WW2 poetry

Discussion in 'General' started by Susan Smethurst, May 19, 2010.

  1. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

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  2. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

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  3. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

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    Michael Bully likes this.
  4. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

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  5. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

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  6. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

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  7. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

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  8. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

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  9. ramacal

    ramacal 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    And finally.

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  10. spidge


    Kenneth Slessor (1901-1971) was born in Orange, New South Wales. He published his first poetry in the Bulletin magazine while still at school.
    In 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War, Slessor was appointed as an official war correspondent, and spent time with Australian troops in England, Greece, the Middle-East and New Guinea.

    (Remember the Mariners)

    Softly and humbly to the Gulf of Arabs
    The convoys of dead sailors come;
    At night they sway and wander in the waters far under,
    But morning rolls them in the foam.

    Between the sob and clubbing of the gunfire
    Someone, it seems, has time for this,
    To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows
    And tread the sand upon their nakedness;

    And each cross, the driven stake of tidewood,
    Bears the last signature of men,
    Written with such perplexity, with such bewildered pity,
    The words choke as they begin -

    'Unknown seaman' - the ghostly pencil
    Wavers and fades, the purple drips,
    The breath of wet season has washed their inscriptions
    As blue as drowned men's lips,

    Dead seamen, gone in search of the same landfall,
    Whether as enemies they fought,
    Or fought with us, or neither; the sand joins them together,
    Enlisted on the other front.
  11. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Last edited: May 21, 2017
  12. Peter Clare

    Peter Clare Very Senior Member

    One of my favorites......

    On Weald of Kent I watched once more
    Again I heard that grumbling roar
    Of fighter planes; yet none were near
    All around the sky was clear
    Borne on the wind a whisper came
    'Though men grow old, they stay the same'
    And then I knew, unseen to eye
    The ageless Few were sweeping by

    Lord Balfour Of Inchrye

    Biggin Hill, July 1947
  13. Mark Hone

    Mark Hone Senior Member

    Further recommendations: Henry Reed's 'Lessons of the War' trilogy, which includes 'Naming of Parts' and Alun Lewis 'All Day it Has Rained', both about the boredom and occasional absurdity of training.
    Isn't there some controversy about the provenance of 'High Flight', with claims that Magee 'borrowed' parts of it from earlier poems published in an anthology of verse about flight?
  14. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Active Member

    Greetings, have just joined, and have a specific interest in poetry. Looking forward to reading over the threads on this forum.
    I run the World War 2 poetry blog


    A selection of World War 2 poetry written by those in uniform in the British and Empire forces can be found at the Salamander Oasis Trust website. This organisation published some five anthologies from 1976 - 1995 . The original 'Oasis' organisation published an anthology of Forces poetry in Cairo in 1943.

    The Salamander Oasis Trust

    For a wider spectrum of World War 2 poetry from different countries , this list here is useful

    The Poets of World War II | Voices Education Project
  15. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Active Member

    Have to just add that one of my favourite poets is Alan Ross ( 1922-2001) who served in the Royal Navy, including on board HMS Onslow with Arctic Convoy JW51B.

    His description of the Battle of Barents Sea 30th December 1942, in which he was present, is very striking. Harder to find a better evocation of 20th century sea warfare. Here are a couple of verses from his poem 'JW51b'

    “Orwell astern,ordering Obdurate
    And Obedient back to the convoy,
    The best he could do for it
    In the way of defence, while he himself
    Went after Hipper, peppering her,
    Tracers like bridges of fireworks
    Linking over distance, and the slow
    Grey swell heaving itself up,
    Collapsing and breathless.

    Hipper and Onslow, sea-horses
    Entwining, as one turned the other
    Also, on parallel courses
    Steaming, a zig-zag raking
    The forenoon, as two forces,
    From each other breaking.
    Manoeuvred for position
    Like squids squirting their ink
    In defence, ship smoked sky
    Round them, camouflaging. “
  16. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Rather a famous one that hasn't yet cropped up here:

    For Johnny

    by John Pudney

    Do not despair
    For Johnny-head-in-air;
    He sleeps as sound
    As Johnny underground.
    Fetch out no shroud
    For Johnny-in-the-cloud;
    And keep your tears
    For him in after years.

    Better by far
    For Johnny-the-bright-star,
    To keep your head,
    And see his children fed.

    In 1940 Pudney was commissioned into the Royal Air Force as an intelligence officer and as a member of the Air Ministry's Creative Writer's Unit. During World War II Pudney published articles for this organization and wrote considerable poetry, including his famous ode to British airmen, "For Johnny." This poem achieved national significance and was broadcast and performed by several famous actors including Sir Laurence Olivier and used in the appropriately named 1945 film "The Way To The Stars"
    Shiny 9th likes this.
  17. Shiny 9th

    Shiny 9th Member Patron

    Here are two by Sgt Cyril Grimes who served with the 9th Battalion, Royal Sussex and saw action in the Arakan, and Burma

    The Arakan

    Dawn on the Mayu Range

    Is always new and beautiful and strange

    to you: because the night before

    You're never absolutely sure

    The day just past

    Was not your last.

    And so the early golden ray

    That brings you yet another day

    Evokes a silent grateful prayer

    It's nice to find that you're still there.

    In Memoriam

    By the road and the hills lie the scatter seed

    A bamboo cross on each lonely grave

    Shimmering silence and jungle weed

    Enfold and touch lightly- here sleep the brave

    Not yet the fruit of your dying be tasted

    The sun and the rain no harvest unfold

    But rest, we shall see that the seed was not wasted

    The living remember, the tale shall be told

    Cyril Grimes, Sgt. 9th Battallion, Royal Sussex Rgt.

    The poem "The Arakan" or "Dawn" appears in Roy Humphries book "To Stop A Rising Sun" published by Alan Sutton, with the date it was written given as 29th June 1944. This would have been when the author was in 68th B.G.H. in Chittagong, recovering from hepatitis.
  18. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Sonnet for the Madonna of the Cherries
    by Archibald Wavell

    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.

    [Northwick Park, April 29th, 1943]
  19. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Active Member

    It's great to all these new poems on the thread, thank you for sharing them. Must add this one from the North Africa campaign.

    'The Path of Memory’

    The smell of new paint, of oil, and of guns,
    Of exhausts and diesel oil drums,
    The smell of ammo and brass shells in racks,
    and the smell of the desert too.

    The smell of the fire as they rest for the night,
    Of a fag and ‘The Old Man’s Pipe’
    The smell of M. and V. and corned beef stew,
    Of strong tea, the tank man’s brew,
    And the smell of friendship too.

    The smell of battle, of the dust and smoke,
    Of cordite fumes that choke,
    The smell of hot engines , and screeching gears,
    Of sweat and growing fears
    And the smell of heroes too.

    The smell of silence, the smell of the night
    The smell of that ‘There’s something not just right’
    The tank stands silent, the cold wind sighs
    And the crew lie inside, with sightless eyes,
    And the smell of DEATH came too ."

    J. Nugent,

    From the 1980 anthology, ‘Return to Oasis- War Poems & Recollection from the
    Middle East 1940- 1946 ‘

    'J. Nugent was described as a 'trooper with 7th Armored Brigade, taken prisoner at Tobruk', and was (at time of publication ) thought to be living in Fleetwood.
    ( ‘M and V’ referred to in the second verses is the standard army issue tinned meat and vegetables)
  20. Michael Bully

    Michael Bully Active Member

    One poet I mean to research further is Alexandra Etheldreda Grantham . Born in Germany in 1870, married an Englishman, became a renowned specialist in Oriental art. And had the tragic distinction of having two sons killed whilst serving, Ltn. Hugo Grantham in World War 1 ( at Gallipoli) and Godfrey Grantham during World War 2, whilst training RAF pilots. Alexandra Grantham wrote poetry to mourn the loss of her sons . This poem 'Crashed' -published in 1942- is about the loss of Godfrey.


    "An hour ago or less this piteous tangled heap
    Made up-of metal bits whose scattered fragments
    Black trace of flames attacking it with dead leap
    An hour ago.

    Soared in the blue, triumphant like a star, sheer
    Of silver on great wings spread in spirals
    To rise and climb o'er midnight clouds of ice and

    And he who swept it upwards- slain, never to
    The harvest of his dreams, nor wondrous joys to
    Of coming home, nor wake again. He laughed
    at sleep.
    An hour ago."

    WorldWar2poetry: Beatrice Gibbs/ Alexandra Etheldreda Grantham

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