A Voice from the Front

In early April 1916, Private. Joe McAnulty, an Irish Catholic from Blantyre wrote home from the WW1 front. His message was about setting aside petty differences of religion and humankind after seeing the horrors ravaged communities were going through in France. A message of the futility of fighting to keep some indifferent people in the comfort of their own home. A message to let people know he was making a sacrifice for them all. His letter is reprinted here:

“All the squabbling and quarrelling at home among the different sects gives one the impression that our work out here was looked upon with callous indifference, caring not whether we lost or won; but, then, when one sweeps one’s eyes across the desolate country side, with its farms and homesteads all shelled in ruin, and when one looks at the mourning French people returning from Mass on Sundays, these things give one new determination to carry on the fight until the bitter end.

For hours I have lain in ditches and behind muddy parapets whilst the shells and machine guns rattled around us; for months I have worked in dirty slushy mines, knowing that the Germans were working day and night alongside us like Trojans to blow us to pieces, and I never yet wrote a “grousing” letter. But for once I want to make a protest as all my sacrifice has been made, not for the purpose of destroying the Creed that Might is Right, but for the purpose of allowing a lot of sleekit’ crcepit, crawling creatures to stay at home in comfort of their home.

The battle Verdun has begun; where it will end no one knows, but we can never appreciate the greatness of the fight the French have put up to sweep back the abysmal hordes from the gates of Paris. Tonight as I write this, bayonet may be clashing against bayonet, and little mournful homes the widows and orphans of our brave French comrades will sit weeping their silent tears.  I am due for the trenches tonight, so will have to finish up.”

The Battle of Verdun, was fought from 21 February to 18 December 1916 on the Western Front in France. The battle was the longest of the First World War and took place on the hills north of Verdun-sur-Meuse. In early May just after this letter, the Germans changed tactics and made local attacks and counter-attacks; there was such futility of it all, one place changing hands 16 times in 8 weeks.

Of course, we have the advantage of knowing how it all played out, something Joe certainly didn’t. The battle lasted for 302 days, the longest and one of the most costly in human history. In 2000, Hannes Heer and Klaus Naumanncalculated that the French suffered 377,231 casualties and the Germans 337,000, a total of 714,231, an average of 70,000 a month. Despite the numbers, ultimately it was a French Victory with ground held and gained. In France, the Battle of Verdun came to symbolise the determination of the French Army and the destructiveness and mindlessness of the war.

To illustrate, pictured in that Summer in 1916 are harrowing images of the Battle of Verdun. Joseph McAnulty sadly died in WW2 and is remembered here.


Featuring Blantyre Project Social Media with permission. Strictly not for use by others on or offline, our visitors said:

John Cornfield Totally a wast of Young brave men’s life’s war and for what?
Nothing in it for the soldiers came back to the same abuse from ruling class

John Foley Why at start did u mention religion
Blantyre Project the whole post is about that. Setting aside petty differences of religion and humankind, in the face of the horrors of war.
Tom McGuigan Lions led by donkeys
Jean Gill Thanks for sharing this story

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