FGR and WWI Memorials

I pedalled through snowdrops and birdsong,
To the two war memorials in Woodchester,
Then bicycled past umpteen old cloth mills,
River liquid light all along my way,
To Nailsworth, Avening, Minchinhampton and Amberley,
With long barrows and a standing stone for company;
On through Shortwood, Tickmorend and Downend,
To Horsley
(A memorial just by the church, the bus stop and the school),
Before descending through Ruskin Mill’s sluice-scape,
A heron pointing my way back to Nailsworth,
Just before the rain came in, on a mid-day westerly breeze.
My next trip meant the number 35 bus,
A two pound forty single delight,
Gazing at the wood anemone by the roadside,
A palimpsest of ancient woodland by this main road,
Traveling by bus on what was once a prehistoric track,
That once made its way under a gloomy canopy,
But now tarmacadam speeds south of the Cotswold scarp –
But I was on my way to Nympsfield’s war memorial,
Just by the shadowed wall of the Old Chapel,
A crucifix, refashioned from one found on the Somme,
And brought back to this Catholic village in 1917;

I pedalled through snowdrops and birdsong,
To the two war memorials in Woodchester,
Then bicycled past umpteen old cloth mills,
River liquid light all along my way,
To Nailsworth, Avening, Minchinhampton and Amberley,
With long barrows and a standing stone for company;
On through Shortwood, Tickmorend and Downend,
To Horsley
(A memorial just by the church, the bus stop and the school),
Before descending through Ruskin Mill’s sluice-scape,
A heron pointing my way back to Nailsworth,
Just before the rain came in, on a mid-day westerly breeze.
My next trip meant the number 35 bus,
A two pound forty single delight,
Gazing at the wood anemone by the roadside,
A palimpsest of ancient woodland by this main road,
Traveling by bus on what was once a prehistoric track,
That once made its way under a gloomy canopy,
But now tarmacadam speeds south of the Cotswold scarp -
But I was on my way to Nympsfield’s war memorial,
Just by the shadowed wall of the Old Chapel,
A crucifix, refashioned from one found on the Somme,
And brought back to this Catholic village in 1917; read more

The Stroud Valleys, Nailsworth and the Great War

They were summoned from the hillside,
They were called in from the glen,
And the country found them ready
At the stirring call for men.
Let no tears add to their hardship,
As the soldiers pass along,
And although your heart is breaking
Make it sing this cheery song:
Keep the home fires burning
While your hearts are yearning,
Though the lads are far away,
They dream of home.
There’s a silver lining,
Through the dark clouds shining,
Turn the dark cloud inside out,
Till the boys come home.

1914 August

“On it becoming known that the mobilisation of the Territorial Forces was expected great excitement prevailed in Stroud. Holiday makers gathered in groups round the Post Office…Until a late hour on Wednesday the streets of Stroud continued in an animated state, groups of people gathering in the busier parts of the town, eagerly discussing the latest news. The evening papers were snatched up as soon as they were on the streets.”

They were summoned from the hillside,
They were called in from the glen,
And the country found them ready
At the stirring call for men.
Let no tears add to their hardship,
As the soldiers pass along,
And although your heart is breaking
Make it sing this cheery song:
Keep the home fires burning
While your hearts are yearning,
Though the lads are far away,
They dream of home.
There's a silver lining,
Through the dark clouds shining,
Turn the dark cloud inside out,
Till the boys come home.

1914 August

“On it becoming known that the mobilisation of the Territorial Forces was expected great excitement prevailed in Stroud. Holiday makers gathered in groups round the Post Office…Until a late hour on Wednesday the streets of Stroud continued in an animated state, groups of people gathering in the busier parts of the town, eagerly discussing the latest news. The evening papers were snatched up as soon as they were on the streets.”
read more

An FGR and Walter Tull Declamation

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,
‘Shoot, Ernie’;

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’,
‘Where’s Walter?’

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,
‘Shoot, Ernie’;

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’,
‘Where’s Walter?’

read more

A Swindon Town FC and Walter Tull Declamation

Let the living answer the roll call of the dead:
Walter Tull of Spurs and Northampton Town KIA 1918;

And now the names of the Robins:
Billy Brewer KIA 1914
Jim Chalmers KIA 1915
Ted Murphy died of head wounds 1916
Billy Kirby KIA 1917
Albert Milton KIA 1917

Arthur Beadsworth KIA 1917

Freddy Wheatcroft KIA1917

Names from another century come back to haunt us:
Walter, Billy, Jim, Ted, Billy, Albert, Arthur, Freddy,
Names once shouted over a football pitch,
‘Give it to Walter’,
‘Over here, Freddie,
‘Shoot, Billy’;

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:

Let the living answer the roll call of the dead:
Walter Tull of Spurs and Northampton Town KIA 1918;

And now the names of the Robins:
Billy Brewer KIA 1914
Jim Chalmers KIA 1915
Ted Murphy died of head wounds 1916
Billy Kirby KIA 1917
Albert Milton KIA 1917

Arthur Beadsworth KIA 1917

Freddy Wheatcroft KIA1917

Names from another century come back to haunt us:
Walter, Billy, Jim, Ted, Billy, Albert, Arthur, Freddy,
Names once shouted over a football pitch,
‘Give it to Walter’,
‘Over here, Freddie,
‘Shoot, Billy’;

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:

read more

The Famous Five, Windrush, Walter Tull and Enoch Powell

The Famous Five and Enoch Powell and Walter Tull

What an extraordinary coincidence,
That on the fiftieth anniversary
Of Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech,
Our railway stations should be awash
With ‘Five Go on Holiday’ GWR posters;
Four children – well adults really – and a dog,
Escaping to a whitewashed cottage,
In a West Country all white fastness,
Where BBC received pronunciation,
Snobbish condescension,
And lower class deference
Keep everyone in their place,
Abetted by kindly constables on the beat,
Who will willingly tell you the time.

The Famous Five and Enoch Powell and Walter Tull

What an extraordinary coincidence,
That on the fiftieth anniversary
Of Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech,
Our railway stations should be awash
With ‘Five Go on Holiday’ GWR posters;
Four children – well adults really – and a dog,
Escaping to a whitewashed cottage,
In a West Country all white fastness,
Where BBC received pronunciation,
Snobbish condescension,
And lower class deference
Keep everyone in their place,
Abetted by kindly constables on the beat,
Who will willingly tell you the time.

read more

Inprint Eulogy

The Inprint shop and building in the High Street in Stroud,
Resembles nothing so much as something out of Dickens,
An Old Curiosity Shop,
Defying straight lines of logic:
A seeming hexagonal structure,
With Wemmick-like turrets at the top;
The shop doorway on the corner at an angle,
With a fading palimpsest gable end advertisement
For something delicious and ‘home made’,
And a mysterious door numbered 31a,
That might – or might not- take us up flights of stairs,
Past so many Great Expectations,
And so to Mr. Wemmick’s castle up on high.

But far better than such an ascension,
Let us examine the shop windows:
Displays that follow the high ideals of public broadcasting,
Spectacles of books and comics and posters and maps,
All artfully and painstakingly arranged,
A tableau of colour and half-remembered past time,
A street mis en scene that arrests the eye,
And one which informs, educates and entertains,
A business that improves the mind of the passer-by,
As well as tempting the bibliophile;

The Inprint shop and building in the High Street in Stroud,
Resembles nothing so much as something out of Dickens,
An Old Curiosity Shop,
Defying straight lines of logic:
A seeming hexagonal structure,
With Wemmick-like turrets at the top;
The shop doorway on the corner at an angle,
With a fading palimpsest gable end advertisement
For something delicious and ‘home made’,
And a mysterious door numbered 31a,
That might – or might not- take us up flights of stairs,
Past so many Great Expectations,
And so to Mr. Wemmick’s castle up on high.

But far better than such an ascension,
Let us examine the shop windows:
Displays that follow the high ideals of public broadcasting,
Spectacles of books and comics and posters and maps,
All artfully and painstakingly arranged,
A tableau of colour and half-remembered past time,
A street mis en scene that arrests the eye,
And one which informs, educates and entertains,
A business that improves the mind of the passer-by,
As well as tempting the bibliophile;

read more

Kindertransport

Remembering

You were a deep mid-winter baby, Harry,
Born in Vienna, the home of art and culture,
Just two years after Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch.

But there was nothing to worry about
In those early years before memory,
When your mum and dad held you in their arms,
In mid-winter afternoon twilight –

Until the Wall Street Crash and depression
Meant the resurgence of fascism,
Militarism, the Third Reich,
Lebensraum, and a Greater Germany,
With a visit to Vienna from Hitler
(The city-birth of his fascism),
After Anschluss in 1938;

Remembering

You were a deep mid-winter baby, Harry,
Born in Vienna, the home of art and culture,
Just two years after Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch.

But there was nothing to worry about
In those early years before memory,
When your mum and dad held you in their arms,
In mid-winter afternoon twilight –

Until the Wall Street Crash and depression
Meant the resurgence of fascism,
Militarism, the Third Reich,
Lebensraum, and a Greater Germany,
With a visit to Vienna from Hitler
(The city-birth of his fascism),
After Anschluss in 1938;

read more

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

It came upon a midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
When angels bent down to the earth,
And changed machine guns into harps,
And turned leaden bullets into golden carols
That drifted across no man’s land,
And choirs of soldiers joined the angels
In a cease-fire of exultation,
While all the bloodied uniformed citizens
Of heaven above watched as silent knights,
As helmets and caps and whisky and schnapps
Were passed from frozen side to frozen side,
When a Tommy kicked a football up into the air,
And there it stayed, suspended high up in the sky,
Shining for ever in a continent’s memory;
A star of peace in a bleak midwinter’s century.

It came upon a midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
When angels bent down to the earth,
And changed machine guns into harps,
And turned leaden bullets into golden carols
That drifted across no man’s land,
And choirs of soldiers joined the angels
In a cease-fire of exultation,
While all the bloodied uniformed citizens
Of heaven above watched as silent knights,
As helmets and caps and whisky and schnapps
Were passed from frozen side to frozen side,
When a Tommy kicked a football up into the air,
And there it stayed, suspended high up in the sky,
Shining for ever in a continent’s memory;
A star of peace in a bleak midwinter’s century.

read more

North and South

There, on the one hand, St. Pancras and Paris;
And there, on the other, Kings Cross:
Gateway to the LNER,
And night mails crossing the border,

And gateway to a world we have lost:
Pit heads and winding gear, tram-roads and collieries,
And curling smoke chimney stacks:
The world of the North,

The canvas telling the truth,
Up there in the Mining Art Gallery,
At Bishop Auckland:

A terrible beauty down there in the dark depths,
And a beautiful harmony up there in the streets
And homes and chapels and clubs and pubs:
The stippled mist-light of the pit village,
The twisted sinews in the eighteen inch seam,
Ears keening with the creak of each pit prop,
The mind tracking the echo of dripping water,
And the whisper of each rock –

There, on the one hand, St. Pancras and Paris;
And there, on the other, Kings Cross:
Gateway to the LNER,
And night mails crossing the border,

And gateway to a world we have lost:
Pit heads and winding gear, tram-roads and collieries,
And curling smoke chimney stacks:
The world of the North,

The canvas telling the truth,
Up there in the Mining Art Gallery,
At Bishop Auckland:

A terrible beauty down there in the dark depths,
And a beautiful harmony up there in the streets
And homes and chapels and clubs and pubs:
The stippled mist-light of the pit village,
The twisted sinews in the eighteen inch seam,
Ears keening with the creak of each pit prop,
The mind tracking the echo of dripping water,
And the whisper of each rock -

read more

A Lament for Dorothy and Archie

Each little river has a tale which, if understood, cannot fail
To edify the Human heart; mine’s of Lovers who’d not part:
Both loved Nature, read her runes and worshipped countless harvest moons.
He, a Minchinhampton Man – she the lanes of Burleigh ran,
Eager, passionate, enthralled to embrace her Archibald.
The stream that gushes into town on Hazel Woods, as hail, crashed down.
High on that ridge where sheep are shorn, a tiny rivulet was born.
It seeped through soil and chiselled stone, caressing sea-spawned Cotswold bone.
A weave of light like soft silk shook became a dancing, babbling brook.
Through Gatcombe Park the waters curled, then through its stately gardens swirled
To trace a spiral as they whirled past Longfords Mill.

Each little river has a tale which, if understood, cannot fail
To edify the Human heart; mine’s of Lovers who’d not part:
Both loved Nature, read her runes and worshipped countless harvest moons.
He, a Minchinhampton Man – she the lanes of Burleigh ran,
Eager, passionate, enthralled to embrace her Archibald.
The stream that gushes into town on Hazel Woods, as hail, crashed down.
High on that ridge where sheep are shorn, a tiny rivulet was born.
It seeped through soil and chiselled stone, caressing sea-spawned Cotswold bone.
A weave of light like soft silk shook became a dancing, babbling brook.
Through Gatcombe Park the waters curled, then through its stately gardens swirled
To trace a spiral as they whirled past Longfords Mill. read more