Awakening to The ANZACS in France

Bonjour mes amis,

With the passing of the Anzac weekend, my french awakening couldn’t help but focus on the Anzacs in France and Australia today. Many villagers and townsfolk joined in the Anzac tribute across the globe to salute the bold and the brave of  past wars.

Hundreds of thousands of soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, England, America, Canada, France and many more, fought together and died together in war all for the love of Freedom.

There are numerous Monuments des Morts (or war memorials) erected right across France and other countries too, which serve  as a tangible tribute to the Missing. I want to show you the one I came across whilst visiting St Sauveur En Rue in the Rhone-Alps area of central France, which has the names typically imprinted upon it of the local French villagers who went to war and died-including many members from the same family.

Looking up, I could feel the boldness and determination of this humble soldier gripping the wreath of laurel (which has traditionally been a mark of  honour in ancient times given to winners or even great poets and other heroes) and I realized that this soldier symbolized all our brave victors and heroes of our nations. Raising the wreath high into the pale blue space represented their purpose. Go see it for yourself next time you visit central France.

Last week, I came across some very powerful World War One poetry and in particular the works of Wilfred Owens, Seigfried Sassoon and Julian Grenfell.

These poets each enlisted with differing attitudes towards war – Julian, the son of a Lord ultimately fought in revenge when his younger brother Billy died in Gallipoli. Sassoon would live the life of a professional soldier and Wilfred wanted to greater assist those wretched souls who he witnessed in hospital and who had been transferred injured from the front. Working for the vicar wasn’t good enough for him. It was the front line which drew his attention and spirit. The same was true for the great French poets and writers such as Emile Arne and the anti war poet Georges Bannerot who both died in action. Patriotism reigned free.

But war poets and non poets were never exempt from the horrific conditions of fighting in the trenches. I read once that opportunistic rats grew to the size of cats feasting on decaying corpses and lice bought trench fever (not to mention incredible itching) while frogs mulitiplied in swampy pits underfoot and the stench of thousands of dead on the dying fields was unbearable.

” In dreary, doubtful, waiting hours,

Before the brazen frenzy starts,

The horses show him nobler powers;

O patient eyes, courageous hearts!”

(‘Into Battle’ by Julian Grenfell 1888-1915)

If a bullet didn’t kill you, then shell shock and trauma and psychological damage determined the rest of your days. Some of you who have lived with a war veteran will understand my meaning I’m sure.

Wilfred Owen put it plainly,

“My subject is war and the pity of War-

The poetry is in the pity…”

It doesn’t take any rocket science to realise that we have in common some incredibly brave men and women across our planet who have died for our countries and need to be duly recognised, especially last weekend.

So on Anzac Day, I hope we all raised our half filled glasses in commemoration of those who have fallen; in honour of those who no longer feel the pang of destruction and who are at last at peace.

Clenching the wreath of laurel, their prize was freedom and the statue in St Sauveur is a constant reminder of our beautiful brave.

If I had one French phrase to whisper into the ear of each of these soldiers it would be-

” Je pense a’ vous”.

(I think of you)

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

copyright@2010 Therese Waddell

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One Response to “Awakening to The ANZACS in France”

  1. Wow, that soldier just jumps off of the screen to me. He seems so real. It really makes you stop and think about the price of freedom.
    Sam

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