Stories behind the poems (2) – The war poems

by Author on December 14, 2010

Although the poem “The Knitter” had always struck a special chord with me that eventually led to the book of the same name, being objective – if that’s possible with your own family – it wasn’t my dad’s “best” poem. His war time poems would vie for that honour, and as always, there’s a story behind the words.

I had never come across either of my dad’s great second world war poems until I was almost finished the first draft of my book. Late one night I was sitting chatting with my mum about the old days, and the book, and how I was frustrated and felt I was “missing” a few good stories; I just didn’t know what they were! I sat, just listening to her clearly recall details of things that had happened 60-70 years before; She was 90 at the time, and is still going strong at 97 today! As she talked about the war, and some of her memories of that time, she suddenly got up, went to her bedroom, and pulled out an old shoe box. She produced a wrinkled, faded, ripped old leaflet – here’s the front page:


She told me – proudly – how dad had designed the leaflet for the V-Fund. This was the government scheme to encourage money raising for the war. The back page had a list of all of the planned events:


What really knocked me back were the two poems, written by my dad, that were printed inside the leaflet. It only took one reading to realise these were special, even by his standards. And to see them in their original published, if now somewhat bedraggled form, made them even more special. My version of the story of that leaflet, and the poems, is one of my own favorite sections of the book; this was the story I had felt was missing – you will find it in the “Fighting” chapter.
There’s a lot of my father in these poems. His attitude to war, and that clear distinction he had between wars and the politicians who start them, and the real, ordinary people asked to fight them, comes out clearly, especially in “We Didna Forget”. I’ll close with the original page from that leaflet, still proudly in my possession. In my biased but still humble opinion, the poem deserves a place up there with those of the great war poets we all know – Kipling, Brook, Owen, Sassoon…..and Mallaghan.
vfund poem

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