Monday, 31 October 2016

Barry Eric Odell Pain (1864 – 1928) – British journalist, author and poet

Born in Cambridge on 28th September 1864, Barry’s parents were John Odell Pain and his wife Maria, nee Pain.  Barry had the following siblings: Herbert, b. 1857, Allison, b. 1859, Aubrey, b. 1863, Edgar, b. 1867, Edith Maud, b. 1869 and Arthur, b. 1871.  The family lived in Sidney Street, St. Andrew the Great, Cambridge.

Barry was educated at Sedbergh School then Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he was a regular contributor to “The Granta”, a Cambridge under graduates’ literary magazine.  “The Granta” was founded in 1889 by a group of Cambridge students and named after the river that runs through Cambridge.  It was brought up-to-date as a literary magazine in 1979 and is now published quarterly.

In June 1892, Barry married Amelia Nina A. Lehman, a cousin of Forgotten Poet Rudolf Chambers Lehmann who was also a Justice of the Peace and a Liberal MP. Barry and Amelia had two children – Nancy Erica, b. 1893 and Eva Amelia, b. 1897.  In 1911, Barry and his family were living in Marylebone in London. 

Barry joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and served as a Chief Petty Officer during the First World War.

He had poetry, short stories and non-fiction published between 1891 and 1921 and his war poems were included in 12 WW1 poetry anthologies.

Barry died in Bushey, Hertfordshire on 5th May 1928.


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

Martin Stephen, Ed. “Poems of the First World War ‘Never such Innocence’ (Everyman, J.M. Dent, London, 1993

Find my Past, Free BMD and Pendulum.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

"Gardens Behind the Lines, 1914 - 1918" by Anne Powell

In “Gardens Behind the Lines, 1914 – 1918 Gardens Found and Made on the Western and Eastern Fronts”, Anne Powell skilfully weaves extracts from eye-witness accounts with poems written by poets who survived the conflict, as well as poets who were killed - Richard Aldington, Rupert Brooke, Edmund Blunden, Leslie Coulson, Geoffrey Dearmer, Robert Graves, Ivor Gurney, Francis Ledwidge, Siegfried Sassoon, Geoffrey Bache Smith, John William Streets, Edward Wyndham Tennant and Edward Thomas and from a letter by Osbert Sitwell.  You will also find quotes from diaries and letters home written by women doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, and so on during WW1. 

In the Afterword is a detailed description of how the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was set up along with the well-tended cemeteries, remembrance gardens and memorials that we now find when visiting the Western Front in Belgium and France.  Did you know that my favourite gardener, Gertrude Jekyll was involved in the planning of some of the gardens in cemeteries on the Western Front? (p. 38).

Anne has also included brief biographies of all those from whose work she quotes in the book, as well as comprehensive notes.  From cover to cover this is a wonderful book – the back covers have a full list of the titles available in Jean Moorcroft Wilson’s War Poets Series.  I urge you to read it.

Here is an extract:  The Hon. Edward Wyndham Tennant, known as “Bim” (1897 - 1916) – British poet

“On the second day of the Battle of Loos the eighteen year old Edward Wyndham (Bim) Tennant arrived with the 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards behind the front lines at Vermelles. Despite a Brigadeorder that no-one under the age of nineteen should be sent to the trenches, Bim was in and out of the
trenches over the next weeks. After leave in November he rejoined the Battalion in billets in the small town of Laventie, where he continued to return after days spent in trenches between Chapigny and Winchester Road. From the billets, in the early weeks of 1916, he wrote his nostalgic poem

 “Home thoughts in Laventie”:

Green gardens in Laventie!
Soldiers only know the street,
Where the mud is churned and splashed about
By battle-wending feet;
And yet beside one stricken house there is a glimpse of grass,
Look for it when you pass.

Beyond the church whose pitted spire
Seems balanced on a strand
Of swaying stone and tottering brick
Two roofless ruins stand,
And here behind the wreckage where the back wall should have been
We found a garden green.

The grass was never trodden on,
The little path of gravel
Was overgrown with celandine,
No other folk did travel
Along its weedy surface, but the nimble-footed mouse
Running from house to house.

So all among the vivid blades
Of soft and tender grass
We lay, nor heard the limber wheels
That pass and ever pass,
In noisy continuity, until their stony rattle
Seems in itself a battle.

At length we rose up from this ease 
Of tranquil happy mind,
And searched the garden’s little length
A fresh pleasaunce to find;
And there, some yellow daffodils and jasmine hanging high
Did rest the tired eye.

The fairest and most fragrant
Of the many sweets we found
Was a little bush of Daphne flower,
Upon a grassy mound,
And so thick were the blossoms set, and so divine the scent
That we were well content.

Hungry for Spring I bent my head,
The perfume fanned my face,”

Extract from “Gardens Behind the Lines 1914 – 1918 – Gardens Found and Made on the Western and Eastern Fronts” by Anne Powell, (Cecil Woolf, London 2015) in “The War Poets” Series, Edited by Jean Moorcroft Wilson and published in 2015 by Cecil Woolf, London. ISBN No. 978-1-907286-44-5, price £9.00

Portrait of The Hon. Edward Wyndham Tennant by John Singer Sargent.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Gustav Sack (1885 - 1916) - German writer, poet, lyricist and playwright

Gustav Sack was born on 28th October 1885 in Wesel, a city in North-Rhine Westphalia, near the border with Holland.   His father was a schoolmaster.  He was educated at the Grammar School in Wesel, where he became interested in English literature.  He went on to study at the universities of Greifswald, Műnster and Halle.

Sack married Paula Harbeck in 1914.  In Switzerland when war broke out, Sack returned to Germany and was called up as he was a Lieutenant in the Reserves.   He served on The Western Front on The Somme, which had a profound effect on him and during that time he wrote about the insanity of war.

Accused of misconduct and insubordination, Sack spent some time in a psychiatric hospital, after which he and his wife moved to Munich.  When he was passed as fit to return to military duties, Sack was sent to the Eastern Front in Romania in November 1916 where he was killed on 5th December 1916 at Finta Mare near Bucharest.

After the war, Sack's widow published some of his work under the title "Die Drei Reiter/Gesammelte Werken" in Berlin in 1920.

Gustav Sack 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.


Im Englischen Garten (Translation:  In an English Garden)
Als ich aus meiner Stammtaberne
mich gestern fortgemacht,
hing in die spöttisch stille Gartennacht
der Mond herab gleich einer leuchtenden Papierlaterne.
Mit einem Sichelschwert, krumm wie die Hülse der Luzerne,
hat ungehört die Nacht
unter dem Rasen einen Schnitt gemacht
und läßt die Erde stürzen in die sammetschwarze Ferne;
und singend hält sie in den weichen Händen
dies Rund von wulstigen Schattenwänden,
in dem ich wie von einer tönereichen Schale
getragen viele tausend tausend Male
an Leonor gedacht,
in dieser braunen spöttisch stillen Gartennacht.

Sack noticed the moon as he left his local one evening - looking like a paper lantern, shaped like a scythe, casting a shadow that looks like a cut in the lawn.  It would be interesting to find out where he found an English Garden, though we know from Anne Powell's book "Gardens Behind the Lines, 1914 - 1918 Gardens Found and Made on the Western and Eastern Fronts (Cecil Woolf, London, 2015) that there were many such gardens lovingly created in the desolation of the First World War.  

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Commemorating the First World War

This is what my commemorative exhibition project is all about.  One of my contacts has just sent me this message:

"As part of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's 'Living Memory' Project, I took a party of students to a local cemetery. The students found the eight soldiers who died at home of their wounds from the Somme Offensive, 'lit' a candle for them, and they all selected a poem to read from your Forgotten Poets website so that more soldiers were remembered by them.  I took some photographs - see left."

That is really wonderful - thank you all so much.

I do hope other groups will copy and that young people all over the UK will remember the fallen of the First World War in their local cemeteries.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

William Maunsell Scanlan, MC, MM (1886 - 1917) - Canadian Poet

William was born in Bluevale, Huron County, Ontario, Canada on 8th July 1886, where his maternal grandparents lived..  His father was The Rev. Dr. Scanlan and his Great-Grandfather was Michael Scanlan, a High Sheriff of Limerick in Ireland. 

When WW1 broke out, William was working as the City Editor of the newspaper “Regina Leader” in Saskatchewan, Canada.  He enlisted in September 1914, joined the Fifth Canadian Battalion of the First Canadian Division and was posted to the Western Front in France, probably travelling via Britain.

As well as having poems published in “Canada in Khaki”, William co-edited “A Christmas Garland from the Front: Fifth Canadian Battalion: First Canadian Division, BEF, France and Belgium, which was published by G. Pulman & Sons, London, 1915.   He was also involved in the Canadian Corps Entertainment Party from 1915 until 1916, entertaining the troops.  Awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, William was also awarded the Military Cross.

Wounded in the fighting on Vimy Ridge on 9th April 1917 and died the following day from his wounds.  He was buried in Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas-de-Calais, France.

"Relief Night" was written by Scanlan and published in the 1917 edition of “Canada in Khaki” magazine

Dark as Hades, wind and rain
(Oh the Fifth is relieving to-night!)
Struggling along through old Mud Lane.
By the flickering glow of a pale flare light.

Ruined walls where the chateau stood
(Oh, the Fifth is relieving to-night!)
Shadowy forms in Plugstreet Wood
Haunting the scenes of a bygone fight.

Trudging down the Messines road
(It always rains when the Fifth goes in!)
Stagg'ring along with your heavy load,
Slipping and sprawling --it's dark as sin!

Whine of bullets and burst of shell
("Duck your 'nappers' and on you go!")
For we've got to go in and do our spell,
It's front line trenches this trip, you know!

Dark as Hades, wind and rain
(Weary men in their dug-outs seated).
Sentries their eyes through the darkness strain
"Tines! Pip Emma, relief completed!"

"The Thin Red Line" by H. Piffard

“Canada in Khaki” magazine was published in Toronto by the Musson Book Company and by the Canadian War Records Office. The aim of the publication was to illustrate Canadians' actions during the First World War and to raise money for the Canadian War Memorial Fund.  The magazine was published annually from 1917–1919 in three volumes. WW1 artists John Byam Liston Shaw, Harold H. Piffard, among others contributed illustrations. 

Harold Hume Piffard (10 August 1867 – 17 January 1938) was a British artist and illustrator, and one of the first British aviators.

Limber stuck in the mud on the
way to the Front, WW1

Note: pip (“P”) + emma (“M”) = p.m.  - a WW1 Royal Flying Corps signal

Imperial War Museum

"Canada in Khaki"

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Charles Walter Blackall (1876 - 1918) – British poet, writer, actor, soldier

Born in St. Albans , Hertfordshire, UK in 1876, Charles's parents were Major Robert Blackall, an Irish land-owner, and his wife Mary Emily, nee Gifford.  Charles had two brothers – Edward b. 1872 and Algernon b. 1880. The family lived in Elham, Folkestone, Kent in 1881.

Charles joined the Army - The Buffs Regiment - in 1900 (3rd Battalion) and served during the Boer War.  In 1904, he war promoted to the rank of Captain.

In 1910, Charles married Alice Evelyn Feutrell Briscoe in Chelsea, London.  They lived in Bouverie Road, Folkestone, Kent and at Coolamber Manor, Co. Longford, Ireland and had two children.

Charles and his wife were actors. They travelled to New York in September 1912, to perform 'The Whip' in the Manhattan Opera House.

Promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in December 1915, Charles was sent to command the South Staffordshire Regiment on the Western Front.  Mentioned twice in Despatched, he was killed leading his men on 25th March 1918.   He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial in France, Bay 2.

One of Charles’s poems was included in the WW1 Anthology “From the front:  trench poetry.” Edited by Lieutenant Clarence Edward Andrews and published in New York by Appleton in 1918 - 220 pages, the royalties of which were donated to the British Red Cross.
And his own WW1 collection “Songs from the trenches” was published by The Bodley Head, London in 1915.  (Catherine Reilly, p. 57).   This is available to read as a free down-load on Archive:

NOTE:  The British Army Regiment “The Buffs” were the infantry regiment The Royal East Kent Regiment, formed in 1572 and previously known as the 3rd Regiment of Foot.  They recruited men from East Kent and were based at Canterbury.

“The Song of the Trench”  December, 1914 

This is the song of the blooming trench: 
It's sung by us and it's sung by the French ; 
It's probably sung by the German Huns ; 
But it isn't all beer, and skittles, and buns. 
It's a song of water, and mud and slime, 
And keeping your eyes skinned all the time. 
Though the putrid "bully" may kick up a stench, 
Remember, you've got to stick to your trench — 
Yes, stick like glue to your trench. 

You dig while it's dark, and you work while it's light, 
And then there's the "listening post" at night. 
Though you're soaked to the skin and chilled to the bone; 
Though your hands are like ice, and your feet like stone; 
Though your watch is long, and your rest is brief. 
And you pray like hell for the next relief; 
Though the wind may howl, and the rain may drench, 
Remember, you've got to stick to your trench- 
Yes, stick like mud to your trench. 

Perhaps a bullet may find its mark. 
And then there's a funeral after dark; 
And you say, as you lay him beneath the sod, 
A sportsman's soul has gone to his God. 
Behind the trench, in the open ground. 
There's a little cross and a little mound; 
And if at your heart-strings you feel a wrench, 
Remember, he died for his blooming trench — 
Yes, he died like a man for his trench. 

There's a rush and a dash, and they're at your wire. 
And you open the hell of a rapid fire; 
The Maxims rattle, the rifles flash, 
And the bombs explode with a sickening crash. 
You give them lead, and you give them steel. 
Till at last they waver, and turn, and reel. 
You've done your job — there was never a blench 
You've given them hell, and you've saved your trench ; 
By God, you've stuck to your trench ! 

The daylight breaks on the rain-soaked plain 
(For some it will never break again), 
And you thank your God, as you're "standing to," 
You'd your bayonet clean, and your bolt worked true. 
For your comrade's rifle had jammed and stuck. 
And he's lying there, with his brains in the muck. 
So love your gun — as you haven't a wench — 
And she'll save your life in the blooming trench — 
Yes, save your life in the trench. 

Capt. C. W. Blackall


Find my Past;  Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) and

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Maurice Bertrand (1881 - 1914) - French Poet, Playwright, Dramatist

With grateful thanks to Pierre Virey for sending me Maurice’s biography.

Maurice Bertrand was born in Paris on 30th August 1881.  He began his literary career at the age of twenty at the “Revue mondaine”.  After military service, he married and went to live in penury in Brazil.  His wife left him and one of his daughters died at the age of seven.   Maurice wrote poetry which was published in “Dlrilège des Poètes du Verbe”.  When he returned to France, he sent his work to the monthly publication “L’Audace Littéraire” which later became “Comme il vous plaira”.  Maurice also used the pen-name Yves-le-Hâleur.

Maurice joined the 346th Regiment of the French Army in September 1914 and fought in the Battles of the Ardennes and in Lorraine.  He was killed at Colincamps, Somme on 7th October 1914 at the age of thirty-three.

Sources: “The Lost Voices of World War 1” compiled by Tim Cross and published by Bloomsbury, London in 1988 and "Anthologie des Ecrivains morts à la guerre 1914 - 1918" (Association des Ecrivains Combattants, Amiens, 1924 -26, 5 volumes), edited by Thierry Sandre.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Dimcho Debelyanov (1887 - 1916) - Bulgarian Poet

With thanks to Pierre Virey for bringing Dimcho to my attention and for translating one of his poems into French.

Bulgaria joined the First World War on 14th October 1915, aligning with the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, declaring war on Serbia.

Dimcho was born on 28th March 1887 in Koprivshtitsa in Bulgaria.  His parents were wealthy.  The family moved to Plovdiv then to Sofia.   Dimcho started submitting his poems to literary publications in 1906.   He tried his hand at several different jobs, working as a clerk and a freelance journalist before joining the Bulgarian Army in 1912.  He fought in the Balkan Wars.

On his discharge from the Army, Dimcho joined the Post Office but was not happy in his work and went back to the Army.   He was killed near Gorno Karadjovo on 2nd October 1916, fighting against an Irish Regiment.   In 1931 his body was returned to Koprivshtitsa for re-burial in 1931.

Dimcho’s works were published in 365 publications in three languages.


 Behind me, the years run away from me one by one
And I run onwards, ever onwards, and up above
The sun burns the dismal desert my life has become
While I pursue the spectre of love

No crown of laurels encircles my brow
On my cheeks sweat mixes with blood now
My eyes mist over as with a fog of pain
While my soul seeks a happier terrain.

I am overcome with terror and fear:  the time is nigh
When I must grasp the edge of a bottomless pit
But my fingers have lost their strength and grip
And with a scream I am thrown back into the shadow-filled night.

Sources:  Wikipedia.  The statue of a grieving mother on Dimcho's grave is by the sculptor Ivan Lazarov (1890 - 1952).