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.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Katherine Hale (1878 - 1956) - Canadian

With grateful thanks to Phil Dawes, who is collecting information about First World War poets, for sending me this poem about knitting - for all those who are busy knitting poppies, etc.

A tiny click of little wooden needles,
Elfin amid the gianthood of war;
Whispers of women, tireless and patient,
Who weave the web afar.

Whispers of women—tireless and patient,
"This is our heart's love," it would seem to say,
"Wrought with the ancient tools of our vocation,
Weave we the web of love from day to day."

Katherine Hale

Katherine Hale was the pen-name of the Canadian poet Amelia Beers Warnock who also used the name Mrs John W. Garvin.

Katherine was a poet, critic, writer, journalist and singer.

I will do my best to find out more about Katherine and other poems about knitting for those of you who are knitting items of commemoration of the First World War.

Thursday 9 October 2014

Madoline (Nina) Murdoch (1890 - 1976) - Australian WW1 poet

With many thanks to Phil Dawes for bringing Nina Murdoch to my attention.  I have now added her to my list - thank you Phil.

Poet, writer, teacher, journalist, broadcaster

Madoline, known as Nina, was born on 19th October 1890 in North Carlton, Melbourne.  She was the third daughter of John Andrew Murdoch who was a legal clerk, and his wife Rebecca, nee Murphy, who was a teacher.

Nina was brought up in Woodburn, New South Wales, where the family moved.   Nina first attended the school where her mother taught, then attended Sydney Girls’ High School from 1904 until 1907 where her interest in poetry and literature and her writing career began.

When she left school, Nina became a teacher at Sydney Boys’ Preparatory School.   In 1913 she won the “Bulletin” Prize for a sonnet written about Canberra.  She worked for the “Sydney Sun” as one of the very first female reporters and in 1915 her book of poems “Songs of the Open” was published.

In 1917, Nina married James Duncan Mackay Brown.  James was a former school teacher who had lost an arm.  Nina travelled the world, wrote travel books, worked for various newspapers and gave travel talks on the wireless – radio 3LO, which was later taken over by ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) when she ran their Children’s Corner.  Nina also published novels under the pen name of ‘Manin’. She cared for her mother, who was blind and lived to the age of 105, and her husband, who was asthmatic, who died in 1957.

Nina died in 1976 in Camberwell, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

“The Bulletin” was an Australian weekly culture and politics magazine published in Sydney from 1880 until 2008 having been founded by journalists Jules Francois Archibald and John Haynes.  They published around 80 of Nina’s poems.

Portrait of Nina by John Campbell Longstaff (1861 - 1941), an Australian artist and official WW1 war artist.

Sources:  Wikipedia and

With thanks to Phil Dawes for bringing Nina to my attention.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Roma White (1866 - 1950)

With grateful thanks to Philip Dawes for his help in adding to the information I had already found about Roma White.

Roma White (Blanche Oram):

Roma was born Blanche Oram in June 1866 in Bury, Lancashire.
Her father was a Woollen Manufacturer. The family is listed as having  five servants in the house in 1881.
In 1891 Blanche Oram was lodging in Derbyshire, aged 25 single and her employment was listed as ‘Journalist/author’.

Blanche  married Charles James Winder September 1897 in Chelsea, London.  They had no children

In 1901 Roma was visiting her married sister Florence Barron in Lancaster and ‘Living on own means’.
The Winder family were at Garstang in 1911 – in a 12 roomed house with three servants.

Roma White published numerous books between 1890  and 1910.  Many of them were reviewed in newspapers of the period.   During the 1930s, she published several children’s books under the name Blanche Winder (King Arthur, Aesop’s illustrated fables etc.).

Roma retired to Bournemouth where she died in June 1950.

Sea Poem from The Muse in Arms
First published in London in November 1917 and reprinted in February 1918, The Muse in Arms comprised, in the words of editor E. B. Osborne:  "A collection of war poems, for the most part written in the field of action, by seamen, soldiers, and flying men who are serving, or have served, in the Great War".  The story goes that Roma was out in a fishing boat in Poole Harbour and her conversation with the fisherman was apparently the inspiration for the poem.

News of Jutland
by Roma White
June 3rd, 1916

(On June 3, 1916, when the news of our sad losses in our first great naval battle off the Jutland Bank had just come to hand, I went fishing with a sailor on the Naval Reserve. The following lines are, almost word for word, a transcript of his talk.)

The news had flashed throughout the land,
The night had dropped in dread -
What would the morrow's sunrise tell
Of England's mighty dead?
What homes were wrecked? What hearts were doomed
To bleed in sorrow's school!
At early morn I sought my friend,
The fisherman of Poole.
He waited there beside the steps:
The boat rocked just below:
"You're ready, m'm? The morning's fine!
I thought as how you'd go!
I dug the bait an hour agone -
We calls 'em 'lug-worms' here.
The news is grave? Aye, so I've heard!
Step in! Your skirt is clear.
"My brothers? Any news, you ask?
No, m'm! Nor like to be
A fortnight yet! Maybe they're both
Asleep beneath the sea!
I saw' em start two years agone
Next August - and I says
We'll see 'em back by Christmas time -
But we don't know God's ways!
"I'll pull her round the fishing-boats!
The Polly's lying there!
D'you see her, m'm? The prettiest smack
For weather foul or fair!
It's just the ways they've builded her
As seems to make her feel
Alive! She's fifty sovereigns' worth
O' lead along her keel.
"Fine men my brothers war - I'll tie
Her up against this boom!
Don't fear to move free! This here boat
Is built with lots o' room!
You're safe with Jacob Matthews, m'm!
He's ne'er been called a fool
By any of the fisher-folk
As lives in little Poole!
"How many left? Well, maybe half;
They've gone off one by one.
It's likely I'll be gone myself
Afore the war is done.
Attested just a month agone,
And passed for fit and sound -
It's shallow here for flat-fish, m'm,
The boat's well-nigh aground.
"I'll throw your line out - that'll do!
Aye, fights on sea are grave!
There ain't no Red Cross people there
To lift you off the wave!
There ain't no 'cover' you can take,
No places to lie down!
You got to go - wi' red-hot shells
Just helping you to drown!
"It minds me of a night we men
Had got the life-boat out.
They'd 'phoned us up! And off we pulled
With many a cheer and shout!
We rowed her hard up to the wind,
And clear the moonlight shone -
But when we reached - you see, just there -
Both ship and crew were gone!
"We cruised around for half an hour!
Ah, m'm, our hearts was sore!
We'd looked to throw the line to them,
And bring' em safe to shore!
Aye! these blue waves ha' swallowed up
More finer men than me!
But we've been always fisher-folk,
And we can't fear the sea!
"Why, there's a catch! Aye, pull it in!
'Tis on your second hook!
Well, that's as odd a little fish
As e'er a line ha' took!
I've ne'er seen nothing like it, m'm -
Don't touch it wi' your hand -
These strange 'uns prick like poison, m'm,
Sometimes - you understand?
"I'll take it off! It won't hurt me!
You wonder what it's called?
I couldn't say! The rummest thing
That ever yet was hauled!
A farthing's worth o' queerness, m'm,
I'd name it if 'twas priced!
A young John Dory? No - they bears
The marks o' Jesus Christ.
"You'll see His fingers and His thumb!
Where are they? Well, a bit
Beyond the gills - look! Here's the place,
Just where I'm holding it!
So this ain't no John Dory, m'm!
I'll put it safe away!
You'll tell your friends you pulled it from
The bottom o' Poole Bay!
"'Twas better than a submarine?
There ain't such devils here!
We've got the North Sea trawlers down,
They keeps the harbour clear!
You saw a heap o' tangled wire
A-lyin' on the quay?
And thought as they'd just hauled it up?
Aye, m'm! That's how 'twould be.
"We're what they calls a' Naval Base,
Since this here war abroke!
You seen it up? Aye, yonder there!
'Tis hard for fisher-folk!
We gets our catches in the night!
But we mayn't leave the Bay
Save when the sun is on the sea -
You don't catch much by day!
"But we've our bit to bear, as much
As richer men nor we.
We got to get a 'permit' now
To take our nets to sea.
We starts at dawn - if tides is right -
And, when the sun be gone,
Unless we lie inside the booms
We'd like be fired upon!
"You want to see the mack'rel shoals?
They come in black as - see -
Yon house that's tarred from roof to floor
Just there, beside the quay!
My smack's up now by Christchurch steps,
I've got my 'permit' signed!
I'll take you out o' Thursday next
If so be you've a mind?
I shan't be gone? Not yet! I waits
Until I gets the call! -
If you'll come out, m'm, with the nets,
I'll promise you a haul!
You're safe with Jacob Matthews, m'm!
He's ne'er been called a fool
By any of the fisher-folk
The war has left in Poole!"

Sunday 5 October 2014

Nadja Malacrida (1895 - 1934)

From time to time I receive e-mails out of the blue from relatives of some of the poets who have read my weblog.   This morning came a lovely e-mail from a gentleman called Malacrida who very kindly corrected Nadja's birth date.  So I can now re-post a brief biography about Nadja with the correct birth date.

Nadja was the pen-name of Louisa Nadia Green, daughter of Mr and Mrs Charles Green and niece of Lord Cowdray.  Nadja was born in Hampstead in London, UK on 15th June 1895.  By all accounts she became an accomplished athlete and also obtained her pilot's licence.

During the First World War, Nadja published three volumes of poetry - "Love and War" a collection of poems which was published in 1915,  "For Empire and other poems" published in 1916 (Arthur L. Humphreys) and "The Full Heart"  published in 1919.   All of these collections were sold in aid of St. Dunstans Home for Blind Soldiers* in London and The Star and Garter Home for Disabled Soldiers in Richmond.

On 6th December 1922, Nadja married Pier Malacrida de Saint-August, an Italian Marquess, with whom she collaborated on the writing of novels.  Nadja was also a broadcaster for the BBC,  regularly organising poetry readings which were very popular.   She wrote a syndicated newspaper column and introduced the idea of 'cuaserie recital' musical evenings.

Nadja took part in an early John Logie Baird television broadcast on 22nd February 1933, when from 11 - 11.30 television by the Baird Process (vision) was broadcast.   Sound was separate via the Wireless on 398.9 m. and the programme was only available in London.

During 1933 and 1934 Nadja was often heard on the radio - National Programme (193kc-s 1554.4 m) - reading extracts from popular books of both prose and poems, under the name Nadja Green.

Nadia and her husband were very popular in London's society scene and Pier, who had studied engineering at Leeds University was an interior designer, working on many prominent projects in London in the 1920s and 1930s.   They were friends of Cecil Roberts the author who lent them his country cottage "Pilgrim Cottage" near Henley while he was on a Greek cruise.   On her way back to London, Nadja's car left the road and she was killed instantly on 3rd October 1934. She is buried in Fair Mile Cemetery in Henley-on-Thames.

Source:  A day spent trawling various Internet sites, including The Times Archives and The British Newspaper Archive and an e-mail from Mr M. Malacrida; Louisa Nadia Green's birth certificate.

Photo:  Nadja Malacrida kindly sent to me by Mr. M. Malacrida.

* St. Dunstan's still exists but the charity is now known as Blind Veterans UK.