There are any number of themes I might have chosen for a final (non-summary) post for the Month of Remembrance I had planned to celebrate the centenary of Armistice. I’m guessing that more than a few of you were assuming that, given my love of Wilfred Owen‘s poetry and his prominence throughout this series, a series illustrating Dulce et Decorum Est would be the finale. It certainly fits my tone and all, but it’s been done to death. I could alternately have chosen a grand post trying to make a sweeping statement of some sort. I could have followed up yesterday’s surprisingly popular post on non-fatal casualties with either images of corpses or of cemeteries as a sort of counterpoint. I could have done more with biplanes, war machines, or histories. And of course, I could have posted any number of series shot by A. O. Fasser. Instead, I’ve chosen a single image of a “firing squad” executing what I’ve decided is a “Snowboche” with their terrible weapons of war:
Why this particular stereoview? For two reasons. Firstly, because it’s kind of hilarious and I love it; I really want to find my own copy of this slide one day. It’s just fun to look at. These presumably tired soldiers took the time to gather up what little snow was on the ground and form it into a German soldier, complete with Pickelhaube helmet and gloved hands up in surrender. Then they posed for this stereoview of its summary execution: death by (snowball) firing squad!
But mainly, I picked it because it’s a single, mellow image of “surrender” without much pomp or bombast. Why should the last post in this series have pomp and bombast, when the effective end of the war lacked in such? After the Hundred Days Offensive, pushing the Germans back to (and beyond) the Hindenburg Line, they were worn out. For months prior to the actual Armistice, the end was in the post – it was just a matter of negotiating terms and making it official, while the needless bloodshed continued. The deal itself was done in a fashion lacking in pomp and bombast. There were great celebrations thereafter, of course – but after over four years of fighting, this was a war that wound itself down. There was no Hiroshima moment, and the Kaiser was not hanged – he quietly abdicated and went to live in exile. Some guys who didn’t necessarily much care for each other met on a train car, and a time was chosen to lay down arms. The war just sort of ended, and thus does this series – with the exception of one final post in the near future that will act as a summary.
So enjoy this wonderful stereoview, and remember one last thing: that on some day or another, some silly band of comrades built a snowman, fashioned him into an image of the “boche” enemy, and staged his execution. Their fun little story – small as it is, and likely captured only in this little image – is still a part of the greater story, and that’s kind of the point. All of it should be remembered, not just the glory and the pain.