What passing bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells:
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys. But in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmer of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
Wilfrid Owen (1893-1918), Anthem for Doomed Youth, 1917.
Few who read this classic poem, from World War I, will not have some relative in mind. And, what about the thousands of Russian and Ukranian families who are grieving today? A member of my extended family, Dennis Matthews, died over Arnhem in World War II. The report reads: 'At approx 15.39 hours (NL-time), a 196 Squadron Stirling (EF248, ZO-'V'), was hit by flak while dropping supplies near Supply Dropping Point 'V;, west of Arnhem. The pilot, Warrant Officer Keith Prowd ordered the crew to bale out. The whole crew exited the aircraft before this crashed north of Arnhem. Of the 10-men crew (6 flying crew, 2 air despatchers and 2 "extra's") 7 were killed. Sergeant Dennis 'Lofty' Matthews' parachute had caught fire while still in the aircraft. He decided to jump from the Stirling attached to a wicker pannier and parachuted himself 'down the hatch'. Several witnesses saw the parachute open "with a man on top of the pannier". The Germans opened fire on him and later Matthews' body was found, dead and still attached to the pannier.'