EPPING: Poem from the Western Front unearthed

First published in News by

A POEM by an unknown World War One soldier while he served on the Western Front has been unearthed.

John Duffell, of Clover Leas, in Epping, has been researching dead soldiers from the First World War and came across the find at the Newspaper Library, in Colindale.

It was written by an unknown Epping soldier serving on the Western Front in 1916 and was published in the West Essex Gazette, a forerunner of the Epping Forest Guardian, in 1916.

Mr Duffell said: “I would assume that it has not seen the light of day for 92 years.”

The local newspaper played a big part in Epping during the First World War with the editor organising Christmas parcels each year for servicemen abroad and sending copies of the paper every week to all fronts.

With the anniversary of the end of the war coming up, Mr Duffell has put together his findings which include letters published in the Gazette and a diary of events for Epping.

It tells how a ‘Feed the Guns’ campaign was launched in Epping in November 1918 before the guns finally fell silent at 11am on Monday November 11.

A large crowd gathered in the market area to listen to a speech from the district council chairman, Ernest Harris.

The war claimed the lives of 108 Epping men, with two more dying within a few days of the Armistice and three more in 1919.

In January 1918 a letter was published from Trooper A Juniper who died in October 1918 of bronchial pneumonia, just before the end of the war.

He said: “I cannot express my feelings in words, but I am sure that you all understand how much it helps us out here to know that people of the old town are thinking of us. I don't think I have missed the Gazette one week since I have been out here.”

While J. Bushmill wrote in February 1915: “Very many thanks for the fine boxes of tags. They were very welcome, especially as they came when we were all short. The whole section has shared them with me.”

And James Tredgett who was killed in 1918 in an accident involving a submarine, wrote in May 1915: “Thanks for the papers you send me every week. I get them quite safely. I hope that all the lads in Epping have joined the army. Epping ought to have its share in the Roll of Honour, and every Epping lad should come and do his bit.”

THE POEM

Often in the trench I think of those poor chaps at home,

Of perils that surround them, wherever they may roam;

The train and tram collisions, the deadly motor car, Bacteria in cow’s milk, and Zeppelins from afar.

How awful it must be at night, within a feather bed,

How terrible at breakfast to find butter on your bread;

With all those shocking worries, a man’s life must be sad,

And to think that I am missing them, makes me exceeding glad.

Now out here things are different, and life is fancy free,

We have no butter on our bread, no cow’s milk in our tea,

There are no train collisions, no feather beds at night,

And Zeppelins never trouble us, they keep well out of sight.

For all we have to worry us are bullets, bombs and shells,

Some bully beef and biscuits, and nasty horrid smells;

So to the chaps in England, I send my sympathy,

And ask them, for their safety, to come out here with me.

Comments (1)

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3:05pm Sun 2 Nov 08

Walthamster says...

How amazing that this hasn't been recorded anywhere else. Not immortal literature maybe, but a witty piece of satirical verse.

Today's different view, that the First World War was a terrible waste of life, makes it all the more poignant. These men gave their lives in good faith and were let down by their leaders. I hope the author of this poem survived.

Well done John Duffell for finding this.
How amazing that this hasn't been recorded anywhere else. Not immortal literature maybe, but a witty piece of satirical verse. Today's different view, that the First World War was a terrible waste of life, makes it all the more poignant. These men gave their lives in good faith and were let down by their leaders. I hope the author of this poem survived. Well done John Duffell for finding this. Walthamster
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