Menosukhi Memoriam

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the declaration of war between Britain and Austria-Hungary, also between Germany and Belgium...and thus the world went wild.

Needless to say, there is much being done throughout this year in the UK and France and to a lesser extent, in Germany to commemorate; to reflect, to remember and to honour. Whilst there are all the high-level events, what is more fascinating to me is the grass roots, (dare I say trench-level?) work being done for local interest.

For example, I was passing the Dunoon Bookpoint and noticed a display being arranged. It held great appeal so - when the sun finally paid a visit! - I went down last Friday to take a closer look.  One book in particular had caught my eye.  Having seen an article in the local newspaper with regard to the family handing over documents, I wanted to obtain the item.

The soldier in question was not a Dunoon native, but had chosen it as the place to raise his family and was laid to rest here.  

Lt. R. Cyril B. Jones (MC) was born in Shropshire, grammar-school educated and studied Agriculture at college.  At 19, he enlisted in Kitchener's "New Army".  It was 1915.  Initially non-commissioned, he was quickly promoted and took officer training at Balliol College in Oxford.  
"A survivor, he saw service in the trenches of the Western Front in France for over a year; trained and fought as a bomber machine-gunner/sniper and, finally, as a front-line Intelligence Officer.  He was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous bravery in an action on  the Oise-Sambre Canal (the same spot poet Wilfred Owen was killed)..."

Lt. Jones kept meticulous notes about what was happening around him.  Along with many other soldiers, he also wrote letters.  There was a period of time spent at Saxmundham in Suffolk which only ever refers to 'nerve problems'.  In light of today's understanding, we can draw a reasonable conclusion that he had some PTSD issues. It seems that he was made of stern stuff though, as he continued to write memoirs following the war itself and it was these, incomplete, 'hundreds of closely typed, single spaced, foolscap sheets' from which the booklet was created. It is said,

"These letters and narratives are not 'literature'...he wasn't one for poetic phrases but rather...[seeks] meaningful patterns, to reveal deeper truths...[he illustrates] the futility and continual prosecution of a war senseless to those who were fighting it...[which is] profoundly typical of the common infantryman's experience...where the science of destruction was developed to such a degree of ingenuity that human beings are left with nothing but a sense of annihilation..."

Jones was demobbed in 1920 and went on to take a doctorate in Geology, married, had family and, as a result of his work in mapping large areas of the West Highlands of Scotland, settled here in Dunoon.  He was a founding member and deeply involved with the Western Front Association, organising events and trips.  His medals, including the MC, are displayed at Dunoon Castle House Museum (a place I have yet to visit).

The booklet has been published by the charity SSAFA, (Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen & Families Association), which assists all who have served, then and now, who may have hit difficult times. I shall read it and report back to you.

Another local interest item lay with my good pal Aitch.  I have mentioned before that she is the archivist for Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. That link itself will tell you why it is mentioned here... and this one adds to the info.

More than anything, this all lends faces to what can be an abstract concept; history.  The idea is, of course, that we are supposed to have learned lessons; but if one thing has been proven with history, it is that Mankind does not learn from it but seems to think he can re-invent, sort it out, make a better mark on the pages... As we remember, 100 years on, much of the world remains in conflict. 1000 years before, and thousands before that, conflicts came and went.  What exactly have 'we' learned?

I leave you with this; the total (military and civilian) deaths from WW1 numbered in excess of 16 million human lives (do not even think about the horses, dogs, livestock...)

Depending where you live, understand; that's the equivalent of four fifths of the population of Australia, more than three times the population of Scotland, double that of London and New York, half as much again as Mumbai and similar for Hong Kong, eight times the population of Toronto...

Somme - ber, is it not?

6 comments:

  1. Hari Om, Yam!

    The centenary has slipped past me, I must admit, but this officer's experiences sound fascinating. I don't think we can appreciate just how we could lose 10,000 men PER WEEK at the war's height. Unbelievable.

    Indigo x

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  2. Phil and I well remembered the 4th of August as being the 100th anniversary of that fateful day. I actually did a small post to mum and dad about it as I know they were in London on that day.
    Phil and I watched the memorial service from Glasgow cathedral on TV and thought it so well done.
    Re PTSD, there was a gentleman explaining it on TV last night and of course in the Great War it was known as 'shell shock' and I believe men were very often called cowards when affected in that way. Modern science has been able to explain it much better thank goodness. xx

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  3. It would be interesting to read the officers account of the war. It is hard to think about so many dying each week.

    It is sad to think that we have not learned from all the wars that have plagued our world.

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  4. What a wonderful and thought provoking post!

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  5. A fascinating and totally appropriate commemoration post, Yam. That casualty figure is mind-boggling - over 6 times the population of Wales!

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