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 Mud and the Poets of Passchendaele, Latest Contributors, and Next Week's Post

mud soldier statue London Battle of Passchendaele 832942The Mud Soldier, a sculpture made from Flanders mud to commemorate Passchendaele*

Latest 2 Posts: If you haven't checked out WWrite in a while, here's a quick look at the last 2 posts:

HindLudne1. August 8th: The Short Story Behind a Photo: This post gets inside the mind of the enemy.  Benjamin Sonnenberg writes from the point of view of two of the most important WWI German Generals—Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff— who commiserate over a failed military operation. The story's inspiration? The photo to the left.

STfigurines2. Journalist Tweets WWI to French YouthWho says World War I doesn't interest the youth of today? With over 12,000 people following her blog and Twitter feed, this is the question leading a young French journalist's work that strives to give a fresh face to WWI using social media. In her post, France24'sStéphanie Trouillard tells us about her personal and professional passions driving her innovative historical writing project. And a special bonus! She's shared part of her Twitter feed from Bastille Day in Paris, where she covered President Trump meeting French President Emmanuel Macron to commemorate the centenary of the United States' entry in WWI. A great up-close look at this important day!

writer menu logo 2 250Next Week's Post: Do you want to contribute to WWrite? Know someone who could write an awesome post? Want to get students to post or use as a resource? Want to put in requests for topics or themes? Have any comments or suggestions? If you've said yes, then you will want to read next week's post that explores these questions in detail, Contribute, Share, Teach: All About WWrite. Don't miss this opportunity to contribute your voices to this important moment in history!

"I died in Hell - they called it Passchendaele." This line from Siegfried Sassoon's mud soldier statue World war one London 1011976poem, "Memorial Tablet," has become the go-to phrase for the commemoration of the Battle of Passchendaele, which began on July 31, 1917, 100 years ago last week. This terrible battle, which raged for 4 months, ended with a total of more than 320,000 allied casualties. Also know as "The Battle of Mud," Passchendaele was fought almost entirely in the rain, which created so much mud, soldiers and horses drowned in it. In fact, 54, 392 soldiers fell, but were never found. Today, 30 remains of of these missing soldiers are still found per week in around Ypres, the town in Belgium where the battle was centralized

To mark the centenary of Passchendaele, this week's WWI Centennial News Episode 31 featured an interview and article about the battle,"Drowning in Mud," by the Great War Project blog curator Mike Shuster. To punctuate the article, the podcast also played Ohio State acting students performing Mary Borden's 1917 poem, "The Song of Mud," which, while written about the Somme, adequately captures the characteristics of the deadly weapon nothing could counteract at Passchendaele—mud. For more about WWI nurse and writer, Mary Borden, check out WWrite's post on her censored work, Forbidden Zone.(To hear the recording, push the play button at WWI Centennial News Episode 31 and fast forward to 8:40)
British WWI soldier and poet, Edmund Blunden, gives another look at the terrifying reality of mud in his chilling poem, "Third Ypres." Here are a few lines describing the battle fought not only against the enemy, but also again the unrelenting rain at Passchendaele:

third ypres battlefield...Then comes the black assurance, then the sky's**
Mute misery lapses into trickling rain,
That wreathes and swims and soon shuts in our world.
And those distorted guns, that lay past use,
Why -- miracles not over! -- all a-firing!
The rain's no cloak from their sharp eyes. And you,
Poor signaller, you I passed by this emplacement,
You whom I warned, poor daredevil, waving your flags,
Amid this screeching I pass you again and shudder
At the lean green flies upon the red flesh madding.
Runner, stand by a second. Your message. -- He's gone,
Falls on a knee, and his right hand uplifted
Claws his last message from his ghostly enemy,
Turns stone-like. Well I liked him, that young runner,
But there's no time for that. O now for the word
To order us flash from these drowning roaring traps
And even hurl upon that snarling wire?
Why are our guns so impotent?...


*The Mud Soldier was created to mark the start of the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium on July 31, 1917.The art installation in Trafalgar Square was crafted from mud and sand from Flanders Fields in Passchendaele and was displayed for just four days before it slowly dissolved as it was exposed to rain. It was created by artists, Damian and Killian Van Der Velden, twin sisters from Belgium. Photo courtesy of Express.

**Passchendaele Battlefield in September 2017, Courtesy of Great War Photos

If you have any questions, comments, or would like to contribute a post, please email me at jennifer.orth-veillon@worldwar1centennial.org

 

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  1. Connie Ruzich

Wonderful post, Jennifer -- the excerpt from Blunden's poem is so very evocative. Those wanting to read more on the background of Mary Borden and her "Song of the Mud" may be interested in my blog post "Song of the Mud":

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