An Echo from History

One of Sting’s finest songs is Children’s Crusade – his haunting lament on the follies of war, specifically, the First World War.

Here are the relevant lyrics:

Young men, and soldiers, Nineteen Fourteen
Marching through countries they’d never seen
Virgins with rifles, a game of charades
All for a Children’s Crusade

Pawns in the game are not victims of chance
Strewn on the fields of Belgium and France
Poppies for young men, death’s bitter trade
All of those young lives betrayed

The children of England would never be slaves
They’re trapped on the wire and dying in waves
The flower of England face down in the mud
And stained in the blood of a whole generation

Corpulent generals safe behind lines
History’s lessons drowned in red wine
Poppies for young men, death’s bitter trade
All of those young lives betrayed
All for a Children’s Crusade

This wonderful and majestic piece sounds as fresh today as it did when it was released 25 years ago in 1985. (Wow, has it been that long?)

Although more people died in the Second World War than the first, in many ways, the First World War was more horrible because of the sheer senselessness in the way it was fought. Hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of men would be killed just to gain a few feet of ground, which would often be lost the next day. There was no concept of modern warfare – it was often just organized chaos.

One of the Canadian soldiers who fought in the First World War was Fred Albright, a prominent young lawyer from Calgary, Alberta. He met a woman named Evelyn and they began writing each other quite frequently. They married in 1914; three years later Fred was killed at the battle of Passchendaele.

Their correspondence both before and during their marriage represents an enormous volume of personal documentation. Together, they wrote over 550 letters covering a wide range of topics. Even after Fred died, Evelyn continued to write him in a effort to deal with her grief.

This incredible glimpse into history would have been lost forever but for the efforts of a library assistant who discovered the letters while working at the Archives and Research Collections Centre in the D.B. Weldon Library at the University of Western Ontario. Fascinated by the letters, she painstakingly transcribed and edited their contents so that they could be posted to a website entitled: An Echo in My Heart.

By the way, the assistant is my mother.

You may go back in time here….

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2 thoughts on “An Echo from History

  1. Andrew:

    Could you post the link to the An Echo in My Heart website?

    When I was in college at IIT in Chicago, I became friends with Ness Adrienne Cooper (the Triangle Fraternity's Housemother). She was an Englishwoman who married a Canadien, and eventually moved to the US. After her husband died, she supported herself by giving professional voice lessons in Chicago (and being a housemother).

    She was a fascinating lady, and told interesting stories about being in England and Europe during the WWII.

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