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The Last Absolution of the Munsters at Rue Du Bois, by Fortunino Mattania, depicts an event which took place on 8th May 1915, near Neuve Chapelle.

The push for Aubers Ridge had been postponed

because of rain. But the Saturday

was dry and sunny. Going up the line

in the early evening, the battalion

stood easy at the shrine to Our Lady.

‘…in remissionem peccatorum…’

By noon, next day, nearly half were dead,

caught on the German wire Haig’s ill equipped

artillery had, once more, failed to cut.


In Mazingarbe, an industrial town

ten miles south, the British commandeered

the abattoir. The first to be shot at dawn

was a Munster regular from Cork.

‘…in nomine Patris…’



Note: The poem was first published on the site in November 2012.




© Copyright David Selzer
2 Responses
  • John Huddart
    September 15, 2014

    What a picture – although I’m sure intended to be patriotic and religious, it still manages to convey the realities of the moment – the padre on the horse holds everyone with his blessing, but the scene is anything but triumphalist.

    A dawn scene [?], and a powerful link with the ‘shot at down’ theme of the second part.
    As ever, your words send one away to research the background. One powerful irony is the way records of the executed have survived so one knows how they died. Death on the line is usually unrecorded and entirely nameless.

  • David Selzer
    September 16, 2014

    According to this the service took place at sunset – and I note that I’ve missed out a word from the title of the painting. I’ve written ‘The Last Absolution’ and it should have been ‘The Last General Absolution’.

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