Monday, May 21, 2007


The poppy flower brightens the trackside vegetation and livens up the borders of the wheat fields where the plough has not scarified them out of the ground. They blur past me as I gaze across gently rolling fields from the train taking me to Waterloo. The freshness of the red helps you understand how it has become a symbol of the great battlefields of the Great War. They bloom around Waterloo as well. Not the Waterloo of Canada, Britain or the US. But the original from which our vernacular says “he met his Waterloo” and to whom we refer being Napoleon. For here he and his aspirations for a European republic centred on France were dashed in bloody fields the likes of which were not seen for another generation in places like Gettysburg. Today a modern military type would describe the gently rolling fields as ideal tank country. Plenty of dead ground. Good line of sight. Little natural obstruction. In 1815 it was ideal cavalry country but that same ground and its cavalry qualities were disastrous to the exposed soldier and their wounded and mutilated bodies covered swathes of ground and filled numerous ditches to overflowing.

Visiting the site (it is a short train ride from Brussels) requires more than the couple of hours I had to explore the headquarters of Wellington, climb the memorial mound or spend a few minutes in the Panorama rotunda (from which this photo is taken). But it was enough to be reminded that we have never done a good job of learning from one generation to the next the appalling cost war imposes on our communities.

17 May 2007

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