Grandad Trotter, played by actor Lennard Pearce (1915-84), utters this soliloquy in the middle of a 1981 British comedy sitcom.
My brother George was at Passchendale. Nigh on half a million Allied troops died there, all for five miles of mud! I was at King’s Cross station when his regiment came home after the armistice. Most of them was carried off the train. I saw men with limbs missing, blind men – men who couldn’t breathe properly ‘cos their lungs had been shot to bits by mustard gas! While the nation celebrated they was hidden away in big grey buildings, far from the public gaze. I mean, courage like that could put you right off your victory dinner couldn’t it? They promised us homes fit for heroes, they give us heroes fit for homes!
However unlikely it may seem to hear such a hard-hitting speech in a comedy show, the basis of this soliloquy is not fiction. The Battle of Passchendale, was fought over six months of 1917 during World War I, and not only were there horrendous Allied casualties, there were also approximately the same number of German casualties.
The scriptwriter John Sullivan (1946-2011) certainly packs a punch, especially with the last sentence. That final line is a great example of the power of rhetoric, namely antithesis. Maybe we need a little rhetoric from time to time to make us really think.