On the 164th day of the year, June 13 2015, I remember the 100th birthday of my father, who passed away some years ago (+ in 2007).
My dad (Ursmar Antoon Ampe) was born on a Sunday, the day after the Battle of Mosciuska and Lubaczow had began , and if he still would have lived he would have had 36,525 days from the day he was born up to today. He saw the first sun-rays one day before the Turkish Attack on Perim and was going to be part of a generation who had to face an other terrible war after the Great War everybody assumed to be the last ever. (Though Bible readers do know that World War III shall be the worst ever, before we get an other 1000 years of peace and tranquillity.)
His parents had already had their portion of battles but saw now the Allied Forces of Belgium, France, Great Britain, the Dominion Forces of the British Empire (Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Newfoundland and South Africa), and Portugal trying to make a stand against the Imperial German Army’s advance and occupation of Belgium from 4th August 1914 and north-eastern France from 6th August 1914.
Die Westfront, as Imperial Germany’s “western front” for those Imperial German Armies engaged in hostilities against France (calling this “Le Front Occidental”) was a battle which did not seem to come to an end and ruined many family-lifes in but also out of Europe. Many came to see the worst in ‘man’. The characteristics of siege warfare which developed on the Western Front in these three years created conditions never witnessed before.
The Second Battle of Artois (9th May – 18th June 1915) took the attention of the people who were worried about the situation and by now had lost all hopes of seeing this great war ending in what they said first ‘before December’ (1914). It was to be the longest waiting for the end of December in history, taking more than 4 years.
On the day that the commander of the 17th Division on the right of the IX Corps, wrote to General Curé the corps commander that preparations were incomplete and had not conformed to Note 5779, leaving the jumping-off trenches 200–300 metres (220–330 yd) from the German front line, rather than the 150 metres (160 yd) or fewer laid down and that the infantry were already exhausted, my grandmother may have been exhausted and might have given a sigh of relief, bringing new life in that cruel world .
Whilst the grown ups did cruel things against each other, trying to push the Germans off the dominating high ground of the Loretto and Vimy Ridges north of Arras and the British attacking on the German line a little further north on the flat Flanders plain at Aubers Ridge and Festubert, my grandparents tried to bring the right peaceful attitude into my fathers head, like they would do with us likewise in later years. I remember my grandmother (°1885) telling us incredible stories about those busy incredible times. (By the end of the offensive there were approximately 100,000 French casualties, 26,000 British casualties and 90,000 German casualties.) First losses of family patrimony had already occurred by the army of Napoleon and the worst had still to come in World War II.
Was it because of all the turmoil, bloodshed and problems my grandparents and parents witnessed, that they took care we were put in our brain to respect all other living beings, in any case by those experiences, the base was formed for our upbringing after the human abomination.
My father belonged to a generation which would have, for the first time in history, children bringing up kids in a world having not to face the horrors of human violence in reality. We still can see lots of inhuman atrocities, but they are brought into the living room by the television screen and leave lots of people untouched; far from reality.
My parents were not able to reach the one hundred mark, but their image is still lively and like any child I can build on their and my grandparents stories and life lessons, to build up an other generation, which hopefully shall be strong enough to endure that last battle.
In the meantime the Christian upbringing made a footing for perhaps very utopian ideas and a foundation for bringing a peace message and the message of hope in a continuously changing world.
I do know I must have been a very difficult child, who knew very well what he wanted and how he wanted it. I had to endure lots of discussions and heavy battles with my father, certainly because I choose to go the artistic way (and never could go public with my real name). I always kept deep respect for my parents, who belonged to a generation which had perhaps to face the biggest changes in attitudes and ways of thinking. Hopefully the thought they were trying to do live on can continue to put new strong bricks on goodly build layers of stable bricks.
Find additional reading:
- 100° birthday of war and war tourism
- August 4, 1914 to be remembered
- Flames of Louvain – Leuven 1914 an attempt to destroy a civilisation
- 1915 Trench Warfare
- All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting… George Orwell
- Achille Ampe (1885-1943)