Sunday 69th and last day (10 June 1917)

Not a cloud in the sky.  When I went on watch at 4.a.m. a large convoy of ships was visible on the starboard side, apparently crossing over to France.  How circumscribed one’s view is at sea!  Land or passing ships soon get below the bulge, giving on a feeling of isolation.  I forgot all about dinner.  Wonderful England!  After packing and donning full regalia, I emerged just in time to see Eddystone Lighthouse springing sheer out of the sea and the shores of old England coming nearer through the haze.  Close to the lighthouse is a kind of stump which I suppose is the base of the one that was blown down.  As we drew near to Plymouth Hoe the beauty of the green land began to manifest itself and the old city to show out in the sweeping bend of the bay.  I cannot describe my feelings – I felt as if I could cry, and at once realised how much I had missed by not having lived in the Old World, or at least, travelled here years ago.  But never say die, although I am beginning to realise that almost anyone should be ready to die for England.  I cannot explain but you sympathetic ones will understand.  Old castles, thick clusters of grey slated roofs, intensely cultivated farms dotted along the sunny Southern coast – everything breathing history – old four-deckers that have fought at Trafalgar lying anchored, everything making up a tout ensemble that spells England in unmistakable symbols.  My first intention was not to make any note because it would be so tame and inadequate, but I thought that I would write something with my first glimpse of “Peaceful England” actually before me, knowing that your bright and sympathetic imagination would in a great measure supply what was wanting.  I can see little sea-side resorts dotted about; with people, pleasure boats, launches, etc.  The hill-side fields are all defined with hedges and lanes and everything is as green as it can be.  All this while a group of men has sat on deck below the gunwhale gambling.  One or two of them popped their heads up for a moment, and grunted, “Oh that’s Blighty is it?” and promptly resumed their game.

2 thoughts on “Sunday 69th and last day (10 June 1917)”

  1. “I am beginning to realise that almost anyone should be ready to die for England” – I (an Englishwoman) have always been moved (and upset) by the sacrifice which New Zealanders and Australians were prepared to make for my country. I was in Northern France a couple of weeks ago, passings cemeteries and memorials dedicated to ANZAC troops. Such a waste.

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  2. Thanks for your thoughts Carole. I am sure my grandfather would have appreciated them. He may have responded that in his time New Zealand, in the minds of many, was an extension of England. He had grown up on a diet of English culture, art, poetry, law, etc. Being ‘of England’ (although not ‘from England’) was his identity. The distinctive New Zealand identity was only then being developed – and interestingly, through his diary, he sometimes reflects on those differences.

    The entire First World War, as far as I can make out, was a waste.

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