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Want some more ideas...?

Perhaps take a browse through some of the great poetry already written and see what images come to mind ...


Some useful links:


Oxford University Digital Archive

Poetry Archive

War Poems

Ideas could include:


  • Poems inspired by original WWI letters

  • Methods of communication between soldiers and their families in WWI and since: telegrams, letters, ‘blueys’, emails, phone calls, text messages, Skype.

  • Messages received by families about service men or women or civilians wounded, killed, or taken prisoner.

  • ‘Untold riches’: the treats and home comforts that service personnel miss or look forward to.







The Letter by Wilfred Owen, 1918:


With B.E.F. June 10. Dear Wife,

(Oh blast this pencil. ‘Ere, Bill, lend’s a knife.)

I’m in the pink at present, dear.

I think the war will end this year.


The Last Letter by Sgt Dave Stenhouse, (Heroes, 100 poems from the new generation of War Poets 2011):


The last letter is a letter

they recommend that you write

It’s a letter for you, my loved ones,

because I never returned on the flight.




The Leveller by Robert Graves

A Letter Home by Siegfried Sassoon

The Man Who Invented Pain by Craig Raine

Compassionate Number by Caroline Candlin

Gramophone Tunes by Eva Dobell,

In a VAD Pantry by Alberta Vickridge,

On Arrival in Theatre by Danny Martin,

Property by Robert Garioch.




For example, The Nut’s Birthday by Jessie Pope:


These gifts, our soldier writes to say,

Have brought him untold riches

To celebrate his natal day

In hard-won Flanders’ ditches.


Lament of a Desert Rat by NJ Trapnell, 1995


I’ve learnt to wash in petrol tins, and shave myself in tea

Whilst balancing the fragments of a mirror on my knee

I’ve learnt to dodge the eighty-eights, and flying lumps of lead

And to keep a foot of sand between a Stuka and my head

1. Dear Mum:
    Letters to and from home

Competition Categories


To read more about each category, simply click on the main title below:


Ideas could include:


  • Evolving technology and warfare

  • The modern service man/woman in the eyes of civilians and vice versa

  • National service and the reservists

  • Service personnel from other countries

  • Women in the forces

  • Changing attitudes to sexuality in the military

  • 9/11 and the War on Terror

  • Evolving military language and jargon







Many Sisters to Many Brothers by Rose Macaulay, 1917:


Was there a scrap or a ploy in which you, the boy,

Could better me? You could not climb higher,

Ride straighter, run as quick (and to smoke made you sick)

… But I sit here and you’re under fire.


Phooie! By Robert Garioch, 1983:


With my girl,

watching an old movie,

I says,

‘That’s all wrong,’

I says.

‘Those shells on the picture,’

I says,

‘go Phooie-bang,’


Snipers By Peter Street, 1993:


They are watching me

I can feel their minds,

that yes or no,

fingers ready to trigger.


It’s now real: men and women

in a second flopping dead on the pavement


I step over, trying my best

to be invisible

walking home to Wigan ....




Over The Top by Sybil Bristowe,

Trench Nomenclature by Edmund Blunden,

Morse Lesson by Joy Corfield,

Khukuri by Jagat Nabodit,

Army Life, Army Wife, by Lindsey Cooper,

Grenade by Francis Scarfe.

Tale by Trevor Rawson, 

4. The World's Events
    Have Rumbled On:
1914 - 2014 The
    Changing Face of War
2. A Band of Friends:
    Camaraderie and Friendship

Ideas could include:


  • Stories of solidarity between friends

  • Friendship of those at home, partners, children, veteran groups.

  • Laughter shared through the good times and the bad.

  • Remembering a fallen friend.






The Soldiers by FS Flint, 1915:


O face of my friend,

alone distinct of all that company,

you went on, you went on,

into the darkness


I Wanna Talk by Theodore Knell, 2011:


But me

I would rather sit here and talk

speak his name out loud

search for those elusive answers

shed some of this guilt




Gut Catcher by Stan Platke

The Last Meeting by Siegfried Sassoon

Bar One by Christopher Duchesne

Dead on the War Path (Anonymous – Pueblo Indian)

Ideas could include:


  • Truces between enemy armies, and reconciliation after war

  • Developing understanding between civilians and the armed forces

  • What happens after war has ended

  • Peace and Pacifism: Conscientious Objectors

  • Desertion and mutiny

  • Jingoism and propaganda

  • How serving in the armed forces has changed your perspective







Oh stay at home, my lad, and plough by AE Housman, 1922:


And daylight and the air;

Too full already is the grave

Of fellows that were good and brave

And died because they were.


Monthly Killed Numbers for You by Michael Brett, 2011:


My deadline is three for the evening edition.

I take the fractured words, the question-marked numbers,

And I rewrite them

In beautiful English prose




The Jingo-Woman by Helen Hamilton

The Lament of the Demobilised by Vera Brittain

First World War Poets by Edward Bond

The Conchie by RF Palmer

French Soldiers Mutiny – 1917 by Erich Fried

Reconciliation by Siegfried Sassoon

Strange Beings by Theodore Knell

To Whom It May Concern by Adrian Mitchell

This is My War, but No One Shoots at Me by Simon Barr

3. Too Full Already
    is the Grave:
 Building bridges of
    understanding towards peace
The award-winning play by Stephen MacDonald  |  UK & West End Tour 2014
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