Keith Douglas - Battlefield poet - 1920-1944

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by Ramiles, Mar 20, 2016.

  1. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Captain Keith Douglas (SRY)


    A name I have often heard mentioned and whose poetry I have often heard, was on "Something Understood" this morning on BBC radio 4 (around 9.30mins in - "Canoe" an early poem - written in May 1940 whilst in University at Oxford):

    And also there is this great TV documentary from the BBC made in 2010 (posted here on youtube):

    As well as talking about his early life and his time with the SRY in the desert, there is a fair bit about the Normandy invasion and the fighting around Pt.102, Tilly and St.Pierre.

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  2. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Clive James reads a poem that makes him cry - Canoe by Keith Douglas (9th Feb 2014):

  3. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Another great reading of one of Keith Douglas's poems I recently saw on youtube:

    "How To Kill" by Keith Douglas: Read by Noel Clarke | (Oddly titled??? Remembering World War 1)*

    * This was written in 1943, during WW2, so I'm not quite sure why Channel 4 put this in a section titled thus:

    Published on Nov 7, 2013
    Remembering World War 1
    Some of Britain's finest actors read poetry from World War I

    Unless Keith Douglas actually wrote it himself in 1943 harking back to prior events in WW1 - in which his father "Capt. Keith Sholto Douglas" won an MC - Keith Douglas - Wikipedia

    I don't think so though:
  4. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron




    Service No:


    Date of Death:





    Royal Armoured Corps

    2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry attd. Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Royal Armoured Corps

    Grave Reference:

    I. E. 2.



    Additional Information:

    Son of Keith Sholto Douglas and Marie Josephine Douglas, of Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex. A noted War Poet. Exhibitioner of Merton College, Oxford, where he was a student of Edmund Blunden.
    Ramiles likes this.
  5. karlmcd

    karlmcd Junior Member

    more pictures of the poet

    Attached Files:

    Ramiles likes this.
  6. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    Best poet of the war, and possibly both wars by my reckoning.
    His collected letters quite readable too.
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  7. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

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  8. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

  9. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    Thanks for the post
    I have just started to read Alamein to Zem Zem by Keith Douglas
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  10. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Me too. Though I have actually seen lots of quotes from it I've not read it through yet.

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  11. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Found it a good read, and would surely make an excellent film. I think I was expecting a bit more poetry and poetic prose, more descriptions of the desert, the colour of the sky and the wild life etc. "Lawrence of Arabia" sort of thing - But it was much more about the regular gripes of army life and the conditions of battle and aftermath etc. Very poignant. In style, I think it was quite similar to the TM Lindsay book "Sherwood Rangers" - where there are a number of quotes from it (Alamein to Zem Zem) and quite a bit also about Keith Douglas....

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  12. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Last edited: Nov 27, 2019
  13. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Facebook: The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry 1939-1945

    BBC Radio 3 - Drama on 3, Unicorns, Almost

    10th May 2020 - 730pm - 1 hour audio

    Unicorns, Almost
    Drama on 3

    An adaptation for radio of a new stage play by the writer Owen Sheers. Unicorns, Almost portrays the short life of Second World War poet Keith Douglas, from his childhood through four engagements to his fighting in the Western Desert, his accelerated education as a poet and his early death three days after the Normandy D-Day landings at the age of 24. It is the story of his Faustian pact with a war that would nurture his unique poetic voice before abruptly snatching it away. It is also the story of his desperate race to see his poems in print before his time on earth ran out.

    Widely recognised as the finest poet of World War II, Keith Douglas was championed by Ted Hughes as an important influence. Hughes wrote the introduction to Douglas's The Complete Poems, published by Faber.

    Welsh playwright, poet and novelist Owen Sheers introduces this audio version of his stage play.

    Keith Douglas ..... Dan Krikler

    Written by Owen Sheers
    Original music by Jon Nicholls
    Directed by John Retallack

    Produced by Emma Balch and Jon Nicholls for The Story of Books
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  14. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

  15. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Parts previewable...

    Keith Douglas, 1920-1944: A Biography
    By Desmond Graham : Keith Douglas, 1920-1944

    "Keith Douglas was almost certainly the greatest poet of the Second World War. He was killed in Normandy three days after D-Day. He was only twenty-four. His short life was one of contradictions: the gifted artist and romantic, always in love with the wrong girl also enjoyed soldiering and was quick to volunteer at the beginning of the war. The brave and resourceful tank commander with the Sherwood Rangers in the Western Desert, in the campaign of which his Alemein to Zem Zem is the classic account, was also an outspoken critic of the military establishment and often in trouble with his superiors. There was always another side to Keith Douglas: difficult, even arrogant, he was at the same time, as Desmond Graham, observes in his original preface, 'generous, sensitive to the difficulties of others, remorselessly honest, energetic, and passionately, innocently open.' Douglas made in his brief life some friends who never forgot him, and whose memories of him have contributed much to this book.
    For this biography, Desmond Graham had access to much private and unpublished material. From that, interviews, Keith Douglas' own poems, letters and drawings emerges a definitive biography.
    'An almost unqualified success . . . Mr Graham has used his material with great skill and tact.' Roy Fuller
    'It is difficult to imagine a better biography than this being written about Keith Douglas . . . Desmond Graham provides us with an astonishing amount of information.' Stephen Spender
    'Extremely well-done . . It is written with authority and it will be standard.' Peter Levi
    'Sumptuously evocative' John Carey"
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  16. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    Last edited: Dec 22, 2020
  17. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    The Royal Lancers and Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum

    "Captain Keith Douglas, Sherwood Ranger and poet was born on this day 101 years ago in Tunbridge Wells. He was commissioned into the 2nd Derbyshire Yeomanry before transferring to the Sherwood Rangers in the Middle East in 1941.
    Douglas served with the SRY during the North Africa campaign, and then took part in the D Day invasion of Normandy on 6th June 1944.
    On 9th June he was killed by a mortar blast whilst carrying out a dismounted reconnaissance near Tilly sur-Seulles.
    Here is a poem he wrote about his fellow officers of the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry:

    Aristocrats: ‘I Think I Am Becoming A God’

    The noble horse with courage in his eye,
    clean in the bone, looks up at a shellburst:
    away fly the images of the shires
    but he puts the pipe back in his mouth.
    Peter was unfortunately killed by an 88;
    it took his leg away, he died in the ambulance.
    I saw him crawling on the sand, he said
    It's most unfair, they've shot my foot off.
    How can I live among this gentle
    obsolescent breed of heroes, and not weep?
    Unicorns, almost,
    for they are fading into two legends
    in which their stupidity and chivalry
    are celebrated. Each, fool and hero, will be an immortal.
    These plains were their cricket pitch
    and in the mountains the tremendous drop fences
    brought down some of the runners. Here then
    under the stones and earth they dispose themselves,
    I think with their famous unconcern.
    It is not gunfire I hear, but a hunting horn.
  18. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    On 6 June 1944, over 150,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy to begin the liberation of France. Inspired by veterans' memories of D-Day, we travel to the cemeteries where the British and Commonwealth soldiers who died were laid to rest. From the graves of paratroopers at Ranville to the story of three Canadian brothers at Beny-sur-Mer, and the vast Bayeux War Cemetery, we explore the legacy of the landings and the experience of visiting these graves today.

    Continuing our journey through Normandy, we explore some of the cemeteries that tell the story of the fearsome battles that followed D-Day. William Moody, who’s worked for the CWGC for 50 years and now cares for Bayeux War Cemetery, tells us about his work and what these places mean to him. We also visit the grave of Keith Douglas, one of the greatest poets of the war, as well as discussing what the cemeteries of Normandy mean to visitors today and what they might mean in the future.
  19. Don Juan

    Don Juan Well-Known Member

    Some grand descriptions of the Crusader in action in Alamein to Zem-Zem:
    Chris C likes this.

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