1914-18 In Memorium

Wild Poppies and Daisies

Those Left Behind

Who digs here now?
Where once dug we
To shelter from the hail
Of shells and bullets
The evil intent
Of the unknown soldier
In yonder trench

Who digs here now?
Do you come to learn?
Of how we lived
In desperate times
The unknown soldiers
Beneath the soil
of a foreign field

Who digs here now?
To what end?
One hundred years of sleep
For the first to pass
Never home to come
Those destined to become
The unknown soldier – we all are one

Martin Addison – 04/08/2014

Poppies at Salisbury Hall

Author’s note:-
Around 200,000 dead soldiers from WWI were either never identified or not even found. Each year new human remains are turned up by farmers or archaeologists working where the battles took place and very occasionally there is enough to identify an individual and return them to their family. But many will never have a name and all are recalled by the Unknown Soldier tombs in the countries involved.

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4 Comments

    1. Thanks Judith – I guess the poem can be a bit unsettling. Tonite Alasdair and I took part in the 10pm-11pm lights out to remember the dead of WWI – our computers providing the sole lights within the house. Remembering is a must for every generation because to go there again would be unthinkable.

  1. This is a very moving piece of poetry. I don’t believe WW I receives the same level of remembrance in the U.S. as I believe is memorialized in the UK. Many reasons for that, but there are some important exhibits touring to bring the anniversary to our attention. i admire the symbol of the poppies and this really is a stunning piece, Martin. Well done!

    1. Thank you Debra. The European nations involved lost a whole generation of young men so it is small wonder that WWI gets remembered in the UK. The Poppy is also the symbol of the Royal British Legion and serves as a rallying point for fundraising to support injured servicemen and their families from all wars including Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the key dates in the UK calendar is Armistice Day – it marks the agreed ending of hostilities in the first world war with the signing of the treaty of Versailles and takes place at 11 o’clock on the 11th of November’ A major wreath laying ceremony takes place on that day at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. Church services and local parades usually take place on the Sunday before or after the 11th depending on which Sunday is closer.

      Isolationist opinions guided US policy for Woodrow Wilson (and also for Franklin D. Roosevelt in WWII) resulting in the US only coming into the war in 1917 officially… Although there were quite a number of US citizens who pre-empted their government by fighting with the British and French from the early days of the war.

      I’m currently reading Destiny in the Desert by Jonathan Dimbleby and that is giving me a fascinating insight into the campaign in the Middle-east during WWII and how Roosevelt and Churchill reached an agreement that US Troops should land in North Africa.

      Apologies for the overly long reply 🙂

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