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This article is taken from PN Review 4, Volume 4 Number 4, July - September 1978.

The Wind in the Rampart Trees: War Thoughts Sixty Years after Ypres C.J. Fox

SIXTY YEARS ago this summer a campaign began in Flanders which ended four months later with about a quarter of a million men dead and hundreds of thousands wounded-and a territorial gain for the British and their allies of four and a half miles. 'As the British walked, some seemed to pause and bow their heads', runs one account of a typically futile assault through the writhing mass of fetid mud that was the battlefield of Ypres. 'They sank carefully to their knees; they rolled over without haste and then lay quietly in the soft, almost caressing mud. Others yelled when they were hit, and grabbed frantically at limbs or torso, and rolled and tumbled. In their fear of drowning beneath the slime they tried to grip the legs of their comrades, who struggled to break free.' And in a water-logged shell crater, as recalled by a survivor,


a khaki-clad leg, three heads in a row, the rest of the bodies submerged, giving one the idea that they had used their last ounce of strength to keep their heads above the rising water. In another miniature pond, a hand still gripping a rifle is all that is visible, while its next-door neighbour is occupied by a steel helmet and half a head, the staring eyes glaring icily at the green slime which floats on the surface almost at their level. (1)


One painter caught the full horror of such scenes and ...


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