Soldier Poets

Discussion in 'General' started by Gerry Chester, Mar 14, 2005.

  1. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Every war seems to have produced poetry by those who served in them, World War II is no exception. I would enjoy reading some of the Forum member's favourites.

    Here is one of mine, written by Trooper Jack Neilson MM and Bar. Jack was born in Eire but settled in Northern Ireland after the war. He was one of the best known soldiers who served with the North Irish Horse and, as well as his obvious courage, a man with a love for poetry and words. Here is one of the many he composed entitled 'The Observer', penned on 7 April 1943 while in action near Beja, Tunisia.

    "At Ksar Masour Station in Wog Hut Watching
    Silent stand in Observation post,
    Field glasses focused on form opposite,
    Two miles of undulating greenness
    On skyline, red roofed white buildings,
    And nearer the broken fuselage of a Focke-Wulf.
    Intensely aware of singing birds,
    See love-sick storks, building nest.
    By soft breeze over valley drifting
    The sickly scent of death.
    Quietness suddenly shattered
    By Wheow - Wheow - Whumph!
    Of German Six Inch Mortar
    Hastily our Five Fives
    Quickly send screaming
    Their hazard messengers of death.
    In hut on far farm watching
    Stands silent some German boy,
    Wistfully thinking of Gamerisch-Partenkirchen.
    Brain war weary asking 'Why?'
    So, watching, invisible to each other
    Mutually wonder 'Why?'
    And the stork builds on."
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  2. Andrew Pittaway

    Andrew Pittaway Junior Member

    One of my favourites is from a book of poems submitted by members of Montgomery's desert army. I will have to post one here if I have time in the next day or two.
  3. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    This is one of the poems I wrote about the Normandy invasion

    Quietly! Quietly! Whisper my Name.

    So many long years ago I died, under Norman apple trees.
    But now my Spirit wanders, as a warm and gentle breeze.
    Hush! Quietly, Whisper my name, in that long forgotten place.
    Then feel the warmth of my Spirit, caress lightly on your face.

    For now, I am the jewelled Summer Lark, that soars on high.
    Bright in heavens concert hall, my song will fill the sky.
    I am the tumbling cloud’s that rise, to touch the face of Joy.
    No longer held by earthly bonds, a once young and vital boy.

    In an instant life was swept away, in a brutal savage war.
    Look not for me in Normandy, for I am there no more.
    I am the peace in woodland glades, in veiled cascades of green.
    Feel me close, in your times of joy, sensed, but never seen.

    Whisper my name, and hear my voice, in cascading woodland spring,
    Or England's flowered primrose banks, wherein the bluebells ring.
    Don’t mourn for me, quietly call my name, I'll visit in your dreams.
    And, fill your mind with the beauty, of heavens joyous scenes.

    Hush! Hush! Just whisper, quietly, call my name.
    Whisper quietly.

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  4. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Or perhaps this one.... For it some time it seems there is no end to the memories;

    The Summer Days of June.

    Do ghostly battles rage across
    The misty fields of France,
    And if we listen closely now?
    hear the sounds of their advance.

    Do the ghosts of the infantry,
    in open battle order march?
    Was that a man’s last despairing
    scream, across the river marsh?

    All at once, a hot steel splinter,
    A quick sudden spurt of blood.
    Flesh flayed down to ivory bone,
    Soaks the blood bespattered mud.

    In that quiet moment of early dawn,
    The echoes of war, now far away.
    Are those the cries of the wounded?
    From that distant summer’s day?

    And yet, in this quiet lonely moment
    When all natures voice came still.
    There, across the golden corn fields
    The Bocage, where we came to kill.

    I still hear the guns of Normandy,
    Now long ago, in the distant past.
    The loss of friends, on battlefields,
    May their memory forever last..

    For all those that gave
    their lives for all that we hold dear.

    Our Freedom.
    Our Society, Our way of life.
    Our land, Our loved ones.

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  5. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Here is another of Jack Neilson's poems.

    "African Victory"
    Written 13 May 1943 while recovering from wounds in 36th General Hospital, Algiers. His tank was knocked out Friday, 30th April 1943 - the only Churchill of the North Irish Horse lost to a Panzer during the Tunisian Campaign.

    As a preface Jack wrote:
    "In the flush of Victory I noticed that every soldier in Hospital wore a wristwatch or ring, 'presents from loved ones'.
    One thought of the cost of victory, the dead at Sedjenane and Longstop, each dead soldier wearing some token of love and so representing not a mere individual, but a person whose manner of living influenced others, who thus became poorer because of that death. Thus victory for the soldier is not something to be lightly celebrated: to the soldier, victory and dead friends are bracketed together."

    Rommel's rout,
    Church bells peal gaily,
    Victory's price paid freely
    From Greenhill to Longstop -
    All the Medjerda Valley -
    From Bizerte to Tunis -
    Ours by conquest.
    Paid for yard by yard,
    With dead soldiers
    Men and boys
    Wearing wrist watches,
    Presents from loved ones.
    Through mud and through blood,
    To the green fields beyond.
    Beyond the green fields,
    And lurking round the bend
    Death, the inevitable friend
    Freedom's cost -
    Paid by us!
    Freedom's Torch -
    Yours to keep flaming!
    Remember the dead soldiers
    Men and boys,
    Wearing wrist watches
    Presents from loved ones
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  6. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor

    "Lie in the dark and Listen"

    Lie in the dark and listen
    It's clear tonight so their flying high
    Hundreds of them, thousands perhaps
    Riding the icy, moonlight sky
    Men, machinery, bombs and maps
    Altimeters and guns and charts
    Coffee, sandwiches, fleece-lined boots
    Bones and muscles and minds and hearts
    English saplings with English roots
    Deep in the earth they've left below
    Lie in the dark and let them go
    Lie in the dark and listen

    Noel Coward
  7. Monti

    Monti Junior Member

    In Poland most famous war poets is Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski.
    He died in the Warsaw uprising defending a house near the Great Theater. Was a 23 years old.
    Clouds of flight, sails of ecstasy, trees' companions
    upon the firmament.
    My head declines to knotted hands, a head in throes,
    My arms hunger.
    The tall dark bird that swims beneath you:
    my heart.
    How do I flee anxiety to golden woods
    O bird-clouds?
    How then do I return, in grief, undone,
    to your fluidity and flight?
    Hands pierced, the cross follows me,
    the duty of death.
    This unworked clay thus heaps up, hardens,
    cities are ablaze.
    On earth am I my own grave,
    my own hope?
    O silent clouds! You bypass me again, o lights afloat,
    distant shades.
    Faith I'll name you. Your name for me: grief's dust,
    casket, man.
  8. morse1001

    morse1001 Very Senior Member

    I know it is not one from a solider poet nor is it from WW2 but comes from the world famous airman Any the Mouse and dates from the early thiries.

    it gives an sight into the daily life of a erk of the time

    'Leaping gaily from my bed, I,
    With a sleep enfettered red eye,
    Glimpse the harbinger of day to my delight.
    ‘Tis the N.C.O. whose duty, Bids him loud proclaim the beauty,
    Of the dewy morn (or is it rainy night?) After folding sheets and blankets, With much artistry and swank it's,
    Fun to struggle for a shave among the host; To pursue one's hirsute features, With a dozen fellow creatures,
    In the sole remaining mirror that we boast.
    Then I diligently scour,
    At that most unearthly hour,
    With a vigorous, hygienic sense of fun.
    Lest those germs the M.O. dreads hide,
    In my table, locker, bedside,
    Or my bedstead, barrack, sliding, airman's, one.
    Next I clean the centre floor space,
    Where the C.O. will perforce pace,
    And I dust the lampshades, window sills and chairs.
    Then all protests notwithstanding,
    I dash out and scrub the landing,
    And the annexe and a flight or two of stairs.
    My sartorial appearance,
    Must provoke no interference,
    From the officer inspecting, lest he stops,
    Sundry late and weekend passes,
    So I breathe upon my brasses,
    And depart to do my effort in Workshops'.
  9. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    June. 1944/2004
    What follows is dedicated to all those young men that never came home.
    I am Sapper Guy lately of 246 Field Company Royal Engineers. An Assaulting unit of the Third British Infantry Division; Monty’s Ironsides.
    From the Fields of Normandy I bring back many memories.
    Beneath them. I leave many friends, For they are; Les Fleurs de Normandie. The Flowers of Normandy

    Les Fleurs de Normandie.

    On Norman soil, they fought and died.
    Now young men's graves in rows abound.
    In Mother Earth's arms, now sanctified,
    The fragrant flowers of our youth are found.

    And yet, to rise again, as in a distant song.
    Small voices that call, in dead of night.
    Fleeting figures only in our dreams belong.
    Alas, they fade, in dawn's bright light.

    I see them yet, a sad, forgotten throng.
    Shadowed, lost faces, marching on.
    Over dusty roads, and high golden corn.
    The call of long lost friends are borne.

    We must not forget, the flowers of our days,
    Lest they lay unquiet, in numbered graves.
    For we lived, and loved, and life was sweet.
    Still yet, for us, awaits our last retreat.

    Flowers of our youth, now long since past.
    Our sweet autumn days are fading fast.
    We, who are left, flowered in our prime.
    Enjoyed golden moments, on borrowed time.

    Remember our friends, who passed this way.
    For all our tomorrow's, they gave their today's,
    On Utah and Omaha, Juno, Sword and Gold.
    Oh! Dear Lord! See that they grow not old.
    Sapper Brian Guy.
  10. Gerry Chester

    Gerry Chester WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    Thank you for moving piece. I too cannot forget those we left behind and who rest forever in a foreign land.,

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  11. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Thank you Gerry.

    I hbeen approached, and given permission for that particular poem to be used at Church remembrance services. That did please me.
  12. Kaiser

    Kaiser Junior Member

    The Hour is Go

    Francis J. Turner

    One's eyes close tight and families fade,
    When going to war which evil men made.
    Though anxious and frightened, we don't let it show,
    For the day is approaching, when the Airborne must go.

    Each day now rolls past; we wait just the same,
    But D-Day is near, and for this we all came.
    The hour grows near; each man feels it inside,
    And soon we'll be falling, with nowhere to hide.

    Our eyes are now down and the chatter the same,
    Each weapon now loaded, no longer a game.
    Eagles gather round and bow you heads low,
    Europe awaits and the hour is go.

    Planes rumble past as we wait for our turn,
    To fly over waters we have yet to each earn.
    Checked buckles and straps, left nothing to chance,
    The Jumpmaster stands, calls "Welcome to France."

    Flak turns to fire in the blackest of night,
    Too low, too fast, can't jump from this height.
    There's no turning back, the risk has been taken,
    Free fall into hell, paratrooper's forsaken.

    Eagles hold tight, scattered prayers to survive,
    We'll hit the ground soon, whether dead or alive,
    As feet touch the ground, each soldier turns on,
    Confusion and fear are beaten and gone.

    The enemy is close and sad they don't know
    The Airborne is here, it's time they must go.
    The hour is now, Hitler's had his last chance
    On St. Michael's wings, we're taking back France.
  13. spidge


    This was sent to me by Robert Pike and although WW1, I thought it was great even though it does not snow in Melbourne - EVER!


    THE tattered grass of No Man's Land
    Is white with snow to-day,
    And up and down the deadly slopes
    The ghosts of childhood play.

    The sentries, peering from the line,
    See in the tumbled snow
    Light forms that were their little selves
    A score of years ago.

    We look and see the crumpled drifts
    Piled in a little glen.
    And you are back in Saxony
    And children once again.

    From joyous hand to laughing face
    We watch the snow-balls fly,
    The way they used ere we were men
    Waiting our turn to die.

    To-night across the empty slopes
    The shells will scream once more,
    And flares go up and bullets fly
    The way they did before;

    But for a little space of peace
    We watch them come and go,
    The children that were you and I
    At play among the snow.

    Bois d'Authuille, 1915

  14. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Unlike Brian (AKA Sapper) with his catalogue of masterly prose I have written but one solitary poem in the whole of my 88 years.

    Written in Sicily, at Adrano and after seeing for the first time what war really meant, I trot it out whenever the thread title includes the word poetry.

    "Darkness was falling as we entered the town, but t'was light enough still to see
    The shattered ruins of what had been, a town, in Sicily.

    It wasn't much to call a town, compared with those of greater size.
    It wasn't built for modern war and now a stinking heap it lies,
    Rotting beneath the azure skies, of Sicily.

    It seemed as if an angry God had run amok with gory hands,
    Then dropped a veil, a canopy, of dirty, blinding, choking sands
    And, as to wreak his vengeance more
    Had propped a body in each door

    We drove on by with sober thought,
    Of those poor bastards who'd been caught,
    We grimaced at the sick, sweet, smell of this small piece of man made hell
    This could be you, the bodies said, this could be you, soon gone, soon dead...
    We hurried by, enough to be, alive that day, in Sicily"

    A word of explanation

    Sicily, for me anyway, was my first "blooding" and consequently made a huge impression on me

    As Ack Ack, we were support troops covering the back of the 78 Div infantry against the Luftwaffe and in Sicily we were very much follow my leader with the infantry leading the column.

    In the case of Adrano the place had only just been taken and was still burning as a result of shell fire. The infantry had been involved in some house to house fighting and bodies had been left outside each door for others to identify and bury.

    The heat had inevitably swelled them up into grotesque travesties of what was the conventional view of a corpse and the macabre scene was my first intro into what modern war was really like.

    No wonder it inspired my first (and only) poem :(

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  15. jamesmurrow

    jamesmurrow Senior Member

    Excellent piece of work Ron, dwelling on your words really conveys the 'real' meaning of war, and reinforces why dad never talked much of his own experiences, they being with the BEF and 5th Div. When he did mention something, I regret not asking for more (my interest at the time lay in the First World War, and I doubt as to if he would have), and it is only through the words of the likes of yourself, that illustrates as to why war should be avoided.
    I note that those who advocate such actions are never seen at the 'sharp end'!
    Best Regards
  16. La-de-da-Gunner Graham

    La-de-da-Gunner Graham Senior Member

    I dont really know a lot about poetry. However, there are some really fine examples in this thread. Ron, can I echo James's comments in saying what an outstanding piece of work your poem is. Its a shame its your only one.

  17. cash_13

    cash_13 Senior Member

    I have this poem which I am sure I have already posted but I am sure you would all like to read it again and for those that have not read it...

    The following is a poem which was found in the possessions of Thomas Samuel Austin by his son Ianthe Exall:

    Have you ever heard of the “Warspite” and how she made her name,
    How she smashed the German Army near the wide Catania Plain,
    The Herman Goering Regiment was badly mauled that day,
    When the “Warspite” used her 15”, for the Eight she cleared the way.
    Then came the day of invasion, the 5th.on Italy’s soil,
    Battled with desperation, their object nearly foiled,
    By “Tiger Tanks” and Pancers, who were waiting, so it seemed,
    When into the Bay of Salerno, the “Warspite” slowly steamed.
    She swung around and waited until she got in range,
    Then with a noise like thunder, her 15” spoke again.
    We had our own observer, a captain of Royal Marines,
    And he shouted with glee, only he could see
    How the tide of the battle had changed.
    There were tanks and troops together smashed up like they never had been,
    More terrible wreckage and carnage never before had been seen.
    General Clark of the gallant 5th. Army, there on the field
    Thanked the ”Old Lady” in a signal, for the lives of his men she’d redeemed.
    Then she did another bombardment at a standstill, to make her aim sure,
    And the fall of the shell was perfect, no guns aim had ever been truer.
    It must have been ‘hell’ for the Germans, as the shrapnel just blew them away,
    Then a bomb came down from the heavens, it was 2000lbs. maybe more
    And smashed right down by the funnel, we were only two miles from the shore.
    Right down through her decks it travelled, a rocket bomb was its name,
    We lost some good chums, all good shipmates, Hard luck, it was War it’s no game.
    She shuddered and lurched as it struck her, for a minute she couldn’t be seen
    As the debris shot up towards heaven, closely followed by white scalding steam.
    We all thought the “Old Lady” was finished, a true blood, she proved it that day,
    As the tugs raced out to her rescue, she lurched up again, to her keel.
    Under tow she set out for Malta, for six days and nights at 4 knots,
    And the lads did plenty of thinking, especially the wounded in cots,
    T’was a nerve wracking strain for the lads there, true Britons they stuck to their guns,
    And the engine room branch worked like Trojans, all spattered in oil, twas no fun.
    Down thro the Straits of Messina, the “Old Lady” made her way,
    We were all sure then that she’d make it,
    That she’d live to fight on another day.
    It’s all over now, we’re not sorry, to our homes we’re now on our way,
    But I’ll always be proud of the “Warspite” , God Bless her, she once won the day.
    Author Unknown
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  18. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

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  19. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    Some interesting poetry with a personal touch.
  20. geoff501

    geoff501 Achtung Feind hört mit

    Not sure where to put this, so it is here. The first reply was "beautifully done, Sir". I have to agree. Thought I'd share it, give it a listen!
    produced for the #beforeaction project of Lichfield Cathedral ( @LichfieldCath )

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