Saturday, 18 January 2020

T.H. Ferris - poet

From Historian Debbie Cameron

A World War One poem of conscientious objection
By T.H. Ferris

“Blessed are Ye”

Not iron doors, nor grated window-bars,
Can cage the human spirit that obeys
Love’s holy law, and through the eternal ways
Moves with the even motion of the stars.
The clashing key the prison lock that jars,
The blank succession of the nights and days,
Daunt not the soul whose patience yieldeth praise
To Him whose purpose nothing voids, nor mars.
Each day, each week, each month, doth stronger build —
Against stupidity, and pride, and fear,
And all the Christless gang who blood have spill’d —
Such reckoning as shall bring their judgement near.
The days roll on, that all may be fulfill’d:
Give thanks, O heart, the dayspring dawneth clear!

Published in the collection “Sonnets from Prison” by T. H. Ferris published in Leeds no later than 1915,

I can't find anything about T.H. Ferris on line.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

André Soriac (1864 – 1927) – French poet

André Soriac, known as the ‘poet of the Trenches’, was the pen name of Robert Edouard André Bucquet.

Robert Edouard André Bucquet was born in around 1864 in St Egrève, Isère, France.    A French soldier poet artist -  a ‘Poilu’ as they were called during the conflict - Soriac was fifty when he volunteered to join the French Army in 1914.  He joined the 277th Regiment of the French Infantry and served in Lorraine in France. Soriac took part in the Battle of Verdun and was wounded three times before being invalided out of the Army in 1916.  Between 1915 and 1916, he published four series of illustrated postcards with poems.

In April 1921, André married Leonie Eugenie Adèle Boots, who was the daughter of a wealthy Maastricht family.  Léonie taught French at a Nijmegen secondary school for girls. They had one child – a son, André, who was born on 29th December 1922,

André Soriac died in Nijmegen in the Netherlands on 12th August 1927. He may have committed suicide due to prolonged depression caused by his wartime suffering. Between 1922 and 1925 he traded in postage stamps.

The French soldiers of the First World War were known affectionately as ‘Poilus’ (literally, the hairy ones), presumably because it was impossible to shave in the Trenches.   Verdun is a city on the River Meuse in Lorraine in the north east of France.

Below is one of André’s poems. I have translated it very roughly for those of you who do not understand French.  As far as I have been able to ascertain, Diane Degaby was a musical hall artist.

‘Nos Bagues’ a poem by André Soriac

Dedicated to ‘la belle Diane Degaby, la Bienfaitrice Amie de tous les Poilus Artistes – affectueusement’.

La rafale est passée et les Poilus bien vite
Sans souci des obus, une Pioche à la main,
Bondissent des abris dans un trou de marmite
Pour retrouver au fond le blanc metal germain!...

Et puis, c’est l’atelier dans un coin des tranchées …
Quelques menus outils, une lime, un Marteau,
Pour polir nuit et jour ces bagues guillochées,
Hier … instrument de mort, aujourd’hui … humble aurea.

La bague est terminée et demain, bonnes mères,
Femmes, petites soeurs, ces bijoux des frontiers
Terniront à vos doigts vos plus riches joyaux!...
Car, toutes, vous saurez combine de moments tristes
De soucis, de dangers, vos chers Poilus-Artistes
Ont vécus pour la faire … au fond de leurs boyaux.

No. 28, 3e Série de Cartes-Sonnets illustrées de la Guerre, Edition Cigolia, 8, rue de Condé, Paris 6e.

‘Our Rings’

Dedicated to The Beautiful Diane Degaby, Benefactrice and friend of all the artist-poilus, with great affection.

The storm has passed and the Poilus rush
Heedless of the shells, shovels at the ready,
Leaping from their shelter in a shell hole
Gathering up the spent, white, German metal.

 Then, it’s action stations in a corner of the Trench …
A workshop with a few scant tools, a file, a hammer to hand,
Polishing night and day these machine-turned rings.
Yesterday an instrument of death, today … a humble gold band.

The ring is ready and tomorrow, dear Mothers,
Wives, little sisters, these jewels of the frontiers
Will shine – your most valued jewels – on your fingers.
For you will know just many countless moments of sorrow
Of care and danger your dear soldier artists
Have been through to make that ring … in the depths of their Trenches.

Number 28 in a series of illustrated poem cards of the Great War, published by Editions Cigola, 8 rue de Condé, Paris 6.

Le Depart des poilus aout 1914 by Albert Herter
Departure of the Poilus, August 1914 by Albert Herter  Hommage aux Poilus de la guerre 1914-1918

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Lascelles Abercrombie (1881 – 1938) – British Poet, Playwright, Journalist and Critic

 Known later as “The Georgian Poet”, Lascelles Abercrombie was born on 9th January 1881 in Ashton upon Mersey, Sale, Cheshire.  His parents were William Abercrombie, a stock broker, and his wife, Sarah Ann Abercrombie, nee Heron.

His brother Patrick Abercrombie became an architect. 

Lascelles was educated at Malvern College before going on to study at Owens College, University of Manchester, where he began writing poetry seriously.  After leaving university, Lascelles worked as a clerk in a quantity surveyor’s office in Liverpool, where one of the partners of the firm was a friend of the family.

In 1908, Lascelles published his first collection of poems entitled “Interludes and Poems” and later that year he began working for the newspaper “The liverpool Courier” as a journalist.  Edward Thomas reviewing Lascelles’ poems for “The Daily Chronicle” described his work as “good there is no doubt”.

In March 1909, Lascelles married Catherine Gwatkin and the couple moved to Much Marcle near Malvern in Worcestershire in April 1910.  They then moved to Dymock in Gloucestershire, where Lascelles wrote poetry and worked as a journalist, reviewing the work of modern poets and writing verse drama.  There he became friends with several other poets, among them Rupert Brooke, Robert Frost, Edward Thomas, Wilfrid Wilson Gibson and John Drinkwater – known as the “Dymock Poets”. In 1914, Lascelles and Wilfrid Wilson Gibson began purlishing a literary magazine called “New Numbers” which was published quarterly.

During the First World War, Lascelles worked as a munitions examiner in a shell factory in Liverpool.  Following that, he was appointed to the first lectureship in poetry at The University of Liverpool – a post created specially for him.

In 1922, Lascelles took over the post of Professor of English at the University of Leeds and in 1929, he moved to a post at the University of London.

Lascelles took on a readership at Merton College, Oxford University in 1935 and in 1937 he became a Fellow of the Royal Academy.   He died in London in 1938.

The WW1 poetry collection of Lascelles Abercrombie was entitled “Lyrics and unfinished poems” and was published in 1940 by P. Gregynog, Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Wales.

Lascelles poem about Rupert Brooke

“Hope and Despair” by Lascalles Abercrombie

Said God, “You sisters, ere ye go
Down among men, my work to do,
I will on each a badge bestow:
Hope I love best, and gold for her,
Yet a silver glory for Despair,
For she is my angel too.’
Then like a queen, Despair
Put on the stars to wear.
But hope took ears of corn, and round
Her temples in a wreath them bound. –
Which think ye lookt the more fair? 

Sources:  various, including Find my Past, Free BMD, Wikipedia and

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Thomas Stanley Roberts British Poet was born on 8th January 1894

Despatch Riders, Salonika, WW1

With thanks to Frances Wilson and her sister Margaret for their help in finding the poems written by Thomas to their Aunt during WW1

Poems written by Thomas St. Roberts to WW1 VAD Amy Isaac 

Amy and Kath Isaac joined the Cheshire Voluntary Aid Detachment in 1915 after the death of their brother John Robert Isaac, who was serving with the 1st Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment.  John was killed near Amiens on 2nd October 1915 and was buried in St. Pierre Cemetery in Amiens, France.  According to Amy’s niece, the Regiment was then posted to Salonica which leads us to think that Thomas St. Roberts may have been in the same Regiment as John Isaac.

Thomas Stanley Roberts was born on 8th January 1894 in Birkenhead.  He joined the British Army in WW1 and became a Lance-Corporal.  His Regiment was posted to Salonica in the Balkans.

The following poem is the first of the poems Thomas Roberts wrote to Amy Isaac and it appears to describe how they met when he went to visit a house in Spital called “Engayn”:

“Is it Worth it?” is the title and it is dated Balkans, 4 – 2 – 17

To go home on leave is not what it seems,
The coming back part, minus your smiling beams
Leaves food for reflection on the time you have had,
You sit and you sigh you’re gloomy and sad.

When we left Salonique to cross the main,
We hoped never to see Johnny Greek again
Oh what joy when the boat it did start
Happy and free – and light at heart.

Sailing the sea for seven bright days,
The boys glad at heart in their own ways
We landed at Marseilles in dear old France,
Ready for joke – or lark – or prance.

We didn’t stop long in the land of the frog,
But boarded a boat for another rough job,
After one night on a pretty rough sea,
We gazed on the lights of old Bli-ty.

To reach home quickly was every one’s aim
All old places looked still just the same,
When we noticed the girls who had taken our places
They each had a nod and a smile on their faces.

I reached the old home a quarter past ten
Oh hoe I wish it all over again
I shall never forget the welcome I got
From my dear old Mother and friends, yes, the lot.

My time fully occupied the days soon slipped by
How I dreaded the end my time almost nigh,
I asked a young lady to await my return
And the actual date we have yet to learn.

That was the day when I went to Engayn
And took the wrong turning when I left the train
After strolling about in nooks bright and shady,
I walked straight into this said young lady.

After a walk we soon reached the house,
I felt as shy as a timid young mouse
And if you’ll believe me when I do say
I’d much rather be there, than so far away.

Then Sarah and Winnie tried to sing a duet,
But only one voice was the tune we could get
When Amy complained of her singing too high,
I was glad they never asked me to try.

Of my visits to Spital I often shall think,
In the days to come when we recross the brink
I hope to see you – experiences to tell
To Sarah and Amy, Winnie as well.

But the going home part is all very well
Blighty looks very nice – and it takes us to tell.
But to return to the Balkans; well – I don’t want to swear
The place is neither – Round it here, or there.

The poems continued – 29.03.1017; 7 April 1917; 1st June, 4th June 1917, 21st June 1917, September 1917, 1st November 1917; 20th January 1918.

In one of the poems Thomas expresses his concern that Amy might flirt with the wounded soldiers she looks after, and in another he thanks her for a pair of socks that she knitted and sent to him.

The Great Fire in Salonika 1917, William Thomas Wood
Official WW1 war artist

In September 1917, “The Birkenhead News” newspaper published a poem by Lance-Corporal Thomas St. Roberts praising the newspaper, of which he had copies sent to him in Salonica on a regular basis.   The last poem in the little collection was dated 20th January 1918.  In the poem. Thomas mentions “gyppo” (meaning a stomach upset) and taking Quinine.

It seems that, in spite of an upset stomach, Thomas survived the war and returned home.  As far as we have been able to discover, Thomas married Ethel Gertrude Peacock, who was born on 8th April 1898 and lived in Brook Street, Birkenhead in 1901 and in Berner Street, Birkenhead in 1911. 

Ethel’s father was a blacksmith and she had four sisters and one brother.  Thomas and Ethel had twin sons – Stanley W. Roberts and Graham T. Roberts, who were born in Birkenhead on 27th July 1922.

But there, in spite of extensive research, the trail goes cold.  Did Thomas continue writing poetry? 

Saturday, 4 January 2020

William Noel Hodgson, MC (1893 – 1916) – British soldier poet

William Noel Hodgson, MC was one of the poets featured in an exhibition of Poets of the Somme 1916 held at the Wirral's Award-winning Wilfred Owen Story in 2016

William was born on 3rd January 1893 in Thornbury, near Bristol, UK.  His father, Henry B. Hodgson, was an Anglican Bishop.  The family relocated to Berwick-on-Tweed soon after William’s birth.  William was educated at Dunham School and went on to study at Oxford University.

In 1914, William volunteered to join the Army and was commissioned as a junior officer into the 9th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment.   He was posted to France in July 1915 and was Mentioned in Despatches and awarded a Military Cross at the Battle of Loos. 

Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, William was posted to Fricourt on the Western Front in February 1916.  He was sent to Mametz in April 1916 and was killed in action on 1st July 1916 while attacking a German trench.  He was buried in the Devonshire Cemetery in Mansell Copse, 80300 Carnoy-Mametz, France.

William’s First World War poetry collection “Verse and Prose in Peace and War” was published by Murray, London in 1917. 

“Reverie” by William Noel Hodgson

At home they see on Skiddaw
His royal purple lie,
And autumn up in Newlands
Arrayed in russet die,
Or under burning woodland
The still lake's gramarye.
And far off and grim and sable
The menace of the Gable
Lifts up his stark aloofness
Against the western sky.

At vesper-time in Durham
The level evening falls
Upon the shadowy river
That slides by ancient walls,
Where out of crannied turrets
The mellow belfry calls.
And there sleep brings forgetting
And morning no regretting,
And love is laughter-wedded
To health in happy halls.

The Military Cross (MC) aaward was created on 28th December 1914 for commissioned officers of the substantive rank of Captain or below and for Warrant Officers of the British Army. The first 98 awards were gazetted on 1st  January 1915, to 71 officers, and 27 warrant officers. The MC is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and (since 1993) other ranks of the British Armed Forces, and formerly awarded to officers of other Commonwealth countries.

The Wilfred Owen Story, winner of the 2018 Wirral Horn Award for historical research, has moved from its original address in Birkenhead and iis now in West Kirby Arts Centre, 29 Brookfield Gardens, West Kirby, Wirral CH48 4EL website

A book of the exhibition held in 2016, entitled "Poets, Writers & Artists on the Somme 1916" is available from