The Soldier’s Poetry

by Joe Earp

Below are five selected soldier’s poems from the Great War 1914-1918. The poems have been selected from the regimental archives of the Sherwood Foresters:

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BOMBING

We buy a penny candle and light it in the tent. Old Fritz comes sailing overhead on villainy intent. Th cry goes up “put out the lights”. And meekly we comply, and curse old Fritz and his tricks, and wait his passing by.

We hear the buzzing overhead, we hear him lay the eggs. “He’s clear away” someone will say. Illumination begs, we light the candles once again, and matches are so scarce. When “put those lights out” someone yells, we do and madly curse.

If all the planes that Fritz has got, and all his bombs as well, would find the place we wish them in, You’d fine em all in hell.

Poem written by (18032) Corporal EF G Stevenson of the 10th Battalion. 

THE KAISER 

But the Kaiser was in a good humour, Although Sam was still in a huff, and refused to cook stew and his dough boy, but promised to make a plum duff.

They gave him the run of the kitchen, to prepare his plum duff for the fast, but one thing he kept as a secret, he made the whole thing out of yeast.

The Kaiser sat down to his dumpling, and said it was most appetising, while Sam sat and waited for the fun that would start when the yeast started rising.

So he went out into the garden, for the yeast would be rising quite soon, then the Kaiser came out for a breather, and shot up just like a balloon.

As soon as he knew what had happened, he shouted out something like Hock!, and Sam who was bursting with laughter, replied, “well ta-ta, my old cock”.

Hindenburg called in the morning. Looking for Bill, the Almighty, said Sam “well if the wind hasn’t changed, by now, he will be somewhere near Blighty”.

Now the Kaiser was feeling quite poorly, his face was the colour of grass, several times he repeated, and so let out most of the gas. He parted with some of his ballast, and came down to earth in fine style, and found he had landed in Holland, where he’s kept to this day in exile.

When Hindenburg knew he’d lost the Kaiser, the end of the fight, he foresaw, and said “it’s that cook Sergeant Garside, that’s won for the Allies, the war”.

Folk still think old Bill abdicated, it’s quite time the real truth was known. It was Sam and his yeast and his dumpling. That blew Kaiser Bill from his throne.

Well, having got the war safely over, Sam settled down just like the rest, and turns up each year to the dinner, to have a few drinks and a jest. We on our part, are all hoping, that he will be spared for some time, to tell us about the adventure, that happened to him in his prime.

Poem by Lieut HA Brown, who served in the ranks, Sergeant Acting Company Sergeant Major, (240790) 2nd Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters. 

TO MY CHUM

No more we’ll share the same barn, the same dug-out, the same old yarn, no more a tin of bully share, not split our rum by a star-shells flare, so long old lad.

What times we’ve had, both good and bad, we’ve shared what shelter could be had, the same crump-hole when the whiz-bangs shrieked, the same old billet that always leaked, and now- you’ve stopped one.

We’d weathered the storm two winters long, we’d managed to grin when all went wrong, because together we fought and fed, our hearts were light: but now- you’re dead, and I am mateless.

Well old lad, heres peace to you, and for me ,well, there’s a job to do, for you and the others that lie at rest, assured may be that we’ll do our best, in vengeance.

Just one more cross by a strafed roadside, with it’ GRC, and a name for guide, but it’s only myself who has lost a friend, and though I may fight through to the end, no dug-out or billet will be the same, all pals can only be pals in name, but we’ll carry on to the end of the game, because you lie there.

Written by Anon in the Wipers Times, March 20 1916.

THE GERMAN PIONEERS

TEN: German pioneers went to lay a mine, one dropped his cigarette and then there were nine.

NINE: German pioneers singing hymns of hate, one stopped a whiz-bang and then there were eight.

EIGHT: German pioneers dreaming hard to heaven, one caught a flying pig, and then there were seven.

SEVEN: German pioneers working hard with picks, one picked his neighbour off, and then there was six.

SIX: German pioneers, glad to  be alive, one was sent to Verdun, and then there was five.

FIVE: German pioneers didn’t like the war, one shouted “Kamarad”, then there were four.

FOUR: German pioneers tried to fell a tree, one felled himself instead, and then there were three.

THREE: German pioneers, prospects very blue, one tried to stop a tank, and then there was two.

TWO: German pioneers walked into a gun, the gunner pulled the lanyard, then there was one.

ONE: German pioneer couldn’t see the fun of being shot at any more, and so the war was done.

Written Anon in the BEF Times. April 10 1917.

PEACE BELLS

When we get our daily paper, what a joy it is to find, that the Allies are successful, that our efforts combined, in one great and grand endeavour, to establish truth and right, have met with no reverses, but are gaining in the fight.

That the submarine which threatened to cut off our food supplies, and the Zeppelins which menaced with destruction from the skies, have met superior forces, Eer they’d met time to work their will…

…But twill be a greater pleasure,  when we hear the peace bells ring. As from every parish steeple, they the welcome tidings fling. That the dawn at last has broken, through the night so long and black, that the remnant of our soldier lads, will soon be coming back.

That this man-made war is over, that the aged are relieved, from their nightly dread of air raids, who have languished long in German camps, and lacked both friends and food…

…When the bells ring out through Christendom, to celebrate the peace, may that era dawn on Christendom, when man-made wars shall cease. When the tender patient mothers, who in love have borne their sons, no more shall see them sent to face, another nation’s guns, when nations rule acts of love, and not by force of arms, when Christian homes and harvest fields, are freed from war alarms.

When man resolves with brother man, to keep the precept true: Do unto others as you would that they do to you.

Written by Edwin Hudson, 1916. Pte Joseph Hudson (107690) 10th Battalion killed in action when attacking the German trenches near Poix Du Nord, France, 4th November 1918. He was buried at the cross roads British Military Cemetery, France. 

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About nottinghamhiddenhistoryteam

Originally formed in 1965 to try to save or at least record before destruction the cave sites continually discovered during the major redevelopment of the City that took place in Nottingham in the 1960′s. Almost every day new sites were unearthed and destroyed before anyone was notified; last thing they wanted was someone telling them to stop what they were doing; TIME is MONEY. The word HIDDEN in the Team’s title is because a lot of what was being invisibly lost in the redevelopment was our early history in the caves, they are under most, if now all, of Nottingham. In the 80’s and 90’s the Team conducted with the help of Dr Robert Morrell and Syd Henley, research and work on Nottingham’s history, folklore and local archaeology. The Team published quarterly magazines on their findings. The Team lapsed for a few years after the death of Paul Nix who was the team leader for thirty plus years. The Team has reformed and is now back working on Nottingham local history. On this blog you will find a series of history, folklore and archaeological related articles and information. Most of the material published will be specifically related to Nottingham/shire local history.
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