Thursday, 21 October 2021

Archibald Percival Wavell, 1st Earl Wavell, GCB, GCSI, GCIE, CMG, MC, KStJ, PC (1883 - 1950) - British soldier

 With thanks to Historian Dr. Vivien Newman for bringing Wavell to my attention 

Archibald Percival Wavell (5 May 1883 – 24 May 1950) became a senior officer of the British Army. He served in the Second Boer War, the Bazar Valley Campaign and the First and Second World Wars.  He was awarded a Military Cross for bravery during the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915, during which he was wounded and lost an eye.  

I knew that Wavell had published an anthology of poetry entitled "Other Men's Flowers" but until Dr. Newman suggested I look in greater depth at the anthology, I did not realise that Wavell also wrote poetry.   

I imagine there will be many people who say he should not be included here because there is no evidence that he wrote any poems during WW1.  But he was a poet and he served with distinction during the conflict.

In my experience, very few people 'only write one poem', so I feel it is likely that Wavell wrote much more but did not feel able to have them published - if you look at his description of the poem reproduced here, this becomes clear.    Wavell had a lifelong love of poetry for we know that he knew all of the poems included in his anthology by heart and loved to recite them

Here is the poem by Lord Wavell which is the last one he included in his anthology.  He described his poem thus:  "At the the end of my garden of other men's flowers, outside the gate, I have put this little wayside dandelion of my own. It has no business here even outside the garden, but the owner of the lady for whom it was written is anxious for it to be included. She is a beautiful lady designed though not actualy painted by Leonardo da Vinci, and I have loved her ever since I saw her."

Sonnet for the Madonna of the Cherries

Dear Lady of the cherries, cool, serene,

Untroubled by the follies,strife and fears,

Clad in soft reds and blues and mantle green

Your memory has been with me all these years.

Long years of battle,bitterness and waste,

Dry years of sun and dust and eastern skies,

Hard years of ceaseless struggle, endless haste,

Fighting 'gainst greed for power hate and lies.

Your red-gold hair, your slowly smiling face

For pride in your dear son, your king of kings,

Fruits of the kindly earth, and truth and grace,

Colour and light, and all warm lovely things -

For all that lovelieness, that warmth, that light,

Blessed Madonna, I go back to fight.

Written in Northwick Park, April 29th 1943

From “Other Men’s Flowers” an anthology of war verse compiled by  A. P. Wavell Field-Marshal Viscount Wavell G.C.B., G.G.S.I., G.C.I.E., C.M.G., M.C. (Jonathan Cape, London, 1944), which is available to read as a free download from Archive:

Historian Dr Vivien Newman’s latest books are all available through Amazon and Pen and Sword:

We Also Served: The Forgotten Women of the First World War 

Nursing Through Shot and Shell: A Great War Nurse's Diary  

Tumult and Tears: The Story of the Great War Through the Eyes and Lives of its Women Poets

Régina Diana: Seductress, Singer, Spy

Suffragism and the Great War

The photograph is of Wavell and Robert Brooke-Popham of the Royal Flying Corps and later the Royai Air Force, during WW1.