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Wednesday, 29 October 2008

They died that we might have peace............

This week will see the beginning of the month of November, the month in which the nation remembers those who died for this Country in all wars, but particularly the Great War 1914-18, and the 2nd World War 1939-45.

Some time ago I acquired a copy of a book, ‘Up the Line to Death. The War Poets 1914-1918’ being an anthology of poems selected by Brian Gardner, and first published by Methuen in 1964.

The following poem by Wilfred Owen epitomises the stark reality and obscenity of trench warfare in the Great War:-

Dulce et Decorum est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.-
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Wilfred Owen - killed in action 1918

A week ago the English Parliament approved by a significant majority vote, the Human Tissue and Embryology Bill – otherwise known (to me) as the ‘Bill of Death’, which will allow virtually indiscriminate murder of, and grotesque experimentation on the human embryo, on the grounds of promoting scientific and medical knowledge. In medico/scientific circles it is acknowledged that medical research over several years on the human embryo has produced little or nothing, whereas over a much shorter period, the use of human stem cell research not involving the embryo, has been remarkably successful; yet this crucial fact apparently carried no weight with our politicians, particularly but not exclusively, those in the Labour and Liberal Democratic ranks. It seems that there is something seriously amiss here, almost a deliberate concealment of the failure of embryonic stem cell research, and a deliberate policy to ignore the success of alternative stem cell research. Theoretically this matter was fully aired and discussed in the Commons, but I wonder just how many of the MPs present were fully aware of all the relevant facts, especially as I suspect that those most prominent and vociferous in promoting the Bill, were seen as ‘experts’, from whom every pronouncement - for the benefit of the uninformed majority, assumed an almost Biblical significance. This misguided and intrinsically evil Bill appears to be Gordon Brown’s showpiece, which is why the Labour whip was imposed on all party members to vote for the Bill, and with a few creditable and honourable exceptions, this is exactly what happened. Nevertheless why was no serious credence attached to the proven merits of alternative stem cell research? The spectre of wounded scientific pride and ambition, of commercial and conglomerate interests and investment, of big money and fame, creates a grotesque backdrop to this nightmare scenario. Have the majority of our politicians been hoodwinked and blinded by the assurances of the ‘experts’, assurances which are not commensurate with rapidly accumulating evidence that the best way ahead, medically and scientifically, is through morally acceptable stem-cell research?
You may ask what has this to do with the Great War. Well it occurs to me to ask myself what those who gave their lives would have said, if they had known that within a few generations, their fellow countrymen- in the persons of elected Members of Parliament, would acquiesce without any apparent qualms of conscience, in the ‘legalised’ slaughter of probably millions of innocent unborn children, and this does not include the more than 7 million killed since the Abortion Act 1967. Those who fought and died for their country, ultimately did so for the benefit of future generations. This ‘Bill of Death’ makes a mockery of their patriotic and commonly spiritual idealism, their bravery, and their ultimate sacrifice. They did not want to die, but they did, some 880,000 of them, with a further 1.6 million wounded. The Human Embryo & Fertility Bill represents the antithesis of all that they suffered and died for, and must surely be opposed in every lawful way and at every opportunity, by all right-minded people.

The mood of the poets of the Great War seems to range from idealism and patriotism in the early months, a more stoical realism in the middle years, and anger and despair tinged with desperate hope, in the final stages. Wilfred Owen's poem, ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ as above, describes the horror of gas warfare, and Philip Johnstone’s ‘High Wood’, seen below, offers a cynical appraisal of man’s potential to exploit his fellow men for his own selfish ends, even to the extent of commercialising the ‘ultimate sacrifice’- which surely brings us back to the Human Embryo and Fertility Bill - the Bill of Death!

High Wood

Ladies and gentlemen, this is High Wood,
Called by the French, Bois de Furneaux,
The famous spot which in Nineteen-Sixteen,
July, August and September was the scene
Of long and bitterly contested strife,
By reason of its High commanding site.
Observe the effect of shell-fire in the trees
Standing and fallen; here is wire; this trench
For months inhabited, twelve times changed hands;
(They soon fall in), used later as a grave.
It has been said on good authority
That in the fighting for this patch of wood
Were killed somewhere above eight thousand men,
Of whom the greater part were buried here,
This mound on which you stand being……….
Madam, please,

You are requested kindly not to touch
Or take away the Company’s property
As souvenirs; you’ll find we have on sale
A large variety, all guaranteed.
As I was saying, all is as it was,
This is an unknown British officer,
The tunic having lately rotted off.
Please follow me - this way ........
the path, sir, please,

The ground which was secured at great expense
The Company keeps absolutely untouched,
And in that dug-out (genuine) we provide
Refreshments at a reasonable rate.
You are requested not to leave about
Paper, or ginger-beer bottles, or orange-peel,
There are waste-paper baskets at the gate.

Philip Johnstone 1918

In this month of the Holy Souls and particularly on Remembrance Sunday, we pray for the repose of the souls of all those Servicemen and women who gave their lives; 'Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.'

We also pray that with God's grace, our Country will once again recognise the Kingship of Christ and abide by His laws. ‘Our Lady, Help of Christians
, pray for us.’

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