Sunday, 15 November 2020

John Oxenham (1852 - 1941) was the pen name of William Arthur Dunkerley – British Poet, writer, journalist and publisher

With grateful thanks to Connie Ruzich for reminding me that I had not  properly researched John Oxenham/William Arthur Dunkerley yet

William was born William Arthur Dunkerley on 12th November 1852 in Chorlton, Manchester, UK.  His parents were William Dunkerley and his wife Jane, nee Haydock.  William had the following siblings:  Mary J. b. 1848, and Agnes C., b. 1849.  He was educated at Old Trafford School and Victoria University in Manchester.

William wrote novels, poetry and hymns under his own name as well as the pen-name John Oxenham, however, he used the pen-name Julian Ross when writing as a journalist.  He married Margery Anderson (1853 – 1925) from Scotland and they had two sons and four daughters -  the eldest of whom,  Elsie Jeanette, became well known as Elsie J. Oxenham a writer of children's fiction. Another daughter, Erica, also used the Oxenham pen-name. Their elder son, Roderic Dunkerley, had several titles published under his own name.   The family moved from Lancashire to Ealing, West London, where they lived for forty years.

In February 1892, William founded the monthly magazine  "The Idler" with Robert Barr who edited the publication with Jerome K. Jerome.  He also started the publication "To-Day".  William lived for a while in France and travelled extensively in Europe, Canada and America. He also lived for a while in North America after his marriage, before moving to Ealing, where he served as a Deacon and teacher at the Congregational Church in Ealing. 

In 1913, William wanted to publish his poetry collection entitled "Bees in Amber". However, his publisher wanted to limit the book run to 200 copies.  William therefore had the collection printed at his own expense and sold almost 300,000 copies. 

During the First World War, William  published several volumes of poetry at his own expense and altogether they sold over a million copies, making him arguably the most widely read poet of WW1.  . He also wrote a song called "Hymn for the Men at the Front" which was set to music by American musician/composer Norris C. Morgan. That eventually sold more than 8,000,000 copies in aid of the wounded of the conflict.

In 1922, William and his family went to live in Worthing in Sussex, where he became mayor.  He died on 23rd January 1941, in Worthing, England.

“For The Men At The Front” by William Arthur Dunkerley (John Oxenham) set to music by Norris C. Morgan (? – 1936)

Lord God of Hosts, whose mighty hand

Dominion holds on sea and land,

In Peace and War Thy Will we see

Shaping the larger liberty.

Nations may rise and nations fall,

Thy Changeless Purpose rules them all.

When Death flies swift on wave or field,

Be Thou a sure defence and shield!

Console and succour those who fall,

And help and hearten each and all!

O, hear a people's prayers for those

Who fearless face their country's foes!

For those who weak and broken lie,

In weariness and agony--

Great Healer, to their beds of pain

Come, touch, and make them whole again!

O, hear a people's prayers, and bless

Thy servants in their hour of stress!

[Five million copies of this hymn have been sold and the profits given to the various Funds for the Wounded.    It is now being sung all round the world.]

For those to whom the call shall come

We pray Thy tender welcome home.

The toil, the bitterness, all past,

We trust them to Thy Love at last.

O, hear a people's prayers for all

Who, nobly striving, nobly fall!

To every stricken heart and home,

O, come!    In tenderest pity, come!

To anxious souls who wait in fear,

Be Thou most wonderfully near!

And hear a people's prayers, for faith

To quicken life and conquer death!

For those who minister and heal,

And spend themselves, their skill, their zeal--

Renew their hearts with Christ-like faith,

And guard them from disease and death.

And in Thine own good time, Lord, send

Thy Peace on earth till Time shall end! 

“NEWFOUNDLAND MEMORIAL” a poem by John Oxenham

This poem is engraved on a plaque at the entrance to Newfoundland Memorial Park, in France - the scene of the attack by the 1st Battalion of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment on 1st July 1916. Every Canadian officer who fought in that battle was either killed or wounded.

Tread softly here! Go reverently and slow!

You let your soul go down upon its knees

And with bowed head, and heart abased strive hard

To grasp the future gain in the sore loss!

For not one foot of this dank sod but drank

Its surfeit of the blood of gallant men.

Who for their faith their hope - for life and liberty

Here made the sacrifice - here gave their lives

And gave right willingly - for you and me.

From this vast altar-pile the souls of men

Sped up to God in countless multitudes.

On this grim cratered ridge they gave their all.

And giving won.

The peace of Heaven and immortality

Our hearts go out to them in boundless gratitude.

If ours - then God's for His vast charity

All sees, all knows, all comprehends - save bounds

He has repaid their sacrifice - and we - ?

God help us if we fail to pay our debt

In fullest full and all unstintingly!

Sources:  Find my Past

Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978),+unknown,+or+undetermined%7Csubject:world+war%7Coriginal-format:notated+music%7Clocation:place+of+publication+not+identified&sp=4&st=gallery 

Monday, 26 October 2020

Laurence Housman (1865 - 1959) – British writer, poet and artist

Laurence was born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire on 18th July 1865. His parents were Edward Houseman and his wife, Sarah Jane, née Williams.   He was one of seven children – among his siblings were the poet Alfred Edward (A. E.) Housman (b. 26th March 1859) and the writer Clemence Housman (b. 23rd November 1861). 

His mother died in 1871 and in 1873 his father married one of his cousins - Lucy Agnes Housman. Educated inititially at Bromsgrove School, Laurence went with his sister Clemence to study art at the Lambeth School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London.

A staunch socialist and pacifist, in 1907 Laurence founded the Men's League for Women's suffrage with Henry Nevinson and Henry Brailsford.   In 1909 Laurence and his sister Clemence founded the Suffrage Atelier - an arts and crafts society that worked closely with the Women's Social and Political Union and Women's Freedom League. They encouraged non-professional artists to submit work and paid them a small percentage of the profits. The “Anti-Suffrage Alphabet”, written by Laurence Housman and edited by Leonora Tyson, was published in London In 1911.

With regard to his art work, Laurence illustrated George Meredith's Jump to Glory Jane (1892), Jonas Lie's Weird Tales (1892), Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market (1893), Jane Barlow's The End of Elfintown (1894) and his sister's novella The Were-Wolf (1896). He also wrote and published several volumes of poetry and a number of hymns and carols.

"Armageddon - and After" 

We fought at Armageddon for the freedom of the world ! 

I fought, and you fought, and here our bones lie mixed. 

By the master-hands which held us, eastward and westward hurled, 

We were shattered, we fell down, for the place and time were fixed. 

Tell me, O Brother Bone, what here remains to know : 

Marched we as comrades then, or foemen, ere we died ? 

Was it my hand or yours which dealt the murderous blow? 

Was it your hand or mine which turned the blow aside ? 

Took I my brother's life : what better life was mine ? 

Fought I for freedom ; — of freedom so bereft ? 

Had I the clearer sight to read the Heavenly sign? 

Had I the cleaner heart, to keep my hands from theft ? 

We fought at Armageddon for the freedom of mankind. 

And while we fought, behind us freedom was bought and sold ! 

The light that lit these sockets is out, and we are blind. 

Now with blind eyes we read ; now with dead hands can hold. 

Bone to my bone you lie, companion of my pains ! 

What link of life is this, which binds us wrist to wrist ? 

These, brother, these are not links but only chains, 

Worn by the living, that the dying lips have kissed. 

Millions we marched ; and the rattle of the drums 

Drowned the rattle of our chains, and the shouting held our ranks. 

For sweet to our ears was "The conquering hero comes," 

And sweet to our hearts " A grateful Country's thanks." 

We fought at Armageddon for the brotherhood of Man ; 

And safe within their fences the tricksters plied their trade. 

'Twas the old fight we fought ; and it ends as it began : 

The gamblers held their hands till the Last Trump was played. 

We fought at Armageddon for the freedom of mankind : 

I fought, and you fought, and here our bones lie strewn. 

The flesh is stript from off us, the chains remain behind, 

And the Freedom that we fought for is an unremembered tune.

From: “The Paths of Glory: a collection of poems written during the Wara, 1914 – 1918” (Allen & Unwin, London, 1919) which is available to read as a download from Archive:

Laurence’s WW1 collections were:

“Collected poems” (Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1937)

“The Heart of Peace, and other poems” (Heinemann, London 1918)

“The winners” (Booklovers’ Resort, 1915) and he had poems published in 4 WW1 anthologies.  Catherine W. Reilly, p. 175

Sources:  Catherine W. Reilly (English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978)


Find my Past

Free BMD

Friday, 25 September 2020

Charles Scott Moncrieff (1889-1930) – British poet and writer

Charles Scott Moncrieff was included in the exhibiton of poets, writers, etc. “Arras Messines, Passchendaele & More 1917” held in 2017

Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff was born on 25th September 1889 in Weedingshall, Stirlingshire, Scotland. His parents were William George Scott Moncrieff, a lawyer, and Jessie Margaret Scott Moncrieff, a writer – William and Jessie were cousins. Charles had two older brothers – Colin William, b. 1879, and John Irving, b. 1881.

Educated at Winchester College and Edinburgh University, Charles was commissioned into the King’s Own Scottish Borderers Regiment. On

23rd April 1917, Charles was badly wounded in the leg by an exploding shell, while leading his men. He was sent back to Britain to recuperate and managed to avoid losing his leg but was left with a limp.

Invalided out of the Army, Charles went to work at the War Office in Whitehall, London until the end of the war. He also worked as a reviewer for the magazine “New Witness”, edited by G.K. Chesterton. 

In January 1918, Charles met Wilfred Owen at the wedding of Robert Graves to Nancy Nicholson at St. James in Piccadilly.

After the war, Charles worked for a year as private secretary to Alfred Harmsworth the press baron. He then moved to Italy for health reasons and began translating works by foreign authors, including Marcel Proust’s “A la recherché du temps perdu”. Charles died of cancer in Rome in 1930 and was buried in Campo Verano.

The WW1 poetry collection of Charles Scott Moncrieff “War thoughts for the Christian year” was published in 1915 by Skeffington. He also had a poem published in “The Muse in Arms” anthology, edited by Edward Bolland Osborn and published by Murray in 1917.

“Au Champ d’Honneur” by Charles Scott Moncrieff

Mud-stained and rain-sodden, a sport for flies and lice,

Out of this vilest life into vile death he goes;

His grave will soon be ready, where the grey rat knows

There is fresh meat slain for her. Our mortal bodies rise,

In those foul scampering bellies, quick…

And yet those eyes

That stare on life still out of death and will not close,

Seeing in a flash the Crown of Honour, and the Rose

Of Glory wreathed about the Cross of Sacrifice,

Died radiant. May some English traveller to-day,

Leaving his London cares behind you, journeying West

To the brief solace of a carnal holiday,

Quicken again with boyish ardour, as he sees,

For a moment, Windsor Castle towering on the crest

And Eton still enshrined amid remembered trees.

Portrait of Charles by Edward Stanley Mercer (1889 - 1932)



Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p.p. 289 and 22.

William Faulkner (1897 – 1962) – American artist, writer, poet and Nobel Prize winner

William was born on 25 th September 1897 in New Albany, Missippi, USA. He was the eldest of four sons born to Murry C. Falkner and his wife Maud F. Falkner, nee Butler. William had the following siblings: Murry Charles, b. 1899, John, b. 1901 and Dean Swift, b. 1907. John also became a writer. The family later moved to Oxford, Missippi.

During the First World War, William worked as a clerk in a munitions factory in Connecticut then volunteered to join the Royal Flying Corps in Canada, where he began training as a pilot.

After the war, William married Estelle Oldham, who had two children from a previous marriage.  He went to work as a screen writer for MGM in California. In 1949, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. William died on 6th July 1962 from complications to injuries sustained when he fell off his horse. He was buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery, Oxford, Missippi.

William’s poetry collections were “The Marble Faun” (1924) and “A Green Bough” (1933.

Extract from “A POPLAR” by W. FALKNER.

Why do you shiver there

Between the white river and the road?

You are not cold,

With the sun light dreaming about you;

And yet you lift your pliant supplicating arms as though

To draw clouds from the sky to hide your slenderness. 

Poplar Trees

According to the Celtic code of symbolic trees, the poplar is associated with victory, transformation and vision.  The poplar trees of northern France were legendary long before WW1 began but they took on a particular significance during and after the conflict.

In Birkenhead, Wirral, UK a playing field and pavilion opened in 1926 as a memorial to the 88 students of the Birkenhead Institute school who were killed in the First World War, among them Wilfred Owen the poet. In 1933, 88 poplar trees were planted round the edge of the field in memory of the fallen. The pavilion on site had a mounted rectangular tablet bearing a memorial inscription. Ornamental memorial gates were also added in 1933. In 1938 a bell was donated by Mr and Mrs Luton in memory of their son killed in the First World War.  The field was sold recently for property development and a statue has been made in recompense. The “Futility” Statute, situated in Hamilton Square, Birkenhead, was designed by Wirral based sculptor Jim Whelan and was inspired by an original drawing by David S.W. Jones - a former pupil and art teacher at the Birkenhead Institute.

"Futility" statue, Hamilton Square, Birkenhead

Looking through some of the Facebook Groups dedicated to WW1 commemoration some years ago, I found a reference to a Canadian Officer who lived in England and when he came back after WW1 he planted poplar trees in memory of his fallen comrades.  I wonder if those poplar trees are still there?

Photo of William in Toronto, 1918 - photographer unknown


"Aviator Poets and Writers of the First World War" - book of the exhibition  held at Cosford Air Show, June 2018 

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

A.P. Herbert (1890 - 1971) - British writer, poet, playwright, humourist & Member of Parliament

Alan Patrick Herbert was born on 24th September 1890. His parents were Patrick Herbert, a civil servant, and his wife Beatrice Eugenie, nee Selwyn, daughter of Sir Charles Jasper Selwyn, a lawyer. Patrick and Beatrice had two other sons – Sidney, born in 1892, and Owen, born in 1894. Beatrice died when Alan was eight years old.

Alan was educated at The Grange preparatory school in Folkestone, before going on to Winchester College, then New College Oxford, where he eventually studied law.

In 1915, Alan married Gwendolyn Harriet Quilter, who he met in 1914 and they went on to have four children.  When war broke out, Alan joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as an Ordinary Seaman.  The RNVR formed part of the Royal Naval Division and Alan was commissioned as a Sub-Lieutenant before being posted to Hawke Battalion and sent to Gallipoli in May 1915.   He was taken ill and sent back to Britain to recuperate, after which he was seconded to Naval Intelligence.  

In July 1916, Alan returned to Hawke Battalion, which by then was serving on the Western Front on The Somme.  He took part in the Battle of the Ancre, from which he was one of only two officers to survive.   Alan became Adjutant of the Battalion and was badly wounded at Gavrell, near Arras, in April 1917 and had to be invalided home. His novel, “The Secret Battle”, drawing upon his experiences during the war, was published in 1919.  Alan’s younger brother, Owen Herbert went missing, presumed dead after the Battle of Mons in 1914 and his other brother, Sidney, was killed in 1941.

After the First World War, Alan was called to the Bar in 1919, joined the staff of ‘Punch’ magazine in 1924 and began writing plays.  He became an Independent MP in 1935 and was re-elected from 1945 – 1950 and was knighted in 1945.

During the Second World War, Alan volunteered with his boat ‘The Water Gypsy’ for the River Emergency Service on the Thames.  He wrote the lyrics to the ‘Song of Liberty’ which was very popular during WW2.

Sir A.P. Herbert (sometimes known as ‘A.P.H.’) died on 11th November 1971.

 A.P. Herbert’s collections of First World War poetry were ‘Half Hours at Helles’ published in 1916 by Blackwell, Oxford and ‘The Bomber Gypsy and Other Poems’ published in 1919 by Methuen, London. His poems were included in ten WW1 anthologies. You can read “The Secret Battle” on the Project Gutenberg website

“The Beach at Anzac” by Frank Crozier

‘The Helles Hotel’ by Sub-Lieutenant A. P. Herbert, Hawke Battalion, RND

When I consider how my life is spent

In this dark world of sugar-cards and queues,

Where none but babes get proper nourishment

And meanly men remunerate the Muse,

I dream of holidays when Peace is sent,

But not such dreams as common persons use –

I know a headland at the Dardanelles

Where I shall build the best of all hotels.

I know a cliff-top where the wealthy guest

From languid balconies shall each day view

Far over Samothrace the tired sun rest

And melt, a marvel, into Europe’s blue,

To come back blushing out of Asia’s breast

And hang, at noon, divided ‘twixt the two,

While shuttered casements looking out to Troy

Shall faintly stimulate the Fifth-form boy.

There shall they have, with those delicious skies,

All that rich ease for which the Armies prayed,

Nor dust nor drought nor shortage of supplies,

But long cool glasses in the cypress’ shade,

And starlight suppers, and, of course, no flies,

And in their bathing-place no mules decayed;

Shall swim in the Aegean, if they want,

Or go and do it in the Hellespont.

There shall they hear from olives overhead

The cricket call to them and no shells sing,

While painted lizards flash before the sudden Spring;

Shall walk, unblended by disease and dread,

Where myrtle beckons and rock-roses cling,

And find it difficult to tell their aunts

The proper names of all these funny plants.

There shall they see across the storied Sound

Some snow-peak glisten like a muffled star,

And murmur, “That’s Olympus, I’ll be bound,”

And tread old battle-fields where vineyards are;

With scarred young veterans they’ll amble round

The Turks’ entanglements at Sedd-el-Bahr,

And practice at a reasonable charge

Heroic landings in the hotel barge.

But there are dates when tourists shall be Banned,

High dates in April and of early June,

When only they that bear the Helles Brand,

A few tired Captains and the Tenth Platoon,

Shall see strange shadows in that flowery land,

And ghostly cruisers underneath the moon:

They only then shall scale the sunny hills,

And they alone shall have no heavy bills.

First published in ‘The Bomber Gipsy’ by Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1919.

Copyright by A. P. Watt on behalf of Crystal Gale & Jocelyn Herbert.

As reproduced by Len Sellers in his magazine ‘RND’ issue No.18, Sept. 2001

“The Beach at Anzac” by Frank Crozier (1883 - 1948) – Australian artist

Thursday, 10 September 2020

A translation of August Stramm's poem "Kriegsbrag" by AC Benus

 A translation of August Stramm's poemm "Kriegsbrag" by AC Benus

“Field Grave”

Pickets plead cross-armed 

Writing pales, faded, unknown 

Blooms of promise mock 

Diffident ash and dust.

Silica flashes 




Original : "Kriegsgrab" by August Stramm

Stäbe flehen kreuze Arme

Schrift zagt blasses Unbekannt

Blumen frechen

Staube schüchtern.





AC Benus is the author of a wonderful book about the German soldier poet Hans Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele "The Thousandth Regiment." 

Thursday, 3 September 2020

August Stramm (1874 –1915) - German war poet and playwright considered to have been among the first of the expressionists

With thanks to Discover War Poets @war_poets on Twitter for reminding me that I had not researched August Stramm

August Stramm, WW1
Born in Münster, Westphalia, Germany on 29th July 1874, August went to work for the German Post Office when he left school. He worked in the postal service of ships that sailed the Bremen to New York route, which enabled him to visit America.  In 1902, August married the German novelist Else Kraft and the couple had two children.  August, who had served his military service in the Imperial German Army, was a reservist with the rank of Captain.  He was therefore among the first to be called out for military service in 1914 and saw action in the Vosges, in Alsace and on the Western Front. 

In January 1915, August was made company commander to the newly formed Infantry Regiment 272, which was stationed at Oise, near the Somme River in northern France.  He was awarded the Iron Cross (Second Class) for courage under fire. On 1st September 1915, August  led an attack against the Imperial Russian Army in the Rokitno Marshes. The attack degenerated into brutal hand-to-hand combat and Stramm, who had been in action 70 times in all, was shot in the head by a Russian soldier. August Stramm' was buried with full military honors at Gorodets, in the Kobryn District of modern Belarus, on October 2, 1915.

"Kriegsgrab" (Translation: War Grave) by August Stramm

Stäbe flehen kreuze Arme
Schrift zagt blasses Unbekannt
Blumen frechen
Staube schüchtern.


“War Grave”

Sticks form a cross
Faint inscription reads ‘unknown’
Impudent flowers
Dust settling.

The Rokitno Marshes separated the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army from the XII corps; the few roads that traversed the region were narrow and largely unimproved. That left a wide gap and the Third Army Corps of the Imperial Russian Army poured in before the Austro-Hungarian Second Army's transfer from Serbia was complete. The Russians soon captured the valuable railhead at Lemberg (now Lviv), which at that time was in the far east of Austria-Hungary (now part of the western Ukraine), as a result. Throughout the rest of the war, the wetlands remained one of the principal geographic obstacles of the Eastern Front.

Painting of the Rokitno Marshes by Russian artist Ivan Shishkin

Works by August Stramm:

Die Bauern (Drama 1902/05)
Auswanderer! (Essay 1903)
Das Welteinheitsporto. Historische, kritische und finanzpolitische Untersuchungen über die Briefpostgebührensätze des Weltpostvereins und ihre Grundlagen. Halle, Kaemmerer 1910 (Dissertation online – Internet Archive)
Das Opfer (Drama 1909, verschollen)
Der Gatte (Drama 1909/11)
Die Unfruchtbaren (Drama um 1910) (online – Internet Archive)
Rudimentär (Drama um 1910)
Sancta Susanna (Drama um 1912, Grundlage für Paul Hindemiths Operneinakter Sancta Susanna)
Die Haidebraut (Drama 1914)
Der Letzte (Prosa 1914)
Warten (Prosa 1914)
Traumwiese (Gedicht um 1914, verschollen)
Erwachen (Drama 1914) (online – Internet Archive)
Die Menschheit (Gedicht 1914/17)
Kräfte (Drama 1914) (online – Internet Archive)
Krieg (unvollendetes Drama 1914, verschollen)
Blüte (Gedicht 1914)
Du (Liebesgedichte 1915)
Vorfrühling (1915)
Untreu (1915)
Weltwehe (Gedicht 1915)
Geschehen (Drama postum 1915) (online – Internet Archive)
Tropfblut (Gedichte postum 1919)
Frostfeuer (Gedicht 1914)
Sturmangriff (Gedicht 1915)
Vorübergehen (Gedicht 1915)

Sources: Discover War Poets
Portrait of August Stramm and painting of the Marshes by Russian artist Ivan Shishkin