Tommy Rot : WWI Poetry They Didn't Let You Read
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By John Sadler and Rosie Serdiville
The Great War 1914 1918 was dubbed the 'war to end all wars' and introduced the full flowering of industrial warfare to the world. The huge enthusiasm which had greeted the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914 soon gave way to a grim resignation and, as the Western Front became a long, agonising battle of dire attrition and revulsion. Never before had Britain's sons and daughters poured out their lifeblood in such prolonged and seemingly incessant slaughter.
The conflict produced a large corpus of war poetry, though focus to date has rested with the 'big' names Brooke, Sassoon, Graves, Owen, Rosenberg and Blunden et al - with their descent from youthful enthusiasm to black cynicism held as a mirror of the nation's journey. Their fame is richly merited, but there are others that, until now, you would not expect to find in any Great War anthology. This is 'Tommy' verse, mainly written by other ranks and not, as is generally the case with the more famous war poets, by officers.
It is, much of it, doggerel, loaded with lavatorial humour. Much of the earlier material is as patriotic and sentimental as the times, jingoistic and occasionally mawkish. However, the majority of the poems in this collection have never appeared in print before; they have been unearthed in archives, private collections and papers.
Their authors had few pretences, did not see themselves as poets, nor were writing for fame and posterity. Nonetheless, these lost voices of the Great War have a raw immediacy, and an instant connection that the reader will find compelling.