The Great War: A reflection by Paul Doyle

Editor’s Note: The following was written by Paul Doyle, a friend of Bill Brett’s and this page, who lives in Weymouth and currently recuperating from back surgery. We offer these words to mark Veterans Day, November 11, which was started as “Armistice Day,” in 1919, the first anniversary of World War I. In 1926, the US Congress passed a resolution for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938.

By Paul Doyle

Eleven, eleven, eleven nineteen eighteen

Signaled the end of the war, which was grossly obscene

Millions of young men, suffered and died

For the ego of generals, who strutted and lied

To think that this war, was set off by a Serb

Named Gavrilo Princip, who kept up his nerve

By shooting the Archduke,as part of a pact

While the other assassins, failed to act

Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Austrian Archduke

Was heir to the throne, some thought it a fluke

His assassination in Sarajevo, lit the fire of war

For actions against Serbia, and then much more

After much posturing, among several nations

Austria declared war, severing diplomatic relations

Then Russia proclaimed a warlike action

Against Austria-Hungary, producing a chain reaction

Then Germany entered ,by invading France

As Britain joined in, by taking a stance

Soon all of Europe,broke out their guns

It was nineteen fourteen, the war had begun

Charge out of your trenches, the poor men were told

And whatever you do, you better not fold

Attack the enemy through gas, and reinforced barbed wire

Artillery and explosions, and machine gun fire

The trenches were mud-filled, loaded with rats

Who made a meal of dead bodies, of those not coming back

But for those who did, many thousands in all

Were never the same, after answering the call

From Ypres to the Somme, and onto Verdun

To gain useless yardage, to pick up a crumb

While all these scared soldiers, fighting out in the field

Were ordered by command staff; no surrender, no yield

For all of the battles, what was the goal

Besides losing limbs, shell shock took its toll

It took many years later, to describe this condition

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the road to perdition

So finally in November, of nineteen eighteen

The belligerents met, no longer a dream

The Germans were told, what were the conditions

These terms were a shock, none of their volition

On November eleven, at five in the morning

The Armistice was signed, to end all the warring

The fighting was to end at eleven o’clock

But the reports which came after, caused quite a shock

For it was later learned, with terrible dread

That eleven thousand more, were missing, wounded or dead

For many cowardly officers, seeking battlefront promotions

Rounded up all their men, and sent them in motion

During a post war investigation, a question was asked

Who sent these men, and what was their task

And how many generals,  died on that day?

And how many officers entered the fray?

These questions were posed, primarily rhetorical

Knowing the answers, would make your blood boil

For it was the poor lowly soldiers, who most died in vain

And to their loving families, what can you explain

So let’s not forget, Belleau Wood and the Somme

Gallipoli, Flanders, Ypres and Verdun

For the men who died here, may their souls be with God

While their bodies lay here, becoming one with the sod

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