Sunday, 23 December 2018

Henry Smalley Sarson (1890 - 1967) – British poet

Henry Smalley Sarson was born in London on 16th August 1890.  His parents were Henry Logsdail Sarson, a Vinegar Distiller of the famous Sarsons Vinegar family, and his wife Maria Henrey Sarson, nee Smalley, who was from Darwen in Lancashire.   In 1891 the Sarson family lived in Islington, London.

Henry went to live in Canada and was working as a farmer when war broke out in 1914.  He joined the Army in September 1914 and served in the Canadian Expeditionary Froce.  He was wounded in 1916, while serving with the Canadian Field Ambulance.  In 1918, Henry married Geraldine L. Edmonds and they had one son – James, who was born in 1926. During the Second World War they lived in Cirencester, UK. Henry died in Surrey in 1967.

Henry’s WW1 collection “From Field and Hospital” was published in 1916.

“The Armed Liner”

The dull gray paint of war
Covering the shining brass and gleaming decks
That once re-echoed to the steps of youth.
That was before
The storms of destiny made ghastly wrecks
Of Peace, the Right and Truth.
Impromptu dances, colored lights and laughter,
Lovers watching the phosphorescent waves,
Now gaping guns, a whistling shell; and after
So many wandering graves.

H. Smalley Sarson

See also “Two Fine Ladies” written in Hyde Park in 1916 from “We Wasn't Pals: Canadian Poetry and Prose of the First World War, Part 4

Ronald Gorell Barnes, 3rd Baron Gorell, CBE, MC (1884 –1963) - WW1 Soldier Poet,British peer, Liberal then Labour politician, poet, author and newspaper editor

Ronald was born on 16th April 1884, the second son of John Gorell Barnes, 1st Baron Gorell, President of the Probate Divorce and Admiralty Division of the High Court of Justice, and his wife, Mary, nee Humpston Mitchell.   Ronald’s siblings were Henry, b. 1882 and Aura Ellida, b. 1887.

Educated at Winchester College, Harrow School and Balliol College, Oxford, Ronald studied law and was called to the Bar in 1909.  He joined the staff of “The Times” newspaper as a journalist in 1911. After leaving Oxford, Ronald played cricket for Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) for 13 seasons scored 431 runs and took 43 wickets in his 19-match career.

During the First World War, Ronald served in the Rifle Brigade, where he reached the rank of Colonel, was Mentioned in Despatches and was awarded a Military Cross in 1917.

Ronald became the third Baron Gorell on 16th January 1917 after his unmarried elder brother, Henry Gorell Barnes, DSO, a Major in the Royal Garriston Artillery, was killed in action.

After the war, Ronald spent two years working at the War Office as Deputy Director of Staff Duties (Education), and then served a year as Under-Secretary of State for Air from 1921 to 1922. In 1925, he left the Liberals and joined the Labour Party.  He devoted his life to literature, editing the “Cornhill Review”, while still serving on many public and private committees and doing charity work.

In 1922, Ronald married Maud Elizabeth Furse Radcliffe (1886–1954), eldest daughter of Alexander Nelson Radcliffe and Isabel Grace Henderson.  They had three children.

Ronald was invested as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1918 Birthday Honours List and as a Commander of the same order in 1919. He was also invested as an Officier of the Order of Leopold in 1919.

He was later editor of the “Cornhill Magazine” from 1933 to 1939. He was co-President of the Detection Club with Agatha Christie from 1956 to 1963.

Ronald died at his home in Arundel on 2nd May 1963, aged 79, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Timothy John Radcliffe Barnes.

Christmas Day” by Ronald Gorell Barnes, MC - Lord Gorrel

“Peace on earth” – the drums of war
Roll their defiance o’er the bells;
“Goodwill towards men” – the murderous roar
Up from the trenches swells.

Is this the offering, this the day,
The triumph of the dripping sword?
In lowliness the nations pray
Thy pitying mercy, Lord.

Thou knowest all :  Thou readest deep;
The heart of man is in Thine eyes;
It is a vigil grim we keep
Only that Peace arise.

Peace is not dead;  she waits rebirth
Stirring within the womb of War;
And from it death shall tread the earth
More queenly than before.

From R.  Gorell Barnes  “Days of Destiny: War Poems at Home and Abroad” (Longmans, Green & Co., London, 1917) – available as a free down-load on Archive:

Other WW1 collections by Ronald Gorell Barnes were:  “Pilgrimage and other poems” (Longmans, Green, London, 1920) and “Many Mansions” (Murray, London, 1926). He also had poems published in seven WW1 anthologiesand his poems were published regularly in “The Times”, “The Contemporary Review”, “The Yorkshire Post”, “The Observer”, “The Nation”, “Westminster Gazette” and “Pall Mall Gazette”.

Henry Lionel Field (1894 - 1916) - British Soldier Poet and Artist

“Carol for Christmas 1914”By Henry Lionel Field

On a dark midnight such as this,
Nearly two thousand years ago,
Three kings looked out towards the East,
Where a single star shone low.

Shepherds were sleeping in the fields,
When the hosts of Heaven above them sang:
“Peace upon earth, goodwill towards men”,
And the deeps in answering cadence rang.

Low in the manger poor and cold,
Lay Mary with her new-born child,
Scarce sheltered from the bitter blast
That whistled round them shrill and wild.

Be with them Lord in camp and field,
Who guard our ancient name to-night.
Hark to the cry that rises now,
Lord, maintain us in our right.

Be with the dying, be with the dead,
Sore-stricken far on alien ground,
Be with the ships on clashing seas,
That gird our island kingdom round.

Through barren nights and fruitless days
Of waiting when our faith grows dim
Mary be with the stricken heart,
Thou hast a son, remember him.

Lord, Thou hast been our refuge sure,
The Everlasting Arms are wide,
Thy words from age to age endure,
Thy loving care will still provide.

Vouchsafe that we may see, dear Lord,
Vouchsafe that we may see,
Thy purpose through the aching days,
And may our prayers be heard.

From: “For Remembrance, Soldier Poets who have fallen in the War” Edited by Arthur St. John Adcock (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1920)

Henry Lionel Field (1894 – 1916) featured the exhibition “Poets, Writers and Artists on The Somme, 1916”, held at The Wilfred Owen Story in Birkenhead, Wirral in 2016.  There is a book of the exhibition panels available via Amazon.  Henry was killed on 1st July 1916 and is buried in Serre Road Cemetery No. 2, Beaumont Hamel et Hébuterne, Somme, Nord Pas de Calais, France.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967) – American poet, writer, journalist, singer and songwriter

Born in Galesburg, Illinois, USA on 6th January 1878, Carl’s parents were Clara Mathilda (née Anderson) and August Sandberg, who were of Swedish descent. He left school at thirteen and did a variety of jobs, later becoming a journalist on the “Chicago Daily News”.  He volunteered for military service during the Spanish-American War of 1898.   In 1908, he married Lilian Steichen, sister of the photographer Edward Steichen who served in France with the Photography Division of the American Army Signal Corps in 1917.

In 1919, Carl won the Pulitzer Prize (known then as the Columbia University Prize) for his poetry collection "Cornhuskers". The Award was shared with fellow poet Margaret Widdemer for her collection “The Old Road to Paradise”.

Carl won other Pulitzer Prizes – in 1940 for History for the four-volume “The War Years” and in 1951 for “Complete Poems”.

Carl died in 1967, leaving behind an enormous legacy of work. His body was cremated and his ashes were interred under "Remembrance Rock", a granite boulder located behind the house in Galesburg in which he was born.  When Carl died, Lyndon B. Johnson, President of America, said "Carl Sandburg was more than the voice of America, more than the poet of its strength and genius. He was America."

Two war poems (1914 – 1915) by by Carl Sandburg

77. “Wars”

In the old wars drum of hoofs and the beat of shod feet.
In the new wars hum of motors and the tread of rubber tires.
In the wars to come silent wheels and whirr of rods not
yet dreamed out in the heads of men.

In the old wars clutches of short swords and jabs into
faces with spears.
In the new wars long range guns and smashed walls, guns
running a spit of metal and men falling in tens and
In the wars to come new silent deaths, new silent hurlers
not yet dreamed out in the heads of men.

In the old wars kings quarreling and thousands of men
In the new wars kings quarreling and millions of men
In the wars to come kings kicked under the dust and
millions of men following great causes not yet
dreamed out in the heads of men.

73. “Buttons”

I have been watching the war map slammed up for advertising in front of the newspaper office.
Buttons—red and yellow buttons—blue and black buttons—are shoved back and forth across the map.
A laughing young man, sunny with freckles,
Climbs a ladder, yells a joke to somebody in the crowd,
And then fixes a yellow button one inch west
And follows the yellow button with a black button one inch west.

(Ten thousand men and boys twist on their bodies in a red soak along a river edge,
Gasping of wounds, calling for water, some rattling death in their throats.)
Who would guess what it cost to move two buttons one inch on the war map here in front of the newspaper office where the freckle-faced young man is laughing to us?

From “Chicago Poems” (New York, Henry Holt and Company, 1916)

Monday, 17 December 2018

Robert Haven Shauffler (1879 - 1964) – American poet

Robert was born on 8th April 1879 in Brünn, in Bohemia, now known as as Brno, which is in the Czech Republic.  His parents were missionaries. By the time he was two years old, Robert’s family had moved back to America. His parents founded the Schauffler College of Religious and Social Work in Cleveland in 1886 for immigrants from Bohemia who were interested in social or religious work.  Robert studied music and became a cellist.

After studying at Princeton University, Robert went to Berlin for a year.  In 1906, he represented America at the Intercalated Games held in Athens, taking part in the Men’s Singles and Doubles Tennis Tournaments. He married Katharine de Normandie Wilson before the First World War but she died in 1916. In 1912, Robert published a book of his poetry entitled “Scum o' the Earth”, which was the title of one of the poems in the collection. That poem attracted attention after publication in a magazine. The poem focussed attention on the monetary divide between middle class Americans and poor immigrants.

Robert joined the Army during the First World War as a Second Lieutenant and served as an instructor. He was posted to the Western Front and awarded a Purple Heart for his actions at the Battle of Montfaucon, which took place in mid October 1918, during which he was wounded.

After the war, Robert became a university lecturer but continued to write poetry in his spare time.

In 1919, Robert married fellow poet Margaret Widdemer, who was jointly awarded the Pulitzer Award for Poetry for her collection “The Old Road to Paradise”.  Robert lectured and wrote biographies of Schubert, Robert Schumann, Brahms and Beethoven.   Robert’s marriage was not a success and the couple divorced.  Robert died on 24th November 1964.

Robert’s WW1 poetry collection was “The White Comrade and Other Poems” (Houghton Mifflin, Company, Boston and New York, 1920).

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Albert Troman, MM (1898 – 1962) - British poet and Stretcher Bearer during WW1

Phil Johnson has kindly given me permission to share a poem written by his Grandfather, Albert Troman, MM (1898 – 1962).  As Albert became a pawnbroker and tomorrow is St. Nicholas' Day who was the Patron Saint of Pawnbrokers, I thought this was the right time to share Albert's story.

Albert Troman was born in Warrington on 10th February 1898. His parents were Joseph Edmund Troman and his wife, Sarah Ann Troman, nee Woodward. Albert had the following siblings:  Emmeline, b. 1892 (who became a milliner), Walter, b. 1896, Joseph E., b. 1901.

In 1914, Albert joined the  55th South Lancashire Regiment - 1st Battalion C Company 11th Platoon - and was posted to France in 1915, where he served as a Private with the 1st Battalion Warrington Regiment of Infantry.    He was awarded the Military Medal on for bravery as a Stretcher Bearer at Givenchy, risking his life on six occasions to rescue wounded comrades.

After the war, Albert became a pawnbroker initially in Warrington and then managing a shop in Manchester. In 1922, Albert married to CarolineWoodhead, who was born on 12th December 1896 and they spent their married life in Salford, with their only child Dorothy (my mother), who was born in 1923. During the Second World War, Albert was an Air-Raid Precautions (ARP) Warden. He died in 1962 aged 64. His life was shortened due to gassing in WW1

Albert’s Poem:

Albert wrote several pages of verse describing various members of his Platoon.  The poem is rather long, so I have just included one or two verses for now:

“Verses on 11th Platoon C Company South Lancs Regiment” composed by Private A. Troman

Our Commander is Lieutenant Mr Hale,
A man with such courage can’t fail,
And when put to the test
He always acts for the best
And he’s true to his word is Mr Hale.

Now we get (bombing) Seargent Clever
Ver handy with the “pin” and the “lever,”
When the boys are at work,
You can bet they won’t shirk,
If they’re anywhere near Sergeant Clever.

Next we get Corporal Homer,
I can’t say he’s much of a roamer,
But to give him his due,
There are Corporals few
Who will work like Corporal Homer.


Now I hope all those mentioned here,
Will take all in very good cheer,
And that before very long,
We’ll go home well and strong
With A. Trowman (S.B.) in the rear.

With thanks to Laurence Manton for sending me the link to the post by Phil Johnson on
where you can see the entire poem.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Ralph Vaughan Williams' Cantata "Dona nobis pacem" inspired by Walt Whitman poem

With thanks to Adrian for reminding me about the American poet Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892), whose poem "Reconciliation" inspired British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams to compose a cantata - a plea for peace - entitled "Dona nobis pacem" (Tr. Give us peace), which was first performed in 1936.  Whitman wrote:


Word over all, beautiful as the sky,
Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in
time be utterly lost,
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night
incessantly softly wash again, and ever again, this
soil'd world;
For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead,
I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin—
I draw near,
Bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face
in the coffin.

Whitman's most famous poem is arguably "Oh Captain, my Captain".

Ralph Vaughan-Williams was too old for military service in 1914 but volunteered to serve nonetheless and joined the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). He drove ambulances on the Western Front and in Greece during the First World War.

Although not a First World War poet, Whitman's poetry must surely have resonated with the soldier poets of WW1.

Poets of 1918 and some of the WW1 artists - Latest Exhibition on display at The Wilfred Owen Story, Birekenhead, Wirral, UK


Edmund Sambell - Australian poet
Hugh Quigley - British poet and song-writer
Richard Brereton Marriott Watson - British poet
Jozef Maczka – Polish poet
Charles Walter Blackall – British poet
Isaac Rosenberg – British poet and artist
William Hope Hodgson – British poet
Henry Lamont Simpson – British poet
William Fox Ritchie –
Vivian Telfer Pemberton, MC            )
Alexander Lancaster Pemberton, MC ) Twin brother MC soldier poets
Jean Arbousset – French poet
Guillaume Apollinaire – French poet
Armine Frank Gibson Norris – Canadian poet
Gerrit Engelke – German poet
Colin Mitchell – British poet
Ernst Junger – German writer and poet
Louis B. Solomon – British poet
Alec de Candole – British poet
John Enenezer Stewart, MC – Scottish poet
Erwin Clarkson Garrett – American poet
John Hay Maitland Hardyman, DSO, MC, FZS – British poet
Claude Quayle Lewis Penrose, MC and Bar - ~American-born British poet
Jocelyn Alexander – British poet
Edmond Rostand – French poet
Gaston de Ruyter – Belgian pilot Poet
T.P.  Cameron Wilson – British poet
Stanley Casson – poet of two World Wars
Joyce Kilmer – American poet
Cecil Edward Chesterton – British
Everard Lindsay Brine – British Poet
Miles Jeffery Game Day, DSC – British poet
John McCrae – Canadian Doctor, Writer and Poet 
Edward Hylton Young – British poet
Geoffrey Winthrop Young – British poet (brothers)
Murdo Murray – Scottish Poet
Robert Henderson-Bland – British actor and poet
Adrian Consett-Stephens – Australian poet
Guy Lipscombe – British artist and Red Cross volunteer
Helena Gleichen, OBE D St. J. British artist and Red Cross worker
August Macke – German artist
Elliott Seabrooke – British artist and Red Cross volunteer
Kenneth Denton Shoesmith – British Artist
Brian Hatton – British Artist
Gerald Caldwell Siordet – British artist and poet
William Robert Gregory, MC – Irish airman cricketer and artist
Ernest Howard (E.H. ) Shepard, MC – British soldier and artist (Winnie the Pooh)
Martin Hardie -  British artist
Gilbert Holiday – British artist
Bernard Meninsky – British artist
Gilbert Rogers – British artist
Reginald Grange Brundritt – British Artist
Sydney William Carline – British artist
Richard Cotton Carline – British artist
William (Will) C. Penn, MC – British artist

Photo:  Scott Knowles (The Tommy Teaches) at the Wilfred Owen Story, 4th November 2018.

The Wilfred Owen Story, 34 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 6AE is open Tuesday - Friday 12 noon - 2pm.  Entry is free. Check website for details:  NB The WOS will be closed from 21st December 2018 – 8th January 2019.

Panels from previous exhibitions held at the Wilfred Owen Story, including that featuring some of the poets involved in the Battles of Messines (Mesen), Passchendaele and after in 1917, Poets of the Battle of Arras in 1917, Poets of the Somme 1916, Female Poets of the First World War, Inspirational Women of World War One, Fascinating Facts of the Great War and the panels about some of the Poetry written by Schoolchildren during WW1, are available to view on file at The Wilfred Owen Story. 

Here is a link to a news report about the opening of the exhibition of Poetry written by Schoolchildren during WW1 on 17th March 2018:

Other exhibitions are planned. Exhibition panels are sent out free of charge by e-mail to any venue wishing to host an exhibition.   Details on request.

William Fox Ritchie (1887 – 1918) – Scottish poet

Richard Conoghan kindly sent me a poem by William Fox Ritchie and I had to research the poet.

William was born on 15th June 1887 in Bellshill, Lanarkshire, Scotland, UK.  His parents were George and Margaret (nee Craig) Fox Ritchie.  William’s father was a gamekeeper and forester. 

Educated at Pinwherry and Colmonell public schools, William joined Princess Louise’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, a Regiment of the British Army, on 3rd April 1909.  He served in Malta for three years before being posted to India.   His Regiment was among the first to be sent to Flanders in 1914, which means William was an Old Contemptible. 

Invalided home with Frost-bite, William trained as a Musketry Instructor but then applied for active service.  He was posted to join 12 Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in Salonika.  William was a Sergeant when he was killed at the age of 31 at Grande Couronne, Salonika.  He was buried in Colonial Hill Cemetery, which is now known as Doiran Military Cemetery, in Greece.  He was an extremely brave man and was recommended by his Commanding Officer to receive the Croix de Guerre for bravery.

A poem written by William Fox Ritchie in March 1915.   Reproduced here by kind permission of Richard 

“A Candid Opinion”

Do we want to back to the trenches?
To get biscuits and bully to eat
To get caught by a sniper’s chance bullet
Or crippled with frost bitten feet. 

There are some say they’re anxious to get back
There are others who say they are not.
It is not that they care for the danger
Or are frightened that they will get shot. 

It’s the awful conditions you live in,
Midst the rain and the mud and the dirt.
Where you’d give a month’s pay for a square meal,
And twice that amount for a shirt.
No, I’m not at all anxious to go back,
But I’ll hve to go that’s understood
So I’m willing and ready to go there
And if needs be to stop there for good.  Willie F. Ritchie, 91st Highlanders, 23/04/1915

With many thanks to Richard for sending me the poem via Twitter.  Information found via Find my Past

Thursday, 1 November 2018

James Bell SALMOND (1891 - 1958) – Scottish soldier poet of WW1

Information kindly supplied by Patrick Anderson, Second Cousin of James Bell Salmond.

James Bell Salmond was born on 8th December 1891 in Arbroath, Scotland, which was then in the County of Forfarshire (now Angus).  His parents were James Boath Salmond and Annie Bell Salmond, nee Duncan .  James's father was also an author.  He died in 1901, while James was still at school.

James Bell Salmond was educated at Arbroath High School and in 1909, he won the  dux  medal for English.  He went on to study at University College, Dundee for a year and then went to St. Andrews University in Fife.

After graduating from university, James moved to London to become a journalist. When WW1 broke out, he was a member of the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps.  He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the  Black Watch, serving in the 7th Battalion in  France.

James was sent to Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh from 25th June to 13th November 1917.  During 1918, he became Editor of the war hospital magazine and his sub editor was Second Lieutenant  Wilfred  Owen.  When Lieutenant Salmond returned to the Western Front, Wiflred Owen took over the editorship of the magazine.  Captain Seigfried Sassoon MC was also a patient at Craiglockhart at that time and he also submitted articles for publication .     

James B. Salmond was promoted to the rank of Captain in the Black Watch and in 1919  he was discharged due to Government cuts in the forces in the UK. He went to work for as a journalist for the media company  D. C. Thompson in  Dundee.  He became Editor of the Scots Magazine until 1948, when he became Head of Manuscripts at  St  Andrews University.

James died in 1958, leaving a legacy of books - among them one about General Wade and another about the 51st Highland Division during the Second World War.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Victor Burny (1893 - 1918) – Belgian poet

Born in Grammont, Belgium on 7th November 1893, Victor was educated at the Institut Saint-Louis in Brusells.  He volunteered to join the Belgian Army in WW1.  He died of pneumonia on 30th October 1918 in an ambulance in Calais, France, on the way to hospital for treatment.

Victor contributed to:
 "L'envol", "L'essor", "Les feuillets intimes” and it seems he wrote poems in French and Flemish.

The following poem by Victor Burny was written at Dixmude, Belgium in 1915:


Dominant les pres verts de son pays flamand,
L’observateur est là, posté dans la pénombre,
Scutant l’éclair lointain qui surgin et qui sombre
Sur le ciel tern et gris, à chaque éclatement.

Il surveille le tir et parle sourdement,
Ses ongles sont crispé dans la chaux des décombres,
Et ses yeux grands ouverts, comme des miroirs sombres
Sur un logis ruiné sont dardés fixement.

A sa voix, les canons aux soudaines rafales,
Secouant le terrain de décharges brutales,
Ont concentré leur feu, là-bas, à l’horizon.

Et l’humble observateur – ô cruelle ironie –
Doroge posément l’angoissante agonie
Des derniers pans de murs de sa vieille maison.


The Observer

Scanning the green meadows of his Flemish homeland,
The observer is there, on duty in the gloomy light,
Watching the distant flash that threatens
The gray sky as each shell bursts.

He watches each salvo and speaks quietly,
His nails dig into the limestone rubble,
And his eyes, wide open, like dark mirrors,
Stare fixedly at the ruins of a house.

At his command, the guns with sudden bursts,
Make the earth tremble with their brutal discharges,
Concentrating their fire over there on the horizon.

And the humble observer - oh cruel irony -
Watches in agonised silence
As the last sections of walls of his old former home crumble.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

"A Service Rendered" - a Collection of Poems written during WW1: Review

First published on Female War Poets weblog in 2014 – before this weblog was started. 

The First World War was the first ‘total’ war, involving men, women and children and affecting every country of the globe.  It is probably for that reason that World War One, which was also known as The Great War or The War to end all Wars, has been written about more than any other conflict.   As I began to research women who wrote poetry during WW1, I thought it was highly probable that there were still unpublished poems hidden away in attics, drawers and suitcases waiting to be heard.   This book proves me right.

William Murray Kilburn, born in Alva, Clackmannanshire, Scotland in 1887, lost his sight after he fell into a canal containing toxic waste.  William’s niece, Mae Murray McClymont, has collected together a remarkable tribute to her uncle in an anthology of the poems he wrote during the First World War.  According to family members, William used to walk to the local railway station and chat to wounded soldiers returning from the War.   The conversations he had inspired him to write poems, which Mae suggests, were his way of contributing to the war effort.  William died in 1942, at the age of fifty-four.

In the anthology of William’s poems called “A Service Rendered”, Mae McClymont has gathered together sixty-eight of the WW1 poems written by her uncle, covering pretty much every aspect of the War from the sea and the early days, through to the Balkans, Egypt, Galipoli and Cambrai.  There are poems dedicated to individuals as well as to regiments such as the Royal Scots Greys, the 42nd Royal Highlanders, Irish Troopers, the Argylls, the Gordons, troopships, gun horses, mules, the Seaforths and more.

William's poems would be remarkable enough if we did not know that the writer was blind. During the course of my research, I discovered that such poems were often published in pamphlet form and sold to raise funds for the war effort – perhaps this was the case with William’s poems?   Mae tells us that William's poems were published in the North-East Lanark Gazette.

Mae, who lives in Scotland, worked in the health service as a radiographer.  With a deep and enduring interest in poetry, she was unaware that her uncle William had written poetry until cousins in Canada brought them to her attention.    She searched for the poems in the library's microfiche records and found them, though the records were black, smudged and difficult to read.   Mae persevered and spent two winters typing up her uncle's poems.    The results is “A Service Rendered”, an anthology of WW1 poems written by William Murray Kilburn throughout the 1914 – 1919 years, edited and published by Mae Murray McClymont in 2013. The anthology is available from   The price is £6.95 with £2 postage and packing in the UK - £8.95.   Profits from the book are aid of Guide Dogs for the Blind.

With interests that range from literature, paintings,  music, and more recently, astronomy, Mae has travelled quite a bit, mainly in Europe, Canada and North America.

Mae mentions that her uncle also wrote other poems – we hope she will collect those together too for this is a wonderful collection – for any serious student of the poetry of the First World War "A Service Rendered" is definitely is a must-read.

To hear one of William's poems please click on the link:

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Gerrit Engelke (1890 – 1918) – German

Born in Hannover, Gerrit studied art and then went to live in Denmark.  

When the First World War broke out, Gerrit returned to Germany and joined the German Army in October 1914. He was awarded the Iron Cross and was wounded in 1917. 

On 11th October 1918, Gerrit was wounded again, taken prisoner of war by the British and died in a British Field Hospital near Cambrai on 13th October 1918.

An den Tod (Trans: To Death)

Mich aber schone, Tod,
Mir dampft noch Jugend blutstromrot, –
Noch hab ich nicht mein Werk erfüllt,
Noch ist die Zukunft dunstverhüllt –
Drum schone mich, Tod.
Wenn später einst, Tod,
Mein Leben verlebt ist, verloht
Ins Werk – wenn das müde Herz sich neigt,
Wenn die Welt mir schweigt, –
Dann trage mich fort, Tod.

Author AC Benus has kindly translated that poem for us:

Addressed to Death

Death, treat me with some care,
For my youth's a blood-red affair –
Much work remains still unfulfilled
In hazy times I've yet to build –
Then please Death, take care. 

If later you'd care,
A life lived in work and despair,
Against which a weary heart might lean,
Take when the world's serene –
For then Death, I won't care. 

AC Benus is author of this book about another German WW1 poet “The Thousandth Regiment: A Translation of and Commentary on Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele’s War Poems” by AC Benus (AC Benus, San Francisco, 2020). Along with Hans's story, the book includes original poems as well as translations.    ISBN: 978-1657220584

Review: “Poets & Pals of Picardy - A Weekend on The Somme” by Mary Ellen Freeman, Edited by Ted Smith, published by Pen & Sword, Barnsley, 1999

Having been researching the poetry of the First World War for the past six years, I was very pleased to discover quite a few poets in this book that I had not previously heard of. Primary schoolteacher/musician Mary Ellen has written a detailed account of a pilgrimage she made one weekend to battlegrounds and cemeteries of The Somme in France in 1982.  Mary Ellen’s Grandfather was with the Royal Field Artillery during the First World War – as was my Grandfather.  But this book is not just about some of the poets involved in the Somme Offensive, also included are stories about and by the soldiers who fell and extracts from prose written by those who were there.  I also discovered a WW1 artist I had not yet come across.

The book follows Mary Ellen’s emotional journey to the Western Front in France from Albert to The Ancre, setting the scene for her pilgrimage from the very first page, where her journey begins in Dover.  Throughout, Mary Ellen includes short quotations from some of her all-time favourite poems, as well as poems written at the time of the conflict.  The style of the book has the feel of a conversation with an old friend, as Mary Ellen shares her innermost thoughts and feeelings with the reader.  Eighteen poems in their entirety (including one by WW1 Female Poet/VAD nurse Vera Britain) are included at the back and the book also has an interesting bibliography and an in-depth index. 

With photographs, maps and poems, this is definitely a book you will want to take with you if you are planning a visit to the cemeteries of the Western Front. It is beautifully written and easy to read and full of interesting anecdotes, as well as extracts from poems. 

In his Note on pages xi – xii, the book’s Editor, the late Ted Smith, raises a very interesting question – “Why poetry?”  I think the answer lies in the fact that there were relatively few distractions in the early part of the 20th Century.  There were no computers, and of course, no Internet, no radio or television broadcasts and most people did not have telephones in their homes.  Magazines and newspapers such as “The Daily Mail”, to which the poet Jessie Pope was a regular contributor, published poems on a regular basis. We know that newspapers and magazines were made available to those at the Front.  Poetry was taught in schools and people learnt poems too – my Mother, who was born in 1910, often used to quote from poems she learnt at primary school.  People copied out poems into exercise books – I have seen quite a few notebooks like that – and they read or recited poems at family gatherings. 

In London, The Times newspaper “estimated that it received around a hundred poems a day in August 1914, the vast majority in patriotic/romantic vein. According to one estimate, no fewer than 50,000 war poems were written in Germany every day in the same month. A bibliography of British war poetry, nearly all of it patriotic, lists over 3,000 volumes…” From Niall Ferguson "The Pity of War," p. 229 (Basic Books, 1998).

Here is another example of the popularity of poetry at the time of WW1 - on Friday, 12th June 1914, poet, writer and journalist Cecil Roberts, who worked for the “Liverpool Post” during WW1, hired the Bechstein Hall in Wigmore Street, London W1 for an evening reciting poems he had written.  Tickets were on sale from ten shillings and sixpence (which represents the buying power of about £115 in today’s money) down to two shillings (about £20 today), and the event was a sell-out and a great success.  Like the British Royal Family, the Bechstein Hall had a name change during the First World War and it became the Wigmore Hall.

For further information about “Poets and Pals of Picardy” and other wonderful books, please see the Pen & Sword website:

Lucy London, September 2018

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Jocelyn Alexander (1852 - 1918) – British poet

Robert Jocelyn Alexander was born on 11th June 1852 in Termonamongan County Tyrone, Ireland.  His father was the Right Reverend William Alexander, Bishop of Armagh, who later became the Most Reverend Sir William Alexander, Protestant Primate of All Ireland. Jocelyn’s mother was Cecil Frances Alexander (nee Humphreys) who wrote two of my favourite hymns – “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and “Once in Royal David’s City”. Jocelyn was their eldest son.  His siblings were Eleanor Jane, who also became a poet, b. 1857, Cecil John Francis, born in 1859, and Dorothea Agnes, born in 1861.  Their mother died in 1895.

Educated at Winchester College, Jocelyn went on to study at Brasenose College, Oxford where he won the Newdigate Prize in 1874.  Jocelyn became a school inspector.  In 1876, he married Alice Rachel Humphreys.

Jocelyn, who was 66 when he was killed while travelling to Britain from Ireland on the RMS “Leinster” on 10th October 1918, was buried in Plot A of the Derry City Cemetery.

The Newdigate Prize - a poetry prize founded in 1805 by Sir Roger Newdigate and awarded at the University of Oxford. The award is given annually for the best student poem of up to 300 lines on a given subject.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Everard Lindsay Brine (1890 - 1918) - British WW1 soldier poet

British WW1 poet Everard Lindsay Brine, born in London, UK on 1st December 1890, died on 24th September 1918 of an illness contracted while serving as a Lieutenant with the 4th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment in Persia (now called Iran).  He had previously served in Mesopotamia.

Everard’s poetry collection, entitled “Poems”, was published in 1920 by Blackwell, Oxford.

Here is an extract of one of those poems:

“New College Gardens : Spring,”

Over me the sky washed blue with April,
Brown trees green and silver in the spring light;
Under me the grass white-flecked and odorous,
All about me glimpses of blue hyacinths.

Sources:  Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978), p. 67 and

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Dugald Sutherland MacColl (1859-1948), - Scottish poet artist and art critic

Dugald Sutherland MacColl was born in Glasgow on 10th March 1859.  His father was the Reverend Dugald MacColl.

Educated at the University of London before going up to the University of Oxford, Dugald went on to study at the Westminster School of Art and the Slade School under Alphonse Legros.  He became Keeper of the Wallace Collection and of the Tate Gallery. He was an artist, art critic, poet and founder of the National Art Collections Fund. Dugald was friendly with many of the literary figures of the day - W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Lady Gregory, Max Beerbohm, H.G. Wells, Charles Ricketts, Augustus John, Auguste Rodin, Roger Fry and Walter Crane.  He was the art critic for "The Spectator" and "The Saturday Review" between 1896 and 1906.

Dugald died on 21st December 1948.

“The Miners’ Response” by D.S. MacColl

We do; the present desperate stage
Of fighting brings us luck
And in the higher war we wage
(For higher wage) We struck.

D.S.MacColl’s First World War poetry collections were:
“Another neutral” (Maclehose, Glasgow, 1915
“Bull, and other war verses” (Constable, 1919)
“A German peace, flyting to Herr Houston Stewart Chamberlain” (Maclehose, Glasgow,1916)
“A Merry New Ballad of Dr. Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States in America” (Maclehose, Glasgow, 1915)
He also had a poem published in the WW1 poetry Anthology “Up the Line to Death: The War Poets 1914 – 1918” Edited by Brian Gardner, with a Foreword by Edmund Blunden  (Methuen, London 1964)

The portrait of Dugald MacColl was painted by his nephew the artist Donald Graeme MacLaren in 1906.  Donald joined the Army in WW1 and was killed in Belgium in 1917 – see


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

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

"The Rose of No Man's Land" - a song with lyrics by Jack Caddigan and music by James Alexander Brennan)

This was a song written by Jack Caddigan and James Brennan and first published in French in 1918

It was written as a tribute to the Red Cross nurses of the First World War.

Music publisher Leo Feist published a version in 1918 as "La rose sous les boulets", with French lyrics by Louis Delamarre. A version with English lyrics by Jack Caddigan and James Alexander Brennan was published by Jack Mendelsohn Music in 1945. Herman Darewski and others also published versions in 1918 and in 1945.

Jack Caddigan (1879 – 1952) – was a lyricist of Irish origin, born in Canada but brought up in Boston, Massachusetts, USA

James Alexander Brennan, also known as Jas. H. Brennan, (1885 – 1956) was an American composer from Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

French version:

"La Rose des Boulets"

J'ai vu bien des fleurs s'empourprer,
Au jardin de la vie.
Et souvent j'aime à m'enivrer
De leur senteur bénie.
J'en sais une au pur éclat,
Sans rival ici-bas.

La rose fleurit sous les Boulets,
En avant du front elle est
De pleurs arrosée
Pour bien des années.
Dans nos coeurs elle restera,
La rose rouge amour du soldat.
Dans cette enceinte où rien ne bouge,
L'ombre qui parait,
Portant la Croix Rouge,
C'est la Rose des Boulets.

The English version was apparently sung by:William Thomas - 1916, Henry Burr - 1918,Charles Hart - 1919 and Hugh Donovan (a.k.a. Charles Harrison) - 1919


I've seen some beautiful flowers
Grow in life's garden fair
I've spent some wonderful hours
Lost in their fragrance rare
But I have found another
Wondrous beyond compare....

There's a rose that grows in no-man's land
And it's wonderful to see
Though its sprayed with tears, it will live for years
In my garden of memory

It's the one red rose the soldier knows
It's the work of the Master's hand
'Neath the War's great curse stands a Red Cross nurse
She's the rose of no-man's land

Out in the heavenly splendour
Down to the trail of woe
God in his mercy has sent her
Fearing the World below
We call her Rose of Heaven
We've longed to love her so....

There's a rose that grows in no-man's land
And it's wonderful to see
Though its sprayed with tears, it will live for years
In my garden of memory

It's the one red rose the soldier knows
It's the work of the Master's hand
'Neath the War's great curse stands a Red Cross nurse
She's the rose of no-man's land

(Transcribed by Mel Priddle - June 2004)

Other lyrics written by Caddigan:

I Can't Stop Doing It Now (1912) with James Alexander Brennan (sheet music)
Poor Little Rich Girl (1914) with James Alexander Brennan, published by O.E. Story (sheet music)
The Dream I Had Last Night (1915) with James Alexander Brennan and O.E. Story (sheet music)
In The Golden Summertime (1915) with James Alexander Brennan (sheet music)
The Rose of No Man's Land (La rose sous les boulets) (1918) with James Alexander Brennan, (French lyric by Louis Delamarre), published by Leo Feist (sheet music)
The Rose Of The Mountain Trail with James Alexander Brennan
In The Old Sweet Way (1919) with "Chick" O.E. Story, published by Leo Feist
Sweetheart Waltz (1920) with "Chick" Story, published by Fred Fisher (sheet music)
When The Money Moon Is Shining with "Chick" O.E. Story
Egyptian Moonlight (1919) with A. Fred Phillips, published by Ted Garton Music.

Other songs by Brennan:

The Dream I Had Last Night (1915) with Jack Caddigan and O.E. Story
In The Golden Summertime (1915) with Jack Caddigan (sheet music)
The Rose of No Man's Land; La rose sous les boulets (1918) with Jack Caddigan, (French lyric by Louis Delamarre) (sheet music)
Dreaming Sweet Dreams of Mother
If The Can Canny Cannibals Captured New York Town (1916) with Moore and O.E. Story
When It's Cotton Pickin' Time In Tennessee (1918) with Jack Caddigan
The Trail That Leads To You with Jack Caddigan
When The Steamboats On The Swanee Whistle Rag-time (1918) with Jack Caddigan

With thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron who has the Facebook Page Remembering Women on the Home Front WW1 for posting the link to the song this morning (7th August 2018) and to Sue Robinson of the Group Wenches in Trenches The Roses of No Man's Land for her post about the song in November 2016 (see Inspirational Women of WW1 weblog).

Monday, 30 July 2018

Remembering Joyce Kilmer, the American poet on the centenary anniversary of his death in WW1

Alfred Joyce Kilmer was born on 6th December 1886 in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  His parents were Annie Ellen Kilmer, née Kilburn, who was a writer/composer, and Dr. Frederick Barnett Kilmer, a physician/chemist who worked for Johnson and Johnson Company and invented the famous baby powder.

Joyce Kilmer attended Rutgers College Grammar School, where he edited the school newspaper.  In 1904 he went on to Rutgers College, before transferring to Columbia University.

As soon as he had qualified, Kilmer married Aline Murray, a poet, who he met when they were both at Rutgers College Grammar School.   He taught Latin as well as writing poetry and working as a journalist, critic and lecturer.  Kilmer’s first collection of poetry, “The Summer of Love” was published in 1911.

When Joyce and Aline’s daughter Rose contracted Polio, they converted to the Roman Catholic faith.

By the time Kilmer enlisted in the New York National Guard in May 1917, in response to America joining the conflict, he was the foremost Catholic poet, writer and lecturer in America. 

Kilmer’s Regiment was posted to the Western Front in France, where he was assigned as a statistician to the 69th U.S. Infantry Regiment. He was soon promoted to the rank of Sergeant, refusing the chance to become an Officer.   After involvement in several battles, Kilmer joined the military intelligence section of his Regiment.   On 30th July 1918, Kilmer volunteered to join Major William (Wild Bill) Donovan in an attack.  Donovan went on to found the Office of Strategic Services during the Second World War.  This is known today as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Kilmer was killed by a sniper during the Second Battle of the Marne on 30th July 1918.  He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre posthumously.   He is buried in the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and Memorial in Picardy, France, Grave Reference: Plot B, Row 9, Grave 15.

Kilmer’s most famous poem “Trees” was published in his collection “Trees and Other Poems” in 1914.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

ALBERT-PAUL GRANIER (1888 - 1917) – French poet and aviator

Albert-Paul Granier was born at Le Croisic in the Loire-Atlantique region of France, on 3rd September 1888.

Called up for military service on 3rd August 1914, Albert-Paul saw action with the French Artillery from the start, mostly in the Verdun area.

In 1917, Albert-Paul became an air observation officer, radioing to the gunners on the ground where to direct their fire.  His plane was shot down in flames at Bois Bourrus, near Verdun on 17th August 1917.  His body was never found.

Albert-Paul’s WW1 collection, "Les Coqs et les Vautours", was published shortly before his death and has now been translated into English. “Cockerels and Vultures” – translated by Ian Higgins - published by Saxon Books.


With grateful thanks to Régine Verguier for sending me this link to an excellent aritcle about WW1 poets, writers and artists:

Friday, 27 July 2018

Walter E. Spradbery, DCM (1889 – 1969) British Artist and poet; served in RAMC during WW1

With thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron for telling me about Walter and thanks to Walter’s cousin, Philip Spradbery, who has a lifelong passion for painting, who kindly supplied additional information.

Walter Ermest Spradbery was born on 29th March 1889 in East Dulwich, London, UK. His parents were Joseph Spradbery and his wife Emily Spradbery, nee Feltham.  Walter had a brother, Charles V., b. 1879.

Walter studied at Walthamstow Art School, then worked as an art teacher. He regularly exhibited his work at the Royal Academy. His main artistic media were water colour, linocuts and poster design. Walter designed posters for London transport companies and for British Rail.

During the First World War, Walter, who was a pacifist, joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and served as a medical orderly and stretcher-bearer on the Western Front. He served with 36 Field Ambulance during the Somme Offensive in 1916 and was mentioned several times for bravery rescuing wounded men under fire.   He was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

On 11th November 1918, Walter wrote to his Mother:

"Hostilities ceased on all fronts at 11 o’clock today. Oh happy mothers, happy sweethearts, happy wives, whose loved ones will come safely back... and those lone souls who have lost their very own; today is too unkind to them - how can they face our joy? 'Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards men' - an unseen choir sings it in our breasts - prompting men to evolve a better world more worthy of our ideals and aspirations. Let us begin."

On 21st August 1929, Walter married opera singer Dorothy D’Orsay (maiden name Horsey) and the couple lived in Epping Forest.   They had two children.

Walter died in Epping, Essex in 1969. An exhibition of the work of WW1 artist Walter Spradbery is on display at The Epping Forest District Museum until 22nd December 2018. 
Epping Forest District Museum
39 – 41 Sun Street, Waltham Abbey, EN9 1EL \ 01992 716882 \

A biography of Walter Spradbery’s life and times, "My Dear Jim", has been compiled and published by his son, John Spradbery (Mail order from Elizabeth Spradbery:


A poem by Walter Spradbery written in 1915 kindly supplied by his cousin, Philip Spradbery.


“Eyes Have They, But See Not”

The flowers that grow on Barnham’s plain
Are beautiful to see;
The bugloss and the speedwell’s blue
Fair as a summer’s sea,
Blue as a summer’s sky are they
As a child’s eyes may be:

And the tender little pansy’s
Uplifted cherub face,
With golden eye, and purple wings
And unpretentious grace,
Peeps shyly from amid the grass
In every shady place.

But wearily we drag our feet
Over the jeweled sods,
And discipline, it weighs us down
With the curse of an iron rod;
And ‘iron rods’ we carry
To kill the sons of God.

The cranebill’s starry floweret
Is scattered o’er the plain;
Its pale magenta blossoms
We trample in our pain,
And dully long for peace, and love
And our dear homes again.

With iron heels we tread them down,
We tread them in the sand;
We crush their beauty ’neath our feet
Too tired to understand
The ugly ruthless thing we do.
Now war is on the land.

The golden gorse, across the heath
Is a mass of yellow flame;
Its unconsuming fires praise
The Sun God’s glorious name.
But war it burns things black and dead,
And fills men’s hearts with shame.

And scarlet is the pimpernel
And bright the poppy’s red
But brighter still is the blood we’ll spill
Ere we ourselves are dead:
No flower so rich, in the deep dug ditch,
As the blood our guns may shed.

The grass is worn with the ceaseless tread
Of our marching to and fro,
And where we drill on the mossy hill
Great bare patches show;
For ’neath the heel of the War God’s foot
No fair thing may grow. 

But time revenges the patient weak
Whom the Ruthless crush and kill,
And delicate things that droop and die,
Like the flowers on the grassy hill,
Will bloom again on another plain
Fairer and sweeter still.

The barren stretch of Flander’s plains
Is desolate and bare,
And the shriek of shell, and stench and smell
Float on the morning air
And splintered stumps are all that speak
Of what once blossomed there.

Yet the flowers our feet have trodden down
Will be born again,
And rich and fine, on Flander’s fields,
Will dance in the gentle rain
Will dance on the dead that feed their roots
The countless, ghastly slain.

The little flowers we’ve trodden down
Will scent each ugly grave,
Will hide the ghastly torn limbs
O the coward and the brave
And gaily smile at the morning sun,
O’er the foolish and the knave.

Oh, the river runs o’er Barnham’s plains
This where our horses drink –
And a thousand fair and charming things
Blossom on its brink.
But we have trod them in the mud
Nor paused to praise or think.

The pinkish purple loose-strife
Bows on the river’s edge,
Forget-me-not and orchids,
The flowering rush and sedge
While briar rose and bryony
Entangle in the hedge.

And crowsfoot gleams on the river,
Like snowflakes in the sun
And sways in the moving waters
That over the pebbles run.
But we cannot pause for such a thing,
Who’re crossing the stream with a gun.

But the rivers which flow in Flanders
Are rivers of blood methinks
And will, one day, colour the roses
Whose roots from that soil drink,
And a thousand flowers will blossom
Where a corpse now rots and stinks.

And we who train at Thetford
Parade on Barnham Hill
And prod coarse sack with bayonets
To gain the skill to kill
To disembowel and mutilate
Men who are brothers still.

While all around is beauty
And overhead the sky,
Where fleecy clouds in freedom float
Over the men that die;
And nature laughs at our folly
As we pass her treasures by.

With a garland of peaceful beauty
She tempts us to lay down our arms;
With a myriad of fearless blossoms
She mocks at our childish alarms,
With a tangle of wonderful flowerets
She seeks to ensnare us with charms.

Oh, he who sees God in a daisy,
Can see more clearly in man,
The light of the Glorious Eternal
That through all Living Things ran,
When the wheels of time first started,
And the Song of Life began.

Walter E. Spradbery (1915)

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Thomas Napoleon Smith - pen-name Tonosa - WW1 Poet

While I was researching a WW1 poet yesterday, I came across a reference to some poems about a young girl from Burnley, Lancashire. Her name was Jennie Jackson and she was known as "Young Kitchener" for the work she did during the First World War, collecting money to fund parcels for the fighting men.

The poems were written by Thomas Napoleon Smith, pen-name Tonosa. Their titles were "Burnley's war flame (Jennie JACKSON), alias Y.K." and "Burnley's winning Jennie (Jennie Jackson)".

Thomas Napoleon Smith remains a mystery for I can find nothing out about him, other than the titles of some of his poems, which are listed on pages 297 and 298 of Catherine W. Reilly's wonderful work "English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978).  He also had a poem published in Charles Frederick Forshaw's WW1 Anthology "Poems in memory of the late Field-Marshall Lord Kitchener, KG" (Institute of British Poetry, Bradford, 1916).

According to Catherine Reilly, Thomas's son, Corporal Ewart G. Smith of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, Canadian Expeditionary Force, was killed in a trench on 27th September 1916.   The poems seem to have been published as postcards or broadsides.  One - "Their eyes off me: or, those khaki chaps from 'crss the sea: verses by Tonoso - was first published in "The Weekly Scotsman".

If anyone knows more about Tonosa - Thomas Napoleon Smith - please get in touch.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Francis Scott Key FitzGerald (1896 - 1940) - American

F. Scott FitzGerald, the American author famous for writing the novel "The Great Gatsby", was also a poet. He served in the American Army during the First World War and was based at Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama, where he met his future wife. 

Here is one of his poems:
"We leave tonight"
WE leave to-night . . . 
Silent, we filled the still, deserted street,
A column of dim gray,
And ghosts rose startled at the muffled beat
Along the moonless way;
The shadowy shipyards echoed to the feet
That turned from night and day.
And so we linger on the windless decks,
See on the spectre shore
Shades of a thousand days, poor gray-ribbed wrecks . . .
Oh, shall we then deplore
Those futile years!
See how the sea is white!
The clouds have broken and the heavens burn
To hollow highways, paved with gravelled light
The churning of the waves about the stern
Rises to one voluminous nocturne,
. . . We leave to-night.
Francis Scott Fitzgerald

Source:  Mark D. Van Ells on Facebook.  Mark is the author of the book "America and WW1: A Traveler's Guide".

Friday, 13 July 2018

Exhibition of WW1 Royal Flying Corps/Royal Naval Air Service Poets and Writers

Poet writer and journalist IVAN HEALD, MC, who was born in Accrington, Lancashire, is just one of the poets featured in an exhibition of WW1 Royal Flying Corps/Royal Naval Air Service Poets and Writers which is currently on display at Ian Inglis's Military Museum Scotland. 

Ian has sent me a wonderful photograph of part of the display. 

To find out more about the Museum, please see this link and/or visit the Museum's Facebook Page:…/ 

Photograph of the display provided by Ian Inglis.

Military Museum Scotland, 
Legion Hall, 
Kirknewton, West Lothian 
EH27 8DU

This exhibition came out of a conversation I had earlier this year with Marilyn Summers, who is the Air Show Deputy Director at Royal Air Force Cosford.  Marillyn contacted me via one of my commemorative Facebook pages, asking for some panels to display at the RAF Cosford Air Show on 10th June 2018.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Book Review: “Rendezvous with Death: Artists and Writers in the Thick of it 1914 – 1918” by Tony Geraghty, Pen & Sword, Barnsley, Yorkshire, 2018

“Rendezvous with Death:  Artists and Writers in the Thick of it 1914 – 1918” by Tony Geraghty, Pen & Sword, Barnsley, Yorkshire, 2018

I only wish this amazing book had been available when I first started researching in May 2012 for a series of commemorative exhibitions about the poets of the First World War.   Although most of the poets, writers and musicians featured in the book are well-known, Geraghty has a completely new take on them, as he goes into great detail about the battles in which they were involved, killed or wounded.  Geraghty’s lifetime of experience as a professional soldier and as a war correspondent undoubtedly bring to this book a more sympathetic and enlightened view from the point of view of those who served.

Geraghty goes into considerable detail about the battles/situations in which those included were involved, died or killed: George Butterworth, Wilfred Owen, Alan Seeger, Isaac Rosenberg, Edward Thomas, Ivor Gurney, Rupert Brooke, R.C. Sherriff, Vaughan Williams, Erskine Childers and J.B. Priestley. Also included are some of the men who served with the Red Cross during WW1: Jerome K. Jerome, Ernest Hemingway, W. Somerset Maugham, Robert W. Service and Harold Macmillan, of the Macmillan publishing company, who later became Prime Minister of the UK.

You will also find in the final chapter, the personal story of Geraghty’s relatives who served during the conflict.  There is a detailed bibliography, a copious notes section for each chapter and an index.

I don’t want to give too much away - I found the whole book fascinating but was particularly interested in Chapter Two – ‘Wilfred Owen: Poet, Hero … But ‘Malingerer’?’ - as I went to school just around the corner to where Wilfred was educated in Birkenhead, Wirral.  My school had close connections with the composer Vaughan Williams, so Chapter Nine was also of great interest – ‘Vaughan Williams, Composer: ‘No Longer A Man’ But His Lark Ascends Still’ - a clever reference to one of Vaughan Williams’s most famous works.

The Chapter about Erskine Childers – Chapter Ten – was also of particular interest as I am just putting the finishing touches to an exhibition commemorating poets and writers of WW1 who were in the Royal Flying Corps or the Royal Naval Air Service, which amalgamated to become The Royal Air Force on 1st April 1918.  And Chapter Eleven – ‘The Red Cross Men – Age Did Not Weary Them’ - I also found most enlightening.

Further details from

Lucy London, May 2018

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Francis St. Vincent Morris (1896 - 1917) – British

Remembering Francis St. Vincent Morris who died on 29th April 1917

Francis, known to his family as ‘Vin’, was born on 21st February 1896 in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, UK.  His parents were Ernest Edwin Morris, an Anglican Church Minister who was Vicar of St. Oswald’s Parish Church, Ashbourne, and his wife, Josephine Anna Morris, nee Bolton.  Francis had the following siblings:  Mary E. b. 1888, Ruth L. b. 1892 and Ernest B., b. 1894.  The family lived in The Vicarage in Ashbourne.

Educated at home by a governess, then at Brighton College and Wadham College, Oxford, Francis was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire) Regiment on 7th August 1915. 

Francis applied to join the Royal Flying Corps and, after completing a training course in Oxford, transferred to the 3rd Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps in early 1917.  He was posted to France, where he had two flying accidents due to the very bad weather.  Then his plane crashed near Vimy Ridge during a snow storm.  Francis was badly wounded and had to have a leg amputated.  He was transferred to the Base Hospital in Rouen in preparation for a further operation but died on 29th April 1917.  Francis was buried in St. Sever Communal Cemetery in Rouen.

Francis’s WW1 poetry collection “Poems” was published by Blackwell, Oxford in 1917 and his poems were included in the following WW1 anthologies:  “Oxford Poetry, 1917” Edited by W.R. Childe, T.W. Earp and Dorothy L. Sayers, Blackwell, Oxford, 1917 and “The Valiant Muse: an Anthology of Poems by Poets killed in the War”, 1936, Edited by Frederic W. Ziv.

“Last Poem”

 Through vast
 Realms of air we passed
 On wings all-whitely fair.

 On speeding wing we climb
 Like an unfettered Thing,

 Height upon height; and play
 In God's great Lawns of Light.

 And He
 Guides us safe home to see
 The Fields He bade us roam.

(Published in “Oxford Poetry, 1917” – see below).

Information kindly supplied by Paul Dakin and - contains references to letters and unpublished poems by Morris;
Find my Past and Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) pp.22, 33 and 230.
“Oxford Poetry, 1917” is available as a free download on Archive:

A poem dedicated to a dead female WW1 Worker by Arundel James Kennedy Esdaile

I would love to know whose grave inspired Arundel and where it was - in Belgium or France maybe?

“On a War-Worker, 1916” by Arundel James Kennedy Esdaile (1880 – 1956)

Far from their homes they lie, the men who fell
Fighting, in Flanders clay or Tigris sand:
She who lies here died for the cause as well,
Whom neither bayonet killed nor bursting shell
But her own heart that loves its native land.

From ““Cambridge Poets of the Great War: An Anthology” Michael Copp (Associated University Presses, London, 2001) 

Arundel James Kennedy Esdaile was born in London on 25th April 1880.  His parents were James Kennedy Esdaile and Florence Esdaile.  His siblings were Emmeline, b. 1878, Everard, b. 1883, Millicent, b. 1884 and Percival, b. 1889.  The family lived in Sussex.

Arundel was educated at Lancing School, Sussex and Magdalene College Cambridge.  He worked at the British Museum Library.  In 1907, Arundel married Katherine Ada McDowell, whose father was Secretary of the Girl’s Public Day School Trust.  Arundel died on 22nd June 1956.

Friday, 27 April 2018

John Ebenezer Stewart, MC (1889 - 1918) - WW1 Soldier Poet

Remembering John Ebenezer Stewart  who was killed on 26th April  1918. 
During the First World War, John initially joined the Highland Light Infantry as a Private Soldier.  After training, he was commissioned and attached to a Border Regiment.  He was promoted to the rank of Captain and became the Regiment's Adjutant. Promoted to the rank of Major, he was transferred to the South Lancashire Regiment. He served on the Western Front and was awarded the Military Cross.
John was with the South Staffordshire Regiment when he was killed in action on 26th April 1918.  He is commemorated TYNE COT Memorial, France. 
John Ebenezer Stewart's WW1 collection,  “Grapes of Thorns (poems)” was published by Erskine Macdonald, London in 1917.  His poems were included in five WW1 Anthologies.
Find out more on:
Source:  Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978), pages 304 - 305.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Louis B. Solomon (1896 - 1918) – British

Louis Bernard Solomon was born on 12th February 1896 in Oakland, California, USA.  His parents were Philip Leopold Soloman, b. 1871 in London, and Fanny Jane Soloman, nee Davis, b. 1858 in Weymouth, UK.   Louis had a sister, Helena Matilda, who was born in 1895 in Alameda, California.  In 1901 the family lived in Hove and in 1911 they lived in Croydon.

Educated at Dulwich College, Louis left school when he was 15 and worked as a mechanic.  He joined the Royal Fusiliers as a Private in 1915 and was posted to France on 14th November 1915.  Commissioned in August 1916, Louis transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and served on the Western Front. At the time of his death in action on 12th April 1918, was a Lieutenant and the Royal Flying Corps had amalgamated with the Royal Naval Air Service to become the Royal Air Force..  By then, the Solomon family were living in Leicester.  Louis was buried in Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension, Bailleul, France.

His WW1 collection “Wooden Crosses, and other verses” was published by Fountain Publishing Company, Roehampton in 1918.

“Ypres” by Louis B. Solomon

Thou, Ypres, that once wert queen of Flanders plains,
What art thou now?—a tumbled heap of dust,
With scarce a wall that stands, nor iron where rust
Has not for many a moon more heavy lain.

The Cloth Hall and Cathedral, once thy pride,
That showed a ceiling lined by master hand,
Or raised a tower that lauded all the land,
Now lie a mass of ruins side by side.

And little mounds of earth, which at their head
Bear little wooden crosses, tell the tale
Of those who fought for thee and passed the veil,
Of many a myriad of heroic dead.

Those tree stumps shattered out afar,
Shell-torn on shell-torn ground, once formed a glade
Where feathered songsters their sweet music made,
Nor dreamt would war their fervent beauty mar.

And overhead, where those same birds of song
Made fleeting melody with every breath,
Now soar aloft machines that token death,
The while they guide the speeding shell along.

And where he once a lofty solace raised,
Or to some humble cottage gave birth,
Now, like a skulking rodent ‘neath the earth,
Man builds himself a tunnelled burrow mazed.


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

An article by Harold Pollins in “The Siegfried Sassoon Journal Newsletter” 2013 – with grateful thank to Deb Fisher and Meg Crane of the Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship:  and on Facebook:

And Louis B. Solomon’s Obituary in “The Jewish Chronicle” 3rd May 1918 – with grateful thanks to Stanley Kaye, who had the idea of urging everyone to plant poppies in remembrance:



Saturday, 7 April 2018

R.B. Marriott-Watson (1896 - 1918) - British

I have said several times that my  project seems to have developed a life of its own and I am sure I am 'receiving help' from 'unseen sources' - other than those on social media. I have recently started researching poets of 1918 for another exhibition later this year and I was drawing up the list when, for some reason, I stopped and began to research Richard.  My research for these commemorative exhibitions can take months and, in the case of the exhibition of Poetry written by Schoolchildren during WW1, years to complete.  I found an e-mail contact and sent an e-mail to a relative of Richard’s – a journalist called Reg Watson, who lives in Tasmania.  Reg very kindly sent me a photograph of Richard.

Richard Brereton Marriott Watson was born in Chiswick, UK in 1896.  His father was the charismatic writer Henry Brereton Marriott Watson and his mother was the poet Rosamond Marriott Watson, nee Ball, who wrote using the pen-name Graham R. Tomson.  Rosamond’s father was poet Benjamin Williams Ball and her brother was the artist Wilfrid Williams Ball.  By 1911, Richard’s family were living at 'Vachery', Hook Lane, Shere, Surrey, UK.

A Lieutenant in the 2nd Royal Irish Rifles at the time of his death, Richard was commissioned in December 1914 into the 2/Lt 8th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment and was later attached to 10th Battalion. Transferred to 13th Battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles in September 1915, Richard was posted to France in October 1915. From May 1916, he was attached to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. Richard was awarded the Military Cross in 1916 and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in November 1917.

Richard was killed in action on the Western Front in France on 24th March 1918 at Cugny, during the retreat from St. Quentin.  He is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial, Somme, France, Panel 74 to 76, and also on the village war memorial plaque in St James' Church, Shere, Surrey.

 One of his poems was published in the “Observer” newspaper in 1918:


Opal fires in the Western sky
(For that which is written must ever be),
And a bullet comes droning, whining by,
To the heart of a sentry close to me,

For some go early, and some go late
(A dying scream on the evening air)
And who is there that believes in Fate
As a soul goes out in the sunset flare?

Richard had a poem or poems included in 4 WW1 anthologies.  CR. P. 218

His CWGC entry:

With thanks to Michael Shankland and to The Great War Forum for some of this information.