Saturday, 4 May 2019

Frank C. Lewis (1898 – 1917) – British Aviator Poet

Frank was one of the Aviator Poets of WW1 fetured in the exhibition
held at Cosford Air Show in June 2018.

Frank Concanen Lewis was born in Kingston, Surrey, UK on 4th May 1898.

Educated at Marlborough College, where he wrote poetry, Frank joined the Royal Naval Air Service as a Flight Sub-Lieutenant when he was nineteen and was posted to France. He was chosen to join a front line fighting squadron three days later.

Described by his commanding officer as “a brilliant pilot”, Frank was killed flying a Sopwith 20 Triplane during an air battle on 20th August 1917 over Plogstreet Wood just 12 days after his arrival in France. His adversary was Oblt. Hartmann.

Frank was buried in Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension Nord.

The ‘Belgium’ sonnets were written in 1915 while Lewis was still at Marlborough College and are taken from “Soldier Poets: More Songs by the Fighting Men”  (Erskine Macdonald, 1917).

“Belgium 1914”

THE lithe flames flicker through the veil of night,
Licking with bitter tongue; and soon the dawn
Will come, and gaunt and black against the white
Cool sky will loom a smoking home, forlorn
Of all the joy and peace that once was there.
The pleading, pitiful dead lie mute and cold
And all untended still. The fields are bare
Of the young green, the parent of the gold.
O little land, great-hearted, who didst give
Thine all for sake of others' liberty.
Knowing the cost, nor shrinking at the thought,
Be sure that thy immortal name shall live
Writ large in thine own ashes. Men shall cry,
"This was a nation marvelously wrought!"

There came a voice from out the darkness crying—
A pleading voice, the voice of one in thrall—
"Come, ye who pass—oh, heed ye not my sighing?
Come and deliver! Hear, oh hear my call!
For when the invader stood before my gate
Demanding passage through with haughty tone,
A voice cried loud, 'Wilt thou endure this fate?
Better have death than live when honour's
And so my children now lie slain by him
I had not wronged; with strife my land is riven;
Dishonoured here I lie with fettered limb.
To desecration all my shrines are given.
And nought remains but bondage drear and grim. .
God! Is there any justice under heaven?"


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

“Soldier Poets: More Songs by the Fighting Men”, Ed. Galloway Kyle (Erskine Macdonald, 1917)

"Aviator Poets & Writers of WW1 - with a special section on women pilots" is available from