Bombs Away

Retro Advert seen in a charity shop in Devon, UK … Photo – WHB 2016

Bombs Away . . . Keeping our boys Regular

A provocative
Re a sanative

As an ex-airman I can say

Advertising ‘Bombs Away’

Should not be a cause of laughter

I have heard of nothing dafter.

I consider it a waste,

Certainly leaves a nasty taste.

This advert I would call a fail,

In fact it is beyond the pale.

So airmen of the world unite,

Stop them talking utter tripe.

Dropping Bombs is not a joke,

Save it for that Hitler bloke.

He’s the one deserves derision,

Not our brave boys on a mission.

Nothing regular about a war,

Always ends with blood and gore.

So don’t make fun of our boys in blue,

Or the next one missing could be you.

A Fear-Full Life

A life lived through its worries,
Trying to forget.
The risks that come with being,
With which life is beset.

The siren prompted fear
In that kitchen-table home;
Dad away in the army,
And Jerry would cross the foam.

The smog was dark and dismal,
The midday sun obscured;
Cloaked in knife-cut cloud,
How was it we endured?

A dose of National Service –
Your country needs your youth;
Learn to fight for your country,
The threat – more than the truth.

The Bay of Pigs a worry,
Suez a cause for fear;
The lads fought in Korea,
While we were shivering here.

Then Aids brought worries aplenty;
Cold War a constant threat;
Always there were worries,
For ever fears to be met.

Polio and smallpox,
Diphtheria, whooping cough,
A plethora of scourges –
All those we have seen off.

And then we met with covid,
A world of worry and threat;
Another scourge to face,
None of them over yet.

A world so full of worry,
Yet life’s still worth the trouble
The joys in family and friends
Ensure we can face the struggle.

Maldon & the Thames Sailing Barge

[ Photo Gallery # 91 ]

Thames Sailing Barges

Maldon is a town on the Blackwater estuary in Essex, England.   Cruises can now be undertaken from here on the traditional Thames Sailing Barges.  During the 17th and 18th centuries Thames Sailing Barges played an important role in ferrying cargo to and from ships to the London wharves. The very first barges were different from those we see today and lacked the distinctive sails which were introduced over time. Such craft  came in a variety of sizes that could carry from 100 tonnes, (river barges) to 300 tonnes (large coasters) to suit a range of needs.

The flat-bottomed barges with a shallow draught were perfectly adapted to the Thames Estuary, with its shallow waters and narrow tributary rivers. The larger barges were seaworthy vessels, and were the largest sailing vessel that could be handled by just two men.

The cargoes carried by these boats varied enormously – bricks, cement, rubbish, hay, coal, sand, grain and gunpowder. Timber, bricks and hay were stacked on the deck, while cement and grain was carried loose in the hold. They could sail low in the water, even with their gunwales beneath the surface.

They sailed the Medway and Thames in a ponderous way for two-hundred years; then in the 1860s a series of barge races were started, and the barges’ design improved as vessels were built with better lines in order to win. The Thames barge races are the world’s second oldest sailing competition, second to the America’s Cup.  At the time of World War 2 these Thames Sailing Barges played a vital part in the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk, their shallow-bottoms proving excellent for this purpose.



The Thames Sailing Barge Trust, which owns such boats, operates some of their boats from Maldon and offers the opportunity to sail to various locations around the Thames Estuary,  and also to take part in competition with other barges in the various barge matches arranged throughout the sailing season.

The photographs below, except the first and the last, were taken by me on a visit to Maldon in 2005.

[  My notes above are based on information from a variety of sources ]


Map of the Thames estuary and the Essex coastline

Maldon02 (1)

Maldon02 (2)

Maldon02 (3)

Maldon02 (4)Maldon02 (5)Maldon02 (6)

Maldon02 (7)

full sail

Thames Sailing Barge in full sail




[ Photo Gallery # 76 ]

A further selection of my photographs of Whitby taken on my frequent visits there  in the past . . .

01 Whitby Panorama

Panoramic view of the entrance from the North Sea to Whitby Harbour and the River Esk

02 Whitby

The Church of St. Mary on the headland on the south bank of the River Esk.   Ruins of the ancient Abbey can be seen behind the church

03 Whitby

View of the inner harbour and the swing bridge crossing the River Esk and connecting the north and south areas of the town.

04 Whitby

View to the east across the inner harbour

05 Whitby

The breakwaters at the Whitby harbour entrance

06 Whitby

Another view of the Whitby Whale Bone Arch

07 Whitby

Bronze statue of Captain James Cook
The inscription reads:
Front: To Strive, to seek to find and not to yield. To commemorate the men who built, the Whitby Ships and the men who sailed with him.
North Side: In every situation he stood unrivalled and alone on him all eyes were turned.

08 WhitbyGulls

. . .  very popular with the local gulls

09 Whitby

A WW2 anti-aircraft gun on the Whitby seafront

10 Whitby

Whitby Harbour entrance

11 Whitby-199Steps

The bottom of the 199 steps in Whitby, leading up to Whitby Abbey and the top of the East Cliff.  These steps are an extraordinary attraction in Whitby, y attracting visitors from all over the world.

12 Whitby

Wood-carved monument to Whitby seamen in the inner harbour


Your Country Needs You


Doug, a dear friend of mine, died recently at the age of 95.  In 1943, at the age of eighteen, he was drafted into the Royal Air Force and trained as a pilot. In the latter stages of World War Two he was posted to the Cocos Islands in the East Indian Ocean from where he carried out several missions.  At the end of the Far East War in September, 1945, he took part in the relief of Changi prison, the notorious Prisoner of War camp in Singapore where the Japanese interred many of their prisoners.

I have written this poem in an attempt to understand something of the situation which he and many other young men faced in those precarious times.   


Given a bomber at twenty one
A young man’s coming of age
Told to use it wisely
On the far east’s war-torn stage

A Lancaster
A lethal gift
To war’s sad sorry tale
An airborne killer
Sky high thriller
Death following in its trail

You grow up quickly in a war
No marking time
No second thoughts
Prevarication precluded
No time for rage
Get on with it
With reality engage

This his introduction
No subterfuge
With minimal instruction
No simulation
Taught to deliver destruction
Reality games now

Yes, young man,
Your country needs you
To fill the gaps left by those
Who bought it
– For their country –
Before you do the same

But, chin up
Soldier on
stiff lip and all that
Who knows
You may be home by Christmas



Ground crews of No.356 Squadron RAF based at the Brown’s West Island, Cocos Islands, celebrate on hearing the news of the surrender of Japan.  (Published under the terms and conditions of the Imperial War Museum Non Commercial Licence, including use of the attribution statement specified by IWM. For this item, that is: © IWM (CI 1557)




An Anderson Shelter from WW2 – c. 1940.


Click on the link below to hear the siren sound of an ‘Air Raid Warning’, followed by the ‘All Clear’, accompanied by a video with some memories of the 1940s in the U.K.  . . .

Siren Sound



The Air Raid Warden came to say:
‘It’s best to be prepared;
A little forethought and hard work –
Don’t want to make the young ‘un scared.’

Dad dug a cave deep in the garden,
Covered it with earth.
Our escape in time of stress,
Yes, this is what our lives were worth.

Then in the night the wailing came,
Woke me from my dreams.
Homes haunted by this dreaded sound
Soon learnt to know just what it means.

Escape to shelter in the dark,
All lighting was forbidden.
To hide in dark and musty gloom,
From bombs and fear hopefully hidden.

That siren sound has haunted me,
Its memory’s with me still.
The fear and dread, diminished now,
But yet it brings to me a chill.

All this, for me, was what war meant –
‘Twas hiding in the shadows,
While sounds around brought fear and doubt,
And longed for hopes of new tomorrows.



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



Code Poem For The French Resistance

(Poem No.33 of my favourite short poems)

‘The Life That I Have’ is a short poem written by Leo Marks and used as a poem code in the Second World War.

During the war, famous poems were regularly used to encrypt messages.  Later this was found to be insecure because enemy cryptanalysts were able to locate the original from published sources.  Marks countered this by using his own written creations. ‘The Life That I Have’ was an original poem composed on Christmas Eve 1943, and was  written originally by Leo Marks in memory of his girlfriend, Ruth, who had just died in a plane crash in Canada.  On 24 March 1944, the poem was forwarded by Marks to Violette Szabo, a French SOE (Special Operations Executive) agent who was eventually captured, tortured, and killed by the Nazis.

It was made famous by its inclusion in the 1958 movie about Szabo,  ‘Carve Her Name With Pride’.  In the film the poem was said to be the creation of Violette’s husband Etienne. (Marks allowed it to be used under the condition that its author not be identified.)

[ Information adapted from Wikipedia]

The poem is given below:


The life that I have is all that I have
And the life that I have is yours.
The love that I have of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have,
Yet death will be but a pause,
For the peace of my years in the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours
(Quoted from Everyman’s Poetry: ‘Poetry Please’ – an Everyman Publication)

Here is a link to a version of Leo Marks’ poem spoken by Richard Armitage on YouTube . . . 

‘The Life That I Have’


Leopold Samuel Marks  (1920-2001)


A Mother’s Legacy


My mother was schooled in recitation;
Cherished the melody of words.
Relished  the drama
Of story creation,
The lilt of the poems she heard.

 She loved the lustre of legend
The power of myths oft retold.
The songs of the bard,
The power of the poet.
Her love for them never grew cold. 

*  *  *

This came from her childhood,
Her school-days, her past.
So many verses
Committed to heart.
That remained with her to the last. 

She hardly knew their birthright,
But she felt their richness sing.
Then in her prime
They became her rock,
A surety to which she could cling. 

They served to bolster her resolve   WW2
When dad had gone to war.
They lifted spirits,
Held her firm,
Reminded her what life was for. 

They held her strength through air raids,
When time was cruel and hurting.
She sang them
As she cooked and cried,
Her face from me averting.                             WW2-airraids

Then she pressed me to her pinny
and released her flowing tears.
The words still came,
Still pure and sweet
To counteract my fears.

*  *  *

Her favourite poem  was ‘Barbara Frietchie’, BarbaraFriechesFlag
She lived it as she spoke.
Both with her eyes,
And with her voice,
The drama she evoked.

 She visibly was racked with angst
As Barbara raised her banner.

“‘Shoot if you must this old grey head
But spare your country ‘s flag’ she said.”

 And then, ashamed, the answer came,
And Stonewall’s words were voiced with dread.    

“Who touches a hair of yon gray head,
Dies like a dog!   March on” he said.

  *  *  *

So moved and cowed by this powerful scene,
Re-played with stress by voice and nuance,
I, to this day,
Remember still
The fictive force of my response. 

That poem now means much to me
As now I seek to write;
To render the phrase
To fit the mood,
To get the word just right.

My mother’s cares are dead and gone
And all was meant to be.
I cannot bring
The past to life
But the past brings life to me.

I’m grateful for her ardour
In  leaving me this blessing.
With poems and verse,
Story and rhyme,
Her love for me expressing. 

I laud her for her joy in words,
Lifeblood of my advancing years.
And, just  as the poet
Ends his tale 

‘Honour to her and let a tear
Fall, for her sake, on my own bier!’












The poem referred to is:  ‘Barbara Frietchie’  by JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, first published in 1863.

The last rhyming couplet has been slightly adapted (by me) from the original version of Whittier’s poem!

The full correct text can be found on the Poetry Foundation website at:   ‘Barbara Frietchie’





John Greenleaf Whittier (1807 – 1892)  was an American Quaker poet and advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. Frequently listed as one of the Fireside Poets, he was influenced by the Scottish poet Robert Burns.   (See his Wikipedia entry)..





Barbara Frietchie


Barbara Fritchie (née Hauer) (December 3, 1766 – December 18, 1862), also known as Barbara Frietchie, and sometimes spelled Frietschie,[1] was a Unionist during the Civil War. She was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and married John Casper Fritchie, a glove maker, on May 6, 1806. She became famous as the heroine of the 1863 poem Barbara Frietchie by John Greenleaf Whittier, in which she pleads with an occupying Confederate general to “Shoot if you must this old gray head, but spare your country’s flag.” (Wikipedia).




Stonewall Jackson



Thomas JonathanStonewallJackson (January 21, 1824 – May 10, 1863) was a Confederate General during the American Civil War,  and the best-known Confederate commander after General Robert E.Lee. (Wikipedia).