Tuesday 29 October 2013

"Heroes of the Line" a book about a charity bike ride along the line of WW1's Western Front

Scott Addington and a friend rode their bicycles along the whole of the WW1 Western Front line from the Swiss Border to the Belgian beaches in aid of the Royal British Legion.  The RBL were founded after the conflict to help those who had survived and they are still working hard today.  Believe it or not there have only been about 52 days of peace since the end of WW2.

£1 from the sale of each copy of the book that Scott wrote when he returned home will be donated to the RBL and Scott has already raised over £3,500.  Here is a link to a review of the book:

Thursday 24 October 2013

Snapshots from the Exhibition in Fleetwood Library (Lancashire, UK) until 11th November 2013

I thought I would share with you one or two of the panels that currently are on display.

Ella Wheeler-Wilcox (USA) and May Sinclair (UK) I find rather special because they were not young women when they went to France with their respective Expeditionary Forces.   Both Ella and May wrote accounts of what they witnessed when they returned home.

It is difficult for us to imagine what their journeys must have been like in those days when there were no Jumbo Jets and women still wore long skirts and high button boots and the famous 'bob' was a few years away.

I should like to thank Rich Edwards of the Ella Wheeler Wilcox Society in America for his invaluable help and encouragement. Here is the link to Rich's website: http://www.ellawheelerwilcox.org/ 

And I should also like to thank Rebecca Bowler of Sheffield University UK and Margaret Stetz, who is Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women's Studies and Professor of Humanities at the University of Delaware, for their continuing support and encouragement of my project.

Here is the link to the recently-formed May Sinclair Society:

Sunday 20 October 2013

New WW1 Poetry Anthology - "Wij Werden Honderd Jaar Ouder" (En. We aged one hundred years)

"Wij Werden Honderd Jaar Ouder" (English: 'We aged one hundred years') - An anthology of WW1 poetry edited by Chris Spriet of Belgium, launched on 5th October 2013.  The Anthology features many poems of the First World War, together with illustrations by Chris, who has a very impressive CV.
On the following link you can read an interview on the book by Denzil Walton of the weekly Flanders Today:     http://issuu.com/contentconnections/docs/131016091137-c324c8adc66448c690be58ac918ddc6b/11?e=0
Chris Spriet (born in Belgium, 1950) is the grandson of a civilian victim of the Great War.  Edmond Spriet was killed on 28th May 1918 by a British bomb as he worked in a gang of Belgian workers on building a road in the village of Leke under orders from the German occupiers.  

Chris has a keen interest in War Poetry.  He taught seminars devoted to the War Poets, participating in a number of theatrical projects as well as Peace Tours to the Ypres Salient and the Somme. As a member of the Committee of the Friends of the In Flanders Fields Museum (VIFF) he  has a set literature feature in the magazine VIFFflash.

As a member of the War Poets Association, the Wilfred Owen Association, the Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship and the Ivor Gurney Society, Chris has contributed articles to periodicals at home and abroad.

Being a personal friend of Margi Blunden, daughter of the war poet Edmund Blunden,  Chris assisted in the coordination of the Blunden-devoted part of the 2011 Somme War poetry tour: Fall in, Ghosts: on the contrasting wartime experiences of Edmund Blunden and Isaac Rosenberg.

At Chris's request, Margi wrote an unique memoir of her father Edmund. In it she describes the ins and outs of living with a sensitive war-traumatized father.

Chris also wrote several articles for the Edmund Blunden website www.edmundblunden.org and regularly review war-related books on Amazon.

Here is the list of female poets whose work is included in the book as well as in the book's survey of biographies:
Nancy CUNARD (US., Zeppelins)
Anna AKHMATOVA (Russ., In memoriam, July 1914)
Elinor JENKINS (The Last Evening)
Vera BRITTAIN (St Pancras Station, August 1915)
Jane CATULLE-MENDES (Fr., Qui? / Who?)
Helen MACKAY (Train)
Jessie POPE (War girls)
Edna ST VINCENT MILLAY (US, Conscientious Objector)
Elizabeth DARYUSH (US, Flanders Fields)
Theresa HOOLEY (War film)
Vera BRITTAIN (To my brother)
Eva DOBELL (Night Duty), one of my favourite poems
Andrea FRAHM (Germ., Zu Hause / At home)
Eleonora KALKOWSKA (Pol./Germ.), Man tat uns dieses an / Dit deden zij ons maan / They did that to us)
Jeanne PERDRIEL-VAISSIERE (Fr., Complainte des filles qui ne seront pas mariées, Klaagzang van de meisjes die niet getrouwd zullen zijn/ Complaint of the girls who will never be married)
Margaret POSTGATE COLE (Falling leaves)
Vera BRITTAIN (Perhaps)
Henriette SAURET (Fr., Elles / They)

The book is available to purchase from Amazon - I think you will agree that for anyone interested in women who wrote poetry during WW1 this book is definitely a 'must read'.

Friday 18 October 2013

"Handing Down" by Harold Begbie (Father of Janet) - where it all began. . .

I have been searching for years for this poem and, now, here it is thanks to Ann Swabey.

This was the very first WW1 poem I ever read.  I would have been about seven years old.  My Aunt Audrey, who was in the Wrens during the Second World War, had collected together poems, press cuttings and stories from the First World War in a little notebook.  After WW2, Audrey emigrated to South Africa where she died.   Mother kept her little notebook and let me look at which I did very often.  This poem always made me cry.   That is where my love of poetry and interest in WW1 comes from.


A WW1 Poem by Harold Begbie, Father of Janet Begbie, who is on my List of Female Poets of the First World War. Poem found and posted by Ann Swabey in the Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/FamiliesAtWar/

Soldier what are you writing
By the side of your cooling gun?
Sir, since I’m stopped from fighting
A word to my little son.

Tell me the thing you've written
For I love the writer's art:
Sir, that to be a Briton
Is worth a broken heart.

Show me so fine a letter
That you write in the trenches mud:
Sir, you could read it better
Were it not for the stain of blood.

Soldier tell me your story
Your eyes grow bright and wide:
Sir, it's a taste of glory
To think of the young one's pride.

Would you like to be a soldier, little Tommy-all-my-own,
Would you like to tip the Kaiser off his high and mighty throne?
Would you like to be with father in a well-dug British trench,
Knocking spots off German Generals and saluting General French?

Would I like to be with Tommy, little Tommy-all-my-own,
Would I give a month of Sundays just to see how he has grown?
Yes ! I’d like to be a dustman in the poorest London streets
For the chance of meeting Tommy with a gumboil made of sweets.

If you want to be where I am, why, I want to be with you.
But I'm here to show a tyrant that a Briton's word is true
We must stand by little Belgium, we must fight till fighting ends.
We must show the foes of Britain that we don't desert our friends.

Don't you go and think, my Tommy, little Tommy-all-my-own.
That we're squabbling here for nothing that we're growling for a bone:
We are here for Britain's honour, for our freedom, for our peace.
And we're also here, my Tommy, that these wicked wars may cease.

Don't you say that I am funky, don't you say that I am sick,
Boy, I'm half afraid to tell you, but I love it when it's thick —
When the shells are screaming, bursting, and the whistling bullets wail,
God forgive me, but I love it, and I fight with tooth and nail.

But it's after, looking round us, missing friends and finding dead.
It is then the British soldier gets a fancy in his head.
And he swears by God in heaven that the man who starts a war.
Should go swimming into judgment down an avalanche of gore.

That's what makes us such great fighters, and I'd have you be the same,
Love your country like a good un, hold your head up, play the game,
Be a straight and pleasant neighbour, be a cool, un-ruffled man.
But when bullies want a thrashing, why, you thrash them all you can.

While you say your prayers, my Tommy, little Tommy-all-my-own,
Asking God to save your Daddy, I send this one to His throne:
Save my little lad from slaughter, guard his heart and mind from wrong,
Keep him sweet and kind and gentle, yes, but make him awful strong.

Good-night, my little Tommy, here's your Daddy's good-bye kiss.
Don't forget what I have told you, and remember also this —
If I don't come back to see you, I shall die without a groan,
For it's great to fall for Freedom, little Tommy-all- my-own.

Review of the Exhibition at Fleetwood Library until 11th November 2013

My thanks to David Riley, the Blackpool-based historian, teacher, writer and poet who went along to the Exhibition which is on display at Fleetwood Library until 11th November 2013.

You can read what David had to say here: http://www.altblackpool.co.uk/female-poets-world-war-one-exhibition-fleetwood-library

Fleetwood Library
North Albert Street

Saturday 12 October 2013

German male soldier poets of WW1

Let it not be said that anyone is left out of my weblog!   Stanley Kaye of the Remembering World War 1 in 2014 One Hundred Years Facebook Group, has told members about this website:


which features poems and lives of German poets of WW1 which have not been translated into English before.

Today's Poet: Francisca STOCKLIN (1894 - 1931)

I received a great deal of help from Penelope Monkhouse, a German-British scientist who lives in Germany.  Penelope is the granddaughter of novelist, dramatist and literary critic Allan Monkhouse.
Penelope is currently working on a comparative study of German and English poetry of the early 20th Century.   She also writes poetry and translates poetry to and from German and English.

I am indebted to Penelope who kindly sent me biographical details of the Swiss poet Francisca Stocklin - today's featured poet.

Francisca was born in Basle in 1894.  She was a painter and lithographer.  In early 1914, Francisca travelled with her brother to Munich, returning to Switzerland when war broke out.

After the First World War, Francisca married Harry Betz and the couple travelled in France, Germany and Italy.  They divorced in 1928.  Francisca died in Basle in 1931.   She had two poetry collections published - "Gedichte in Bern in 1920 and "Die singende Muschel, in Zurich in 1925.  She also wrote novellas and prose poetry.

Switzerland remained neutral in WW1.  Due to the country's neutral state and geographical position, it was of extreme importance to both sides for purposes of diplomacy, commerce and espionage.

Photo:  Swiss Troops at the German Border

Friday 11 October 2013

Today's Poet: Emilia Pardo Bazan - Spain

Emilia Pardo Bazan (1851 - 1921) was born in Galicia.  She began writing at an early age.  Emilia was a writer, journalist, poet and political activist.   She inherited her Father's title 'Countess' when her Father died.

Emilia died in Madrid in 1921.

Spain was neutral during the First World War.  However, German soldiers were interned in Spanish New Guinea from 1915.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Sincere Apologies . . .

...to those who went along to the Library in Fleetwood last week hoping to see the Exhibition.  This had to be put on hold as I came down with a really horrible bug and had to postpone the opening of the exhibition.   I am still not fighting fit but at least the exhibition is now in place.

I hope to hear from those of you who have visited the exhibition as I value your feedback.   And if anyone has ideas of other poets/inspirational women/fascinating facts to include please let me know.

Thank you.

Fleetwood Library,
North Albert Street,

(well I have since discovered two more Fleetwoods with Libraries - one in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada and one in Pennsylvania, USA - I am going to get in touch with them. . .)


Opening Times:  Monday:  9 am to 5 pm;  Tuesday: 9 am to 7 pm;  Wednesday: 9 am to 12.30; Thursday:  9 am to 7 pm;  Friday:  9 am to 5 pm;  Saturday:  9 am to 4 pm.

Bahiyyih Khanum (1846 - 1932) - Persia

Bahiyyih was born in Tehran - her Father was the founder of the Baha'i Faith - Bahaullah - and her Mother was Asiyih Khanum.   When Bahiyyih was six years old, her Father was arrested and put in prison. The family were then moved to Baghdad.  Exile to Constantinople and Adrianople followed.

When Bahiyyih was 21 she was moved to Acre in Israel.  She chose not to marry and dedicated her life to helping her parents. Bahiyyih's Father died in 1892 and Bahiyyih accepted Abdul Baha as leader of the Faith.

In 1908, the Ottoman Empire freed all political prisoners and at the age of 62, Bahiyyih was at last a free woman.

During the First World War, Bahiyyih and Abdul Baha were kept busy with humanitarian aid and were of great help to the British in Palestine.   After the War they were warmly thanked for their stirling work and Abdul Baha was knighted.

Bahiyyih died on 15th July 1932.   She is remembered as one of the most important people in the Baha'i Faith.

Persia remained neutral during the First World War.   Prior to the War, Britain had signed a contract with the Anglo Persian Oil Company for them to supply oil to the British navy.

In 1918, the Dunsterforce, led by General Dunsterville was given the task of "reaching the Caucasus by travelling through Persia."

My Grandfather - Lewis Jackson, then a Captain in the Royal Artillery - was a member of the Dunsterforce.

Photo:  General Dunsterville talking to Armenian Soldiers, Baku 1918
From the Great War Centenary Facebook page.

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Today's WW1 Female Poet: Rosario Maria Gutierrez Eskildsen (1899 - 1979)

Those of you who follow this weblog regularly will already know that my aim is to honour and remember the generation whose lives were changed for ever by the War to end all Wars - 1914 - 1918.

To this end, I seek to include poets from all corners of the world.  Some of the poems may not be technically 'war poems' - but there are many other works that cover those.  This project is a little different.   If anyone can help by telling me where I can find examples of Rosario's work that would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you.

Rosario Maria Gutierrez Eskildsen was born in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico on 16th April 1899. Her Father was Spanish and her Mother of Danish origin.

After studying in Mexico, Rosario became a teacher.  She never married but adopted a young teacher who had been orphaned.   Rosario died in Mexico City in 1979.

She is remembered in the region of her birth as a great poet and a school has been built bearing her name.

Between 1910  and 1920,  Mexico went through a period of political unrest.   Mexico's natural resources of oil and minerals were in demand during WW1 and Germany proposed an alliance via 'The Zimmermann Telegram' - a diplomatic proposal for Mexico to join the Central Powers which Mexico rejected.


Monday 7 October 2013

Today's Poet - Georgiana Cooper - Newfoundland

In 1914, Newfoundland was independent of the rest of Canada and a separate member of the British Empire and did not join until 1949.   Almost 12,000 Newfoundlanders enlisted in all branches of the forces, including women who joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment and went to serve abroad.   A further 3,296 Newfoundlanders joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Back in Newfoundland, women joined the Women's Patriotic Association, meeting five days a week to knit, sew, pack bandages, etc. for the war effort.

Georgiana Cooper (1885 - 1980) was born in Inglewood Forest.  The family moved to Random Head when Mr Cooper was appointed lighthouse keeper there.

In 1905 the family moved to St. Johns.   During WW1, Georgiana was superintendent of a convalescent home for veterans of the War.

After the War, Georgiana and her sister ran a boarding house in St. Johns.   Georgiana died in 1980.

With thanks to www.heritage.nf.ca

Sunday 6 October 2013

Today's Poet: Maria Polydouri from Greece

King Constantine I of Greece was married to Sophia of Prussia, a sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II.  He had also trained as a soldier in Germany.   Initially Greece remained neutral during the First World War but joined the fray on the Allied side on 30th June 1917, sending ten divisions and the Greek Navy to help. Salonika was an Allied base after the withdrawal from Gallipoli.

Maria Polydouri (1902 - 1930) was born in Kalamata.   She began writing poetry at a very early age.  She studied law at the University of Athens and worked as a civil servant before going to live in Paris for three years.

Maria died in Athens in 1930.

Saturday 5 October 2013

Today's WW1 Female Poet: Audrey Lucas - a pupil at Downe House School during WW1

Audrey Lucas (1898 - 1975) was the daughter of E.V. Lucas (one of my favourite poets) and his wife, Elizabeth.

Audrey was born in Marylebone in London and grew up surrounded by her Father's friends - people like J.M. Barrie, Arthur Conan Doyle, A.A. Milne and more.

During the First World War, Audrey was a pupil at Downe House School which was at that time housed in Charles Darwin's former home in Kent.   She helped out during the school holidays in the home for orphans set up by Elizabeth Lucas with financial aid from J.M. Barrie in a chateau in France. "Bettancourt" was on the River Marne and in the war zone and was a refuge for children orphaned or displaced by the War.

After WW1, Audrey went on to become famous in her own right, writing and producing plays. She even played the role of "Tottles" in "Peter Pan" in the 1924-1925 production at The Adelphi Theatre in London.  During the 1940s she worked for the BBC.

Audrey died in 1975.

Friday 4 October 2013

Today's Poet: Stella Benson (1892 - 1933) - British poet and writer

Stella Benson was born on 6th January 1982 in Wenlock Edby in Shropshire.  Stella's aunt was Mary Cholmondeley the novelist.

The family were rich and were based in London but spent a good deal of time travelling in Germany and Switzerland.

During WW1, Stella did voluntary work as a gardner and in the East End of London.   Her first volume of poetry was published in 1918.  She died in Vietnam on 6th December 1933.

Stella's WW1 poetry collection was “Twenty: Poems” (Macmillan, London, 1918). 


Almost all the verses in this book have appeared before, the
majority of them included in two books, “I Pose” and “This is
the End”. Messrs. Macmillan, who published these, have been kind
in raising no objection to re-publication. I have also to thank the
Editors of the Athenaeum, Everyman, and the Pall Mall
Gazette for allowing me to reprint verses.

The title of the book has no reference to the writer's age.


  A key no thief can steal, no time can rust;
  A faery door, adventurous and golden;
  A palace, perfect to our eyes--Ah must
  Our eyes be holden?

  Has the past died before this present sin?
  Has this most cruel age already stonèd
  To martyrdom that magic Day, within
  Those halls, enthronèd?

  No. Through the dancing of the young spring rain,
  Through the faint summer, and the autumn's burning,
  Our still immortal Day has heard again
  Our steps returning.

From "Twenty" by Stella Benson, which is available as a free down-load from Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/12643

Additional information from Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War:  A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978)

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Today's Female Poet of the First World War: Vicki Baum - Austria

It has been suggested to me that Vicki Baum did not write any poetry, however, I was under the impression that she did.

Vicky Baum (1888 - 1960) was a writer, musician, boxer and journalist who worked as a nurse during WW1.   She emigrated to the United States after the War and became an American citizen in 1938.

Searching for poems by Vicki Baum led me to the book - "Best Sellers by Design  Vicki Baum and the House of Ullstein" by Lynda J. King, written in 1988 by Wayne State University Press, Detroit, Michigan, USA.

In that book, in a chapter entitled "Popular Literature in Germany",  I discovered that:

the development of literature for a wide audience and for 'self-education' began in the mid eighteenth century (p. 20);

the first press serialisation of novels was in France - "La Presse, Paris" in 1836 (p. 25);

Germany had book vending machines in 1912;

during the First World War, the Reclam Company organised "Portable Field Libraries" - boxes of a hundred books of the Universal Library for troops during their rest periods (p. 35).

"There are shortcuts to happiness and dancing is one of them" - Vicki Baum.

Photo:  Austrian Stormtroopers in WW1 courtesy of "La Grande Guerra" Facebook Page.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

BBC North West Television's "Inside Out" Programme at The Wilfred Owen Story in Birkenhead

I make no apology for including items concerning male poets in my weblog - for if the men had not gone to war in the first place, the girls would not have had to leap into action . . .

And if you have been following this weblog for some time, you will know that it was Dean Johnson, the singer/songwriter who runs The Wilfred Owen Story museum in Argyle Street, Birkenhead (seen here in a still from the programme opening the museum with the Female Poets Exhibition visible on the wall),  who asked me to produce the first Exhibition of Female Poets of the First World War.  That was back in April 2012, shortly after I had volunteered to help behind the scenes after seeing a performance of "Bullets and Daffodils"++ which is also featured in the Inside Out report.

Also mentioned was a letter which came to light when Mal Robinson - who was also raised in Birkenhead - produced this year's week-long London showing of "Bullets and Daffodils" - found a letter written by Susan Owen to his grandmother, who was of German origin.

It seems that Susan Owen helped out her German neighbours by weaning their three-month old daughter who became her God-daughter.    Until that letter came to light, it was assumed that Susan hated living in Birkenhead but, if you look at the Wilfred Owen's Wirral map** (by kind permission of Wirral Methodist Housing Association), you will see that Wilfred's Aunt and Uncle lived in Meols which is still a delightful, small, unspoilt, residential village near the sea.    And New Brighton was not far from Birkenhead, nor were large areas of woodland, where the Owen family took their walks.  So the Owen family's life in Birkenhead may not have been as bad as formerly reported.

** featured in this posting http://femalewarpoets.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/lest-we-forget.html


If you read "Tuppence to Cross the Mersey" by Helen Forester, which is about a wealthy couple who fall on hard times during the 1930s and move to Liverpool to be near relatives who live on the Wirral, you will read that neighbours always helped each other out.

When I was growing up it was customary for neighbours to greet newcomers with a tray of tea and biscuits - knowing that they might not yet have unpacked kettle or crockery.  And a visit from the curate of the local church also always took place during the first week of arrival in a new place.   In our family our neighbours were not only friends but they stepped into the shoes of Uncles and Aunts who were either abroad or no longer living.    One became God Mother to my sister and another was a very dear Aunt to me all my life.   Auntie Brenda's father was a stretcher bearer during WW1 - a huge, bear of a man who we always called "Uncle Bob" - I think of them whenever I write anything on my blog.

For those who do not live in the North West of England, the programme is visible for six days from 1st October 2013 on I-Player - Inside Out North West, Monday, 30th September 2013 19.30

++ "Bullets and Daffodils" will be performed on Friday, 4th October 2013 at The Theatre On The Steps, Bridgnorth Shropshire. Tickets: £9 and £7 for concessions.

For further information contact Dean Johnson
The Wilfred Owen Story
34 Argyle Street
CH41 6AE

Tel.:  07539 371925