A captain when he died, George Dundas's gravemarker in Daours, France, reads:


      At 10:59 a.m., Nov. 11, 1918, Henry Gunther, an American private, launched a suicidal one-man bayonet attack on a German machine-gun nest.
      The astonished Germans, who knew the Armistice was to take effect seconds later, had no choice but to open fire. A Maxim chattered, and Gunther became the final soldier to die in combat in the First World War.
      Then the last gun on the Western Front fell silent. It was over. After more than four bloody years, it was finally over.

* * *

     No one knows for sure how many combatants were killed during history's first industrialized war. Most put the figure at around ten million on all sides.
     It's staggering -- a whole generation lost. But really, Stalin was right: a million dead, even ten million dead, is a statistic.
     To get to the heart of the matter, you have to reduce that obscene number to something manageable.
     Let's take one man.
     George Dundas was born near a tiny fishing village on the North Shore of Lake Erie on Oct. 27, 1890, the son of William James and Jemima Dundas. He attended elementary school in the village, later graduating from Albert College, Belleville, and Victoria College, University of Toronto.
     Fatefully, he also took the Canadian Officer Training Course and served in the militia.
     On Feb. 10, 1915, Lieut. George Dundas enlisted in the privately raised Eaton Machine-gun Battery in Toronto. He was later commissioned in the Royal Field Artillery in England and promoted to captain.
     In March 1916, he joined the 161st Brigade of the British Expeditionary Force in France, and was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry during the horrific fighting on the Somme.
     In August 1917, he was gassed and hospitalized in England, but on April 10, 1918, he went back to war. He was slightly wounded two days later, and at some point over the next few months, was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross, again for gallantry in the face of the enemy.
     Capt. George Dundas made the last entry in his diary on Aug. 21, 1918, early in the Canadian-Australian led advance from Amiens to Mons that brought the war to a halt.
     He was probably wounded the next day and died on Sept. 2 at age 27. He is buried in a cemetery in Daours, a village in the Department of the Somme, far from home, far from a life that might have been, far from the promise of a future.
     And that's finally the truth and the tragedy of those statistics: It's forever personal. Family, friends, lovers, back home in world capitals like Berlin, Paris, London, Washington, Delhi, Moscow -- and in tiny fishing villages -- all heartbroken and grieving the loss of one man.   
     Multiplied ten million times.

"Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind?
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined?
Although you died back in Nineteen-Sixteen,
To that loyal heart are you always nineteen?..."
                               -- Green Fields of France, Eric Bogle

Military cemetery in Daours, France where George Dundas is buried

Views: 67

Comment by koshersalaami on November 11, 2018 at 7:16am

That’s the size of it. 

We also passed the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht on Friday. Interesting weekend for memorials. 

Comment by alsoknownas on November 11, 2018 at 7:53am

Thank you.

I don't think there is a better writer here than you.

Comment by Steel Breeze on November 11, 2018 at 9:08am

Boan,well done as usual...

Comment by Tom Cordle on November 11, 2018 at 9:40am

A sad, beautiful tribute.

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on November 11, 2018 at 10:15am

you are some writer

Comment by Boanerges on November 11, 2018 at 2:58pm

@Kosh: I too took note of that watershed moment in Nazi history, and I'm kind of surprised there wasn't more written about its significance. Especially in light of current events, if you get my drift.

@AKA: Yeeeeah ... maybe not so much, but that's a very generous thing to say.

@Breeze: This is a drastically reduced essay from something I wrote not long after I retired. I'm glad you liked it.

@Tom: I had at least three relatives in that war (grandfather and two great-uncles). It loomed large in our family lore.

@Jon: I take that as a huge compliment, coming from you, Jon. Thanks.

Comment by koshersalaami on November 11, 2018 at 7:27pm

Maybe I should give it a shot

Comment by Boanerges on November 12, 2018 at 8:36am

Indeed you should, Kosh. Who better?


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