Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Today the VFW was established in 1899.
A Passionate Prodigality - Guy Chapman

This memoir of the First World War was first published in 1933. Frank and fluently written by a sensitive Oxford-educated lawyer, it exclusively focuses on Chapman’s war experience. He arrived in France in 1915 and served in the Army of Occupation in Germany four years later

He tells more than a couple stories of the sheer exhaustion of war and the decisions weariness made:

"Do you remember a corporal with the Messina medal?"

"Oh, yes; a dark stocky man."

"He went off with an officer we'd caught. Presently I found him back in the trench. I knew he couldn't have got down to the cage and back; so I asked him what had happened. "Well, sir," he said, "it's a very hot day. We sat down in a shell hole and he gave me his watch and his field-glasses and his money. It's very hot day and a long way down. So I shot him."

"What did you do?"

"There wasn't any need to do anything," said Vaughan with a curl of his thin lips; "he was killed that afternoon."

As Chapman witnessed men's feelings and behavior in war, he came to realize that war is such an overwhelming emotional experience that it takes on a momentum and allure all its own:

There grew a compelling fascination. I do not think I exaggerate: for in that fascination lies War's power. Once you have lain in her arms you can admit no other mistress. You may loathe, you may execrate, but you cannot deny her .... Every writer of imagination who has set down in honesty his experience has confessed it. Even those who hate her most are prisoners to her spell.

Like Erich Maria Remarque in All Quiet on the Western Front, Chapman argues that comrades make the war worth fighting because one does want to let down those that are depending on one’s actions.

"Looking back at those firm ranks as they marched into billets, to the Fusiliers' march, I found that the body of men had become so much a part of me that its disintegration would tear away something I cared for more dearly than I could have believed. I was it; it was I.

My love is of a birth as rare
As 'tis for object strange and high:
It was begotten by Despair
Upon Impossibility.

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