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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Anyone writing Great War at Sea Poetry now?


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Was wondering if anyone now is writing 'Great War at Sea' poetry. I tried to write one such poem a few months ago. I am not claiming any great literary merit which is probably just as well. But curious to see if I am the only one who is reviving this genre.

September 22nd 1914

In memory of all those who perished on board the Hogue, Aboukir and Cressy


Sky and sea belong to no one

Innocent dawn gleaming over the Broad Fourteens

Illuminate bitter lapping waves

How can fighting men impose a frontier here?


Hypnotic call of war.

Midshipmen and Reservists suddenly assembled

Crushed into night trains,


Clustered on to three aged battle cruisers

On Patrol in alien waters

Destroyer -escort abandoned in the storm before the calm.

Now basking, an easy target,

Even steel can be vulnerable,

Balanced on the horizon in first feeble light

Three vague shapes , hardly moving

Captured on Von Weddigen’s periscope.

Three shades of live bait begging to receive

four skimming torpedoes, racing and tearing in the ,

Span of one dour hour, U9 dives in triumph

Beneath the shambles and the harrowing

Some men stumble and tumble, others cling

To failing battle ships that turn turtle

That finally discards them, sliding, the most vulnerable

Parts of their bodies, sliced open by speed and by friction

Thrown, broken into a ghost water that rejects them.


Desperate men floundering , fighting over any piece of floating debris

Those on rafts are singing hymns to the Lord of the sea.

Men who can’t swim jump on the backs of those that can,

Tread water to avoid the burning puddles of oil

Useless pieces of kit, ripped pieces of twine, pointless paperwork

drifting in futile directions.


Sensation one.

A numbing terror that convulses all the nerves of the body.

Respiratory system re-ordering itself, a taste of salt water and petrol,

Pumping itself, out then being overwhelmed.

Very breath of life, wrenched and choking, into further plummeting.

Eyes snapped closed. Spinal column burns. Mother in white gliding towards ….

Says something , but distance muffles her calling

Sensation two

Submerge again, there is an ache in both eardrums

Under water- distortion, half- cursed prayers, the scent of father’s cigar,

Rise to the surface, once reaching the top, need to seize air, throw the limbs stupidly

In rotation, then fall hopeless and helpless on to the back,

Exhausted, abandoned to the light of a mocking sun.

Think of long sermons in a dark chapel. Stained pastoral dry glass windows teasing

Sinking. Like one useless weight.

A soundless, colourless channel shoving up again.

Sensation three

Christ amongst a circuit of seagulls, crowned in shells, cloaked in feathers.

The criss-cross narrow milky wakes left by small Dutch vessels

Defying mines, fishers of men.

Sensation four

Tincture of opium handed out to the crew of the U9.

Glide, ride, the underwater labyrinth, back to Caesar/ Kaiser,

Proud Eagle of home.

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