Let the living answer the roll call of the dead:
Walter Tull of Spurs and Northampton Town KIA 1918;
And now the names from Forest Green:
Harry Watts was born in 1891 in Avening.
Harry joined the 6th Signal Corps of the Royal Engineers
prior to outbreak of war and became a Corporal.
He received the Military Medal in 1915.
Ernest Beale was born in 1897.
He worked as a brass worker before joining up.
He died in 1916 at Exeter Hospital of meningitis.
Names from another century come back to haunt us:
Walter, and Ernest, and Harry,
Names once shouted over a football pitch,
‘Give it to Walter’,
‘Over here, Harry,
The imperatives of a football team
Replaced by new orders in khaki, with
Night patrols, barbed wire and machine guns;
Muddied football boots forgotten
In the trench foot fields of Flanders;
The clamour from the ground and stands
No match for whizz bangs, mortars and howitzers;
The fogs of a November match,
Innocent memories in a gas attack:
‘Over the top tomorrow, Harry’,
‘Keep your head down, Ernie’,
‘Stay quiet. Don’t shoot, Ernie’,
‘Don’t worry, Harry. We’ll get you to hospital’,
You may have known each other,
Played with or against each other,
Boarded ships and trains together,
Relieved each other in the trenches,
And who knows?
Some of the Nailsworth, Shortwood and Forest Green players
Who survived the war,
May have searched for your body, Walter,
Before and after your last breath and memories,
Memories of Spurs and Northampton,
And a grandmother who had been a slave,
And you, an officer now,
Revered and loved by his men,
Searching for you out there in no man’s land,
As you breathe your last breath,
In whatever corner of a foreign field,
Which will always be an England,
Where the wind rushes.
And, who knows?
They may have talked of you,
That fine footballer, officer and gentleman,
When gathering in the Jovial Forester,
Toasting you with Stroud Brewery beer,
But then forgetting you as times grew hard,
As the wind rushes by.
As the Wind Rushes by.