Monday, 26 March 2018

Exhibition of Poetry Written by Schoolchildren in WW1

The latest in a series of commemorative exhibitions about the poetry of The First World War to go on display at The Wilfred Owen Story in Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, features poetry written by schoolchildren during the conflict.  The exhibition was opened on Saturday, 17th March 2018.  At the same time, a bust of Wilfred Owen sculpted by Anthony Padgett was unveiled.  Poets featured include the girl who went on to use the pen-name Temple Lane, the boy who went on to use the pen-name George Orwell, the girl whose husband founded the publishing company Faber & Faber, Alec Waugh, brother of Evelyn, J.R. Ackerley and a boy who went on to become Aide-de-Camp to Queen Elizabeth.

The Wilfred Owen Story was devised and opened in 2010 by Merseyside singer-songwriter Dean Johnson, a former pupil of the Birkenhead Institute where Wilfred Owen was educated. 

Entry to The Wilfred Owen Story is free and you will find the WOS at 34 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 6AE.  The WOS is open Tuesdays to Fridays from 12 noon until 2 pm but it is advisable to telephone first - 07903 337995 as the WOS is run entirely by volunteers http://www.wilfredowenstory.com/

Panels from previous WW1 poetry exhibitions held at the WOS, including that featuring some of the poets involved in the Battles of Messines (Mesen), Passchendaele and after in 1917, Poets of the Battle of Arras in 1917, Poets of the Somme 1916, Female Poets of the First World War, Inspirational Women of World War One and Fascinating Facts of the Great War, are available to view on file at The Wilfred Owen Story.  Other exhibitions are planned.

Photo taken by Janet Holmes of the WOS and The Rathbone Studio.

Friday, 23 March 2018

T.P. Cameron Wilson (1888 - 1918) - British

Theodore Percival Cameron Wilson was born in Paignton, Devon on 25th April 1888. 

His parents were Theodore Cameron Wilson, Vicar of Christ Church in Paignton, and his wife Annie Fredeline Wilson, nee Smith.  T.P.’s siblings were Christopher, b. 1883, Mary, b. 1885, Alice, b. 1889, John, b. 1890 and Charles, b. 1899.   The family moved to Little Eaton in Derbyshire, where T.P.’s father became rector of Little Eaton Parish Church St. Paul’s.  Charles and Mary also became writers – Mary wrote under the name of Marjorie Wilson.

After studying at Oxford, T.P. left without a degree in 1907 and became a primary school teacher at Mount Arlington preparatory boarding school in Hindhead, Surrey.  One of his pupils was the son of poet Harold Monro who founded the Poetry Bookshop in London and encouraged aspiring poets.  T.P. and Harold became friends. T.P.’s novel “The Friendly Enemy” was published in 1913.

In August 1914, T.P. enlisted as a Second Lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards. Transferred to the Sherwood Foresters, T.P. was a Captain at the time of his death on the Western Front during the German Spring Offensive on 23rd March 1918 at Hermies, France.  He has no known graves and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial and on the lynch gate at St. Paul’s Church, Little Eaton, Derbyshire.

“Magpies in Picardy” was published by the Poetry Bookshop, London, with an introduction by Harold Monro, in 1919.

The full text of those poems, some of which, including T.P.’s most famous poem, “Magpies in Picardy”, were published in “The Westminster Gazette” “The English Review” and “Poetry and Drama”.  His poems were included in 12 WW1 poetry anthologies.

Colin Mitchell (1890 - 1918) - British

COLIN MITCHELL was killed on 21st March 1918.

Colin featured in the Somme Poets exhibition held at The Wilfred Owen Story in 2016 but we could not find a photograph of him.  Now we have – with many thanks to Catherine Avak.  There is a book of the Somme exhibition for those unable to visit the exhibition.  Details are on www.poshupnorth.com

Born in Mere in Wiltshire in September 1890, Colin was the youngest of eight children – six boys and two girls. Colin’s father, John Thomas Mitchell was a farmer, and his mother was Emma Jane Mitchell, nee Parsons.

Colin was educated at Shaftesbury Grammar School as a boarder. While there, he won a prize fo...r English Literature. He was interested in amateur dramatics and music and on leaving school became a bank clerk.

Colin joined the 8th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade during the First World War and was killed in action on 22nd March 1918. The 8th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade (together with the 7th and 9th battalions) was part of the 41st Brigade of the 14th (Light) Division of XV Corps which saw action at Ypres and on The Somme. At the time of his death, Colin was a Sergeant. Colin is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial in Ovillers-la-Boiselle, France and in Mere Cemetery in Wiltshire.

Colin’s poetry collection was entitled ‘Trampled Clay’ and was published in 1917 by Erskine Macdonald, London.

He also had a poem included in ‘The Malory Verse Book’ edited by Editha Jenkinson and published by Erskine Macdonald in 1919.

Source: Catherine W. Reilly, ‘English Poetry of the First World RememberiWar: A Bibliography’ (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978.

Additional Information kindly supplied by Mere Museum and Historical Society.

 HOOGE: (JULY 31st 1915)

Hooge! More damned than Sodom and more bloody,

‘Twas there we faced the flames of liquid fire.

Hooge! That shambles where the flames swept ruddy:

A spume of heat and hate and omens dire;

A vision of a concrete hell from whence

Emerged satanic forms, or so it seemed

To us who, helpless, saw them hasten hence.

Scarce understood we if we waked or dreamed.

 

“Stand To! Stand To! The Wurtembergers come!”

Shouting vile English oaths with gutter zest.

And boastful threats to kill they voice, while some,

In uniforms of grey and scarlet dressed,

Wear flame-projectors strapped upon their backs.

How face a wall of flame? Impossible!

 

“Back, boys! Give way a little; take the tracks

That lead to yonder wood, and there we’ll fill

Such trenches as are dug, and face the foe,

And no Hell-fire shall move us once we’re there.

We’re out to win or die, boys; if we go

Back and yet back, leaving good strongholds bare,

We’ll save our lives, perhaps, but not our name.

There’s no one in this well-trained company

Who’d save his skin and perjure his good fame.”

 

We hold the wood, but, oh, how can it be?

The shells are raining down amidst the trees,

Snapping the full-girthed trunks that downward crash

In dire proximity to us. The breeze

Bespeaks hot human blood. The scarlet splash

Shows everywhere, and everywhere the maimed

Are crawling, white-lipped, to a dug-out where

The doctor in a drip of sweat seems framed,

So hard he works to hide the horrid stare

Of wounds adrip; while many pass away,

And need no lint to bind their frailty,

For God has ta'en them; 'tis their triumph day,

And all their sins shall expiated be.

 

Thus are we thrown in Life's great melting-pot,

Humanity much matrixed; but the ore,

Looms purer when the crucible is hot:

'Tis on this truth that we should set our store

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Alfred ('Cot') Cotterill Kermode (1897 - 1973) - British

Alfred Cotterill Kermode, known as 'Cot' to friends and family, was born in 1897 on The Isle of Man, where his father, The Reverend Sidney Alfred Pizey Kermode, was an Anglican Church Minister.  Alfred’s mother was Lucy Emma Kermode, nee Lynam, and he had the following siblings:  Lucy C. b. 1890, Mary C. b. 1900 and Margaret Agnes, b. 1902.  In 1901, the family lived in Onchan, I.o.M. and in 1911 they lived in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire.

Alfred was a pupil at Oundle School when war broke out in 1914. 
 
Alfred is just one of the poets featured in the exhibition of Poetry Written by Schoolchildren in the UK during the First World War that is on display at The Wilfred Owen Story in Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, UK.  The exhibition was opened on Saturday, 17th March 2018 (the day before Wilfred Owen's birthday) and Tim Kermode and his wife Annabel travelled up to attend a rather special event.  A bust of Wilfred Owen sculpted by Anthony Padgett was unveiled on the same day by local MP Frank Field and we presented Tim with a copy of the exhibition panel about his father Alfred. Here is a link to a BBC North West Tonight news report of the event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78b40hAbqb8
 
The WOS is open from Tuesdays to Fridays from 12 noon until 2 pm (winter opening times) but it is advisable to phone first as the museum is manned by volunteers - 07903 337995.  Entry to the WOS is free.
 
 
The Wilfred Owen Story,
34 Argyle Street,
Birkenhead, Wirral, UK,
CH41 6AE
 
Panels from previous exhibitions held at the WOS, including that featuring some of the poets involved in the Battles of Messines (Mesen), Passchendaele and after in 1917, Poets of the Battle of Arras in 1917, Poets of the Somme 1916, Female Poets of the First World War, Inspirational Women of World War One and Fascinating Facts of the Great War, are available to view on file at The Wilfred Owen Story.  Other exhibitions are planned.
 
Photo:  Lucy presenting Tim Kermode with a copy of the exhibition panel about Oundle School that features his father, Alfred 'Cot' Kermode with the Wilfred Owen bust in the background - photo taken by Paul Breeze of www.poshupnorth.com
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 1 March 2018

"Old Loot" - WW1 poet - does anyone know the identity of this poet?

I received an interesting query recently from one of my contacts:
 
"... many years ago I bought a lovely copy of “Barbed Wire”, an admittedly dull First World War 56pp booklet of prose and verse (published in 1918 by Beaumont) and bound in vellum on handmade paper, which is remarkable for at least one thing - the cover has a Paul Nash woodblock design.

It is exasperating that although one surmises the author was an officer and a banker so far his identity is a mystery to me because he only used the pen name “Old Loot”. There is no clue within the text and nothing I’ve come across on-line enlightens me either so if you happen to know I’d be grateful to find out. "
 
I posted the query on the Facebook Page of the War Poets Association and Catherine Avak very kindly found me a picture of the cover and some of the 8 poems featured in the end of  the book, which is available as a download from The Hathi Trust.
 
This poem (see right) was dedicated to Cyril Arnell Newman who enlisted with the Queen's Westminster Rifles in 1914.  He was posted to the Western Front in February 1915, wounded and sent home.   He was then commissioned into the North Staffordshire Regiment and returned to the Western Front in time to take part in the Somme Offensive of July 1916.  Lieutenant Newman was killed on 28th April 1917 at the age of 24 during the Battle of Arras.  He was buried in Aubigny Communal Cemetery, France.

Has anyone any idea of the identity of the poet who used the pen-name 'Old Loot'? 

 

A Poem written by F.D.B. in Valetta, Malta on 10th May 1917

In Katrina Kirkwood's lovely book about her Grandmother who was a doctor during the First World War (see photo), I found a poem entitled “A Hospital Concert, May the 8th 1917, dedicated to a voice” (pp. 306 - 307).

The voice mentioned in the dedication was that of Salvatore Salvati, the Italian Tenor, who organised concerts for the wounded sent to hospitals in Malta during WW1.

The poem was written by 'F.D.B.' - does anyone have any idea of the identity of the poet who was obviously present during the concert?

She will wish her pure strings to be mute –

Heal us, alone, by thy voice!

We are weak – with an arm, or a foot,

“Tented”, or bound, to no choice;

Ours are the bandaged eyes,

A-search for the Singer’s face –

Denial, through darkness arise,

Pierce it with sound, for a space:

O Singer of Life – so, of pain!

Sing “Vita” - - Thy “Vita” – again and again.

 

Ah! those were old words that we’ve read –

“Oh Sempre Amore” – that stirred;

And Love’s for us lads, sick in bed,

And Love is the wounded’s last word;

And a warmth drew in from the street,

And we slipped to an English June,

And England and Italy meet,

And touch the same chord of Love’s tunes;

O Singer of Love – lift from pain!

Sing Thy “Sempre Amore” – again and again!

 

Then he sank to an under key –

“Oh Pena”! – Oh Pain! Is it not?

And we fell to a blind reverie –

For we’ve had our pain, God wot!

We were back in the fever and ache,

Or peered in a pal’s dead face,

Or were feeling the lift and the shake,

And the moan in us down to the Base;

                O Singer – though sweetest - of pain!

                Sing “Pena! – thy “Pena” – again and again.

 

Then he wrought us – passionate – loud –

“Guerra, ah Guerra”!  - Is it War?

For our slack frame stiffened them proud,

And the men, we were once, we saw –

Over and on to a Leader’s sign,

Tightening their teeth on wild breath,

Spilling their blood like the reddest wine,

While they staked for winning or death! –

                Oh Singer of madness and pain!

                Sing “Guerra” – “Thy Guerra” – again and again.

 

The ward empties to shuffle and drill –

All but two bed-ridden rows;

But he’s made eyes, - the dryest – to fill,

He’s breathed all our souls to new glows;

And a pale face, still in a trance –

Is away to the glory of things;

And the crutches tap, tap to a prance;

While a voice to the hollowness clings –

                O Vita Dolce, si sovente amara!

                O Sempre Amore – Penna e Guerra ! –

 

Valetta, May 10th 1917 by F.D.B.