and damned!

Did they beat the drums slowly?
Did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the Death March as they lowered you down?
Did the band play "The Last Post" and chorus?
Did the pipes play "The Flowers of the Forest"?

And I can't help but wonder oh Willy McBride
Do all those who lie here know why they died
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause?
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing and dying it was all done in vain
Oh Willy McBride it all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and again.

Did they beat the drums slowly?
Did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the Death March as they lowered you down?
Did the band play "The Last Post" and chorus?
Did the pipes play "The Flowers of the Forest"?


16 comments:

  1. I heard that song once years ago, but I never knew who did it or what it was called so I wasn't able to find it again, much as I wanted to. Thanks for that, and thanks for remembering.

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    1. I stumbled upon it quite by accident. Now I can't stop listening, the words are pretty haunting, particularly the chorus.

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  2. You can't really wrap your mind around the magnitude of the tragedy of war. I do think that the WWI "died in vain, died for nothing" narrative is a bit superficial. It's a stirring song but I don't think Willie would agree that his sacrifice was for nothing. As I ponder the question it occurs to me that the common narrative springs largely from a deep well of survivor's guilt and the understanding that those who remained and came after rather squandered the gift these men gave the world.

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    1. I think because WWI led to WWII, and that the "Great War" really didn't solve anything but created more problems, is the reasoning behind the "died in vain, died for nothing" narrative. From the perspective of WWI, those men truly died for very little purpose, it took another generation to fight it all over again in 1939-1945. On the Somme, from 01 July to 18 November 1916, over a million men were killed or wounded. The British Fourth Army alone suffered 57,470 casualties on the first day of the offensive. The battle raged another four and a half months, the war itself lasted another two years. The British Army never really recovered from that bloodletting. One can seriously make an argument for all of those men dying in vain, for nothing. Their deaths decided nothing.

      Only the dead have seen an end to war.

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    2. They didn't die for nothing. They just didn't die for anything they wanted. WWI was probably the most profound war in the second millenium. It, whatever caused it, swept away the old order and brought in the new. People alive today no longer even think of the entities those men fought and died for. They are all but extinguished now. WWI and a lost generation of men did that as their masters bankrupted every empire on the planet to keep them out fighting in those fields. It saw the passing of all of the old empires and brought about the imminent demise of the remaining empires when the second round was fought 20 years later.

      Good post. Haunting song.

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    3. I see your point Cap'n, it's a good one.

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  3. Really nicely done. Thanks. I will only add that the notorious photograph of the Viet Cong being shot in the head by a South Vietnamese police officer is often deployed by the antiwar left as an example of pitiless murder. In actuality the Viet Cong was a commando, who had just been busy murdering women and children who were families of South Vietnamese police and military officers; including the officer wielding the pistol. Knowing the facts puts a different light on the picture.

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    1. I have always hated that picture being taken out of context. That VC had it coming, harsh I know, but understandable given the circumstances.

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    2. The photographer says that he regrets taking that photo, and how it was used to destroy an innocent man, who was killing a mad dog.

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    3. Funny how that works, the media takes things out of context all the time now. Back then we still trusted them.

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  4. I have always found Carbon Leaf's The War Was In Color to be very moving. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Pf29IIQuqYk

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    1. I shall have to give that a listen, thanks for the link Scott.

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  5. We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

    Not for nothing.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)