. . . I got all misty in class today.
As most of you know, I’m doing my senior thesis this semester (if you didn’t know that, read below), and the way such things work at the UofA is that you sign up for a class in which your teacher is your thesis advisor. Mine decided that we would all be working on WWI, and so once a week we get together and discuss the actual history of the war. Below is the summary of a story told in a personal narrative which was read in class today:
The British and the Germans were lined up in trenches on opposite sides of the viscous “no man’s land” which made WWI so infamous. That day it was the Germans who were trying to take the British trenches, and had been throwing men into the “meat-grinder” all day. At some point a German officer had managed to “impale” himself on the barbed wire, quite close to the trench. Watching the man suffer and writhe proved to eventually be too much for a young British officer who told his companions that he “just couldn’t see the chap suffer any longer.”
With that he climbed out of his trench, ducking a bit as bullets and shrapnel continued to fly all around him. He made it to the German soldier, freed him, and lifted him onto his shoulder. He then turned and carried the man all the way across no man’s land to the German trenches where he was met by a German High Commander, who took the soldier onto his own back, but not before taking the Iron Cross from his uniform and giving it to the British officer. The Brit then turned and walked slowly back to his own side. Not a single shot was fired at him. In fact, for as far as soldiers could see what was happening, the battlefield had fallen silent.
I’d love to finish this story up with some platitude, but I don’t have one. I don’t know who either German soldiers were, nor who the British soldier was. All I know is that even in the face of pure hatred between “enemies,” there is still always room for a little grace. Not a sentiment that you will catch me writing about frequently, so enjoy it while you can . . .