Some cool rumours of war images: "THAT SILENT THRONG"
Image by summonedbyfells
Its hard to tell about numbers but my impression is that there were more folks around than in previous years I've been here. I'm pleased to see that. This gathering is the work of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club and doubtless many current members will be among the crowd but most will be responding to their open invitation. The F&RCC lost twenty members in WW1, within six years of its ending they raised enough money to purchase Great Gable and 3,000 acres of adjacent fells. Their first Gable remembrance ceremony was held here in 1924 when Geoffrey Winthrop Young gave this eulogy:
"If there is any communion with the spirits of dead warriors, surely they were very near that silent throng of climbers, hill-walkers, and dalesfolk who assembled in soft rain and rolling mist on the high crest of Great Gable". The gloom and gentle wind-sounds added impressiveness to the occasion. There was no effort at pageantry or emotion; the service was a tribute to memory".
(And we can do no better than that).
A bronze plaque was fixed to the summit cairn and the chairman of the club: Dr. Wakefield recorded the transfer of these lands to the perpetual care of the National Trust in order that they might be enjoyed by "us and our children for ever".
The Remembrance plaque reads:
In glorious and happy memory of those whose names are inscribed below, members of this club who died for their country in the European War 1914-18. These fells were acquired by their fellow-members and by them invested in the National Trust for the use and enjoyment of the people of our land for all time.
J S Bainbridge
J G Bean
H S P Blair
A J Clay
J N Fletcher
W H B Gross
S W Herford
S F Jeffcoat
E B Lees
S J Linzell
L J Oppenheimer
A J Pritchard
A M Rimmer
R B Sanderson
H L Slingsby
C G Turner
B H Whitley
J H Whitworth
C S Worthington
"S W Herford - (Siegfried Wedgwood Herford)" one of many significant climbers named on the plaque had a German mother which denied him an Army Commission, he enlisted in the ranks and was killed by a hand grenade blast on 28th. January 1916. He was 25 years of age at the time of his death. On 20th. April 1914 with George S Sansom he solved the problem of the Great Flake on the Central Buttress of Scafell (CB). This climb was decades ahead of its time and today is still described as probably "the greatest classic climb in the whole of the Lake District" , a brief and remarkable life, there is a memorial window for him in the Eskdale Outward Bound Centre. These men of the F&RCC were killed in the unfulfilled prime of youth, they are especially remembered on this day for within the climbing fraternity - the spiritual sons and daughters of these men, - there is a continuity of fellowship for we climb their routes still, they left us so very much, and reaped an awful fate while we roam free over the land they loved but were deprived of.
Poetry can spear insight like nothing else I know, but how do you choose a war poem? there is much to cherish and this one speaks to me for the gentleness of its reflective record and its testing of that myth about distance and enchantment:
SIX YOUNG MEN
The celluloid of a photograph holds them well -
Six young men, familiar to their friends.
Four decades that have faded and ochre-tinged
This photograph have not wrinkled the faces or the hands.
Though their cocked hats are not now fashionable,
Their shoes shine. One imparts an intimate smile,
One chews a grass, one lowers his eyes, bashful,
One is ridiculous with cocky pride -
Six months after this picture they were all dead.
All are trimmed for a Sunday jaunt. I know
That bilberried bank, that thick tree, that black wall,
Which are there yet and not changed. From where these sit
You hear the water of seven streams fall
To the roarer in the bottom, and through all
The leafy valley a rumouring of air go.
Pictured here, their expressions listen yet,
And still that valley has not changed its sound
Though their faces are four decades under the ground.
This one was shot in an attack and lay
Calling in the wire, then this one, his best friend,
Went out to bring him in and was shot too;
And this one, the very moment he was warned
From potting at tin-cans in no-man's land,
Fell back dead with his rifle-sights shot away.
The rest, nobody knows what they came to,
But come to the worst they must have done, and held it
Closer than their hope; all were killed.
Here see a man's photograph,
The locket of a smile, turned overnight
Into the hospital of his mangled last
Agony and hours; see bundled in it
His mightier-than-a-man dead bulk and weight:
And on this one place which keeps him alive
(In his Sunday best) see fall war's worst
Thinkable flash and rending, onto his smile
Forty years rotting into soil.
That man's not more alive whom you confront
And shake by the hand, see hale, hear speak loud,
Than any of these six celluloid smiles are,
Nor prehistoric or, fabulous beast more dead;
No thought so vivid as their smoking-blood:
To regard this photograph might well dement,
Such contradictory permanent horrors here
Smile from the single exposure and shoulder out
One's own body from its instant and heat.
Ted Hughes 1930-1998.