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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 13, Number 1, March 2019
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Patricia Prime
Auckland, New Zealand


Two Sides of War

the sound of gunfire
across the battlefield –
then utter silence

Franz Marc wrote from the field of battle at Alsace in the First World War:

Today I held the first watch, with 18 positions and it was very atmospheric, a wonderfully autumnal starry night. How different is all this from boring garrison duty! The black coffee now in the canteen renders good service. I make it last as long as possible. The area is badly affected by the battles.

My father wrote to my mother from the field of battle in Germany in the Second World War:

Darling, today I went with a couple of the lads scrounging in a farmer’s yard where we managed to capture a couple of hens and quickly throttled them. Feathers flying everywhere! We took them back to camp and plucked them and roasted them in the embers of our fire. So delicious!

Later, Franz Marc wrote to his mother:

We sit slightly ashamed in our cosy quarters, when we think of our brothers-in-arms on the frontline, in the trenches and artillery emplacements. The only consolation is that they are the victors, albeit progress is slow . . .

Dad wrote to my mother in 1942:

My Dear Darling, autumn is slowly making its way over here, and days are gradually colder and chilly. The war will be casting its terrible spell over England and I think of you, my darling, and the little ones. This terror is going to destroy the world as we know it and is probably the most horrible moment of world history. I can’t wait to be home with you and to see the children again.

Franz Marc was killed at four o’clock in the afternoon. Shortly before his death, he wrote:

How lovely, how comforting it is to know that the spirit cannot die: under no pain, through no denials, in no deserts. Knowing this makes departing easy.

My father returned home to his family in 1946. He was traumatised, but otherwise unharmed. My brother refused to acknowledge him – perhaps he thought of himself as the ‘man of the family’ and didn’t like being usurped by ‘The Man,' as he called dad. We girls were only too delighted to discover what he’d brought home in his kit-bag: china dolls from Germany, a mechanical car for my brother and a string of pearls for mum. Later, dad started up his own business as a tailor and lived a quiet life until his death in his sixties. He never spoke about the war to us, but discussed it with his brothers, when they gathered for birthdays or Christmas. All of them had seen service in various places: Germany, Egypt and France and had survived.

on the radiogram
mother’s favourite song
“The leaves of brown come tumbling down”

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