It’s now been a century since the Battle of Bellewaerde Ridge.
I remember only a few hazy fragments that I believe happened on that day, of moving across darkened fields lit only by moonlight and the reddish glow of distant fires, of barbed wire and bear traps that snared the legs of our best men, and of a feeling of profound and sustained horror, like the feeling of shock you get when your car goes out of control but attenuated and stretched over several long, agonizing hours. I remember hearing things buzz by my head, unsure if they were bullets or the large corpse flies that seemed so ubiquitous on the Ypres Salient.
I still don’t know if the wood I remember was Polygon Wood from earlier on in the spring, or Railway Wood during this particular battle; if it was Railway Wood then in all likelihood I was in Y Company which managed to take the German front line, though I have yet to confirm this. My memories are far more visceral than exact; I just remember there were good men being killed and maimed all around me and I was somehow left standing.
I can’t say I’ve been much at ease knowing this anniversary was looming but I’ve been trying not to think about it. Here in the quiet suburbs west of Portland, a whole century and several lives later, it seems far away but I have only to be reminded of what happened and it’s real again to me. If I close my eyes I can still see the sun rising blood red on those shell-scarred fields the next morning.
Not sure what I’m going to do today, besides rest and try not to dwell too much on those memories. It was another life altogether; the eyes I saw it through are closed forever and there is nothing but to accept that what’s done is done.