Trench Poetry

Although World War I poetry is always associated with the likes of Rosenberg, Owen, and Sassoon, it should be remembered that there was a wealth of other material, more popular to the average soldier, that appeared in such publications as The Wiper's Times, and in the songs from the period.


From The Somme Times, Monday, 31 July, 1916:

There was a young girl of the Somme,
Who sat on a number five bomb,
She thought 'twas a dud 'un,
But it went off sudden-
Her exit she made with aplomb!

From The BEF (British Expeditionary Force) Times, Monday, 25 December, 1916:

'Shattered Illusions'

It may be love that makes the world go round,
Yet with the statement I oft disagree;
It was not love (on that I'll bet a pound)
That, last night, made the world go round for me.

I cannot bring my mind to realise
That love inspired friend Fritz, when he propelled
A Minnie of a most terrific size
In my direction, so, I had him shelled.


From The BEF Times, Thursday, November 1st, 1917:

'Mort Pour La France'

Many the graves that lie behind the lines,
Scattered like shells upon a blood-stained strand,
Crosses and mounds, that eloquently stand
To mark a spot, that forms some hero's shrine.
And one, that nestles near a shattered pine,
Beside a war-wrecked wall, in barren land,
Is tended, daily, by a woman's hand,
Moistened by tears, that in her bright eyes shine.

But proud she was, and proud she still can be,
Lover and patriot, both, she proudly reads
His epitaph. It dries her tears to know,
That he has purchased immortality:-
"Mort pour la France." He filled his Country's needs,
And though he rests, for France he'd have it so.


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Contextual Information

Hypermedia Edition Rosenberg's Life analogues World War I Map exit

The Wipers Times

In February, 1916, Captain F. J. Roberts of the 12th Battalion Sherwood Foresters produced the first edition of the trench newspaper The Wipers Times. Often produced in hazardous conditions, at one point only 700 yards from the front line it acted as the voice of the average British soldier, relaying his experiences, grief, and anger during the entire conflict. At times irreverent, at times hysterical, it is perhaps the best insight into the times and the temper of life in the trenches. It ran until December, 1918, adopting such titles as New Church Times, Somme Times, BEF [British Expeditionary Force] Times, and finally Better Times. Apart from poetry and humorous articles, The Wiper's Times also featured several comical advertisements, and music hall parodies.

Extracts from The Wiper's Times

People We Take Our Hats Off To: - The person who introduced the order forbidding Company Commanders to go beyond their front line trench.

Correspondence: - To the Editor,
Wipers Times

As the father of a large family, and having two sons serving in the Tooting Bec Citizens' Brigade, may I draw your attention to the danger from Zeppelins. Cannot our authorities deal with this menace in a more workmanlike way. My boys, who are well versed in military affairs, suggest a high barbed wire entanglement being erected round the British Isles. Surely something can be done:-

Answers to Some of Our Many Correspondents: - JOCK. (Zouave Wood). - No, when on patrol work and you hear the words - "Ach Gott! Ich bin gauz fed-up gerworden" - issue from an unknown trench, this does not necessarily signify that you have worked too far over to your left and stumbled into the French lines.

MOTORIST. (Popperhinghe). -Yes, we have had other complaints of the suspected police trap on the Menin Road, and advise caution on the stretch between 'Hell Fire Corner' and the Culvert.

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