Dispatch From Ypres, 1914

by , under Fiction Prompts, What Pegman Saw

McCormick tilted the paper to catch the cold November light, pencil clenched in his teeth. He glanced around at the ruined cathedral, its single undamaged arch, the opening choked with rubble. He folded the dispatch into an envelope and tied it shut, then picked his way through the debris to where Corporal Collins was waiting astride his motor-bike.

“Here you go,” said McCormick, handing him the envelope. Collins looked absurdly young, but they all did. The Germans probably did too. “Godspeed.”

McCormick surveyed the horizon of blasted mud, the snags of broken trees amid the craters, the roofless stone houses. He walked back to the cathedral and picked up a chip of stone, put it in his pocket.

In the past two weeks, over a hundred thousand British and French soldiers had been killed. These bald numbers would be quickly forgotten by Tribune readers.

But McCormick would not forget.

 

What Pegman Saw

 

If you ever go to the famous Chicago Tribune building,  you will see more than a hundred bits of stone set into the walls, all from historical landmarks across the globe. Edinburgh Castle, Hamlet’s castle in Elsinore, the Great Wall, and even Injun Joe’s Cave are all represented. The tradition began in 1914 when Tribune correspondent ( later publisher) Robert McCormick pocketed a stone from the ruined Ypres Cathedral in the aftermath of the horrendous battle. When the new Tribune building was constructed some years later, Colonel McCormick charged his correspondents to procure stones from all over the world “by well-mannered means” and bring them back to Chicago.

You can read more about it here.

  1. Alicia Jamtaas

    I had no idea! This is easy to picture – horizon of blasted mud. My husband and I just finished watching a PBS series on WW I. Your words caught the images very well.

    Reply
  2. rochellewisoff

    Dear Josh,

    I’m with Melody. Next time I’m in Chicago I’ll make a point of visiting that building. As Karen said, damn fine writing. The last line drives it home.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

    Reply
  3. jellico84

    It is a beautiful testament you have written. For indeed, many have forgotten, or don’t care to remember the lives lost in war.

    Reply

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