WORLD WAR ONE CENTENARY

AUGUST 1916

TISBURY AND THE GREAT WAR

David Childs

Throughout August the meat-grinding on the Somme continued with fruitless assault following repulsed attack. On the minor fronts there was better news with Britain making big advances in German East Africa. On the home front Seaham was bombarded by a U-boat while the tragedy of the Irish Easter Rising drew towards its close with the execution of Sir Roger Casement. The end of the month saw Italy and Rumania declaring war against Austria-Hungary and Germany, a move which the latter reciprocated. Disquiet in Germany about how the war was being conducted was signified by the appointment of Field Marshal von Hindenberg to succeed von Falkenhayn as Chief of the General staff and Ludendorff being appointed as Quartermaster General. The French resistance to the German assault of Verdun with its failed aim of 'bleeding France white' undoubtedly contributed to this change of leadership and on 31 August France declared that particular costly battle to be over.

POEM FOR AUGUST

Many recent radio and television programmes have recounted how many war poets were present at the Somme. As a reminder that there were poets in conflict elsewhere this poem is by a naval airman.

The Dawn Patrol by Paul Bewsher

Sometimes I fly at dawn above the sea,
Where, underneath, the restless waters flow-
Silver, and cold, and slow.
Dim in the east there burns a new-born sun,
Whose rosy gleams along the ripples run,
Save where the mist droops low,
Hiding the level loneliness from me.

And now appears beneath the milk-white haze
A little fleet of anchored ships, which lie
In clustered company,
And seem as they are yet fast bound by sleep,
Although the day has long begun to peep,
With red-inflamèd eye,
Along the still, deserted ocean ways.

The fresh, cold wind of dawn blows on my face
As in the sun's raw heart I swiftly fly,
And watch the seas glide by.
Scarce human seem I, moving through the skies,
And far removed from warlike enterprise-
Like some great gull on high
Whose white and gleaming wings beat on through space.

Then do I feel with God quite, quite alone,
High in the virgin morn, so white and still,
And free from human ill:
My prayers transcend my feeble earth-bound plaints-
As though I sang among the happy Saints
With many a holy thrill-
As though the glowing sun were God's bright Throne.

My flight is done. I cross the line of foam
That breaks around a town of grey and red,
Whose streets and squares lie dead
Beneath the silent dawn-then am I proud
That England's peace to guard I am allowed;
Then bow my humble head,
In thanks to Him Who brings me safely home.

©  Tisbury History Society
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