Friday, October 10, 2014

Lands of Battle, Fields of Peace

 St James Park in London, sitting between Buckingham Palace and Whitehall, is hosting a temporary photography exhibit by Michael St Maur Sheil.  In the introduction to the exhibit, he writes, “the war is now history, and only the landscape remains to bear witness.”  Sheil has visited sites of the battles of The Great War and taken photos of great beauty and tranquility, images that in his words, “are a reflection upon that vision of a future when time and nature would heal the scars and wounds of both landscape and warring nations.”

The interpretative text that accompanies the photography gives perspective and history on the war and the men and women who were there.  On a beautiful sunny day, as I strolled among the large-scale photos among the picnickers and bird-watchers in the park, I read this from the exhibit, an excerpt of a letter from PJ Campbell, RFA, as he was leaving the Somme:

“No, they would not be lonely.  I saw that bare country before me…the miles and miles of torn earth…the litter, the dead trees.  But the country would come back to life, the grass would grow again, the wildflowers return, and trees where now there were only splintered skeleton stumps.  They would lie still and at peace beneath the singing larks, beside the serenely flowing rivers.  They could not feel lonely, they would have one another.  And…though we were going home, and leaving them behind.  We belonged to them, and they would be part of us forever.”  

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