Remembering the First World War
What life was like for the women and men in the battle front:
“Dulce et Decorum Est ”
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under I green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, —
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Source A, is a literary source of a poem about a gas attack on soldiers during the First World War. It graphically explains the suffering of such horror attacks on soldiers. It is the most famous poem of the First World War. It is thought to have been written between October 1917 and March 1918 in England, during the First World War by Wilfred Owen.
This poem by Wilfred Owen, who was a younger officer in the First World War, tells us about the appalling conditions in which men lived and died during the war. It was a trench war and the horrors endured were clearly seen on the faces and bodies of the young men. We chose the poem because it was a realistic account of the war situation on the Western Front. The tone of the poem was mournful and the horrors depicted were very realistic.
Source B is an artwork source. It is a cartoon showing a women being part of the war effort. Traditionally, very few women were drafted into the navy and then only as nurses. The cartoon showing a navy Yeoman was drawn by Charles Donelan in 1918 and was published in the Boston Navy Yard newspaper on 4th September 1918.
Traditionally, women were home-makers and we found this cartoon interesting because it shows that during times of war both men and women had to play a part. This woman in uniform gives women a more masculine outlook and indicates that women had to perform similar duties to men as the war required.
1. Source C, is a visual source of a photograph. During World War 1 nurses worked tirelessly and were often exhausted, as they had to care for the injured soldiers and civilians. This photograph shows nurses in gas masks, caring for the injured. The article (posted 2nd April 2014) accompanies this World War 1 photograph. It was produced by Baroness Shirley Williams from England and its purpose was to highlight how the role of nurses and their contribution to the war often went unrecognised.
2. We have chosen this photograph because it is interesting to see that nurses also had to wear gas masks as they were also living in dangerous, hazardous situations. Their work was to help care for the injured but in doing so they put their own lives at risk, maybe even having to pay the ultimate price of dying due to gas inhalation. Nurses thus also played a significant role, which very often is not considered as heroic as the soldiers who died on the battlefront.
3. Related links:
Source D, Is a newspaper article in the form of an advertisement that appeared in the New York Tribune. The advertisement was to inform the public of a special war edition to be published the following week with the title “What has the War Done to the World”. The advertisement was published on 21st July 1918 in New York, America. The editors of the New York Tribune wanted to give the public an overview of how the war had affected literature, the arts and medicine, and they also wanted to show development in the area of inventions. War costs were also going to be included. Weapons used in war and reports of the destruction of cultural artifacts in Europe were also to be provided.
We chose this source because it showed both the negative and positive consequences of warfare. Positive because it encouraged advances in medicine and invention which could help many injuries such as crippling, but negative because it destroyed some of Europe’s historical sites resulting in loss of sculptures and paintings in France and Belgium.
What was life like for the women and men on the battle front?
The life for men and women were very and hard. This is evident in Source A, where Wilfred Owen shows through the poem, the pain and horror that the soldiers had to go through during the War. The poem indicates the emotions, trauma and suffering that the soldiers had experienced. On the war front, men experienced the physical effects of war from guns, gas, tanks and bombings. But women also found themselves in dangerous environments from gas attacks as evident in Source C, although the role of women in the war was downplayed and men received more recognition.
In addition, before the war, women played very traditional roles in their homes and in their families, but in war, both men and women were encouraged to assist in war efforts and in many cases women did work that was traditionally male dominated. This included engineering work in ammunitions factories and as Source B indicates, many women joined the navy.
Source C also shows how courageous women were in service; even wearing gas masks while treating injured soldiers. This shows a very positive side on the part of women, even though their courage was often overlooked.
The special newspaper war advertisement in Source D highlighted the positive and negative consequences of war. Due to injuries suffered by soldiers and civilians, great advances were made in medicine and invention to prevent human loss and disability (cripples). This was positive, but attacks on cultural and historical sites shows how important paintings and artefacts were destroyed by fire and bombing. Although only an advertiseme nt, it gave an overview of how war had affected the world in many areas.