It seems one of my early memories, of watching planes fly over a floodlit battlefield at night returning from the day’s sortie, just got a little more plausible.  

It seems spotlights saw widespread use in the war.  It’s entirely possible that some of the upward beams of “artificial moonlight” illuminated the planes as they flew across, though I don’t think we were looking for them since they were ours.  This was before the days of purpose-built bombers; if the plane wasn’t ours, they couldn’t do much more than strafe us or drop a small gravity bomb by hand.  Not much worse than a grenade, really.  If we had known that aerial bombing runs would become so important, we’d have made good note of the fact that these floodlights illuminated the planes overhead enough that we could see their insignia,

I still have yet to confirm that the RFC ever had missions that stretched past sunset.  I know most of the flying during the war was in the daytime because navigation was mostly visual, following roads or rivers or railways.  It could be that we used the lights so they could see the front and from there they could find another beacon at the airstrip, but if I prove this happened it will be very interesting because I’ve never once heard of that tactic in what I’ve read about first world war aviation.


A Remarkable Piece of Music

I have always been awed by Hector Berlioz’ Grande Messe Des Mortes, but only tonight did I look into the history of this piece.

It turns out it was written with soldiers in mind.

Initially it was dedicated to the soldiers of the 1830 revolution that overthrew the wildly unpopular restoration of the absolutist Bourbon monarchy, and installed a constitutional Orleans monarch in its place.

It was first performed in a concert dedicated to French soldiers abroad in the colonies.

It’s a very powerful piece of music and although its origin is somewhat nationalistic, it is set to the standard Latin text of the requiem mass that is widely understood throughout the world.  It is clear from the profound sadness of the piece that he felt strongly for the soldiers and understood their troubled last moments in a very unique way.  It is sublimely different from every other requiem by any other composer; the Dies Irae movement, far from being the usual bombastic allegro presto movement (as in Mozart or Verdi), is a slow and grand call to the post for the ultimate inspection by the general of all generals.  The melodic tension builds as the righteous are saluted and the wicked are stripped of their ribbons and dismissed unceremoniously.

It is a powerful piece and worth hearing at least once in your lifetime.

Here it is, all 92 minutes of it:

Another Piece of the Puzzle

So, when I first had my vision of Ferme buterne, one thing that struck me was that it seemed to have more shade than it does now, like there were more trees.

I had asked the CWGC for some general information on the cemetery and in their response (which just arrived) I got this:

Concerning the trees, the original design drawing shows that there were four Salix Alba trees (two on each side of the cemetery).  In 1994 the Director of Horticulture recommended that two be removed however, as their large size dominated the relatively small cemetery.

So that settles two things.  First, I nailed the species ID from the photo (Salix Alba is the Eurasian White WIllow).  Second, I had to have seen the cemetery as it was before 1994.  This wasn’t a remote viewing, but a memory from either another life, or from the space between lives.

They also informed me that the plans were drawn up in 1925, so the cemetery walls had to have been built after that.  As to the unique design of the walls, they had no information.

Given 20 years or so for the trees to reach an appreciable size as I saw them, and that’s a mean date of 1945 for the earliest I could have seen them.

So I now Know that my memory/vision/what have you of the cemetery was any time between 1945 and 1994.  I’m starting to wonder if it wasn’t one last glance I gave it in 1984 before deciding to be reincarnated… though I don’t remember making that choice.

EDIT: That’s what I get for making this post after skim-reading an e-mail in the morning just before running to class.  They did have some mention of the walls:

The appearance of the boundary wall is exactly as shown on the earliest drawing and although the design is slightly unusual, it is quite practical because the angled brick coping and tile plinth help to quickly shed water away from the wall.  The drawings attribute the design to a Captain J S Hutton.

So the style is essentially just an accident of necessity; they needed the angle to keep water from forming too near the wall, which in Houplines is necessary because the ground gets very boggy, very quickly!

They also informed me that they had no records to indicate that any graves were moved to Ferme Buterne; it’s very likely that John lays exactly where he was buried almost 98 years ago.


I think I may have been a monk in the middle ages.

It wasn’t my first choice, believe me, and it wasn’t what my family had intended.  I was the one in the order of sons of a noble house (I can’t remember if it was second or third) who was supposed to become a soldier but I was a bit of a weakling with more interest in books than in swords.  

I went to the local abbey to have a word with the abbot there about joining the order.  I believe it was a Cistercian abbey with Romanesque construction.  We sat in his office, him at a tall writing desk before a window as I came in.  He greeted me warmly, but when I brought up joining the order he resisted; God had meant for me to be a soldier, he told me.  But I persisted.  “So you will deny a man who wants to serve his Lord?” I said, looking him straight in the eye.  He relented.

I went home to my father and told him of my decision to join the order.  He didn’t take it well.  He wanted me to be a man at arms, maybe even earn a position serving the King himself as a foot soldier.  He said he would just as soon not had me as a son, and I replied “I don’t need you or my brothers when I have my father in heaven and my brothers in the abbey.”

It’s not that I was uncommonly pious, but it was quite normal to reference religion like that in conversation.  

I believe my father in this medieval life was the man I saw playing golf in another memory.  By his clothing- a loose tunic, baggy hose, plain shoes and a linen cap, I’d say this was probably around the 13th century, when styles were still a bit on the baggy side (before the advent of tailoring in the 14th century).

Then again, I had another possibly related memory of being married in what seemed to be 14th century clothes in a church with black columns.  If I was married before joining the order, then it is possible I was either a widower at a young age or abandoned my family.  Or maybe I never ended up joining…

I don’t remember anything after telling my father, and not a whole lot before that either… nothing about training to be a soldier from a young age (as I probably did) nor of monastic life, just this snippet of my story.

One interesting thing, though: I have a memory of a Romanesque abbey in ruins from my life as John.  I’m convinced the abbey I saw in this memory from the middle ages is the same one John marveled over centuries later.

I’m really interested in finding that abbey now.  I’ve done a little bit of searching trying to find abbey ruins in Somerset or Herefordshire that match my memory of low corridors with squat doorways and short, Romanesque columns.  For that matter, I’d like to find that cathedral with the tall, skinny, black columns too.

The Influence of Belief

I’ve begun to wonder if believing in- or being exposed to the idea of- reincarnation in one life makes one more susceptible to remembering that life in another incarnation.

I’ve noticed that although there are few people who remember a life as a German soldier in the First World War, the few I’ve come across also have memory of a life in the Second World War.  Meanwhile, I’ve yet to come across a single reincarnated Doughboy or Poilu, but I’ve met a handful of fellow Tommies.

I have an idea that might explain this.

There is a heavy influence from Indian language and culture on the language and culture of First World War British soldiers.  Lots of British battlefield slang, such as “Char” for tea and “chit” for an official letter, come from Hindi words.  The song “Mademoiselle from Armentieres” is believed to have been derived from an Indian song called “Skiboo.”  And a good many Indian troops served alongside troops from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales as well as the Canadians and ANZACs.  The likelihood that we would have been introduced to and familiar with the idea of reincarnation is fairly high since this idea is very much embedded in Indian culture.

Now, what does Germany in the Second World War have to do with this?

While the sources are scant (I know I’ve read it in good sources but can’t find any of them when I need them), I have seen some mention that Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, was a firm believer in reincarnation, and that this belief was shared by members of the SS.

If this is true, then Dead Tommies and Dead Nazis have something unexpected in common: we kind of figured we might find ourselves in another life and what do you know, here we are.

The phenomenon is also common in societies where belief in reincarnation is the norm, but when it isn’t isolated to small sectors of the population, it becomes difficult to say whether it was the belief from the past or belief from the present that influenced the recollection.  Obviously, if you belong to a group that believes it in this life, it’s easy to come to that conclusion.

Still not sure what bearing my exposure to the idea in this life as opposed to my previous life had.  I was vaguely familiar with some of the inquiry into past lives done by Dr. Stephenson, but I hadn’t really delved deeply into it at all; in fact a lot of the documentaries I saw seemed to stack the deck in favor of reincarnation being a flight of fancy, and I was fairly convinced that most of the cases I saw were just that.

But having experienced it myself, and having noticed this pattern of people who may have believed in reincarnation in a past life recalling that life at a later time despite having no belief in it previously in this life, it really does hint that believing- or at least keeping an open mind about- reincarnation is a factor in remembering your current life in the next one.

Just a “Mulligan?”

I had a thought today that really made me stop and consider life as it is.

Supposing that this life is just a “mulligan” for the mistakes I made in the last one, and this time I have to get it right?

I know I managed to get reincarnated once, but maybe that’s all there is.  I suppose the “live every day as if it were your last” thing still applies since I still don’t know if I have another one waiting for me when this one’s over.

Quickest Ever “Plausible” Result

Not even ten minutes.  I told you this research thing was getting stupidly simple.

Google Docs brought up this analysis of poaching in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Some quotes:

Archer, Hopkins and Thompson have followed some contemporary observers in
rejecting the view that urban poaching was a response to poverty, and maintained that
it was driven by a thriving commercial market for game which was at its height during
times of prosperity rather than depression. (p. 204)

We were certainly not desperate.  Based on the neighborhoods the Harris family lived in, we weren’t terribly rich but we were far from broke; we were solidly lower middle-class, father was a skilled laborer and had the means to move himself and his family from Somerset to Hereford.  I think buying the occasional pheasant on the sly to make us feel richer than we really were would be a luxury we could have afforded.

Pheasants are mentioned too:

…the expansion of artificial rearing of pheasants and partridges meant that it was increasingly difficult for both offenders and the wider community to claim that these birds were wild and consequently ‘fair game’. (P. 207)

I think we can label this one “plausible.”  The young man in tweed may have dressed like a titled lord, but it was probably us upwardly-mobile working families who made him rich.

Brief Memory

In one of the towns I lived in back in England (I don’t remember which so I can’t tell you how long ago this was), There was a fellow in a tweed cap and a green jacket and breeches, sort of youngish (in his 20s I assume), and with a pipe forever on his lip and a gun forever on his shoulder.

We used to buy pheasants from him; somehow, I think he may have been a poacher, but I’m not certain.  And yet as I remember, it was quite ordinary to buy from him at least once in a while.

There wasn’t much meat on a pheasant, and if not for the luxury of eating pheasant I doubt we’d have bothered; a goose was a far better value.

Now this would be interesting to look into.  Was poaching ordinary, or were there channels through which you could legitimately pay a hunter to shoot pheasants perhaps?

By the way I remember him being dressed, my guess is that this was later on, perhaps on into the Edwardian era, but could have been Victorian.