Friday, December 8, 2017

War and loss - a poem by bill purvis

My entry into the Anzac Centenary South Australia Reflections Competition.


War and loss

Uncle Claude,
I heard him say,
way back when? 1957.
the words hung there,
the battle fought in 1917,
a memory still vivid in the air,
of mud and stench,
the horror, the hell,
2017, I remember still,
the look the pain he carried  then.
A TPI, a shell  blast?
shrapnel in his back, close to his spine,
embedded, a memory chip,
a permanent reminder,
it remained until he died.
A century has passed and two generations.
War, the lasting  hell, of pain, anguish and loss.
The grandfather I never knew, died of stomach cancer,
I was told from mustard gas, inhaled on the battlefield.
A bombardier,  Royal  Artillery, in Stansbury Cemetery he lies,
died 1934, aged 45.
My father, a casualty too, I guess, I never really knew.
What did he go through?
He was distant, maybe he died a little,
on the battlefield, in WW2.

Author: bill purvis

Claude Summerton (left) convalescing from wound.

Claude Mavlan Summerton

Service Number
10th Australian Infantry Battalion
First World War, 1914-1918

Private Claude Mavlan Summerton
Service number
Final Rank
First World War, 1914-1918

First World War Nominal Roll:
10th Australian Infantry Battalion

First World War, 1914-1918


Date of enlistment
24 March 1915

Date returned to Australia
25 August 1917

July 31, 1917 - 3rd Battle of Ypres ( Battle of Passchendaele ) commences.
All 5 Australian Divisions were engaged in the Third Battle of Ypres that is sometimes known as the Battle of Passchendaele . During the period July - November 1917 the Australian victories included Menin Road, Polygon Wood and Broadseinde. For the first time all the Australian Divisions fought side by side at Broadseinde. The fighting lasted for eight weeks

Field Marshal Haigs' objectives were : to capture the Passchendaele to Gheluvelt ridge, capture the strategic railway which ran through Routers and throughout and finally capture the line from Courtrai to Zeebrugge.
The offensive began at 3.50am on July 31, 1917. The main attacks were delivered by three armies, the 2nd British on the right, the 5th British in the centre and the 1st French on the left after two weeks of artillery bombardment. In total there were 17 divisions ( including 2 French divisions ) along a 25 kilometre front. The 2nd British army included the Australian 3rd and New Zealand Divisions.
On the flats north of Ypres most of Gough's 2nd British and the French armies reached the second and third German trench lines. By the end of the first day there had been 500 losses but all captured German positions had been retained. At 4pm on July 31, 1917 heavy rains started and continued, turning the whole battlefield into a quagmire
The weather now made further attacks difficult because guns and ammunition transports became bogged, air observation due to low visibility was difficult. Artillery shells failed to explode in the soft mud, any exploding bursts were muffled and unspotted, there was no dust or smoke to cover advancing infantry. Much of the attacking infantry had difficulty detecting the barrages they were ordered to follow but their main problem was trying to keep up with it through the mud. As attacking efforts struggled spirits fell, while those of the German defenders rose.

Medical discharge certificate [PRG 1692/17] • Manuscript
Hospital hammock tag [PRG 1692/9] • Manuscript

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