War/Security

Two minutes to the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

The first war of the Industrial Age, the war that should have ended all wars, ended at the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month.  At precisely two minutes to 11h00, Private George Lawrence Price 256265 of the 28th North West Battalion, 6th Canadian Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division was shot, and killed, by a sniper.

What went through that sniper’s mind at 10h58?  The end of the war was planned.  The Kaiser went into exile on the 9th. The humiliation of Versailles was still to come in 1919. Europe lay exhausted and horrified. 40 million were dead. A further 20 – 40 million died in the influenza epidemic that followed returning soldiers home.

Nothing shows the ignominy, horror, futility and waste of war so much as that moment at two minutes to the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Categories: War/Security

2 replies »

  1. What went through that sniper’s mind at 10h58?

    How to Kill

    Under the parabola of a ball,
    a child turning into a man,
    I looked into the air too long.
    The ball fell in my hand, it sang
    in the closed fist: Open Open
    Behold a gift designed to kill.

    Now in my dial of glass appears
    the soldier who is going to die.
    He smiles, and moves about in ways
    his mother knows, habits of his.
    The wires touch his face: I cry
    NOW. Death, like a familiar, hears

    And look, has made a man of dust
    of a man of flesh. This sorcery
    I do. Being damned, I am amused
    to see the centre of love diffused
    and the wave of love travel into vacancy.
    How easy it is to make a ghost.

    The weightless mosquito touches
    her tiny shadow on the stone,
    and with how like, how infinite
    a lightness, man and shadow meet.
    They fuse. A shadow is a man
    when the mosquito death approaches.

    Keith Douglas

  2. Thanks for a great Veteran’s Day remembrance, Whythawk, and also thanks to Ann for the Douglas poem, which I’d never seen before. It’s been hard, in recent years, to keep the legitimate concerns and sacrifices of war separate in our heads from the cynical, corrupt forces that create unnecessary wars, and it’s important that we’re periodically reminded of the former.