November 25, 2018

February 21, 2018

February 19, 2018

February 6, 2018

February 4, 2018

January 7, 2018

December 22, 2017

Please reload

Mustard Gas, Mud and Maiden Castle

November 11, 2017



The other day, my daughter asked me what my favourite WW1 poem was.

I was unable to answer.

How does one pick a favourite out of war?
I muttered a generic reposte, handing her a copy of Hedd Wyn and falling back on my usual default of Yeats.

She gave me a withering look.


A day passed - I wrote 'White Poppies' and looked through my photographs from Flander's Fields. I'd visited Belgium because I have family from there - and it also seemed right to take Peace Mala Dove Number 5 to Ypres. I was surprised to find the whole memorial experience oddly numbing - it was grey and raining, there were people weeping at familiar names, industrial sheds stood where bodies had fallen. I think that I expected to feel something, some sense of what had happened, echoes of battle cries and gunshot perhaps. Instead, there was nothing. Nothing but a suffocating sense of pointlessness - and the occasional crow.


As I looked back through the images today, I was reminded of when I began secondary school and was also set the task of studying WW1 poets. I had objected, complaining that poetry was for the opposite of war. My teacher, who became a great supporter of my writing, Mr Sayle (who was also very active in Amnesty International), replied that I should read Wilfred Owen, whose poetry had begun on the very hills where I then lived.


"And so repassed into my life's arrears. 
Even the weeks at Broxton, by the Hill 
Where first I felt my boyhood fill 
With uncontainable fancies..."



I took his copy and read it upon that hill at Maiden Castle, an Iron Age and Roman fort, once destroyed by fire. I looked out across the roof of my family's farmhouse to the Wrekin and Birkenhead - and my world changed forever.


Thirty-two years later and I think that, at that moment, I was closer to The Great War than I was when standing on the very soil whose grass was fed by the blood of young soldiers. This, this is the value of poetry - and still the old lie continues...


Dulce et decorum est 
Pro patria mori.




Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload

Please reload

Please reload



© 2016. Proudly created with

  • Twitter - Black Circle
  • Facebook - Black Circle