Tuesday, 4 December 2007

'Perhaps' by Vera Brittain

During the First World War Vera Brittain served as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D) nursing wounded soldiers in England, France and in Malta. During the war she lost a number people she loved dearly including her fiance Roland Leighton, and her brother Edward. After the war she became strongly - and famously - associated with the peace movement, to which she was committed for the rest of her life.

'Perhaps' by Vera Brittain is a poem filled with the grief she felt when her fiance Roland Leighton was killed. The First World War Poetry Archive are working with McMaster University Archives to digitise a selection of Vera Brittain's poems, letters and diary extracts as well as material by Roland Leighton.

Image copyright: The Vera Brittain Literary Estate, non commercial use only

Monday, 29 October 2007

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn (Laurence Binyon, For the Fallen)

The 11th November marks the 89th anniversary of Armistice and Remembrance Sunday. Throughout the period of Remembrance a sea of scarlet poppies remains a touching symbol to those who fought and lost their lives and those they left behind, not only during the First World War, but in every conflict since then. Support the Poppy Appeal by visiting http://www.poppy.org.uk/.

Picture courtesy of The Royal British Legion

Monday, 17 September 2007

Isaac Rosenberg: Pozieres

Isaac Rosenberg was the son of Jewish Russian immigrants. He grew up in extreme poverty,but was a talented painter and poet,studying at Birkbeck College and later at the Slade School of Art. Rosenberg found army life very hard; he was bullied and victimised because of his faith, class and artistic temperament, and through his frailty and poor health he suffered real physical hardship. The poems that Rosenberg produced as a soldier are distinctive in their modernity, clarity of language and compassionate detachment. The project will be digitizing a vast number of Rosenberg's poetry manuscripts and letters from the Imperial War Museum, New York Public Library, and the British Library. The condition of the manuscripts are particularly interesting, showing the immediacy of the trench experience through mud stained paper and scrawled handwriting. This manuscript, from a collection at the British Library, features Rosenberg's poem "Pozieres". Rosenberg submitted the design and the poem for the 40th Division Christmas card in 1917. Unsurprisingly, it was not chosen.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Edward Thomas' War Diary

Edward Thomas' War Diary was discovered by his grandson Edward amongst his fathers documents and papers. Last month Edward and his wife kindly brought the diary to the Oxford Bodleian Library to be digitised for the archive.

The cover pages of the diary are creased, suggesting that Thomas was carrying the pocket book either when he was knocked over by a shell blast from a 5.9 shell on the 8th of April, or when he was killed at an observation post while directing the fire of 244 Battery during the opening barrage of the Battle of Arras.

Here we can see the final page of the diary which contains what is undoubtedly the last poem that Edward Thomas wrote. The poem shows a strong influence of Shakespeare's sonnets, for as his diary and letters show, he read Shakespeare regularly each night during the short time he was stationed in France.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Edward Thomas: Rain

A poem to compliment the recent weather that the UK has been experiencing! All of Edward Thomas' "war poems" were written in England, before he went to serve in France, so here we see the impact of the War on his mind rather than as a direct response to battle. Rain is deeply melancholic, a troubling poem by a troubled man who suffered from depression throughout his life.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Edward Thomas' Pocket Watch

On Easter Monday, 1917, Edward Thomas volunteered to occupy a forward observation post on the Western Front. At 36 minutes and 12 seconds past seven o'clock in the morning, a shell landed close to him. It left no mark on his body, but the blast stopped his heart, and his pocket watch. The pocket watch has been one of the most poignant exhibits in the Imperial War Museum, and is kept in the Edward Thomas Collection, at Cardiff University Library.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Wilfred Owen: Dulce et Decorum est

This is one of four manuscript versions of Wilfred Owen's seminal poem "Dulce et Decorum est" digitised for the First World War Digital Poetry Archive. The manuscript resides at The British Library (MS 43721).