Saturday, 25 October 2014

The First truly World War

People who have read Volume 1 of Female Poets of the First World War or attended exhibitions often ask me why I have included poets from countries such as Portugal, China or Brazil and so on.

I decided fairly early on that I would like to demonstrate the global effects of the conflict and therefore to include poetry from as many countries as possible.  As Britain's oldest ally, dating back to the days of John O'Gaunt when his daughter married their King, Portugal sent troops, equipment and medics to the Western Front to help Britain in her hour of need.  The graves of Portuguese soldiers are not under the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and are a long way from Portugal so they are a little neglected these days.

Siam (today known as Thailand) also sent similar help, plus planes and pilots but I have not yet been able to find a female poet.

China sent a huge labour force that worked behind the lines and then cleared away the terrible mess at the end of the war.   There are many Chinese graves on the Western Front but I understand they do come under the care of the CWGC.

The tiny country Luxembourg contributed too - an 'ordinary' middle-aged housewife called Lise Rischard  became an accomplished British secret agent during the First World War.   I could not find a female poet but I wanted to include Lise's story in my project, which is why I added the section Inspirational Women to the project.

And interesting information caused me to add the section Fascinating Facts to the project.  For instance, an extract from "The Times" newspaper of a hundred years ago (22.10.1914), under the headline 'The Emden Reappears', to my mind clearly illustrates the global impact that began in the early days of the war.

The German Dresden Class Light Cruiser SMS "Emden" had been wrecking havoc among British shipping and costing Britain millions of pounds in lost shipping and trade. At that stage of the war, however, the crew of the Emden and other German ships behaved impeccably as true gentlemen and though ships were destroyed, their crews were saved.  As the writer of the report on October 22, 1914 stated:  'The accounts given by the crews of the destroyed steamers invariably bear testimony to the considerate restraint with which the Emden does her deadly work".

I was interested to note that, among the problems caused by the actions of "Emden" were:  "Burma isolated for a fortnight", the trade of Calcutta paralysed, insurance for shipping on the Eastern routes increased and the interruption of the Indian mail service.  That was before the introduction of submarine warfare that caused enormous damage and loss of life.

For the purposes of my commemorative project, some of the poetry included is not about war.  The main point of the project is to hold exhibitions and my dream is to have a permanent venue where I can also hold poetry workshops, talks, poetry readings and so on.   The books are for those unable to get to see any of the exhibitions but I hope they will also inspire people to commemorate in their own way.