Experiences not sidelined, just there is more to it

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Julia Maybury sheathes her claws as she pounces on me for diverting the thrust of her letter about women’s role in the Great Insanity of 1914-18, yet she is a shade unfair in saying I missed the point of her condemning the huge medical work of women abroad.

My letter did acknowledge their “sincere dutiful endeavour and sacrifice”. As for “a man” immediately sidelining those women’s experiences, one of Kipling’s finest poems is his haunting “Dirge For Dead Sisters” (1902), for the nurses who died in the South African War: “When the days of torment and the nights were clouded terror/When the Powers of Darkness had dominion on our soul/When we fled consuming through the Seven Hells of Fever/These put out their hands to us and healed and made us whole.../Wherefore we they ransomed, while the breath is in our nostrils/Now and not hereafter - ere the meaner years go by/ Praise with love and worship many honourable women,/Those that gave their lives for us when we were like to die!”

No, I didn’t sideline Julia’s first letter; I simply placed mine alongside it in your columns, and pointed out that it alone was insufficient, just as she has done with mine. One point of detail: in urging “never again”, I call for the rejection not only of war methods used a century ago but also of today’s scientific devilries whose casualties are largely civilian.

Frank McManus