On 7th June 1915, Flight Sub-Lt Reginald Warneford of the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS( was awarded a Victoria Cross for destroying a Zeppelin in mid-air by dropping bombs on it. One exploded, setting the Zeppelin on fire, overturning Warneford's plane and stopping its engine. He landed in German territory but managed to re-start the engine and returned safely to base. Lt Warneford was also awarded the French Legion of Honour for his action.
Sadly, Lt Warnford was killed the day he received his French medal – on 17th June 1915 – as his plane crashed while taking a journalist on a non-combat mission. Canadian poet Jean Blewett wrote a poem about Warneford’s exploit :
“What Time The Morning Stars Arise”
by Jean Blewett published in “Canadian Poets”, edited by John William Garvin (McClelleland, Goodchild & Stewart,Toronto, 1919), pp. 195 - 196
ABOVE him spreads the purple sky,
Beneath him spreads the ether sea,
And everywhere about him lie
Dim ports of space, and mystery.
Ho, lonely Admiral of the Fleet !
What of the night? What of the night?
'Methinks I hear,' he says, 'the beat
Of great wings rising for the flight.'
Ho, Admiral neighbouring with the stars
Above the old world's stress and din !
With Jupiter and lordly Mars–
'Ah, yonder sweeps a Zeppelin!
'A bird with menace in its breath,
A thing of peril, spoil and strife,
The little children done to death,
The helpless old bereft of life.
'The moan of stricken motherhood,
The cowardice beyond our ken,
The cruelty that fires the blood,
And shocks the souls of honest men.
'These call for vengeance–mine the chase.'
He guides his craft–elate and strong.
Up, up, through purple seas of space,
While in his heart there grows a song.
'Ho, little ship of mine that soars
Twixt earth and sky, be ours to-day
To free our harassed seas and shores
Of yonder evil bird of prey !'
The gallant venture is his own,
No friend to caution, pray, or aid,
But strong is he who fights alone,
Of loss and failure unafraid.
He rises higher, higher still,
Till poised above the startled foe–
It is a fight to stir and thrill
And set the dullest breast aglow.
Old Britain hath her battles won
On fields that are a nation's pride,
And oh the deeds of daring done
Upon her waters deep and wide!
But warfare waged on solid land,
Or on the sea, can scarce compare
With this engagement, fierce, yet grand,
This duel to the death in air.
He wins ! he wins in sea of space !
Why prate we now of other wars
Since he has won his name and place
By deathless valour 'mong the stars?
No more that Zeppelin will mock,
No more will sound her song of hate;
With bursting bomb, and fire, and shock,
She hurtles downward to her fate.
A touch of rose in eastern skies,
A little breeze that calls and sings,
Look yonder where our hero flies,
Like homing bird on eager wings.
He sees the white mists softly curl,
He sees the moon drift pale and wan,
Sees Venus climb the stairs of pearl
To hold her court of Love at dawn.
Previous post about Jean Blewett (1872 – 1934) https://femalewarpoets.blogspot.com/2019/11/jean-mckishnie-blewett-1872-1934.html