Arthur Douglas Crease Letters, Diaries and Scrapbooks
Letters from Arthur Douglas Crease of Victoria to his brother Lindley Crease and his mother Sarah Crease; instructions for the offensive of July 26, 1917; a regimental notebook, diaries and scrapbook. Learn more.
*All transcriptions are provided by volunteers, and the accuracy of the transcriptions is not guaranteed. Please be sure to verify the information by viewing the image record, or visiting the BC Archives in person.
THE OBSERVER, SUNDAY, JULY 22, 1917. 79
THINGS SEEN: FROM FLANDERS TO ALSACE.
fall. You know this before, but it surprises. It seeths rum. If we are not wise, however, the Boche will see us. So just run up that observation-ladder, take a look over the tip-top of the peaky hill to where the enemy lives over the way, and pop down again. Amidst all these monstrous apparitions and easy paradoxes, these ordinary conversations about extraordinary things, these tragedies, humours, these veiled supremacies of heroic intellect and enduring will, these mighty forces so dispensed or hidden that nowhere do they suggest their overwhelming aggregate - do not ask us to believe it. We have left reality at home. It is so much easier to realise the war when you are not there
But let us come to our marrow of narrative. On the Sussex hills early in June one had heard the guns in Flanders thudding through the whole of a blue still day. About a fortnight later a bosom-friend and I left England in dull weather. It was a historic ship. It happened to carry not only General Allenby going out take the Gaza Command, but General Pershing, whose landing on the other side of the Channel would so soon be a definite pledge of epoch-making events. Erect on deck, looking steadily over towards France, the American Commander-in-Chief, with that clasped mouth and trenchant profile, seemed a man likely to set a hard grip on any task.
As for the French port, imagine Brighton with docks added and turned into a war-base thronged with funnels, railway wagons, marching khaki, and long ranges of motor-cars. We spin away in one of them to the Chateau which is headquarters for most visitors to the British front. From other quiet country houses miles from the battle-fronts the fight is directed.
Next day we went over the battlefields of the Somme. From the red tower of the broken church at Albert, high over the weedy abandonment and uncouth heaps of what was once a town square, the colossal gilded Madonna, now prevented from falling, leans outward and downward, like a figure in flight from from heaven to earth, and seems to hold out the Babe over all humanity. A chance stroke of created of one of the strangest, most moving symbols of the world.
That route will always be a road of pilgrimage for our race. It was a day of rain and cloud, with gleaming intervals. Where were lively villages and nesting woods and rich tillage there is now nothing fair that came from the hand of man. There is nothing left but names like trumpets. Who shall describe the dreary waste which which now stretches mile on mile? We passed the squat humps of debris, the gaping mine-mouth, where once were Boisvilliers and La Boisselle. Away on the [illegible] towards Pozieres and Thiepval some of those devoted workers under General Fabian Ware, to whom the country and the Dominions never can be grateful enough, were seen dimly on the skyline still searching for the dead or providing more decent burial and care. Near Contaimaison, Mametz, Bazentin, Martinpuich, and High Wood, the thin, withering, forlorn trunks that remain were goodly forests stood, straggled in skeleton files under the driving cloud. No matter how often you see them they are weird. Many of the old roads, like the villages, are erased. Rusting huts are by the wayside. Viperish twists and curls of barbed wire, garments, shell-cases, broken rifles, water-bottles, iron helmets, cast boots are scattered everywhere. Amongst the grave marked and above the dead unfound, walk like Agag here. The ground is full of live bombs and shells.
And [illegible] was the first stern arena where the New [illegible] battled for every yard and were very great. Imagine stretching far and wide a bleak rolling moorland, riddled with day pits and waterholes studded with little burial mounds, strewn with iron sheds and letter as with the remains of some railway siding long ago abandoned after an explosion. But now there is magic working. Primitive nature is loose and again, smoothing the sides of the shell-holes, patting the trenches, covering the whole of this fateful and immortal ground with the tender grace and frank beauty of new growth. Everywhere in the world tall thistles and nettles will resume their ancient way, if they are allowed, but here are bold poppies, deep cornflower, wild mustard, thyme and the rest - dense tangles of bloom, strong dashes of colour, the red, the blue, the yellow, the whole tossing palette. The spirit of wonders and robing our dead as kings. In this wilderness half dreadful and half gay, whether we find some one spot we search for or find it not - but it must be hard by - they who rest here read W.H. They were above all that was ever dreamed of uttermost courage, honour, truth to something above self:
This way have men come out of brutishness To spell the letters of the sky and read A reflex upon earth else meaningless.
BC Archives, MS-0055 Box 15 File 2 / CREASE FAMILY / Letters from Arthur Douglas Crease to his brother, Lindley Crease, 1917.