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An Angel Born in No Man's Land

Updated on May 12, 2011

At the Yser

August 4, 1914


German troops are crossing the Belgian border with the intention to attack France. The British army is on Belgian soil, ready to meet the Germans.

One two three four five!

Soldier standing guard,

now the time has come

to give your life!

Liège, Brussels, Namur... The cities are falling, the Belgians are thrown back on Antwerp and then behind the Yser, where they sing their songs about the German Kaiser.

But I listen to the voice of the Unknown Soldier in my head. He's telling me about the song of the Great War that came and how we all were set In Flame.

I hear him in my head and I know him by heart.

Shame on me!

I was at the market singing my songs

about someone who loved

someone who died,

grand theft, big deal,

calamity never seen before.

I was drawing with chalk and charcoal

and they all wanted to hear me

and my news of the world

and they all wanted to see

the calamities never seen before.

It all happened like I told them,

like I made it happen

and I brought a smile on their face,

a tear in their eyes.

But then there was this song about the prince

and the Great War that came

and how we all were set in one big Flame,

all because of me.

And they all said: ‘Shame on you

who made this happen!'

And there came shame

on me,


'Papa, how is it at the Yser?' asked the Crown Prince...

At the Yser

'Papa, how is it at the Yser?'

asked the Crown Prince, said the Kaiser:

'Too bad, my son, we can't get through.

These little Belgians are there too.

With their weapons in the hand

they are defending their homeland.

We will all die here ‘cause we can't win,

I feel it in my brass pin!

If I had known this I had preferred

shitting my pants and be in the dirt.

You wash it out and it's al done,

but now we're gonna be all dead and gone!'

'If I had known this I had preferred shitting my pants and be in the dirt'

World War 1 American Legacy

World War 1 Era Period Music and Pictures


WW1 spanned from August of 1914 to November of 1918 and raged across the globe. The United States was officially involved in the war from April 1917 to the end.

The doughboys are nearly forgotten today in the shadow of World War 2, Vietnam and Iraq. Millions of American men and women, black and white, served our country in The Great War. This series of shorts shows the music of their time and photographs from the Great War.

Brought to you by the team that created the High Definition documentary series, World War 1 American Legacy.

John Condon, Age 14


He fell in a field

of honour and under

a leaden sky the earth

colored red.

May nineteen fifteen

and more he has never


There was a leaf

torn from the calender

and there was a girl

who grieved.

The name of his mother

was on his lips

and the name

of his brother who fell

in another Flanders'


The Angel of Mons

When we dream deep enough

the Angel will become reality

and spread those white wings wide

in eternity.


Flying in a Zeppelin,

was the German Kaiser

with a million soldiers

right into the Yser.

They still breathe...


do not approach

the small building

in the remote part

of this large hospital.

The only people

to whom access is not denied,

are six carefully selected doctors

and about twenty nurses.

Here secretly live

eighty dead men -

even their relatives

have been officially informed

that they were killed in action

on some field of honor.

All possible efforts are done

to soften their torture:

they have laundry baskets

for beds, so they can be

easier nursed.

And maimed as they are,

and paralysed,

blind, deaf

and dumb

they still breathe.

Because it was so cold, that night

‘My dreams are deep enough,'

he says, ‘now

and in eternity,


‘You should become reality,'

he says, ‘now

and with your white

wings wide.'

‘My Word will be Your Flesh,'

he says, ‘while

you're standing in the light

of the Hellfire Corner.'

And I scribble down his whispers

in the dark, in this little

scrapbook of mine:

‘Stranger, do not approach!'

‘But you are no stranger,'

he says. ‘I have created you

as a child,

ma belle Sharpenelle.

Because it was so cold,

that night.'

The Creatures from the Hellfire Corner


The world believes we are dead,

but we are the Undead

and we live out of the light

as vampyres, hideous and maimed

by bombs and grenades,

shrapnel, bayonets,

dumdummies exploding

in your intestines.

We are paralysed,

blind, deaf, dumb and half


We are sleeping

in laundry baskets and only

eating, drinking, breathing.

Nobody knows the trouble we've seen,

‘cause no word escapes from our lips,

(we've used all our words) -

so you can call us Sansparoles,

I guess.

Some of us were still boys

when the Great War came

that misshaped us

into the creatures

of the Hellfire Corner.

For nearly twenty years

we are here now,


Who will deliver us from evil?

We are praying that you may

become reality some day,

ma belle Sharpenelle,

that you will come and save us now

with your white wings wide.

We are praying now

and in eternity,


The Rape of Belgium

Bomb in your womb!

Give head to the bayonet!

Was it in Leuven? Was it in Aarschot?

Has it happened in De Panne, behind the Yser?

Poor little Belgium was raped, they said.

And I can't get his voice out of my head:

Bomb in your womb!

Give head to the bayonet!

Someone is shouting:

"Man Hat Geschossen!

Zivilen Haben Geschossen!"

Someone is shouting

citizens are shooting

brave soldiers,

so they have to

put a bomb in your womb

and you have to

give head to the bayonet

or you get gas

in your ass.

What exactly happened

when I was two or three

or four maybe?

A Poor Pickelhaube Lament

Ultimatum was followed by ultimatum

and ultimately we were going to fight

a bright little war.

We would sing about love and peace

under some Christmas trees

in Paris -

but we all stranded

in the quagmire of the Yser,


in the barbed wire.

That's why we committed atrocities

in cities like Leuven, Aarschot, Dinant

where hostages were taken and shot

in cold blood.

That's why we murdered the male

and raped the female

of this town.

We have seen no machine

guns in the church tower,

but our officers are telling no lies:

the priests down here do have them

and the nuns are spies

and the nurses are killing

and poisoning all

our poor Pickelhaubes.

An Angel Born in No Man's Land

I do not know where I came from

or how I got here,

I have no name,

I am just a girl

in a flawless white dress.

Minutes ago I was cast

into this world,


into a nightmare,

spit out as a wave glowing lava

from the bowels of a volcano.

Around me, some are howling

as if they were in hell

and praying

as if they were in heaven -

but this isn't hell

and this isn't heaven.

This is a No Man's Land

between the lines

and here I do not feel

like I am living

and I do not feel

like I am dead.

I see some silhouets

in the mist and oh

my God, oh my God, oh my


I am running now,

away from the men with

no legs, away

from the men with

no arms, away

from this faceless

young man.

And I go back

and I kneel

and his head is in my lap

and he can't see me

because he has

no eyes.

But he smiles.

You see?

What happened?

I do not remember


I only see

a whole black


I only hear

the hovering voice

of my Unknown Soldier.


Pickelhaubes are yelling:

‘Man Hat Geschossen!'

What happened?

Did they throw

a bomb

in my womb?

Did they blow

gas in my ass?


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