A Different View

Almost a year after my great-uncle, Anson Silvester, died near Cuinchy, an officer from 1/7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment was killed near Ploegsteert.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe is buried at Louvencourt Military Cemetery. His name was Lieutenant Roland Leighton. He was a poet as well as a soldier. He wrote a poem that is recorded on an interpretive plaque beside the cemetery. It is a remarkable poem. It is remarkable for two reasons. First, he understood that the step from playground to battlefield is progression that a man can make. He saw it as a step possible when the circumstances allowed and one that he was proud to have taken. Second, though very much involved in the carnage that was 1915, he considered the call of duty a noble one and the work a suitable business for a man.

These sentiments, though much more widespread in their generation, are almost incomprehensible to subsequent generations brought up on a diet of anti-war, anti-establishment, self-preservation principles. Maybe, for that reason alone, I reproduce it  here. It is good to be reminded that most people in the first two decades of the last century, the people that fought the war, did not think as we do. To them, service, loyalty, and self-sacrifice were noble ideals that, applied to the business of war, produced remarkable men and great achievements.

In their honour, I reproduce Leighton’s 1915 poem.

“Ploegsteert

Love have I known, and dawn and gold of day time,

And wind and songs and all the joys that are,

And known once, and as a child that tires with playtime,

Leaped from them to the elemental dust of war.

I have seen blood and death, but all has ending,

And even horror is but made to cease.

I am sickened with love that lives only for lending,

And all the loathsome pettiness of peace.

Give me, God of battles, a field of death,

A hill of fire, a strong man’s agony.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2 thoughts on “A Different View

  1. I have been reading A Royal Sussex Hero, the memoir by James Silvester, thought to google the title and came across your site. If Anson was your great uncle I imagine James Mostyn Silvester must have been your grandfather and Rev James Silvester your great grandfather. He was Rector in the village where I live 1895-1902.

    • Good morning Ian,
      Thank you for your comment. Anson was indeed my maternal great-uncle. I wrote more fully on him in the post, A Royal Sussex Hero, a bit further back, in October 2014. Each visit I make to the battlefields, and I tend to be there each year, I visit his grave in the Communal Cemetery at Cuinchy. I have also been to your church in Gt Clacton where his father placed the memorial high on north side of the chancel.

      I am somewhat jealous of you having a copy of the book. My grandfather had two copies on his shelves, that got lost when he died and the family left the house. I believe my sister may have them, but she cannot find them and had probably cleared out, by now. I would still like to hold a copy.

      Best wishes,

      Robin

Leave a Reply to Robin Goldsmith Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *