Monday, 30 July 2018

Remembering Joyce Kilmer, the American poet on the centenary anniversary of his death in WW1

Alfred Joyce Kilmer was born on 6th December 1886 in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  His parents were Annie Ellen Kilmer, née Kilburn, who was a writer/composer, and Dr. Frederick Barnett Kilmer, a physician/chemist who worked for Johnson and Johnson Company and invented the famous baby powder.

Joyce Kilmer attended Rutgers College Grammar School, where he edited the school newspaper.  In 1904 he went on to Rutgers College, before transferring to Columbia University.

As soon as he had qualified, Kilmer married Aline Murray, a poet, who he met when they were both at Rutgers College Grammar School.   He taught Latin as well as writing poetry and working as a journalist, critic and lecturer.  Kilmer’s first collection of poetry, “The Summer of Love” was published in 1911.

When Joyce and Aline’s daughter Rose contracted Polio, they converted to the Roman Catholic faith.

By the time Kilmer enlisted in the New York National Guard in May 1917, in response to America joining the conflict, he was the foremost Catholic poet, writer and lecturer in America. 

Kilmer’s Regiment was posted to the Western Front in France, where he was assigned as a statistician to the 69th U.S. Infantry Regiment. He was soon promoted to the rank of Sergeant, refusing the chance to become an Officer.   After involvement in several battles, Kilmer joined the military intelligence section of his Regiment.   On 30th July 1918, Kilmer volunteered to join Major William (Wild Bill) Donovan in an attack.  Donovan went on to found the Office of Strategic Services during the Second World War.  This is known today as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Kilmer was killed by a sniper during the Second Battle of the Marne on 30th July 1918.  He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre posthumously.   He is buried in the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial in Picardy, France, Grave Reference: Plot B, Row 9, Grave 15.

Kilmer’s most famous poem “Trees” was published in his collection “Trees and Other Poems” in 1914.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

ALBERT-PAUL GRANIER (1888 - 1917) – French poet and aviator

Albert-Paul Granier was born at Le Croisic in the Loire-Atlantique region of France, on 3rd September 1888.

Called up for military service on 3rd August 1914, Albert-Paul saw action with the French Artillery from the start, mostly in the Verdun area.

In 1917, Albert-Paul became an air observation officer, radioing to the gunners on the ground where to direct their fire.  His plane was shot down in flames at Bois Bourrus, near Verdun on 17th August 1917.  His body was never found.

Albert-Paul’s WW1 collection, "Les Coqs et les Vautours", was published shortly before his death and has now been translated into English. “Cockerels and Vultures” – translated by Ian Higgins - published by Saxon Books.

Sources:
https://www.babelio.com/auteur/Albert-Paul-Granier/70773
https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=831412436892502&id=830385643661848

With grateful thanks to Régine Verguier for sending me this link to an excellent aritcle about WW1 poets, writers and artists: https://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/paris-ile-de-france/2014/09/03/de-peguy-apollinaire-une-generation-d-artistes-victimes-de-la-grande-guerre-543058.html

Friday, 27 July 2018

Walter E. Spradbery, DCM (1889 – 1969) British Artist and poet; served in RAMC during WW1

With thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron for telling me about Walter and thanks to Walter’s cousin, Philip Spradbery, who has a lifelong passion for painting, who kindly supplied additional information.

Walter Ermest Spradbery was born on 29th March 1889 in East Dulwich, London, UK. His parents were Joseph Spradbery and his wife Emily Spradbery, nee Feltham.  Walter had a brother, Charles V., b. 1879.

Walter studied at Walthamstow Art School, then worked as an art teacher. He regularly exhibited his work at the Royal Academy. His main artistic media were water colour, linocuts and poster design. Walter designed posters for London transport companies and for British Rail.


During the First World War, Walter, who was a pacifist, joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and served as a medical orderly and stretcher-bearer on the Western Front. He served with 36 Field Ambulance during the Somme Offensive in 1916 and was mentioned several times for bravery rescuing wounded men under fire.   He was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

On 11th November 1918, Walter wrote to his Mother:

"Hostilities ceased on all fronts at 11 o’clock today. Oh happy mothers, happy sweethearts, happy wives, whose loved ones will come safely back... and those lone souls who have lost their very own; today is too unkind to them - how can they face our joy? 'Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards men' - an unseen choir sings it in our breasts - prompting men to evolve a better world more worthy of our ideals and aspirations. Let us begin."

On 21st August 1929, Walter married opera singer Dorothy D’Orsay (maiden name Horsey) and the couple lived in Epping Forest.   They had two children.

Walter died in Epping, Essex in 1969. An exhibition of the work of WW1 artist Walter Spradbery is on display at The Epping Forest District Museum until 22nd December 2018. 
Epping Forest District Museum
39 – 41 Sun Street, Waltham Abbey, EN9 1EL \ 01992 716882 \ www.eppingforestdc.gov.uk/museum


A biography of Walter Spradbery’s life and times, "My Dear Jim", has been compiled and published by his son, John Spradbery (Mail order from Elizabeth Spradbery: el.malet@gmail.com)

Sources:  http://www.xcsconsulting.com.au/walter-e-spradbery.html
https://theatricalia.com/person/k2t/dorothy-d-orsay
https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/collections/collections-online/people/item/1996-5125

A poem by Walter Spradbery written in 1915 kindly supplied by his cousin, Philip Spradbery.

THE BALLAD OF BARNHAM COMMON

“Eyes Have They, But See Not”

The flowers that grow on Barnham’s plain
Are beautiful to see;
The bugloss and the speedwell’s blue
Fair as a summer’s sea,
Blue as a summer’s sky are they
As a child’s eyes may be:

And the tender little pansy’s
Uplifted cherub face,
With golden eye, and purple wings
And unpretentious grace,
Peeps shyly from amid the grass
In every shady place.

But wearily we drag our feet
Over the jeweled sods,
And discipline, it weighs us down
With the curse of an iron rod;
And ‘iron rods’ we carry
To kill the sons of God.

The cranebill’s starry floweret
Is scattered o’er the plain;
Its pale magenta blossoms
We trample in our pain,
And dully long for peace, and love
And our dear homes again.

With iron heels we tread them down,
We tread them in the sand;
We crush their beauty ’neath our feet
Too tired to understand
The ugly ruthless thing we do.
Now war is on the land.

The golden gorse, across the heath
Is a mass of yellow flame;
Its unconsuming fires praise
The Sun God’s glorious name.
But war it burns things black and dead,
And fills men’s hearts with shame.

And scarlet is the pimpernel
And bright the poppy’s red
But brighter still is the blood we’ll spill
Ere we ourselves are dead:
No flower so rich, in the deep dug ditch,
As the blood our guns may shed.

The grass is worn with the ceaseless tread
Of our marching to and fro,
And where we drill on the mossy hill
Great bare patches show;
For ’neath the heel of the War God’s foot
No fair thing may grow. 

But time revenges the patient weak
Whom the Ruthless crush and kill,
And delicate things that droop and die,
Like the flowers on the grassy hill,
Will bloom again on another plain
Fairer and sweeter still.

The barren stretch of Flander’s plains
Is desolate and bare,
And the shriek of shell, and stench and smell
Float on the morning air
And splintered stumps are all that speak
Of what once blossomed there.

Yet the flowers our feet have trodden down
Will be born again,
And rich and fine, on Flander’s fields,
Will dance in the gentle rain
Will dance on the dead that feed their roots
The countless, ghastly slain.

The little flowers we’ve trodden down
Will scent each ugly grave,
Will hide the ghastly torn limbs
O the coward and the brave
And gaily smile at the morning sun,
O’er the foolish and the knave.

Oh, the river runs o’er Barnham’s plains
This where our horses drink –
And a thousand fair and charming things
Blossom on its brink.
But we have trod them in the mud
Nor paused to praise or think.

The pinkish purple loose-strife
Bows on the river’s edge,
Forget-me-not and orchids,
The flowering rush and sedge
While briar rose and bryony
Entangle in the hedge.

And crowsfoot gleams on the river,
Like snowflakes in the sun
And sways in the moving waters
That over the pebbles run.
But we cannot pause for such a thing,
Who’re crossing the stream with a gun.

But the rivers which flow in Flanders
Are rivers of blood methinks
And will, one day, colour the roses
Whose roots from that soil drink,
And a thousand flowers will blossom
Where a corpse now rots and stinks.

And we who train at Thetford
Parade on Barnham Hill
And prod coarse sack with bayonets
To gain the skill to kill
To disembowel and mutilate
Men who are brothers still.

While all around is beauty
And overhead the sky,
Where fleecy clouds in freedom float
Over the men that die;
And nature laughs at our folly
As we pass her treasures by.

With a garland of peaceful beauty
She tempts us to lay down our arms;
With a myriad of fearless blossoms
She mocks at our childish alarms,
With a tangle of wonderful flowerets
She seeks to ensnare us with charms.

Oh, he who sees God in a daisy,
Can see more clearly in man,
The light of the Glorious Eternal
That through all Living Things ran,
When the wheels of time first started,
And the Song of Life began.

Walter E. Spradbery (1915)


Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Thomas Napoleon Smith - pen-name Tonosa - WW1 Poet

While I was researching a WW1 poet yesterday, I came across a reference to some poems about a young girl from Burnley, Lancashire. Her name was Jennie Jackson and she was known as "Young Kitchener" for the work she did during the First World War, collecting money to fund parcels for the fighting men.

The poems were written by Thomas Napoleon Smith, pen-name Tonosa. Their titles were "Burnley's war flame (Jennie JACKSON), alias Y.K." and "Burnley's winning Jennie (Jennie Jackson)".

Thomas Napoleon Smith remains a mystery for I can find nothing out about him, other than the titles of some of his poems, which are listed on pages 297 and 298 of Catherine W. Reilly's wonderful work "English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978).  He also had a poem published in Charles Frederick Forshaw's WW1 Anthology "Poems in memory of the late Field-Marshall Lord Kitchener, KG" (Institute of British Poetry, Bradford, 1916).

According to Catherine Reilly, Thomas's son, Corporal Ewart G. Smith of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, Canadian Expeditionary Force, was killed in a trench on 27th September 1916.   The poems seem to have been published as postcards or broadsides.  One - "Their eyes off me: or, those khaki chaps from 'crss the sea: verses by Tonoso - was first published in "The Weekly Scotsman".

If anyone knows more about Tonosa - Thomas Napoleon Smith - please get in touch.




Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Francis Scott Key FitzGerald (1896 - 1940) - American

F. Scott FitzGerald, the American author famous for writing the novel "The Great Gatsby", was also a poet. He served in the American Army during the First World War and was based at Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama, where he met his future wife. 

Here is one of his poems:
"We leave tonight"
WE leave to-night . . . 
Silent, we filled the still, deserted street,
A column of dim gray,
And ghosts rose startled at the muffled beat
Along the moonless way;
The shadowy shipyards echoed to the feet
That turned from night and day.
And so we linger on the windless decks,
See on the spectre shore
Shades of a thousand days, poor gray-ribbed wrecks . . .
Oh, shall we then deplore
Those futile years!
See how the sea is white!
The clouds have broken and the heavens burn
To hollow highways, paved with gravelled light
The churning of the waves about the stern
Rises to one voluminous nocturne,
. . . We leave to-night.
Francis Scott Fitzgerald

Source:  Mark D. Van Ells on Facebook.  Mark is the author of the book "America and WW1: A Traveler's Guide".

Friday, 13 July 2018

Exhibition of WW1 Royal Flying Corps/Royal Naval Air Service Poets and Writers

Poet writer and journalist IVAN HEALD, MC, who was born in Accrington, Lancashire, is just one of the poets featured in an exhibition of WW1 Royal Flying Corps/Royal Naval Air Service Poets and Writers which is currently on display at Ian Inglis's Military Museum Scotland. 

Ian has sent me a wonderful photograph of part of the display. 

To find out more about the Museum, please see this link and/or visit the Museum's Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Military-Museum-Scotland-SCIO-591…/ 

Photograph of the display provided by Ian Inglis.

Military Museum Scotland, 
Legion Hall, 
Wilkieston, 
Kirknewton, West Lothian 
EH27 8DU

This exhibition came out of a conversation I had earlier this year with Marilyn Summers, who is the Air Show Deputy Director at Royal Air Force Cosford.  Marillyn contacted me via one of my commemorative Facebook pages, asking for some panels to display at the RAF Cosford Air Show on 10th June 2018.