Sunday, 24 July 2016

A Poet wounded on 24th July 1916 - Brian Brooke (1889 - 1916) - Scottish

Henry Brian Brooke was born on 9th December 1889 at Lickleyhead Castle, Aberdeenshire, the third son of Captain Sir Harry Vesey Brooke and his wife Patricia, nee Moir-Byers.   Brian’s siblings were James Anson Otho Brooke (1889 - 1914), Constance Geraldine Brooke (1889 - 1973) Patrick Harry Brooke (1895 - 1917) and Rupert Brooke who was born and died in 1896.  As a child, Brian liked to draw and write poetry.  He attended Clifton College and then went to Gordon's College in Aberdeen to prepare for life as a colonial civil servant.  According to M.P. Willcocks who wrote the introduction to Brian's poetry collection, he had red hair and grew to a height of 6 foot 3 inches.

Brian’s eyesight was poor so instead of joining the Army or Navy like his brothers, he went to British East Africa, where he was a big game hunter and cattle farmer who befriended the local Masai tribe and became their blood brother.   He wrote poetry using the pen-name “Korengo”, which means “the big man” in Masai.  He was wounded in Jubaland, Somalia while serving with the East African Transport Corps losing two fingers, and returned to Britain for treatment.

When his brother James was killed in Belgium on 29th October 1914 (he was posthumously awarded the V.C.), Brian joined the 2nd Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders.   He was sent to the Western Front.  During the Battle of the Somme at Mametz Wood on 1st July 1916 Brian was wounded three times, first in the leg, then in the arm and finally in the neck but he continued to lead his men until he could go no further. 

Brian was sent home to Britain after initial treatment at the Base Hospital and was transferred to the Empire in London where he died of his wounds on 24th July 1916.  Brian is buried in Aberdeen Springbank Cemetery.  Brian’s brother Patrick was in the Royal Navy, serving on HMS “Courageous” and died of Typhoid Fever on 24th May 1917.

Brian Brooke’s collection of WW1 and other “Poems” was published by John Lane, The Bodley Head, London in 1917.

Brian Brooke is one of the forgotten poets of WW1 featured in the Exhibition of Somme Poets at The Wilfred Owen Story Museum in Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 6AE.
The Museum is open Tuesdays - Fridays from 11 am - 2 pm but you can phone if you are planning a visit to ensure there will be some to meet you and show you round.07903 337995.

The Wilfred Owen Story,
34, Argyle Street,
Birkenhead, Wirral,
CH41 6AE.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Emile Cammaerts (1878 - 1953) - Belgian Poet

Belgian poet, writer and playwright. Emile Cammaerts was born in Brussels on 16th March 1878.  In 1908 he settled in England.

During the First World War, Cammaerts wrote the poems that gained him the greatest audience "Belgian Poems" Published in 1915, 'New Belgian Poems', published in 1917 and 'Messines and other Poems", published in 1918.

Cammaerts also wrote "Through the Iron Bars," which was published in 1917 and was an account of the sufferings of Belgium during the First World War.  In addition, he wrote the preface to the poetry anthology edited by R.M. Ingersley (Russell Markand) under the title "The Glory of Belgium: A Tribute and a Chronicle", published in 1915 by Erskine Macdonald and sold in aid of the Belgian Repatriation Fund.

Emile Cammaerts married Tita Brand, a daughter of the opera singer Madame Marie Brema. Tita Brand-Cammaerts became well known during the World War for reciting her husband's patriotic poems. Cammaerts' poem "Après Anvers" ("After Antwerp"), which was first published in "The Observer" and written in French, was translated into English by his wife.  With music composed by Sir Edward Elgar, re-titled "Carillon" and first performed in public on 7th December 1914 at a concert by the London Symphony Orchestra , the work was one of the greatest successes of the First World War. Cammaerts is one of British author Michael Morpurgo's Grandfathers.

Cammaerts became Professor of Belgian Studies at London University in 1933.  He died in Radlett, Hertfordshire on 2nd November 1953.

Cammaert's WW1 poems, written in French were translated by his wife, Tita Branc-Cammaerts, and under the title "Belgian Poems", were published in London by John Lane, The Bodley Head in 1915. The poems can be read free on-line via Archive here

 Photograph of Cammaerts in the National Portrait Gallery by Lafayette in 1928.

A link to an interesting article written by Michael Morpurgo (author of the book "War Horse") about his Grandfather, Belgian poet Emile Cammaerts –


Tuesday, 19 July 2016

WW1 Poets included in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, London, UK

Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, London

I noticed while researching Herbert Read that he is among the First World War poets listed in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. 

Since I began producing exhibition panels for a series of WW1 commemorative exhibitions that began in November 2012, I have prepared exhibition panels for some of the following poets and hope eventually to include them all – even though many of them are, thankfully, not ‘forgotten’…

Richard Aldington

Lawrence Binyon

Edmund Blunden

Rupert Brooke

Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

Robert Graves

Julian Grenfell

Ivor Gurney

David Jones

Robert Nichols

Wilfred Owen

Herbert Read

Isaac Rosenberg

Siegfried Sassoon

Charles Hamilton Sorley

Edward Thomas

The plaque commemorative the above poets was dedicated on 11th November 1985 and bears the famous quote from Wilfred Owen: “My subject is war….”

But I wonder why no women poets were included?   I supposed the old chestnut is because ‘they didn’t fight’ so were therefore not qualified to write about the first truly global conflict that rocked the planet and involved pretty well every man, woman and child who in Britain all 'did their bit'.

However, contrary to popular belief, women did go to the war zones and many of them died or were killed serving the cause.  I think it is high time we had a women’s WW1 poetry section at Poets’ Corner.    Who would you suggest?  This is my list:


Rosaleen Graves – British - trained as a nurse during WW1, nursed in Britain and France, studied to become a doctor

Mary Borden – American poet and nurse

Elizaveta Polonskaya – Russian poet and doctor

May Sinclair – accompanied Dr Hector Munro’s Flying Ambulance Unit in 1914

Cicely Hamilton – British actress, writer and poet - Scottish Women’s Hospital administrator Royaumont Abbey

Vera Brittain – British poet/ writer – VAD England, France, Malta

Winifred Holtby – British poet/writer – VAD and ambulance driver France

May Wedderburn Cannan – Coffee Shop Rouen

Edith Bagnold – British poet. Nurse then driver in France

Agatha Christie – British poet and writer. VAD

Millicent Sutherland – British poet - funded hospital in France

Edith Wharton – American poet – nursed in Paris

Ella Wheeler Wilcox – American poet who travelled the Atlantic to entertain the American troops on the Western Front

Henriette Hardenberg – German poet and nurse

Emine Semiye Onasy – Turkish writer and nurse

Alberta Vickridge – British poet – VAD

Joan Thompson – travelled to France with the Red Cross

Monday, 18 July 2016

Richard le Gallienne: Liverpool’s Wild Poet - an exhibition at Liverpool Central Library 5th August - 31st October 2016

Richard le Gallienne:  Liverpool’s Wild(e) Poet - An exhibition - will be held at the Hornby Library, Liverpool Central Library, William Brown Street, LIVERPOOL, L3 8E, UK

From 5th August – 31st October 2016
The Liverpool Central Library commemorates the 150th anniversary of the birth in Liverpool of Richard Le Gallienne (1866–1947)—poet, critic, and novelist—with an exhibition in its Hornby Library. On display are over 50 rare or unique items, many highlighting his lifelong connections to Oscar Wilde (1854–1900). Original photographs, drawings, manuscripts, unpublished letters, Victorian periodicals, and first editions tell the story of Le Gallienne’s successful literary career, which took him from Liverpool to London, the US, and France. Drawn from public and private collections and local institutions (including family papers in the Liverpool Record Office of Liverpool Central Library), these materials show his importance to the Aesthetic and Decadent movements, his involvement with the Yellow Book, his intimate ties to late-Victorian feminists known as “New Women,” and his links to artists such as Max Beerbohm and Walter Sickert.

Most of all, this exhibition illuminates the role that Oscar Wilde played as his idol, mentor, and friend—a relationship that began when 17-year-old Dick Gallienne, clerk in a Liverpool office, heard Wilde lecture in 1883 at the Claughton Music Hall in Birkenhead. Inspired by Wilde’s personal style and ideas about art, he renamed himself “Richard Le Gallienne,” wore long hair and artistic clothes, and dedicated himself to becoming an equally flamboyant figure and unconventional writer, devoted to Beauty in all its forms.

Programming in conjunction with the exhibition:

“Late-Victorian Literary Liverpool: A Symposium”

Saturday, 29 October 2016

The Liverpool Central Library will bring together scholars and collectors from the UK and the US for a one-day symposium about Liverpool as a literary and cultural center at the end of the 19th century. This event is free and open to the public.

Information about library hours and facilities:


Sunday, 17 July 2016

New Chamber Oratorio by Philip Lancaster featuring poetry of WW1, Cirencester 3.30 p.m. 24th July 2016

There is to be a performance of "War Passion" written by Philip Lancaster to commemorate the First World War.  This will take place on 24th July 2016 at Cirencester Parish Church, Cirencester at 3.30 p.m. and will be the first performance of a new chamber oratorio featuring the poetry of Edmund Blunden, Robert Graves, Julian Grenfell, Ivor Gurney, Wifred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Charles Sorley, Herbert Read, Issac Rosenberg and Edward Thomas. 3.30pm, as part of the Three Choirs Festival. For details please see

On the previous day (Saturday, 23rd July 2016), Philip Lancaster will be giving a talk At St. Mary de Lode Church in Gloucester at 1.00 p.m. about the writing of the piece and some of the poetry used. For details see

And for anyone in London, on Friday evening, 22nd July 2016 the inaugural St. Marylebone Festival is presenting an evening of readings and song to commemorate the Somme centenary: "War on all fronts". For details and tickets please see

Patrick Villa says:

“By co-incidence, the day of the premiere performance of Philip's 'War Passion' and poetry readings at Cirencester Parish Church, 24 July 2016 will be the centenary of Robert Graves's 21st birthday (if you see what I mean: he would have been 121!).   On 24th July 1916, Robert’s parents received news of his death from wounds.   In August “The Times” listed him as 'Died of Wounds', but later published a correction, at no cost, written by Robert Graves himself.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

James Norman Hall (1887 – 1951) – American poet, writer and WW1 war correspondent who served in three of the Allied Armed Forces during The First World War

With many thanks to the Facebook Group Great War Doughboy Search: American World War One Veterans for sending me details of James Norman Hall – originally from Colfax, Iowa - who is surely one of the most interesting soldier poets of the First World War

James was born in Colfax in the State of Iowa in the United States of America.  He was educated at local schools and began writing poetry at a young age. He graduated from Grinnell College in 1910 and became a social worker in Boston, Massachusetts, while trying to establish himself as a writer and studying for a master's degree from Harvard University.

James was on holiday in Britain during the summer of 1914 when World War I broke out.  He had cycled to Scotland hoping to meet his hero author Joseph Conrad.   Posing as a Canadian subject, he enlisted in the British Army, serving in the Royal Fusiliers as a machine gunner during the Battle of Loos on the Western Front in France.

His father became ill and James requested compassionate leave.  When the truth came out about his nationality, he was given an Honourable Discharge from the British Army.   James returned to the United States to look after his father and while there, wrote his first book, “Kitchener's Mob” which was about his experiences of WW1.  It was published in 1916 and sold quite well in America.

After a speaking tour to promote the book, James returned to Europe in 1916 on an assignment for “Atlantic Monthly” Magazine, commissioned to write a series of stories about the group of American volunteers serving in the French Air Force’s Lafayette Escadrille – a squadron of French fighting planes.  However, after spending some time with the American airmen, he volunteered to serve in the French Air Service.  By that time, the original squadron had been enlarged and was called the Lafayette Flying Corps, which trained American volunteers to serve in regular French air squadrons.  During his time in the French Air Force, James was awarded the French medals the Croix de Guerre with five palms and the Médaille Militaire.

When the United States entered the war in 1917, James was made a Captain in the American Army Air Service.   There he met another American pilot, Charles Nordhoff. After being shot down over enemy lines in 1918, James spent the last months of the war as a German prisoner of war (POW).  On his release, he was awarded the French medal the Légion d’Honneur (Legion of Honour) and the American Distinguished Service Cross.

After the war, James went to live on the island of Tahiti, where he and Charles Nordhoff, who had also moved there, collaborated on writing a number of successful adventure novels, including the “Bounty” Trilogy, which was turned into a film in 1935 by MGM with Charles Laughton and Clark Gable.   As well as the various Bounty films, other film adaptations of James’s writing followed - “The Hurricane” (1937), which starred his nephew Jon Hall, “Passage to Marseille” (1944) with Humphrey Bogart, and “Botany Bay” (1953), with Alan Ladd.

In 1940, Hall published a collection of poems under the title “Oh Millersville!”  This was published with the pen-name ‘Fern Gravel’ and the poems were written in the voice of a little girl of about ten years old.  The collection was well received, and the truth did not come out until 1946, when Hall published an article entitled "Fern Gravel: A Hoax and a Confession" in “Atlantic Monthly”.   He explained that he had apparently been inspired by a dream he had in which he saw himself back in his Iowa childhood among a group of children, one of whom was a little girl called Fern who wanted her poems to be written down. When he woke up, James immediately wrote down Fern's poems, which are first-person observations of life in a small, provincial American town.

James married a girl called Sarah (known as ‘Lala’) Winchester in 1925 – his wife was part-Polynesian. The couple had two children - Conrad Hall (1926–2003), who worked in films as a director of photography, and Nancy Hall-Rutgers (born 1930).  James died in 1951 in Tahiti and was buried on land on the hillside above the house he and Lala lived in for many years. On his grave is a line from one of the poems he wrote in Iowa at the age of 11: “Look to the Northward stranger, just over the hillside there. Have you in your travels seen a land more passing fair?”

There is an appreciation society and a museum run by members of James’s family -


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Marcel Etévé (1891 – 1916) – French poet

Marcel was born in Paris on 13th May 1891.  His parents were school teachers.
Mobilised at the start of the First World War, Marcel joined the 26th Company of the 417th Regiment of Infantry of the French Army.  He was posted to the Western Front near Berneuil-sur-Aisne on 16th April 1915.  Taken ill while in the trenches, Marcel was hospitalised from 23rd May to 6th July 1915.
Returning to combat, Marcel was killed in action attacking a German trench on 20th July 1916 near the village of Estrées in France.  At the time of his death, he held the rank of Lieutenant.
In 1917 Marcel’s letters from the front to friends and to his mother, were published under the title “Mémoires et Récits de Guerre Lettres d’un Combattant Août 1914 – Juillet 1916”, with a preface by Paul Depuy, by Librairie Hachette et Cie, Paris.  You can read the book on Archive as a free download

With grateful thanks to Pierre Virey who has amassed a huge collection of WW1 poets from many countries for sending me a long list of French poets killed during the conflict.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Poetry written by those at school during The First World War

It is really great to see that the young poets of WW1 are finally being recognised.  Here is the link to Charterhouse School's commemoration of their old boys who served during the First World War:

A.A. Milne (1882 – 1956) – British writer and poet

Although he is famous for creating the "Winnie the Pooh" stories, believe it or not A.A. Milne was also a poet.
Alan Alexander Milne was born on 18th January 1882 in Kilburn, London.  His father was John Vine Milne, a public school headmaster, and his mother Sarah Marie Milne, nee Heginbotham.  Alan had two brothers – David B. and Kenneth John.   He married Dorothy “Daphne” de Selincourt in 1913.   Alan was a member of J.M. Barrie's recreational cricket team the 'Allahakbarries'.

Commissioned into the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant on 17th February 1915, Alan was posted to The Somme in the summer of 1916.   He contracted Trench Fever while there and was sent back to Britain to recover.  After that he joined the Royal Corps of Signals and later worked for Military Intelligence.

Alan and Dorothy’s son Christopher Robin was born in 1925.

During the Second World War, Alan was a Captain in the Home Guard.  He died in 1956.  A.A. Milne's WW1 poetry collection "For the luncheon interval: cricket and other verses" was published in 1925 by Methuen, London. 

A.A. Milne is one of the poets featured in the "Songs of the Somme" Exhibition at the Wilfred Owen Story Museum in Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, UK, CH41 6AE. The museum, run entirely by volunteers, is open Tuesday - Friday from 11 am till 2 pm.  Advisable to phone first - see website 

Photo:  'Winnipeg' the brown bear mascot of the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps (CAVC) brought to England in 1914 by Lt. Harry Colebourne and allowed to remain in London Zoo where Christopher Robin used to visit her regularly.

Friday, 8 July 2016

William H. Littlejohn (1891 - 1917) - British soldier poet

Imperial Russian Hospital Ship ”Vpered” was torpedoed and sunk in the Black Sea on 8th July 1916 by German U-Boat U-38.   She was off the Turkish Coast.

In memory of all who perished when hospital ships were sunk during the First World War, here is a poem by William H. Littlejohn.

Littlejohn, the son of William and Mary Ann Littlejohn, nee Bulled, of London, joined the Middlesex Regiment in WW1 and became a Company Sergeant Major.  In 1915, he married Florence Annabel Bell and the couple lived in Hammersmith, London.   William was killed on 10th April 1917 during the Battle of Arras on the Western Front in France.

William H. Littlejohn is buried in Wancourt British Cemetery, 62128 Wancourt, Pas de Calais, France. The Cemetery is 8 kms south east of Arras.

 "The Hospital Ship"

There is a green-lit hospital ship,
Green, with a crimson cross,
Lazily swaying there in the bay,
Lazily bearing my friend away,
Leaving me dull-sensed loss.
Green-lit, red-lit hospital ship,
Numb is my heart, but you carelessly dip
There in the drift of the bay.

There is a green-lit hospital ship,
Dim as the distance grows,
Speedily steaming out of the bay,
Speedily bearing my friend away
Into the orange-rose.
Green-lit, red-lit hospital ship,
Dim are my eyes, but you heedlessly slip
Out of their sight from the bay.

There was a green-lit hospital ship,
Green, with a blood-red cross,
Lazily swaying there in the bay,
But it went out with the light of the day -
Out where the white seas toss.
Green-lit, red-lit hospital ship,
Cold are my hands and trembling my lip:
Did you make home from the bay?

Published in "The Muse in Arms: a collection of war poems, for the most part written in the field of action, by seamen, soldiers, and flying men who are serving, or who have served, in the Great War"  published by Murray in 1917.
William H. Littlejohn also had a poem published in
"The Valiant Muse: an anthology of poems by poets killed in the World War" edited by Frederic W. Ziv and published by Putnam in 1936.
NOTE:  The First World War was not called that until after the Second World War.
Sources:  Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978)
and various internet sites.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

A few of the poets and writers who were on The Somme in WW1

I am still searching for other poets - for instance French, German, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Moroccan, Sikh, Indian, Siamese, Zoave, Senegalese and so on - who served on the Western Front in The First World War.  For those who were killed I should like to include where they are buried.  If anyone can help please get in touch.

These are just some of the poets I have found so far. They are included in the book of Somme Poets featured in the commemorative exhibition at The Wilfred Owen Story Museum in Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH45 2NZ.   If you plan to go to the Museum, please call first as the venue is manned by volunteers and receives no funding - 07903 337995.


Alfred Victor Ratcliffe

William Noel Hodgson

Alexander Robertson

Henry Lionel Field

John William Streets

Gilbert Waterhouse

Bernard Charles de Boismaison White

Alan Seeger

Kurd Adler

Robert Smylie

Donald Frederic Goold Johnson

Reinhard Sorge

Richard Dennys

Brian Brooke

Percy Haselden

J.R. Ackerley

Eric Fitzwater Wilkinson

Harold William Morre

A.A. Milne

Max Plowman

David Jones

Ford Madox Ford

Robert Beckh

Hugh Stewart Smith

William Eric Berridge

Cyril W. Winterbotham

E.W. Mackintosh

Tom Kettle

Raymond Asquith

The Hon. Edward Wyndham Tennant

Nicholas Herbert Todd

Leslie A. Coulson

H.H. Munro

Geoffrey Bache Smith

Robert Graves

Siegfried Sassoon

Claude Quayle Lewis Penrose

Coningsby Dawson

Cecil Lewis

Theo van Beek

Robert Nichols

Martin Armstrong

Ivor Gurney

Edmund Blunden

Leslie George Rub

Geoffrey Dearmer

Guillaume Apollinaire

The Blue Puttees (Canadian)

Oliphant Down

Alfred Lichtenstein

Rex Freston

Cyril Morton Horne

Bernard Pitt

J.B. Priestly

Laurence Binyon

Desmond Coke

A.P. Herbert

Wilfred Owen                                          

C.S. Lewis

J.R.R. Tolkien

Colin Mitchell

Gerritt Engelke

Gustav Sack

Isaac Rosenberg

Gilbert Frankau

Frederic Manning

Alexander James Mann

Alfred Leslie Guppy

Howard Somervell (a doctor with the Royal Army Medical Corps who wrote about his experiences on the Somme - hence his inclusion in the exhibition)

Rudolf Binding  

Friday, 1 July 2016

Some of the poets killed on The Somme on 1st July 1916

Some of the poets who were killed on 1st July 1916:

Alfred Victor Ratcliffe, West Yorkshire Regiment, kia near Fricourt, buried in Fricourt New Military Cemetery (taught at Framlingham College)

William Noel Hodgson, Devonshire Regiment, kia Mametz Wood, buried Devonshire Cemetery in Mansell Copse

Alexander Robertson, York and Lancaster Regiment, kia in an attack on the German-held village of Serre. Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial

John William Streets, York and Lancaster Regiment killed at the same time as Alexander Robertson, body found and buried Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps, Somme

Henry Lionel Field, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, buried Serre Road Cemetery No. 2, Beaumont Hamel et Hebuterne, Somme

Gilbert Waterhouse, Royal Fusiliers, kia south of Serre, body recovered and buried Serre Road No. 2 Cemetery, Beaumont-Hamel

Bernard Charles de Boismaison White, Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment, commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial

Alan Seeger, volunteered to join the French Foreign Legion, buried Lihons French National Cemetery

An exhibition of some of the poets and writers on the Somme in WW1 features these poets and more at The Wilfred Owen Story, 34 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 6AE open Tuesdays - Fridays 11 am - 2 pm.

Photo:  William Noel Hodgson and his WW1 collection "Verse and Prose in Peace and War".