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 four daughters, Janet, who was also a poet, Joan, 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.