WORLD WAR ONE CENTENARY

AUGUST 1917

TISBURY AND THE GREAT WAR

David Childs

The muddy, bloody, rightly notorious battle of Passchendaele continued all month with the allies attempting to break through at Langemarck, Pilckem Ridge and Hill 70. The battlefield became a watery cemetery where dead men and horses were used as stepping stones and the wounded drowned in the quagmire. Passchendaele itself, was taken, but it served no strategic or tactical purpose and its capture cost the allies 50,000 more casualties than had been suffered by the Germans.

Much the same was happening elsewhere. Austria and Italy were fighting the eleventh of twelve battles along the Isonzo River, a struggle that would account for fifty per cent of all Italian casualties during the whole war. In Romania, the Germans and Romanians ground out a draw at Maraseti at the cost of 50,000 casualties each. August was one of this gloomy war's blackest months.

We will Remember Them

The enormous cost of the struggle in Belgium is reflected in the losses incurred by Tisbury families in the month of August. On 11 August, 31 year old Private Frederick Yeates, whose parents lived near Marlborough, died, his name being recorded on the Menin Gate. On 20th, 27 year old Private Herbert Love, serving in the Royal Fusiliers, was killed and buried at the Dizinghem Cemetery at Poperinge, In the vast and nearby cemetery of Tyne Cot, lies buried, Private John Turner, of the Machine Gun Corps, who died on 23 August, aged 23. His parents, William and Sarah Turner, and probably his wife, Nellie, lived at 8 Paradise Row, Tisbury. Back in France, 25 year old Private William Watkins, who died on 10 August, was buried at Monchy-le-Preux, near Arras. His father, also William Watkins, lived at the Gas House, Tisbury while his wife, Florence lived at The Shop, Tucking Mill.

Of course, at the same time other Tisbury men were enlisting, almost 100 in all. The last recorded as so doing was Alfred Frank White who joined up in August 1917.

POEM FOR AUGUST

With so many young men being lost in war it is sometimes difficult to remember that others were dying and being mourned and missed the world over. This poem, 'When I Heard You Were Dead' was written by the American poet, Wilton Agnew Barrett, and published in Poetry Magazine, in August 1917.

WhenI heard you were dead,
I had little more than a startled word to give;
We had been too long apart,
And all the years I had been cold to you.
But the pity and pain of your leave-taking
filled me with slow resentment.

Once I would have cared to make a song
About a flower you gave me-
An old rose shut in a book that is lost.

I was cruel to you,
And you had nothing better from
the rest of the world;
That is what made me angry.

Well, we can love the dead in our own way
And not hurt them;
We can be very tender, knowing well
They will not come back to us.

I have thoughts for you now,
I have words of bereavement;
I see how lovely and rare you were
And cry out after you.

Where are you now, whom I played with on the sands when we both were young?
I remember your girl's body stocky and strong,
Your little hard hand-clasp,
Your truthful eyes,
Your corn-pale dancing hair
Growing low on your small forehead.
I remember you, wet from the surf,
catching ball like a rough boy.

I know death has you;
That very likely you were glad to die,
Going out lonely and in bitterness,
With your dreams all crunched to
black dust
Too strong for life, too honest,
too friendly and too tender.

I hope, if the grave has not conspired
to hold you,
You have forgotten about all that.
I hope, if I could come to an old
sea-beach white and sunny,
Where spirits immortally human played,
I would find you there, O grey eyes-
the laughing comrade of boys!
©  Tisbury History Society
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