MARCH 1917


David Childs

March was still too muddy month for much activity on the Western front but events that were to have a significant impact on world history and a modern redolence were happening elsewhere. On the 11th General Maude's forces entered Baghdad, resulting in Iraq coming under British control. A week later he issued a proclamation that, 'Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies but as liberators', a sentiment that, if meant, was not well voiced after Blair and Bush's 2nd Gulf War. US Presidential executive orders are much in the news: on 12th March 1917 President Wilson issued one to allow for the arming of US merchant ships after Congress raised objections. A few weeks later Wilson's war cabinet voted unanimously to declare war on Germany. This time Congress did not object and in early April America would declare war on Germany. In mid-March Emperor Nicholas II abdicated - revolution in Russia would not be slow in coming.


1917 witnessed the death of eighteen men from Tisbury. The first of these was Private James Whatley serving with 5th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment who died on 18th March and was buried at Avesnes-le-Comte near Arras. He was the 23 year old son of Arthur and Fanny Whatley of Higher Lawn and husband of Mabel. On 28th March Gunner Edwin Baker of 'A' Battery, 317 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery was killed, also near Arras, and was buried at the Cabaret Rouge cemetery. His parents were Samuel and Bessy who lived at Hindon and he was married to Annie and lived at 2, Alexander Terrace.

POEM FOR MARCH for Saint David's Day

Hedd Wyn was a Welsh Christian pacifist who, nevertheless, went to war and wrote poems about his experience in Welsh. His masterwork, Yr Arwr (The Hero) was presented at the Eisteddfod in 1917. It was written when he was on temporary release from the Army to return home to help with the harvest. It was a very wet year and, as a result, Hedd overstayed his leave and was arrested as a deserter. Back in France he was serving in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers at very muddy Battle of Passchendaele when, on 31st July 1917, he was killed by shell fire. On that same day, in that same battle, the Irish poet Francis Ledwidge was also slain. Rhyfel (War) is his most quoted poem.

Why must I live in this grim age,
When, to a far horizon, God
Has ebbed away, and man, with rage,
Now wields the sceptre and the rod?

Man raised his sword, once God had gone,
To slay his brother, and the roar
Of battlefields now casts upon
Our homes the shadow of the war.

The harps to which we sang are hung,
On willow boughs, and their refrain
Drowned by the anguish of the young
Whose blood is mingled with the rain.

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