Home > Uncategorized > G. J. Whyte-Melville: A soldier who fattens a battlefield, encumbers a trench, has his name misspelled in a gazette

G. J. Whyte-Melville: A soldier who fattens a battlefield, encumbers a trench, has his name misspelled in a gazette


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

G. J. Whyte-Melville: Death is gathering his harvest – and the iron voice tolls on


G. J. Whyte-Melville
From The Interpreter: A Tale of the War

“Any news, Ropsley?” says Sir Harry, observing the pile of letters at his friend’s elbow; “no officials, I hope, to send you back to London.”

“None as yet, thank Heaven, Sir Harry” replies his friend; “and not much in the papers. We shall have war, I think.”

“Oh, don’t say so, Mr. Ropsley,” observes Constance, with an anxious look. “I trust we shall never see anything so horrid again.”


“Your health, Vere, and mon enfant, and vive le guerre!”

Vive le guerre!” I repeated; but the words stuck in my throat, for I had already seen something of the miseries brought by war into a peaceful country, and I could not look upon the struggle in which we were engaged with quite as much indifference as my volatile friend.


But what was I, to dream thus? A mere adventurer, at best a poor soldier of fortune, whose destiny, sooner or later, would be but too fatten a battle-field or encumber a trench, and have his name misspelled in a Gazette.


Young soldiers were they, mostly striplings of eighteen and twenty summers, with the smooth cheeks, fresh colour, and stalwart limbs of the Anglo-Saxon race – too good to fill a trench! And yet what would be the fate of at least two-thirds of that keen, light-hearted draft? Vestigia nulla retrorsum. Many a time has it made my heart ache to see a troop-ship ploughing relentlessly onward with her living freight to “the front,”- any a time have I recalled Æsop’s fable, and the foot-prints that were all towards the lion’s den, – many a time have I thought how every unit there in red was himself the centre of a little world at home; and of the grey heads that would tremble, and the loving faces that would pale in peaceful villages far away in England, when no news came from foreign parts of “our John,” or when the unrelenting Gazette arrived at last and proclaimed, as too surely it would, that he was coming back “never, never no more.”

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