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Private David Jones, the 15th (1st London Welsh) Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers


Tuesday, 31 January 2017

A rare public screening of the 1916 Battle of the Somme film

The Poetry School has been given permission by the Imperial War Museum for a public screening of the Battle of the Somme film at the Cinema Museum, London on Saturday 4th February 2017.   
A group of ten poets, including myself, guided by Simon Barraclough and Julia Bird, have been working on poems written in response to the film.  The poems have been woven together into a script for us to perform on Saturday before the film is shown.

I’m currently learning my lines. My poems feature a dog which you glimpse for a couple of moments in the film running alongside the columns of marching men, and Lt Geoffrey Malins who was one of the two cinematographers who made the film ready for its first screening on 10th August 1916. The Battle continued until November of that year and the silent black and white film was seen by twenty million people.

My fellow poets are Anna Kisby, Chrissy Williams, Eleanor Penny, Jo Young, John Haney, Patricia Ace, Roy McFarlane, Steve Kendall and Sue Burge. As I work through the script I've been marvelling at how much has been included and the different approaches that people have taken. . It feels like an honour and a privilege to be taking part.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Friday Poetry from Choman Hardi - Considering the Women

Today I've gone back to Choman Hardi's Considering the Women.
An important book with a central sequence of poems about the Anfal genocide of the Kurds in 1988 in which over a hundred thousand people were killed. I have heard her read twice at Aldebugh and in London at the Poet's quest for peace. There are two sequences on youtube of her reading from Considering the Women
and an earlier interview about the importance of poetry.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Sidney Greenfield, MC, the story continues

I’ve been doing some more reading and research after last week’s blog post on Sdney Greenfield. He was awarded the MC in July 1918. The citation as published in the London Gazette on 18th July reads

“2nd Lt. Sidney Richard, Greenfield, North’d Fus.

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. As intelligence officer,when all communications had been cut owing to hostile shelling he went forward a distance of some 1,500 yards under intense hostile barrage and obtained important information which was urgently required. Throughout the whole period he rendered the greatest assistance to his commanding officer.”

 We read in Greenfield's account that he and his CO, found the water tower apparently empty...

"Col. Robinson said ‘come on we had better investigate’. He led the way and I followed with the revolver drawn and ready for action as we approached the dilapidated building. No glass in the window and doors adrift. On reaching the building we peeped over the sills and found it was apparently empty so we climbed through the window and went through the back and looking out from broken windows we could see about 20-25 yards away from us the Germans busily digging themselves in and fortifying the remains of the tower. They did not appear to have any sentries and were just digging as hard as they could.
We returned as quickly as possible and the C.O had made up his mind and immediately said to Darlington. ‘Mr. Darlington, fix bayonets and take the tower’. Then turning to me said ‘Get back to H.Q. Tell brigade the situation and get the artillery here at once. I want a barrage round that tower’. Whilst I was getting back Darlington's men rushed forward with fixed bayonets and the Germans ran for their lives. They took the tower and its environs and the only casualty was Mr. Darlington himself who received a bullet through his neck and the next and only time I saw him again was as he lay on the stretcher being carried back to the dressing station."

I knew that Greenfield had survived the war but what happened to Mr William Aubrey Cecil Darlington who is last seen on a stretcher and not mentioned again by Greenfield. I sent a quick email to Jeremy Banning who replied with the good news that he didn't die of his wounds and also survived the war. 

Greenfield's account continues with the defence of the captured tower by Darlington and a Lieutenant McCubbin.

"Darlington’s platoon immediately started to prepare the defence of the position and later the front line was joined up. Meanwhile the Germans retaliated by putting down a box barrage around the tower enclosing not only Darlington's platoon but also another platoon which was in support commanded by Lieut. McCubbin. They had dug into a bank by the side of a small farm road as the field on the one side of the road was about 5ft higher than on the other. We held this position until relieved several days later. At one period we were very concerned at B.H.Q because the heavy barrage had destroyed all communication. The field line had been severed and barrage stopped anyone getting through. We had no knowledge as to what had happened inside that box. Did we still hold it or had the Germans counter attacked? Driven our fellows out?"

This is  reasonably typical of what tended to happen to communications, with head-quarters waiting for news and not knowing what had happened to the men. Greenfield then earns his Military Cross by going forwards to find out what has befallen them.

As it was essential to know what was happening the colonel told me to go and find out instructing me to take two orderlies instead of the usual one. As we approached the barrage, the shells were falling all around us. It seemed as though they were throwing everything they had from ‘coal boxes’ to ‘whizz bangs’. I noticed that at some time during the advance little cubby holes had been dug in the bank by the side of the road so I pressed forwards darting quickly from cubby hole to cubby hole until I was through the barrage. Here I found McCubbin and his platoon in a larger hole dug into the bank.
McCubbin was not very pleased to see me, why I do not know. What are you doing here Greenfield? Explaining that the C.O wanted to know if they were all well his reply was ‘Of course we are all right you get back quickly’. Having also enquired about Darlington’ s men who McCubbin presumed were ok. I returned with the news in the same way that I had come, just dodging between the shells. I’m sorry to say that neither of my orderlies had followed me through and I was too busy to realize it until I returned when I was greeted with the remark from one of them, ‘I never thought you'd come back Sir’.

I can't say that I blame the orderlies for staying put.  I'm also not surprised that McCubbin, whose platoon was under attack was not that pleased to see him. Greenfield mentions him again later in his memoir referring to him as one of their toughest commanders.