AUGUST 4TH 2014

An exceptionally sunny, cloudless day

has packed Benllech Beach at low water

with hundreds of gaudy strangers. Meanwhile,

the pomp begins and ‘sacrifice’ is talked of

as if the lambs themselves had chosen it.

 

On the clear horizon, container ships

and oil tankers are hoved to, waiting

for high water so they can safely clear

the Liverpool Bar – a compacted sandbank –

something I have seen many times but

only now recall a great grand father,

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THE CHRISTMAS BOX

They kept their medals in a brass box – Bill James,

wounded at Mons, where defeat was clutched

from the jaws of victory, and his stepsons, George and Tom,

gassed at Ypres, where victory followed defeat followed

victory followed defeat, nose to tail, like elephants.

 

The box was a 1914 Christmas ‘gift from the nation’,

inspired though not funded by Princess Mary

Saxe-Coburg und Gotha.

 

They died before I was old enough to ask. Anyway

they had volunteered –

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THE OUTING

Each Armistice Day, she remembered it.
A walk along the riverbank. Her teacher took them –
one Saturday when the hawthorn was out
and the river slow after weeks of sun –
her and three of the other older girls.
Miss Davies’ young man came too –
in his uniform, on leave from the front.

When they all rested in the shade of a willow,
he unwrapped a large bar of chocolate
slowly, looking away, or pretending to,
across the river.  Suddenly he turned.
‘Voila!’, he said,

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THE ABATTOIR AT MAZINGARBE

The Last Absolution of the Munsters at Rue Du Bois, by Fortunino Mattania, depicts an event which took place on 8th May 1915, near Neuve Chapelle.


The push for Aubers Ridge had been postponed

because of rain. But the Saturday

was dry and sunny. Going up the line

in the early evening, the battalion

stood easy at the shrine to Our Lady.

‘…in remissionem peccatorum…’

By noon, next day, nearly half were dead,

caught on the German wire Haig’s ill equipped

artillery had,

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PIPER LAIDLAW OF LOOS

The Allies were waiting to go over the top

to attack a weak enemy position.

The British used gas for the first time.

Unfortunately, after a half an hour,

the wind changed and it all blew back

over the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

Unsurprisingly, the men were distressed.

Lieutenant Young called out, “Pipe them together,

Laidlaw, for God’s sake, pipe them together.”

And the forty year old veteran climbed

the ladder, tuned his pipes and marched back and fore

along the parapet,

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