POEMS OF THE GREAT WAR BY Robin Moore
Three books have been compiled with poems describing Robin Moore’s expeditions across Europe’s battle fields of The Great War. Each story commemorates the fallen, revisits the final days of the war horse, pays respect to relatives who fought in the campaign (my grand dad enlisted at 14 and was still under age when the Armistice took place). It also pays tribute to the many war poets who died in this campaign. Here are a few poems of my own which attempts to describe a story of one of the world’s greatest tragedies.
PILGRIMAGE OF WAR AND WORDS
A Trilogy of The Great War
Belgium – WW1 Battle Fronts
POEM – ‘The Opening Shots’
‘August 1914 witnessed the Battle of Mons,
Where Britain and Germany sent forth their sons.
Soon to be cannon fodder and casualties of war,
They shed blood on a scale never seen before.
Reeling through France came the British retreat,
Shielded by the cavalry who turn up the heat;
Those gallant equestrians, adrenalin-fed,
Push back the big guns till all are dead.
But the Kaiser’s war machine continues to roll,
Crushing forests and towns as guns take their toll.
Gone are the chivalry and glamour of war,
Replaced by trenches, barbed wire and gore.
Gas, gas, gas a ‘Tommie’ cries,
As the Battle of Ypres takes on a new guise.
Advancing are the Prussian Guard, strong and steady,
Like a ceremonial parade but with guns at the ready.
The Allies fix bayonets and the guard are speared,
Fighting hand-to-hand till the woods are cleared.
By dusk the guard lie dead in great knots, swathes and heaps,
For them the war is over in this first battle of Ypres.’
A New Age Of War
POEM – ‘No Place for a War Horse’
‘The war horse once prolific in all battles fought,
Served the Realm in Africa, Crimea and Agincourt.
But the battlefields of Flanders are a different game,
Here big guns reign supreme over muddy terrain.
The range of artillery can be twenty plus miles,
Reducing forests, cities and towns to rubble piles,
Infantry and cavalry have nowhere to hide,
As they struggle to evade this deleterious tide.
Poised for retreat the BEF take flight,
Only then do the cavalry get summoned to fight,
In a previous age they’d have conquered all,
But sadly this time they ride only to fall.
Oh for those days of shock and awe,
When men on four legs were the rulers of war.
Now we are cannon fodder in a modern age,
Victims of technology and advanced fusillade.
Sent out to die is our final command,
To perish in the mud of ‘no man’s land’
Or charge machine gun nests on fortified ground,
Where tangled wire, shell fire and gas abound.
Not for the faint hearted is our cavalry division,
Thrust into a conflict with inadequate provision,
We’re used to a short, sharp response to warfare,
Instead we get trenches to hide from despair.
The days of the warhorse are nearing an end,
His cards are marked and his time is spent,
He now pulls cannon guns for a living and ration packs too,
A workhorse rather than the great warrior we once knew.
Replaced by technology in an Industrial war,
The war horse looks on at the new army corps,
Tanks and howitsers are now perpetrators of doom,
As the warlords usher in a new era of gloom.
Once pride and joy of the British Empire,
Fearless in combat against enemy fire,
The war horse waits restlessly in a noisy war zone,
Longing to graze peacefully on pastures back home.
A Sense of Duty
POEM – ‘A Pilgrimage Borne from War’
‘Summoned by the call to arms we proudly enlist,
We are the young liberators who care not of risk.
Compelled by a sense of duty to do what is right,
The War is our calling and God’s cause is our fight.
We fear not the harshness of a war unknown,
But then, it won’t last long and we can all go home.
It will be a chance to travel, adventure at its best,
We’ll be back by Christmas, victorious in our quest.
Buoyant with optimism our soldiers sail South,
To a tumultuous welcome in wait at Hell’s Mouth;
Where the closeness of conflict amid mud and barbed wire,
Sees ‘tommies’ dodging shrapnel from deafening shell fire.
The guns boom louder here, evoking fear across the land,
Reducing historic towns to mounds of brick and sand.
So onward to the field they go, into its world of eerie gloom,
This is no place for a young man who knew a better life at home.
Memories of fun are a far cry from here,
Where rats run rampant in trenches near.
‘Stark as it is, we stand stoic and true,
In our quest to free Europe which we aim to see through.’
Above the parapet, the jaws of hell open wider still,
In an oncoming storm that threatens life at will.
A fierce barrage rages throughout the night,
As we steel ourselves nervously for the imminent fight.
The dawn whistle blows and we go over the top,
To face bullet and barbed wire until we finally drop.
Amid darkness of ‘No Mans Land’, gun fire and gore,
Our destiny is sealed by a pilgrimage borne from war.’
By Robin Moore
Life on the Frontline
POEM – ‘The Tommie’
A “Tommie’s” life is but a candle in a storm,
It flickers like a moth at night who may only live till dawn.
Fate lies fifty yards away in the path of uncut wire,
He may be lucky this time and dodge the rapid fire.
But the cycle of warfare brings little respite,
As a counter-offensive prolongs his fight.
Now with broken spirit, tiredness and despair,
Comes the inevitable stalemate of trench warfare.
There are sleepless nights beneath mud and rain,
Artillery bombardments that drive one insane.
The shells feared most are those armed with gas,
A deadly mist that brings slow death in a blast.
At the dead of night a sniper digs in,
As the “Tommies” share cigarettes from a ration tin,
First light is good as he needs to take aim,
But don’t take the third for it will be the end game.
The cold winter days bring frostbite and flu,
Sometimes trench foot, and skin that turns blue,
The dugouts are waterlogged, muddy and dire,
Like “no mans land” above – a bloody quagmire.
The stench of death is always near,
It stings our nostrils with numbing fear.
There are bloated rats and lice here too,
We all think of home and a decent brew.
This may sound an unusual choice of job,
And yet people sign up to join this mob;
There is little comfort along a muddy frontline,
It’s where the “Tommie” lives and serves his time.
The Theatre of War
POEM – ‘No Man’s Land’
‘Above the parapet lie shell holes and mud,
Where trees once grew tall above Spring fields in bud.
Tis’ now a theatre of war that evokes fear on command,
It’s where soldiers meet their maker in ‘No Man’s Land.
Only vermin prosper in this insidious quagmire,
Bloated rats invading dugouts, impervious to gunfire.
It’s where Assassins are born and death is law,
It is a version of hell that both sides abhor.
When the big guns stand down the real fight begins,
As combatants from both sides are cleansed of their sins;
Sucked into purgatory by an act of insanity,
Eroding one’s soul through its pointless profanity.
Now only shell holes remain along a battered frontline,
Leaving soldiers neck high in water to bide their time;
As they wait nervously for battle in the pouring rain,
In this grim place called ‘No Man’s Land’ – The Reaper’s Domain.’
POEM – The Fallen
‘For each fallen man a poppy will rise,
It pays tribute to his bravery and sad demise.
A life cut short by the folly of war,
In a battle for freedom that many died for.
They fought against oppression in a brutal conflict,
Suffering 4 years of brutality that is hard to depict.
Each offensive cost tens of thousands of lives,
Causing great loss to families, parents and wives.
It’s hard to imagine such slaughter of men,
And how keen they were to fight way back then;
For King and Country they pledged their all,
Not caring or knowing how many would fall.
Now the time has come to remember their plight,
Knowing each soldier believed his cause to be right.
When they entered the battle field for the final time,
It was for freedom they fought for and peace to mankind.’
The Somme – The Battle of Albert
POEM – Kitchener’s Army of ‘Pals’
‘The Great War rages on with the reaper as its guide,
Hovering in the theatre of battle to visit death upon each side.
And as the allies push toward the banks of the Somme,
They find another road to hell amid shell, barbed wire and bomb.
The whisper of the Somme ushered forth more men in boots,
Young, fit and keen to fight are Lord Kitchener’s new recruits.
Old pals from Blighty, so happy and cheerful they once did roam,
Soon to embrace the wrath of conflict, many miles from home.
Summer marches on as The Battle of Albert draws near,
Beneath the mask of laughter and fun is a sense of growing fear.
Generals speak bold words of gallantry, duty and ultimate victory,
Could anything possibly halt this great surge of equanimity?
Onward march Kitchener’s men in hearty voice and cheer,
To the front they go, their songs and anthems clear.
Dawn approaches fast, with the big guns soon to stop,
And for the old pals to fix bayonets, ready to go over the top.
There’s no time to think of the day to come,
Still young with cool air and rising sun.
Gone is the life that we once knew,
Replaced by bullet, barb wire and spew.
60,000 fell on that first morning of battle,
Pushed over the top like herds of cattle.
Summer long fighting saw a million dead,
In a bloodbath of youth who were badly mislead.
Today, a land of white tablets tell of shortness of life,
From Maricourt to Albert where conflict was rife.
Like a bridge spanning nations helping the world to cope,
It’s now a place of remembrance, peace and great hope.’
PASSCHENDAELE – The 3rd Battle of Ypres
POEM – ‘The Apathy of War’
‘Remembering the mud at Passchendaele,
In an Autumn offensive doomed to fail.
The great loss of life that came to us all,
In another pointless battle which saw many fall.
My nostrils fill with the stench of death,
And sometimes gas as I struggle for breath.
Flooded are the trenches through pouring rain,
To fight any battle here is totally insane.
Finally the guns fall silent offering a peaceful hand.
And poppies grow tall in ‘No Mans Land’.
Across the world bells toll with joy,
But whatever happened to our beloved boy.
Where are the young people that we all love,
Are they happy in heaven with God above.
Taken so young is our greatest pain,
How can our world ever be the same.
The war to end all wars came at great cost,
Dynasties shattered and a generation lost.
Our boy will never age nor again freely roam,
For he lies beneath the poppies in Flanders Fields and won’t be coming home.’
AN OVERVIEW OF THE GREAT WAR
POEM – ‘No Winners in War’
‘Each ruling party believed their cause to be right,
Prompting seven countries of Europe to rise up in a fight.
Enthusiasm and excitement for this war of insanity
Made the Continent a dark place of great calamity.
Remember the upsurge of patriotic elation,
Men cheering from trains on their way to damnation.
But when our ‘Champions of Liberty’ waged war on the ‘Hun’,
The lights went out in Europe for a long time to come.
Soon Big guns rain down fire from west to east,
Decimating the land like a great smoking beast.
Pointless battles see millions suffer death,
And Shell shocked survivors gasping for breath.
Who would rise victorious from this cauldron of madness,
Halt tolling bells from their mournful sadness.
Both sides face defeat with a generation lost,
Because No one envisaged a great war at such cost.
Ultimately, death to old Europe is the final result,
Who will modernise, rebuild it, and who is at fault.
Emotions were mixed over who was to blame,
But war to the elite is little more than a game.
A moment of madness lit the touch fuse to war,
Belgium first subjugated breaking peace treaty law.
Then France sacked and ruined in a 4 year assault,
Until finally a railway carriage brought war to a halt.
Now Autumn guns fall silent across the land,
Their deadly action powerless without command.
Soon, trees will grow tall again in wooded glades,
And poppies bright red to mark fallen comrades.
So the war was really over, like a new gift of life,
No more waterlogged trenches amid winter strife.
Thank God for an end to those dreadful 4 years,
No one else will die now, no more burials and tears.
But that’s little comfort to the young men who fell,
Sent from many nations to this place they call hell;
They’ll never know this euphoria, for they are gone,
Rotting in foreign battlefields a long way from home.’
By Robin Moore
We will remember them
WAR SERVICE AT 14 – A Dedication to Robin Moore’s Grandfather, Charles Maurice Thurlby. Possibly at one time during the war he was the youngest serving soldier, joining up with the 4th Battalion of the Northamptonshire Territorials on April 25th, 1915, at the age of 14. He also served with the South Wales Borderers and on Armistice Day was still 18 days off his 18th birthday.
He also served in Ireland and again in WW2.
POEM- ‘The Dead are young in Flanders’
‘Thank God the war is over, but what of them,
The young, the brave, those fallen men,
Who died in battle to make us safe,
And build a better world united in faith.
They’ll remain young – trapped in a web of time,
Cut down were the millions, all in their prime,
Epitaphs remind us of the war dead long gone,
In the cemeteries of Flanders where their names live on.
Each white tablet evokes eternal grace,
A reminder of conflict in this timeless place,
On every battlefield where men fought and bled,
Lies a peaceful garden that harbours the dead
A RENAISSANCE BEYOND THE GREAT WAR
Bringing Hope and Prosperity
POEM – THE CADBURY’S ANGELS – Celebrating the life and times of Marjorie Jones.
‘One late day in July saw a new gift of life,
Born to this world that had seen much strife.
The Great War had gone parting families and friends,
But as an old era dies, a new one begins.
Now the winds of change blow quieter here,
Where the folk of Bournville are kind and sincere.
Like a song that celebrates a brand new face,
Comes free spirit and energy that make a good place.
With compassion and love they valued each day,
Forging friendships at work the Cadbury way.
It was a time of happiness, joy and great fun,
Especially for young Marjorie who loved every one.
The old widows of war had a family again,
Working with the young helped ease their pain.
Among chocolate and raisins life was such fun,
On the sports field too, playing cricket in the sun.
As time marched on this community grew strong,
Bolstering the friendships that remained life-long.
‘The Cadbury’s Angels’ they became to be known,
Iconic in a workplace that they viewed as their home.
But people move on just as the world will turn,
And as this song ends we look back and learn.
Not to forget, yet treasure dearly those days,
With the Cadbury’s Angels and their fun-loving ways.’
Written by Robin Moore as a Tribute to Marjorie’s wonderful life at Cadbury’s where she viewed her friends as an extended family. She will be sadly missed by all she knew – Marjorie we will always remember you. God Bless you.
Supporting Macmillan Nurses at Northfield