Friday, 27 December 2019

Heathcote William Garrod, CBE, FBA (1878 - 1960) – British poet and scholar

With thanks to Connie Ruzich for jreminding m e that I had not yet researched Heathcote.

Heathcote was born in Wells, Somerset, UK on 21st January 1878, the fifth of six children. His parents were Charles William Garrod, a solicitor, and his wife, Louisa (née Ashby).  Educated at Bath College and Balliol College, Oxford, Heathcote received the Gaisford prize for Greek prose in 1900 and in 1901 the Newdigate Prize for a poem written in English.  Gaining a first class degree in the Final Honour School of Literae Humaniores in the summer term of 1901, in October that year Heathcote was elected a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, a position he occupied for more than 60 years.

In June 1902, Heathcote was appointed assistant tutor at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. During the First World War, he worked at the Ministry of Munitions and then in the Ministry of Reconstruction. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in  1918, in recognition of his work during the First World War.

This remark is often attributed to other, more famous people, however, reliable sources give him as the person who, when accosted by a woman during the First World War asking why he was not with the soldiers fighting to defend civilisation, replied: "Madam, I am the civilization they are fighting to defend."

Heathcote was appointed Oxford Professor of Poetry from 1923 to 1928. In 1925, he resigned his tutorship in classics at Oxford for a research fellowship in English, which had been vacant after the death of W. P. Ker. From 1929 to 1930, he was the Charles Eliot Norton professor at Harvard University.

In addition to the CBE, Garrod received an honorary doctorate from the University of Durham (DLitt, 1930), was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1931 and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh (LLD, 1953).

Heathcote never married and died at the Acland Nursing Home in Oxford on Christmas Day 1960.
His short WW1 poem "Epitaph Neuve Chapelle" remembers Indian troops and those who fought and died in #WW1 with unquestioning bravery.

Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) – p. 137 list Heathcote’s WW1 collections as:

“Worms and epitaphs: poems” (Blackwell, Oxford, 1919)

“Epigrams: poems” (Blackwell, Oxford, 1946) includes a poem first published in 1919.
Sources: #poetry #WW1

Portrait of Heathcote William Garrod by Walter Stoneman MBE FRGS FRPS, photographer (1876 – 1958) – National Portrait Gallery

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Paul Bewsher, DSC (1894 - 1966) – British writer, poet and aviator

Paul Bewsher features in the exhibition of WW1 Aviator poets
held at Cosford Air Show, UK in June 2018

Paul Bewsher was born on 12th November 1894 in Fulham, London, UK.  When war broke out, Paul joined the Royal Navy and served aboard HMS “Manica” as an air mechanic balloon hand during the Gallipoli Campaign.  He was then posted to Manston in Kent for training with the Royal Nval Air Service, before going to France as an Observer/Bomber on the Handley Page night bombing missions, with the rank of Lieutenant.

Paul learnt to fly while based with a Squadron in Luxeuil-les-Bains and was promoted to the rank of Captain.  He was shot down during a bombing mission over the Zeebrugge Mole on the night of 10th – 11th April 1918.  Paul published his war-time experiences and here is a brief extract from his book:

 “I wish to explain my reasons for describing always my own feelings, my own experiences, my own thoughts. I feel that the lay public who did not fly in the war, and knew little of its excitements and monotonies, would rather hear of the experiences of one person, related by himself, than merely a journalistic record of events which had come to his notice. Therefore I have tried faithfully to describe the sensations, the strange inexplicable fears, the equally inexplicable fearlessness, of a desk-bound London youth, pitchforked in a moment into the turmoil of war, and into a hitherto unknown, untried
occupation--bombing at night from the air.”

We fly over three or four little trawlers steaming slowly along, dredging the waterway for mines. Then over two leaning masts of some wreck, which pierce the water like thin lances. Next we pass above a Belgian relief ship, advertising its nature by means of innumerable placards and flags and colours, which are yet not sufficient to keep it immune from the Germans and their unreliable promises. Now it is a familiar line of mud-hoppers carrying a load of dredged mud to some deep dumping-ground. Now over a couple of lean grey torpedo-boats, nosing everywhere, carefully and suspiciously, protecting the Channels.

So at times over ever-varying craft, and at times over grey wet loneliness, we travel on in our long patrol, until at last the squat red shape of a lightship appears through the haze, and we know that we have reached the limit of our outward journey. We sweep low over the isolated vessel, wave our hands to the men on board, and start to return home by a different route, and roar on over mile after mile of water glittering in the sun, which is slowly dissipating the mist of early morning.”

From “'Green Balls' : The Adventures of a Night-Bomber” by Paul Bewsher (William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London, 1919)

Paul Bewsher’s WW1 poetry collections were “The Bombing of Bruges and other poems” (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1918) and “The Dawn Patrol and other oems of an aviator” (Erskine Macdonald, London, 1917).  His poems were included in thirteen WW1 poetry anthologies.

"British Handley Page Night Bomber" by French WW1 artist and aviator
Henri Farré (1871 – 1924)

“THE DAWN PATROL” By Paul Bewsher

 SOMETIMES I fly at dawn above the sea,
Where, underneath, the restless waters flow—
  Silver, and cold, and slow.
Dim in the east there burns a new-born sun,
Whose rosy gleams along the ripples run,
  Save where the mist droops low,
Hiding the level loneliness from me.

And now appears beneath the milk-white haze
A little fleet of anchored ships, which lie
  In clustered company,        
And seem as they are yet fast bound by sleep,
Although the day has long begun to peep,
  With red-inflamèd eye,
Along the still, deserted ocean ways.

The fresh, cold wind of dawn blows on my face      
As in the sun’s raw heart I swiftly fly,
  And watch the seas glide by.
Scarce human seem I, moving through the skies,
And far removed from warlike enterprise—
  Like some great gull on high      
Whose white and gleaming wings beat on through space.

Then do I feel with God quite, quite alone,
High in the virgin morn, so white and still,
  And free from human ill:
My prayers transcend my feeble earth-bound plaints—      
As though I sang among the happy Saints
  With many a holy thrill—
As though the glowing sun were God’s bright Throne.

My flight is done. I cross the line of foam
That breaks around a town of grey and red,      
  Whose streets and squares lie dead
Beneath the silent dawn—then am I proud
That England’s peace to guard I am allowed;
  Then bow my humble head,
In thanks to Him Who brings me safely home.

First published in George Herbert Clarke, ed. (1873–1953).  A Treasury of War Poetry.  1917 Poem No. 116.        

“Nox Mortis”

The afternoon
Flutter and dies:
The fairy moon
Burns in the skies
As they grow darker, and the first stars shine
On Night’s rich mantle – purple like warm wine.

On each white road
Begins to crawl
The heavy load:
The night-birds call,
And round the trees the swift bats flit and wheel,
While from the barns the rats begin to steal.

So now must I,
Bird of the night
Towards the sky
Make wheeling flight,
And bear my poison o’er the gloomy land
And let it loose with hard unsparing hand.

The chafers boom
With whirring wings,
And haunt the gloom
Which twilight brings –
So in nocturnal travel do I wail
As through the night the wing-ed engines sail.

Death, Grief, and Pain
Are what I give,
O that the slain
Might live – might live!
I know them not for I have blindly killed,
And nameless hearts with nameless sorrow filled.

Thrice curs-ed War
Which bids that I
Such death should pour
Down from the sky.
O, Star of Peace, rise swiftly in the East
That from such slaying men may be released.

Sources:  Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography”, p.55 (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978); Find my Past; Cross and Cockade Forum; “'Green Balls' : The Adventures of a Night-Bomber” by Paul Bewsher (William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London, 1919)

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Miles Jeffery Game Day, DSC (1896 – 1918) – British Air Ace Flight Commander, Royal Naval Air Service

Miles was born on 1st December 1896 in St. Ives, which is now in Cambridgeshire, UK but was in the County of Huntingdonshire at the time of his birth. His parents were George Dennis Day, a solicitor and Town Clerk of St. Ives, and his wife Margaret Jane, nee Davis.  Miles had the following siblings:  George L., b. 1891, Dennis Ivor, b. 1892, and Gwladys M., b. 1895.  The family lived in a large house called Rheola in St. Ives.

Educated at Sandroyd School in Tollard Royal, Wiltshire and at Repton School in Derbyshire, Miles was due to go up to St. John’s College, Cambridge when war broke out.  He joined the Royal Naval Air Service and served as a Flight Commander.  Five victories in air battles, one captured enemy aircraft, two shared victories and two enemy planes disabled made Miles an Air Ace.

He was shot down flying a Sopwith Camel plant on 27th February 1918 while leading a patrol to attach six enemy seaplanes.  His DSC was awarded after his death.  Miles has no known grave but is commemorated on a memorial tablet at St. John’s College Cambridge, on Panel no. 30 of Chatham Naval Memorial and on the War Memorial in St. Ives, Cambridgeshire.

In 2015 a commemorative bench was placed in Broad Leas Cemetery, St. Ives in memory of Miles and his brother, Dennis Ivor, who initially served with the Royal Naval Division but was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery and was October 1915 at Vermelles during the Battle of Loos.  Dennis died on 7th October 1915.

George L. Day also served during the First World War, was wounded in 1918 but survived.  After the war, he joined the family’s law firm, served as Town Clerk for St. Ives and died in 1974.

Miles’ WW1 collection “Poems and Rhymes” was published by Sidgwick & Jackson, London in 1919, with a memoir from “Cornhill Magazine”, October 1918, written by Edward Hilton Young.

Miles also had poems published in nine WW1 anthologies.

“On The Wings Of The Morning” by Miles Jeffery Day

A sudden roar, a mighty rushing sound,
A jolt or two, a smoothly sliding rise,
A tumbled blur of disappearing ground,
And then all sense of motion slowly dies,
Quiet and calm, the earth slips past below,
As underneath a bridge still waters flow.

My turning wing inclines toward the ground;
The ground itself glides up with graceful swing
And at lane’s far tip twirls slowly round,
Then drops from sight again beneath the wing
To slip away serenely as before,
A cubist-patterned carpet on the floor.

Hills gently sink and valleys gently fill.
The flattened fields grow ludicrously small;
Slowly they pass beneath and slower still
Until they hardly seem to move at all.
Then suddenly they disappear from sight
Hidden by fleeting wisps of faded white.

The wing-tips, faint and dripping, dimly show
Blurred by the wreaths of mist that intervene.
Weird, half-seen shadows flicker to and fro
Across the pallid fog-bank’s blinding screen.
At last the choking mists release their hold,
And all the world is silver, blue and gold.

The air is clear, more clear than sparkling wine;
Compared with this wine is a turgid brew.
The far horizon makes a clean-cut line
Between the silver and depthless blue.
Out of the snow-white level reared on high
Glittering hills surge up to meet the sky.

Outside the wind screen’s shelter gales may race;
But in the seat a cool and gentle breeze
Blows steadily upon my grateful face.
As I sit motionless and at my ease,
Contented just to loiter in the sun
And gaze around me till the day is done.

And so I sit half sleeping, half awake,
Dreaming a happy dream of golden days
Until at last, with a reluctant shake
I rouse myself and with lingering gaze
At all the splendour of the shining plain
Make ready to come down to earth again.

The engine stops; a pleasant silence reigns-
Silence, not broken, but intensified
By the soft, sleepy wire’ insistent strains,
That rise and fall as with a sweeping glide
I slither down the well-oiled sides of space,
Towards a lower, less enchanted place.

The clouds draw nearer, changing as they come.
Now, like a flash, fog grips me by the throat.
Down goes the nose: at once the wire’s low hum
Begins to rise in volume and in note,
Till, as I hurtle from the choking cloud
It swells into a scream, high pitched, and loud.

The scattered hues and shades of green and brown
Fashion themselves into the land I know,
Turning and twisting, as I spiral down
Towards the landing-ground; till, skimming low
I glide with slackening speed across the ground,
And come to rest with lightly grating sound.

Sources:  Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978);
Michael Copp “Cambridge Poets of the Great War” (Associated University Presses, London, 2001)

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Innes D'Auvergne Stewart Stitt (1899 - 1918) – British WW1 soldier poet

With thanks to John Milroy for telling me about Innes  

Balliol College, photo by John Milroy
Innes was born in 1899 in Cambridgeshire, UK.  His parents were Anglican priest the Reverend Samuel Stewart Stitt, Rector of St. James’s Church in Stretham, and his wife, Mary Eliza, nee Marquis.

Educated at Balliol College, Oxford University, during the First World War Innes was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the the 1/16th London Regiment 16th (County of London) Battalion (Queen's Westminster Rifles).  He was reported missing at Towy Post, near Arras on 28th March 1918.  His body was never found but Innes is remembered on the Arras Memorial, Bay 10 and also in the Parish Church of St. James in Stretham, Cambridgeshire.

Innes’s WW1 poetry collection, written in conjunction with Leo Ward, was entitled “To-morrow, and Other Poems” and was published by Longmans, Green, London, 1917.

Sources:  Find my Past, Free BMD,
Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978) and

I am trying to find a photograph of Innes and some of his poems.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Raymond Jubert (1889 - 1917) - French WW1 soldier poet

Raymond Armand Alexis Jubert was born on 5th November 1889 in Charleville-Mézières (Ardennes), France. His parents were Ernest and Nathalie Jubert. Raymond studied law and was called to the Bar in Reims.  He volunteered to serve in the French Army in September 1914, joining the 91st R.I. (Infantry Regiment).  

In April 1915, Raymond was promoted to the rank of junior officer and posted to the 151st R.I. (known in French as the "Quinze-Un" (151)), seeing  action with them in the forests of the Argonne. On 1st July 1915, Raymond was shot in the foot with a bullet and received eleven grenade splinters in his right arm. His younger brother, Maurice Joubert, was killed fighting in the Argonne. A corporal in the 91st R.I., Maurice disappeared in the Bois de Boulante on 13th July 1915, only short distance from where Raymond had been wounded. Maurice's body was never recovered.

In November 1915, Raymond was promoted to Sub-Lieutenant and served at Verdun in March, April and May 1916, and again during the attack on the Chemin-des-Dames in April 1917, where he was wounded again - in the left arm. During his three years of service with the 151st, Jubert was awarded the Orders of the Division and Army Corps, along with two more in the Orders of the Army. He also received the Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur and the Croix de Guerre with two palms, and stars of vermilion, gold and silver. His Legion of Honour citation read:

"Brillant officier, of high moral valour, a true leader of men, proven himself in the Argonne, Verdun and the Somme for his gallant conduct under fire. Twice cited in dispatches: on 16 April 1917, brilliantly led his section in the assault, wounded, nevertheless continued to lead the progression and did allow himself to be evacuated until after received orders."

The 151st returned for a fourth tour to Verdun in August 1917 to take part in the French counter-attack on the Right Bank of the River Meuse. Raymond was killed on 26th August 1917 after leading his men in an attack in the Bois des Caurières (Ravin de l'Ermitage). Last seen at the objective -Tranchée Bois de la Chaume - his body was never recovered and, like his brother, Raymond has no known grave. Raymond is remembered on the memorial plaque in the Saint-Rémi Church and on the Monument to the Dead in Charleville-Mézières, France.

During his period of recuperation after seeing action and being wounded at Chemin-des-Dames, Raymond wrote his memoirs which were published as “Verdun (mars-avril-mai 1916)” by Payot, Paris in 1918.

When he was 14 years old, Raymond sent these rather prophetic lines to the French poet François Edouard Joachim Coppée (26 January 1842 – 23 May 1908):

Salus Patriæ suprema lex

Pour cela, nous suivrons l’exemple de nos pères,
Et, portant fermement le drapeau, nous irons
Défendre notre foi, le pays et nos frères,
Et s’il le faut, nous périrons.

The safety of the country is the supreme law

For that we will follow the example of our fathers,
And, carrying the flag firmly, we will go
Defend our faith, the country and our brothers,
And if necessary, we will perish.


French Croix de Guerre  

The Croix de Guerre is a military decoration of France created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. 

The decoration was first awarded during the First World War, again in World War II, and in other conflicts; the croix de guerre des théâtres d'opérations extérieures ("cross of war for external theatres of operations") was established in 1921. The Croix de Guerre was also bestowed on foreign military forces allied to France.

The National Order of the Legion of Honour (French: Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur), formerly the Royal Order of the Legion of Honour (Ordre royal de la Légion d'honneur), is the highest French order of merit, both military and civil. Established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, it has been retained (with occasional slight alterations) by all later French governments and regimes.

The order's motto is Honneur et Patrie ("Honour and Fatherland"); its headquarters is the Palais de la Légion d'Honneur next to the Musée d'Orsay, on the left bank of the Seine in Paris.

The order is divided into five degrees of increasing distinction: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand officier (Grand Officer) and Grand-croix (Grand Cross).

Monday, 4 November 2019

J.R. Ackerley (1896 – 1967) – WW1 soldier poet and playwright

J.R. Ackerlwy, WW1
Joe Randolph Ackerley was born on 4th November 1896 in Herne Hill, Kent. His father was Roger Ackerley, a successful fruit merchant and his mother was Janetta Aylward, an actress.

Joe Ackerley attended Rossall School in Fleetwood, Lancashire, played hockey for his House and became Captain of the School shooting team. His literary ambitions were fostered by S.P.B. Mais, a young schoolmaster who set up a debating and literary society which met in his rooms every Saturday night. Mais regarded Ackerley as a promising poet and in1923 wrote: “I’ve watched the progress of this young poet since he was 14.”

Ackerley left Rossall School in 1914 and was commissioned into the 8th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment straight from school. The East Surreys went to France in June 1915. He sent the occasional poems back to his old school, one of which was entitled “R.H. in the Trenches”.

Ackerley was wounded at the Battle of the Somme, on the first day of the Somme Offensive - 1st July 1916 - and was sent back to Britain. A few months later, he returned to the front to serve in the same Regiment as his brother Peter, who also attended Rossall School. Peter was wounded in February
1917. In May 1917, Joe Ackerley saw action at Arras and was wounded again. While waiting to be rescued, the Germans arrived and took Joe prisoner. His brother, Peter was killed on 17th August 1918. Joe was fortunate in that he was released into internment in Switzerland in December 1917, after six months in hospitals and prison camps.

The war left a lasting impression on Ackerley as is revealed in his poem “The Everlasting Terror”. It was written in memory of his friend Bobby Soames who was killed on 1st July 1916.   After the war, Ackerley went to Cambridge University. When his father died in 1929, Ackerley discovered that his father had a second family. His father’s mistress, Muriel Perry, had been a nurse during WW1. Roger and Muriel had three daughters, one of whom was Sally Grosvenor, Duchess of Westminster.

Following a move to London, Ackerley met E.M. Forster and other literary stars of that time. In 1923 he had a poem published in an anthology of young British Writers. Forster arranged for Ackerley to
travel to India to work as secretary to the Majaraja of Chhatarpur, a position he held for about six months.

As well as poetry, Ackerley also wrote a play called “Prisoners of War” which was finally produced in 1925 and performed initially in London at The Three Hundred Club, before transferring to The Playhouse. This enabled Ackerley to meet and mix with some of the famous names of the London theatrical scene of the 1920s, among them John Gielgud.

In 1928, Ackerley joined the BBC, which had been set up in 1927, to work in the department that arranged radio lectures. In 1935 he became Literary Editor of “The Listener”. During his time at the BBC, Ackerley helped many young aspiring writers such as Philip Larkin, W.H. Auden, Stepen Spender and Christopher Isherwood. He left the BBC in 1959, travelled to Japan and when back in London worked on his memoir about his father. Ackerley died on 4th June 1967 in Putney, where he had lived since 1941. His memoir “My Father and Myself” was published in 1968.

“R.H. in the Trenches” by J.R. Ackerley

He’s snoring on his bed,
His mouth is wide;
And black strands of moustache
Dip down inside.
Like some great fallen log,
Bereft of sense;
His feet encased in boots
Appear immense.
A curse upon his head
For lying there;
His hand beneath his head
Of matted hair.
How can I write to thee,
My pretty one?
With this unwieldy thing
Beneath the sun.

First published in “The Rossallian”, Rossall School Magazine and reproduced here by their kind permission.

Sources:  The Rossall School and


Rossall School was founded in 1844 by St. Vincent Beechey and had connections with Marlborough College, which was founded in 1843. The idea of having a boarding school on England's Fylde Coast came from a Corsican called Zanon Vantini, who owned the North Euston Hotel in Fleetwood. As
the school was close to the sea and had its own stretch of beach, for many years the boys swam in the sea every day before lessons.

During WW1, the North Euston Hotel, just along the coast to where the school was situated, was the Headquarters of the Gunnery School, of which the firing ranges were situated on Fleetwood Golf Links. Wilfred Owen was posted to the Gunnery School in Fleetwood in October – November 1916.  Bearing in mind that the Hotel was owned by Zanon Vantini, and that one of the Rossall School Teachers held a regular poetry meeting, we think it highly likely that Wilfred Owen would have attended at least one of those meetings while he was based in Fleetwood.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Remembrance Event: War Poets, Sunday, 10th November 2019 16h.30 at The New Boulevard Theatre, 6 Walker's Court, Soho, W1F 0BT, UK

Boulevard Theatre and Live Canon Ensemble present War Poets, Sunday, 10th November 16h.30 at The New Boulevard Theatre, 6 Walker's Court, Soho, W1F 0BT, UK -
On Remembrance Sunday 2019, there will be a performance in London by the Live Canon ensemble showcasing several centuries of war poetry. 

The programme features well-known poems from the First World War, including work by soldier poets Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen and by female poets Sylvia Townsend Warner, May Herschel Clarke, Edith Sitwell, Helen Dircks and Eva Dobell.  

Also featured will be work from other conflicts - the Crimea, Second World War, Vietnam, Iraq, Liberia and Afghanistan.  The performance showcases some of the most extraordinary war poetry by women from every generation. 

Live Canon perform from memory – these are not readings – and this is a rare opportunity to hear this collection of poetry performed live.

To book tickets for this unmissable event please follow this link

Friday, 1 November 2019

Poets born on 1st November - David Jones (1895 - 1974) - David Jones

British WW1 soldier poet and artist David Jones (1895 – 1974) was born on 1st November 1895 - he is among the First World War poets remembered in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, London, UK.

David Jones had a Welsh father but was born in Kent on 1st November 1895.  He joined the Royal Welch Fusiliers in WW1 as an Infantryman and served on the Western front from December 1915.  Wounded during the Battle of Mametz Wood during the Somme Offensive in July 1916, David later returned to the front and saw action in the Battles of Messines and Passchendaele.

After the war, David returned to the study of art and enjoyed a successful career with his work being widley exhibited world-wide.  He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1933, died on 28th October 1974 and was buried in Brockley Cemetery, London, SE4, UK. 

In 1937, David published “In Parenthesis” about his experience of war.


Poets born on 1st November - Edmund Blunden, MC (1896 - 1974) - British

Edmund Blunden 
British WW1 soldier poet Edmund Blunden MC was born on 1st November 1895. He joined the Royal Sussex Regiment as a Second Lieutenant and served on the Western Front throughout the war. Edmund was awarded a Military Cross during the Somme Offensive.  After the war, Edmund returned to his studies at Oxford University - where he was a contemporary of Robert Graves – and in 1924 was appointed Professor of English at Tokyo University, Japan.   Later, Edmund became Professor of Poetry at Oxford University and wrote poems on rural life as well as about the war.  He was a friend of WW1 soldier poet Siegfried Sassoon. Edmund died in 1974 and is buried at Long Melford in Suffolk.

He is one of the Great War Poets remembered in Poets Corner at Westminster Abbey, London, UK.

A Concert Party at the Front 

“Concert Party: Busseboom” by Edmund Blunden

The stage was set, the house was packed,
The famous troop began;
Our laughter thundered, act by act;
Time light as sunbeams ran.

Dance sprang and spun and neared and fled,
Jest chirped at gayest pitch,
Rhythm dazzled, action sped
Most comically rich.

With generals and lame privates both
Such charms worked wonders, till
The show was over – lagging loth
We faced the sunset chill;

And standing on the sandy way,
With the cracked church peering past,
We heard another matinée,
We heard the maniac blast

Of barrage south by Saint Eloi,
And the red lights flaming there
Called madness: Come, my bonny boy,
And dance to the latest air.

To this new concert, white we stood;
Cold certainty held our breath;
While men in tunnels below Larch Wood
Were kicking men to death.

“Undertones of War” Edmund Blunden’s book about his war experiences is available to read on Archive:

Portrait of Edmund Blunden - National Portrait Gallery

Photo of Concert Party from

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Robert Underwood Johnson (1853-1937) - American poet, editor and diplomat

Born on 12th January 1853, Robert’s father was Nimrod Hoge Johnson, a lawyer and judge and his mother was Catherine Coyle Underwood, a Suffragette. The family lived in Indiana.  Educated at Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana, Robert then joined the staff of “The Century” magazine (known then as “Scribner’s Monthly”), where he became Associate Editor in 1881 and edited the magazine from 1909 – 1913.   A prolific writer, Robert became Permanent Secretary to the American Academy of Arts.

America’s entry into the First World War gave Robert the chance to “present the little-known facts of Italy’s important contributions to the Allied cause, and that in general I had written much in prose and verse in admiration of that country and her people.” 
American Poets’ Ambulances in Italy poster 

In 1917 Robert organized and was chairman of the American Poets' Ambulance in Italy. The organization presented 112 ambulances to the Italian army in four months. In 1918–19 he was president of the New York Committee of the Italian War Relief Fund of America. He served as the U.S. Ambassador to Italy from April 1920 to July 1921, and represented the United States as observer at the San Remo conference of the Supreme Council of the League. He was decorated by the Italian government in recognition of his work in behalf of good relations between Italy and the United States.

In later life, Robert devoted his time to writing and publishing poetry and his memoirs – “Remembered Yesterdays”.  He died on 14th October 1947.

” After being shown a photograph of a child holding ‘the only doll in the valley’ (Bezecca) Robert wrote a poem by that name, sent out a press appeal and ‘hundreds of dolls’ were distributed to the Val.”

“The only Doll in the Valley” poem reproduced here by kind permission of Delaware University Library, where Underwood Johnson's papers are held -

MSS 121, Robert Underwood Johnson Collection, Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware

Works by Robert Underwood Johnson

Poems of War and Peace (Indianapolis and New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1916)
Italian Rhapsody and Other Poems of Italy (Published: By The Author, 745 Fifth Avenue, NY, 1917)
Collected Poems, 1881–1919 (New Haven: Yale University, 1920).
"Collected Poems, 1881-1992" (New Haven: Yale University, 1923)
Remembered Yesterdays (Boston: Little, Brown, 1923)

Friday, 18 October 2019

Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine CH KBE (1853 – 1931) – British writer, poet, critic

“The Manxland Bard… a genuius … a powerful pen” (“Dundee Courrier, 25th December 1901)

Portrait of Hall Caine by R.E. Morrison 
With thanks to Stuart Allen of The Runcorn & District Historical Society for telling me about Hall Caine.  Although I knew about “King Albert’s Book”, I did not know that Hall Caine was the Editor.

Known later as Hall Caine, Thomas Henry Hall Caine was born on 14th May 1853 in Runcorn, Cheshire, UK.  His parents were John Caine, from the Isle of Man, and his wife, Sarah, nee Hall (from Cumberland – now called Cumbria).  Hall’s siblings were John (b. 1856), William Ralph (b.1865), who also became a writer, and Elizabeth Ann (1869-1914), who became a famous actress using the name Lilly Hall Caine. Caine is a Celtic name and Hall, his mother’s maiden name, is Norse.

Hall was educated at Hope Street School in Liverpool, where he was taught by George Gill, who was head of a school book publisher, and encouraged Hall’s talent for writing.  Hall spent time with his Father’s family on the Isle of Man when he was growing up.  Leaving school at the age of fifteen, Hall was apprenticed to an artichect and trained as an architectural draughtsman.  He also contributed articles to local newspapers and magazines and gave lectures around Merseyside to various societies. The subject of one of those lectures - Dante Gabriel Rossetti - invited Hall to go to London. Hall lived with the old man right up until Rossetti died in 1882 and the two became great friends.
Under Rossetti’s influence Hall developed his literary talents and eventually became a novelist, playwright, short story writer, poet and critic.  Hall worked for the “Academy” (a review of literature and general topics published in London from 1869 to 1902) and also contributed atricles to the “Athenaum” (a literary magazine published in London, from 1828 to 1921). His novel “The Eternal City” was the first novel to sell over a million copies worldwide. His plays were performed to wide acclaim both in America and Britain and Hall became very famous indeed.

In 1886, Hall married Mary Chandler and their sons were Gordon Ralph (1884 – 1962), who became a writer, publisher and Conservative politician and Derwent (b. 1891).

Hall became a resident of The Isle of Man in 1895 and sat from 1901 to 1908 in the Manx House of Keys, the lower house of Tynwald, the parliament of the Isle of Man (the other branch being the Legislative Council). He was elected President of the Manx National Reform League in 1903 and became Chairman of the Keys' Committee that prepared the 1907 petition for constitutional reform. In 1929, Hall was granted the Freedom of the Borough of Douglas, Isle of Man. He visited Russia in 1892 on behalf of the persecuted Jews and in 1895, travelled in north America and Canada, where he represented the Society of Authors.

During the First World War (1914 – 1919), he wrote many patriotic articles and edited “King Albert's Book”, the proceeds of which went to help Belgian refugees.
Cover of "King Albert's Book"

In 1917, Hall was created an Officer of the Order of Leopold by King Albert I of Belgium. He cancelled his literary engagements in America in order to devote his time and energy to the British war effort.  At the recommendation of then Prime Minister Lloyd George, King George V made him a Knight of the British Empire (KBE) in 1918, for services as an Allied propagandist in the United States. In 1922, Hall Caine was made a Companion of Honour (CH).

Hall died on 311st August 1931 on the Isle of Man.

Sources:  Find my Past, Free BMD, “Hall Caine: The Man and the Novelist” by C. Fred Kenyon (Greening & Co. Ltd., London, 1901)

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Ralph Hale Mottram (1883–1971) – WW1 soldier poet, banker and writer

Ralph Mottram in WW1 – standing back row left.

I first came across Ralph Mottram in Catherine W. Reilly’s amazing book “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography”, in which he features on p. 231 without reference to his WW1 military career.  And then I found him again recently, when I read “In the Trenches: Those who were there” by Rabel Bilton (Pen & Sword Military, 2016), which features a very frank description of Ralph’s experiences in the trenches of the Western Front during the First World War.

Ralph  Hale Mottram was born on 30th October 1883 in the living accommodation of the eighteenth-century building that housed Gurney's Bank in Norwich. His parents were James Mottram, chief clerk of Gurney’s Bank, and his wife, Fanny Ann Mottram, nee Hale.  Ralph was their eldest son. Ralph had an idyllic childhood growing up in 'Bank House' - a Georgian mansion on Bank Plain - which was later Barclay's Bank and is now a youth centre. The Mottrams were non-conformist and worshipped at the Octagon Chapel, Norwich in Colegate.

Ralph became a bank clerk in Norwich before the First World War, during which he served as a Lieutenant in the Norfolk Regiment on the Western Front.  In 1918, he married Margaret Allan and the couple had two sons and a daughter.   In 1924, Ralph was awarded the Hawthornden Prize for his trilogy “The Spanish Farm”.

During the Second World War, Ralph and his family lived in Poplar Avenue, Norwich. He became friendly with the American poet Hyman Plutzik who was stationed at the Shipdham Airbase. In his role as Education Officer for the USAAF, Plutzik invited Ralph to lecture at the airfield and then, later in the evening, drove him and his wife back to Norwich. Plutzik's poem “On the Airfield at Shipdham” is dedicated to Ralph Mottram.

In 1953, Ralph became Lord Mayor of Norwich.  Among his literary works was a biography of his friend and fellow novelist John Galsworthy. In 1966, Ralph received an Honorary Doctor of Letters from the newly-established University of East Anglia.  Ralph died on 16th April 1971 and was buried in the Mottram family plot at the Rosary Cemetery, which was the first non-denominational cemetery in England.

There is a memorial to Ralph on St. James' Hill on Mousehold Heath - which overlooks the City of Norwich. He once claimed that Mousehold Heath was 'the property of those who have the privilege of Norwich birth'. Unfortunately, the memorial was badly damaged by metal thieves in 2011.

Ralph’s WW1 poetry collection was “Poems new and old” (Duckworth, London, 1930) and he had poems published in two WW1 Anthologies.

“The Flower of Battle” by Ralph Hale Mottram

The summer twilight gently yields
To star-sown luminous night, and close
The flowers in these Flemish Fields
Are folded, still the leaves repose;

But, as the colour leaves the sky,
And darkness wraps a suffering earth,
Clamouring, climbing endlessly
Another blossom springs to birth:

The Flower of Battle, down the wide
Horizon mantles, tendrils spread,
Its far-hung petals brilliant dyed,
Yellow, and blinding white, and red.

Fed with our bodies at its root,
Fed with our hearts its living flame,
It sways in wonder absolute,
And Flower of Battle is its name. . . .

Men will gaze, awestruck, men will strive
To reach its glowing heart . . . and some
May turn away while yet alive,
But few from out its shade may come !

From “The Mercury Book of Verse” (Macmillan & Co. Ltd, London, 1931) which consists of
poems published in “The London Mercury”, 1919-1930. “The London Mercury” was a major monthly literary journal published from 1919 to 1939. J. C. Squire was Editor from November 1919 to September 1934 and Rolfe Arnold Scott-James was Editor from October 1934 to April 1939.

Fiore dei Liberi was a weapons-master from Italy who was active in the 14th and early 15th century. After fifty years of training Italy's elite, he put his art to paper and created the “Flower of Battle”, which covers unarmed combat, the use of the dagger, sword, spear, axe as well as fighting in armor, without and on horseback as well as other odds and ends.

Sources:  Find my Past, Free BMD, Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 231 and

Photo:  Ralph Mottram in WW1 – standing back row left.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Arthur Hugh Sidgwick (1882 - 1917) – British soldier poet

Born on 2nd October 1882 in Headington, Oxfordshire, UK, Arthur was the son of Arthur Sidgwick, later Fellow and Tutor of Corpus Christi College, Oxford and Reader of Greek at the University, and his wife, Charlotte Sophia Sidgwick, daughter of the Reverend Arthur Wilson, Vicar of Nocton in Lincolnshire.    He had three sisters and one brother.

Arthur was educated at Winchester College and won the Queen’s Gold Medal for English Verse, and the Hawkins’ English Literature Prize. He was Richardson Mathematical Prizeman in 1900 and Goddard Scholar in 1901 – a very rare combination – and played in College VI in his last year. He went up to Balliol College, Oxford University in 1901, obtained distinction in the examination for the Ireland Scholarship and took his degree with First Classes in Mathematical Moderations, Classical Moderations and Literae Humaniores. In 1905 he was elected to a Fellowship at University College and in 1906 won the Chancellor’s Prize for English Essay on “The Influence of Greek Philosophy on English Poetry”. The same year, Arthur was appointed a Junior Examiner under the Board of Education and, when the First World War broke out, he was acting as private secretary to Sir Lewis Selby-Bigge (Coll. 1873-1879), Permanent Secretary of the Board, where he seemed assured of a brilliant career.

Unable to obtain his release before the end of 1915, Arthur was commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery.  After serving for a year, he was recalled from France to assist his colleagues at the Board of Education in preparing for the Education Bill of 1917. Arthur returned to his Battery on the Western Front in April 1917, and was killed in action near Ypres on 17th September 1917. Arthur Hugh Sidgwick is buried in Mendingham Military Cemetery, Grave Reference VII.E.6. He was a keen supporter of the Workers’ Educational Association and left a legacy to them and also to his schools and to Balliol College.

In 1912 Arthur published “Walking Essays” and in 1914 ”The Promenade Ticket”. His poetry collection “Jones’s Wedding, and other Verses” was published by Arnold in 1918.
Further information can be obtained from the Balliol College Archives:

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

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Nicholas Herbert Todd (1878 – 1916) – British poet and playwright

Nicholas Herbert Todd was one of the soldier poets featured
in the commemorative exhibition of Somme Poets held in 2016

Nicholas was born in Occold, Eye, Suffolk, UK on 21st September 1878.  His father was Horatio Lovell Todd, an Anglican Church minister - Rector of St. Michael and All Angels Church in Occold – and his mother was Frances Catherine Todd, nee Todd.  Nicholas had three brothers – Horatio J. Todd, b. 1865, Francis S. Todd, b. 1866 and  Charles F. Todd, b. 1872.

After attending Felsted School in Essex, Nicholas went up to Keble College, Oxford.  He became a teacher and taught at a school in Balham, London and then at Sedburgh Preparatory School in Yorkshire.

In 1916, after ten years at Sedbergh School, Nicholas enlisted as a Rifleman in the 1st/12th Battalion of the London Regiment (The Rangers).   He trained at a camp in Winchester before being sent to the Western Front, where he was killed on 7th October 1917 near Baupaume.

Nicholas Herbert Todd is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial in France, on the Sedbergh School Memorial and on a plaque in St. Michael and All Angels Church in Occold.

Written while at Hazeley Down training camp near Winchester in August 1916:

Dear Geoff I wonder if you'd like to be
A soldier of King George, the same as me.
To live in Huts arranged in long straight rows,
Or if you'd rather, call them Bungalows.
Your bed, three boards, on which you rest at night,
Which you're required by order to keep white.
To rise at six-or usually much later
And wash, and dress, and shave at such a rate, a
Bedroom at the P.S.S. would hardly equal,
Then marching; about for hours as a sequel.

To listen to advice from N.C.O's
How to stick bayonets inside your foes,
And many other military jaws,
And all the mysteries of forming fours.

A change indeed from that old room I sat in
Trying to teach the elements of Latin,
And bringing boys, whose names I will not mention,
In army parlance " to strict attention."
I hope when I return, if e'er I do,
You'll know your Latin Grammar all right through!
And have no trouble, when I am a civvy,
In reading off at sight a page Livy.
Meanwhile I wander sometimes up and down,
Along the ridges circling, Winton Town
Finding the orchids bending to the breeze,
Or lying on the wild thyme at my ease,
Or hearing ill the Minster's giant pile,
The throb of glory thrilling up the aisle,
And Dreaming of the Princess Who, years past,
Built their memorials, and only asked
Those who came after just one prayer to say
For those who went into the eternal day
For ever, where the tracery of I heaven
Lets in the light from all file planets seven.

And so farewell much love, and may we meet,
Where the swift Rawthey splashes round the feet
Of laughing boys, and Winder's dear old crest
Catches the sunlight dying in the West.
And laden with the spoils, the P.S.S.
Return with shouting in the usual mess.

Nicholas Herbert Todd’s WW1 collection “Poems and plays” was published in 1917  by Jackson, Sedbergh.


Other sources:  Find my Past, Free BMD, and Catherine W. Reilly; "English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978, p. 316.

Friday, 13 September 2019

J.B.Priestley (1894 - 1984) - British Poet, Writer, Artist, Dramatist & Critic

Featured in the commemorative exhibition of Somme Poets held in 2016, John Boynton Priestley was born on 13th September 1894 in Manningham, Bradford, Yorkshire, UK. His father was a schoolmaster. John’s mother died when he was young and his father re-married.

John worked as a clerk after leaving Belle Vue Grammar School but his ambition was to become a writer.

In September 1914, John joined the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment with the rank of Lance-Corporal.  Posted to the Western Front in August 1915, he was wounded during The Somme Offensive in June 1916, when he was buried alive by a Trench Mortar. He was sent back to Britain to recover.

After a long period in various hospitals, John recovered, was commissioned into the Devonshire Regiment and posted to the Western Front again in the summer of 1918. He was gassed but recovered sufficiently to supervise Prisoners of War.

After the war, John went to study at Trinity Hall, Cambridge University and a long and interesting literary career followed. John died on 14th August 1984.

J.B. Priestley’s WW1 poetry collection “The chapman of rhymes (poems)” was published in 1918 by Moring.

Sources:  Find my Past, Wikipedia and Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 258.
Photograph from:

Monday, 9 September 2019

James Lyons (1896 – 1918) – British WW1 soldier poet

James was born in Winton, Salford, Manchester, UK on 10th September 1896.  His parents were James Lyons, a Provision Merchant, originally from Birmingham, and his wife, Lilian Maria, nee Rogers.

In 1901, the family lived in Monton Road, Ellesmere Avenue, Eccles, Barton upon Irwell, Lancashire.  James was the eldest child and he had the following siblings:  Alice Constance, b. 1898, Walter, b.. 1905, Lilian Elisabeth, b. 1909 and Grace Winifred, b. 1911.  In 1911, the family lived in Broughton, Salford.

When war broke out, James joined the RAMC as a Private but was invalided out of service in 1917.  He moved to Lytham St. Annes by the sea in Lancashire due to his health problems.  There, he wrote an opera and further poems.  James died on 19th August 1918 and was buried in Peel Green Cemetery, Eccles.

James wrote a poem entitled “Gallipoli – To the Fallen”, which was set to music by his friend Stanley H. Clarke and performed by the Beecham Operatic Choris on 6th November 1918 at a concert in Manchester.

James Lyons’ WW1 poetry collections were:

“Sons of the Empire, and other poems” (Heywood, Manchester, 1916) and
“Gleam o’ pearls: poems” (Cornish, Manchester, 1919)

A Shell-wrecked Village at Evening, 1917 by James Lyons

So bleak they stand against the twilit sky,
Those shattered walls that once held love and light.
No gleaming window greets the falling night,
But doubtful shadows on the pathways lie,
To shelter unseen things that start and fly,
Waking these selfsame echoes in their flight
That once caught children’s voices shrill and bright.
Ghosts keep those tumbled ruins – how they sigh! –
Or is but the night wind’s low lament,
Borne from a hundred places scattered wide,
Whence the poor exiles from the village went?
No eye observes the wan moon upward ride,
The place stands  in her pale light scarred and rent,
The silent witness of war’s crucified.

The poet Robert Cochrane, a graduate of Manchester Metropolitan University, has written a fantastic book about James Lyons.  Robert has extensively researched James Lyons and reprinted some of his poems in a book entitled "Do you Remember - the selected poems of James Lyons", published by The Bad Press, Manchester in 2018.  Robert Cochrane has also produced an anthology of WW1 poems entitled "As Ashes follow Fire: Neglected Voices of World War One" (The Bad Press, Manchester, 2018).

James Lyons is featured in Catherine W. Reilly's "English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography" on page 206 but the only details Reilly gives are that James was a Private in the Royal Army Medical Corps and that his WW1 poetry collections were "Sons of the Empire, and other poems" (Heywood, Manchester, 1916) and "Gleam o' pearls (poems)" (Cornish, Mancheter 1919).

Robert Cochrane has also produced a CD of some of the poems written by James Lyons which have been set to music.

For further information, please contact The Bad Press, PO Box 76, Manchester M21 8HJ or via their website  or via Facebook

Sources: Find my Past, Catherine W. Reilly’s “English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 206
“Do you Remember -The Selected Poems of James Lyons” Edited by Robert Cochrane (The Bad Press, Manchester, 2018) and "As Ashes follow Fire: Neglected Voices of World War One" (The Bad Press, Manchester, 2018).

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Max Plowman (1883 - 1941) – British poet and pacifist

Max Plowman featured in a commemorative exhibition held in 2016 about
some of the Poets on The Somme, 1916

Born Mark Plowman in Tottenham on 1st September 1883, Max’s father was Mark Plowman, who ran a brick making business and his mother was Anna Maria Plowman, nee Hunt.  Max began writing poetry at an early age.  He became a journalist after working for ten years in the family business, and his poems were published in various magazines, with his first collection coming out in 1913 under the title “First Poems”.

Max married Dorothy Lloyd Sulman in 1914.

When war broke out, Max volunteered to join the RAMC and was sent to the 4th Field Ambulance.  Commissioned into the Yorkshire Regiment’s 10th Battalion, he served on the Western Front on The Somme at Albert, where he was concussed by an exploding shell.  After treatment by Dr Rivers at Bowhill Auxiliary Hospital in Britain, Max refused to return to the war and was court martialled on 5th April 1918.  He was dismissed from the Army but escaped further punishment on the grounds that he was a Conscientious Objector.

After the war, Max ran a commune on a farm in Essex. His war-time memories were published in 1928, with the title “A Subaltern on The Somme”, under the pen-name ‘Mark VII’.

Max also helped to found the Peace Pledge Union, becoming the organisation’s first general secretary in 1937.  He died on 3rd June 1941.

Max Plowman’s WW2 poetry collections were:
“A lap full of seed (poems)” published by Blackwell, Oxford in 1917
“Shoots in the stubble (poems)”, published by Daniel in 1920. 

His poems were included in five WW1 poetry anthologies.

“When it’s over”

'Young soldier, what will you be
When it's all over?'
'I shall get out and across the sea,
Where land's cheap and a man can thrive.
I shall make money. Perhaps I'll wive
In a place where there's room for a family.
I'm a bit of a rover.'

'Young soldier, what will you be
At the last 'Dismiss'?'
'Bucked to get back to old Leicester Square,
Where there's good champagne and a glad eye winking,
And no more 'Verey Lights' damnably blinking
Their weary, dreary, white-eyed stare.
I'll be out of this.'

'Young soldier, what will you be
When they sign the peace?'
'Blowed if I know; perhaps I shall stick it.
The job's all right if you take it steady.
After all, somebody's got to be ready,
And tons of the blighters 'll get their ticket.
Wars don't cease.'

'Young soldier, what will you be At the day's end?'
'Tired's what I'll be. I shall lie on the beach
Of a shore where the rippling waves just sigh,
And listen and dream and sleep and lie
Forgetting what I've had to learn and teach
And attack and defend.'

'Young soldier, what will you be
When you're next a-bed?'
'God knows what; but it doesn't matter,
For whenever I think, I always remember
The Belgians massacred that September,
And England's pledge - and the rest seems chatter.
What if I am dead?'

'Young soldier, what will you be
When it's all done?'
'I shall come back and live alone
On an English farm in the Sussex Weald,
Where the wounds in my mind will be slowly sealed,
And the graves in my heart will be overgrown;
And I'll sit in the sun.'

'Young soldier, what will you be
At the 'Last Post'?'
'Cold, cold in the tender earth,
A cold body in foreign soil;
But a happy spirit fate can't spoil,
And an extra note in the blackbird's mirth
From a khaki ghost.'

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

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Nathan Percy Graham (1895 - 1920) – British WW1 soldier poet

Nathan Percy Graham was born in London, UK on 30th August 1895.

Nathan was educated at the City of London School and University College, London where he studied engineering.   He joined the Officers Training Corps (OTC) at University, was commissioned into The Royal Garrison Artillery and sent to France in August 1916.

Nathan saw active service on the Western Front at Ypres, Messines (Mesen) and Passchendaele, after which he was sent back to Britain suffering from shell-shock.  He was sent to Crailockhart Hospital in Edinburgh for treatment and was given a medical discharge in December 1917. 

After his discharge, Nathan returned to his university studies and edited the Union Magazine at UCL.  Following his graduation in June 1919, Nathan went to work as an engineer in Bolton, Lancashire, where he died in June 1920.

Nathan Percy Graham’s WW1 collection “Poems” was published by Arrowsmith, Bristol in 1921.

“The Passing of the Day”

In the perfume-breath of even,
'Twixt the sun-glare and the night,
ere yet Venus from the heaven
Has put the day to flight,
When the poppy's strength is waning,
And the daisy's eye 'gins close,
And the lonely owl's complaining
Proclaims the day's repose,
And the zephyr-kiss of twilight stirs the dew-drop in the rose.

God has made this time for thinking
Of the ones that we love best;
When the tired sun is sinking
On his couch beyond the West.
He has giv'n this hour of leisure,
Whose moments quietly glide,
That the hours of pain and pleasure
And poverty and pride
May be driven from our memory by the calm of eventide.

For the tranquil is a token
Of the love of friend for friend,
of the lover's love unspoken,
Of the friendless journey's end;
For the heart that droops with sorrow,
And the spirit that is grey
May forget until the morrow
The ghosts that haunt the way;
'Tis the time to think of loved ones at the passing of the day.

 “Tired Eyes”

Tired eyes and aching heart,
Why do you weep?
Why do you stand, pulling your flowers apart,
Tired eyes, searching their sanctity?
Oh, let life keep
Its bright illusions framed so tenderly!
The rose is no hundred leaves,
But one fair flower;
The firmament no myriad twinkling stars,
But one bright sky.
Sky, rose and life are one eternally
With unwilled dreams and faint-heard symphonies,
Wherein fair fancy weaves
Heart-aches and happy hours,
Cymbals and scimitars,
In one gay artless rosary. Oh, why
Pluck all the petals from your fleeting flowers?
Driving your visions from their vale of sleep,
Tearing your dreams apart –
Tired eyes and aching heart,
Why do you weep?

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

Monday, 26 August 2019

John Collinson Hobson (1893 - 1917) – British soldier poet

Born in Hampstead, London, UK in 1893, John’s parents were Thomas Fredrick Collinson, a Barrister, and his wife Mary Innes Collinson, nee Grieg, whose father was John Borthwick Greig, of Hampstead, who was a Writer to the Signet*.

John’s father was a member of the London County Council. John had a brother, Fredrick Grieg Collinson, who studied medicine and became a General Practitioner, and a sister, Mary Grizel Collinson.  The family lived in Hampstead in London.   John was educated at Westminster School, where he joined the Officers’ Training Corps and became a Sergeant. In 1912, he went up to Christ Church College, Oxford to study history. He was a crack shot and also a boxer and cricketer.

Commissioned into the Royal Scots Regiment in September 1914 as a Second Lieutenant, John was posted to France in May 1915. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, transferred to 116th Machine Gun Company and sent for training at the Machine Gunnery School in Grantham, UK.

Returning to the Western Front, John was killed during the 3rd Battle of Ypres on 31st July 1917 (also known as the Battle of Passchendaele).  A wooden cross with the inscription: “In loving memory of Lt J C Hobson, 116th Machine Gun Company. Killed July 31st 1917” was placed over the place where, as far as is known, his body was hastily buried. In 1920, the cross was removed and re-erected in the “Memorial Plot” in the New Irish Farm cemetery, near St Jean.  John Collinson Hobson is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Panel 56, Ypres, Belgium.

John’s WW1 poetry collection “Poems, etc.” with a biographical note and a memoir by John Murray, was published by Blackwell, Oxford, in 1920.


From “The Machine Gun” by John Collinson Hobson

Here do I lie,
Crouched in the grass
With my machine-gun
Loaded, lurking, ready,
Fast must he fly
Who fain would pass.
Sure is my eye
My hand is steady.
The sky is blue,
The planes are humming,
But my machine gun
Waits and watches ever.
Fair is the view,
Though guns be drumming,
Though yonder hill from this
King Death doth sever.
All around me
Blows the dogrose;
But my machine gun
Hidden is in daisies,
Lurking is he
Where the grass grows,
Peering ever forth
Through summer hazes

*The Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet is a private society of Scottish solicitors, dating back to 1594 and part of the College of Justice.

Find my Past
Free BMD

The painting “Panoramic view of the battlefield leading towards Passchendaele, Ypres, August 1917”  was a watercolour painted by Lieutenant Richard Barrett Talbot Kelly MBE, MC, RI (1896-1971), Royal Field Artillery, 1917.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Edmund John (1883 –1917) – British poet

Edmund John was born in Woolwich, Kent on 27th November 1883.

He fought in the First World War, serving with the 28th (London) Battalion (Artist's Rifles)
and was invalided out of the Army in 1916. Edmund died a year later in Taormina, Sicily on 28th February 1917.

Edmund’s poetry collections were:

“The Flute of Sardonyx: Poems” (1913)
“The Wind in the Temple: Poems” (1915)
“Symphonie Symbolique”(1919)

“The Wind in the Temple: Poems” by Edmund Johyn was published by Erskine Macdonald, London in 1915 and was printed by W. Mate & Sons, Ltd., Bournemouth.

That collection of poems was dedicated to the writer and poet Maud Churton Braby

Poems of the War pp. 51 - 52

1. The Huns. 1914

2. Ave Indi

3. In Memoriam

THE HUNS, 1914

Only the bent ghosts of pain, the grey phantoms of fear
Inhabit the desolate streets in the silence, and peer
Out from the charred, blackened windows. No more than the breath
Of the fresh fields shall stir the drawn lips of the dead whose blood dyes
Their own hearths, where from out the spent ashes dim spirals yet rise
Like the smoke of dark incense that burns on the Altars of Death.

All the prayers are stilled ; there is blood in the holy place.
And over the lintels, and splashed on the pale, lined old face
Of the dead peasant woman who lies where the hollyhock blows.
And blood on the breasts of the maiden who yesterday smiled.
And blood on the white broken body of each flower-like child.
Like red wme that is spilled on a petal of some fallen rose.

And blood there shall be on the throats of the devilish throng.
And an eye for an eye, and for every unnameable wrong
Anguish and death and despair shall find out a reward.
Lo, the clamour of battle is calling to all who are men
To succour the helpless, and vanquish and drive to their den
The murdering Huns who have drawn and shall die by the sword.

(p. 51)


The West is grey, and pale with sweat of pain,
Save where the flicker of a funeral pyre
Stabs the dull pallor with fine jets of fire.
And ashen cheeks are grim with some dark stain.

Gold is the East, and bright the Indian sea ;
And princes of a race that knows no fears
Pour out their treasures of a thousand years,
And call to battle all their chivalry.

For lo, at last the East and West have met,
In splendid friendship sealed by splendid blood ;
So shall they conquer death and stem the flood
That seethes from hell — and heaven shall not forget !

For every tortured child, and all the shame
Of women slain, the Indian hosts shall bring
Bitter reward ; and through God's halls shall ring
Their mighty vengeance and eternal fame.

(p. 52)


(To Field-Marshal Lord Roberts of Kandahar, obiit November, 1914)

Rest, though the clamorous surge of war
Follow thy peace to the great doors of Death ;
As in thy fearless life, so now, the cannons' roar.
The roll of drums, at thy last breath

Proclaim thee Conqueror !
The prophets and the warriors who have passed
That way before thy coming, welcome thee ;

The Angel's trumpet sounds a nobler blast,
And kings and knights of the old chivalry
Now hail thee at the last.

Thy days, thy deeds, thy words of proven gold.
Thy son, and last of all, thyself didst give
For Country's sake ; and now the tale is told
Thy splendid memory shall breathe and live
Till all men's hearts lie cold.

Here is a review from “The Southport Guardian," of September l0th, 1913 about “The Flute of Sardonyx”

“Mr. Edmund John is one of our new singers. His first book  on its first appearance made a great stir. ..." The Flute of  Sardonyx " contains much of performance and even more of  promise. . . . He has a rare sense of colour and a strong sense of words ; his verse pulsates with passion and with life. With him to live is to love ; and to love is alternately to smile and to sorrow — and he expresses the joy and the pain with equal felcity and fervour. . . . Here in these poems is the spirit of song, the passion of youth, the seductive colour of life, and all the throbbings of hope and desire . . . this book will ensure  a critical welcome to Mr. John's future work. Here, at any rate, is a singer — and a singer who is not afraid to sing his own songs in his own way.”

Edward Loxdale (1887–1916) – British soldier poet

With grateful thanks to Andrew Mackay for his kind help which allowed me to discover another ‘Forgotten’ soldier poet of the First World War.

Edward Loxdale was born in Acton, Middlesex, UK (now within the London Borough of Ealing) in 1887.   His parents were Edward Augustus Loxdale, a railway clerk, and his wife, Elizabeth Anne, nee Warren. Edward had the following siblings: Annie, b. 1884, who became a school teacher, Elizabeth, b. 1890, Andrew, b. 1894, Serena, b. 1897 and John, b. 1899.

Edward’s mother, Elizabeth Ann, died in December1904 and his father, Edward Augustus, married Sarah Ann Clouter in 1908.

Edward became a clerk and then a civil servant. During the First World War he joined the London Regiment - 15th (County of London) Battalion (P.W.O. Civil Servants) – as a Private, No. 2363.  Posted to the Western Front, Edward was killed on 1st January 1916 in the Hohenzollern Redoubt, near Auchy-les-Mines in France.  He was buried in Quarry Cemetery, Vermelles, France – Grave Reference C. 14.

Edward Loxdale is also remembered on a memorial in the United Reformed Church, Junction of Chapel Road & Hanworth Road in Hounslow, Middlesex.

“The Day before Short Leave” by Edward Loxdale

The great guns are firing before and around,
And the sinister rifles are talking;
But changed is their yell for a spell to the sound
Of the feet that the pavements are walking.
Far, far  from the trenches my pleasant thoughts roa,
Forgotten this region of ditches;
I am back once again in the town that’s my howm,
‘Mid her splendours, and glories and riches.

(From “A souvenir of a Soldier” p. 21.)

Find my Past
“A Souvenir of a Soldier: Impressions of Active Service in France and Belgium during the Great War” Private Edward Loxdale (IMCC Ltd. First printed in 1916 by Hazell, Watson & Viney Ltd, London and published by Edward's Office Companions)

“Civil Service Rifles in the Great War: 'All Bloody Gentlemen' “ by Jill Knight

Photograph of Edward from "A Souvenir of a Soldier".