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First World War
poets and poetry

Minds at War
The classic poems of First World War, popular poems of the time, lesser known poets and a wealth of background material.

Illustrations include contemporary photographs.




Out in the Dark
Anthology of First World War poetry recommended for students and the general reader.

Illustrations include contemporary photographs.


Poetry about the Second World War


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March 2008

Reflections on war, 2007, 2008

When I created this page page it was at a time when I thought it would be a good idea to include reflections on war as well as poetry about ongoing war situations. I didn't follow through on this idea for very long but the "thoughts" may have a certain historical or philosophical interest.

David Roberts

Contemporary war poetry, etc 2007, 2008

Latest poems and news

Poems and thoughts of Graham Cordwell
Here comes Dr Plumber - John-George Nicholson
Sky News from the Garden of Eden -Gerard Rochford

Declaration - Gerard Rochford
Troopers - Curtis D Bennett

Mission accomplished - by Curt Bennett
Poems by ex-soldier "DL"
Last hope - by Frances Green
Dancing deer - by Marianne Griffin
Eternal soldier by Ann-Marie Spittle

War has no winners by Simon Icke
A blade of grass by Sankalp Patnaik
War and Silence by Jagannathan Viswanathan
Bienvenue by Sudeep Pagedar
Home for tea by Stephen Walshe

March 2008 update

Palestine/Israel

The situation in the Gaza Strip has been distressing for decades. Things took a massive turn for the worse when Israel, supported by the EU and others, decided to subvert the democratically elected government. 

Life in Gaza this Christmas is now quite beyond belief. See the report below and a bitter but tragically significant poem for Christmas by Felicity Currie.


Now, March 2008, Israel has invaded Gaza which they have kept under seige for many months. Many men women and children in this desperate population have been killed. Aid organisations say the plight of the people is more desperate than at any other time in the last forty years. 

The EU is committed to giving some relief to the Palestinians but is greatly involved in supporting Israel through an "association" agreement. The UK cannot act to put pressure on Israel by imposing trade sanctions because we are part of the EU and this part of our foreign policy is decided by the EU.
DR.

More poems

In Flanders Fields by John McCrae

A poem inspired by John McCrae's poem and events at Christmas 1914 - Christmas Truce 1914-2006 by Curtis D. Bennett

Poems by S J Robinson

A once popular poem of the First World War that has been long overlooked.

An interactive website about soldiers of the First World War.

Diners by John C Bird - a poem about Passchendaele

Comments/Reflections

Archbishop of Canterbury's comments on war - Thought for the month, December 2007.

 

Previous Thoughts for the month

War cemetery photograph, November 2007
War poetry and combat stress - Thought for the month, October.
Recent thoughts for the month start here

Lancaster bomber pilot interview
How John Lennon suffered for trying to oppose the Vietnam War
A story from The Guardian

 

Website well worth a visit: 
World-War-Pictures 

Featuring Posters, Photos, Poets and Artists from WWI and WWII.
www.world-war-pictures.com

 

 


Thoughts for the month, December 2007

Violence, Iraq, Britain, America, and the role of Christianity -
Extracts from comments made by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, which were reported in the Muslim magazine , Emel, (issue 39, dated December 2007)

"Whenever people turn to violence what they do is temporarily release themselves from some sort of problem but they help no one else.”

Speaking about Britain’s role in Iraq he said. “A lot of the pressure around the invasion of Iraq was ‘We’ve got to do something! Then we’ll feel better.’ That’s very dangerous.”

With regard to the Iraq war he says he wants to “keep before government and others the great question of how you can actually contribute to a responsible civil society in a context where you’ve undermined most of the foundations on which that society can be built.”

Referring to America he said, We have only one global hegemonic power at the moment. It is not accumulating territory. It is trying to accumulate influence and control. That’s not working.” He describes this as “the worst of all worlds. It is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering it and normalising it. It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put things back together –Iraq for example.”

He describes the role of Christianity as "revolutionary",  desiring to bring about "a new creation where our relations to each other are no longer mutually suspicious or exclusive or competitive, but entirely shaped by giving and receiving – building one another up by a community of transformed persons, not just by a new legal system."


Thought for the month, November 2007

Every November we remember the awful loss of life in war
and say "Never again".
This cemetery is near Arras in northern France and dates from the First World War

(Right click to copy photograph. Photo David Roberts, March 1995.)


Thought for the month, October 2007

Poetry and Combat Stress

(Combat stress is also known as: post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, and shell shock.)

In the First World War, when soldiers broke down, unable to carry on or cope with life military leaders at first condemned the soldiers for "lack of courage". Many were executed. (See the poem The Execution of Cornelius Vane, by Herbert Read which appears in the Minds at War anthology.) But it soon became apparent that even the bravest of men, when subjected to shocks and horrors of war, could crack up and need special care to help them to readjust to life and to be able to cope again. (For many recovery was only partial. Some never recovered.)
In Britain a specialist hospital was set up at Craiglockhart, Edinburgh - the Craiglockhart War Hospital. It was to this hospital that the greatest of British war poets, Wilfred Owen,  was sent in June 1917 for a period of four months. It was here that he began to write his best poems, continuing for just over a year till shortly before his death. (You can read more about his life on this website. See Wilfred Owen's Psychological Journey which is reproduced from Minds at War.) One of his poems, Mental Cases, describes the pitiful state of some soldiers he met in the hospital. This poem appears in both Minds at War and Out in the Dark.

Death, destruction, trauma was of an immensely greater order in the Second World War. Civilians suffered on a scale never before known to mankind. In Europe (most of Europe) and most of the rest of the world people turned against war and found peaceful co-existence a more satisfactory approach to life.

The Twentieth Century and into the Twenty-first century many unnecessary and terrible wars have continued. Civilians probably assume that soldiers who return home with no physical injuries or only minor injuries have returned home unharmed. This is often far from true. Sooner or late about half of all ex-servicemen and women will experience serious mental and emotional distress.

The ex-servicemen and their families all suffer. When things become desperate they often contact one of the organisations set up to help. In the UK the largest is Combat Stress which was established in 1919. Some 8000 service veterans  are registered with it.

27,000 service personnel took part in the Falklands war. 258 were killed. Twenty-five years on Combat Stress continues to care for 600 Falklands veterans.

Five years ago Combat Stress dealt with five hundred new cases. There has been a big increase in new cases since then and over a thousand new case are taken on a year now.

Many people who have experienced traumatic events, both in and out of war situations, have found that writing about their experiences helps them to come to terms with their experiences and often helps to release some of their torment. Some of them take to writing poetry, often to their own surprise.

You will find a number of poets on this website who have written about their experiences of war in this way. What value is this writing apart from the possible therapeutic effects for the writer? It seems to me that sharing the emotional burden somehow increases the sense of relief. For fellow sufferers it helps them to know that they are far from alone in their experiences. For those fortunate enough not to have endured traumatic experiences it should educate us to the nature of war when we seem too easily to downplay its importance. Wilfred Owen said, "All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true poet must be truthful."

So much of the power of Owen's poetry comes out the truth of his experience. The same power can be felt in many contemporary poems on this website. See, particularly, poems in the Falklands War pages, and new poems this month by Graham Cordwell.

I admire the courage of these writers and thank them for their willingness to share their thoughts and experiences with us.

Graham Cordwell would like us to draw attention to www.theabanddonedsoldier.com

Combat Stress can be visited at www.combatstress.org.uk

David Roberts.


Thought for the month, September 2007

"It isn't power that corrupts, but fear"  -  Aung San Su-Chi

This month saw the brutal crackdown by the Burmese government on  peaceful protesters. Thousands have been arrested and are believed to be being tortured. It is difficult to comprehend how people can commit such horrendous acts against fellow human beings. The leaders in Burma are clearly very frightened indeed of ordinary non-violent people


Thought for the month, August 2007

What has war done for the people of Iraq?

Poets on this website anticipated that the bombing of Iraq would cause a disaster. This it has proved to be. The situation in Iraq today is far worse than it was under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. This is clearly shown by an Oxfam report which came out at the end of July. The people of Iraq are living in a nightmare world of fear, violence, trauma and extreme deprivation. The following is a brief extract.

From the Oxfam Report, 30 July 2007

Rising to the humanitarian challenge in Iraq, Briefing Paper, July 2007

"While horrific violence dominates the lives of millions of ordinary people inside Iraq, another kind of crisis, also due to the impact of war, has been slowly unfolding. Up to eight million people are now in need of emergency assistance. This figure includes: four million people who are ‘food-insecure and in dire need of different types of humanitarian assistance’ more than two million displaced people inside Iraq over two million Iraqis in neighbouring countries, mainly Syria and Jordan, making this the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world. . .

This paper describes the humanitarian situation facing ordinary Iraqis and argues that, while violence and a failure to protect fundamental human rights pose the greatest problems, humanitarian needs such as food, shelter, water and sanitation must be given more attention. Although responding to those needs is extremely challenging, given the lack of security and of competent national institutions, Oxfam and the NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI) believe that more could be done. The government of Iraq could extend the distribution of food parcels, widen the coverage of emergency cash payments, decentralise decision-making and support civil society groups providing assistance. The international donors and UN agencies could intensify their efforts to coordinate, fund and deliver emergency aid. These measures will not transform the plight of Iraqis but they can help alleviate their suffering. . .

Iraqis are suffering from a growing lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation, health care, education, and employment. Of the four million Iraqis who are dependent on food assistance, only 60 per cent currently have access to rations through the government-run Public Distribution System (PDS), down from 96 per cent in 2004. Forty-three per cent of Iraqis suffer from ‘absolute poverty’. According to some estimates, over half the population are now without work. Children are hit the hardest by the decline in living standards. Child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 per cent before the US-led invasion in 2003 to 28 per cent now. The situation is particularly hard for families driven from their homes by violence. The two million internally displaced people (IDPs) have no incomes to rely on and are running out of coping mechanisms. In 2006, 32 per cent of IDPs had no access to PDS food rations, while 51 per cent reported receiving food rations only sometimes. The number of Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies has risen from 50 per cent to 70 per cent since 2003, while 80 per cent lack effective sanitation. The ‘brain drain’ that Iraq is experiencing is further stretching already inadequate public services, as thousands of medical staff, teachers, water engineers, and other professionals are forced to leave the country. At the end of 2006, perhaps 40 per cent had left already. The people of Iraq have a right, enshrined in international law, to material assistance that meets their humanitarian needs, and to protection, but this right is being neglected."

Emphasis added.

The full report should be able to be read at 
http://www.oxfam.org/en/policy/briefingpapers/bp105_humanitarian_
challenge_in_iraq_0707

We have had a problem with this link, but it did take us to the Oxfam website. Once you get there click on Policy Papers 2007.

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Thought for the month, July 2007

"War is always the worst option," Jacques Chirac, former soldier,
President of France, 1995-2007.


Thought for the month, June 2007
Israel calls for the abandonment of violence

The Six Day war took place forty years ago, from 5 to 10 June. Egypt had closed an essential Israeli waterway, the Strait of Tiran, and placed troops on the Sinai border. Israel made a lightning attack and destroyed the entire Egyptian air force, soon to be followed by the Syrian and Jordanian air forces.  Israel rapidly gained control of Palestinian territories: Jerusalem, Jordanian territory of the West Bank (of the river Jordan), the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula including the Gaza Strip.

This led to an increase in the persecution of the Palestinians by the Israelis which continues to the present day. Of course, both sides have endured terrible suffering but all the might is in the hands of the Israelis. Their ongoing treatment of the Palestinians is an outrage condemned by much of the world. The UN General assembly has time and again called on the Israelis to withdraw from Palestinian territories and return to the borders as they existed before the six day war.They refuse and talk of peace whilst taking more and more of Palestinian land, and bombing and kidnapping Palestinians, including elected Members of Parliament.

The Israelis, with the EU, Russia, the UK, the US and the UN demand that Hamas and its supporters in Palestine abandon violence.  This would be a good idea if  Israel, the US, EU, Britain and others would themselves also abandon violence.

We are privileged to have poems on this website by the distinguished Israeli poet, Elisha Porat (and transcripts of interviews with him), British Jewish poet, Felicity Currie, and  the young Palestinian/Iraqi/American poet, Farrah Sarafa.

David Roberts
www.warpoetry.co.uk website editor.

Poems on the Middle East, including poems by Elisha Porat and Farah Sarafa

Poems by Felicity Currie

Poems about the persecution of the Jews

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Thought for the month, May 2007
"War is the opposite of civilisation," Michael Longley, Irish poet.


Thought for the month, April 2007
The month saw the twenty-fifth anniversary of the start of the Falklands war. On 2 April 1982  Argentine troops invaded the Falkland Islands in the far south Atlantic, off the coast of Argentina. This land had been held by the British for over a hundred years. By the time the war finished, on 14 June 1982, when the Argentine troops surrendered, 254 British servicemen and 750 Argentine servicemen had been killed.

Many were maimed, and many returned home emotionally scarred for life. Something of what the troops experienced and how they are still affected by this war can be read on this web site in a remarkable series of poems by  James Love and Anthony McNally. Not to be forgotten are the families of men who served in the Falklands. See the poem by Cesca M Croft for her lasting experiences.

The poor Argentinean conscripts no doubt suffered in a similar way, but they did not return home to heroes' welcomes. According to a BBC radio programme this month, they received little support or comfort on their return. An exceptional number of them committed suicide. We have no poems about their experiences.

The war was popular in Britain. It was a war of defence. Was there an alternative? Should the islands and their inhabitants have been abandoned?

David Roberts
www.warpoetry.co.uk website editor.

See  The Falklands War including poems by James Love,

Falklands War Poetry including poems by Anthony McNally,  also Northern Ireland,

Poems by  Cesca M. Croft,  

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Thought for the month, March 2007
(Intended to be a monthly comment on war poetry, or war or peace)

It is four years this month since the invasion of Iraq. From web sites (15.2.07) the losses include

655,000 Iraqi dead
3,168 American dead
133 British dead
23,677 Americans seriously injured (US wounded and air-transported 32,544).

(from www.stopwar.org.uk and links)

David Roberts
Editor, www.warpoetry.co.uk


Thought for the month, February 2007

Victory in Iraq?

Many of us will remember the occasion when President Bush arrived on an aircraft carrier to declare victory. He is still talking about achieving victory in Iraq. What can victory mean to him or the Iraqi or American people? On his own terms victory might mean achieving what the mission set out to accomplish.

  • The main reason for the attack on Iraq was that Iraq (one of the militarily weakest countries in the world) was a threat to the US, Britain and the world. - It was not. There was no danger to remove. The task was accomplished before the war was started.
  • Another reason for the attack was to remove the ultra-dangerous weapons of mass destruction which we were told were definitely there. The CIA's intelligence and satellite photographs proved this. - How could they be so wrong? The task was accomplished before the war was started.
  • Also to "rid the world of an evil tyrant". This evil tyrant (who was indeed evil) ran a country far more free and secure and civilised than the present hell on earth that the Iraq war has brought about. The evil that has been unleashed is worse than the evil that was removed.
  • Another purpose was to bring peace and democracy. Is relentles violence the way to introduce peace and democracy into a country. This war suggests that the approach was wrong. The war was not the result of a democratic invitation from the people of Iraq. War is not peace.

The words are all wrong, just as the thinking was and is all wrong. How can you talk of victory if you are trying to bring peace and democracy? What victory is President Bush actually seeking?

Which leads me to suggesting that readers take a look at a poem written some time ago by our most prolific contributor, Curtis Bennett, the featured poem for February 2007, Mission Accomplished.

David Roberts
Editor, www.warpoetry.co.uk


Thought for the month, January 2007
Almost all countries manage without being in armed conflict with others. I hope Britain, America, Israel and other nations inclined to aggression abandon such policies and  adopt the way of solving international disputes permitted under international law and the Charter of the United Nations: negotiation.
DR.

 

A new interactive website about soldiers of the First World War

An announcement from J. Gill, County Archivist:
Durham County Record Office is pleased to announce that its latest addition to the Learning Zone, 'Life and Death as a Soldier in WWI', is now live. The url is :

http://www.durham.gov.uk/RecordOffice/usp.nsf/pws/durham+record+office+-+the+learning+zone

DR

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Recently arrived

On Returning Home

(Written whilst on leave, after completing a UN tour in Bosnia, 1993. More information about the author after the poem.)


Christmas is happening,
All around, people laugh, play,
Shop, looking for nice things to give,
The world hasn’t changed,
It’s all as it was before,
Happy, carefree people,
You go about your lives.
If bliss is caused by ignorance,
We are one blissful nation.

You pass me in the street,
As you hurry to buy your presents,
Gifts that cost you dear,
But have only weeks of value
For those who will receive them.
You pass me by, you see another happy shopper,
One of your own, nothing unusual.
Yet only I know where I’ve been;
Only I know what I’ve seen.

Last week I was watching,
Last week I was a witness,
A witness to the worst that man can do,
A house, a home for a happy family,
Merely wanting to live a pleasant life,
Now burned into charred flesh and ashes,
All killed, all slaughtered, all destroyed,
Last week, I saw this,
Just last week.

Still you all shop,
Spending your money, carefree,
Untouched by war, this land of peace
For fifty years, this land unburned.
Yet a few hours journey from where you consume with joy,
Hate consumes life with fire,
You know it’s happening,
It’s all on TV, yet to you, it’s a distant affair.
So far away.

Yet it isn’t so far, it’s here within me,
That distant image on your TV screen,
Etched into my battered soul.
While you walk beside me,
You don’t know what I’ve seen,
That I still smell the bodies,
While I shop, while I walk amongst you,
Emptiness in my heart, for all time.

DL
1993

DL - His military experience and life today

I spent nine years in total in the army, in the Royal Corps of Signals, as what the army calls a Communications Specialist (Electronic Warfare). Basically the Army's radio eavesdroppers.

I enlisted in 1989, when the world appeared (on the surface at least) a very peaceful place. I was only three months out of training when posted to Saudi Arabia one week after my 20th birthday. Since EW operators are rather thin on the ground, and signals intelligence is a vital role in any military operation, we tend to be amongst the first units deployed to any trouble spots. In the space of my ten years service, I served in (in chronological order) Germany, the Gulf , Bosnia under UN command in 1993, A 12 month tour in Northern Ireland in 1994-5,then back to Bosnia for six months with NATO in 1996. Finally a six month tour with the UN in Cyprus in 1998 before being injured in a training accident leading to my discharge on medical grounds late in 1998.

I started writing during my UN tour in Bosnia in 1993, writing about home to my family, mainly as a means of escape from the bitter conflict which surrounded us and the sheer frustration of the UN's rules of engagement, which had basically reduced front line combat troops to "body counters". I gradually began to write more about the events I was involved in, as a means of release (a very common occurrence I see with the other contributors to the warpoetry website). This has continued since then, and I'm currently engaged, (when I have the time in between working and raising a family) in writing a biographical account of the events of my life, mainly the damage that war can do to all it touches, and moving on into normal life.

DL, 2006.

More poems by DL have been posted below. Six poems by DL.
 


A modern poem which was inspired by a First World War poem

A poem and an historical event are behind this new poem. Readers familiar with the poetry of the First World War will know the poem by the Canadian, John McCrae, In Flanders Field. It appears in both anthologies mentioned opposite and is printed again below.

And if you are familiar with the history of the First World War will know of the remarkable events of Christmas 1914 when British and German troops stopped fighting and someone started to sing a Christmas carol. They came out of their trenches and started to chat, share cigarettes, cigars and jam, and sing songs together. They buried their dead too.

These two ideas are developed together in a new poem by Curt Bennett

 

First, the poem which inspired the new poem:

In Flanders Fields

By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

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.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
 

Christmas Truce (1914-2006)

 

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row

That mark their place; and in the sky

The larks, still sweetly singing, fly

Are heard without the guns below.

 

Here are the dead from years ago,

Where in crude trenches filled with snow,

They kept the watch o’re no-man’s land,

Their country called, they took its stand,

Here they will fight; here they will die.

          In Flanders fields.

 

On Christmas Eve through frozen sky,

Across the void where dead men lie,

Men’s voices sang the holy hymn,

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And Christmas magic filled the night

 

 

And in that fading, winter light,

Men lay down arms and stopped the fight.

They rose from trenches deep in mud

And walked the fields of dead and blood,

To greet the other, man to man.

 

As men, not soldiers, offered hands

To others born in foreign lands,

Where for the first time they could see,

The young men called the enemy.

They gather close to share a smoke.

 

They talk, they laugh, they share a joke.

As human beings, common folk

Their truce held all that Christmas day,

They buried dead men where they lay.

Too soon, that day drifts in to night,

 

They part in evening’s dusky light,

Return to trenches for the fight,

Too soon, the fragile truce will end,

Too soon, they’ll kill a newfound friend,

For winds of war blow cold and rage

          In Flander’s fields.


Their war is now a dusty page,

From ancient times, another age,

And through these many years they sleep,

With no more promises to keep.

Though poppies grow and larks still sing

In Flanders fields.

 

 

Curtis D. Bennett



Eternal Soldier

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


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He didn't have to do it. That's one reason he's still admired

The FBI campaign against John Lennon shows how far the state can go to deal with stars who refuse to toe the line 

Jon Wiener

Tuesday December 19, 2006

Article from The Guardian 

When the Dixie Chicks told an audience in London in 2003 that "We're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas", they set off a political storm in the US that echoed the treatment meted out to John Lennon 30 years earlier. They were talking about the Iraq war, while Lennon had been campaigning against the Vietnam war.

The Dixie Chicks got in trouble with rightwing talk radio. Boycotts followed, and lead singer Natalie Maines ended up publicly apologising to President Bush.

What happened to Lennon was of course worse. The turning point for the Beatles came with their 1966 US tour, when they first publicly criticised the war in Vietnam. As the decade wore on, Lennon was the target of increasingly aggressive media ridicule, especially when he began experimenting with new forms of political protest - such as declaring his honeymoon with Yoko Ono a "bed-in for peace".

In the next couple of years, establishment hostility turned nastier on both sides of the Atlantic, as the former Beatle embraced more serious radicalism, making common cause with Tariq Ali (then editor of the Marxist Red Mole). In 1971, Lennon joined a march in London against internment without trial in Northern Ireland and helped fund the republican cause. By the time he left for New York that autumn, the knives were out.

In the late 60s, Lennon had been busted for cannabis possession. He claimed it had been planted by the police, but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour charge. Within months of his joining the US anti-war movement and publicly attacking President Nixon, the US administration responded with deportation proceedings. Nixon claimed that Lennon had been ineligible for admission to the US because of the cannabis conviction in London, but everybody understood the deportation order was an attempt to silence him as a critic of the Vietnam war and the president.

Lennon's case illuminates the price pop stars and other celebrities can pay for taking controversial political stands - particularly when they oppose American wars. Every pop star needs a cause, but it has to be one that doesn't offend the powers-that-be - landmines, or hunger, or Aids in Africa. Lennon's example is almost unique. Charlie Chaplin was driven out of the US after being charged with communist sympathies at the height of the McCarthy era, but such examples are rare.

What exactly had Lennon done? It wasn't just singing Give Peace a Chance - it was when and where he sang it; 1972 was an election year, Nixon was running for re-election and the Vietnam war was the key issue. Lennon was talking to anti-war leaders about doing a tour that would combine rock music with anti-war organising and voter registration. That was the key, because it was the first year 18-year-olds had been given the right to vote. Young voters were assumed to be anti-war, but also known to be the least likely of all age groups to vote. Lennon and his friends hoped to do something about that. Nixon found out about the former Beatle's plans, and the deportation order followed.

The threat was effective. Lennon's lawyers told him to cool it and the tour never took place. Nixon won in a landslide, and the war in Vietnam went on for three more blood-soaked years. Lennon spent the next couple of years facing a 60-day order to leave the country, which his lawyers kept getting postponed.

The striking fact is that Lennon could have avoided all of this. He didn't have to campaign against Nixon. It didn't sell records or help his career. But Lennon wanted to use his power as a superstar to do something worthwhile. And the great issue of the day was the unjust and disastrous war in Vietnam.

In some ways Lennon was naive. When he moved to New York, he thought he was coming to the land of the free. He had little idea of the power of the state to come down on those it regarded as enemies. His claim that the FBI had him under surveillance was rejected as the fantasy of an egomaniac, but 300 pages of FBI files, released under freedom of information after his murder, show he was right. The FBI is still withholding 10 documents - which we hope will finally be released today - on the grounds that they contain "national security information provided by a foreign government": almost certainly MI5 documents on Lennon's radical days in London.

Lennon never apologised to the president. He fought back in court to overturn the deportation order. But in the year after Nixon's re-election, Lennon's personal life fell apart and his music deteriorated. In the end, Nixon resigned in disgrace after Watergate, and Lennon stayed in the US.

For 30 years the idea of a tour combining rock music and voter registration languished - until 2004, when a group of activist musicians organised an election-year concert tour of battleground states with a strategy very much like Lennon's. Headlining the Vote for Change tour were the Dixie Chicks.

For young people in 1972, it was thrilling to see Lennon's courage in standing up to Nixon. That willingness to take risks with his career, and his life, is one reason why people still admire him today.

· Jon Wiener is author of Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files, and served as historical consultant on the film The US v John Lennon, released last week

wiener@uci.edu

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A neglected First World War poet who was once very popular

Henry Chappell,  1874-1937

Introduced by Susan Sawyer

My great grand-father, Henry Chappell, was born in 1874 and died in 1937 aged of 63.

He became famous over night with his poem 'The Day' published in
the Daily Express on 22nd August 1914. It was translated into many languages.

He also had poems published in the Daily Express (I think) on a regular basis.

He became known as the 'Bath Railway Poet' as he was a porter on Bath Station. As far as I know he was never in the forces, but he turned down promotion to keep in contact with people as they were his 'inspiration'.

He had a book published in 1918 entitled 'The Day and Other Poems'. of which I have a copy. There are several copies for sale online at

http://www.abebooks.com/

He also wrote a book about the railway called 'Life on the Iron Road'. It seems that after the First World War he became forgotten.  The Daily Express must have many of his other poems in their archives. Also visit www.powell76.freeserve.co.uk as there is a poem of my great grandfather's on that site called A Soldier's Kiss.

Unofficially it was suggested he should became the new Poet Laureate. He was close friends with Rudyard Kipling and knew other famous poets of the time.

I feel he should have more recognition than he does at the moment,
recognition being practically nil. Here is the poem.

The Day

You boasted the Day, and you toasted the Day,
And now the Day has come.
Blasphemer, braggart and coward all,
Little you reck the numbing ball,
The blasting shell, or the "white arm's" fall,
As they speed poor humans home.

You spied for the Day, you lied the Day,
And woke the Day's red spleen.
Monster, who asked God's aid Divine,
Then strewed His seas with the ghastly mine;
Not all the waters of the Rhine
Can wash your foul hands clean.

You dreamed of  the Day, you schemed for the Day;
Watch how the Day will go!
Slayer of age and youth and prime
(Defenceless slain for never a crime)
You are steeped on blood as a hog in slime,
False friend and cowardly foe.

You have sown for the Day, you have grown the Day;
Yours is the harvest red.
Can you hear the groans and the awful cries?
Can you see the heap of slain that lies,
And the sightless turned to the flame-split skies
The glassy eyes of the dead?

You have wronged for the Day,  you have longed for the Day,
That lit the awful flame,
'Tis nothing to you that hill and plain
Yield sheaves of dead men amid the grain;
The widows mourn for loved ones slain,
And mothers curse your name.


But for the Day there's a price to pay,
For the sleepers under the sod,
And He and you have mocked for many a day-
Listen and hear what He has to say:
"Vengeance is mine, I will repay."
What can you say to God?

Henry Chappell,  1874-1937

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A blade of grass

Harassed greens across the land,
Trodden paths which played the band,
Shells of hell from air were manned.

A generation dwarfed, in body and mind,
to mother and child, the sound unkind,
roasted skin, a burnt night,
come ye' cannibals, have a bite.

Ego, suspicion, hatred and revenge,
fuel for manipulation and discontent,
show of strength, over the years,
tables now turned, face shamed with tears.

Low life expectancy, probability even still,
love extinguished, greens harassed,
trodden paths which played the band,
shells of hell from air was manned.

Charred face of Earth, no footsteps to hear,
a solitary blade of grass, in army gear,
ready to battle another shell,
before the day man unkind fell.

Flying bullets, deadly whispers,
wailing mothers, helpless lovers,
trampled and scorched, I have seen it all,
your only hope, now I stand tall.

Firm on my roots, a sense of duty,
get a sense of your roots, be firm on duty,
don't nip humanity of its bud,
water the seed, and revel in the blossom,

Just a blade of grass, I look up in the sky,
no sun, no water, why is mankind so dry?
wake up to the call, or burn below the lens,
pledge today to harvest human kindness.

Sankalp Patnaik


War and Silence
( Inspired by "Baghdad ER")

Before the war there are the vile taunts and howls of men

Who consider some of their brethren less than human

And want them removed from the face of the earth

They bay like wolves searching for prey

 

Then there is the unending threnody of death raining form the sky

Mortar Bombs, Artillery Shells, Napalm Bombs and Missiles

And sometimes even an earth shattering atom bomb

They screech and scream like the warning sirens

 

Is there silence in war?

Yes at the end for those who don’t survive cannot hear

And those who are alive are deafened by the sounds of war

You can say there is dead silence except for the ululation in the wake.

Jagannathan Viswanathan

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Bienvenue

I welcome you to this place,
this venue of Global Progress.
Here, shall the new be brought in and
the spent, old, discarded.
Welcome to this...civilisation.

You now standat the adit to a new generation:
a new breed of thought and deed.
More powerful than the ones before,
they do not follow the rules of 'logic'
Reason, instead, follows them and
is at their beck and call.
Very versatile, as can be seen:
One reason explains all!

You are welcome,to roam about and
explore all that we offer you.
Go on, go about,
play, jump, prance,
jump off that cliff;go on, take a chance.

Welcome, O' Mortals,to this
Brave New World.
It is now yours till,
of course,you maim, murder, kill;
Eventually destroy it.

Before this Brave New World,
we had a street on which we built our homes;
yes, homes, not houses.
So, we thought
back then.
Then,
one day, it all blew up and
as the fires died down,
as we went through the shattered remnants of
our past lives,we knew.
We knew that they were just...
houses.

Sudeep Pagedar

From Mumbai, India. Age 17 (2006)

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A tribute to the airman of the Second World War 

Home for tea

Overgrown runway

Broken down tower

Many have passed this way

And trodden down grass and flower

 

Many have left never to return

Some came back with injury unseen

Some came back with an ugly burn

Many came back with broken mind and body lean

 

Frightened minds in disarray

But still on they fought

Above the wild sea so grey

Under a heaven so fraught

 

Unknown foe in roaring machine

Must attack from overhead!

Out of the sun unseen

Fire! He’s hit! A fiery ball of red

 

Victory roll and casual wave

As over the field they roar

Engines growl and tyres scream

As into land they came

 

Hits reported, damage seen

"I saw him go down " Was the claim

Planes repaired, ready to go

To fight the Fight once again

 

This I feel and hear from my broken tower

As down I look at the runway overgrown with flower;

To reality I am returned

By a voice with eyes too young to see

"Grandpa, can we go home for tea "?

Stephen Walshe 1997   ©   

This poem was written early in 1997. My father sadly died in September of that year and never got to hear or read the thoughts that had been put to paper about his and all the other young RAF men in WW11 who like my father are and were still proud of the duty they performed for the future generations whether they are grateful or not!!

Stephen Walshe

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 Six Poems by former soldier, DL.
For more information about him please see the notes at the end of the featured poem.

Downward Spiral

In centuries past,
They say they fought against them,
They killed their kind,
Difference their only reason.
Old men told tales, Chetnik, Ustase, Muslim,
Of the evil that they did,
And in their eyes, glory filled with pain.

Now it's their turn,
Their dreams are burned away.
The former victims rise all for revenge.
This is their turn to hate, ,
For the past crimes of those long dead
Re-enacted, decades on, reversed.
This time it is they who burn.
 

The spiral descends,
Death creates more death,
And evil walks the land once more.
The children watch, as those around them die,
They learn new tales,
To keep the cycle whole,
And in their eyes, their pain waits its turn.

There's no reason,
Just lies excusing inhuman lives,
As each night innocence dies again.
Madness becomes normality,
And distrust is common sense,
The next generation bides its time,
Till it too can act, and kill for revenge
.

DL
August 1993
BRITBATT UNPROFOR
Operation Grapple 2


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Writing Home

As I sit here, in this torn country,
How can I write?
What can I say?
I can assure you, I can comfort,
Say I am fine, that all is well,
I can lie, to ease your fears.

The food's not too bad,
We're all getting a nice suntan,
Sunbathing's quite fun on the top of a Warrior.
The weather's been good,
People used to come here on holiday,
Used to come and have fun,
And you can understand why,
Well, at least so long as the wind doesn't change.

The air up here is so pure, so clean,
Such a beautiful country,
You'd love to come here for a walk in the woods,
And the mountains are just stunning!
All these picturesque villages,
Up here in the Balkans, they all look so serene,
Well, at least so long as the wind doesn't change.

The people are quite friendly,
They're always pleased to see us,
Well, most of them are anyway.
Then the wind changes.
The clear pure air is replaced in an instant,
By the smell of the rotting corpses in the minefield down the hill,
No one dares to bury them, for the snipers are out,
And they'll shoot those who bury their dead.
The people are friendly, well, the ones without guns,
For they know that if we're outside,
The bastard militia won't burn them to death
While their family is sleeping at night.
So what do I tell you?
That all is ok? I'll have to, the truth is too much.
So I'll write of the weather, the smiling children,
And hope that the wind doesn't change,
At least until I've finished my bluey.

DL

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Midday Darkness
(Based on experiences of the Gulf War 1990-91)

The sun is failing, failing to light the way.
The whole world looks to burn,
As the earth spits fire into the sky.
The invaders took what they could,
But as defeat loomed closer they acted,
Like common criminals they stole,
Then burned when they could take no more.

The oil wells burn on, through the days,
The sky sheds black tears and dust,
Through the darkness the fires rage,
As the earth bleeds flames and smoke.
Flames light our way now, the sun cannot get through,
As the fires burn on without respite.
Turning everything to black.

My skin is coated, an oily blackness,
My food and water taste of oil,
Desert sand turns black under the remorseless blaze,
As the oil continues to rain down.
This is war against the earth,
They poison the sky,
To the East, the sea is black.
They have stolen, robbed, and now burned,
At midday it's night-time, and the world is corrupted,
With oil, soot and flame.
We continue to push on,
Driving through the image of Mordor,
Of hell made real by man.

DL

For information about DL please see the notes at the end of the featured poem.

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Desert Skies under Blackout

We squat here in the dark,
A menace to life, to all that we oppose.
A mighty force of destruction,
We wait in silence for the time to fight,
Confident in our strength, in our power to un-create,
We wait, hiding our lights,
Better that the enemy can see nothing,
Better, to ease his impending destruction.
We wait, and night falls.

Then, we look up.

Our mighty army is rendered nothing,
Insignificant beneath the sky.
The desert sky, under blackout,
It is a pure glory, an infinite universe of stars,
Forced down onto our eyes,
We look into the beautiful endless expanse,
Stretching on into time before us,
Light older than humanity falls upon us,
And the pathetic force that we can offer.
All that we are is nothing before this,
The mighty army of our country,
Defeated by the sky.

We gaze, off into infinity,
Unblinking into the night's beauty,
Billions of stars, galaxies, planets, life immortal,
Never ending.
We are waiting to unleash horror,
In a place where all faith was born.
Beneath this sky, all faith is conceived,
Developed and dies, beneath the crushing splendour,
The impossible beauty,
The desert sky, under blackout.

DL

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Beauty in Fire

Through the clear sky it is coming,
High above the earth, it begins to fall,
Glowing light trails towards them,
They cannot run now, they can only hope,
As the lights fade out towards them.
Light, blinding light,
Pure and incandescent, white, orange, yellow, red,
Flowers of lethal beauty that bloom,
Bloom in violent glory, scattering over the ground,
High explosive falling as cherry blossom.
The earth shaking like the rage of an angry God,
The world transformed into power and light,
I watch awe-struck as the show continues,
Fire rising high into the night,
Blast-waves shaking the very air,
Man’s ability to create such beautiful toys,
Man’s ingenuity liberated from restraint,
To create such beauty, such violent glory,
An MLRS bombardment.

Then I remember.
That beauty is lethal, and men have just died.

DL

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Protest
(
Written after the Anti-War demonstration against Iraq, 2003.)

When you wave your banners,
You protest and rant,
Your indignation worn like a medal,
Remember those who you condemn.
We are not mere automata,
We are not blind to injustice,
We made a decision, to try to serve,
Through whatever our reasons.
We did not ask for this.
We joined through pride, through loyalty,
Or boredom, and need for adventure,
But whatever our reasons, we all joined to do some good.
We don't blindly obey, and act without thought.
But neither are we perfect.
When you wave your banner screaming "Not in My Name",
Try to remember this.
We willingly offer to lay down our lives,
So you can keep the right to condemn us,
We offer to die so you are free to condemn us,
And we do so in your name.
We are all someone's son, someone's daughter,
Lover, Husband, Wife, Father, Mother,
We are all human beings too.
When you condemn the events that our country creates,
Remember that we didn't choose them.
We willingly give our lives to our country,
And we give them to defend it all,
The good, the bad, the immoral or righteous,
We cannot be selective in where we act.
So when you march and you chant,
In anger and frustration,
Remember those who are doing what you hate so much.
Remember that they decided to do something right,
But protest against those who used this for wrong.
Our soldiers are ordinary men and women,
Who all have lives, love and dreams,
They stand for the freedom you use to attack them,
So please try not to condemn,

We soldiers are human too.

DL
2003
 


Diners       

The rats dined well at Passchendaele,

meat on the menu every day,

a limb, a torso, a tasty entrail,

served fresh in the Trench Café.

For wine they had a vintage red

with a bouquet of acrid water,

lifeblood of the newly dead,

in this consummate place of slaughter.

 

The brass-hats dined well at Command HQ

in a fine house well back from the front,

men of breeding accepting their due,

recalling good times with the hunt.

Cigars in hand, they passed the port,

raised their glasses for the toasts

to battles they had boldly fought

from secure headquarters posts.

 

The politicians dined well back in Blighty,

talked of a war to end all wars,

never doubting that God Almighty

was committed to the allied cause.

A minister, fortified with scotch,

at a recruitment rally in Poole,

insisted that Haig was top notch,

not, as some thought, a stubborn fool.

 

The troops did not dine well at Passchendaele

from a menu written in blood.

Each day they were served the same cocktail

of  bullets, privation and mud.

But no complaints from the Trench Café

as the diners gathered en masse

to savour once more the human entrée,

seasoned with cordite and gas.

John C Bird
2006


The Dancing Deer

Climbing up the forest road

I was suddenly plunged into utter darkness,

Dark shadows of the trees

Intersected by diagonal shafts

Of late afternoon sunlight,

One minute golden,

Rosy hued the next,

Dancing, flickering down …..

Upon a sudden leap

Before my disbelieving eyes,

A reckless bound

Into the humming trackway

That would have taken ancient travellers

Upon their country journey,

But now filled with creatures of the space age.

Into the darkness of the highway

Came a sentient creature

Carelessly cutting across the flow

Of mad machines invading his silent home.

There, but for the grace of God,

He leaped ~ high, majestic,

Right in front of me.

For a moment

His rotund fearful eye

Met mine, hearts both pounding,

Exchanging eons of thoughts,

A string of whys and hows.

And then he was gone,

Bounding to safety again in the woods,

Having said all, and I little,

But knowing Man had invaded

His home, and even dared

To kill his kind for food.

And I was so sorry.

My sorrow was for humanity

Sliding down a slippery

Path to destruction;

For life upon this beautiful planet

Which we need to

Be at peace with and respect,

And all her creatures

Like the dancing deer.

Marianne Griffin
12 November 2006

"    I attach a poem I wrote a couple of weeks ago after a chance encounter with a deer in the Ashdown Forest *~ fortunately he/she danced away to safety. 

    My sister had a similar experience, she tells me, up in Rushmoor Woods near Farnborough, but  the next time she went down that road she found a similar deer who had not survived her dance through the forest.

I shall be going to the civic Remembrance Day service  today . . .

Maybe we ought to read the words of Chief Seattle on Remembrance Day too, and remember that the living planet itself is under attack, every living thing being linked to each other ..... the water, the trees, the plants , whole ecosystems, habitats, animals ... and us humans who are trying to dominate Nature. All nations' God is the same except by name and we all live on the same planet. We are all brothers and sisters, but we do not understand each other's ways, and this is the problem."

MG.

* A small forest in Sussex, southern England.


War Has No Winners

When will man ever learn?
What wisdom needed to discern?
No killing is above the law,
No winners in any war.

'We won't put up with their threats,
We'll kill the enemy with our jets,
Top brass to control the press,
Tell the truth more or less.'

'Collateral Damage' is what they call it;
Don't like to say what caused it.
Innocent people blown to pieces,
Don't mention this in press releases.

It seems we never learn from history,
Finding a peaceful solution still a mystery.
We live the lie of "war and glory".
War has no winners, is the truthful story.

Simon Icke


Last Hope

Homing pigeons have a long history of help in battle:

Ghengis Khan used them to keep Asia in order;

the Romans learnt of the conquest of Gaul

from a piece of parchment around a pigeon’s leg;

and a single bird brought to England

notice of Napoleon’s defeat.

     We are still holding out…

 

Over 100,000 pigeons

were used in World War one

with ninety-five percent of birds reaching their destination.

Messages were placed in small containers

and clipped around the birds’ legs.

     but suffering gas attack

     with their very dangerous fumes.

 

A pigeon’s great strengths were its extraordinary

homing instincts and the speed at which it flew.

The only natural way to counter them was with birds of prey.

But birds were injured by artillery shells -

during the first World War;

one pigeon carried a message successfully

for twenty-four miles. It arrived with a leg shot off

and its breast shot through by a bullet –

     It’s imperative to break off.

     Give this urgent communication to Sauville

     who’s not answering my requests.

 

and a number of course were killed in action.

    

       This is my last pigeon.

Frances Green 

 


Here comes Dr Plumber
by John-George Nicholson

Introduction

This is the first time I have ever submitted a poem…if that is what it is.

I'm 29 from SW London.

The poem is about Iraq and the US and I guess GB is mixed into that…I was trying to play with the idea of the plumber pretending to be a Dr to help Iraq, when actually he's butchering it, everyone is so blinded by it that they miss that he is actually a plumber and once his job is done off he goes…when I read that back it sounds to simple and there is supposed to be more then that but to be honest its hard for me to explain…

John-George Nicholson 

Here comes Dr Plumber

Quickly blindfolds and cuffs at the ready
sharp implements
we need hands that are steady
words and hands that are hygienically clean
he hasn’t scrubbed up yet
but he’s incredibly keen
he’s slick with a knife
and cuts with an art
first to the tongue
and then to the heart
dissects away, he’s gaining a taste
we could be related
with his familiar face
but that look in his eye
is dark and cold
wasn’t he here to save the patient?
At least that’s what I was told
but he’s cutting away, right down to the core
and nobody seems to notice, through the shock and the awe
the blood on the walls, the blood on his hands
the blood on the tube, the blood in the sands
the blood runs red, the blood runs black.
The pipes are finished, he’s turning back.

John-George Nicholson 

Copyright 2007.


Lancaster bomber pilot interview on www.worldwarbombers.com

From the world war bombers web site editor:

"I have just put up a website for Captain Donald Macintosh - Royal Air Force bomber pilot of a Lancaster bomber in 1944.

I interviewed him for 36 minutes on his experiences. You can read or / and listen to what he went through. It's quite a unique interview as you can imagine. (He was on the squadron that sank the Tirpitz.)

I think your readers will enjoy it.

www.worldwarbombers.com"


December 2007
This plea is addressed to members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign but clearly non-members can help too.

A plea from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign:

End the siege of Gaza – End Israeli occupation

PSC calls on its members and branches to take urgent steps to highlight the crisis in Gaza.

The siege being imposed on Palestinians is making life a living hell in Gaza. The World Food Programme has said that food imports only cover 41 per cent of demand. Palestinians are suffering from hunger and malnutrition, and those seriously ill are being prevented from accessing essential medical treatment outside Gaza by Israel sealing the borders. Israel is cutting fuel and electricity supplies, and 210,000 people are able to access drinking water for only 1-2 hours a day. Over 40 Gazans have died as a direct result of being denied medical treatment by the Israeli authorities. Twenty per cent of essential drugs and 31 per cent of essential medical supplies are no longer available inside Gaza .

The Israeli, EU, US and British governments are systematically attempting to overturn the results of the last Palestinian parliamentary elections, declared free and fair by the international community. This siege is punishing Palestinians for simply exercising their right to choose their own representatives.

But an even greater assault is on the horizon, with senior Israeli figures making clear that if their policy of imposing a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza does not succeed in ensuring that Palestinians submit to the will of the state of Israel , they are preparing for massive military action inside Gaza .

 We therefore ask members to write to your MPs urging the British government to immediately:

  • Demand the Israeli government lift the siege and ends all collective punishment imposed on the civilian population of Gaza
  • Demand the EU restores funding to Gaza
  • Respect Palestinian democracy and engage with elected Palestinian representatives
  • Ensure Israel release the Palestinian elected representatives it has abducted and imprisoned
  • Support the suspension of the EU/Israel trade agreement until Israel ends its occupation.



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