Commemorations

No Barriers

No Barriers: In the Wake
A Game of Two Halves

First Half

So much of our language and discourse,
So many of our idioms and metaphors,
Have their provenance in our imperial past,
A maritime, sea faring history
(Slavery and buccaneers too),
The littoral not literal but figurative:
Figurehead, in the wake, becalmed, in the doldrums,
Above board, cut of one’s jib, even keel, foul up,
First rate, go overboard, groundswell, know the ropes,
Keelhauled, not enough room to swing a cat,
Overwhelm, pipe down, taken aback, take the wind out of your sails,
Three sheets to the wind, tide over, toe the line, true colours,
Try a different tack, under the weather,
Warning shot across the bow,
Windfall …

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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;

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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.”

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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?’

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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:

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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;

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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.

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