War and Peace


The swans of Ypres were well known to practically nearly every battalion which tasted the fighting in the Ypres salient. In June 1915 the shelling of this area was particularly severe, but the small family of swans, which lived in the moat below the ramparts of the stricken city, glided placidly on the water and survived this and the terrible bombardments of the subsequent three years. Great was the excitement among our troops when, in 1917, the swans began nesting operations. On one occasion a German shell fell within a short distance of the nest, but the bird which was then sitting took no notice, except that, for a moment, she fluttered from the concussion. The triumph of the parent birds came when, during the fearful fighting of the third battle for the city, two cygnets were hatched.

— Hugh Steuart Gladstone, Birds and the War, 1919