Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Walter Lightowler Wilkinson (1885 – 1917) – British poet

I have not been able to find a photograph of Walter Lightowler Wilkinson. If anyone can help, please get in touch.

Walter was born in 1885 in Bedminster, Somerset, UK. His parents were Lightowler Wilkinson, a railway goods manager, and his wife Maria.  In 1901, the family was living in Ealing. After the death of Lightowler in 1908, Walter was introduced to Mrs W. Sharpe, widow of author William Sharpe. She helped him develop his aptitude for writing poems.

Walter took up flying to try to help a health condition but was rejected by the Royal Flying Corps when he tried to join.  Instead, he joined the University and Public Schools Corps as a Private in September 1914.

Commissioned into the Princess Louise’s 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regiment in 1916, Walter was posted to France in January 1917.  He was killed in action during the Battle of Arras on Vimy Ridge on 9th April 1917 and was buried in Highland Cemetery, Roclincourt, Nord-pas-de-Calais, France.

Walter’s poems were featured in four WW1 poetry anthologies.

“At Last Post”

COME home!—Come home!⁠
The winds are at rest in the restful trees;
At rest are the waves of the sundown seas;
And home—they're home—
The wearied hearts and the broken lives—
At home! At ease!

B.E.F., France.

“Night in War Time”

NIGHT and night's menace: Death hath forged a dart
Of every moment's pause and stealthy pass:
Blind Terror reigns: darkly, as in a glass,
Man's wondering Soul beholds his fearful Heart,
And questions, and is shaken: and, apart,
Light Chance, the harlot-goddess, holding Mass,
Scatters her favours broadcast on the grass
As might a drunkard spill his wares in mart!

Time and sweet Order have forsaken men,
So near Eternal seems the Night's foul sway:
We ask of Life: "Has Chaos come again,
With Ruin, and Confusion, and Decay?"
Yet slowly, surely darkness dies: and then,
Out of the deep night's menace, dawns the Day!

B.E.F., France, January 25th, 1917 from “More songs by the fighting men. Soldiers poets: second series” Edited by Galloway Kyle (Erskine Macdonald, London, 1917)

An interesting discussion on The Great War Forum re ‘Southern crush’ from Walter’s poem  “Wayside Burial” – second line

“The Wayside Burial”

"THEY'RE bringing in their recent dead—their recent dead!
I see the shoulder badge: a "Southern crush."
How small he looks—(O damn that singing thrush!)
Not give foot five from boots to battered head! . . .
Give him a kindly burial, my friends,—
So much is due, when some such loyal life ends!
"For Country!" . . . Ay, and so our brave do die:
Comrade unknown, good rest to you!—Good-bye!

They're bringing their recent dead! No pomp, no show:
A dingy khaki crowd—his friends, his own.
I, too, would like—(God, how that wind does moan!)—
To be laid down by friends: it's sweetest so!
A young life, as I take it; just a lad—
(How cold it blows; and that grey sky, how sad!)—
And yet: "For Country"—so a man should die:
Comrade unknown, good rest to you!—Good-bye!

They're burying their dead!—I wonder now:
A wife?—or mother? Mother it must be—
In some trim home that fronts the English sea.
(A sea-coast country: that the badges show.)
And she?—I sense her grief, I feel her tears!
"This, then, the garnered harvest of my years!"
And he? . . . "For Country, dear, a man must die!"
Comrade unknown, good rest to you!—Good-bye!

It's reeded: he is buried! Comrade, sleep!
A wooden cross at your brave head will stand.
A cross of wood? A Calvary!—The Land
For whose sake you laid down sweet life, will keep
Watch, lad, and ward that none may bring to shame.
That Name for which you died! . . . "What's in a name"?—
England shall answer! You will hear Her cry:
"Well done, my own! my son—good rest: Good-bye!"

B.E.F., France, 4.3.17.

“The stanza you have now given makes it clear that these badges are from a battalion from a county or counties on the English Channel coast. It reads as though this is a term for the badge itself. Odd that it doesn't show up on Google (as far as I can see). But perhaps forum experts on these battalions would know...trouble is there must be such a lot of them, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset, Devon.

On the other hand the phrase could mean that the badge identifies the man as belonging to a 'Southern Crush'. I've just checked my trusty old Oxford English Dictionary (the 20-volume one with historical citations) and that gives a 1916 quotation from 'Boyd Cable', Action Front (no idea what that is, I assume a novel): 'You want to ask about someone in the old crush', where crush is stated by the OED to be understood from the context to mean 'regiment'. Also the Observer newspaper had on 12 June 1927,' The best recruiter is the man who is pleased with his 'crush' '.

EDIT These come under a sub-category of 'crush', substantive, marked slang, originally US, meaning a group or gang of persons, specifically a body of troops; a unit of a regiment.

The more I think about it, the more likely this second interpretation seems.”