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Remembrance poems of personal loss in war (This page)
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-
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.
(Dr Ken Tout, OBE)
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.
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."
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.
David Roberts, Editor, The War Poetry Website
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