The Grass Above His Grave


 The end of World War I took effect on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.  The inscription on this war grave in the churchyard of St.Mary’s, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, commemorates the short life of Private F.J . Harvey of the Middlesex Regiment, who sadly died just 12 days before this.
He was 18 years of age.

The Grass Above His Grave

And the grasses sway above his grave,
Reminding me of what he gave,
Of hopes as his new life began,
No more a boy, nor yet a man.

*     *     *

The promises of a war, just ended,
Lay before him, starkly spread.
Tempting him to rejoice
In the swollen face of victory.

A life to live, a promise to keep,
Beckoned his youth to greater glory,
But time and life were not for him,
Nor was death a friend.

They conspired to rob him of
The future he had bought,
And, in victory, the fate of so many
Became his own fate too.

*     *     *

And the grasses sway above his grave
Reminding me of what he gave
Of hopes as his new life began
No more a boy, nor yet a man. 


Priivate Harvey1

Photos: WHB-2020  …  ©

Mock Battle

09.Arundel (35)


When Normans fought
As Normans did
Upon their mighty battlefields
When once upon a medieval time
Warriors vied in combat
Life was hard
Was short
Was brutal
Living was for the nearly dead
And death was bones amongst the grass

Now we are pleased to read our books
Our Idylls
To watch staged tourneys
Of legend
of honour
and Medieval Romance
With little sense of cut and thrust
of jab and slash
of block and parry
a jousting game
bereft of passion
foam-tipped swords
and rubber blades
plywood shields
and plastic helms

men of steel
of acrid smoke
and blood-red trenches
barbed wire and bursting shells
we might know how you felt
on the fields of Passchendaele
the trenches of Mons

Verdun and Arras
The beaches of Dunkirk and Guam

If only we
And these toy soldiers
Shared the hurt
And owned the blame
Of those who gave
Their all for victory

09.Arundel (49)


09.Arundel (48)

The photographs were taken by me during a mock medieval battle display by modern-day enthusiasts of the period.  This was presented on the top of the giant keep of Arundel Castle, West Sussex, on my recent visit there in October.



Why Mussolini?

In 1940, Mussolini took his country into World War II on the side of Nazi Germany.  After 5 years of war, Mussolini was captured on 27 April, 1945, by local partisans near Lake Como in Italy.  He was shot the following afternoon, two days before Adolf Hitler’s suicide in a Berlin bunker.  The body of Mussolini was later taken and hanged upside down on display in a Milan plaza. The Italian masses greeted Mussolini’s death without regret.  He had promised his people Roman glory, but his megalomania had overcome his common sense, bringing them only war and misery.

On 8th May 1945 – Winston Churchill announced VE Day – Victory in Europe. This day marked the end of WW2 in Europe. 

Street parties were held and bonfires lit all over Britain to celebrate the end of the war in Europe.  At the age of 9, I was there for one of these in a small town on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors.

End of WW2 bonfire-effigy


Not Hitler
This Scarecrow Figured
Fat Wicker man
Atop a May bonfire
But that lesser devil
Second rate despot
Sinister Latin sinner
Chosen sacrifice
Victory Symbol
Hanged upside down again
Dead and gone
Ring-a-ring of dead roses
Now danced around
On victory’s bonfire

The joy and jubilation surrounding me
I was part of
though I hardly comprehended
of its full meaning
Save some sinister presence
The current Guy
Personified devil
Evil’s symbol
Was being fire-and-flame crucified
Inverted as St Peter
But here
In England
For the world’s sins
And to lift a shadow
From our lives

While the tarmac ‘neath his pyre
Into one more moment of history
And then
Into nothingness

End of WW2 bonfire-vintage-photos