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.

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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.)

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“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".


Friday, 23 August 2019

Ivor Gurney (1890 – 1937) – British poet and composer

Ivor Gurney was born in Gloucester on 23rd August 1890. His parents were David Gurney a taylor, and his wife, Florence, a seamstress. Ivor won a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music in 1911.

During the First World War, Ivor joined the Gloucestershire Regiment as a Private in February 1915.   He served on The Somme in 1916 during which time he suffered from Shell Shock. Ivor was wounded in April 1917. He returned to the Western Front and was gassed and sent to hospital in Edinburgh, where he fell in love with a VAD nurse called Annie Nelson Drummond but the relationship did not last.

In March 1918 Ivor suffered a breakdown and was again hospitalised. His family had him declared insane and he spent the last fifteen years of his life in psychiatric hospitals. Ivor died of Tuberculosis on 26th December 1932.

Ivor set a number of his poems to music - the best known is entitled “Severn Meadows”.

Ivor Gurney’s WW1 poetry collections were:
“Severn and Somme (poems)”, published in 1917 by Sidgwick & Jackson, London
“War’s embers, and other verses”, Sidgwick & Jackson, London 1919
And his poems were published in 8 WW1 poetry Anthologies.

"To the Poet before Battle" by Ivor Gurney

Now, youth, the hour of thy dread passion comes;
Thy lovely things must all be laid away;
And thou, as others, must face the riven day
Unstirred by rattle of the rolling drums
Or bugles' strident cry. When mere noise numbs
The sense of being, the sick soul doth sway,
Remember thy great craft's honour, that they may say
Nothing in shame of poets. Then the crumbs
Of praise the little versemen joyed to take
Shall be forgotten; then they must know we are,
For all our skill in words, equal in might
And strong of mettle as those we honoured. Make
The name of poet terrible in just war,
And like a crown of honour upon the fight. 

Geoffrey Faber (1889 - 1961) - British WW1 soldier poet, academic and publisher

Geoffrey Faber c. 1927
Bassano Ltd.
Geoffrey Colt Faber was born on 23rd August 1889 in Malvern, Worcestershire, UK.  His parents were Henry M. Faber and his wife, Florence Ellen, nee Colt.  Geoffrey's uncle was the hymn writer, Father Frederick William Faber, C.O., founder of the Catholic church Brompton Oratory in Knightsbridge, London.  Geoffrey had a brother - Stanley - who joined the Royal Field Artillery and was killed in March 1917

Geoffrey was educated at Rugby School, before going up to study Classical Moderations at Christ Church College, Oxford University. In 1913 he joined the Oxford University Press.

During the First World War, Geoffrey was commissioned into The 8th London Regiment (Post Office Rifles), serving on the Western Front and rising to the rank of Major.

In 1920, Geoffrey married Enid Richards (WW1 Schoolgirl poet).  It was because Enid did not like the smell of the Faber family brewery - Strong’s Romsey Ales - that Geoffrey began his publishing venture. A fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, he was the founding editor of Faber and Gwyer (shortly afterwards Faber and Faber), one of the most celebrated of literary publishing houses.  He remained Chariman of the company until his retirement in 1960.

Geoffrey Faber was knighted in 1954.   He died on 31st March 1961.

Geoffrey Faber’s WW1 poetry collections were:
“Interflow: poems, chieflylyrical” (Constable, London, 1915)
 “In the valley of vision: poems written in time of war” (Blackwell, Oxford, 1918) and one of his poems was included in the WW1 anthology “Poems of the Great War – Selected on Behalf of the Belgian Scholarship Committee” (Macmillan, New York, 1916)

Sources:  Cahterine W. Reilly,
“Female Poets of the First World War: Volume 2”
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Alfred Lichtenstein (1889 – 1914) – German poet and writer

I only began researching the male poets of WW1 from
1916 onwards.  I am now trying to add those involved
in the conflict in 1914 and 1915

Alfred was born on 23rd August 1889 in Berlin-Wilmersdorf in Germany. His father was a wealthy manufacturer.   Alfred studied law and attended the universities of Berlin and Erlangen-Nuremberg.

Alfred joined the German Army in 1914 and was killed on 25th September 1914 near Vermandovillers on the Somme.

“Die Schlacht bei Saarburg” (The Battle of Sarrebourg)

Die Erde verschimmelt in Nebel.
Der Abend drűckt wie Blei.
Rings reißt elektrisches Krachen
Und wimmernd bricht alles entzwei.

Wie schlechte Lumpen qualmen
Die Dörfer am Horizont.
Ich liege gottvrlasssen
In der knatternden Schűtzenfront.

Viel kupferne feindlich Vögelein
Surren um Herz und Hirn.
Ich stemme mich steil in das Graue
Und biete dem Morden die Stirn.


"The Battle of Sarrebourg" (The Battle of Sarrebourg)

The earth smells musty with fog.
The evening feels like lead.
Electrical crashes ring and rip the air
And whining breaks everything in two.

The villages on the horizon
Send up smoke like dirty rags
God-forsaken, I lie
In the roar of the Front Line.

Many hostile copper birds
Whir around my heart and brain.
I steep myself deeply in the gray
And set myself to face death.

Sarrebourg (French pronunciation: ​[saʁbuʁ]; German: Saarburg; Lorraine Franconian: Saarbuerj) is a commune in the Moselle department in Grand Est in north-eastern France. It lies in on the upper course of the river Saar.

The Battle of Lorraine (14 August – 7 September 1914) was a battle on the Western Front during the First World War. The armies of France and Germany had completed their mobilisation, the French with Plan XVII, to conduct an offensive through Lorraine and Alsace into Germany and the Germans with Aufmarsch II West, for an offensive in the north through Luxembourg and Belgium into France, supplemented with attacks in the south to prevent the French from transferring troops to the greater threat in the north.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Arthur Tulloch Cull (1887 – 1917) – British Rugby Player, Aviator and Poet

Featured in the WW1 commemorative exhibition and book “Aviator Poets and Writers of the First World War”, Arthur was born in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) on 22nd August 1887.  His parents were John Barnabas Cull, a civil servant, and his wife Edith Rose, nee Tulloch, daughter of Rev John Tulloch D.D, LL.D, Principal of St Mary's College, University of St. Andrew.  Arthur had a brother, John, who went on to be a career officer in the Royal Navy and later transferred to the Royan Naval Air Service (RNAS).

Educated at The Knoll School in Bedfordshire before going to to Uppingham School in Rutland, Arthur went to work in a bank after leaving school.

In 1915, he married Constance E. Kerswell in Kensington, London.

Arthur joined the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps (OTC) and in WW1 joined the Seaforth Highlanders before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in January 1918.

Posted to the Western Front, Arthur was shot down on 11th May 1917, while on patrol to the east of Arras. He is remembered on the ARRAS FLYING SERVICES MEMORIA, Arras, France.

In 1913, Arthur published a collection of poems dedicated to the ballerina Anna Pavlova – “Poems to Pavlova” (Herbert Jenkins Ltd., London, 1913).  As there is no-one else with this name, it seems likely the poems were written by the aviator.  It is also highly unlikely that he would stop writing poetry and it may well be that there are other poems waiting to be discovered.

“Aviator Poets and Writers of the First World War” is available from

Monday, 19 August 2019

Francis Ledwidge (1887 – 1917) – Irish Poet - The poet of the blackbirds

“Talked to two Irish officers in the train. One knew Ledwidge the poet, 
and he ‘could imitate birds and call them to him’ “  Siegfried Sassoon

Francis was born on 19th August 1887 in Slane in County Meath in Ireland. He was the eighth of nine children born to Patrick Ledwidge and his wife Ann, nee Lynch. The death of his father when he was five years old, meant that Francis had to leave school at the age of thirteen and go out to work.

Francis began writing poetry at a young age and had poems published in local papers when he was fourteen.  The writer Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany – Lord Dunsany - became Francis’s patron after Francis sent him examples of his work. Lord Dunsany introduced Francis to W.B. Yeats. He also allowed Francis to write in the library of Dunsany Castle and there he met the poet Katharine Tynan with whom he corresponded.

In 1904, when Francis was seventeen, he joined the 5th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. At that time he was living in Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin and was a grocer’s assistant.

During the First World War, Francis enlisted in Lord Dunsany’s Regiment 5th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He saw action at Sulva Bay in the Dardanelles during the Gallipoli Campaign
and was injured during a mountain journey in Serbia in December 1915.

Posted to the Western Front in January 1917, Francis continued to write poetry. On 31st July 1917, he was in a working party road-laying prior to the Third Battle of Ypres, when he was killed
by a shell. At the time of his death, Francis held the rank of Lance Corporal. After initial burial at Carrefour de Rose, Francis was re-buried in Artillery Wood Military Cemetery, Boezinge, Belgium.
There is a memorial to his memory marking the spot where he was killed.

Francis Ledwidge’s WW1 poetry collections were:
“Songs of Peace” with an introduction by Lord Dunsay, published by Jenkins, London, in 1917;
“Last Songs” published by Jenkins, London in 1918
“Complete Poems” with an introduction by Lord Dunsany, published by Jenkins, London in 1919
– all of which are available to read on Archive -
and his poems were included in eleven WW1 anthologies.

"Lament for the Poets: 1916"

I heard the Poor Old Woman say:
“At break of day the fowler came,
And took my blackbirds from their songs
Who loved me well thro’ shame and blame.

No more from lovely distances
Their songs shall bless me mile by mile,
Nor to white Ashbourne call me down
To wear my crown another while.

With bended flowers the angels mark
For the skylark the places they lie,
From there its little family
Shall dip their wings first in the sky.

And when the first surprise of flight
Sweet songs excite, from the far dawn
Shall there come blackbirds loud with love,
Sweet echoes of the singers gone.

But in the lonely hush of eve
Weeping I grieve the silent bills.”
I heard the Poor Old Woman say
In Derry of the little hills.

From "An Anthology of Irish Verse" edited by Padraic Collum and published in 1922 by Boni and Liveright, New York

Siegfried Sassoon “Sherston’s Progress” (Faber and Faber, London, 1936) p. 86
Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)
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Sunday, 18 August 2019

Count Ferenc Békássy (1893 – 1915) – Hungarian Soldier Poet who wrote poetry in both Hungarian and English.

With thanks to Lady Jennifer MacLellan and Jacky Roger who reminded me that I have not yet researched the poets of 1914 and 1915

“I don’t so much mind being wounded, but I don’t want to be killed; I have too many good friends.  They make life so attractive.” Ferenc Békássy

Ferenc Istvan Dénes Gyula Békássy was born on 7th April 1893 in the family home at Zsennye in Vas County, western Hungary, the eldest surviving son of Count Istvan Békássy and his wife Emma Bezeredj.  Ferenc and his siblings – his younger brother Janos and elder sister Antonia - were educated at Bedales School in Hampshire, UK.

After six years at Bedales, Ferenc went up to Cambridge in 1911, to read history at King’s College. His fellow students included James Strachey, E. L. Grant Watson and John Maynard Keynes. Keynes went to stay with Ferenc and his family in Hungary during the summer of 1913.

Ferenc was elected to the Cambridge Apostles debating society, becoming the youngest ever (and first non-British) member of the Society.  Rupert Brooke and Ferenc both courted Noël Olivier, who was also educated at Bedales School.

Ferenc wrote poetry in both Hungarian and in English. Some of his English poems were included in a Cambridge anthology published in 1913. His Hungarian poems were published posthumously.

In the summer of 1914, after graduation, Ferenc he went to Switzerland with Grant Watson to stay with the latter’s parents.  When war was declared, with the help of his Cambridge friends, Ferenc returned home to volunteer for the Austro-Hungarian Army. He served in a Hussar unit and four days after arriving on the Eastern Front, was badly wounded in action against the Russians at Dobrovouc in Bukovina and died in a Russian hospital on 22nd June 1915. His body was later taken back to the family estate for burial at Zsennye in Vas County, where a memorial plaque was erected in a wall

Ferenc Bekassy’s name is carved into the stone of a wall in King’s College, Cambridge University and he is remembered alongside his fellow Old Bedalians who died in WW1 in the Bedales Memorial Library.

Ferenc’s published works were:
Ferenc Bekassy: “Adriatica and other poems; a selection” with a preface by F.L. Lucas (Hogarth Press, London, 1925)
“Békássy Ferenc egybegyűjtött írásai;” edited by Tibor Weiner Sennyey (Budapest, 2010)

A copy of ““Adriatica and other poems; a selection” was presented to the Library at Bedales in 1927 by a fellow Apostle, R C Trevelyan, whose son Julian was at that time a member of the School.


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

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Laurence Binyon (1869 - 1943) – British poet and writer

Robert Laurence Binyon was born on 10th August 1869 in Lancaster, Lancashire, UK.  His parents were Frederick Binyon, an Anglican Church Minister and Vicar Of Winchcomb With Gretton, and his wife, Mary Binyon, nee Dockray.   Laurence's siblings were Francis and Charles.

Educated at St. Paul's School and Trinity College, Cambridge, Laurence began work at the British Museum in the Department of Printed Books in 1893.   He later became Assistant- Keeper British Museum Department Of Prints And Drawings.

In 1904, Laurence married historian Cicely Margaret Powell, and the couple had three daughters. 

Although Laurence's  name was put forward for the post of British Poet Laureat on the death of Alfred Austin, the poet Robert Bridges was chosen.

Plaque in Lancaster marking Laurence's birthplace

In 1915, too old to enlist in the armed forces, Laurence volunteered at a British hospital for French soldiers, Hôpital Temporaire d'Arc-en-Barrois, Haute-Marne, France, working briefly as a hospital orderly. He returned in the summer of 1916 and took care of soldiers from the Verdun battlefield. He wrote about his experiences in “For Dauntless France” (1918) and his poems, "Fetching the Wounded" and "The Distant Guns", were inspired by his hospital service in Arc-en-Barrois.

“For Dauntless France - An Account of Britain's Aid to the French Wounded and Victims of War” compiled by Laurence Binyon  (Hodder and Stoughton, London,1918)

The phrase repeated at memorial services “We will remember them” comes from Laurence Binyon’s most famous poem "For the Fallen", which was first published in “The Times” newspaper in September 1914.

“Fetching The Wounded” by Robert Laurence Binyon

At the road's end glimmer the station lights;
How small beneath the immense hollow of Night's
Lonely and living silence! Air that raced
And tingled on the eyelids as we faced
The long road stretched between the poplars flying
To the dark behind us, shuddering and sighing
With phantom foliage, lapses into hush.
Magical supersession! The loud rush
Swims into quiet: midnight reassumes
Its solitude; there's nothing but great glooms,
Blurred stars; whispering gusts; the hum of wires.
And swerving leftwards upon noiseless tires
We glide over the grass that smells of dew.
A wave of wonder bathes my body through!
For there in the headlamps' gloom--surrounded beam
Tall flowers spring before us, like a dream,
Each luminous little green leaf intimate
And motionless, distinct and delicate
With powdery white bloom fresh upon the stem,
As if that clear beam had created them
Out of the darkness. Never so intense
I felt the pang of beauty's innocence,
Earthly and yet unearthly. A sudden call!
We leap to ground, and I forget it all.
Each hurries on his errand; lanterns swing;
Dark shapes cross and re--cross the rails; we bring
Stretchers, and pile and number them; and heap
The blankets ready. Then we wait and keep
A listening ear. Nothing comes yet; all's still.
Only soft gusts upon the wires blow shrill
Fitfully, with a gentle spot of rain.
Then, ere one knows it, the long gradual train
Creeps quietly in and slowly stops. No sound
But a few voices' interchange. Around
Is the immense night--stillness, the expanse
Of faint stars over all the wounds of France.

Now stale odour of blood mingles with keen
Pure smell of grass and dew. Now lantern--sheen
Falls on brown faces opening patient eyes
And lips of gentle answers, where each lies
Supine upon his stretcher, black of beard
Or with young cheeks; on caps and tunics smeared
And stained, white bandages round foot or head
Or arm, discoloured here and there with red.
Sons of all corners of wide France; from Lille,
Douay, the land beneath the invader's heel,
Champagne, Touraine, the fisher--villages
Of Brittany, the valleyed Pyrenees,
Blue coasts of the South, old Paris streets. Argonne
Of ever smouldering battle, that anon
Leaps furious, brothered them in arms. They fell
In the trenched forest scarred with reeking shell.
Now strange the sound comes round them in the night
Of English voices. By the wavering light
Quickly we have borne them, one by one, to the air,
And sweating in the dark lift up with care,
Tense--sinewed, each to his place. The cars at last
Complete their burden: slowly, and then fast
We glide away. And the dim round of sky,
Infinite and silent, broods unseeingly
Over the shadowy uplands rolling black
Into far woods, and the long road we track
Bordered with apparitions, as we pass,
Of trembling poplars and lamp--whitened grass,
A brief procession flitting like a thought
Through a brain drowsing into slumber; nought
But we awake in the solitude immense!
But hurting the vague dumbness of my sense
Are fancies wandering the night: there steals
Into my heart, like something that one feels
In darkness, the still presence of far homes
Lost in deep country, and in little rooms
The vacant bed. I touch the world of pain
That is so silent. Then I see again
Only those infinitely patient faces
In the lantern beam, beneath the night's vast spaces,
Amid the shadows and the scented dew;
And those illumined flowers, springing anew
In freshness like a smile of secrecy
From the gloom--buried earth, return to me.
The village sleeps; blank walls, and windows barred.
But lights are moving in the hushed courtyard
As we glide up to the open door. The Chief
Gives every man his order, prompt and brief.
We carry up our wounded, one by one.
The first cock crows: the morrow is begun.

Robert Laurence Binyon

Portrait by William Strang RA (13 February 1859 – 12 April 1921)

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Max Barthel (1893 – 1975) - German poet and writer

Max Barthel, who also used the pen names Konrad Uhle and Otto Laurin, was born on 17th November 1893 in Loschwitz, a borough of Dresden in Germany. The son of a bricklayer, Max had six siblings.  He began work in a factory when he was fourteen years old and worked as an unskilled labourer in various different jobs.  He was a member of the Socialist Youth Movement. Along with the German poets Heinrich Lersch and Karl Bröger, Max became a well-known ‘worker poet’.

During the First World War, Max served in the German Army and was wounded while fighting in the Argonne area of France.

After the war, Max founded Youth International in the Soviet Union in 1920 and went on to join the Nazi party, which alienated him from his former Communist companions.

Max died on 17th June 1975 in Waldbröl, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

Max’s First World War collection was “Verse aus den Argonnen” (Eugen Diderich, Jena, 1917).

Cover of Verse aus den Argonnen
“In den Argonnen” by Max Barthel

In den Argonnen
liegt manches Grab,
Die himlischen sterne
Leucten herab.

In den Argonnen
fliesst junges Blut,
Und jedem var doch
ein Mädel gutt.

In den Argonnen
Donnert der Tot
Vom frühen Morgen
Zum Abendrot.

In den Argonnen
Tief in der Nacht,
Da wird noch mancher
Zur Ruhe gebracht.

In den Argonnen
Weinen im Wind
Die Toten Zeelen
Die nicht mehr sind.

In den Argonnen –
O Bittere Qual!
Heiss ist die Liebe
Kalt ist der Stahl.

A German photograph of the Argonne 1915


“In the Argonne”

In the Argonne
Are many tombs
On which the heavenly stars
Shine down.

In the Argonne
Young blood flows,
And each young man
Had a girl back home.

In the Argonne
The dead are thundering
From early morning
Till the setting of the sun.

In the Argonne
Deep in the night,
Many are silenced
No more to fight.

In the Argonne
You can hear the sound of dead souls
Wailing, voices carried on the wind
Of those you will never more find.

In the Argonne -
Oh bitter torment!
While passion runs hot
Steel is cold.

From: “Verse aus den Argonnen” (‘Verses from the Argonne’) by Max Barthel (Eugen Diderich, Jena, 1917). pp 20 - 21