Monday, August 04, 2014

Uncle Earnest's remarkably familiar photograph

                                     Sepia, that strange Victorian colour
                                     Fills the August photographs
                                     Of the Great War's early Summer days.
                                     It gives the uniforms an army hue,
                                     A hint of the coming Glories
                                     That would leave so many acrid mouths
                                     And mud enough for everyone.

                                     Those carefully polished buttons
                                     The dainty waxed moustache
                                     A bullet for your troubles...
                                     And a photograph for us.


Like most English families we lost relatives in the First World War. Great Uncle Earnest died, aged 23, in the  battle of Loos in October 1915. He played rugby for Blackheath Rugby Football club along with his several brothers who included my own grandfather (who was wounded in the same battle). What leapt out of this photograph when I first saw it in the 1960's was the strong facial resemblance to living members of the family. The poem is part of a longer poem written, with some artistic licence, in his memory; the photograph is of the man himself, Earnest Lennox Robertson. Today we commemorate the beginning of that dreadful war.  Tonight the lights across Great Britain will be turned out once more.


carletta said...

Reminds me of the Australian song about WW1 "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda"
"I hope you died quick
and I hope you died clean..."

Anonymous said...

Tommy Makem at his best...
What a loss for your family! Tara