Saturday, 9 September 2017
We are at War - Forty Years Backward March
Pleased to hear that the Second World War Experience Centre magazine 'Everyone's War' will include an article I wrote last year about poetry from the North Africa campaign.
Two poems about the outbreak of World War 2 from the point of view of teenagers in Britain, Elizabeth Jennings and Michael A. Mason
Public Air Raid Shelter in Trafalgar Square from 1941
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Deliberately decided to avoid posting about the anniversary of Britain entering into World War 2. Have to admit that anniversary fatigue is taking its toll .
But if I have posted on 3rd September 2017 would have included Elizabeth Jennings (1926- 2001), who later went on to become one of the 1950's 'Movement' poets. Her work is rarely included in World War 2 poetry anthologies - the exception being 'Poems From the Second World War'
( Macmillan's Children's books in partnership with the IWM. 2005 ).
'The Second World War' - Elizabeth Jennings
"The voice said 'We are at War'
And I was afraid
for I did not know what this
My sister and I ran to our friends next door
As if they could help. History was lessons learnt
With ancient dates, but here
Was something utterly news,
The radio, called the wireless then, had said
That the country would have to be brave. There
was much to do. ....."
Personally I am drawn to the simplicity of the poem, Elizabeth Jennings would have been 13 when war broke out and this poem captures the adolescent realising that they were experiencing ' something utterly news'. I am not in a position to reproduce the whole poem.
The same anthology contains Anthony Thwaite's poem 'Bournemouth 3rd September 1939' , about a school boy enjoying the seaside whilst waiting to start the Autumn Term. Born 1930, he was far younger than Elizabeth Jennings. The poem ends with the ominous lines
"...........Later, tucked in bed
I hear the safe sea roll and wipe away
The castles that had built in sand that day. "
Forty Years Backward March -Michael Arthur Mason
Canadian writer Paul Nicholas Mason has shared this poem his father Michael Mason wrote about serving in the RAF during World War 2, on WW2f.com, and has kindly given consent for the poem to be reproduced here.
This is a memory of an outbreak of war from the point of view of a boy just about to turn fifteen. Again I appreciate the simplicity of the poem, which conveys the aspect of the unreal with what Elizabeth Jennings above called 'something utterly news'. Also like characterisation of Chamberlain as 'disheartened Victorian ' ( who was, after all, born in 1869) and the commander who has been 'demothballed' who wishes the boys a 'good war'.
Paul has supplied the following biography.
Michael A. Mason was born September 29, 1924 in Oxfordshire, England, the son of the butler to the Earl of Jersey. He was educated in state schools, and joined the RAF in 1943. He was released early in 1946 to return to university in London. Michael eventually earned his B.A. (Hons), Dip Ed, M.A. and PHD in English Language and Literature, and taught at universities in East Africa, B.C. and Ontario, Canada. He finished his teaching career as Head of English and Philosophy at Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario.
'40 Years Backward March ' - Michael A Mason.