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Remembrance Poems and Readings

Edited by
David Roberts

More information about this collection of poems and readings for Remembrance Day and Peace Events



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Remembrance poems of personal loss in war

Ken Tout, a veteran of D Day, a British tank commander, recalls the events of 70 years ago (June 2014) and offers a new remembrance verse. He introduces his poem:

In August a group of us veterans from the Northamptonshire Yeomanry go to Normandy to the site of our most notable tank battle (Operation Totalize).

We make the normal visits to cemeteries, stand at graves of remembered pals and recite 'They shall grow not old...'

However we are always aware of other comrades who suffered what would eventually prove fatal injuries but because they survived a while, yet died young, are not remembered on official gravestones or memorials.

This is particularly poignant for us because we crewed the notorious 'Tommy Cooker' Sherman which often exploded in a volcano of fire and cremated one or other of the crew as they sat, with another crew member emerging bodily on fire. Due to the pollution of the soil caused by the inferno these places are still discernable.

In August at least one son of our regiment will stand where his father came out of his tank on fire and then endured a brief but useless life after discharge. As I saw the event, joined in destroying the German self-propelled gun and later commanded the replacement tank I have a very personal interest. For our August event I have written a short alternative verse to the traditional one for such tragic spots.


Honour them

Honour them who may have woken

to know the battle's grim tomorrow;

yet equally whose youth was broken

by living death of pain and sorrow:

they shared the pulling down of blinds

on their own shattered limbs and minds.

Ken Tout,

(Dr Ken Tout, OBE)



Remembrance Day

She stands in the cold

Her black cloth coat

Suits the occasion

But fails to keep her warm

Despite the gleam of silver

At her breast.*


Her thoughts circle round:


“Why did we have another war?

Didn’t we lose enough men already?

Why did my sons have to die?

O God, keep me upright.

Help me not to scream

Out their names.


“What will we have for dinner tonight?

What would Joey and Bill have wanted?

It’s so hard to have faith…

It’s so hard to have hope…

Why did my sons have to die?

Jesus, you comforted your mother

As she stood and watched you die.

If I pray hard enough

Will you bring comfort to me?


“If that preacher says ‘Noble Sacrifice’

One more time I’ll scream…

I’ll scream out their names

So hard the dead will hear me.

Only this time, I’ll scream out loud

Instead of in my heart.”


But she doesn’t scream…

She stands beside the Honour Guard

Who are older than her sons

Were when they died.


The people nearby watch her,

Wondering how she can stand

So still, so calm,

Knowing she lost two boys,

Thinking she has lost her grief

After all these years

When to her it might

Have been today.

Clare Stewart

20 November, 2000

* "Gleam of silver." Clare Stewart, who is a Canadian, explains: "Every year, a Silver Cross mother is invited to lay a wreath on Remembrance Day at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on behalf of all mothers. The Memorial Cross is depicted in bronze with the three different cyphers, at three of the four corners of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, unveiled in May 2000. There is also a large replica of the Memorial Cross hanging above the door of the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower of the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings, where the Books of Remembrance are kept."

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Young Sons

A mother takes down a photo

And she holds it to her breast

Just has she’d done the child it shows

The little boy she’d washed and dressed.

She remembers how his hair felt

His soft scent still fills her nose.

And one again she curses,

the path her young son chose.

With boyish smile, and happiness

he’d picked the shilling and the gun

she remembered still the fear and  dread

when he told her what he’d done.

Yet she’d smiled and waved him off

as only a  loving mother could

If God was good, her smiling son

would return as young sons should.

But then fickle fate, it knows no God

it makes its judgments  where it will

and IEDs  they don’t discriminate

about who they should maim or kill.

So young sons often come home

fulfilling all their mothers fears

Not with happy smiles and laughter

but, draped in flags and mother’s tears.

Bill Mitton

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David Roberts, Editor, The War Poetry Website

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