Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Thomas Stanley Roberts British Poet was born on 8th January 1894

Despatch Riders, Salonika, WW1

With thanks to Frances Wilson and her sister Margaret for their help in finding the poems written by Thomas to their Aunt during WW1

Poems written by Thomas St. Roberts to WW1 VAD Amy Isaac 

Amy and Kath Isaac joined the Cheshire Voluntary Aid Detachment in 1915 after the death of their brother John Robert Isaac, who was serving with the 1st Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment.  John was killed near Amiens on 2nd October 1915 and was buried in St. Pierre Cemetery in Amiens, France.  According to Amy’s niece, the Regiment was then posted to Salonica which leads us to think that Thomas St. Roberts may have been in the same Regiment as John Isaac.

Thomas Stanley Roberts was born on 8th January 1894 in Birkenhead.  He joined the British Army in WW1 and became a Lance-Corporal.  His Regiment was posted to Salonica in the Balkans.

The following poem is the first of the poems Thomas Roberts wrote to Amy Isaac and it appears to describe how they met when he went to visit a house in Spital called “Engayn”:

“Is it Worth it?” is the title and it is dated Balkans, 4 – 2 – 17

To go home on leave is not what it seems,
The coming back part, minus your smiling beams
Leaves food for reflection on the time you have had,
You sit and you sigh you’re gloomy and sad.

When we left Salonique to cross the main,
We hoped never to see Johnny Greek again
Oh what joy when the boat it did start
Happy and free – and light at heart.

Sailing the sea for seven bright days,
The boys glad at heart in their own ways
We landed at Marseilles in dear old France,
Ready for joke – or lark – or prance.

We didn’t stop long in the land of the frog,
But boarded a boat for another rough job,
After one night on a pretty rough sea,
We gazed on the lights of old Bli-ty.

To reach home quickly was every one’s aim
All old places looked still just the same,
When we noticed the girls who had taken our places
They each had a nod and a smile on their faces.

I reached the old home a quarter past ten
Oh hoe I wish it all over again
I shall never forget the welcome I got
From my dear old Mother and friends, yes, the lot.

My time fully occupied the days soon slipped by
How I dreaded the end my time almost nigh,
I asked a young lady to await my return
And the actual date we have yet to learn.

That was the day when I went to Engayn
And took the wrong turning when I left the train
After strolling about in nooks bright and shady,
I walked straight into this said young lady.

After a walk we soon reached the house,
I felt as shy as a timid young mouse
And if you’ll believe me when I do say
I’d much rather be there, than so far away.

Then Sarah and Winnie tried to sing a duet,
But only one voice was the tune we could get
When Amy complained of her singing too high,
I was glad they never asked me to try.

Of my visits to Spital I often shall think,
In the days to come when we recross the brink
I hope to see you – experiences to tell
To Sarah and Amy, Winnie as well.

But the going home part is all very well
Blighty looks very nice – and it takes us to tell.
But to return to the Balkans; well – I don’t want to swear
The place is neither – Round it here, or there.

The poems continued – 29.03.1017; 7 April 1917; 1st June, 4th June 1917, 21st June 1917, September 1917, 1st November 1917; 20th January 1918.

In one of the poems Thomas expresses his concern that Amy might flirt with the wounded soldiers she looks after, and in another he thanks her for a pair of socks that she knitted and sent to him.

The Great Fire in Salonika 1917, William Thomas Wood
Official WW1 war artist

In September 1917, “The Birkenhead News” newspaper published a poem by Lance-Corporal Thomas St. Roberts praising the newspaper, of which he had copies sent to him in Salonica on a regular basis.   The last poem in the little collection was dated 20th January 1918.  In the poem. Thomas mentions “gyppo” (meaning a stomach upset) and taking Quinine.

It seems that, in spite of an upset stomach, Thomas survived the war and returned home.  As far as we have been able to discover, Thomas married Ethel Gertrude Peacock, who was born on 8th April 1898 and lived in Brook Street, Birkenhead in 1901 and in Berner Street, Birkenhead in 1911. 

Ethel’s father was a blacksmith and she had four sisters and one brother.  Thomas and Ethel had twin sons – Stanley W. Roberts and Graham T. Roberts, who were born in Birkenhead on 27th July 1922.

But there, in spite of extensive research, the trail goes cold.  Did Thomas continue writing poetry?