Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Christmas themed poems

Here are two poems commemorating Christmastide of the First World War:

The Christmas Truce 1914 by E. Blanche Terry

Fiercely, wildly, rages now the battle,
Around is desolation, pain and death,
And through the din is heard the dread death-rattle
Of victims gasping out their failing breath.

Cannons loudly roaring, bullets flying,
Everywhere the sound of shot and shell,
Making for the miserably dying
A terrible and deaf'ning funeral knell.

More desperately still the battle rages,
Many heroes fall and some must die,
No hope of armistice or peace assuages
Wounded victims' piercing agony.

Darkness now approaches; through the hours
Of night created for man's rest and peace,
Those unsatisfied, malignant powers,
Refuse e'en now to bid the conflict cease.

Hark! a distant sound which keeps repeating
From childhood's hour, known and loved so well:
Can it be the angels' Christmas greeting
Convey'd so sweetly in a Convent bell?

It makes the nerves with strange sensations tingle,
Brings thoughts of home, fond thoughts of happier times;
Is it fancy, or do voices mingle
With the ringing of those Christmas chimes?

Surely there are angel-voices stealing
Through the atmosphere of death and pain,
Heavenly messengers to earth appealing
For love and peace; must they appeal in vain?

“Christians, awake!” still faintly in the distance,
Far away, the sound comes faint and dim,
And yet those voices with a strange insistance
Repeat the words of that loved Christmas hymn.

It is no dream, for hark! ten thousand voices
Moved with one impulse the sad silence break,
And heart of friend and foe alike rejoices
At those familiar words “Christians, awake!”

A friendly face peeps out above the trenches,
The sun bursts forth in crimson splendour, while
A friendly hand the hand of foeman clenches
And demons flee aghast and angels smile.

And others quickly follow their example,
Too glad to spend a day of rest and peace;
This Holy Day is one most precious sample
Of days that are to be when battles cease.

Soft words from foreign lips console the dying,
For now, when all are friends, who is the foe?
And tender hands soothe those in anguish lying,
The very hands, perchance, which laid them low.

And all are now in harmony united,
Exchange of gentle, courteous words takes place;
Kind actions with kind actions are requited,
And God's own peace is shining on each face.

Too soon those precious hours of peace are ended,
Too soon must fade the soft'ning evening light,
No longer must the trench be undefended,
The Christmas truce must end on Christmas night.

And long before black night takes down her awning
That shields the sleeping world from light of day,
The murmuring voices of the troops give warning,
All thoughts of gentle peace have passed away.

For Britain's pledges must remain unbroken,
Her friends she cannot in their need deny,
Words are sacred still that once were spoken,
The knot of friendship nothing can untie.

Britain's hero sons can bear the anguish,
Of parting with the ones they love so well,
To fight—and die if needful—or to languish
Unloved, uncared for in a prison-cell.

Knowing that the fate of every nation
Hangs in the balance, and that Britain's hand
Must stay the power that carries devastation
Into every sweet, peace-loving land.

Some heroes still are fighting, some are sleeping,
In the deep silence which no voice can break,
Until the guardian-angels, vigil keeping,
Shall whisper tenderly—“Christians, awake!”


"A Carol from Flanders" by Frederick Niven

Frederick Niven (1878 - 1944)

Frederick Niven was born in Valparaiso in Chile.  His parents were originally from Scotland.  He was educated in Glasgow from the age of five at Hutcheson's Grammar School and then the Glasgow School of Art.  Niven worked for a time in his father's textile business and then worked as a librarian in Glasgow and Edinburgh.     He contracted a respiratory disease and in 1899 was sent to Canada for treatment.  Together with two friends, Niven trekked through the Okanagan Valley and the Kootenays.   Back in Scotland, he wrote about his experiences and the accounts were published in newspapers and magazines in Glasgow and London as well as in America.

In 1911, Niven married Mary Pauline Thorne-Quelch.   In 1912 and 1913 he again travelled to Canada as a freelance writer.

During the First World War, Niven worked at the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Information.

After the war, Niven and his wife emigrated to Canada where they lived in British Columbia and he continued to write.  He died in 1944.

"A Carol from Flanders"

In Flanders on the Christmas morn
The trenched foemen lay,
the German and the Briton born,
And it was Christmas Day.

The red sun rose on fields accurst,
The gray fog fled away;
But neither cared to fire the first,
For it was Christmas Day!

They called from each to each across
The hideous disarray,
For terrible has been their loss:
"Oh, this is Christmas Day!"

Their rifles all they set aside,
One impulse to obey;
'Twas just the men on either side,
Just men — and Christmas Day.

They dug the graves for all their dead
And over them did pray:
And Englishmen and Germans said:
"How strange a Christmas Day!"

Between the trenches then they met,
Shook hands, and e'en did play
At games on which their hearts were set
On happy Christmas Day.

Not all the emperors and kings,
Financiers and they
Who rule us could prevent these things —
For it was Christmas Day.

Oh ye who read this truthful rime
From Flanders, kneel and say:
God speed the time when every day
Shall be as Christmas Day.

I wish you all a Happy and peaceful Christmas.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Commemorating Bradford's WW1 Poet - Humbert Wolfe (1885 - 1940)

Bradford City Library is to have a special commemorative head of the Italian-born British poet Humbert Wolfe sculpted by his great-great-nephew Anthony Padgett.  There will be an unveiling ceremony on 5th December and the sculpture will be on view in the Library from 6th December 2015.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Coningsby Dawson (1883 - 1959) - English-born, American educated, Canadian soldier during WW1

I have just received this from a friend is America who is himself a poet and interested in First World War poetry. 

Coningsby Dawson.  Dawson was born in High Wycombe in England, raised in America, attended Merton College, Oxford, became a very minor poet and popular novelist in his day.   When WWI broke out, he went to Canada where he trained in artillery and from where he was sent to the Somme in 1916.  He survived the war, though he was wounded. Dawson's WW1 collection ‘Carry On’ was published by his father, W.J. Dawson, who was also a minor poet.  The book, available as a download on Gutenberg, contains Coningsby’s letters home, which are of significant interest in part because he survived the war, in part because he was highly literate, and in part because he writes from the perspective of an English-American-Canadian man. 

In the front of the volume is a poem by Eric P. Dawson, Sub. Lieut, R.N.V.R,, Coningsby’s brother.  Both his brothers served at sea during The Great War.  Here’s the poem, for your collection if you do not already have it:




At length when the war’s at an end

  And we’re just ourselves, -- you, and I,

And we gather our lives up to mend,

  We, who’ve learned how to live and to die:


Shall we think of the old ambition

  For riches, or how to grow wise,

When, like Lazarus freshly arisen,

  We’ve the presence of Death in our eyes?


Shall we dream of old life’s passion—

  To toil for our heart’s desire,

Whose souls War has taken to fashion

  With molten death and with fire:


I think we shall crave the laughter

  Of the wind through trees gold with the sun,

When our strife is all finished, -- after

            The carnage of war is done.


Just these things will then seem worth while:--

  How to make Life more wondrously sweet;

How to live with a song and a smile,

  How to lay our lives at Love’s feet.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Tom Kettle (1880 - 1916) - Irish barrister, economist, poet, writer, journalist, politician and soldier

Thomas Michael Kettle was born in Artane in Dublin.  His father was Andrew J. Kettle, a farmer and his mother was Margaret, nee McCourt.   Tom was educated at the Christian Brothers O'Connell School in Dublin, Clongowes Wood College in County Kildare and University College Dublin.   In 1900 he travelled in Europe, where he studied French and German.   An advocate of home rule for Ireland, Tom qualified as a barrister in 1905.  In 1906 he was elected as the MP for East Tyrone.

At University, Tom met Mary Sheehy and the couple were married in September 1909.  Their daughter, Elizabeth, was born in 1913.

In 1914, Tom was in Belgium at the outbreak of war and wrote articles about what he witnessed for 'The Daily News'.   When Ireland entered the war on the side of the Allies, Tom joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and applied to be sent to the Western Front.  He was killed on 9th September 1916, leading his men at Guinchy in the Battle of the Somme, France.   He has no known grave.

In his book "Walking like a Queen  Irish Impressions" G.K. Chesterton referred to Tom as a scholar, a wit and an orator and ambitious in the arts of peace.  

To my Daughter Betty

In wiser days, my darling rosebud, blown
To beauty proud as was your Mother's prime.
In that desired, delayed, incredible time,
You'll ask why I abandoned you, my own,
And the dear heart that was your baby throne,
To dice with death.  And oh! they'll give you rhyme
And reason:  some will call the thing sublime,
And some decry it in a knowing tone.
So here, while the mad
 guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,
But for a dream, born in a herdsman's shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor.

Tom wrote the poem four days before he was killed.

From "The War Poets  An Anthology" published for The Great Writers Library, by Marshall Cavendish Partworks Ltd, London, 1988

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Laurence Binyon (1869 - 1943) - British

Robert Laurence Binyon was born on 10th August 1869 in Lancaster.   Laurence was the son of Frederick Binyon and his wife Mary, nee Dockray.

A pupil of St. Paul's School in London, Laurence went on to study classics at Oxford University, joining Trinity College.  He began work at the Department of Printed Books of the British Museum.

In 1904, Laurence married Cicely Margaret Powell, a historian and they had three daughters.

Laurence was friends with fellow poets Ezra Pound, Richard Aldington and Hilda Dolittle (known as H.D.).
His most famous poem is "For the Fallen" which was written sitting on a cliff top in Cornwall after the Battles of Mons and The Marne had caused terrible casualties on the Western Front.  He volunteered for war work in spite of being too old and became a hospital worker in Arc-en-Ballois, France.

Sir Edward Elgar set three of Laurence's poems to music and published these as "The Spirit of England" in 1917.

After a long and distinguished career, Laurence retired from the British Museum in 1933 and retired to Streatley in Berkshire.  He was appointed Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard in 1933 and Byron Professor of English Literature in Athens University, leaving just prior to the German invasion of Greece in 1941.

Laurence died on 10th March 1943 in Reading, Berkshire.

Laurence Binyon's WW1 anthology "The Winnowing Fan  Poems on The Great War" was published in 1914 by Houghton Mifflin Company, New York and Boston

Laurence Binyon's most famous work is "For the Fallen" which is quoted regularly at commemorative events when the lines from the fourth verse - "At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them" and "They shall not grow old, as we grow old: Age shall not weary them or the years condemn" are repeated.

Read the whole poem here

Sir Thomas Brock RA "Aid for the Fallen" from King Albert's Book, published in 1914 in aid of the Daily Telegraph Fund for Belgium.

Sir Edmund Gosse on Belgian Poets

In "King Albert's Book" which was published at Christmas 1914 by Hodder and Stoughton in aid of the Daily Telegraph Fund for Belgium, Sir Edmund Gosse wrote about Belgian poets:

Max Waller who founded 'La Jeune Belgue'
Charles van Leerberghe
Georges Rodenbach
Emile Verhaeren
Maurice Maeterlinck
Andre Fontainas
Max Elskamp
Albert Mockel
Albert Giraud

King Albert's Book is available as a download on Archive:

Harold Begbie (1871 - 1929) - British poet, writer and journalist

Edward Harold Begbie was the fifth son of Mars Hamilton Begbie and his wife Anna Eliza. Harold's father was an Anglican Church priets and Rector of the Parish Church of Farnham St. Martin in Suffolk.  Although he first became a farmer, Harold later moved to London where he joined 'The Daily Chronicle' newspaper and later 'The Globe' newspaper as a journalist.

In 1892, Harold married Alice Gertrude Seal and they had five daughters, Janet, who was also a poet, Joan, Gertrude, Eve and Eleanor. During the First World War, Harold wrote recruiting poems and travelled to America to try to help the war effort on behalf of his newspaper. 

Harold Begbie's WW1 poetry collection "Fighting Lines and Various Reinforcements: Poems" was published by Constable in 1914.  His poems were included in 16 WW1 poetry anthologies.

Harold died in London in 1929.

With thanks to Roger Quin, Harold's grandson, for information and for the photograph of the Begbie family.

And here is one of Harold's poems
HANDING DOWN by Harold Begbie

This is the WW1 poem I first read at the age of seven.  It was handwritten in my Aunt's little black book commemorating the First World War. Sadly, her book went astray during a house move some years ago. I have been searching for the poem ever since.  Aunt Audrey was in the Wrens during WW2. She emigrated to South Africa after the war and died there.  She left her notebook and a photo album with my Mother. I read both avidly.   The poem always made me cry.  I can honestly say that is where my interest in WW1 poetry came from.

Soldier what are you writing
By the side of your cooling gun?
Sir, since Im stopped from fightings
A word to my little son.

Tell me the thing you've written
For I love the writer's art:
Sir, that to be a Briton
Is worth a broken heart.

Show me so fine a letter
That you write in the trenches mud:
Sir, you could read it better
Were it not for the stain of blood.

Soldier tell me your story
Your eyes grow bright and wide:
Sir, it's a taste of glory
To think of the young one's pride.

Would you like to be a soldier, little Tommy-all-my-own,
Would you like to tip the Kaiser off his high and mighty throne?
Would you like to be with father in a well-dug British trench,
Knocking spots off German Generals and saluting General French?

Would I like to be with Tommy, little Tommy-all-my-own,
Would I give a month of Sundays just to see how he has grown?
Yes ! Id like to be a dustman in the poorest London streets
For the chance of meeting Tommy with a gumboil made of sweets.

If you want to be where I am, why, I want to be with you.
But I'm here to show a tyrant that a Briton's word is true
We must stand by little Belgium, we must fight till fighting ends.
We must show the foes of Britain that we don't desert our friends.

Don't you go and think, my Tommy, little Tommy-all-my-own.
That we're squabbling here for nothing, that we're growling for a bone:
We are here for Britain's honour, for our freedom, for our peace.
And we're also here, my Tommy, that these wicked wars may cease.

Don't you say that I am funky, don't you say that I am sick,
Boy, I'm half afraid to tell you, but I love it when it's thick —
When the shells are screaming, bursting, and the whistling bullets wail,
God forgive me, but I love it, and I fight with tooth and nail.

But it's after, looking round us, missing friends and finding dead.
It is then the British soldier gets a fancy in his head.
And he swears by God in heaven that the man who starts a war.
Should go swimming into judgment down an avalanche of gore.

That's what makes us such great fighters, and I'd have you be the same,
Love your country like a good un, hold your head up, play the game,
Be a straight and pleasant neighbour, be a cool, un-ruffled man.
But when bullies want a thrashing, why, you thrash them all you can.

While you say your prayers, my Tommy, little Tommy-all-my-own,
Asking God to save your Daddy, I send this one to His throne:
Save my little lad from slaughter, guard his heart and mind from wrong,
Keep him sweet and kind and gentle, yes, but make him awful strong.

Good-night, my little Tommy, here's your Daddy's good-bye kiss.
Don't forget what I have told you, and remember also this —
If I don't come back to see you, I shall die without a groan,
For it's great to fall for Freedom, little Tommy-all- my-own.  

A huge thank you to Ann Swabey for finding the poem for me

With grateful thanks to Janet Begbie's Great-nephew Roger Quin for his help with information about the Begbie family and for kindly allowing reproduction of this photograph.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Arthur Lewis Jenkins (1892 - 1917) and Elinor Jenkins (1893 - 1920) - British brother and sister poets of WW1

I found one or two husband and wife poets but this is the first time I have found a brother and sister who were both poets: 

Arthur Lewis Jenkins (1892 - 1917)

Arthur Lewis Jenkins was the eldest son of Sir John Lewis Jenkins, KCSI. He was born in Gloucestershire on 9th March 1892.   His mother was Florence Mildred Jenkins, nee Trevor, who was born in India. Florence's father was Sir Arthur  Charles Trevor KCSI.   Arthur's siblings were Elinor Jenkins (WW1 poet) born in India in around 1893, Evan Meredith Jenkins, born in 1896 - who became a Governor of the Punjab - Joyce Angharad Jenkins, born in 1897, David Llewellyn Jenkins, born in 1899 - who became Baron Jenkins a high court judge - John Vaughn Jenkins, born in 1903, and Owain Trevor Jenkins, born in 1907 - who was later knighted.

Although their Father lived in India and their mother spent some time there, the Jenkins children were educated in England, where they lived at the family home in Littleham, Exmouth, Devon.

Arthur studied at Marlborough College after winning a scholarship to attend the school, where he eventually became Head Boy.  He went on to study classics at Balliol College, Oxford and after a career in the army, planned to follow his father into the Indian Civil Service.

Commissioned into the British Army in 1911, Arthur was sent with his Regiment to India, then to Aden and later to Egypt.  Arthur joined the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War and was killed while on a training flight on 31st December 1917 at the age of 25.  He is buried in Richmond Cemetery in Surrey.

Some of his poems were published in "Punch" magazine during his lifetime and a collection of his work was published by Sidgwick &  Jackson under the title "Forlorn Adventures (and other poems)"  in 1918.   Some of Arthur's poems were also included in WW1 poetry anthologies.


Roll of Honour;
"Western Mail" Thursday, 3 January 1918
Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978)

Elinor Jenkins (c. 1893 - 1920)

Elinor May Jenkins was born in India where her father, Sir John Lewis Jenkins KCSI, was a civil servant and became Vice President of the Indian Viceroy's Council.  Elinor's mother was Florence Mildred Jenkins, nee Trevor, who was also born in India. Florence's father was Sir Arthur  Charles Trevor KCSI.   Elinor's six siblings were Arthur Lewis Jenkins, born in 1892 - who also became a poet - Evan Meredith Jenkins, born in 1896 - who became a Governor of the Punjab - Joyce Angharad Jenkins, born in 1897, David Llewellyn Jenkins, born in 1899 - who became Baron Jenkins a high court judge - John Vaughn Jenkins, born in 1903, and Owain Trevor Jenkins, born in 1907 - who was later knighted.

The Jenkins children were educated in England, where they lived at the family home in Littleham, Exmouth, Devon. Elinor attended Southlands School in Exmouth.  In 1912, following the death of Elinor's father, the family went to live in Kew.

Elinor died during the influenza epidemic on 28th February 1920 at the family home in Richmond - she was 26 years old.  Her collection of WW1 poems was published under the title "Poems" by Sidgwick and Jackson of London in 1915.  Elinor's poems were also included in several WW1 anthologies.


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

With many thanks to Jacky Rodgers, who found the information about Arthur while researching his sister the poet Elinor Jenkins and for additional information thanks are also due to Phil Dawes, Dean Echenberg, Ian Glen, Arts and Humanities Librarian at Swansea University and
Sidgwick and Jackson.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (1878 - 1962)

One of the best things about this commemorative WW1 exhibition project is that people get in touch regularly and I am truly grateful to them.  Michael posted a comment on the List of Forgotten Poets found so far about Wilfrid W. Gibson, pointing out that I had mis-spelt his name and that he did not in fact serve on the Western Front as some earlier researchers believed.  Thank you Michael, that entry on the List has now been corrected.  Michael also gave me the link to a website by Judy Greenway, a relative of Wilfred Gibson and it is very interesting indeed.

Many thanks to everyone who has sent me e-mails, messages on Facebook and/or left comments on my weblog - together we will find and remember them all.


Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Saga continues... (who wrote the poem 'Red, Red Road to Hogue'?)

There's more!  

Geoff Harrison has just sent me this:  

"It gets more and more interesting. Simon Featherstone in his anthology ' War poetry - an introductory reader' attributes it to Pte. W. Lloyd of the 12th Sherwood's. Corporal G. E Attwood of the 2nd London Regiment had it published. ( not sure of date) 

Pte John Hughes, of the Leinster regiment had 'his' poem published in the Longford Leader on 15th Jan 1916. 

Pte W.J Walton also wrote it. His nephew John Walton published the ' manuscript' in a Buckingham and District newsletter. And then, finally ( for now), the National Archives have the private papers of one Thomas Moore Emmanual Ward (Ted) of the Sherwoods'. Ward was part of the group responsible for the wiper's times. The copy is a handwritten manuscript. So Lucy, the plot thickens. That's at least 8 possible sources. Geoff Harrison, 19th August 2015.

Many thanks indeed Geoff.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Replies regarding the author of the poem 'The Red, Red Road to Hooge'

Michael Day and James Grant Repshire both kindly replied and re-tweeted my Tweet asking for help in finding the author of the poem 'The Red, Red road to Hooge' mentioned in an earlier post.

Michael sent me this reply :

Quick searches reveal several other versions of this poem published during the war, but none seem to be earlier than the Burton Daily Mail version that you have referred to. 

Here are those that I've found: The Brecon County Times, 24 February 1916, published a version referring to the "Medical and Ambulance Brigade," attributed to Private T. Peace, R.A.M.C., B.E.F. 

The Whitby Gazette, 24 March 1916 published a version adapted in various places to refer to the Royal Fusiliers and the Rifle Brigade; it was attributed to Lance Corporal W. Marshall, Royal Fusiliers, attached Military Mounted Police, the son of Robert Marshall, Smith's Yard, Church Street, Whitby. It is described as "a description of the advance on Hooge, September 25th 1915." 

The Ottawa Evening Citizen, 14 June 1916, published a 'Canadian' version that it explained as being: “enclosed by Brig.-Gen. Victor Williams to Col. Gwynne of the Canadian militia, in a letter under date of May 29.
James suggested searching the archives of the Staffordshire Regiment and I have sent an e-mail to the research department of the Regiment's museum.

Many thanks indeed Michael and James.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Can anyone help find the true writer of the WW1 poem 'The Red, Red Road to Hooge'?

I wasn't sure whether this should come under the heading Fascinating Facts or Forgotten Poets of the First World War.   All help in solving this mystery will be greatly appreciated and I will, as always, credit those who help me.

Andrew Thornton, who runs the wonderful Facebook Group which is all 
about the professional soldiers of the First World War - the 'Old Contemptibles' of which my Grandfather was one - has posted a very interesting poem.  

Andrew says:

"I came across this poem today while doing some research. I haven't seen it before, but thought you would like to read it:


“On parade – get your spade;
Fall in the “Shovel and Pick Brigade;”
There’s a “Carry Fatigue” for half a league,
And a trench to dig with a spade.
Through the dust and ruins of Ypres town,
The “Seventeen Inch” still battering down;
Spewing death with its fiery breath;
On the red, red road to Hooge.

Who is the one whose time has come.
Who won’t return when the work is done.
Who’ll leave his bones on the blood-stained stones
Of the red, red road to Hooge?
Onward the Staffords – never a stop;
To the sand-bagged trench, and over the top;
Over the top, if a “packet” you stop.
On the red, red road to Hooge.

The burst and the road of a hand grenade,
Welcome us on to the death parade;
The Pit of Gloom – the Valley of Doom
The Crater – down at Hooge.
Full many a soldier from the Rhine
Must sleep to-night in a bed of lime,
‘Tis a pitiless grave for a brave or a knave,
Is the Crater – down at Hooge.

Hark to the stand to fusillade.
Sling your rifle, bring your spade,
And fade away, ‘ere break of day,
Or a hole you’ll fill at Hooge.
Call the roll – and another name
Is sent to swell the Roll of Fame;
So we carve a cross to mark the loss
Of a chum who fell at Hooge.

Not a deed for the paper man to write,
No glorious charge in the dawning light;
The “Daily Mail” won’t tell the tale
Of the night work out at Hooge.
But our General knows, and his praise we’ve won,
He’s pleased with the work the Staffords have done,
In the shot and shell at the gates of hell,
On the red, red road to Hooge.”

The poem was attributed to an unidentified soldier from Derby who served with the 1st Battalion, The North Staffordshire Regiment, and was published in 'The Derby Evening Telegraph' on 7th October 1915.  The same poem, this time attributed to 8962 Private William Woolley, who served with the 1st Battalion, The North Staffordshire Regiment, was published in 'The Burton Daily Mail' on 12th October 1915.

The poem was also published in 'The Burton Daily Mail' on 6th December 1915. Based on what the lines mention, I would say the fighting during July and August 1915 were the inspiration.  The 6th Division  made the attack on 9th August 1915 and the 1st North Staffords and 2nd Sherwood Foresters, which both had soldiers who claimed to be the author, served at Hooge at that time. The crater mentioned in the poem was from a mine blown by the British in July.

Further research by Geoff Harrison has found other versions of the same poem.   73914 Private Jack O'Brien, who served with the 28th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, included it his in his book 'Into The Jaws of Death' (available on substituting 'Canadians' for 'Staffords', while a Private W. Lloyd of the 12th Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters, and an unidentified soldier serving with "A" Company of the 2nd Battalion of the same Regiment, also claimed authorship.  In both those cases, rather than ' Onward the Staffords', the phrase 'Onwards the Sherwoods' was substituted.

A transport cook called Frances used 'Onward the Lancs' in his version printed in a parish newspaper from Dearnley, which is in south east Lancashire.

(The photograph of Hooge was taken in July 1929 (by someone from Spalding possibly) and shows the view at Hooge looking across toward Ypres, with the Cross of Sacrifice of Hooge Crater Cemetery clearly visible.)   Andrew Thornton, August 2015

Hooge (pronounced like 'hoague-ah' in Flemish - difficult to explain!) is a village in Flanders in Belgium about four kilometres from Ypres, and was part of the famous 'Ypres Salient' on the Western Front -

My grateful thanks to Andrew Thornton and to Geoff Harrison who have both been extremely supportive of my commemorative exhibition project.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Geoffrey Wall and Leonard Wall - were they related?

I am trying to find out if there is a family connection between two young men who wrote poetry during WW1 and who were born within months of each other on the Wirral Peninsula in the north west of England. They have the same surname - Wall. 

Geoffrey Wall (see photo) was born in Liscard on the Wirral Peninsula in 1897 and was killed in a flying accident on 6th August 1917. He counts as Australian as his parents went to live in Australia when he was ten years old. Leonard Comer Wall was born in West Kirby on the Wirral Peninsula in 1896 and was killed in action in France on 9th June 1917. I'd love to know if the two Wall boys were related and also to find a photograph of Leonard. If anyone can help please get in touch.

Photo:  Geoffrey Wall.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Arthur Lewis Jenkins (1892 - 1917) update

Exciting news!  Sharon Casey, a distant cousin of Arthur Lewis Jenkins, has been in touch with me and sent me quite a lot of information and some examples of Arthur's poetry since reading the post I wrote for my Facebook Page Forgotten Poets of The First World War.

I will go through these and up-date the post but in the meantime, here is the photograph of Arthur Lewis Jenkins that Sharon kindly sent me from the Marlborough College Roll of Honour.

Thank you Sharon - I will now be able to complete the exhibition panel on Arthur Lewis Jenkins.   My dream is to have a permanent exhibition venue where the panels can be on display and where I can hold poetry readings, etc.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Arthur Waugh (1866 - 1943) - father of Evelyn and Alec

One of my favourite authors - Evely Waugh - was a schoolboy during The First World War. I have been trying to find out whether or not he wrote any poetry at that time. Alec Waugh, a Lieutenant in the Dorset Regiment who was taken prisoner in 1918, certainly did.  His collection 'Resentment: poems' was published by Grant Richard in 1918.*

I am currently reading 'Evelyn Waugh A Biography' by Selina Hastings, published by Minerva Paperbacks, London in 1995.  I was delighted to discover that the Waugh family were related to the Gosse family.  Sir Edmund Gosse is one of the Forgotten Poets of the First World War and his son Philip Gosse MD features in Fascinating Facts of the Great War, as he was for a time the British 2nd Army's Rat Catcher Officer on the Western Front - rats being among the problems encountered there at that time.

Arthur Waugh's cousin Sir Edmund Gosse was apparently a great influence on him and the Waughs regularly attended literary salons held at the Gosse household.  Siegfried Sassoon's family were also great friends of the Gosse family - in one of his letters to his mother from the Western Front, SS mentioned the arrival in his Regiment of a young officer who wrote poetry - Robert Graves.

Arthur Waugh was also a poet and I am now curious as to whether or not he wrote poetry during The First World War.

The photograph of Arthur Waugh is from Ian MacFarlaine's excellent website

* see Catherine Reilly's 'English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography' (published by St Martin's Press, New York, 1978) page 331.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Arthur Lewis Jenkins (1892 - 1917)

I was really pleased to discover brother and sister WW1 poets - Arthur and Elinor Jenkins (see Female Poets of the First World War) with many thanks to Jacky Rodger who has kindly been helping me with my research.

Arthur Lewis Jenkins was the eldest son of Sir John Lewis Jenkins, KCSI. He was born in Gloucestershire on 9th March 1892.   His mother was Florence Mildred Jenkins, nee Trevor, who was born in India. Florence's father was Sir Arthur  Charles Trevor KCSI.   Arthur's siblings were Elinor Jenkins (WW1 poet) born in India in around 1893, Evan Meredith Jenkins, born in 1896 - who became a Governor of the Punjab - Joyce Angharad Jenkins, born in 1897, David Llewellyn Jenkins, born in 1899 - who became Baron Jenkins a high court judge - John Vaughn Jenkins, born in 1903, and Owain Trevor Jenkins, born in 1907 - who was later knighted.

Although their Father lived in India and their mother spent some time there, the Jenkins children were educated in England, where they lived at the family home in Littleham, Exmouth, Devon.

Arthur studied at Marlborough College after winning a scholarship to attend the school, where he eventually became Head Boy.  He went on to study classics at Balliol College, Oxford and after a career in the army, planned to follow his father into the Indian Civil Service.

Commissioned into the British Army in 1911, Arthur was sent with his Regiment to India, then to Aden and later to Egypt.  Arthur joined the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War and was killed while on a training flight on 31st December 1917 at the age of 25.  He is buried in Richmond Cemetery in Surrey.

Some of his poems were published in "Punch" magazine during his lifetime and a collection of his work was published by Sidgwick &  Jackson under the title "Forlorn Adventures (and other poems)"  in 1918.   Some of Arthur's poems were also included in WW1 poetry anthologies.

With many thanks to Jacky Rodgers who found the information about Arthur while researching his sister the poet Elinor Jenkins.

Roll of Honour;
"Western Mail" Thursday, 3 January 1918
Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978) 

I have not yet been able to find a photograph of Arthur but will keep searching.  

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Book Review: "Images of the Great War" by Lawrence Dunn, published by Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd., London, 2015

Lawrence Dunn, an artist from Sunderland, guides us through a brief history of the First World War featuring a selection of images by some of the British and Empire artists, cartoonists, poets, photographers and sculptors of the time -  paintings, drawings, illustrations and photographs, many of which are from the author's own collection.  With the skill that only an artist has, Lawrence encourages us to have a closer look at some of those works and in so doing brings the conflict to life as never before. In many instances, Lawrence also invites the reader to compare the styles of artists who have painted the same view or person.  

Lawrence includes poetry in between each artist featured, skilfully creating a bridge to the next artist. I was very pleased to see among the poets he chose are quite a few on my List of Forgotten Poets of the First World War.  I have already written panels for some of the poets from Lawrence's book where you will find poems by Laurence Binyon, Rupert Brooke, John McCrae, Charles Hamilton Sorley, Alan Seeger, Thomas Kettle, Isaac Rosenberg, Francis Ledwidge,  Edmund Blunden and Edward Thomas.  Also featured are poems by Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen but they don't need to be on the Forgotten Poets list…

I already knew the names of quite a few of the WW1 artists that Lawrence has included but there were many that were new to me.  I was interested to see that Lawrence has dedicated the book to his second cousin, Corporal Michael Davison of the Northumberland Fusiliers (1st Tyneside Irish).  Michael was an underground putter at Ryhope Colliery when he enlisted in 1914 and was killed on the first day of the Battle of Arras - Easter Monday, 9th April 1917.  My great-uncle James Yule was a Private in the Northumberland Fusiliers, 23rd (Tyneside Scottish) Battalion and he too was killed on 9th April 1917, as were the poets R.E. Vernède and Edward Thomas,  

Beginning with Lady Elizabeth Butler, both male and female WW1 artists of all disciplines are represented in the book painters, cartoonists, photographers, sculptors and so on.  But this book is not just about the artists, poets and pictures of WW1, Lawrence goes into detail about some of the battles and includes personal stories about the artists and the areas and subjects depicted.   On page 137 you will find paintings by the artist William Patrick Roberts, who was at the Battle of Arras on 9th April 1917 and is therefore of special interest to me.

If I had to choose one picture, it would be "Merry-Go-Round" by Mark Gertler.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would highly recommend it.

"Images of the Great War" by Lawrence Dunn, published by Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd., London, 2015 

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Hartley Munro Thomas (1896 - 1970) - Canadian

Born in Vancouver but of Scottish origin, Hartley Munro Thomas joined the Canadian Infantry Battalion the 131st Westminsters and was posted to the Western Front.

In the Introduction to Thomas's WW1 collection of poems, S.W. Dyde, who was at the time the Principal of Queen's Theological College, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, said:

"When the war broke out young Hartley was just eighteen, and was taking an honors course in History andPolitical Science in Queen's University at Kingston. He enlisted immediately, only to find himself unfit. Thereupon he settled down to take his officer's training, and was at once given the position of war editor of the Regina Province. 

After this experience in journalism, he taught school in a settlement of Germans and Swedes in southern Saskatchewan until he became fit for service. Then going home to Vancouver, he was given a commission in the 131st Westminsters, and, at the outbreak of the Somme offensive, was one of a special draft of officerssent forward. Thus he served with the Western Scots, and in one of his last poems, 'The Pipes o' War', can be seen the pride he took in his Highland regiment. He was proud of Highland blood, and the tartans meantmuch to him. 

After the taking of Vimy Ridge he was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, enthusiasm for which had long filled his letters. He was soon flying with Sir Julian Byng's army and shared in the adventures of the Cambrai offensive."

"Songs of an Airman and other poems" was published in 1918 by McClelland, Goodchild and Stewart, Toronto and can be read on-line here

See also "We wasn't pals: Canadian Poetry and Prose of the First World War" edited by Barry Callaghan and Bruce Meyer and published by Exile Editions, Ontario, Canada, 2001 

Photo: Hartley Munro Thomas from

I have been unable to find out more about Hartley Munro Thomas.  Can anyone help please?

Saturday, 18 April 2015

A message from our Honorary President, Lady Jennifer MacLellan about Rupert Brooke

Rupert Brooke's health had never been good, even at home, and after camping on dirty sand by the docks, in Egypt where he was probably bitten, the sore on his lip became swollen and throbbed. By the time he and Patrick Shaw-Stewart were laid up in the Casino Palace Hotel with dysentery he should have stayed there but refused and was in bed for three days on board the "Grantully Castle".   

They sailed up to Gallipoli but the first attack was aborted and that was when the fleet was sent to Lemnos and Skyros.   Rupert thought he had heat stroke at first due to the extreme heat they were in under canvas.   It was probably a combination of everything but the bite went septic and that gradually spread so without antibiotics, nothing could be done.

All this is well recorded by Christopher Hassall's  biography and other reports and I give them more credence than the perhaps a bit whimsical French Log, who were only involved on the last two days because they were brilliantly equipped to cope with the expected casualties and he was nursed in excellent conditions and medics.   He had a much better death than those who died later which must have been a comfort to his mother and friends.

My father hardly mentions the two crosses, made on the ship, and there has been much conjecture as to how they got back to England.   I have been asked several times.   I can only assume he must have brought them back to Athens at any rate, after that , not much is known.

Peter Miller, with whom I corresponded many years ago, of Rugby, produced a very nice little book "the Cross of Skyros" in which he says SC reported to the British Ambassaor inAthens that he had brought back the large cross and left the small one on the grave, it was still there in 1924.   He also says SC compared building the grave to the Pyramids whereas he himself says Stonehenge!   We lived near the latter!

J. MacLellan, 16th April 2015

I am indebted to Lady MacLellan for her very kind help with my posts regarding Rupert Brooke.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Forgotten WW1 poets Stanley Casson and Rupert Brooke

Lady Jennifer MacLellan

It is with great pleasure that we announce that Lady Jennifer MacLellan has agreed to be the Honorary President of our Association Female Poets, Inspirational Women and Fascinating Facts of the First World War.   

Lady MacLellan is the daughter of Forgotten Poet of the First World War Lieutenant Colonel Stanley Casson (1889 - 1944) who fought in both World Wars.  She edited and published some of her father's poems in a booklet that was on sale at Craiglockhart when Dean Johnson of the Wilfred Owen Story museum in Birkenhead (Wirral Peninsula, UK) visited there with "Bullets and Daffodils", his musical drama about Wilfred Owen.   Knowing that I would be interested, Dean brought me a copy and I contacted Lady MacLellan to ask permission to write up an exhibition panel about Lt. Col. Casson.

Lady MacLellan very kindly replied, giving me a great deal of information about her father, so we asked her if she would like to be the Association's Honorary President and are delighted to announce that she has accepted.

The Link with Rupert Brooke

After the First World War, Stanley Casson was working in Athens when he was approached by a friend at the British Legation regarding the placing of a tomb over the grave of Rupert Brooke.   Rupert Brooke was commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a Sub-Lieutenant, joining the Hood Battalion, 2nd Brigade, R.N. Division.  He took part in the Royal Naval Division's expedition to Antwerp in Belgium in 1914. Rupert's Division was en route for Gallipoli in a troopship escorted by the Dreadnought Battleship "The Prince George" in 1915, when they put into Treis Bouke Bay near the Greek Island of Skyros for provisions.  According to the log of the hospital ship on which Rupert was treated, he went exploring, was bitten by a mosquito and taken ill (see post of 1st March).  According to Lady MacLellan, Rupert was already ill before arriving on the Island.   He was transferred by cutter from "The Prince George" to the French Naval Hospital Ship "Duguay-Trouin", a converted French Naval destroyer, for treatment but he died on 23rd April 1915.  

Under orders to depart for Gallipoli, Brooke's friends in the Division had buried him hastily in a secluded dell - Oliver grove - three hundred feet above sea level, surrounded by olive trees and bordered with the lovely flowers that bloom in Greece in springtime.  According to Lady MacLellan " it was a very moving event, organised by the Royal Navy, with a guard with lamps all the way up the track as the coffin was carried there.  Twelve Petty Officers were the pall bearers and it took them two hours to carry Rupert up to the Olive Grove.  The Naval Chaplain read the Church of England burial service and three volleys were fired.  His friends from the Battalion were present and Patrick Shaw-Stewart was a member of the Firing Party.

His mother was determined that Rupert should have a proper grave and, with his knowledge of Greek sculpture, Casson was the ideal person to supervise and organise the construction and transport of the two and a half tons of marble and iron railings that you will see if you visit Brooke's grave today.

The logistics of the operation are quite remarkable and are detailed in a book called "Steady Drummer" written by Stanley Casson and published in 1935 by G. Bell of London.   Lady MacLellan has kindly sent me a copy of the section concerning the grave of Rupert Brooke.  Casson had to hire a boat to transport the marble, then get to the island himself.  Once there, he had to build a small quay for the unloading of the seven or so crates containing the marble.  Once on land, there was the problem of getting the crates up the hill to the site of the grave via the only road which was a rough goat track.

Nothing daunted, Casson cut wooden rollers from pine trees and began to level the track by removing outcrops of rock on the path.   That alone took over a week.   Then the crates had to be pushed up the track and Casson mentioned how much he admired and respected the architects of Stonehenge.  During the evenings, Casson spent time with his hosts the local shepherds and goatherds on the island who offered him hospitality and shelter in their shack.   After a supper of bread and milk, they would sit round an open fire, taking about the war with the shepherds, some of whom had served in a Greek Division sent to Odessa with other Allied troops.

Returning briefly to Athens to fetch some tools to complete the task, Casson enlisted the help of Norman Douglas.  The pair returned to Skyros and oversaw the completion of the laying of marble tomb over Brooke's grave.  Finally, Casson had the tomb consecrated by the head of the local monastery of St. George.

Casson reflected sadly: "I wondered what Brooke would have thought to see this strange assembly. I came away sadly to think that here was still another of my generation accounted for.  It was a lonely world now for men of my age."  

With grateful thanks to Lady Jennifer MacLellan for agreeing to become the Honorary President of our Association, for sending me so much information and for her help and encouragement.

See post about Rupert Brooke earlier in this weblog posted on 1st March 2015. 

Monday, 30 March 2015

Julian Grenfell, DSO (1888 - 1915) - British

Yvon Davis you are amazing! Thank you so much. Yvon sends me information about forgotten poets of the First World War and has just found this link about Julian Grenfell "Via twitter @pgmhilferink: An Irishman’s Diary about war poet Julian Grenfell ‪#‎WW1‬ via @IrishTimes"

Julian Grenfell was born in London on 30th March in 1888.  He was named after his maternal Grandfather, Julian Fane, British Diplomat and poet who was a member of the Cambridge debating group "The Apostles".  Julian's parents were William Grenfell, who later became Baron Desborough, and his wife Ethel Priscilla Grenfell, nee Fane.  He was their eldest son  and was educated at Eton College and Balliol College, Oxford, where  he was a contemporary of Philip Sassoon, Siegfried's cousin.  

Julian joined the Army in 1910 and at the outbreak of WW1 was in the Royal Dragoon Guards.  He was awarded the DSO in 1914 and was mentioned twice in Dispatches.

When Julian was wounded near the Ypres-Menin Road on 13th May 1915, he held the rank of Captain. He died of his wounds in hospital in Boulogne, France on 26th May 1915 and was buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France - Plot II, Row A, Grave 18.

Julian's most famous poem "Into Battle" was published in "The Times" newspaper of London the day following his death.

"Into Battle" was published as a one-off broadside for presentation to his mother by the Medici Society.   His poem was published in 34 WW1 anthologies and Julian Grenfell is one of the poets featured in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey, London.

“Into Battle”

The naked earth is warm with Spring,
And with green grass and bursting trees
Leans to the sun's gaze glorying,
And quivers in the sunny breeze;
And life is Colour and Warmth and Light,
And a striving evermore for these;
And he is dead who will not fight,
And who dies fighting has increase.

The fighting man shall from the sun
Take warmth, and life from glowing earth;
Speed with the light-foot winds to run
And with the trees to newer birth;
And find, when fighting shall be done,
Great rest, and fulness after dearth.

All the bright company of Heaven
Hold him in their bright comradeship,
The Dog star, and the Sisters Seven,
Orion's belt and sworded hip:

The woodland trees that stand together,
They stand to him each one a friend;
They gently speak in the windy weather;
They guide to valley and ridges end.

The kestrel hovering by day,
And the little owls that call by night,
Bid him be swift and keen as they,
As keen of ear, as swift of sight.

The blackbird sings to him: "Brother, brother,
If this be the last song you shall sing,
Sing well, for you may not sing another;
Brother, sing."

In dreary doubtful waiting hours,
Before the brazen frenzy starts,
The horses show him nobler powers; —
O patient eyes, courageous hearts!

And when the burning moment breaks,
And all things else are out of mind,
And only joy of battle takes
Him by the throat and makes him blind,
Through joy and blindness he shall know,
Not caring much to know, that still
Nor lead nor steel shall reach him, so
That it be not the Destined Will.

The thundering line of battle stands,
And in the air Death moans and sings;
But Day shall clasp him with strong hands,
And Night shall fold him in soft wings.

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