Ordered Not to Rescue

(continued from tab, "Why the title, "Grandpa's Lonely Walk Home"?)

Mare’s memory from this evening with Grandpa is consistent with a number of details I collected, previously. Other family members have shared different aspects of this story with me.  I have also seen the pocket book Mare refers to.  It was in my dad's possession and I remember listening to him tell me why it was stained.  Unfortunately, we still have been unable to relocate it.  

It is also interesting that more formal sources of information (e.g. WW1 histories, excerpts from soldier's journals, etc.), independently, confirm details contained in Mare's narrative.  These include:
  1. Direct orders (Usually given at the beginning of an attack) that no soldier stop or return to pick up the dead or injured,
  2. The deplorable and inhumane conditions that existed on the Western Front, and 
  3. The standards of discipline and consequences for soldiers who disobeyed a direct order.
To be fair, many factors required careful review by a commanding officer before fallen and injured soldiers could be recovered.  One of the major concerns was whether those recovering the bodies, would also be killed.  However, the loyalty, love, and compassion for fallen friends, often compelled soldiers to risk their own lives—from both the enemy and their own commanders— and venturing out into No Man’s Land.  The following examples highlight this conflict of loyalty: 

The British High Command did not allow the rescue of wounded men in the open, in case the rescuers themselves should become wounded. The Australians [ANZAC’s] disobeyed. They could not leave their mates stranded and calling for help. One officer walked across the battlefield and made a truce with the Germans. He even offered himself as a prisoner while his men tried to find all the Australian [ANZAC] wounded.  (http://www.anzacday.org.au/history/ww1/overview/west.html)
In similar fashion, tensions increased around this matter, especially between ANZAC and British commanders at the Battle of Fromelles.  At the end of this battle, a temporary truce between the German and Allied troops was agreed upon.  This allowed for both sides to collect their dead and injured from No Man’s Land.  Unfortunately, the truce was stopped at the last minute, by senior British Officers.  (http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/battle_of_fromelles.htm)

Deplorable Conditions

Unfortunately, deplorable conditions inside and outside of the trenches were the norm for the Western Front.  A mixture of limited resources (e.g. blankets, nutritional food, clean water, etc.), mud filled trenches, and seasonal changes in the weather, severely disrupted living conditions for soldiers.  The following are six (6) firsthand accounts, by soldiers, describing their experience on the front line, in the trenches:

"One soldier was going insane with thirst and drank from a pond covered with a greenish layer near Le Mort-Homme. A corpse was afloat in it; his black countenance face down in the water and his abdomen swollen as if he had been filling himself up with water for days now."
"I have returned from the most terrible ordeal I have ever witnessed. […] Four days and four nights – ninety-six hours – the last two days in ice-cold mud – kept under relentless fire, without any protection whatsoever except for the narrow trench, which even seemed to be too wide. […] I arrived with 175 men, I returned with 34 of whom several had half turned insane."
"...mud, heat, thirst, filth, rats, the sweet smell of corpses, the disgusting smell of excreta and the terrible fear: ‘it seems we will have to attack’, and that when nobody has any strength left."
"They must be crazy to do what they are doing now: what a bloodbath, what horrid images, what a slaughter. I just cannot find the words to express my feelings. 
Hell cannot be this dreadful. People are insane!"
"...mud, heat, thirst, filth, rats, the sweet smell of corpses, the disgusting smell of excreta and the terrible fear: ‘it seems we will have to attack’, and that when nobody has any strength left."
"...during the summer months the swarms of flies around the corpses and the stench, that horrible stench. If we had to construct trenches we put garlic cloves in our nostrils."

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