About 60 people gathered at Glebe’s Diggers’ Memorial for the Remembrance Day service on Tuesday 11 November. It was heart-warming that children from Glebe Public School and officers from the Fire Station were present.
Deputy Lord Mayor Robyn Kemmis spoke about the origins of the One Minute Silence, Max Solling reflected on the history of the start of World War I and its impacts on Glebe and Lyn Collingwood read a poem written by a soldier in the trenches.
The service was organised by the Glebe Society on behalf of the Glebe community. Our thanks to those who facilitated the event.
Below is the poem that Lyn read, preceded by Lyn’s introductory remarks:
During the Great War there were long stretches of boredom, especially in the daytime as most action was at night. How did men pass the time? There were the routine tasks of filling sandbags, repairing barbed wire, wiping slime off the shells, shaving, delousing, hair cutting. And leisure activities: letter writing, reading, smoking, gambling especially two up and cards, singing, drinking the rum ration, souvenir hunting and making ‘trench art’ vases and tobacco jars out of shell cases. Cavalrymen groomed their horses and organised equestrian events, and at Gallipoli both men and horses bathed in the sea. There were athletics carnivals and concert parties with featured artists like ‘The Shrapnels’. In ‘cushy’ sectors in France soldiers fished, milked cows kept in trenches, and in the early days of the war went into the villages to buy chocolate, beer, champagne, eggs and the Paris Daily Mail. They drank coffee and cocoa in jam tins from roadside stalls, and in the French winter – when icicles hung from the dugouts – slid over frozen ponds and had snowball fights.
Some officers had pianos in their dugouts, and no doubt many had chess sets. This poem by Australian gunner 379 was written in 1917 when incessant rain made the Menin Road a quagmire of slimy mud. It may have been inspired by watching an improvised game.
Chess by the Menin Road1
by Henry Weston Pryce
White and black, Black and white
Move and move – tis lots of fun!
Little pawn and lordly knight
Mingle till the tourney’s done
Hour by hour the game goes on
To and fro the pawns we fling
First a pawn and then a king
Oft the end may seem in sight
But the play is never done
Rook – bishop – pawn – knight.
Black and white, White and black
One must lose and one must win
Move them out and move them back
While the Watcher stands agrin
White as Death and black as Sin
Lie the men – tis lots of fun!
Here’s a box to put them in
When the game is lost and won.