Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Harold Parry (1896 - 1917) - British

With many thanks to Lynne Sidaway who suggested I research this forgotten WW1 poet.  Harold was born one of twins in Bloxwich, Walsall, West Midlands, UK on 13th December 1896.  His parents were David Ebenezer Parry, a mining engineer and colliery manager, and his wife Sarah, nee Arkinsall.  Harold's siblings were:  Donald b. 1891, Dorothy, b. 1892, and Victor, his twin.

Educated initially at a local preparatory school, Harold went on to Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall where he joined the Cadet Corps, wrote poetry and excelled at cricket and football.   He went on to study at Exeter College, Oxford.

Harold volunteered to join the Army in January 1916 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the King’s Owen Yorkshire Light Infantry.   Transferred to the 17th Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, Harold was posted to the Western Front, where he continued to write poetry.

Harold was killed on 6th May 1917 at Ypres and was buried in Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, West Flanders, Belgium.   He is also commemorated in Field Road Cemetery, Bloxwich.

Harold Parry’s WW1 poetry collection “In Memoriam Harold Parry” was published by W.H. Smith in 1918

Sources:  Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War – A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978), Find my Past, Free BMD, and

Monday, 1 May 2017

Erwin Clarkson Garrett (1879 – 1954) - American

While looking for information about British soldier poet Nathan Percy Graham, I came across Erwin Clarkson Garrett, an American soldier poet of the First World War.

Erwin was born on 28th March 1879 in Germantown, Philadelphia in the United States of America. His parents were George L. Garrett and his wife Sophia Cooper Garrett, nee Gray.

 In 1906, Erwin graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Pennsylvania.  He enlisted as a Private in the American Army and served during the Philippine Insurrection of 1899 – 1902 in the 23rd Infantry.

Erwin then travelled around the world.   In 1916 he published “Army Ballads and Other Verses”.

In August 1917, following the entry of America into the First World War, Erwin travelled at his own expense to France, where he enlisted in the American Army in Paris on 1st September 1917.  He served as a Private in Co. “G” of the 16th Infantry of the AEF and was awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star.

Erwin died in October 1954.

In 1919, Erwin published “Trench Ballads, and Other Verses” which were all written while he was in the Trenches on the Western Front - published in 1919 by The John C. Winston Company, Philadelphia, USA.   The collection is available as a free down-load on Project Gutenberg and if you scroll down you will not only find his poems but also copious notes about his time in France, which are fascinating:


CHARLIE CHAPLIN IN BLIGHTY by Erwin Clarkson Garrett from "Trench Ballads, and Other Verses"

The mess-hall windows blanketed
    To bar the western light—
The tables cleaned and cleared away,
And bench by bench in close array
Five hundred convalescents sway
    To catch the caption bright.

And there are men with helpless legs,
    And torn chest and back;
And men with arms in sling and splint,
And one poor eye that bears no glint,
And muscles limp or turned to flint—
    And souls upon the rack.

They came from Chateau Thierry—
    From Fere-en-Tardenois—
From Soissons, Oulchy-le-Chateau,
From Rheims and Fismes, where blow by blow,
’Cross Marne and Oureq and Vesle aflow
    They hammered them afar.

And now upon the screen is thrown
    An old familiar form:
’Tis Charlie of the strong appeal,
At skating-rink or riot meal,
And every mirth-producing reel
    Awakes the farthest dorm.

The aching head, the splintered arm,
    The weary, dragging feet;
The wound that took a month to drain—
The everlasting, gnawing pain—
Are all forgot and gone again
    When Charlie strikes the street.

Your esoteric shrug and sneer
    And call him crude and quaint;
But we who’ve seen him “over here”—
Who’ve heard the laugh that brings the tear—
Who’ve heard the bellowing roar and cheer—
    _We_ call him Charles the Saint.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Commemorating 1917 exhibition at The Wilfred Owen Story museum, Birkenhead, Wirral, UK

Remembering 1917 is an exhibition commemorating the First World War through poetry and more. The exhibition, which is in memory of Great Uncle James Yule, who was killed on 9th April 1917 at Arras, is on display at The Wilfred Owen Story museum at 34 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, CH41 6AE, Wirral, UK.

Among the poets featured are those who were killed on 9th April - the first day of the Battle of Arras – R.E. Vernède, Edward Thomas, William Maunsell Scanlan, Walter Lightowler Wilkinson and Alexander James Mann. Also included are Wirral/Merseyside poets Geoffrey Wall, Leonard Comer Wall, Olaf Stapledon, James Laver and Percy Haselden.

The WOS is run by dedicated volunteers and is open Tuesdays – Fridays from 11 am until 2 p.m.  Entry is free.   Please check before visiting to make sure there is someone to welcome you: or call 07903 337995.  

For those unable to visit the exhibition, there will be a commemorative book on sale later this year.
The Wilfred Owen Story
34 Argyle Street
Wirral, UK
CH45 2NZ

Friday, 13 January 2017

Jimmie Howcroft (1893 - 1936) – British airman poet

James (known as Jimmie) Howcroft Junior was born in Bolton, Lancashire, UK in 1893.  His parents were James Howcroft and his wife Margaret, nee Coop.  Jimmie’s brother Fred was born in 1892   Jimmie’s father taught at the Sunday school at Fern Street Wesleyan Chapel in Bolton.

Fred became a coal miner and Jimmie, who began work at the age of twelve, was apprenticed to an electrical engineer when he was fifteen.  He worked as an electrician in various factories and was a keen sportsman in his spare time.

After the death of the boys’ father, Margaret re-married. Her second husband was Richard Taylor and in 1901, the family lived at No. 10 Haynes Street in Bolton.  Richard and Margaret’s only child, a daughter, died in infancy.

During the First World War, Jimmie joined the Royal Flying Corps as a mechanic and his brother Fred joined The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment – an infantry regiment - and was sent to the Western Front. 

Jimmie, who played football for his Squadron, became an observer, which meant he could accompany pilots in planes, and he, too, was posted to The Western Front.  A tricky landing during a reconnaissance mission over the Somme, resulted in Jimmie’s back being badly fractured and he was sent back to Britain for treatment.  The journey to London took three days.

For five years Jimmie lay in a hospital bed in The London Hospital, completely paralised and unable to move.   Jimmie’s poems are a testament to his courage.  As he could not move his arms or hands, he dictated the poems to his nurse, Phyllis Harding.  On 20th May 1921, Jimmy was finally able to leave hospital.   Jimmie’s first collection, “Looking on”, with a foreword by John Oxenham, was published in 1920 to critical acclaim.  In spite of the cover price of two shillings and six pence – half a crown, as the coin was called, which would be equivalent to the purchasing power of £25 in 2017 – sold extremely well, which demonstrates the popularity of poetry at that time.  With the proceeds from the sale, Jimmy was able to purchase a cottage in Hampshire – Little Forest Gate Cottage in Liphook.  So he was moved down to Liphook where his Mother, Margaret Taylor, and the nurse who had nursed him for his five-year stay in The London Hospital, looked after him.

Two poems written around that time are very revealing:
Homing (written on the last day in hospital, 20th May 1921) (page 32 of “Songs of a broken Airman”)

Homing, homing, homing,
Sweet instinct and divine –
Sweetest in the gloaming.
When thoughts will e’er entwine
Old faces and old places,
Old songs we used to sing!
Though far we stray at the close of day
Homing thoughts will homeward wing.

To Sister (page 32 of “Songs of a Broken Airman)

What understanding you express,
In your all-tending tenderness!
Your actions to my mind convey,
The things that words can never say.
When in the depths of dull despair,
Your ministry pursues me there,
To raise me up to things above,
Your sympathy commands my love.

Jimmie’s second collection, “The Songs of a Broken Airman”, with an introduction by John O’London, was published by Hodder & Stoughton, London in 1922 and with the proceeds of that book, Jimmie started a poultry farm at his cottage.   Jimmie lived on until 1936 when he died in September of that year.  He was buried in the cemetery at St. Mary the Virgin Church in Bramshott, Hampthsire.

“Songs of a Broken Airman” is dedicated to Miss Phyllis Harding, who I am guessing was Jimmie’s nurse.  His poems are extremely inspirational and as one reviewer commented in the media at the time of publishing: “There are no circumstances, however, adverse, which a courageous spirit may not surmount”

Sources:  Find my Past; Free BMD, The British Newspaper Archive, Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978)
and “The Songs of a Broken Airman” (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1922) The photograph of Jimmie Howcroft is from "Songs of a Broken Airman".

Poems by Jimmie Howcroft:

“Have Courage” from (“Songs of a Broken Airman”, page 7)
Man!  Break the shackles of your mind.
Desist from feeble groping,
Then light as air and free as wind
Go snatch the joy you’re hoping;
For life is love, and love is good,
And freedom’s for the making;
Then earn your freedom as you should,
Nor tarry in the taking.

“Armistice Day” (from “Songs of a Broken Airman”, page 8)

O ye who made the sacrifice
That we your kin might live,
Who fought and counted not the price
Too high a one to give –

O ye who gave your lives in love
That Britain might be free,
Look down and counsel from above
Our long infirmity.

Look down – stoop down – be wish us yet!
Brave souls we could not spare;
May courage we can ne’er forget
Direct us everywhere.

Man’s Mismanagement from “Songs of a Broken Airman” (page 26)

Then are we sane, that we should order life
To chaos, turmoil, and unending strife?
The world will change, all be wond’rous bright,
When we look upward and towards the light.

Quit ye like Men (from “Songs of a Broken Airman”, page 39)

Then what am I?
A stricken pawn in a mighty plan,
Yet striving still to be a man.

Though hopeless seems the race to be
Yet breast it bravely, thou shalt see,
Like mist before the sun,
Thy troubles die, and fade away,
And joy be at the close of day
If thou hast nobly run.

I Flew! (from “Songs of a Broken Airman”, page 42)

I flew!
Upward climbing to the engine’s roar
The clay is dead, but still the soul can soar
Imprisoned here, as by some earthy chain,
In higher life, my soul shall soar again.

Monday, 2 January 2017

The War Poets Association

The War Poets Association promotes interest in the work, life and historical context of poets whose subject is the experience of war.  To find out more, visit the Association's website:

Saturday, 24 December 2016

John Still (1880 – 1941) – British archaeologist and writer

John Still was born in Lambeth in 1880. His father, also called John Still, was an Anglican priest and his mother was Anna Elizabeth Still, nee Nutrill.  Educated at Winchester College, Still went to Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then called) as a tea planter in 1879.   John married Winifred Mary Evans.
He served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the East Yorkshire Regiment during the First World War and was taken prisoner of war during the Gallipoli Campaign.

In the Foreword to his First World War poetry collection “Poems in Captivity”, which he dedicated to his wife, John explains how he came to write poetry during the three years he spent in captivity in Turkey:
“… each one of us was driven to seek inside himself some alleviation of the daily dullness, many of us there found things we had not suspected to exist. For, to find distraction, we were thrown back more upon our own creative powers, and were helped less by our surroundings than ever is the case in normal life.

Some found the wit to write plays, and others the talent to play them. Some discovered the power to draw ; and one at least found much music in his mental storehouse. Some developed into expert carpenters, and others, less profitably, into hardly less expert splitters of hairs ! Some found in others a depth of kindness more durable I think than the depths of hate this war has generated. I found these verses …”

 In 1939, John went to live in Africa and he died in South Africa in 1941.

 John Still’s poem “Christmas Day” is on page 66 of the collection:

 "CHRISTMAS DAY", written on Christmas Day 1916 

YEARS ago. Years ago.
Three years ago on Christmas day,
Out in a forest far away,
The monkeys watched me down below,
And saw me hide in the waving grass
While the elephant herd went trampling past.
Oh, the great wild herd that Christmas day !
And I as wild and free as they,
As free as the winds that blow.

Christmas day. Christmas day.
Across the yard with footsteps slow
The sentries pace the mud below ;
The wind is cold, the sky is grey ;
Christmas day in a prison camp,
With freedom dead as a burnt-out lamp.
The lions eat and the lions rage,
Three steps and a turn in a narrow cage,
And I am as free as they.

Rich and poor. Rich and poor.
Poor as a sparrow or rich as a king,
This world can offer but one good thing,
And my heart is sick to be free once more.
For the sun may shine in a sapphire sky,
But give me freedom or let me die :
Free and fresh is the forest breeze
Whose spirit rides on the tossing trees,
And the waves break free on the shore.

 AFION KARA HISSAR, 25.xii.i9i6.

“Poems in Captivity” was published by John Lane, The Bodley Head, London in 1919.  This is now available on Archive as a free down-load

John Still also wrote “A prisoner in Turkey” which was also published by The Bodley Head, as well as a book about his life in Ceylon and "Jungle Tide" about his discoveries in Ceylon.

Sources:  Find my Past, Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography" published by St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978  (p. 305), Wikipedia and Archive.

Friday, 23 December 2016

List Update

With thanks to someone called 'In the Know' who kindly pointed out to me that Hilary Douglas Clark Pepler is not a female but a male poet.  The name of course in English can be either masculine or feminine - I have a cousin Hilary, a cousin Elliott both female and a neighbour called Cameron who, unlike Cameron Diaz, is male.

Harry Douglas Clark Pepler was born in Eastbourne. During WW1 he worked for London County Council.

Under the pen-name H.D.C.P., Hilary published the following WW1 poetry collections:

"God and the dragon: rhymes" (Douglas Pepler, Ditchling, 1917) and

"Pertinent and impertinent: an assortment of verse" (St. Dominic's P., Ditchling, 1926).

Source:  Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliogaphy" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978)