Saturday 14 May 2011

Pals on The Somme. Poems with great Lancashire/Yorkshire Fayre.

Bonjour mes amis.  
The doors of the Fancy Pans Café are flung open offering a fabulous menu from - - - Lancashire and Yorkshire!   Yes, the cuisine of France tempts discerning diners into every Cafe, Bistro and Restaurant, but given our location, today’s dishes have a northern charm.   I hope you will also enjoy the poetry .

We are in a place called Sheffield Park; a tranquil and somewhat overwhelming corner of Somme countryside.  It’s quite a walk from the main Serre Road.  You can also get here by car if it isn’t too wet – you won’t want to get stuck in the Somme mud on rainy days though. The lane which takes you there is a dirt track across fields of crops.  You will see a British Cemetery (Serre Road No 3) and just behind it is Sheffield Park.  The path is lengthy and you never know, you might find some shrapnel, a bullet, a shell or other long buried relics of The Somme battlefields.   (Best not to touch the shells though, they may be live).

Walking can have an effect on your appetite, so before we go on please enjoy our dishes of the day.  Appropriately, Lancashire Hot-Pot   

I hope you will like the poetry.

                         SHEFFIELD PARK

I approach Sheffield Park and see bricks,   
A Memorial,
To the brave Pals from Accrington
Red bricks.
Red Accrington bricks.
Travelled, as the men before them,
Here, to their final resting place.

I turn to the right,
There before me,
Honoured in stone.
Yorkshire lads,                                               
Remembered here. 

'Where larks sing        
and poppies grow,
they sleep in peace
for evermore'.

I walk down the gentle slope,
Scarred earth, now covered in verdant grass,
Pitted with deep craters,
Shell-holes where men lost their lives. 

At the foot,
Railway Hollow.
Quiet simplicity,
The most tranquil of places
I could ever imagine. 
The stillness wraps around me,
I close my eyes,
I hear the guns which boomed
Nearly a hundred years ago.

One of the many hundreds of casualties here on the morning of 1st July 1916 was the poet
 John William Streets. John's body was not found for almost a year.

In memory and honour of these brave Pals, I have written a poem, which I would like to share with you .


In this lonely place                                                      
    rows of white stone
        mark the spot                                                                      
                   where we once saw the dawn. 
In this lonely place
     a solitary oak 
         whispers its sadness

                   where we once carved our names.

In this lonely place
     a flower blooms
         bright as the sun

                   that once warmed our cold backs.

In this lonely place,
    a breeze ripples grass
        silent now

                  where once we sought sleep.

In this lonely place
    a bird bravely flies
        soaring above

                   where the Howitzers roared.

In this lonely place
      shell-holes remain
         empty craters

                  Armageddon we once faced.

In this lonely place
    a rabbit passes by
       on the same earth

                   that once oozed the smell of mortal fear.

In this lonely place
    a whistle blew
        over we went

             where shells scorched Picardie.

In this lonely place
    a battle raged
      pals joined in conflict

                    divided ranks, into hell we ran.  

In this lonely place
    a tear was shed
        destiny marked

                     with the vile taste of despair.

In this lonely place
    the sun went down
         mud took claim

              where a Bergmann gun[1]spat our names.
  We prayed
       We cried
              We lived
                     We died
                                    In this lonely place.


[1] Bergmann machine guns were not used on the Somme until 1918


  1. There is sadness in this poem and I am certain that one cannot really get to the depths of despair that these soldiers featured in. So young, life cut off in a second. No future, no returning to loved one's, thousands losing their life or probably worse, limbs and arms shot away. Many thanks for featuring this poem and bringing to us the sacrifice these men gave. Sincerely Syd Spence

  2. Thank you Syd, ninety-five years since the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916. Those brave men had no choice, what an utter, tragic waste of life.