There was a series on Belgian television called ‘Ten Oorlog’ or roughly translated ‘To War’. In the first season they walked along the front line of the First World War. In the second season they walked from Britain / the landing beaches in France to Luxemburg and from Russia to Berlin. The past three weeks, they did a special couple of episodes. There were excavation works planned to install a new pipeline for natural gas (?) in a little town called Langemark. This little town was of enormous importance during during World War I so a team of archeologists got the opportunity to examine the ground under the fields.
There are still thousands of bodies buried under the Flemish fields. It didn’t take the archeologists long to discover fragments, body parts and eventually an almost complete skeleton which, wait for it, they managed to identify because of the items that were found next to the body. It’s unbelievable but true. 101 years after his death, Captain Walker from New Zealand was found. His name was marked on the Menin Gate because they hadn’t managed to retrieve his body and now he’s no longer missing.
This poem means a lot to me because the World Wars mean a lot to me. I live in the ‘Westhoek’, the wars are a huge part of my history. There are war memorials and cemeteries everywhere you look.
There are a lot of poems about the war that really stuck with me such as ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ by Wilfred Owen and of course ‘In Flanders Fields’ by John McCrae but this one fits so well along side the story I wanted to tell you, so that’s why I chose it.
It was written at the beginning of the war so they are still patriotic and the language is still flowery. The longer the war goes on, the more bitter the poetry gets (understandably so).
I could tell you so many stories about the war but I will stop here for today. Maybe I’ll tell you more on another day.
Maybe it’s true, maybe there are hundreds and thousands of little corners in Flemish fields that are forever England, France, Germany, Canada, America, Africa, India,…
About the poem:
This poem was written at the beginning of the First World War in 1914, as part of a series of sonnets written by Rupert Brooke. It is often contrasted with Wilfred Owen’s 1917 antiwar poem Dulce Et Decorum Est. Brooke himself, predominantly a prewar poet, died the year after “The Soldier” was published.