Remembrance Day Poem Titles In Essays

For the Fallen - Laurence Binyon

Probably the most famous and widely read war poem in English and also known, in extract form, as the Ode of Remembrance, For the Fallen was first published in The Times on September 21 1914, just a few weeks after the First World War began on July 28 that year. Binyon was too old to enlist as a soldier in the Great War, but volunteered in hospitals helping wounded French soldiers, and wrote For the Fallen in Cornwall shortly after the Battle of the Marne.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

Read full poem

The Soldier - Rupert Brooke

During the First World War, Brooke joined the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, and died of an infection in 1915 en route to Gallipoli. The most famous lines from his poem The Soldier are often read in remembrance of those who die far from home fighting for their country, suggesting that soldiers take a part of their home nation with them to the grave.

If I should die, think only this of me:

That there's some corner of a foreign field

That is for ever England.

Read full poem

Drummer Hodge - Thomas Hardy

Hardy's Drummer Hodge uses a similar device to Brooke's The Soldier. It was written before Brooke's more famous lines, however, and was composed by Hardy in 1899 in response to the Anglo-Boer War. It focuses on the very young British drummers - usually boys in their early teens - who accompanied soldiers into battle overseas and faced death alongside them.

Yet portion of that unknown plain

Will Hodge for ever be;

His homely Northern breast and brain

Grow to some Southern tree,

And strange-eyed constellations reign

His stars eternally.

Read full poem

In Flanders Fields - John McRae

Written in 1915 from the perspective of dead soldiers lying in their graves, John McRae's poem urges the reader to avenge slaughtered men's deaths. Almost as soon as it was written, the poem became hugely popular and was used in motivational posters and armed forces recruitment leaflets across Britain and North America during the First World War. As the first war poem to refer to poppies as a symbol of remembrance, the poem is still read across the world on Remembrance Day.

McRae was a Canadian doctor and Lieutenant Colonel in the First World War, fighting and overseeing medical care in Boulogne with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He died of pneumonia on the battlefield in January 1918.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Read full poem

Charge of the Light Brigade - Alfred, Lord Tennyson

This narrative poem about the noted battle in the Crimean war was written by Tennyson in 1854. It has become one of the defining war poems, capturing the thrill of battle as well as the futility of conflict and the brutal reality of fighting. It was widely popular at the time, and one couplet in particular has passed into the vernacular: "Theirs not to reason why,/ Theirs but to do and die".

When can their glory fade?

O the wild charge they made!

All the world wonder’d.

Honour the charge they made!

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And Death Shall Have No Dominion - Dylan Thomas

Written between the wars in 1933, Thomas's poem takes on a broad theme of remembrance and the eternity of the human spirit.

They shall have stars at elbow and foot;

Though they go mad they shall be sane,

Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;

Though lovers be lost love shall not;

And death shall have no dominion.

Read full poem

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death - WB Yeats

Yeats's poem in the voice of an Irish airman doesn't glorify fighting - in fact, speaking as the soldier, he says, "Those that I fight I do not hate,/ Those that I guard I do not love". Instead it's a measured meditation on being in the firing line during war, and being drawn to "a tumult in the clouds".

The years to come seemed waste of breath,

A waste of breath the years behind

In balance with this life, this death.

Read full poem

Adlestrop - Edward Thomas

Edward Thomas chose to enlist in the Artists Rifles in 1915. Though not much of his poetry deals explicitly with war, the war is often referred to obliquely. Adlestrop is a haunting portrait of the quiet calm of England, in contrast to the horrific fighting taking place abroad, as remembered by Thomas when his train made a stop in the Cotswolds just before war broke out in 1914. Thomas was killed in action at Arras on Easter Monday, April 1917. Adlestrop was published soon afterwards.

And for that minute a blackbird sang

Close by, and round him, mistier,

Farther and farther, all the birds

Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

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MCMXIV - Philip Larkin

Larkin's heartbreakingly poignant poem reflects on the patriotic optimism of the young men queueing up to enlist in 1914. The poem was written in 1964, when some critical distance from both wars had been reached. In the wake of colossal destruction, Larkin looks back with devastatingly sharp hindsight at the doomed notion that war would be akin to "an August Bank Holiday lark" for those about to fight.

Never such innocence,

Never before or since,

As changed itself to past

Without a word – the men

Leaving the gardens tidy,

The thousands of marriages,

Lasting a little while longer:

Never such innocence again.

Read full poem

Hear Larkin reading MCMXIV

Dulce et Decorum Est - Wilfred Owen

Owen's poem Dulce et Decorum Est, written during the First World War, was published posthumously in 1920. It brings vividly to life the desperate human misery of warfare, condemning and raging against the "lie" that war is noble. Owen served on the front line in the Manchester Regiment, suffering severe shell shock, and was killed in action on November 4 1918. His mother was informed of his death on Armistice Day, seven days later.

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est

Pro patria mori.

Read full poem

Remembrance poems in a traditional vein

Remembrance – A hymn for Remembrance Sunday

Words – Charles Henrywood

May be sung to the music – Finlandia by Jean Sibelius

Grant peace, O Lord, across our strife-torn world,
Where war divides and greed and dogma drive.
Help us to learn the lessons from the past,
That all are human and all pay the price.
All life is dear and should be treated so;
Joined, not divided, is the way to go.

Protect, dear Lord, all who, on our behalf,
Now take the steps that place them in harm's way.
May they find courage for each task they face
By knowing they are in our thoughts always.
Then, duty done and missions at an end,
Return them safe to family and friends.

Grant rest, O Lord, to those no longer with us;
Who died protecting us and this their land.
Bring healing, Lord, to those who, through their service,
Bear conflict’s scars on body or in mind.
With those who mourn support and comfort share.
Give strength to those who for hurt loved-ones care.

And some there be who no memorial have;
Who perished are as though they’d never been.
For our tomorrows their today they gave,
And simply asked that in our hearts they'd live.
We heed their call and pledge ourselves again,
At dusk and dawn - we will remember them!

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

We will remember them

Some background notes on the hymn, Remembrance, by the author, Charles Henrywood.

Until very recently, the War Memorials in Neath, South Wales, officially commemorated only those who died in the two World Wars. Then, in 2008 a group of us who attended the Remembrance parades at the Memorial Gates each year decided it was time those members of our Armed Forces who had given their lives since 1945 should also have a memorial. This view was reinforced when we learned that, other than 1963, not a year had passed without at least on of our Servicemen being killed in the line of duty —peacekeeping comes at a price!

This required money and my role was to organise a fund-raising concert performed by our local Silver Band and six Male Choirs. Although a concert, each of the choirs made it clear they also saw it as an act of remembrance and it was agreed the evening should end with a hymn to be sung by massed choirs and audience.

That raised the question as to which hymn. I couldn't help thinking about that phrase from Ecclesiasticus

"And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they
had never been".

Then lines from our Remembrance parades joined in. The first, from Lawrence Binyon's poem "For the Fallen" (1914)

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

The second from “The Kohima Epitaph", commemorating those Allied troops who
fell in the Burma Campaign.

"When you go home tell them of us and say -
For your tomorrow we gave our today"

From the above you'll see that the final verse of the hymn had just about written itself!

The rest came remarkably quickly. I've always believed that Remembrance should not be limited to the dead—important though that is. Neither should it be a vehicle for glorifying war. If we loved one another as commanded war would be just history. We don't but that shouldn't stop us asking for help to do so.

At the time, there were young men and women from our town serving in Afghanistan who deserved better than to be forgotten—hence the second verse.

The third verse is a statement of my strong belief that the living victims of conflict need and deserve our support and should not be forgotten.

I used "Finlandia" as the musical framework as it is one of the most moving pieces I know.

The choirs accepted the piece and it was used as the final item in the “Six Choirs and a Silver Band” concert on 28th March 2009.

The new memorial was dedicated on 13th June 2009

That, In a nutshell, was the genesis of "Remembrance".

The copyright for this work remains with me, However, I have decided that, if used in an act of Remembrance or in aid of Service charities, copyright is waived.
Charles Henrywood.

Let us know. If you choose to use Charles Henrywood's words at a Remembrance Service I know he would be pleased to hear of it. If you write a message to him and email it to me I will forward it to him. - David Roberts, Website Editor.Contact details here.

Charles Henrywood's words

 Charles Henrywood suggests that  Remembrance should refer, in addition to the past, refer to both present and future, "all three of which require action on our part".

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We Who Remain

Anthony Devanny introduces his poem -  "I am currently still a serving soldier within 3 YORKS, having just returned from a third tour of Afghanistan which saw us lose 10 Brothers. I sat at home this morning waiting to go remember and started to write."

WO2 Anthony Devanny
Virtutis Fortuna Comes

We are indeed the lucky and unlucky ones,
As we are the ones who have lived to tell the tales of those we once knew

We are the ones who carry those scars of things seen, done and lost
We are the ones who must never let those who are not here be forgotten by the new

We are the ones who will never need to be reminded that "We will Remember Them"
As We are the ones who will always remember those we forever call friend.

Anthony Devanny


The men I marched beside

Rain is falling on Tamara

churning red mud all around

and by a green capped djebel*

a platoon has gone to ground.

Each is sleeping in his blanket

hearing not the bugle blow.

Tread you lightly, young Tunisian,

past the men I used to know.

Other comrades see not Etna

in that isle across the sea,

for in the cornfields of Catania

lie the men of Forty-Three.

And the Lower Rhine at Arnhem

flows past many that I knew.

They lie their undefeated,

Oaken-hearted, arrow true.

Parachutes are long discarded

on that silent dropping zone

as the line of march goes onward

through Bruneval and Beaune.

I am hearing dead feet marching

on the road to Oosterbeek.

I hear again the roll call

but the called-for do not speak.

They come crowding in around me

those faces of the bold,

and my strength and resolution

are fortified untold.

The spirit that’s within me,

lifts my head in silent pride

recalling days behind me

and the men I’ve marched beside.



This poem was sent to The War Poetry Website by Charlie Marsden with the following notes by way of explanation.

“My late dad was in 2nd Parachute Battalion 1942 to 1947, & stayed in the Paras & SAS until 1972. He died 2 years ago, and I read this at his funeral. He'd had it tucked away for many years, and never knew who wrote it.


“ Laurie Marsden joined the Royal Artillery as a Boy Trumpeter,  aged 15, in 1937. By 1941 he was a Bombardier PTI, and transferred to the newly formed Parachute Regiment. He was posted to C Company, 2nd Battalion, under Major John Frost, and jumped into Tunisia where he fought through the Campaign, being wounded several times.

Then off to Sicily, where he was wounded again, but this time captured. Over the next 18 months he escaped three times, but was recaptured each time. He had learned to speak German, and was attached to the Military Police as an interpreter on his release. He stayed in the Parachute Regiment, both Regular and T A until 1964, when he was invited to become SSM of B Sqn 23 SAS if he passed selection. He did, and stayed there until he was 50 in1972. He died at home 5th Nov 2012, aged 90.”    -  Charlie.   [emails 11 and 12 November 2014]

Eternal Soldier by Ann-Marie Spittle

 I am the Eternal Soldier

 Though my body breaks

 My soul goes on

 Through the jungles and the deserts

 Across the mountains and the seas

 Whither I am called I go

 Steadfast, reliable

 Though my mouth moans

 And my body aches

 I push on

 Until the objective is done

 The opposers disperse

 Or I am called elsewhere

 As one battle ends

 Another begins

 Always with myself

 The battle is the greatest

 While you break, I bend

 When you fall, I walk on

 Always expected to be courageous

 Always expected to be brave

 Always the first to charge

 While others stand behind me

 Like fearful children

 Hoping I will kill the big bad wolf

 I am the eternal soldier

 Our heart beats as one

 Though my body is many

 Brothers are we in blood and bone

 While around us separation

 Takes hold of the individual

 Hold my hand

 And I will guide you through

 For I am Michael, soldier of Angels

 My heart is true

 To the cause of my country

 That others may not suffer

 The horrors of the past

 Walk with me if you dare

 For mine is not a path lightly taken

 Brave heart, brave feet

 Brave voice, brave action

 These are our creed

 And our battle cry

 Ann-Marie Spittle © 2006


The Eternal Soldier

I am the eternal soldier; I’m there when you need me

 Fighting for your liberties down every century

 Standing on the front-line, bleeding for your cause

 Just a name on a memorial, at which you never pause.

 I halted the Armada, stood my ground at Marston Moor

 I was in the line at Minden and I heard the Zulu roar,

 I was in the square at Waterloo and fought the fearless Boers

 And I was gassed in the trenches of the war to end all wars …….

 I piloted a Spitfire, stormed the beach at Normandy

 Froze to death in Korea and I yomped to Port Stanley,

 I was bombed to hell in Basra, under fire in old Kabul

 I am a deadly Exocet, a politician’s tool. 

 Yet all I ask is wages and three square meals a day

 To lay my life upon the line, to live in harms way,

 But it’s the same old story, when your victory is won

 Then I’m just an embarrassment, with a loaded gun.

 And the debt is soon forgotten, when the nightmares come to call

 When each night I hear my best friend scream and helpless, watch him fall,

 I’m told to snap out of it, I’m told big boys don’t cry

 And I’m left to drink myself to death and on a cold street die.

I halted the Armada, stood my ground at Marston Moor

 I was in the line at Minden and I heard the Zulu roar,

 I was in the square at Waterloo and fought the fearless Boers

 And I was gassed in the trenches of the war to end all wars …….

 I piloted a Spitfire, stormed the beach at Normandy

 Froze to death in Korea and I yomped to Port Stanley,

 I was bombed to hell in Basra, under fire in old Kabul

 I am a deadly Exocet, a politician’s tool. 

 I march on your decision, anywhere in this wide world

 In places where our flag had no right to be unfurled,

 And I’m not asking for riches, I want nothing for free

 The only thing I’m asking for,

 Is a measure of dignity.

 For I am the eternal soldier; I’m there when you need me

 Fighting for your conscience down every century

 And I’m standing on the front-line, bleeding for your cause

 Just a name on a memorial, at which you never pause.

Mark Vine

 (Written in 2007)

Exocet - a missile used with devastating effect in the Falklands War




A poem for Armistice Day


Harry Riley writes novels, short stories and poetry. He introduces his poem.

"Standing for the two minutes silence in a local supermarket on Armistice day, my mind conjured up the scene of rows and rows of beautifully kept white head stones and crosses, designating war dead, in the cemeteries across Europe.
If those dead could speak with one voice and send us a message, I wondered what they might say?
Here is my suggestion of what that message could be, only they could tell us:"  HR. 2012.

 A poem for Armistice Day 
Remember Me
(The voice of the dead)

Remember me
Duty called and I went to war
Though I'd never fired a gun before
I paid the price for your new day
As all my dreams were blown away

Remember me
We all stood true as whistles blew
And faced the shell and stench of Hell
Now battle's done, there is no sound
Our bones decay beneath the ground
We cannot see, or smell, or hear
There is no death, or hope or fear

Remember me
Once we, like you, would laugh and talk
And run and walk and do the things that you all do
But now we lie in rows so neat
Beneath the soil, beneath your feet

Remember me
In mud and gore and the blood of war
We fought and fell and move no more
Remember me, I am not dead
I'm just a voice within your head

Harry Riley

The Vision – The Angel of Mons

A respected recitalist, Peter Summers graduated from the Guildhall School of Music, London, where he won the School's major organ prize. Head of Music in two of Birmingham's largest schools, he combined these responsibilities with church positions in London, Lichfield and Stratford-upon-Avon.

Peter has broadcast on BBC Radio, entertained regularly at Blenheim Palace, and provided accompaniment at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. He enjoyed a brief sojourn as an 'Artist in Residence' in America before being awarded 'Organist Emeritus of Shakespeare's Church' in recognition of his outstanding service as Director of Music. He now freelances, primarily as a performer but also as an accompanist and specialist teacher.

For more information about Peter Summers please go to

They came, each summoned by the clarion call
That hereafter might yet become their tolling bell of effigy.
Each had come to defend freedom, a hope, a cause...
A country, threatened by evil catastrophe.  

Were we never so strong, never so vulnerable, never so unprepared? 
And yet, gladly we fought.  But at what cost, for what gain and at what price?
Every soldier’s wounded soul, made whole only by healing messages of love –
The muted hopes and dreams of dear ones left at home.

Obliteration, annihilation - war - call it what you will. 
Fighting for glory - a barbed-wire crown? 
And yet - many have trod this path,
Not knowing to what victory they aspired.
Our song of triumph deadened in the lingering mists of battlefield agony.
Never to be repeated? 

Did a vision once inspire us? 
Had God been on our side? 
Were there shining angels there to sound our victory? 
Or was it just a mirage, as the new day dawned at last?

Peter Summers

© Peter Summers 2011

For information about the Angel of Mons see

Home at Last

Tony Church, is former Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer.

This is his introduction to his poem.

“One of the sadnesses when I served in Cyprus and Aden was the fact that our servicemen who died on active service were buried in the theatre in which they fell.
I applaud the authorities for the policy of repatriation, and watching the news reports of the ceremonies at Lyneham and Wootton Bassett, felt moved to write these lines.”

Home at Last

He's home at last, a mother's son, a fine young man, his duty done,
Yet not for him the fond embrace, a loving kiss, a smiling face
Or cries of joy to laugh and cheer the safe return of one so dear,
It is his lot to show the world a soldiers fate as flags unfurl
And Standards lower in salutation, symbols of a grateful nation.

Sombre now, the drum beats low, as he is carried, gentle, so
As if not to disturb his rest, by comrades, three and three abreast
Who now, as quiet orders sound, they, one by one then move around
To place him in the carriage decked with flowers in calm and hushed respect,
Preparing for the sad, slow ride through silent crowds who wait outside.

So the warrior now returns to native soil and rightly earns
The great respect to one so young, though sadness stills the waiting throng,
While flowers strew the path he takes, as the carriage slowly makes
A final turning to allow the veterans standing there to show
The soldiers pride, a silent, mute, proud and respectful last salute.

Yet, while onlookers stand and see the simple, moving ceremony,
There is a home, a place somewhere, where sits a waiting, vacant chair,
And one great yawning empty space in someone's heart, no last embrace
To bid a final, fond farewell to one who will forever dwell
In love and cherished memory, a Husband, Son, eternally.

And we who see should not forget that in this soldier's final debt
And sacrifice for duty's sake, it is the loved ones who must take
The hurt, to bear as best they can, and face a future lesser than
The one they dreamed in bygone years, now to regard with bitter tears,
Reflecting, as time intervenes, on thoughts of how it might have been.

But in their grief there's quiet pride that loved ones bravely fought and died
Believing in a worthy goal which helps give solace, and consoles
By knowing that the loss they bear is shared by all our peoples where
In gratitude, their names will be forever honoured, guaranteed
To be remembered and enshrined, beyond the shifting sands of time.

Tony Church

Tony Church's military background
"I ended my 12 years of military service on my return from Aden in 1966.
I joined the Army Apprentices in 1955 serving a three year apprenticeship, being transferred into the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers to serve a further nine years with the Colours and three in the Reserve.
I now write the occasional verse and post on the website of the Arborfield Old BoysAssociation.
One of my contemporaries (with my permission) published a number of my verses under the title of "TeeCee's Arborfield Odes" - obviously of only limited appeal!
Now residing in Titchfield, Hants, overlooking the Isle of Wight."

Sunset Vigil

The news is spread far and wide
Another comrade has sadly died
A sunset vigil upon the sand
As a soldier leaves this foreign land

We stand alone, and yet as one
In the fading light of a setting sun
We’ve all gathered to say goodbye
To our fallen comrade who’s set to fly

The eulogy’s read about their life
Sometimes with words from pals or wife
We all know when the CO’s done
What kind of soldier they’d become 

The padre then calls us all to pray
The bugler has Last Post to play
The cannon roars and belches flame
We will recall, with pride, their name

A minute’s silence stood in place
As tears roll down the hardest face
deafening silence fills the air
With each of us in personal prayer

Reveille sounds and the parade is done
The hero remembered, forgotten by none
They leave to start the journey back
In a coffin draped in the Union Jack

Sgt Andy McFarlane, 2009.

I do not know your name

I do not know your name, but I know you died
I do not know from where you came, but I know you died
Your uniform, branch of service, it matters not to me
Whether Volunteer or Conscript, or how it came to be
That politicians' failures, or some power-mad ambition
Brought you too soon to your death, in the name of any nation

You saw, you felt, you knew full well, as friend and foe were taken
By bloody death, that your life too, was forfeit and forsaken
Yet on you went and fought and died, in your close and private hell
For Mate or Pal or Regiment and memories never to tell

It was for each other, through shot and shell, the madness you endured
Side by side, through wound and pain, and comradeship assured
No family ties, or bloodline link, could match that bond of friend
Who shared the horror and kept on going, at last until the end

We cannot know, we were not there, it's beyond our comprehension
To know the toll that battle brings, of resolute intention
To carry on, day by day, for all you loved and hoped for
To live in peace a happy life, away from bloody war

For far too many, no long life ahead, free of struggle and pain and the gun
And we must remember the price that was paid, by each and every one
Regardless of views, opinions aside, no matter how each of us sees it
They were there and I cannot forget, even though I did not live it

I do not know your name, but I know you died
I do not know from where you came, but I know you died.

Kenny Martin
© 2003 

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The Crosses
I stood there before the crosses
glowing white in row on row
Everyone a young life cut short
as the names upon them show.

The dates they died below the names
tell of wars now past and gone
Passchendaele, the Somme, and Mons
of battles fought, and lost or won.

History remembers, as it should
these men who fought and died
Whilst for their families left behind
a dull sorrow tinged with pride.

The faces of boys held now in Sepia
who died in days long gone
yet living on in memories
and hearts, still holding on.

Yet despite the hurt and grief here
what with horror makes me fill
Is that when I look behind me
there are more new crosses growing still.

Bill Mitton

Remembrance Day

The annual poppy symbols flaunt
Perennial sorrow;
Gratitude pride will not vaunt

I leave the cenotaph,
The unctuous adulation of the cleric;
I crave sea-silences, to laugh,
Or to be sick!

Here, between tide and tide,
In the place of dead men's bones,
Here, where the grey gulls glide
And the wind moans;

With weed-cerements, green bands,
In pools of the ebb-tide flow,
With froth of spume on wetted sands
Like snow.

Drift-water, reveal the wrack
And the wreckage of wars;
Outward go, then, inevitably back,
While I pause

To remember them, laughing, young,
Remember the tales they told,
The lewd jokes, the songs that were sung,
Of old.

To remember the pubs, the dances, the drink,
(Left, but a little time),
The women, seduced with a wink
And a gin and lime!

To recall the clean, boy-faces, so resigned
On embarkation day;
The saddened girls whom they left behind
In the family way!

But not the blood of battles, the stench,
And the screaming fears;
Not the grovelling down in a shallow trench,
Or the tears;

Nor even the sight of the steel-torn guts
And the mangled limbs....
Nor the Church Parade behind Nissen huts*
Singing hymns;

And how they prayed as the Padre prayed
For the Proven Cause;
Proud, perhaps, of the part they played....
And I pause

Here, with the spume-flecked waves
Of the endless tide,
To forget the rows of regimented graves
Where brave men died.

Namur King

*Nissen huts - corrugated iron clad huts widely used by the army in Second World War. Quonset huts (in US).

NAMUR KING 1915-68
NAMUR KING was born in Blackwood (South Wales) on the day British Army won the battle at the Belgian town of Namur. Hence the name. (5 of his brothers all named John had previously died of TB.)
In 1939, at 24 years old, he volunteered for the British Expeditionary Force to France. he saw action as dispatch rider and driver, coming under enemy fire. He was evacuated at Dunkirk.
Subsequently he was stationed in the Falkland Islands, as S. America was under threat of Japanese attack.

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 Memories of past times

See me march past with the others who remember,
But not with my legs do I pound the parade pathway
Wheeled am I for I am old
But the memories do not die as my comrades did

Little Tommy Tomkins the London Cockney Sparrow
Died when his head got blown off
And I saw it roll towards me
And I froze, and then I ran

Nobbie Clark always up with the lark
Died in a mortar attack
There was nothing left to send home
So they sent back anyone’s to keep the widow’s memories

The list goes on and here am I alive
When I should be with them
A forgotten body in a Flanders field
Yet here I am

I am the record keeper of the Great War
A war to end all wars they told us
But on they rage like an unchained animal that has tasted human blood
But not mine

I ask myself why not me
And then one day an answer
"Keep these memories and pass them on
That the young may learn and remember"

So here I am being wheeled again
Past the memories of a nation
And I remember Tommy and Nobby
Because nobody else alive does

Ann-Marie Spittle

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To the few

Heads bent solemnly in remembrance
As the prayers of thanks are read
Those here have walked the byways of the dead
And have brought tales for the young
That death may not visit them so easily
Seas of faces that should be so much more
Line the walkway of the monarch
Who has stood with them since youth
And still stands now
As they do
Hymns lace the air
And many fly with the notes
Scenes pass before their eyes for a moment
Then are gone
As they pull themselves forward to the now
As the last post echoes through the hills
Of lands that have been torn, or part of war
And the tears roll out of the buglers mouth
And join the tracks on the faces of the few
And then silence

Silent contemplation

Then reveille
And the remembrance that life follows death
And will for all time

But not all is black this day
For happy times are shared
Of battles fought
And friends met once again
Who many thought had gone long ago

Songs of their time are re-enacted
And Churchill lives again through the actors art
And many return to those speeches
And remember their resolve in those dark days

Fluttering butterfly wings of banners
Carried by those once arthritic
Have made the final push to stand and be counted
Marching to the songs of their lands
Men stand to see them pass
Though regiments that held their names
Have gone into histories archives

Then the march to end all marches
As the warriors of old give it their all
As if their youth had revisited them
And the streets are lined with the grateful
And those who came for their own reasons
And the waves follow them
Lapping gently at their heels
Until every space is filled outside the place of Royalty
And then the beast of war awakens
And flies over as it did in the days of need
Red petals cascade upon the watchers
And a nations heart opens
Filling the air
And says thank you

Ann-Marie Spittle

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Do you know?

When darkness comes
And with it the shadows of the dead
Do you know?
When battles fought fly around my head
Do you know?
When you speak with an acid tongue
And tell me I was wrong
Do you know the price we paid
In the jungles of Vietnam?

No sit there in your easy chair
And dream your dreams of comfort
Do not break your narrow view
Or try to see from my side
For you break into fears sweat
If your welfare check’s to late
Or someone knocks upon your door
When its getting to way past eight

You judge me without knowing
And that is no judge at all
For experience tells the adult
What the young do not yet know
Just give me one small ounce of feeling
As a parent to a child
And hug me as my heart is breaking
Right here deep inside

I suffered more than you can know
In that dark leafed place
Where death walked side by side with me
And often showed his face
Some days I did not know if I
Was ever coming home
And then I’m faced with acid rain
From you when I come home

I fought because I’m a soldier
And a warriors hearts beats within me
You comfort lover would not understand this
So I retreat
But know this when you finally see
Before your last breath leaves you cold
That all I wanted was your love
And not a heart of stone

Ann-Marie Spittle

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Some Corner of a Foreign Field

We read the books, we watch the movies; read newspapers... maybe write
a line or so, of poetry; or watch on TV, any night
something, somewhere, of some War... the Media Circus, we all know;
but, to see the cost; then to the North of England, you should go.
For you can pick up any map, choose any town or village there,
and should you travel to that place, then you are quickly made aware
of what War really is about... for each place has its own Stone Cross...
The War Memorial; all closely carved with the Communal loss
of a Generation... all the young men from close-cobbled lanes,
who volunteered to fight for King and Country... few came home again.
Grandfather said Recruiting Sergeants travelled round the local pubs,
patriotic fervour... whipping up, in Alehouses and Clubs.
Perhaps, in tow... some floozy from some Music Hall, who danced and sang,
drawing in the young men, with the... "Come on boys, prove you're a Man.
Come and take the King's Shilling... sign upon the dotted line.
All your pals are joining up. Don't be scared, you'll be just fine!"
And "Pals," then, was the fateful word... some fool in Whitehall hatched a plan
to keep the men from each place, all together in a close-knit band;
called "The Pals Battalions," who would fight together... side by side;
not for comradeship... more fear of shaming in each others eyes.
And the young men flooded in; perhaps, to escape drudgery
of Dark, Satanic Mills, Pin Factories or Blistering Iron Foundries.
"By Christmas, it will all be over"... but, so little, did they know,
and, in their hundreds, they signed up, a'soldiering in France, to go.
But, as they marched out of their villages and towns, to cheering crowds,
with flags and bunting gaily waving... old men turned, and said out loud
to each other, shaking heads... no good at all, would come of this;
for in a charge, the Boche could wipe the village out... they could not miss.
And, it was not for nothing, they decried this Military travesty,
for these old men had fought the Boers, and quelled the Indian Mutiny.
Knowing then, what modern weaponry could do to flesh and bone;
knowing that the General Staff were so remote, and quite alone
in their belief that Flanders could be fought, the same as Waterloo;
"Lions led by Donkeys" is the phrase Historians use... how true.
The truth is this... forget TV, and what is on the Silver Screen;
forget the faded photographs, for none of this is what it seems.
Forget the grainy film of "No Mans' Land," and "Going over the Top"...
all filmed at home, on Salisbury Plain... a truthless, propaganda sop
fed to the public in the Picture Palaces, to boost morale,
coercing them to buy War Bonds... concealing truth about "The Pals."
For, "Going over the Top" was very close to orderly suicide...
bayonets fixed, all waiting for the whistle, standing side by side.
Then, the scramble from the trench... and walking forwards, steadily
into "No Mans' Land"... the tangled barbed wire... and Eternity.
Shoulder then, to shoulder; trudging on towards the German wire,
and, shoulder then, to shoulder; swift, mown down, by vicious, withering fire
from machine guns, well dug in, all along the parapet
of the German Front line trench... how could they run that lead gauntlet?
July, the first,1916... the bloody first day of the Somme.
The Accrington Pals, strength seven hundred; close, six hundred dead and gone.
So, too; the Leeds Pals, strength nine hundred... above three quarters cut to shreds,
repeated all along the Front... The Big Push... in which, it is said
The Flower of English youth was sacrificed that day, for an ideal;
innocence had died that day... traditional tactics proved unreal.
The cost?... the whistles shrilled at half-past seven on that sunny morn;
by 10 o'clock... the British losses... fifty-two thousand men were gone.
Most of those within the first hour, whole platoons of Pals cut down;
killed or wounded, out in No Man's Land... for a few yards of ground.
And, at the closing of the day, the Pals Battalions, all, were gone;
sixty thousand men were lost, that bloody First day on the Somme.
And, through the Northern towns and villages, the church bells tolled forlorn,
for days...
in Accrington and Barnsley, Bradford, Leeds... they all were gone.
Brothers, cousins, workmates, friends, in the same factories, pits, or mills,
who often lived in the same street, had gone to the same school, and still
had courted the same sweethearts, or by marriage, were related too;
the Pals, the Chums... so thickly then, their corpses, Flanders Fields, bestrew.
Scarce a household left untouched... scarce a house, no curtains drawn;
smoky, cobbled streets all shrouded, silent... grief, so bravely borne.
All together, tied by bonds of local pride, they marched away,
all together, bonded now, in Death... in Flanders Field, they lay.
The Great War, called "The War to end all Wars"... the facile arrogance
of Politicians, who saw nothing of the carnage there, in France
and Belgium...
and, there have been many conflicts since, more bloody war,
have we not learned a thing, these years?
Is it not time we cried, "No More?"
For if the Politicians had to fight... then, would there still be Wars?
Somehow, l don't think so... for them, the cure would be worse, than the cause.
lf you ever chance to visit Northern England, just seek out
the Local War Memorial; count the family names... if you should doubt.
See there, the Flower of a Generation squandered, out of hand...
sometimes, still... the echoes ripple through this green, and pleasant land.
Every family in the North was touched by that day, it is said,
in some way or another... someone missing, someone maimed... or dead.
For every nine sent out in No Man's Land, five casualties went down,
and of those five, a third were killed... or nothing of them, ever found.
A Husband, Son, or Brother; Cousin, Friend, or Lover, lost that day;
no-one imagined this, as they stood, cheering them upon their way,
back then, down the same cobbled streets; with curtains drawn now, silently;
all round the smoky, terraced houses, grief now hanging, heavily.
A loss that almost robbed a Nation of its future... such a debt
yet owed to those who still sleep, lost
in Flanders Field...

Lest We Forget.

David Mace, 2008

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I went to see the soldiers

I went to see the soldiers, row on row on row,
And wondered about each so still, their badges all on show.
What brought them here, what life before
Was like for each of them?
What made them angry, laugh, or cry,

These soldiers, boys and men.
Some so young, some older still, a bond more close than brothers
These men have earned and shared a love, that's not like any others
They trained as one, they fought as one
They shared their last together
That bond endures, that love is true
And will be, now and ever.
I could not know, how could I guess, what choices each had made,
Of how they came to soldiering, what part each one had played?
But here they are and here they'll stay,
Each one silent and in place,
Their headstones line up row on row
They guard this hallowed place.

Kenny Martin
© 2003 

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