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Thirteen Years After


A Great War Veteran Revisits The Old Battlefields

“It is a long way from Ypres to Mons, and when the trip is done your memories and thoughts are so commingled that you hardly know the war is history. You see again the long shadowy files on the duckboards of the Salient, a silhouette of steel helmets and rifle fire muzzles. You see long strings of mules taking up ammunition, see the flicker of Verey lights as you leave Mont St. Eloi for the trenches at the crater line. You see, in fancy, the lorries and traffic of the back areas, sausage balloons, battery positions, trenches at stand-to, the gutted, wired, rat-ridden spaces between the lines, seeing most, of course, that which most impressed you, seared deepest in your brain, whether it was the sleet and shrapnel of Vimy, the blood path of the Somme, or the terrible diarrhoea of war that we knew as Passchendaele. And now you see only greens and browns, and vivid new cement and brick farms that glare their newness…”

“Thirteen Years After” was originally a series of articles written for Macleans Magazine in 1932. In the articles Will Bird, a veteran of the First World War, revisited the old battlefields and villages which had been so familiar to hundreds of thousands of Canadians. Bird’s series captured the sense of nostalgia felt by many of the old soldiers, then in their forties and fifties, and was a great success. The unique point-of-view of “Thirteen Years After” makes it a classic of The Great War.

by Will R. Bird