WW1 Poetry



During the summer Chester Library held a series of poetry workshops with Manchester based performance poet Dominic Berry. Archive material from the Cheshire Archives and Local Studies was used to inspire our potential poets. A few of the poems have been included here, we hope that you enjoy them. Some were inspired by the the wartime experiences of Cheshire rifleman Sydney Upton, others by the fundraising efforts of those left behind, and the album of a First Word War nurse known only as ‘Self’.


Earth to Spade by Sharon Forsdyke
Earth to spade, spade to earth, no earth to dust.
This earth, full feeling through hands,
Not like that clogged, matted other earth.
No bone-meal compost here.

Forgive and forget?

Not will, not can

How can when on a half-way return to a feather welcome

Little proud that I did not die.

Larkspur for Tom, foxglove for Albert
Geraniums for Charlie, snapdragon for Jimmy.
Dhalias for the Belgian farmer
Roses for them all.

No poppies here.

None of their blood soaking earth

This will be a coming home epitaph.

My Uptonian garden.


The German food is filthy by Sharon Forsdyke

The German food is filthy.
I thank you for these funds.
Let’s show our captive prisoners
we’re thinking of our sons.
First ticket’s number 7,
a cake of Scotch short bread
donated by our Mrs Drake.
Is that your ticket, Fred?
Now, you make sure you share it all
with your lovely wife.
Ticket 2, this pocket corkscrew
may well save your life!
Mr Dougless wins it!
His son is in the Somme.
His men would welcome this next prize
from our dental surgeon.
Ticket number 125, (one – two – five)
that goes to Mrs Grish.
Next is number 133, (one – three – three)
a plate of parkgate fish.
I love an honest raffle.
You know everything’s been given.
You can’t object to a few pence….
Our boys will think they are in heaven.


The Dunce by Elizabeth Bentley

In school room corner I sit

Dunce’s hat on head

Looking at fields

Wishing I was there.


Teacher frowns at me

Fidgetting sun browned fingers,

Flexing young muscled arms

Used to threshing and sowing.


Arm work, not brain work my strength.

My eyes read clouds, not books,

Sense rain and frost.

With Father I am doing my bit

Feeding the nation.


Look at Tom Williams – posh boy

All he can do is write about it.

Teacher’s pet.

He will be in print one day

In a hundred years time.

But no one will know this dunce’s name

The unknown soldier of the soil.


SELF by Elizabeth Bentley

Can’t see

Stinging, watering, stinging.

Can’t move.

All must be done for me .

Pride gone.

A starched figure

A dark kind shadow.

Spoonfuls of food.

Sips of water/

Pressure rubs.

She turns me, turns again.

As medicine and body loses fight,

Hearing and touch remain.

The comfort of a hand.

A voice with warmth and care

Love for a stranger.

Kindness to the end.


The Garden by Sandy Boyne



Scent of flowers, nostrils tingle, rose thorns prick.

Drops of blood, too much shed, can’t forget.

Lupins rise up, peppery scent, memories of poplars.

Dark times rear up.

Dig,dig to create beauty, not trenches to hide,

Worms weave in,out,smoothly glide nourishing the earth.

Cycle of life unstopping.

Dig,plant,grow,beauty blooms

Happiness comes,then fade,dies,lies dormant till spring.



Casualty of War by Sandy Boyne



My leg is broken.

A young nurse takes me to have it set

Wheels me in a chair through the gardens.

We admire the beauty of flowers,distant mountains,purple and green

I absorb his comforting presence

Feel safe

Cared for.

Away from the cruelties of war.

My leg is heavy in its caste

No pain

He fetches tea,hot steaming tea

It tastes like nectar

Kindness in a cup

He helps me with tasks,talking,laughing with other patients

Drawn together by war

Helping each other out

Always there

Ready in time of need.




  1. Poetry in Partnership | Great War Stories - 13 November 2014

    […] Some of the poems were shared on this site in September. […]

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