Sunday 9 November 2008


Remembrance Sunday, in the 90th anniversary year of the First World War (though the end year is given on most memorials as 1919). As that war passes from living memory - just three veterans alive in the UK now - one of the questions we ask in retrospect is Why did so many Englishmen volunteer to fight? No doubt there were many motives - some higher than others - but I'm sure Edward Thomas spoke for many in this poem, which defines, I think, the noblest and truest form of love of country. He put it more succinctly in a gesture, when someone asked him (while he was on home leave) what he was fighting for. He bent down, picked up a handful of earth, and said, 'For this. Literally for this.'


  1. Another poem that is too much today Nige. We live two miles from Roxburgh Abbey where lies one Earl Haig, in peace, at rest. In gratitude "the nation" gave back to him his ancestral home, Bemyerside, lost to the family by one of his ancestors. Meanwhile my grandfather died in an "institution" in Sedgefield, having survived the battle and lived another forty years, blind and mindless.

    His son, John Haig, the current head of the family and a decent man, although driven to drink they say by his fathers crimes, lives there now. The former owner of our house and a friend for some years was John Haigs ADC in World War two, hence the access to information.

    The Germans, who have no less reason than us to remember, tend to do so with festivals, not because of flippancy , that's what they do.

  2. "the soil is my wife's hair" (Maximus, telling Marcus Aurelius about his farm in Spain)

  3. Tomorrow, 90 years ago the fighting halted, but the war did not formally end 'til the next year at Paris. But one of the main reasons why so many joined up was that then people were members of organizations. They were big on the joining things, every thing from cycling to sharpshooting across the measured mile. Bisley, dates from that time.