Tag Archives: war

Trench talk

I have been concentrating on some assessment tasks for Master of Arts, Creative Writing and Literature. The following story is one of those assignments. It incorporates words and nuances, colloquial language from the WWI trenches in France, where Australians fought alongside English, Canadians, French and Americans. I hope to bring to light some of the horrors and atmosphere of trench warfare in WWI.

I hope I stir some hearts.



In the Trenches

Private Tommy Cooper was laying in the foetal position alone in his trench. The tympani bass of bombs, the percussion of explosions and the rat-a-tat of gunfire raged overhead. Something mashed into the parados at the rear of the trench. Tommy screamed fearing that the end had finally come, he was going west to the Blighty with a wound, or worse, cop a bellyache that would send him west of hell. He would be found in this pothole, making another batch of ANZAC soup. He had to push two stiffs out of the hole to occupy this small space at the front. He curled tighter waiting for the explosion that usually accompanied the thud of a bomb in the earth. It didn’t come. What came instead were grunts and groans. Tommy unfurled himself to look over his shoulder. Laying in a twisted heap was his mate Johnny Knots or Woody as he was known as by the troops in his battalion. Woody had jumped over the bags to avoid being killed after throwing a couple of close-range grenades into the Jerries trench, then scarpering the 100 feet here. He had a bloodied wound in his thigh and blood oozed from his ear.

“Fook” he said, “that was close. The Jerries nearly had me with that last burst, but I think I dodged the main hate how does my bloody leg look.” Woody was shaking, but whether from shock of losing blood, cold from the continuous rain, or just plain scared one could not tell.

Tommy scrambled to Woody, grabbed him by the back of his collar and dragged him toward the front wall of the trench. A bloke was less likely to be hit by any strays there. Tommy lit a candle stub and got a bandage from his pack. Tommy Cooper was a sniper. He was right on the front. There are no medics up this far. They were about 50 yards behind them in the camp. He put the pressure pad on the wound in Woody’s leg and bandaged it to stop the bleeding. It was all that could be done till daybreak. He looked at his friend’s ear, and besides cleaning it with a putrid rag, dipped in a puddle of rainwater, there was nothing could be done.

“Can you hear me old mate?”

“Yeah” shouted Woody grimacing. “I still got one good ear, this left one is done in though.” His head was most likely too close to a bomb when it exploded but not close enough to kill him.

“What was the score out there?”

“There’ll be a few fresh faces in hell tonight Tommy, that’s dinkum”.

“Bonzer mate. Your leg is no bellyache to send you to Belgium. We’ll get out of here tomorrow when my relief comes.  You’ll be fine.” Coops tried to make light of Woody’s injuries so not to make his mate despair.

“I might get a holiday back in the Blighty with this. English girls, English beer, the life mate. But save a few squareheads for me mate, I’ll be back”. He didn’t want to be thought of as a leadswinger

“No worries cobber, you just hang in there.” All thought of fear and giving up had departed Coops as he cared for his mate. At last there was something else to focus on besides the grey sticky mud, the smell of death, flesh and blood and the loud continuous assault to the ears of shells and gunfire from over the top.

The constant noise was something that was not discussed on the flyers or posters asking young men to join up. “Do your duty for King and Country”, the poster said. Nothing about shooting the hell out of unseen enemy on the beach or in mud up to your armpits. Nothing was said about digging up some farmers field, not to plant potatoes, but to live in, then plant bodies afterwards. Destroy, kill and then move on, To watch your mates fall around you and wonder why the bullets hadn’t chosen you that day; wondering how long it would be until one came over the top with your name on it. Its better to be shot than to die on the end of a bayonet. That was just plain cruel. He had seen his father gorged by a rogue bullock and to be killed on the end of a bayonet, as Tommy had seen before, reminded him of that, and he prayed to never have to christen a man by a bloody pigstabber. Better to be shot than bombed. Being killed by a bomb was bad luck but getting shot meant that someone wanted you personally dead. The enemy saw you personally as a threat to their war effort. I was stopping them from advancing, thought Coops, and they hated me for it. “Fook em”, he thought, “no Jerry’s gonna tell me how to live or when to die.”

Bells continued ringing in his ears. It was so distracting it made a bloke want to yell. But if you do yell it just gets lost in the cacophony of all the other noises. The symphony of war. A bloke could hear the grass grow back home but here he couldn’t even hear himself think. Back home, you sat quietly in the grass waiting for a rabbit or roo. Then you slowly moved and aimed your rifle and pulled the trigger. You only got one shot, then they would scarper. Cooper couldn’t waste a shot. Shot was expensive and hard to get when his family lived so far from town. It’s why Coops made such a good sniper. He picked his target and was able to pick ‘em off and send ‘em to hell quick as a flash.

Here was different to home. Back home when you shot at something, it didn’t shoot back. Here, you shot your rifle at the Jerries until the barrel was too hot to handle, then you wrapped your hooks in some stinking socks and started again. Bayonet always fixed, but you hoped like hell you didn’t have to use it. It would mean that Fritz had got too close or you had been ordered over the top. That was worse, exposing yourself  to the enemy to just pop one in your guts and leave you to someone else to come drag your body back from no man’s land.

Two in a pothole or t-sap meant that one could rest, eat an ANZAC wafer, take a leak in the hole that you had dug a little deeper for the latrine, and hope to God you didn’t need to shit before you got back behind the lines.

Rain, piss and blood meant that you were walking in and sitting in putrid mud most of the time. Back home, mud was welcomed because it meant that the rain had finally come to the brown dusty ground. The little kids would jump in the mud puddles and not get frowned at. You would take your kit off down to your drawers and have a wash. Mum would throw you the soap and it was the cleanest you could be. But this mud smelt like meat that had gone off. You put your coat down on top of it where you wanted to kip. Sometimes you had to fight for a dry patch with the trench rabbits (rats) and hope they didn’t gnaw on you while you tried to get a bit of shut eye. The crawling and jumping louse were bad enough to make you keep one eye open, and a hand ready to slap some to death.

Coops sat up all night while Woody slept or tried to. The ghosts got him in his sleep, so he thought it was safer awake than asleep most of the time.

“Hey Coops, he said, Got a gasper?”

Coops threw over his pouch with the makings in it.

“Ta mate, your blood’s worth bottling”

Coops heard scurrying around in front of his trench, so he popped his peri over the edge, then tossed a grenade in the general direction. Yells and screams of anguish and sudden pain of at least two Jerries followed. A burst of cover fire was heard while the enemy recovered their injured. Coops thought about picking off the ones who dared show their face in front of Coops trench, but the groans coming from Woody distracted him for a bit. Coops looked through the peri again. All clear for now.

It went quiet for a bit. That is to say, the bombs still flew and exploded somewhere, but the local gunfire had ceased after that last grenade .Tommy sat back down and after rolling a fag of his own from his returned pouch, fumbled inside his jacket for his paper and pencil. He’ll write a letter to his mum, and he’d get one back in a month or so, telling him all was fine at home. He knew what he wrote was bullsh, so did his mum he reckoned, but just getting a letter meant that one party knew that the other was still alive. Better than not knowing.

“Writing home?” asked Woody.

“Yeah, thought I better, I got one from mum yesterday, dated a month back. If I don’t write, she’ll go batty with worry.”

“What does your mum have to say, share it with me then, you know I ain’t got no family at home. I don’t get letters except from the Red Cross ladies”.

Tommy reluctantly opened the many times folded letter and read to Woody.

Dear Tommy.

How are you son. The little kids and me all miss you and pray for you while you are away. Jacob is getting good at milking, and John collects the eggs now, if there are any to collect, Henrietta has gone broody again, so we’ll have plenty of chickens for Sunday roast in a couple of months. We still have the whites that are laying so eggs for breakfast a few times a week anyway. The rooster scares the pants off John, so he’s taken to carrying a stick in the coop to ward off the rooster while he collects the eggs. We sold some salted beef in town last week and got some other produce, like flour and sugar. But with you over there and your dad gone, we don’t use that much sugar.

There was a snake come from the bush the other day looking for a feed. Jacob wanted to kill it, but I said to leave it, he is only hungry. The kids are big enough now to know not to bother it, and it won’t bother us. Rusty chased it off though. He doesn’t bark much but you know how he can go on if something has got him stirred up. Never shuts up. But he is a good dog really.

Mrs Jones in the post office said that her son Patrick writes home every week, so how come you can’t do that?

“Cause he is a bum brusher”, said Tommy to Woody who was listening. “Works at HQ for the top brass. I imagine he’s got access to despatches whenever he wants”.

Tommy read again from the letter.

I shouldn’t complain though, they tell you not to. Some families in town have got the telegram. Nobody has heard from Jacky Johnson. His mum is getting a bit worried.

“Have you seen Jonno around Woody?”

“Yeah, he copped a smack to the arm, he’s back at the bunkhouse playing pontoon with the lads and making a motza. If you can’t see him, you can always pick out his laugh, then follow the line of downcast faces until you see a bloke with a wad of oscars.”

“I better tell him to write to his mum.”

Cooper folded up his letter and put it back in his pocket, along with his pencil and paper. Reckon I’ll write later, he thinks.

“Where you from back home Woody?”

“Everywhere and nowhere really. I’m a shearer and a drover, so I go where the work is and where the beer is cold. Anywhere I take my hat off.”

“So, you could even stay on here to live after. Help the locals get their farms back up?”

“No bloody way mate, my hat is back home. It has honest sweat and blood on it. The one I wear here belongs to the brass nobs. They can bloody have the thing back when I am done with it.”

It went quiet after that, and in between trying to get the lice off, Tommy Cooper and Woody took it in turns to have a few minutes shut eye.

Just after Reveille, and with it, daybreak, a scurrying could be heard behind them and then four diggers jumped into the hole with them, nearly landing on Woody’s leg, which he found he could no longer bend. “Nice day for it” was the greeting.

“Oi, let up”, Woody said, “can’t a bloke coil up without being jumped on?” He scrambled to his feet, then collapsed again. “Worse than I thought I reckon”. Then he promptly fainted.



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Is Daddy Home?

She rested her head on her hands, elbows propped upon the sill. Weary eyes filled with water and her nose was pressed against the cold glass.

“When will it ever stop raining Mummy?”

“It will stop when the clouds are empty baby, and the stars and moon can shine through them”

“When will that be?” Emily asked

“About half past your bedtime, but before the Sun raises its head.”

Headlights appeared, reflecting off my little girls curls. A car approached slowed on the gravel circle, and stopped at our front door.

“Mummy, a car,” said my little one. I waited to see who would brave to monsoonal type rain to visit us on such a night, Out of the car stepped two men in crisp Army uniform. One carried a small box, the other, a meticulously folded flag. I saw this through the window which was being pelted by raindrops. Teardrops left my eyes that would rival the speed of the rain.

I wailed as the knock came upon the door.

Daddy is home.

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Lest We Forget. Friday Fictioneers

Word Count 93.

I wrote a poem for this prompt. I hope it is acceptable. Thanks to Sandra Crook for the photo prompt.

The rugged tower of rock

stood reaching for the sky

it was made to remember heroes

Men, much braver than you or I.


Blindly they ran, walked or rode

into battle with the enemy unseen,

men also brave, onward they strode

whose intent was just as keen.


They clashed on the beaches,

and the rocky hills above

They fired guns in anger

for a country they so loved.


Among them was no victor

no winner could be seen

just rivers of blood which flowed

over hills that once were green.

Lest We Forget.


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Deng Adut

The other evening, I was asked to photograph the New Members Ceremony for the Golden Key Honours Society from Western Sydney University Campus. Areas of Western Sydney are areas of welfare and poverty, and it was inspirational to hear stories of people who have managed to achieve high marks in their studies so far. Only the top 15% of students are offered a place in this society which prides itself on 3 pillars, Academia, Leadership and Service.IMG_2147

I have been a member of Golden Key now for about 8 months, having first been invited when I was doing my degree at ACU. It was because of my involvement with that chapter, that I was invited to take the photos at the ceremony for new members.

One of the highlights of the evening for me, was hearing a young man named Deng Adut give the keynote speech, and receive his honorary membership to the society. Deng was born in Sudan. At 6 years of age, he was taken by an army from his war torn village. he was made into a child soldier. Deng has written a book of his harrowing ordeals called “Songs of a War Boy”. you can purchase a copy here. http://dengadut.com/dengs-book/IMG_2220 (2)

Deng was shot a number of times and carried schrapnel around in his body. As a result of one of his injuries, he was unsure whether he would be able to father a child. On Friday evening, he told us a miracle had occurred and he became a father 3 weeks previous.

Deng arrived with his brothers, still a wounded child. When he arrived, he could not speak much English, and he could not read or write. He taught himself and did anything he could to drag himself through school and later University, graduating in Accountancy and then Masters of Law. He is now a partner in his own law firm, and a greatly sought after public speaker. Deng gave the Australian of the Year speech in 2016 and became NSW Australian of the year in 2017.

It was an honour to hear him speak, inspiring the high acheiving students in the room to keep going.

The older brother who helped Deng escape into Kenya, to later be granted refugee status in Australia, returned to South Sudan as an Aid worker. Unfortunately he lost his life while saving others. deng has started a foundation in his honour. It is called the John Mac Foundation. It is “a charity working to educate and empower refugees and people whose lives have been interrupted by war.” Donations to the charity, and to find out more about it, you can go to http://johnmacfoundation.org/

I hope you find inspiration in the life of Deng Adut. If a wounded Child Soldier, who cant speak English, work to achieve a Masters of Law, become a father, and help so many others, what can someone who grew up in a privileged western society do.



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(written after my course ended but still relevant to the course, so I have included it under the subject of American Writing in the menu,)

Recently I studied Allen Ginsberg, Kerouac and other beatnik poems. Ginsberg called himself a pacifist. I questioned this. I believe I have the same protesting spirit as Ginsberg and others, however I do not call myself a pacifist.

a person who believes in pacifism or is opposed to war or to violence of any kind. 2. a person whose personal belief in pacifism causes him or her to refuse being drafted into military service. Compare conscientious objector.

A passivist is something quite different. It means being submissive in nature, particularly in a sexual situation.

I am not sure which Allen Ginsberg was referring to, I don’t want to think about the second. I do believe he was a lover of peace, however was not a true pacifist in the sense of the word.

My words, writing my mind can be a weapon against an oppressive, corrupt or unjust government, rulers or laws. As a protest poet, I shoot my literary arrow deep into the hearts of leaders, and others who can make a difference, until their hearts bleed empathy. I do not stop until I wound. I am not to kill with my words (as a famous song does), but to heal. Where one was running into battle as an oppressor, he now limps away, with his heart changed and fights for the opposition to the oppressive.A-1678614-1321804331.jpeg

My words, my art and my photos are not meant to leave you comfortable if I am working on a social justice or human rights issue. They will not give you warm and fuzzy feelings. They are meant to make it feel like you are sitting on granite, something hard and uncomfortable enough to make you want to move.


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A poem after Ginsberg.

I have chosen this as my best  creative post for the subject American Literature. I have written freely, from my mind and heart. There are some things in this poem that have been burdening me for some time. Writing a “Ginsberesque” poem has allowed me to use my creative skills to vent a bit about those issues.


I had a thought, an idea, it was a poem waiting to be told, but had funny rhymes, a funny rhythm. Ginsberg and other beatnik poets have given my licence to write in their style. I said and subconsciously wrote. I digitally put pen to paper. I used the Ginsberg breath method. My breathing is erratic though, being an asthmatic. Read a sentence completely in one breath, then breathe after the sentence. That is important.  Enjoy the poem below, called:

The Hierarchy of Power

I wrote a letter to the queen and said hi, how have you been. He said fine, how are you. How am I, you ask? I will tell you how I am. I am disillusioned by the politicians of today the statesmen and leaders of the past, they seem to make rules and never obey, then they call us the fools. They think we don’t know what’s going on in their tiny minds having selfish thoughts, caring not for others but raising super and pensions for sitting members. We are doing such a good job saving the taxpayer millions we deserve to give the money saved to ourselves, and those who have come before, who nobody remembers.

Politicians make the hard decisions to send someone to their certain death, fighting wars that are none of our business, meddling in the affairs of states, who were doing just fine without us, or at least keeping the cruelty within a set of borders. Put up a fence! a wall! keep them out and keep us from seeing them at all. Ignorance is bliss. We don’t have to put up with this. They make the decision to raise the pensions of the elite while the hungry are still hungry, the poor poorer still and the sick die of disease. If the sick die there is less strain on the health system. If we move the homeless we can deny there is a problem. Statistics are manipulated, leaders are too. Donations to the party are used to campaign, not to benefit me or you.

Green is the colour of the grass anchored in one spot, restricted movements by fences and walls, plants and walls used to hide atrocities. Blue is the sky that rules over all, it is free to travel where it will. No restrictions placed on it; on the cruelty it can rain down upon the grass beneath. If grass is restricted all its life, it will forget how to grow. A mower is taken to it, those with aspirations and dreams are cut down. Don’t think like that, you can’t do it. Look at where you are. Once a grass behind the fence, grass you will always be. Never a daisy. Blue sky suppresses the green but is in turn governed by the suits of grey, with the red or blue ties, which are above us all, beyond being free, governing what is free. If you get too close to freedom the rules and boundaries will change. Unattainable, unreachable, dreams will remain dreams, there is nothing to gain.

Work your ass off in capitalist society, or even in the new rich communist socialist regimes. Everyone continues to have dreams. Own your own home, burden yourself with debt, be shackled to the desk for thirty years or more. When will you truly be free. THINGS ARE NOT WHERE ITS AT. Keep up with the Joneses? The Joneses are trying to keep up with you. You drive your flashy cars, live in your fancy houses. 2 cars in the driveway but nothing in the fridge. On the outside everything is new. The inside filled with preloved and now dumped stuff. Accumulation of junk, when is enough enough?

The good old days glitter with gold. Gold plate covers the rust underneath. Again, the outside sparkles but the inside is as rotten as your teeth. Dental care, health care, funeral costs. No-one can afford to live but you can’t afford to die either. How am I, you ask? I’m fine because…


Above all there is God. Beyond reach. Never changes. Looks down. Cries. I will make it right. Watch this space, coming soon.


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Mark Twain, prose writer and protester.

Mark Twain has been called “the Father of American Literature” and his work Huckleberry Finn the Great American Novel.

Samuel Clements was his real name. He took the name Mark Twain after his time as a riverboat captain on the Mississippi river; Mark Twain meaning deep water, of a safe place to passage.

Mark Twain is taken, on face value, as a humourist. He was the master of colloquial language. This is what brought him success as a writer.

A lot of his writing comes from his own experiences. While looking at his biography, I was amazed at how much he did during his life. Twain tells us to write what we know. It is because twain had a lot of life experience that his writing could be so diverse and plentiful.

Twain knew what it was like to be poor, he knew what it was like to have plenty…and then to lose it all again. He started life as a poor boy who had to leave school at 10 to work in the mines. He made a lot of money with his works and with his lectures and essays. Twain was a master in the newspaper and magazine world while he was still working in the area. Then he lost it all when he invested in a printing or typesetting machine that was too complex to run.

Mark Twain became outspoken in his later years and spoke greatly against Imperialism. America was going to war with Spain to make the Phillipines an American territory. Twain thought at first that America was trying to liberate the Phillipines to create a new republic with their own government. It was when he discovered that the Phillipines were not to be free but come under the power of an Imperialist American government, he penned a short prose entitled The War Prayer.

This is a dramatised version of that short story.

Mark Twain was saying to us, to think before we act or even pray. For praying for victory in battle is to pray that some fellow humans lose, not only their battle, but their lives.

Twain accomplished something that  I too wish to do with my writing. While my main mission remains the same… “to bring beauty to those who cannot see it for themselves”, I choose also to highlight the atrocities of war, of cruelty and injustice done to all people of the world, in hopes that by highlighting, people who in a position to stop the abhorrent acts committed against fellow human beings, may read my words and be persuaded to act.

Twain told us that in remaining silent, we perpetuate the lie that all is well. To ignore atrocities is to endorse them. Let us act with compassion towards our fellow humans. If we as single voices cannot cause change in the hearts of a regime who promotes injustice and inhumane acts, then we as a collective can do more by uniting our voices, in protest against those acts.  We need to make our voices public.

Twain by writing the War Prayer was voicing his disgust at the senseless violence of war. By writing Huckleberry Finn, he was using sarcasm and irony to voice his opinion about slavery. The novel is in fact about freedom. Freedom not only of the slave Tom, but freedom for Huck, from people who would bind him, cause him to conform to society and their practices.

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Do you see what I see?

As part of the inside out CAPA competitions at Uni, I wrote the following poem with the hope that it would shed some light on what asylum seekers, including children have come through to reach our country. Then what do we do, but shove them in detention, without any possible hope for a good future in out country.

I hope that when you look at asylum seekers, you would look with compassion, and understand  what they see.


Do you see what I see

Do you want to see what I see.

The mud the blood

Broken bodies on the ground

My family is not to be found

Death and fire all around


Do you hear what I hear

Do you want to hear what I hear

The guns the bombs

Echo in the night

And fill me with terror and fright

They give me nightmares each night


Do you smell what I smell

Do you want to smell what I smell

The chemicals the flesh

Smoke rising in the sky

Sometimes causes me to cry

And makes me wonder why


Do you feel what I feel

Do you want to feel what I feel.

I’m scared alone

In detention on my own

My future is unknown

When will kindness finally be shown


Do you see what I see

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Inside Out, seeing through someone else’s eyes

I was asked to submit to a social justice awareness competition at my Uni. I could not stop at one cause. I submitted these 3 photos with the commentary to appeal to people to look through another’s eyes before judging and to feel some compassion. Maybe these will touch the heart of someone with the ability to make a difference, whether that be a person with the financial ability to help, or someone with the right contacts to make a change in the way governments and leaders see things.

Is it right to ask you, as I normally do, to enjoy this post?



I saw this site and took the photo during the Syrian Crisis, when people were dying and buildings being blown up. This site reminded me of Syria. Sometimes people who don’t understand, tell immigrants to go home. With this photo, I hope to open their eyes. Sometimes immigrants have no home to go back to. The war rages still in Syria. Many millions displaced. Will we show compassion and offer a home to the homeless?

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’


Freedom, so close

I took this photo to represent the plight of asylum seekers who are in detention, not only in Manus Island or Nauru, but also community detention centres right here in Sydney. Having endured the bombs, death and terror of war in their destructed homelands, they risk everything to come to a new land, where they hope they can find freedom and enjoy the dignity that should be afforded to every human being. Instead they are treated like animals, kept in detention for an indefinite period. They are so close to freedom, but so far.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25


Feed me

I sat down on the pavement next to a young homeless person. He said to me: “I watch people with bags from expensive brand name stores. They walk past and turn their noses up at me. Even though they wear their fancy clothes, they are poor. Sometimes I think I am richer than they are”.

I was with some people in a group a week later. A man was complaining about homeless people looking at him eating in a restaurant and that they shouldn’t be allowed on the street like that. I asked him if he thought the street person looked bad, how do you think you look from his point of view, when he is sitting on the ground.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25

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WAR… What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing?

Osbert Sitwell is thought to have said (but I cant find a reference for it) that after WWI the world will never be the same again.

One thing is true, the rich in Britain had to learn to do without servants during the war. Lady Victoria-Josepha Sackville-West wrote to Lord Kitchener (then Commander in Chief of the British Forces) complaining about him taking all the servants. Also if her husband were to die during the horrid war, she would have to pay some exorbitant taxes- death duties. Please provide him with a safe job.

Poor Osbert Sitwells father, George had no idea of war at the front either. He wrote to his son telling him that as soon as he hears the first shell, he is to go to the basement and to stay there until the firing had stopped. He said that even then the bombardment was a strain on the nerves, so he should care to keep warm, have plenty of nourishing food, and plenty of rest including a nap in the afternoon which always helps.

The world would never be the same again. People were made to wake up. The world wasn’t the safe place that they thought it was. True the Brits had been in wars before, but they were somewhat civilised affairs… and they were… over there. This one was on their doorstep, and instead of all nations bowing to the will of the Commonwealth, there was opposition to the might of Britain.

The Literary world was changed too. Gone now was the sweet perfume of the roses that grew, and here was the smell of gas in the trenches, and shells of bombs being planted in the front garden. The poets lost the romantisim and found their fire within their hearts. They found causes to be passionate about instead of the powdered young ladies with their delicate nature.

The Next War by Osbert Sitwell
The long war had ended.
Its miseries had grown faded.
Deaf men became difficult to talk to,
Heroes became bores.
Those alchemists
Who had converted blood into gold
Had grown elderly.
But they held a meeting,
‘We think perhaps we ought
To put up tombs
Or erect altars
To those brave lads
Who were so willingly burnt,
Or blinded,
Or maimed,
Who lost all likeness to a living thing,
Or were blown to bleeding patches of flesh
For our sakes.
It would look well.
Or we might even educate the children.’
But the richest of these wizards
Coughed gently;
And he said:

‘I have always been to the front
-In private enterprise-,
I yield in public spirit
To no man.
I think yours is a very good idea
-A capital idea-
And not too costly . . .
But it seems to me
That the cause for which we fought
Is again endangered.
What more fitting memorial for the fallen
Than that their children
Should fall for the same cause?’

Rushing eagerly into the street,
The kindly old gentlemen cried
To the young:
‘Will you sacrifice
Through your lethargy
What your fathers died to gain ?
The world must be made safe for the young!’
And the children
Went. . . .


The art word was similarly rocked. The world was thrown into Chaos. Before the war, Picasso was producing some of the worlds finest etchings, such as The Frugal Repast 1904. In 1911 together with George Braque, Picasso developed a style called Analytic Cubism. This was looking at a model or object from various angles and portraying the images on one canvas. They would alter peoples perception, including parts of a subjects back, where the front would be seen and so on. It was sort of like a 3D image using 2D media.

An image of The frugal repast by Pablo Picasso

Picasso neglected Cubism after WWI again using a more traditional style but later experimenting with Surrealism ( a genre made famous by fellow Spaniard Salvador Dali.

WWI can be accredited to some big changes in our world. Art and Literature are only a couple of things that changed. Technology and Inventions increased and leapt ahead as each alliance sought to find quicker and better ways to kill and maim their enemies.

Sitwell was right.

We, the children of the warriors before,

Learn nothing from the horrors of War

Lest we forget we say with our lips

But from our minds, the lives lost slips.

(Thats my own verse)

“When will they ever learn, When will they ever learn”. Pete Seeger


For the cartoon and the Sitwell poem, as well as the letters to Lord Kitchener: Horrible Histories, 20th Century, Terry Deary,


For the clip of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, look on You Tube

For the Picasso Print: Art Gallery of NSW

for other information on Orbert Sitwell: http://www.firstworldwar.com/poetsandprose/sitwello.htm

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