Saturday, 24 August 2019

Edmund John (1883 –1917) – British poet

Edmund John was born in Woolwich, Kent on 27th November 1883.

He fought in the First World War, serving with the 28th (London) Battalion (Artist's Rifles)
and was invalided out of the Army in 1916. Edmund died a year later in Taormina, Sicily on 28th February 1917.

Edmund’s poetry collections were:

“The Flute of Sardonyx: Poems” (1913)
“The Wind in the Temple: Poems” (1915)
“Symphonie Symbolique”(1919)

“The Wind in the Temple: Poems” by Edmund Johyn was published by Erskine Macdonald, London in 1915 and was printed by W. Mate & Sons, Ltd., Bournemouth.

That collection of poems was dedicated to the writer and poet Maud Churton Braby

Poems of the War pp. 51 - 52

1. The Huns. 1914

2. Ave Indi

3. In Memoriam

THE HUNS, 1914

Only the bent ghosts of pain, the grey phantoms of fear
Inhabit the desolate streets in the silence, and peer
Out from the charred, blackened windows. No more than the breath
Of the fresh fields shall stir the drawn lips of the dead whose blood dyes
Their own hearths, where from out the spent ashes dim spirals yet rise
Like the smoke of dark incense that burns on the Altars of Death.

All the prayers are stilled ; there is blood in the holy place.
And over the lintels, and splashed on the pale, lined old face
Of the dead peasant woman who lies where the hollyhock blows.
And blood on the breasts of the maiden who yesterday smiled.
And blood on the white broken body of each flower-like child.
Like red wme that is spilled on a petal of some fallen rose.

And blood there shall be on the throats of the devilish throng.
And an eye for an eye, and for every unnameable wrong
Anguish and death and despair shall find out a reward.
Lo, the clamour of battle is calling to all who are men
To succour the helpless, and vanquish and drive to their den
The murdering Huns who have drawn and shall die by the sword.

(p. 51)


The West is grey, and pale with sweat of pain,
Save where the flicker of a funeral pyre
Stabs the dull pallor with fine jets of fire.
And ashen cheeks are grim with some dark stain.

Gold is the East, and bright the Indian sea ;
And princes of a race that knows no fears
Pour out their treasures of a thousand years,
And call to battle all their chivalry.

For lo, at last the East and West have met,
In splendid friendship sealed by splendid blood ;
So shall they conquer death and stem the flood
That seethes from hell — and heaven shall not forget !

For every tortured child, and all the shame
Of women slain, the Indian hosts shall bring
Bitter reward ; and through God's halls shall ring
Their mighty vengeance and eternal fame.

(p. 52)


(To Field-Marshal Lord Roberts of Kandahar, obiit November, 1914)

Rest, though the clamorous surge of war
Follow thy peace to the great doors of Death ;
As in thy fearless life, so now, the cannons' roar.
The roll of drums, at thy last breath

Proclaim thee Conqueror !
The prophets and the warriors who have passed
That way before thy coming, welcome thee ;

The Angel's trumpet sounds a nobler blast,
And kings and knights of the old chivalry
Now hail thee at the last.

Thy days, thy deeds, thy words of proven gold.
Thy son, and last of all, thyself didst give
For Country's sake ; and now the tale is told
Thy splendid memory shall breathe and live
Till all men's hearts lie cold.

Here is a review from “The Southport Guardian," of September l0th, 1913 about “The Flute of Sardonyx”

“Mr. Edmund John is one of our new singers. His first book  on its first appearance made a great stir. ..." The Flute of  Sardonyx " contains much of performance and even more of  promise. . . . He has a rare sense of colour and a strong sense of words ; his verse pulsates with passion and with life. With him to live is to love ; and to love is alternately to smile and to sorrow — and he expresses the joy and the pain with equal felcity and fervour. . . . Here in these poems is the spirit of song, the passion of youth, the seductive colour of life, and all the throbbings of hope and desire . . . this book will ensure  a critical welcome to Mr. John's future work. Here, at any rate, is a singer — and a singer who is not afraid to sing his own songs in his own way.”

Edward Loxdale (1887–1916) – British soldier poet

With grateful thanks to Andrew Mackay for his kind help which allowed me to discover another ‘Forgotten’ soldier poet of the First World War.

Edward Loxdale was born in Acton, Middlesex, UK (now within the London Borough of Ealing) in 1887.   His parents were Edward Augustus Loxdale, a railway clerk, and his wife, Elizabeth Anne, nee Warren. Edward had the following siblings: Annie, b. 1884, who became a school teacher, Elizabeth, b. 1890, Andrew, b. 1894, Serena, b. 1897 and John, b. 1899.

Edward’s mother, Elizabeth Ann, died in December1904 and his father, Edward Augustus, married Sarah Ann Clouter in 1908.

Edward became a clerk and then a civil servant. During the First World War he joined the London Regiment - 15th (County of London) Battalion (P.W.O. Civil Servants) – as a Private, No. 2363.  Posted to the Western Front, Edward was killed on 1st January 1916 in the Hohenzollern Redoubt, near Auchy-les-Mines in France.  He was buried in Quarry Cemetery, Vermelles, France – Grave Reference C. 14.

Edward Loxdale is also remembered on a memorial in the United Reformed Church, Junction of Chapel Road & Hanworth Road in Hounslow, Middlesex.

“The Day before Short Leave” by Edward Loxdale

The great guns are firing before and around,
And the sinister rifles are talking;
But changed is their yell for a spell to the sound
Of the feet that the pavements are walking.
Far, far  from the trenches my pleasant thoughts roa,
Forgotten this region of ditches;
I am back once again in the town that’s my howm,
‘Mid her splendours, and glories and riches.

(From “A souvenir of a Soldier” p. 21.)

Find my Past
“A Souvenir of a Soldier: Impressions of Active Service in France and Belgium during the Great War” Private Edward Loxdale (IMCC Ltd. First printed in 1916 by Hazell, Watson & Viney Ltd, London and published by Edward's Office Companions)

“Civil Service Rifles in the Great War: 'All Bloody Gentlemen' “ by Jill Knight

Photograph of Edward from "A Souvenir of a Soldier".


Friday, 23 August 2019

Ivor Gurney (1890 – 1937) – British poet and composer

Ivor Gurney was born in Gloucester on 23rd August 1890. His parents were David Gurney a taylor, and his wife, Florence, a seamstress. Ivor won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music in 1911.

During the First World War, Ivor joined the Gloucestershire Regiment as a Private in February 1915.   He served on The Somme in 1916 during which time he suffered from Shell Shock. Ivor was wounded in April 1917. He returned to the Western Front and was gassed and sent to hospital in Edinburgh, where he fell in love with a VAD nurse called Annie Nelson Drummond but the relationship did not last.

In March 1918 Ivor suffered a breakdown and was again hospitalised. His family had him declared insane and he spent the last fifteen years of his life in psychiatric hospitals. Ivor died of Tuberculosis on 26th December 1932.

Ivor set a number of his poems to music - the best known is entitled “Severn Meadows”.

Ivor Gurney’s WW1 poetry collections were:
“Severn and Somme (poems)”, published in 1917 by Sidgwick & Jackson, London
“War’s embers, and other verses”, Sidgwick & Jackson, London 1919
And his poems were published in 8 WW1 poetry Anthologies.

"To the Poet before Battle" by Ivor Gurney

Now, youth, the hour of thy dread passion comes;
Thy lovely things must all be laid away;
And thou, as others, must face the riven day
Unstirred by rattle of the rolling drums
Or bugles' strident cry. When mere noise numbs
The sense of being, the sick soul doth sway,
Remember thy great craft's honour, that they may say
Nothing in shame of poets. Then the crumbs
Of praise the little versemen joyed to take
Shall be forgotten; then they must know we are,
For all our skill in words, equal in might
And strong of mettle as those we honoured. Make
The name of poet terrible in just war,
And like a crown of honour upon the fight. 

Geoffrey Faber (1889 - 1961) - British WW1 soldier poet, academic and publisher

Geoffrey Faber c. 1927
Bassano Ltd.
Geoffrey Colt Faber was born on 23rd August 1889 in Malvern, Worcestershire, UK.  His parents were Henry M. Faber and his wife, Florence Ellen, nee Colt.  Geoffrey's uncle was the hymn writer, Father Frederick William Faber, C.O., founder of the Catholic church Brompton Oratory in Knightsbridge, London.  Geoffrey had a brother - Stanley - who joined the Royal Field Artillery and was killed in March 1917

Geoffrey was educated at Rugby School, before going up to study Classical Moderations at Christ Church College, Oxford University. In 1913 he joined the Oxford University Press.

During the First World War, Geoffrey was commissioned into The 8th London Regiment (Post Office Rifles), serving on the Western Front and rising to the rank of Major.

In 1920, Geoffrey married Enid Richards (WW1 Schoolgirl poet).  It was because Enid did not like the smell of the Faber family brewery - Strong’s Romsey Ales - that Geoffrey began his publishing venture. A fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, he was the founding editor of Faber and Gwyer (shortly afterwards Faber and Faber), one of the most celebrated of literary publishing houses.  He remained Chariman of the company until his retirement in 1960.

Geoffrey Faber was knighted in 1954.   He died on 31st March 1961.

Geoffrey Faber’s WW1 poetry collections were:
“Interflow: poems, chieflylyrical” (Constable, London, 1915)
 “In the valley of vision: poems written in time of war” (Blackwell, Oxford, 1918) and one of his poems was included in the WW1 anthology “Poems of the Great War – Selected on Behalf of the Belgian Scholarship Committee” (Macmillan, New York, 1916)

Sources:  Cahterine W. Reilly,
“Female Poets of the First World War: Volume 2”
Find my Past
Free BMD

Alfred Lichtenstein (1889 – 1914) – German poet and writer

I only began researching the male poets of WW1 from
1916 onwards.  I am now trying to add those involved
in the conflict in 1914 and 1915

Alfred was born on 23rd August 1889 in Berlin-Wilmersdorf in Germany. His father was a wealthy manufacturer.   Alfred studied law and attended the universities of Berlin and Erlangen-Nuremberg.

Alfred joined the German Army in 1914 and was killed on 25th September 1914 near Vermandovillers on the Somme.

“Die Schlacht bei Saarburg” (The Battle of Sarrebourg)

Die Erde verschimmelt in Nebel.
Der Abend drűckt wie Blei.
Rings reißt elektrisches Krachen
Und wimmernd bricht alles entzwei.

Wie schlechte Lumpen qualmen
Die Dörfer am Horizont.
Ich liege gottvrlasssen
In der knatternden Schűtzenfront.

Viel kupferne feindlich Vögelein
Surren um Herz und Hirn.
Ich stemme mich steil in das Graue
Und biete dem Morden die Stirn.


"The Battle of Sarrebourg" (The Battle of Sarrebourg)

The earth smells musty with fog.
The evening feels like lead.
Electrical crashes ring and rip the air
And whining breaks everything in two.

The villages on the horizon
Send up smoke like dirty rags
God-forsaken, I lie
In the roar of the Front Line.

Many hostile copper birds
Whir around my heart and brain.
I steep myself deeply in the gray
And set myself to face death.

Sarrebourg (French pronunciation: ​[saʁbuʁ]; German: Saarburg; Lorraine Franconian: Saarbuerj) is a commune in the Moselle department in Grand Est in north-eastern France. It lies in on the upper course of the river Saar.

The Battle of Lorraine (14 August – 7 September 1914) was a battle on the Western Front during the First World War. The armies of France and Germany had completed their mobilisation, the French with Plan XVII, to conduct an offensive through Lorraine and Alsace into Germany and the Germans with Aufmarsch II West, for an offensive in the north through Luxembourg and Belgium into France, supplemented with attacks in the south to prevent the French from transferring troops to the greater threat in the north.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Arthur Tulloch Cull (1887 – 1917) – British Rugby Player, Aviator and Poet

Featured in the WW1 commemorative exhibition and book “Aviator Poets and Writers of the First World War”, Arthur was born in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) on 22nd August 1887.  His parents were John Barnabas Cull, a civil servant, and his wife Edith Rose, nee Tulloch, daughter of Rev John Tulloch D.D, LL.D, Principal of St Mary's College, University of St. Andrew.  Arthur had a brother, John, who went on to be a career officer in the Royal Navy and later transferred to the Royan Naval Air Service (RNAS).

Educated at The Knoll School in Bedfordshire before going to to Uppingham School in Rutland, Arthur went to work in a bank after leaving school.

In 1915, he married Constance E. Kerswell in Kensington, London.

Arthur joined the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps (OTC) and in WW1 joined the Seaforth Highlanders before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in January 1918.

Posted to the Western Front, Arthur was shot down on 11th May 1917, while on patrol to the east of Arras. He is remembered on the ARRAS FLYING SERVICES MEMORIA, Arras, France.

In 1913, Arthur published a collection of poems dedicated to the ballerina Anna Pavlova – “Poems to Pavlova” (Herbert Jenkins Ltd., London, 1913).  As there is no-one else with this name, it seems likely the poems were written by the aviator.  It is also highly unlikely that he would stop writing poetry and it may well be that there are other poems waiting to be discovered.

“Aviator Poets and Writers of the First World War” is available from

Monday, 19 August 2019

Francis Ledwidge (1887 – 1917) – Irish Poet - The poet of the blackbirds

“Talked to two Irish officers in the train. One knew Ledwidge the poet, 
and he ‘could imitate birds and call them to him’ “  Siegfried Sassoon

Francis was born on 19th August 1887 in Slane in County Meath in Ireland. He was the eighth of nine children born to Patrick Ledwidge and his wife Ann, nee Lynch. The death of his father when he was five years old, meant that Francis had to leave school at the age of thirteen and go out to work.

Francis began writing poetry at a young age and had poems published in local papers when he was fourteen.  The writer Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany – Lord Dunsany - became Francis’s patron after Francis sent him examples of his work. Lord Dunsany introduced Francis to W.B. Yeats. He also allowed Francis to write in the library of Dunsany Castle and there he met the poet Katharine Tynan with whom he corresponded.

In 1904, when Francis was seventeen, he joined the 5th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. At that time he was living in Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin and was a grocer’s assistant.

During the First World War, Francis enlisted in Lord Dunsany’s Regiment 5th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He saw action at Sulva Bay in the Dardanelles during the Gallipoli Campaign
and was injured during a mountain journey in Serbia in December 1915.

Posted to the Western Front in January 1917, Francis continued to write poetry. On 31st July 1917, he was in a working party road-laying prior to the Third Battle of Ypres, when he was killed
by a shell. At the time of his death, Francis held the rank of Lance Corporal. After initial burial at Carrefour de Rose, Francis was re-buried in Artillery Wood Military Cemetery, Boezinge, Belgium.
There is a memorial to his memory marking the spot where he was killed.

Francis Ledwidge’s WW1 poetry collections were:
“Songs of Peace” with an introduction by Lord Dunsay, published by Jenkins, London, in 1917;
“Last Songs” published by Jenkins, London in 1918
“Complete Poems” with an introduction by Lord Dunsany, published by Jenkins, London in 1919
– all of which are available to read on Archive -
and his poems were included in eleven WW1 anthologies.

"Lament for the Poets: 1916"

I heard the Poor Old Woman say:
“At break of day the fowler came,
And took my blackbirds from their songs
Who loved me well thro’ shame and blame.

No more from lovely distances
Their songs shall bless me mile by mile,
Nor to white Ashbourne call me down
To wear my crown another while.

With bended flowers the angels mark
For the skylark the places they lie,
From there its little family
Shall dip their wings first in the sky.

And when the first surprise of flight
Sweet songs excite, from the far dawn
Shall there come blackbirds loud with love,
Sweet echoes of the singers gone.

But in the lonely hush of eve
Weeping I grieve the silent bills.”
I heard the Poor Old Woman say
In Derry of the little hills.

From "An Anthology of Irish Verse" edited by Padraic Collum and published in 1922 by Boni and Liveright, New York

Siegfried Sassoon “Sherston’s Progress” (Faber and Faber, London, 1936) p. 86
Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)
Find my Past