August 15, 1915

by Richard van Pelt, WWI Correspondent

During the Great War news often took a long time to reach the reader and sometimes residents of Marion County heard about the war from other sources. Editorial opinion in both papers generally fully recognized the horror of the war. Censorship was heavy and few photographs survive that show the brutality of the conflict. Numbers, though, tell a story that even censorship cannot totally hide.

On the ninth of March the British forces opened their Spring offensive on the town of Neuve Chapelle in French Flanders. Over a two day period the British forces were able to take control of about one square mile, after which the British had to face a furious counterattack by some twenty German battalions.

By the evening of the twelfth, the British commander, Sir John French, called off the attack. The British forces (British and Indian) suffered over 11,200 killed and wounded and the Germans suffered equally. This equates to one casualty for every 2,600 square feet of that particular field in Flanders.

In May of 1915, a young Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed near Ypres. His friend and commander, Major John McCrae, penned the following poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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About whclarc

We are devoted to providing information fresh from the Archives, Library and Collections of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon. We specialize in the history of Marion County and the greater Salem area.
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