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 –