A CENTENARY WAR POEM
For my father Bill Baine, 1899-1968
1/15th Battalion, London Regiment , soldier number 535068
‘What passing-bells for those who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.’
And so some lines to spike centenary prattle:
These words a sole survivor soldier’s son’s.
My father Bill, born in Victorian England:
The sixth of January, 1899.
His stock, loyal London. Proletarian doff-cap.
Aged seventeen, he went to join the line
Not in a war to end all wars forever
Just in a ghastly slaughter at the Somme –
A pointless feud, a royal family squabble
Fought by their proxy poor with gun and bomb.
My father saved. Pyrexia, unknown origin.
Front line battalion: he lay sick in bed.
His comrades formed their line, then came the whistle
And then the news that every one was dead
In later life a polished comic poet
No words to us expressed that awful fear
Although we knew such things were not forgotten.
He dreamed Sassoon: he wrote Belloc and Lear.
When I was ten he died, but I remember,
Although just once, he’d hinted at the truth.
He put down Henry King and Jabberwocky
And read me Owen’s ‘Anthem For Doomed Youth’.