WWW Poetry of First World War




N e w s ~~ f r o m ~~ t h e ~~ F r o n t ~~ & ~~ E l s e w h e r e



(26 Jan 1915): French poet & composer Lucien Mieille disappears at Bois Foulon.

(4 Feb 1915): German poet Hans Schmidt-Kestner killed in air crash on first flight at Doberitz.

(7 Feb 1915): Capt Maurice Faure, Commander of 1st Hussars & French portrait painter in watercolors, dies of exhaustion at Villiers-sur-Mer.

Ivor Gurney (9 Feb 1915): In England, poet Ivor Gurney drafted into British Army and joins the 2nd 5th Gloucesters.

(14 Feb 1915): German expressionist writer & contributor to Die Aktion, Dugen Fischer, dies of wounds at Iazaret, Carpathia.

(14 Feb 1915): Russian painter Anatole Michaeiloff, with the 1st Regt Etranger, killed by shell blast at Prunay, Marne.

(16 Feb 1915): French sculptor Paul Ponsard killed in action at Vaquois, Argonnes.

(17 Feb 1915): French writer Maurice Desclers (pseud: Paul Bail), of 106th Infantry Regiment, killed in action at Eparges. Posthumously awarded Croix de Guerre & Legion d’honneur. One of his lyrics, ‘Jardins sous la Pluie’, had been set to music by Debussy.

(17 Feb 1915): Provence poet Jean-Baptiste Begarie killed in action.

(21 Feb 1915): French painter Jean Boinvilliers, Captain with Reserve 66th Regiment, killed in action.

(22 Feb 1915): French writer Jean du Breuil de Saint-Germain killed in action.

(23 Feb 1915): Poet Lieutenant Bernard Charles de Boismaison White, after his first month in the trenches with the 20th (1st Tyneside Scottish) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, writes to his brother: “War is the most horrible, inconceivable, inhuman sacrifice it is possible to imagine. The homesteads in ruins, the quiet country lanes turned into pandemonium, the high roads broken up by shell-holes and swilled with the grey, slushy mud, the crosses dotted here, there and everywhere over the countryside, the thick clusters of them in the trenches themselves, and lastly the huddled forms of dead men that lie unretrieved between the two lines of trenches. These are all signs and tokens of the great, appealing cry that goes up dumbly: ‘How long, O Lord, how long?...’”

(27 Feb 1915): In Paris, the Moulin Rouge burns down.

(27 Feb 1915): French playwright & poet Lionel des Rieux killed in action at Malancourt

(28 Feb 1915): In France, English poet Ronald W. Wilson, with the Army Medical Corps, dies of meningitis.

(sometime during Mar 1915): French painter & lithographer, Georges-Ambroise Canioni, dies of wounds received at Chelles, Oise, in Aug 14.

(sometime during Mar 1915): On the North French Front, French artist Henri Doucet killed in action.

(sometime during Mar 1915): English poet Leslie Yorath Sanders killed at Pommier.

(sometime during Mar 1915): Swiss painter (Jean) Guido Sigriste, 1st Regt Etranger, dies of frostbite at Pau.

(1 Mar 1915): Wilfred Owen rejoins his Battalion near Fresnoy-les-Roye.

(3 Mar 1915): In the Argonne, at Boureuilles, French impressionist painter Henri (Alexandre) Georget killed in action.

(4 Mar 1915): At Perthes-les-Hurlus, French poet Camille Violand killed in action at Cote 196.

(4 Mar 1915): At Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, French sculptor Camille (Henri) Crenier, 3rd Bttn, Chasseurs a Pied, killed in action.

(7 Mar 1915): In the Argonne, French architect Marcel Camuzat, 95th Inf Regt, killed in action.

(7 Mar 1915): At Vitry-le-Francois, French artist Georges Rameau killed by bullet wound to the head.

(7 Mar 1915): Somewhere in France, German landscape painter Nikolaus Schmid-Dietenheim, Landwehr Regiment, killed in action.

(10 Mar 1915): At Ypres, French poet, novelist & playwright Guy Lassausaie killed in action at St. Julien.

(10 Mar 1915): Poet Maj Claude Penrose, with the 245th Siege Battery Royal Garrison Art, takes part in attack at Neuve Chapelle. He renders assistance to a badly shelled battery of the 118th, while still under heavy shell-fire, for which action he will be mentioned in despatches.

(11 Mar 1915): Poet Major Claude Quale Lewis Penrose participates in Battle of Neuve Chapelle, & is subsequently mentioned in despatches.

(11 Mar 1915): French poet of Gascony, Louis Sailhan killed in action at Perthes-les-Hurlus.

(26 Mar 1915): In England, Virginia Woolf suffers a nervous breakdown following publication of her first novel, The Voyage Out.

(27 Mar 1915): French writer Andre Cambon killed in action.

(27 Mar 1915): Poet Rupert Brooke arrives at Said.

French literary journal (27 Mar 1915): In Paris, the editors of Le Mot (founded Nov 1914 by Jean Cocteau & Paul Iribe), urge a middle course regarding current appeals to a “pure French tradition” and repudiation of all things Germanic.

(28 Mar 1915): In the Argonne, French poet Charles Jean Ajalbert dies of wounds.

(30 Mar 1915): In France, in an article in L’Excelsior, “Munich Arts and Its Apostles”, critic Frederic Masson characterizes the art of Munich as “...a style in which everthing is violent, shocking, burning, in which the tones explode one against another, the crudest and most intense that one could imagine. That’s the Munich style. And one sees greens whose acidity turns the stomach, crossed with lilac stripes that accompany a blood-red line; and what yellows! And what pinks! The goal pursued ~ and attained ~ is to knock you flat, to hit the retina with a thoroughly Germanic blow of brutality: the ‘boche’ blow!”

Max Beckmann, 'Self-portrait as a Nurse' (30 Mar 1915): German artist Max Beckmann, in a field hospital at Courtray in Flanders, records in a letter his conscious decision “...to paint what is around me...”, meaning the horrors of war. His will succeed in this goal perhaps more than any other artist of the war.

(5 Apr 1915): At Bois de Mortmare, French writer & playwright of verse drama Lt. Georges Chaigne, with the 367th Infantry Regiment, killed in action.

(6 Apr 1915): At Eparges, French painter & graphic artist Eugene-Emmanuel Lemercier killed in action.

(7 Apr 1915): At Flirey, French poet of Provence, Emile Arne, killed in action (collaborated with Octave de Vitrolles on periodical Quatre Dauphins, 1913).

(8 Apr 1915): At Marcheville, in Lorraine, French novelist & short story writer (chiefly about animals) Louis Pergaud killed in action at Marcheville by own artillery while lying wounded in German lines. He is 33. (Winner ‘Prix Goncourt’, 1910).

(12 Apr 1915): On the Meuse, at Marcheville, French poet Rene Lancon killed in action (Les Fleurs qui s’ouvrent, Sansot, Paris, 1912).

(14 Apr 1915): In the United States, A Dog’s Life, Charlie Chaplin’s latest film, is released.

(15 Apr 1915): In Paris, the first issue of L’Elan, the second French avant garde art journal of the war years, appears, edited by Amedee Ozenfant.

Hugh Freston (24 Jan 1916): English poet 2Lt Hugh Freston, of 3rd Royal Berkshire Regt, killed at La Boiselle.

(1 Feb 1916): Novelist Sir Haggard Rider Haggard sent to Dominions to arrange postwar settlement of ex servicemen.

(14 Feb 1916): British novelist Hugh Walpole returns to Petrograd to run Allied Propaganda Bureau.

(26 Feb 1916): In England, Sassoon’s first war poem, “To Victory”, published in the Saturday Review.

(27 Feb 1916): In England, Edward Thomas begins a ten-day stay in London, lodging over the Poetry Bookshop.

(28 Feb 1916): At Douaumont, near Verdun, French novelist & poet Lucien Rolmer (pseud of Luigi Roux) killed in action.

(28 Feb 1916): In England, at Rye, Sussex, American-born novelist & close friend of Edith Wharton, Henry James, dies.

(2 Mar 1916): In Paris, the first major salon since the start of the war, the Triennale, begins, held in the Jeu de Paume from 2 Mar-15 Apr. Matisse is among the exhibiters.

(3 Mar 1916): At Douamont, French poet & playwright Marcel Bource killed in action.

Franz Marc (4 Mar 1916): At Verdun, German Expressionist painter Franz Marc killed by French shell at Gussainville Castle.

(9 Mar 1916): German poet Gerhard Freiherr von Gayl, Commander of Feldfliegerabt, No.18, killed in air combat.

(9 Mar 1916): Poet Gullaume de Kostrowitzky, “Apollonaire”, serving in the French Army as an artilleryman since beginning of the war, becomes a naturalized French citizen.

(19 Mar 1916): Somewhere on the Western Front, German architect, interior designer & glass-painter Rudolf Linnemann dies in an accident.

(21 Mar 1916): At Verdun, French sculptor Emile Marcel Baudot dies of wounds.

In Paris, from the Hospital de Lycee Janson , Irish revolutionary Maud Gonne writes to poet W.B. Yeats: "...I am writing this from the hospital where I am on night duty taking care of some terribly mangled wrecks from the Verdun battle…”

(22 Mar 1916): French writer Henri Bertrand dies of wounds. Winner of Legion d’honneur.

(23 Mar 1916): French-Breton poet Alphonse-Georges Hamonno dies of illness contracted in the trenches.

(24 Mar 1916): Near Verdun, French landscape painter Sgt Jean Brulat, 38th Infantry Regiment, killed at Bois Bourrus.

(25 Mar 1916): At Verdun, French painter Jacques Jourdan killed in action.

(25 Mar 1916): At Bayeux, Calvados, French poet Marcel Libotte dies of pneumonia while in training.

(6 Apr 1916): French songwriter & poet Leon Israel killed in action

(8 Apr 1916): At Verdun, French composer (and son of singer Octave Pradels) Andre Pradels killed in action.

(15 Apr 1916): Sculpter architect Raymond Duchamp Villon (brother of the artist Marcel Duchamp), stationed somewhere along the front with the French army, writes to the American collector John Quinn: "I have to apologize for not having answered you since so long a time. You know how little we are ourselves for the present, and you cannot imagine the effort necessary to evade by the mind, even for a momenmt, the world of the war. In fact, it is a world, really, which is complete in itself, in its ways and in its ends. For what counts the thought of one man in this whirlwind, and above all, what is that thought able to do? We are as far away from Paris, where some friends are working now, as from New York. Any connection between intellectual life and us is broken, and for an undetermined time..."

(15 Apr 1916): In Paris, the first major salon since the start of the war, the Triennale, which had begun on the 2nd of March, ends. Matisse had been among the exhibiters. Critic Clement Janin, in the introduction to the exhibit’s catalogue, had written: “... the longer the war is prolonged, the longer the energy of the nation affirms itself.... Look at this astounding nation, ordinarily so changeable, today so calm in hope.... Life is beginning again everywhere, everyone contributes an evident good will, under pressure from officialdom, to establish, paralleling our offensive force, a moral force whose first source is the normal use of our faculties.... And so, let the arts and letters also be taken up again!”

(15 Apr 1916): Painter and critic Bissiere, in the magazine L’Opinion, writes (somewhat prematurely): “...I apologize for using the word ‘cubist’; it describes a school which was perhaps necessary at its moment, but whose usefulness has ceased to make itself felt, and whose disappearance seems almost a fait accompli...”

(25 Jan 1917): In the Mediterranean, French transport Admiral Magon torpedoed & sunk en route to Salonika ~ among those drowned is Provencal poet Roger Brunel.

(4 Feb 1917): In England, Wilfred Owen arrives at Abbeville for a course on transport duties. During this month he will write “Exposure”.

(5 Feb 1917): Near Trieste, German writer (contributor to Die Aktion), Robert Zellermayer dies in air crash.

Gerald Caldwell Siordet

(9 Feb 1917): English poet & graphic artist Gerald Caldwell Siordet (Military Cross), with 6th King’s Own Royal Lancers Regt, killed in action at Kut.

(12 Feb 1917): French story writer & war poet Leon Berthon dies of illness contracted at front in Clermont, Oise.

(12 Feb 1917): English poet, 2ndLt George King, of 9th Suffolk Regt, killed in action.

(17 Feb 1917): In Mesopotamia, English poet Howard J. Stables, Lieutenant with Gurkha Rifles, dies of wounds at Kut.

(28 Feb 1917): French-Breton poet Yves (Le Rouge) de Guerdavid dies of wounds.

(28 Feb 1917): In Italy, English poet Edmund John, after discharge from Artists Rifles, dies of heart disease.

Francis Ledwidge (8 Mar 1917): Irish poet Lance Corporal Francis Ledwidge, with “B” Company, 1st Bttn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 29th Div, in billets at Le Neuville, writes poem “Spring”. It is to be his last Spring.

(11Mar 1917): On or near this date, poet Wilfred Owen falls at night into a cellar or shell-hole at Le Quesnoy-en-Santerre, suffering a concussion.

(13 Mar 1917): Somewhere in France, English poet Henry William Hutchinson killed in action.

(15 Mar 1917): Wilfred Owen evacuated to Military Hospital at Nesle.

(16 Mar 1917): 2ndLt Edward Thomas, with 244th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery positioned in an orchard by Faubourg d’Amiens at the southern edge of Arras, writes to his wife: ” They are ploughing now in the field adjoining the orchard with 2 pairs of greys & I hear the ploughman talking to them as they turn at the end of the furrow. It is a misty cold morning... The larks & the great tits are singing...”

Wilhelm de Kostrowitsky (pseudo: Guillaume APOLLONAIRE) (17 Mar 1917): French poet Apollonaire, serving as a lieutenant in the French 96th Infantry Regt, is struck in center of his forehead by shrapnel, at four in the afternoon, in trenches at Bois des Buttes, near Berry-au-Bac. The wound, while not fatal, will remove him from front-line duty and, after recovering, he will spend the rest of the war posted in Paris, only to die two and a half years later, on the morning of the Armistice, of influenza, complicated by lingering effects of his head-wound..

(17 Mar 1917): Poet 2dLt Walter Lightowler Wilkinson takes part in a large raid on German trenches near Roclincourt, four miles north of Arras on the Vimy road with his battalion, 1st/8th Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. As a result of this experince, he writes “The Wayside Burial”.

Wilfred Owen

(17 Mar 1917): Wilfred Owen moved from Military Hospital at Nesle to 13 Casualty Clearing Station at Gailly. In the following fortnight writes “A Sunrise”.

(20 Mar 1917): In Salonika, French poet Pierre Corbin gravely wounded.

(25 Mar 1917): At Verdun, French sculptor & painter Sgt Leon-John Walsey, 13th Artillery Regiment, killed in action. 1917: French GZG moves north from Beauvais to Compiegne.

(3 Apr 1917): Poet Capt. Arthur Graeme West, manning an outpost line near Barastre with his unit, the 6th Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, is killed in the morning by a stray bullet.

(6 Apr 1917): At Reims, French painter Marie Baudet killed by shell explosion while attending the wounded (exhib. Independants & d'Automne).

(7 Apr 1917): At Messines, English poet Lt Gerald George Samuel, Royal West Kent Regiment, killed in action (Poems, 1917).

(8 Apr 1917): In billets in the village of Bray, on the eve of the Battle of Arras, Captain John Eugene Crombie writes his final poem: "Easter Day, 1917: The Eve of Battle".

Edward Thomas

(9 Apr 1917): Near Arras, 2dLt Edward Thomas of the 244th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, poet, reviewer, critic, writer of the English countryside, and American poet Robert Frost’s closest friend, is killed while standing at the Beaurains Observation Post at 7:30 a.m. by a German artillery shell.

(9 Apr 1917): At Vimy Ridge, English artist Henry Murray killed in action (painter of bird subjects, ‘Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News’, 1912-15).

(9 Apr 1917): At Vimy Ridge, poet 2dLt Walter Lightowler Wilkinson, with the 1st/8th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, in an attack on German trenches east of Roclincourt, near Arras, is killed.

Robert Ernest Vernede

(9 Apr 1917): Poet 2dLt Robert Ernest Vernede, of the 12th Battalion The Rifle Brigade, while on a night patrol in the Havrincourt Wood area, is shot in the stomach by German machine gun fire and dies several hours later while being transported to a Field Ambulance. The previous day, Easter Sunday, he had written to his wife: “...I think it will be summer soon, and perhaps the war will end this year and I shall see my Pretty One again...”

(9 Apr 1917): French engraver Jules-Joseph Tuaillon, 346th Infantry Regiment, dies of wounds received on 24 March 1915 at Bois-Lepretre.

(10 Apr 1917): At Arras, English poet SgtMaj W.H. Littlejohn, Middlesex Regiment, killed in action (he will appear in The Muse in Arms, John Murray, London).

(10 Apr 1917): Poet 2dLt Hamish Mann, a platoon commander with the 8th Battalion, The Black Watch, and who was wounded during the previous day’s assault during the opening of the Battle of Arras, dies of his wounds.

(10 Apr 1917): On the Western Front, Breton poet & playwright Jean-Pierre Calloc’h (pseud: ‘Bleimori) killed by shellfire while standing outside his dugout. The son of a sailor lost at sea, Calloc’h was described as terrifying in battle, wielding an antique sailor’s axe of the sort formerly used in boarding ships.

(15 Apr 1917): At Lombartzyde, on the Western Front, German war poet Gerhard Moerner killed in action (Aus dem Felde, Kugel, Hamburg, 1918).

John McCrae (28 Jan 1918): Canadian war poet John McCrae dies of pneumonia & memingitis at Wimereux.


(4 Feb 1918): Maurice Esmein, medical auxiliary with the 72nd Infantry Regiment, French landscape painter, killed. His works will be shown in the Independants Exhibition of 1919.

(sometime during Mar 1918): At Val-de-Grace, French composer Andre Victor Louis Laporte dies of wounds.

(sometime during Mar 1918): German poet Wilhelm Runge killed at Arras.

(3 Mar 1918): R. Goring’s play Seeschlacht opens in Berlin.

(19 Mar 1918): Private Isaac Rosenberg, with the First Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, moves to Arras for training.

(21 Mar 1918): Second Battle of the Somme and German Spring Offensive. British suffer 7500-8000 casualties. Among British poets involved are Rifleman Colin Mitchell with 3rd Bttn, Rifle Brigade, five miles north of St. Quentin; LtCol Charles Walter Blackall commanding 4th Battalion South Staffordshire Regt near Fremicourt; Pvt Isaac Rosenberg with the First Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regt near Arras; & Maj Claude Quale Lewis Penrose commanding 245th Siege Battery Royal Garrison Artillery south of the Somme. Major Quale’s battery covers the disorganized allied retreat so effectively that Quale is awarded a bar to his Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry & devotion to duty.

(21 Mar 1918): Somewhere on the Western Front, German poet Robert Jentsch killed in action.

(22 Mar 1918): Somewhere on the Western Front, German war poet Kurt Gustav Leverkuhn killed in action.

(22 Mar 1918): English portrait painter, Lt Harry Chamen Lintott, 5th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, dies of wounds.

(22 Mar 1918): English poet Sgt Colin Mitchell, Rifle Brigade, killed in action.

(23 Mar 1918): French novelist Eugene Pic killed in action.

(23 Mar 1918): Poet Theodore Percival Cameron Wilson, Captain with the 10th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, is ordered with his battalion to evacuate Hermiies at 1 p.m. due to the German breakthrough. While passing along the Havrincourt-Bertincourt valley, they come under extremely heavy machine-gun fire and suffer numerous casualties. Captain Wilson is killed near Villers-au-Flos at about 4 p.m.

(23 Mar 1918): Somewhere in France, composer of popular songs, 2Lt Herbert Goldstein Matheson, 13th Kensington Battalion, London Regiment, killed in action.

(24 Mar 1918): Poet LtCol Charles Walter Blackall, commanding the 4th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment, takes up position with his battalion in a trench west of the Bapaume-Arras road.

(24 Mar 1918): Somewhere in France, Irish poet Lt. R.B. Marriott-Watson, 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, killed in action.

(24 Mar 1918): On the Meuse, at Gondrecourt, French poet & writer Stephan Pad (pseud of Paul Alain Dutruel) killed in collision of troop transport train.

(25 Mar 1918): Debussy dies in Paris.

(27 Mar 1918): At Dancourt, French poet Jacques de Champfeu killed in action.

(28 Mar 1918): At Arras, English religious poet Innes d’Auvergne Stewart Stitt, Queens Westminster Rifles, reported missing, presumed dead.

(28 Mar 1918): At Artois, Fourth Battle of Arras. Issac Rosenberg, with his battalion in reserve at Blangy, faces a German breakthrough which causes their reserve position to become the new front line. The battalion loses 70 men on this date. Rosenberg & his comrades spend the next three days under heavy shell-fire & constant threat of attack.

(29 Mar 1918): Somewhere on the Western Front, German poet Ludwig Knapp killed in action.

(30 Mar 1918): Somewhere on the Western Front, English painter of landscapes & town scenes and architect H.W. Mann killed in action. Drew sketches of towns of the Western Front (‘Leaves from the Sketch-book of Lieut. H.W. Mann, RFA’, 1918).

(1 Apr 1918): Poet Lance Corporal Francis Ledwidge arrives with the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Arras.

Issac Rosenberg (1 Apr 1918): Poet & painter, Issac Rosenberg, after three days of being pinned down by artillery fire with his battalion at Blangy, is found among the dead, who outnumber the living in his company. He was 27. A few days later, Edward Marsh in London will receive Rosenberg’s last letter, dated March 28 and postmarked April 2. Rosenberg wrote: “... I wanted to write a battle song for the Judaens but can think of nothing strong and wonderful enough yet. Here’s just a slight thing...”


<i>Calligrammes</i> by Apollonaire

(1 Apr 1918): Apollonaire’s war poems, Calligrammes, published in a small edition.

(1 Apr 1918): On the Western Front, German composer of atmospheric songs & piano pieces, Anton Rabel, killed in action.

(2 Apr 1918): In Holland, Raemakers’ cartoon “The Last Throw” (Kaiser & Crown Prince dicing with death) appears in Amsterdam Telegraaf.

(2 Apr 1918): Wilfred Owen, discharged from the 13th Casualty Clearing Station at Gailly on the banks of the Somme Canal, rejoins his battalion at Selency, which has just returned from a successful but costly attack on Savy Wood. Owen writes to his mother: “...I shall no doubt be in time for the Counter-Attack. I have bought an automatic pistol in the town... By the time you get this we’ll be out of the line again... My long rest has shaken my nerve. But after all I hate old age and there is only one way to avoid it!...”

(7 Apr 1918): Poet Capt Calude Frank Lethbridge Templer, of 1st Battalion Gloucester Regiment, but a prisoner of the Germans since 22 December 1914, makes his first attempted escape from a prison-camp at Hanover-Munden, together with seven Russian officers. He is captured a week later near the Dutch border.

(11 Apr 1918): Poet Lt John Brown, with the 9th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders holding a trench against the German advance near Wytshaete, is killed by a sniper’s bullet.



Poets of the First World War:
Biographical Notes & Wartime Works




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Poets Killed on the First Day of the Somme





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