JF Ptak Science Books Post 1852
The Care of the Dead, published by Eyre and Spottiswoode in London in 1916, is a quiet, spare pamphlet, on what was happening to the fallen British soldier in France and Belgium. It is a big topic--physically the little paper-wrapper work seems barely strong enough to support the implications and heaviness of its title--and I'm sure the issue would've been the most important questions in the minds of the families of the hundreds of thousands of dead British soldiers*--the pamphlet really does seem to be feather-light under the solidity of its title.
Reading though this work gave me an insight into the depth of what millions of war dead means--and an insight I think that I've never had before. The anonymous author writes about touring the battlefields of France in 1915 and 1916, driving in an automobile, "the eye of the traveler along the roads is struck by many low crosses sticking out o the ground--in the fields, in cottage gardens, in corners of farm yards and orchards, even on roadside strips of grass."
Where the ground has changed hands a good deal in the course of a war, you may see, within a few hundred yards of each other, the gabled and eaved cross of the Germans, with "Hier ruht in Gott" and a name painted in white on a dark ground, the beaded wire wreath of the French, with its "Requiescat" or "Mort pour la France: and the plain-lined cross of the English, white or brown or just the unpainted wood, "In loving memory" of officers or men..." Now I'm sure I read any number of accounts of the views of battlefields from commanders' line and soldiers' views and the like; but I don't think I've had the perspective of an officer driving around a no-longer-a-contested-battlefield in a car and being struck by the appearance of the little white crosses, well, everywhere. I have a very crisp imagined image in my head, now, with this 92-year-old war memory described from the driver's seat of a car.