The Turning Point
A study tour of the writing and writers of the Battle of the Somme
15-18 October 2016
“Between the opulent Edwardian years and the 1920s the First World War opens like a gap in time. England after the war was a different place; the arts were different; history was different; sex, society, class were all different”. Whilst most who have studied the events of 1914-18 would agree with Samuel Hynes, many would under- stand that the most significant stimulus of change can be narrowed down to the Bat- tle of the Somme which dominated the British sector of the Western Front during the summer of 1916.
Philip Gibbs, who had covered the war for the Daily Chronicle, writing about the Somme in 1919 said, “Modern civilization was wrecked on those fire-blasted fields, though they led to what we called ‘victory’. More died there than the flower of our youth and German manhood. The old order of the world died there, because many men who came alive out of that conflict were changed, and vowed not to tolerate a system of thought which had led up to such a monstrous massacre of human beings who prayed to the same God”.
The Somme saw the deployment of Kitchener’s volunteer army. The men who had rushed to the colours in the summer of 1914 were put to the ultimate test and whilst no one could doubt their bravery it proved to be an army ‘two years in the making and ten minutes in the killing’. At the end of the first day, July 1st, almost 60,000 Brit- ish men lay dead, dying or wounded and with them died the idealism, not only of the war itself but of society in general.
It was, in every sense, the turning point that was to have a massive impact on British society. Our tour aims to examine how the events surrounding this bloody period of the war were interpreted by the poets and writers of the day and by those who have reflected on it since.
The group will travel by luxury air-conditioned coach and will be based in a 3* hotel in Arras, the cost will include most meals & museum entry fees.
Full details of the tour will be available in the autumn of 2015.
To register your interest please email Andy Thompson at: email@example.com
The War Poets Association
Dear Members and Friends,
The War Poetry Review 2014-15, the Journal of the War Poets Association (WPA), edited by the eminent war poetry and First World War scholars Santanu Das and Kate McLoughlin is now available.
The Review is dedicated to the memory of Jon Stallworthy, a great friend of the WPA, who died last November and includes a conversation on War Poetry in which Jon and Santanu took part in 2012 with Andrew Motion and Michael Longley. There are in addition a number of excellent articles by distinguished contributors and the Committee takes this opportunity to thank very warmly the editors for their hard work on the Review and all the contributors for their most welcome contributions.
The Review is being posted to all current WPA members who have asked for a copy and will also be posted on our website: www.warpoets.org for members who have asked not to have a copy but to see it online.
The WPA Committee will be meeting again in the summer to continue our plan- ning for the Somme visit in October 2016. More detail of where we are on this is set out over the page.
In addition, the Committee is considering a joint event with the Wilfred Owen Association to be held probably in November and when we have something definite on this we will post details on the website.
Please keep in touch with us, via the website and e mail, with your ideas on war poetry and what the WPA should be doing. We are also always looking for support and new committee members with ideas and enthusiasm.
With best wishes for 2015 from the WPA Committee,
David Worthington, Chairman.
IRON HONEY GOLD: Isaac Rosenberg – An Evening of Words and Music
Sunday 26 April from 7pm – 9pm at The LJS
Presentations of Isaac Rosenberg’s poems and letters
Featuring Michael Rosen, Elaine Feinstein, Lee Montague, Philip Bell, Simon Haynes and Jean Moorcraft Wilson
Click Here for more information
January 18th 1935-November 19 2014
The death of Jon Stallworthy has saddened all who knew him, and all who knew his work. His numerous books – his acclaimed biography of Owen, his edition of Owen’s Complete Poems and Fragments, his study Between the Lines: Yeats’s Poetry in the Making, or, most recently, his New Oxford Book of War Poetry – both set the standard for the scholarly criticism and editing of war poetry, and brought countless readers to a deeper appreciation of the work of some of the century’s finest writers. More than anyone else in the last fifty years, he has shaped and enabled our understanding of the poetry written across two world wars. He tirelessly promoted the work of others – as editor, as critic, and as friend. Yet he was also a gifted poet himself, a poet of both love and war. This is from his 2009 sequence ‘War Poet’:
Without you, I am learning
about death. It cannot be true
that you – you – you –
and my numbness turning
to anger. But however slow
the fire, however deep the seam,
it will burn out, they say, in time.
In time for what? Forgiveness? No.
Acceptance? How should I resign
Myself to knowing that you lie
Under another sky
In other arms than mine?
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high…
From In Flanders Fields by Lt-Col John McCrae (1872- 1918)
Words don’t usually fail me, but it’s hard describe the three and a half days we’ve just spent in the Ypres area, on a battlefield tour organised by The War Poets Association. Does it seem a strange thing to choose to do – guided through those terrible, magnificent cemeteries in Flanders, maintained with such care and honour by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission? To study the work of great poets who have helped to define the First World War for us? To reflect on numbers of the dead so vast, so unfathomable, so indescribably cruel that your head reels and your eyes stare with incomprehension, beyond weeping?
Sad and exhausting it certainly was (although we also had merriment and good conversations with like-minded people in our group) yet you return with your mind freshly angry at the thought of the catastrophic carnage while your spirit is humbled and uplifted by the power, the pity of war. Two years ago we went (with the same group) to The Somme; this centenary year we had to make another pilgrimage.
A similar spirit of remembrance is taking thousands of people to see the powerful ceramic poppy installation at The Tower of London, knowing exactly what it represents as they stand silent before its beauty. We too were silenced at Tyne Cot, the largest cemetery (nearly 12,000 names) for Commonwealth Forces in the world – and also at Langemarck, where the total number of German soldiers buried or commemorated stands at 44,234. And each name invoking grieving mothers, wives, sweethearts, grandparents, children….
So in love, awe and gratitude we went to bow our heads before history and sacrifice. On Monday night we were present at the 29,744th ceremony of remembrance at the great Menin Gate in Ypres (or ‘Wipers’ as my grandfather called it, who was there). As the crowd of something like 2,000 stood to hear the Last Post and then the band of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment played our National Anthem, I felt so very proud to be British. And I know that the fight to uphold and protect our values can never end.
AUTHOR AND DAILY MAIL COLUMNIST
The Times & The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, Wilfred Owen Poetry & Music Of The Great War
11th October at Cheltenham College Chapel.
, click here to book online or call 0844 8808094
Leonard Pearcey and Sophie Ward will be telling the Edith Cavell story in Bath Abbey on 30th October 2014.
Full details of a WW1 Commemoration, The Cool Web: A Robert Graves Oratorio and the Edith Cavell story in Bath Abbey on October 30th 2014. Full details on www.robertgravesoratorio.co.uk.