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The perfect Bivvi

The perfect bivvi will be level and flat

  • Writer's picturemeldennison

War - what is it good for?

In these troubled times, where the flames of war seem to be spreading I think of the stories that my Grandparents told me. They lived through two world wars, and their message was that this was to be avoided. Never again. To share one small story of personal tragedy, my Grandad lost two older brothers in the First World War, one on the Somme in 1916. His family never knew where he fell, and he has no known grave. He is then one of the 'missing' whose name is engraved along with 72,000 others on the monument at Thiepval. Monuments like these are scattered all over the battlefields on the Western Front. So many young lives lost. Surely there is a lesson there somewhere.

I wrote this poem in his memory.

Our Harry (1893 – 1916)


Twenty-four summers -

you would never see your

twenty fifth.

an uncertain smile plays

about your lips.


self-conscious in the

brand new uniform

of a Yeoman rifleman,

perhaps just a little too big.


On the photographer's chair

you sit still,

waiting for the flash.

To your left a painted gun

at rest in a bucolic land.


Cheese cutter cap

neatly arranged,

short back and sides

freshly cut.

Hands in fists on your lap –

what thoughts were racing

through your head that day?


Twenty-four short

summers of life,

a working-class lad

casual dock worker

whose life would end

amidst shrieking shells

and the roar of the guns.


Nothing much is left of you

our Harry -

just a carte postal,

a few brief words, and

a frayed old ribbon.


What happened on that

fine September day?

Were you afraid?

stupid question!

You must have been,

as the whistle blew

stomach in knots, deep breath

and over the top

you go.


(Looking at you) I think of

the ways you might have died -

did you lay in pain, injured for hours?

did you scream out for your mum?

I like to think death came quick,

and that you didn't know…


One hundred and eight summers have since passed.

Now, the Somme is silent except for the sounds of farming and birds.

Fields once full of broken bodies and bones now produce a different



Perhaps you are there under the soil?

If only we knew where you fell…

one of the seventy-two thousand

missing, known only to God.


Dedicated to my Great Uncle Harry Thompson C/12149 Kings Royal Rifle Corps, the Yeoman Rifles, enlisted in November 1915, killed ten months later on the 15th September 1916. One of Kitchener’s Army at The Third Battle of the Somme.

Our Harry
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