HOOGE: (JULY 31st 1915)
Hooge! More damned than Sodom and more bloody,
`Twas there we faced the flames of liquid fire.
Hooge! That shambles where the flames swept ruddy:
A spume of heat and hate and omens dire;
A vision of a concrete hell from whence
Emerged satanic forms, or so it seemed
To us who, helpless, saw them hasten hence.
Scarce understood we if we waked or dreamed.
"Stand To! Stand To! The Wurtembergers come!"
Shouting vile English oaths with gutter zest.
' And boastful threats to kill they voice, while some,
In uniforms of grey and scarlet dressed,
Wear flame-projectors strapped upon their backs.
How face a wall of flame? Impossible!
"Back, boys! Give way a little; take the tracks
That lead to yonder wood, and there we'll fill
Such trenches as are dug, and face the foe,
And no Hell-fire shall move us once we're there.
We're out to win or die, boys; if we go
Back and yet back, leaving good strongholds bare,
We'll save our lives, perhaps, but not our name.
There's no one in this well-trained company
Who'd save his skin and perjure his good fame."
We hold the wood, but, oh, how can it be?
The shells are raining down amidst the trees,
Snapping the full-girthed trunks that downward crash
In dire proximity to us. The breeze
Bespeaks hot human blood. The scarlet splash
Shows everywhere, and everywhere the maimed
Are crawling, white-lipped, to a dug-out where
The doctor in a drip of sweat seems framed,
So hard he works to hide the horrid stare
Of wounds adrip; while many pass away,
And need no lint to bind their frailty,
For God has ta'en them; 'tis their triumph day,
And all their sins shall expiated be.
Thus are we thrown in Life's great melting-pot,
Humanity much matrixed; but the ore ,
Looms purer when the crucible is hot:
'Tis on this truth that we should set our store.
RIFLEMAN COLIN MITCHELL
8th (later 3rd) Battalion The Rifle Brigade.
Born: Mere, Wiltshire. Killed: 22nd March 1918.
Pozières Memorial, Ovillers-la Boiselle, France.
Colin Mitchell served as a Rifleman in the 8th Battalion the Rifle Brigade
in July 1915.