5 May 2016

Forget the Lusitania

Melville Hastings, Lieutenant in the 52nd Battalion (Manitoba Regiment), Canadian Expeditionary Force, quoted in The War Letters of Fallen Englishmen, ed. Laurence Housman (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1930), pp. 123-124:
I write this outside a German dug-out wrecked by one of our sixty-pounders. The explosion has thrown five men lifeless down the stairway. Their boy officer, a young Absalom, is suspended head downwards by one of his Bluchers from two viced beams in the roof. Get the harrowing details out of the mind; remember only the faithful service.

It seems to me that so many of our journals urge the remembering of the worthless, the forgetting of the worth remembering. "Remember the Lusitania, remember Nurse Cavell." Rather keep them out of the mind. Heaven consists largely in thinking of mothers and wives and children and other things that are thus beautiful. Get the habit. Increase Heaven by thinking of the homely, fat but selfless Frau and the lad who hangs from the ceiling by his foot. Hell consists largely in thinking of our own nastiness. We cannot forget them even when forgiven, and so this Hell survives, but other people's nastiness we can forget quite easily. Forget the Lusitanias, the Louvains — there are paid servants of the State who will attend to these....

German food and British food, examine them closely, they are the same. The same in terms of stomach, of ears, of eyes or of the immortal soul. A week since I was lying out in no man's land. A little German dog trotted up and licked my British face. I pulled his German ears and stroked his German back. He wagged his German tail. My little friend abolished no man's land, and so in time can we.

According to the Queen's University archives,
 Hastings died of wounds on 3 October 1918.
He is buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery.