Tag Archives: poetry

THE GRAVES AT MERSA MATRUH.

At 11am on 11th November we remember the ending of the First World War, and the men and women who lost their lives in other wars and other parts of the world. Much of our focus is often on Europe, and those who fought and died in other theatres of war can sometimes be forgotten or relegated to the sidelines. One such group are the men who fought and died in North Africa during the Second World War.

Men of the Highland Light Infantry (City of Glasgow Regiment) camouflaging a gun position at Mersa Matruh, 28 May 1940. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205193447

Mersa Matruh is an ancient fishing port dating back to the time of Alexander the Great. It was also the place where Anthony and Cleopatra would escape for seclusion – at the time it was a village of sponge fishermen where the two lovers would relax and swim naked together in the sea. Allied troops were stationed in Mersa Matruh during the First World War, and at the time of the Second World War it was at the end of a narrow-gauge railway from Alexandria and as such was an important supply post for the Allies. The Allied troops who fought in North Africa came from all around the world – from the United Kingdom to Australia, from India to New Zealand, and the British Eighth Army (including the famed Desert Rats) set out on some of their most important operations from Mersa Matruh. Mersa was also the site of a crushing Allied defeat by Rommel’s Afrika Corps in June 1942.

I would like to thank Ian from the Desert Rats website for allowing me to use the following poem as a tribute to all those who fought and died during the North African campaigns of World War 2.

Signallers at Homs

THE GRAVES AT MERSA MATRUH.

How often do you folks at home
Think of sandy graves without a stone,
Where sleep our comrades brave and true,
Out in the desert at Mersa Matruh.

The raging sandstorms awake them not,
They’re cool below but above is hot
The trails of the desert are over them,
They fought and died like Englishmen.

Do you not feel pride in your heart
Where you think may be a friend took part
in the struggles for the empire, Britain and you,
And lay down their lives at Mersa Matruh.

On honoured scroll their names shall shine,
And will not dim through pass of time
In years to come we will remember them
As soldiers of the empire and British men.

Then forget them not you folks at home,
Those men who lie in the desert alone,
They died for their country, Britain and you
In the western desert of Mersa Matruh.

Desert Graves

Advertisements

Do you know how to wear your poppy, and what it means?

The First World War ended at 11am on 11th November 1918. Each year we take time to remember those who died. Each year we buy a poppy to help support the work of the Royal British Legion.

But do you know why the poppy is the symbol of remembrance?

And do you know how to wear your poppy correctly?

Many know of the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ by John McCrae, written in May 1915 after his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, had been killed during the Second Battle of Ypres. The poem describes poppies growing between the graves of British soldiers.

The poppy was later chosen as a symbol of remembrance because it was the first of the flowers to re-appear on the battlefields, and because of the three colours in this simple, yet beautiful, flower:

  • the deep red petals represent the blood of those who gave their lives for their country
  • the black represents the mourning of those whose loved ones never returned from the conflict
  • the green leaf represents the grass which covered the graves, and also hope for the future – crops being grown in a time of peace, and future prosperity after so much destruction

But did you know that the leaf should be worn in a particular position? Imagine that the poppy is a clock face, the leaf should be positioned at 11. This is a reminder that the death and destruction of World War One ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

And did you know that, whilst men wear their poppy on their left, many people say that women should wear the poppy on their right side? This is because it has always been traditional for women to wear broaches on the right. Many women still feel they should wear the poppy on the right, but the British Legion say you can wear it anywhere, as long as you wear it with pride.

So much symbolism in such a small thing.

As the years pass, fewer and fewer remember the symbolism of the poppy. I hope that this year you will take a few moments at 11am on 11th November to think of the poppy and what it represents.

In Flanders Fields by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

In Flanders Fields

Monsoon in Kamaraj Valley

When I lived in England rain was something we put up with grudgingly, but now that I am living in India I appreciate the value of the life giving rains.  All living things, man or beast, look forward to the monsoon and welcome its arrival.

This poem first appeared on my blog lakesideindia after the first monsoon rains of autumn 2012.

 

Monsoon in Kamaraj Valley

A gentle breeze from the west swirls, changes direction.

Blowing harder now, from the east.

Leaves fly from the trees;

Whirlwinds rise, dust whipped into life by the growing wind.

In the air the scent of rain.

 

Lake reflections shatter, broken by the growing waves

into a million pieces.

Lone egret takes flight.

Sambar lifts his head, questing the wind.  Turns silently

Into the forest, is gone.

 

Dark clouds billow, climbing high into the threatening sky.

The wind drops, eerie stillness descends.

Blinding flash of light.

Thunder rolls around the valley, echoes from the hills.

The sun shrouded, darkness descends.

 

The first drops raise dust, disappear into the parched earth.

Silence reigns, then thunderous roar

Of heavy rain on leaves.

Lake and mountains disappear, grey curtain hiding all.

Senses succumb to the rain.

 

Raindrops bounce, sparkling, shinning; consuming sunburned earth.

Roots reach out, greedily seeking;

Flowers raise their heads.

Verdant green revealed; leaves long hidden by yellow dust

Washed clean by the longed for rain.