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Witness

17 Feb

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I, a summer oak, was planted on the grounds of Elverdinge Castle (which was actually a chateau built in the Louis XVI style) in Ypres (Ieper), Belgium, in 1760.  I lived the next 154 years in relative peace, watching various renovations of the chateau, shading the castle park beneath the ever-widening shadow of my leafy boughs, sheltering countless naked hatchlings until they were fledged and strong enough to soar from their twiggy nests, weathering innumerable storms thrown at me by Mother Nature. Then, a storm of a different kind swept into Ypres around 1914, bringing with it the thunder of exploding bombs and torrents of stinging metal rain. The storm raged on intermittently for nearly five years, the worst coming to Elverdinge in winter 1917-18.  The chateau, which was being used by the French and English armies came under attack from the Germans and was burned down. I suffered numerous wounds myself, my bark pierced by fragments of bullets and grenades on all sides. Unlike hundreds of thousands of young soldiers who absorbed the same during that winter’s fighting, I was strong enough to heal, new wood covering my battle wounds. I lived another 77 years, through the post-war restoration of the chateau in 1925, and its eventual occupation by the German army during World War II. When scientists examined cross sections of my trunk after my demise  in 1994, they were suprised by my hidden account of the Great War. The horrors I witnessed were borne silently deep within my oaken heart; I imagine the survivors of the horrible fighting in Ypres carried similar scars within their own hearts.

 

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Posted by on February 17, 2013 in How It Was, Observations, True Life

 

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