Monday, 29 February 2016

Poems written by Robert Beckh (1894 - 1916)

Robert's Battalion (12th Bn, East Yorkshire Regiment) was posted to the Western Front in March 1916.  They went into the Trenches near Bertrancourt in France.  These are some of the poems Robert wrote.

From Robert's collection  "Swallows in Storm and Sunlight" published by Chapman and Hall, London, 1917.

The Song of Sheffield

Written in March 1916 in the Trenches near Bertrancourt.

Shells, shells, shells!

The song of the city of steel;

Hammer and turn, and file,

Furnace, and latahe, and wheel.

Tireless machinery,

Man’s ingenuity,

Making a way for the martial devil’s meal.


Shells, shells, shells,

Out of the furnace blaze;

Roll, roll, roll,

Into the workshop’s maze.

Ruthless machinery

Boring eternally,

Boring a hole for the shattering charge that stays.


Shells, shells, shells!

The song of the city of steel;

List to the devil’s mirth,

Hark to their laughters’ peal:

Sheffield’s machinery

Crushing humanity

Neath devil-ridden death’s impassive heel.


No Man’s Land

Written after reading a Battalion Order a week before his death - ‘A Patrol will leave tonight to examine gap in German wire…’

Nine-Thirty o’clock?  Then over the top,

And mind to keep down when you see the flare

Of Very pistol searching the air.

Now, over you get;  look out for the wire

In the borrow pit, and the empty tins,

They are meant for the Hun to bark his shins.

So keep well down and reserve your fire –

All over?  Right : there’s a gap just here

In the corkscrew wire, so just follow me;

If you keep well down there’s nothing to fear.

            .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

Then out we creep thro’ the gathering gloom

Of NO MAN’S LAND, while the big guns boom

Right over our heads, and the rapid crack

Of the Lewis guns is answered back

By the German barking the same refrain

Of crack, crack, crack, all over again.


To the wistful eye from the parapet,

In the smiling sun of a summer’s day,

‘Twere a sin to believe that a bloody death

In those waving grasses lurking lay.

But now, ‘neath the Very’s fitful flares

“Keep still, my lads, and freeze like hares; -

All right, carry on, for we’re out to enquire

If our friend the Hun’s got a gap in his wire;

And he hasn’t invited us out, you see,

So lift up your feet and follow me.”

            .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .  

Then, silent, we press with a noiseless tread

Thro’ no man’s land, but the sightless dead;

Aye, muffle your footsteps, well ye may,

For the mouldering corpses here decay

Whom no man owns but the King abhorred,

Grim Pluto, Stygia’s over-lord.


Oh breathe a prayer for the sightless Dead

Who have bitten the dust ‘neath the biting lead

Of the pitiless hail of the Maxim’s fire,

‘Neath the wash of shell in the well trod mire.

Ah well!  But we’ve, too, got a job to be done,

For we’ve come to the wire of our friend, the Hun.

“Now, keep well down, lads;  can you see any gap?”

            .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

Not much, well the reference is wrong in the map”

So homeward we go thro’ the friendly night.

That covers the NO MAN’S LAND from sight,

As muttering a noiseless prayer of praise,

We drop from the parapet into the bays.


Note:  The MAXIM machine gun or ‘recoil operated’ gun was invented in 1883 by Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim, a naturalised British (1900), American-born inventor.

VERY Lights were flares, fired from a pistol and sent up at night to show the way.  Invented by Edward Wilson Very, an American naval officer.



Written on 14th August 1916

Green fields that are scented and sweet,

God’s sunshine, the air, and the trees,

Thy beauties we knew not before,

They were there, and who doubts them that sees?


But we, who bereft for a space

Of the joys that God meant us to share,

Have been living ‘mid sandbags, and scorched

Without shade from the sun’s ceaseless glare.


Great God!  How to welcome the day

When the Trenches are left, and the trees

Promise hopes of a respite from heat,

And from breath-stifling odours release.


For how long?  Just four days is the span:

And how fleeting yet heav’n born it seems –

Then again to the Trenches, our goal

And to plan for the Peace of our dreams.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Robert Harold Beckh (1894 - 1916) - British Poet

I am re-posting this in the light of additional information received yesterday.

Robert was born on 1st January 1894 in Kingston, London.   His parents were Victor Ferdinand Beckh and his wife Edith Mary, nee Ledward, born in Birkenhead, Wirral.   Robert was educated at Haileybury School, an independent public school in Hertfordshire. He went on to Jesus College, Cambridge where he studied Classics, having been awarded a scholarship.  According to letters written by Robert to family members, he planned to become an Anglican church minister and wanted to go and work in India.

Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 12th Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment in May 1915, Robert was killed on 15th August 1916 while on night patrol, particularly poignant because of his poem on this subject entitled ‘No Man's Land’, written shortly before his death. 
A letter from Captain C.E. Lloyd Jones, Adjutant of 3rd Battalion, The East Yorkshire Regiment, written on 12th August 1919 and published in “The Hull Daily Mail” on 20th August 1919, explained that “2nd Lieutenant Robert ‘Bobby’ Beckh”  was killed “in the German wire”, near the Boar’s Head at Richebourg-l’Avoué, south of Bethune in France.  According to Captain Lloyd Jones, Robert was initially buried by the Germans with two other soldiers, one an officer, in a German military cemetery.  One of the soldiers with Robert was called Private Sugarman and he was from Hull. 
After the War, Robert’s family were able to find out that it had been planned by the British authorities to move the bodies to Cabaret Rouge Cemetery in Souchez, France but Robert’s body was somehow lost in transit. The gravestone bearing his name is on the edge of the Cemetery and is a memorial. 

Robert’s WW1 poetry collection “Swallows in Storm and Sunlight” was published in 1917 by Chapman and Hall, London.

I should like to thank Robert’s family members Tim and Rebecca Beckh and their daughters Annabelle and Sophia, who have researched Robert’s life, poetry, war service and death. They have visited Robert’s gravestone in France and keep his memory alive through poetry readings.  They have kindly supplied additional information and photographs of Robert and his family and given me permission to share them.

The family photograph shows Robert with his parents and elder brother Leonard V. (b. 1890) and sisters Doris Mary (b. 1896) and Ivy (b. 1901).

The British attack on the German lines at The Boar’s Head began on 30th June 1916 and was planned to create a diversion away from the Battle of the Somme.

 Additional Sources:  British Press Archive - “Newcastle Journal”, 24th August 1916 and “Hull Daily Mail”, 20th August 1919.

Friday, 26 February 2016

William Noel Hodgson (1893 - 1916) - Pen-name Edward Melbourne

William was born on 3rd January 1893 in Thornbury, near Bristol.  His father, Henry B. Hodgson, was an Anglican Bishop.  The family moved to Berwick-on-Tweed.
William was educated at Durham School and went on to study at university.  He volunteered to join the Army and was commissioned into the 9th Battalion The Devonshire Regiment.   The Regiment was sent to Festubert in France in July 1915.   William was Mentioned in Despatches and awarded a Military Cross at the Battle of Loos.  Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, William was posted to Fricourt on the Western Front in February 1916.   He was sent to Mametz in April 1916 and was killed in action on 1st July 1916 while attacking a German Trench.   William is buried in the Devonshire Cemetery in Mansell Copse.

William's WW1 collection "Verse and Prose in Peace and War" was published by Murray, London in 1917.  His poems were also featured in 20 WW1 poetry anthologies.

Robert Harold Beckh (1894 - 1916) - British Poet

Robert was born on 1st January 1894 in London.   His parents were Victor F. Beckh and his wife Edith Mary, nee Ledward.   Robert was educated at Haileybury School and went on to Jesus College, Cambridge.

Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 12th Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment, Robert was killed on 15th August 1916.   He is buried in Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, France.

Robert’s WW1 poetry collection “Swallows in Storm and Sunlight” was published in 1917 by Chapman and Hall, London

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Bertram Dobell (1851 - 1914) - British Poet and Writer

Bertram Dobell was born in Battle in Sussex, UK in 1851.   His parents were Edward Dobell, a tailor and his wife Elizabeth, nee Eldridge.  Bertram’s father was of Hugenot descent.   

Bertram left school and became an errand boy.    In 1869, he married Eleanor Wymer.   They had two sons Sydney C. b. 1870, Percy J. b. 1872 and two daughters, Evelyn J. b. 1875 and Edith C. b. 1879.   Bertram and Eleanor ran a newsagents/stationers.  A love of second-hand books eventually led to the acquisition of a second-hand bookshop in Charing Cross Road.
After is death in 1914, Bertram's son, Percy J. Dobell published a book about his father. Although Bertram died in 1914, he had begun to write poetry about the war.  Percy said of his father:

“An omnivorous reader from boyhood, blessed with a  retentive memory, and untrammelled by scholastic training or the influence of any set educational system, he developed a critical faculty which seldom led him astray, and which enabled him, with unerring instinct, to recognise merit “. You can read more of Percy's book by following the link below. 
Bertram Dobell’s WW1 poetry collections was ‘Sonnets and Lyrics: A Little Book of Verse on the Present War’, published in 1917 by his own publishing company.   One of his poems was also published in a WW1 Anthology 'Pro patria et rege: poems on war, its characteristics and results Selected in aid of the Belgian Relief Fund from British and American sources', edited by William Angus Knight and published by Century, P. in 1915.

Monday, 22 February 2016

André Soriac c. 1864 - 1927 - A French soldier-poet-artist

In commemoration of the Battle of Verdun, which raged from 21st February until 18th December 1916, here is a French soldier-poet-artist.  The French soldiers of the First World War are known affectionately as ‘Poilus’ (literally, the hairy ones), presumably because it was impossible to shave in the Trenches.   Verdun is a city on the River Meuse in Lorraine in the north east of France.

André Soriac was a French soldier poet artist (‘Poilu’) who was fifty when he volunteered in 1914.  He joined the 277th Regiment of the French Infantry and served in Lorraine in France.  He took part in the Battle of Verdun and was wounded three times before being invalided out of the Army in 1916.

In April 1921, André married Leonie Eugenie Adèle Boots, who was the daughter of a wealthy Maastricht family.  Léonie taught French at a Nijmegen secondary school for girls. They had one child – a son, André, who was born on 29th December 1922,  

André Soriac died in Nijmegen in the Netherlands on 12th August 1927. He may have committed suicide due to prolonged depression caused by his wartime suffering. Between 1922 and 1925 he traded in postage stamps. 

The French soldiers of the First World War were known affectionately as ‘Poilus’ (literally, the hairy ones), presumably because it was impossible to shave in the Trenches.   Verdun is a city on the River Meuse in Lorraine in the north east of France.

Below is one of Soriac's poems which I have translated very roughly for those of you who do not understand French.  As far as I have been able to ascertain, Diane Degaby was a musical hall artist.

‘Nos Bagues’ a poem by André Soriac

Dedicated to ‘la belle Diane Degaby, la Bienfaitrice Amie de tous les Poilus Artistes – affectueusement’.

La rafale est passée et les Poilus bien vite
Sans souci des obus, une Pioche à la main,
Bondissent des abris dans un trou de marmite
Pour retrouver au fond le blanc metal germain!...

Et puis, c’est l’atelier dans un coin des tranchées …
Quelques menus outils, une lime, un Marteau,
Pour polir nuit et jour ces bagues guillochées,
Hier … instrument de mort, aujourd’hui … humble aurea.

La bague est terminée et demain, bonnes mères,
Femmes, petites soeurs, ces bijoux des frontiers
Terniront à vos doigts vos plus riches joyaux!...
Car, toutes, vous saurez combine de moments tristes
De soucis, de dangers, vos chers Poilus-Artistes
Ont vécus pour la faire … au fond de leurs boyaux.

No. 28, 3e Série de Cartes-Sonnets illustrées de la Guerre

Edition Cigolia, 8, rue de Condé, Paris 6e.

 ‘Our Rings’

Dedicated to The Beautiful Diane Degaby, Benefactrice and friend of all the artist-poilus, with great affection.

The storm has passed and the Poilus rush
Heedless of the shells, shovels at the ready,
Leaping from their shelter in a shell hole
Gathering up  the spent, white, German metal.

Then, it’s action stations in a corner of the Trench …
A workshop with a few scant tools, a file, a hammer to hand,
Polishing night and day these machine-turned rings.
Yesterday an instrument of death, today … a humble gold band.

The ring is ready and tomorrow, dear Mothers,
Wives, little sisters, these jewels of the frontiers
Will shine – your most valued jewels – on your fingers.
For you will know just many countless moments of sorrow
Of care and danger your dear soldier artists
Have been through to make that ring … in the depths of their Trenches.

Number 28 in a series of illustrated poem cards of the Great War,

Editions Cigola, 8 rue de Conde, Paris 6.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Edward Shanks (1892 - 1953)

Edward Buxton Shanks was born in Stoke Newington, London in 1892. His parents were Edward Shanks and his wife Isabella Tarn, nee Buxton.

Educated at Merchant Taylors School, Edward went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge.
He Joined the 8th South Lancashire Regiment in 1914.  Invalided out in 1915, he had a desk job for the remainder of the war.  He was known as a war poet of the First World War.

Edward Shanks’ WW1 poetry collections were:
Poems’, Sigwick & Jackson, 1916

‘The Queen of China and other poems’, Martin Secker, 1919
‘Songs (poems)’, The Poetry Bookshop, 1915
And his poems were included in six WW1 Anthologies, as well as being published in magazines and newspapers during WW1.

IX. On Account of Ill Health

You go, brave friends, and I am cast to stay behind,

 To read with frowning eyes and discontented mind

 The shining history that you are gone to make,

 To sleep with working brain, to dream and to awake

 Into another day of most ignoble peace,

 To drowse, to read, to smoke, to pray that war may cease.

 The spring is coming on, and with the spring you go

 In countries where strange scents on the April breezes blow;

 You'll see the primroses marched down into the mud,

 You'll see the hawthorn-tree wear crimson flowers of blood

 And I shall walk about, as I did walk of old,

 Where the laburnum trails its chains of useless gold,

 I'll break a branch of may, I'll pick a violet

 And see the new-born flowers that soldiers must forget,

 I'll love, I'll laugh, I'll dream and write undying songs

 But with your regiment my marching soul belongs.

 Men that have marched with me and men that I have led

 Shall know and feel the things that I have only read,

 Shall know what thing it is to sleep beneath the skies

 And to expect their death what time the sun shall rise.

 Men that have marched with me shall march to peace again,

 Bringing for plunder home glad memories of pain,

 Of toils endured and done, of terrors quite brought under,

 And all the world shall be their plaything and their wonder.

 Then in that new-born world, unfriendly and estranged,

 I shall be quite alone, I shall be left unchanged.

From ‘Poems’, dedicated to J.C. Stobart, published by Sidgwick & Jackson, 1916

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926) - German

Rene Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke was born on 4th December 1875 in Prague, then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now in the Czech Republic.  His father was Josef Rilke and his mother Sophie Entz. 

Living in Germany at the outbreak of the First World War, Rilke was called up in 1916.  After basic training, influential friends ensured that he was given a desk job at the War Records Office.  From 1914 – 1916, Rilke had an affair with German poet Lou Albert-Lasard.   He was discharged from the Army in June 1916.
Rilke died on 29th December 1926.


Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Franz Xaver Kappus (1883 - 1966)

Born 17th May 1883 in Timisoara, Hungary.  As an aspiring poet and an Army cadet in the Austro-Hungarian Army, Kappus wrote to the poet Rainer Maria Rilke who wrote back to him.

Kappus served on the Eastern Front during WW1 and was wounded.   He married his nurse in Stuttgart.  In 1917, he edited the Belgradd News.   He edited Rilke’s letters to him about poetry, writing a book that was published in 1929.   After fifteen years serving in the Army, Kappus worked as a newspaper editor and wrote poems, short stories, sketches and screen plays.  After the Second World War, Kappus founded the Free Democratic Party in Berlin.  He died on 9th October 1966.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Sir Harold Idris Bell (1879 – 1967) – Papyrist and Welsh Scholar

Harold was born on 2nd October 1879 in Epworth, Lincolnshire.  His parents were Charles Christopher Bell and Rachel Bell, nee Hughes, who was of Welsh descent.  He attended Nottingham High School before going on to Oriel College, Oxford in 1897.  He learnt Welsh at the age of 26.

In 1903, Harold joined the staff of the British Museum in the Department of Manuscripts.
He married Mabel Winnifred Ayling in 1911 and the couple had three sons.

During the First World War, Harold edited the Food Supplement of the Daily Review of the Foreign Press.  He received the CBE in 1936 and was knighted in 1946.
Harold died on 22nd January 1967.

Harold’s poem ‘Sonnet Written in Time of War’, translated from the Welsh poem by R. Williams Parry was published in the WW1 Anthology ‘Welsh Poets’ Published in 1917 by Erskine Macdonald, London.

‘Sonnet Written in Time of War’

When comes the day that I must reckoning make

Of all those talents that were lodged with me,

And there arriving where Time’s billows break

Against the headlands of Eternity,

Confess the devious ways by which I came,

The mire and tangle where my feet have stood,

And plead the day that made me dust and flame,

Of sense and nature, and of flesh and blood,

Who knows but He who held the forest dear,

And empty solitudes at shut of eve,

To one who knew no cheer but earthly cheer

Some peaceful, melancholy Hell may give,

Where, memory-laden, every wind shall tell

Tales of earth’s hostel, which I loved so well?


H. Idris Bell – from the Welsh language poem by R. Williams Parry

Welsh Poets in The First World War

'Welsh Poets’ published by Erskine Macdonald, London WC1 in October 1917

A slim volume of poetry, put together by A.G. Prys-Jones, with a fantastic list of poets, many of whom I had not heard of:

H. Idris Bell (1879 – 1967)

Wilma Buckley

Hylda C. Cole

E.J. Francis Davies

Oliver Davies

W.H. Davies

R. Edwards-James

R.A. Griffith (‘Elphin’) – a poet and playwright, won prizes at Eistedfodd 1899 and 1900

T. Gwynn-Jones (1871 – 1949)

Elinor Jenkins (see Female Poets of the First World War –

P.M. Jones

Ellen Lloyd-Williams

Hon. Evan Morgan (1893 – 1949)

A.G. Prys-Jones (1888 – 1987)

Cecil Roberts (1892 – 1976)

R. Silyn Roberts (1871 – 1930)

Brian Rhys

Ernest Rhys (1859 – 1946)

Gilbert Thomas (1891 – 1978)

Alfred Williams (1877 – 1930)

D.G. Williams

Iolo Aneurin Williams (1890 – 1962)

I’m having some problems finding biographical information on several of the lesser-known poets listed, so if anyone can help please get in touch.   Those, such as Cecil Roberts, who are more famous will be the subject of separate posts.

Thomas Gwynn Jones (1871 – 1949) – poet, writer, translator
Born Betws-yn-Rhos, Denbighshire, Wales.  Parents Isaac Jones and Jane, nee Roberts. Educated Denbighshire and Abergele.  M. Margaret Jane Davies 1899 – three children.  Won Chair at National Eisteddfod 1902.  Opponent of war.

Poem included in ‘Poems of the War’ in ‘Welsh poems of the twentieth Century in English verse’ edited by Sir Harold Idris Bell (Hughes, Wrexham, 1925).

Hon. Evan Morgan, 2nd Viscount Tredegar (1893 – 1949) – poet, writer

Born 13th July 1893. Parents Courtenay Morgan, 1st Viscount Tredegar of Tredegar Park, Monmouthshire and his wife Lady Katherine Carnegie.   He served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Welsh Guards during the First World War and was a high-ranking officer in MI8 in the Second World War.
His WW1 poetry collections were:

‘Fragments’, Erskine Macdonald, 1916

‘Gold and ochre’, Erskine Macdonald, 1917
And his poems were published in two WW1 poetry anthologies.

Arthur Glyn Prys- Jones (1888 – 1987) – Welsh
Born in Denbigh.  Educated Llandovery College and Jesus College, Oxford.  Became a teacher.  Married Elizabeth Gibbon.

‘Poems of Wales’, first published in 1923; Third Edition published by Blackwell, Oxford, 1925.  His poems were included in three WW1 Anthologies.

R. Silyn Roberts (1871 – 1930) – Poet, Methodist Minister
Born Llanllyfni, Caernarfonshire, 28th March 1871.   Worked as a quarryman before studying at University College North Wales and Bala Theological College.

Awarded the Eisteddfod Crown in 1902 for one of his poems.

Married Mary Perry.  Lectured in America and Canada raising funds for the eradication of Tuberculosis in Wales.  Organised training for disabled ex-servicemen in Wales.

Died Bangor, 15th August 1930.

Ernest Percival Rhys (1859 – 1946) – Welsh writer and poet
Born in Islington, London in 1859, Ernest grew up in Carmarthen and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.   He met Irish writer Grace Little (1865 – 1929) at a garden party given by Yeats and they were married in 1891.  The couple had three children – Brian, Megan and Stella - and lived in Hendon, where they entertained literary people of that era to tea on Sundays.  Ernest worked for the publishers J.M. Dent and Sons.  It was he who instigated and edited the ‘Everyman Library’ series of classic works published at reasonable prices.   Grace died in 1929 while accompanying her husband on a lecture tour of America. Ernest died in 1946.

Ernest Rhys’s WW1 poetry collections were:
‘The Leaf Burners and other poems’, (Dent, 1918) – which is available as a download -
And ‘Rhymes for Everyman’ (Lovat Dickson, 1933).

His poems were included in two WW1 Anthologies as well as in numerous magazines and newspapers.

‘Lost in France – Jo’s Requiem’ by Ernest Rhys

He had the ploughman's strength

 in the grasp of his hand;

 he could see a crow

 three miles away,

 and the trout beneath the stone.

 He could hear the green oats growing,

 and the south-west wind making rain.

 He could hear the wheel upon the hill

 when it left the level road.

 He could make a gate, and dig a pit,

 and plough as straight as stone can fall.

 And he is dead.

Gilbert Oliver Thomas (1891 – 1978) – poet, essayist, critic

Born in Coventry on 10th July 1891.  During the First World War Gilbert was a pacifist and was imprisoned as a Conscientious Objector.
’Poems 1912 – 1919’ Swarthmore P., 1920

‘Towards the dawn, and other poems’, Headley, 1918
‘The voice of peace and other poems’, Chapman and Hall, 1914 and his poems were published in three WW1 Anthologies.

‘The Ploughman’ by Gilbert Oliver Thomas

I wandered on through field and fold,

The way was lone and chill.

Towards the East a mist lay rolled

Upon a distant hill —

That hill which once with boyish stride

I oft would climb to see

The dawn unfold the portals wide

Into infinity.

And from infinity no breath

Wakened my soul this morn;

As in a dream that whispereth

Vaguely of things forlorn,

I stumbled on — till lo, above

A gleam of sunlight kissed

The shoulder of the hill, and clove

A pathway through the mist.

And in that sudden cleft of light

Hewn through a world of cloud,

My trembling eyes beheld a sight

That made my heart beat loud;

For toiling there unseen till now

And toiling gently still,

A ploughman drove his early plough

In patience on the hill.

Oh sudden gleam too swiftly past!

Oh sudden gleam of red!

A moment now it seemed to cast

A halo round his head.

But now it flickered and grew dim,

Grew dim and died away;

Once more the mist enveloped him

Within its trackless gray.

Yet light of heart I journeyed now;

For, though once more the hill

Was lost, that unsuspected plough

Was surely plodding still —

As, in the mists of doubt that coil

Around the soul's high slope,

Unseen, undreamt, there still may toil

The patient plough of Hope.

Alfred Williams (1877 – 1930) – Welsh
Born near Swindon in South Martson, Wiltshire on 7th February 1877 and died on 10th April 1930.

‘Selected Poems’, Erskine Macdonald, 1926

‘War Sonnets and Songs’, Erskine Macdonald, 1916

 Iolo Aneurin Williams (1890 – 1962) - Welsh

Born in Middlesborough, Yorkshire on 18th June 1890, his father was the Labour Member of Parliament Aneurin Williams and his mother was Helen Elizabeth, nee Pattinson.  He had one sibling – Helen Ursula Williams.

Iolo Aneurin was educated at Rugby School before going on to Cambridge.  In 1911, the Williams family were living in Hindhead, Surrey.

During the First World War Iolo Aneurin was a Captain in the West Yorkshire Regiment and served in France and Flanders.    In 1920, he married an American – Francion Elinor Rixon from Colorado, USA and they had a son and two daughters.
Iolo Aneurin Williams died on 18th January 1962.

His WW1 poetry collections were:

‘New Poems’ Methuen 1919

‘Poems’, Methuen 1915

And his poems were featured in seven First World War poetry Anthologies.

Sources:   Catherine W. Reilly ‘English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography’ (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)
‘Welsh Poets’ published by Erskine Macdonald, London WC1

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Arthur Glyn Prys-Jones (1888 - 1987) - Welsh

Arthur Glyn Prys-Jones was born in Denbigh in Wales in 1888.  His parents were Robert and Kate Prys-Jones. The family moved to Pontypridd when Arthur was nine years old. He was educated at Llandovery College and Jesus College Oxford and became a teacher in History and English and a schools inspector. A president in the 1970s of the (Welsh) Academi Cymraeg, he was the first Welsh poet of 20th Century who wrote in English who 'was inspired by his nationality and used it as a source of pride and inspiration'. 
A Song of the Welsh

(St. David’s Day, 1916)

By A.G. Prys-Jones


There is a race in an island place that rose in the morning gleam

And made its sword of an olden song, its armour cut of a dream:

And its warriors died in a stubborn pride that recked no price of tears,


And the eyes of a nation’s hope grew bright, like roses out of the dawn,

But ever the dark of the shadow came and the twilight fell forlorn,

For the feet of the iron legions pressed where Menai sobbed and sighed,

And the Saxons came in a roaring flame:  and Arthur swooned and died.


Then rose a host from out of the foam, and a tyrant out of the sea,

And harried the race of the singing sword with the hounds of Normandy,

Till the quarry turned, their arrows burned, their lances thrust and leapt

At Evesham grey in the bitter day when the soul of Montfort slept.


And the men of the sword went far abroad when France was a blaze of spears,

And the longbow’s dirge was a crimson surge at Crecy and Poitiers.

But over a sunless road they trod when Glendower brake his shield,

Till the song of the sword rang loud and clear in the crash of Bosworth Field.


Then, lo ! afar from Corsica the ravening eagles sped,

From the Midland Sea to Muscovy where the trampled snows were red.

And the song of the sword came calling wild, and Picton’s henchmen flew

From Badajos through Quatre Brax to the crown of Waterloo.


And now, through the plains that the nations spoil, the new-flung legions came,

Their path was a torren of broken men, their feet were a scorching flame,

But the men of the sword were linked with Gods and neither spell nor truce

Could stem the spate from the Marne’s locked gate to the red, red wrath of Loos.


Their sword is made of an olden song their armour out of a dream,

They have seen in the rills of a thousand hills the word of the light’ning gleam.

Their dream is the soul of man unbound from birth to eternity,

And the song of the sword is a sounding chant of the psalm of liberty.


And the land they love and the land they made and the place men know them by

Is a land where a tree is a singing thing and the wind is a lullaby,

Where the mists are white in the morning light as a maiden’s bridal veil,

In a home that is ever the harp of song and legend and fairy-tale.

From ‘Welsh Poets’ Published in 1917 by Erskine Macdonald, London, pages 53 – 55.

Isaac Rosenberg (1890 - 1918) - British WW1 soldier poet and artist

Isaac Rosenberg was born in Bristol, UK on 25th November 1890.  He was the second of six children.  His twin brother died at birth. His parents were Barnett and Hacka (Anna) Rosenberg who were originally from Lithuania.  The family moved to Stepney in East London in 1897.   Isaac attended St. Paul’s Primary School and Baker Street Board School.   Showing an aptitude for poetry and art, in 1902 he was allowed to take lessons at the Arts and Crafts School in Stepney. 

In June 1914, suffering from chronic Bronchitis, Isaac Rosenberg went to live with his sister Mina who was married and living in Capetown, South Africa.   He wrote a poem called ‘On Receiving News of the War’.  
On his return to the UK, Isaac enlisted in the 12th Bantam Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment.  The Bantam Regiments were set up to allow men of less than the British Army’s regulation 5’ 3” height to enlist.   He transferred to the South Lancashire Regiment then the King’s Own Royal Regiment and was sent to France in June 1916.

Isaac had never enjoyed robust health and he fell ill in January 1917.  On his return to the Western Front, Isaac was transferred to the 40th Division Works Battalion.   But returning to his own Regiment he fell ill again and was treated in the 51st General Hospital in Etaples, France.  Isaac was killed at Fampoux, north of Arras in France on 1st April 1918 (Nisan 19, 5678 in the Jewish Calendar).   He is buried in Bailleul Road East Cemetery in Saint-Laurent-Blangny, in the Nord Pas de Calais area of France.
A talented artist, some of Isaac’s self-portraits now hang in the National Portrait Gallery and Tate Britain.  He was commemorated on 11th November 1985 in Westminster Abbey Poets Corner.

Isaac Rosenberg Self Portrait
in Tin hat 

Self portrait in steel helmet - Ben Uri Gallery

Isaac’s WW1 poetry collections were published after his death:

‘Collected Works: Poetry, Prose, Letters, and some Drawings’ edited by Gordon Bottomley and Denys Harding, with a foreword by Siegfried Sassoon (Chatto & Windus, 1937)

‘Moses A Play’ (and Poems) (Paragon, Stepney 1916)

‘Poems’ selected by Gordon Bottemley with an introductory memoir by Laurence Binyon (Heinemann, 1922)

‘Youth (poems)’ (Narodiczky, 1915)

His poems were also featured in eleven WW1 poetry Anthologies as well as being published in the press during WW1.   Poems, such as ‘Dead Man ‘s Dump’ and ‘Break of Day in the Trenches’, have been included in every significant war anthology and have earned him a place in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.

"On Receiving News of the War" BY ISAAC ROSENBERG, (Cape Town, 1914)

Snow is a strange white word;
No ice or frost
Have asked of bud or bird
For Winter's cost.

Yet ice and frost and snow
From earth to sky
This Summer land doth know,
No man knows why.

In all men's hearts it is.
Some spirit old
Hath turned with malign kiss
Our lives to mould.

Red fangs have torn His face.
God's blood is shed.
He mourns from His lone place
His children dead.

O! ancient crimson curse!
Corrode, consume.
Give back this universe
Its pristine bloom.

The Jewish East End Celebration Society are organising a statue in memory of Isaac Rosenberg to be placed in the grounds of Birkbeck College, London:


Jospeh Leftwich, ‘Isaac Rosenberg’ in the Supplement to the Jewish Chronicle, No. 167 of February 1936, pp. I – iii – issued free with the Jewish Chronicle of 6th March 1936


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