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In the trenches

A century later, the First World War remains embedded in our imaginations

by Bob Chodos


18_British_55th_Division_gas_casualties_10_April_1918The Bishop tells us: “When the boys come back

They will not be the same; for they’ll have fought

In a just cause: they lead the last attack

On Anti-Christ; their comrade’s blood has bought

New right to breed an honourable race.

They have challenged Death and dared him face to face.”


“We’re none of us the same!” the boys reply.

“For George lost both his legs; and Bill’s stone blind;

Poor Jim’s shot through the lungs and like to die;

And Bert’s gone syphilitic: you’ll not find

A chap who’s served that hasn’t found some change.”

And the Bishop said: “The ways of God are strange!”

— Siegfried Sassoon

Many years ago, as I was reading a book by the American diplomat and historian

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About the Author

Bob Chodos
Bob Chodos is managing editor of Inroads.


  1. gstevenson

    Good article, Bob, but perhaps a little unfair to Kaiser Wilhelm whom you call “a nasty piece of work to be sure”. He was no worse than Czar Nicholas II, a confirmed anti-Semite who openly stated that he wanted to add Turkey and most of central Europe to his already gigantic empire. Yet Nicholas is now regarded as a martyr by many Russians!

    • Bob Chodos

      Good point. My purpose in referring to the Kaiser as a ‘nasty piece of work’ was actually to praise him with a faint damn, at least in comparison with another German ruler who came later. And elsewhere in the article I lump Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas together as ‘deeply flawed rulers.’ The idea of Tsar Nicholas as a martyr would be amusing if it weren’t disturbing. The current government of Russia may also be ‘deeply flawed,’ but a return of Tsar Nicholas would not be the answer to the country’s problems.

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