THE GREAT WAR: Rupert Brooke’s War – “I saw what was a truer Hell

BROOKE WAS A POET OF THE WAR. FROM HIM, AUSTRALIA LEARNT A GREAT DEAL ABOUT THE BLOODY FIGHTING THAT WAS YET TO COME.

Adapted by FRANK MORRIS

I WOULD TO LIKE TO GO: RUPERT BROOKE, THE SOLDIER-POET OF THE WAR. SAID RUPERT: “I WOULD LIKE TO SEE THIS ADVERTURE THROUGH WITH MY OWN MEN.” Below: HIS FIRST GRAVE AT THE FRONT. Below: RUPERT BROOKE, SOLDIER-POET. Below: THE SOLDIER BOWS OUT.

Rupert Brooke joined his battalion, and camped of the coast of Kent, on Sunday, September 24, 1914. They marched to Dover a week later and embarked to defend Antwerp from the German advance.

In the next five days, Antwerp fell. Brooke and his company had to march twenty-five miles in the retreat; through a landscape wasted by shelling and pools of burning petrol from a bombed fuel depot.

Round them the carcasses of horses and cattle sizzled, and wagons of dead people, the wounded and refugees filled the road. Brooke wrote:

“… I saw what was a truer Hell. Thousands of refugees, their goods on barrows and hand-carts and perambulators and wagons, moving with infinite slowness out into the night; two unending lines of them, the old men mostly weeping; the women with hard drawn faces, the children playing or crying or sleeping.… The eyes grow clearer, and the heart. But it’s a bloody thing, half the youth of Europe, blown through pain to nothingness in the incessant mechanical slaughter of these in modern battles”.

By October 8, they had reached the troop train, which carried them to Bruges. All the company’s luggage, and several of Brooke’s manuscripts, had been destroyed. The next day, they arrived back at Dover.

SEA-SICK

The company was re-equipped at Chatham.

Brooke arranges to stay with friends so he moved to the Hood Battalion. The next three months training was interrupted only by influenza, by respiratory complaints arising from the use of coke stoves, and drunkenness.

Brooke spent much of February ill in bed in London at 10 Downing Street, the home of his friends the Asquiths.

On Saturday, February 27, 1915, his ship departed from Avonmouth Docks for the Dardanelles. Two days later, on March 1, they were in open sea off the Bay of Biscay, and he was sea-sick. Early on Monday, March 8, they put into Malta, where Brooke dined and went to the opera to see Tosca.

The next day the ship set out for Lemnos and the Eastern Mediterranean, arriving three days later.

Brooke’s ship sailed for Turkish waters a few days later. Early the next day, on March 19, they entered the Dardanelles. But after several hours of inactivity, they were withdrawn, due to losses from mines in the coastal bombardment on the previous day.

The landing, they surmised, was impractical so they returned to Lemnos.

They left Lemnos for Egypt on Wednesday, March 24, sailing via Patmos and Rhodes and arriving in Port Said on Sunday, March 28. Brooke and two friends spent two days in Cairo, visiting the Pyramids and the Sphinx; and touring the moonlit streets by donkey.

After a series of exercises and route marches, Brooke was ill with sunstroke and dysentery. He spent the next week in the Casino Palace hotel with a fellow officer who had been similarly afflicted.

However, by Thursday, April 8, orders came to sail for Lemnos. By this time, Brooke’s potential as a poet, politician and academic was becoming recognised and many did not want England to lose him.

THOUGHT ABOUT DEATH

Brooke’s Colonel suggested he spend more time recovering in Egypt; and Brooke’s Commander in Chief further suggested he take a staff job. Brooke refused both of these offers. The Commander in Chief said: Rupert Brooke very naturally would like to see this adventure through with his own men … I should have answered the same in his case …”

Brooke said, “Well, if Armageddon’s on I suppose one should be there”.

According to Margaret Lavington, who wrote Rupert Brooke: Biographical Notes, Brooke “had a presentiment of his death, but he went, as so many others have gone”. Brooke never reached the Dardanelles.

The sunstroke and dysentery he got over. But he died from blood-poisoning on board a French hospital ship at Skyros on Friday, April 23. A few days later, the news of his death was published in The Times. In part, Winton Spencer Churchill wrote:

“Rupert Brooke is dead … The voice has been swiftly stilled. Only the echoes and the memory remain; but they will linger. He expected to die; he was willing to die for the dear England whose beauty and majesty he knew.”

<< Adapted from Rupert Brooke’s War and Rupert Brooke: Biographical Notes.

MOMORIES:  Mud – a sinister, vile, murderous slime it pays no heed to soldiers!

“FOR MOST OF US THESE DAYS, MUD IS A MINOR INCONVENIENCE. THIS WAS NOT JUST WET SOIL … THE STENCH OF DEATH WAS EVERYWHERE,” Steve Waterson, Editor of the Australian. Australian troops on their way to the front line in October, 1917. They trudge through the mud along the track -- from Bellewaarde Lake and Chateauwood to Westhoek – surrounded by the debris of wagons and trees shattered by the relentless shellfire. The Great War, The Darkest Day, 2017.


CLASSIC REPEAT: OZ Spot: The lady in the pale house on the hill

THE AUTHOR, SUSAN DUNCAN, SAID TARRANGAUA IS AN ABORIGINAL WORD WHICH MEANS HIGH ROUGH HILL.

FRANK MORRIS

One of Australia’s most famous poets, Dorothea Mackeller, who died in 1968 at the age of 83, is credited with writing the two most quoted lines of Australian literature – “I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains …” which come from her poem, My Country.

Tarrangaua, the home of Miss Mackellar, built on the shores of Lovett Bay, is dated from 1925. Dorothea was, said Susan Duncan in her biography, “wealthy, single, forty years old and already involved in a love affair with the brandy bottle.”

Duncan said: “I cannot ask how the name came about. Perhaps she sat around the dinner table with a group of guests and … they played a game to invent the best title. The name is certainly grand, and so was she.”

Only by boat can you make contact with Lovett Bay … “or walk along … the escarpment the … down into the valleys of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park … and take about an hour and half … with steep rocky tracks where you can easily lose your footing … In contrast, the boat trip trip is five minutes …”

LONELY CHILD

Explained Susan Duncan, “Tarrangaua, the pale yellow house with the corridor of columns and the long veranda,” was perched “on the high, rough hill.”

Australian author Di Morrissey, “who grew up in a house just beyond Frog Hollow”, was invited to open an art exhibition in a boatshed built by a friend. That day, Di talked the about time she crossed paths with Dorothea Mackellar. Di was nine years old and a “lonely child”.

It was an evocative speech. Here is a part it.

“Dorothea, or Miss Mackellar – she was only ever known as Miss Mackellar – asked me what I was doing,” Di explained, standing in the long, beamed sitting room in a misty pink suit, her bright blonde hair piled high on her head. “I told her I was looking for fairies.”

I WANT TO WRITE

Dorothea asked Di: “Have you found any? May I help you?”

”And so we set off looking for fairies together,” Di continues. Dorothea asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. ‘”I want to be a writer,” I told her, wide-eyed and innocent of her fame. “” Do you?” she replied. “Well, I write a little, too. Would you like me to recite a poem I’ve written?”

“Oh yes, please,” I said.

Dorothea, spoke with a Scottish burr, recited every verse of her iconic poem, My Country.

“After her speech to open the art exhibition ended, I asked Di what Dorothea Mackellar wore that day she met her.”
“A long, dark dress and a hat, I think. Yes, that was it. A rather dull coloured dress, navy and black, in a heavy fabric. The hat was quite big. Straw, I think.”

“I wish Barbara, who was writing in life about Dorothea Mackeller, had been able to hear Di’s words.” Barbara occupied Tarrangaua before I did.

<< The House at Salvation Creek by Susan Duncan; Penguin Books; 2012.

May: Towards the end of Barbara’s document on the life of Dorothea Mackellar, she touched on the history of Tarrangaua.

Dorothea or Miss Mackellar? Dorothea, circa 1926, photograph at home, Tarrangaua. Di. “What you want to be?” Said Di, “I want to be a writer!”


Queen Victoria Building: A major facelift, and Queen Victoria reigns again!

DURING 1984 AND FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS, THE QVB UNDERWENT AN INTENSIVE SERIES OF MODERNISATION, RESTORING IT TO ITS FORMER ELEGANCE AND GRANDEUR!

FRANCIS ROLLEY

DOORS OPENED: THE QUEEN VICTORIA , RESTORED TO IT’S FORMER ELEGANCE AND GRANDEUR, REIGNS. Below: THE RESTORED STAINED GLASS WINDOWS. Below: ORNATE COLUMNS, DOMES AND FIGUREHEADS, WHICH GAVE THE AURA OF A BYZANTINE PALACE.

In the business heart of Sydney recently, a massive sandstone edifice covering the entire city block and rising two levels above traffic-snarled streets, opened its elegant solid timber doors to the shoppers.

The grand Queen Victoria Building, first opened in 1898 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the then reigning British Monarch, had been reborn. After an illustrious history which, in recent years before its refurbishment, had seen it fall a state of disrepair.

It was originally built in five years at a cost of 261,000 pounds to resemble a Byzantine Palace with exteriors of finely dressed Waverley sandstone and a spacious interior of superb arches, vast intricate tile patterns and miles of stained glass.

At the turn of the century, the stately building was incongruously used as the city’s produce markets; the upper two gallery levels contained shops and cafes.

PARTLY EMPTY

The impressive roof took the form of a half barrel made of glass and gave rise to the comment at the time that the gallery walks were “streets within streets flooded with natural light”. The building remained the Sydney City Markets until 1910.

They moved to the Haymarket, and the magnificent Queen Victoria edifice began a period of neglect; interspersed regularly by the authorities to upgrade it.

In 1917, the City Council altered and refurnished the interior of the partly empty building in an attempt to make it economically successful. In the 1930s, it was transformed to house the Sydney City Library.

During this “modernisation” much of the ornate plasterwork, stained glass windows, grand columns, sweeping arches, were stripped from the building and its ground floor and galleries were converted in to a rabbit-warren of offices.

For 50 years, the once elegant Queen Victoria Building, sank to its lowest depths, thanks to the lack of maintenance and damage. The building assumed the appearance of a sleazy, aging, dirty stone monolith in the centre of the city.

BEST IN THE WORLD

Then from March 1984 to November 1986, the QVB – as it had become known – underwent a major facelift which restored it to its former elegance and grandeur. The cost? $75 million.

The Queen Victoria Building is what now can be described as an up-market shopping centre. It houses over 200 shops, cafes and restaurants; and an underground entrance to QVB from Town Hall station. But the outstanding feature of the new shops in the proliferation of fashion boutiques which boast the best in fashion from head to toe, from both Australia and overseas.

The building is linked to both Town Hall Railway Station and Grace Brothers by arcades designed in the original Victoria era character. There is parking for over 720 cars. It is open seven days a week for visitors to stroll through the building, window-shopping.

It’s an experience unparalleled in a building that people like Pierre Cardin have called it as “the most beautiful shopping centre in the world”. Adapted by Frank Morris.

<< Expressions Magazine. Vol 1, No 1, 1987.

COMING: QVB – Celebrating 120 glorious years. Also, dates to remember.


LET’S LAUGH! It’s moments like these you need Minties!

From Sun Books, Melbourne. Artist: Syd Nicholls. He was associated with Minties since cartoons began being used behind the nation’s catch-cry in 1927.

Posted in: Grand Years with Frank Morris at 02 August 18

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