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WW2 poet Vernon Scannell dies

#1
Much is made of the First World War poets at this time of year, but WW2 produced some very moving poems as well, some of the best of which were written by Vernon Scannell, who died today.

Here's one of them, 'Walking Wounded':

A mammoth morning moved grey flanks and groaned.
In the rusty hedges pale rags of mist hung;
The gruel of mud and leaves in the mauled lane
Smelled sweet, like blood. Birds had died or flown,
Their green and silent attics sprouting now
With branches of leafed steel, hiding round eyes
And ripe grenades ready to drop and burst.
In the ditch at the crossroads the fallen rider lay
Hugging his dead machine and did not stir
At crunch of mortar, tantrum of a Bren,
Answering to a Spandau's manic jabber.
Then into sight the ambulances came,
Stumbling and churning past the broken farm,
The amputated signpost and smashed trees,
Slow wagonloads of bandaged cries, square trucks
That rolled on ominous wheels, vehicles
Made mythopoeic by their mortal freight
And crimson crosses on the dirty white.
This grave procession passed, though, for a while,
The grinding of their engines could be heard,
A dark noise on the pallor of the morning,
Dark as dried blood; and then it faded, died.
The road was empty, but it seemed to wait -
Like a stage that knows the cast is in the wings -
Waiting for a different traffic to appear.
The mist still hung in snags from dripping thorns;
Absent-minded guns still sighed and thumped.
And then they came, the walking wounded,
straggling the road like convicts loosely chained,
Dragging at ankles exhaustion and despair.
Their heads were weighted down by last night's lead,
And eyes still drank the dark. They trailed the night
Along the morning road. Some limped on sticks;
Others wore rough dressings, splints and slings;
A few had turbanned heads, the dirty cloth
Brown-badged with blood. A humble brotherhood,
Not one was suffering from a lethal hurt,
They were not magnified by noble wounds,
There was no splendour in that company.
And yet, remembering after eighteen years,
In the heart's throat a sour sadness stirs;
Imagination pauses and returns
To see them walking still, but multiplied
In thousands now. And when heroic corpses
Turn slowly in their decorated sleep
And every ambulance has disappeared
The walking wounded still trudge down that lane
And when recalled they must bear arms again.

Apologies for any spelling errors. I couldn't find it anywhere on the internet so had to type it up.
 
#2
I'm fond of Scannell. As well as the war poetry he wrote good love poetry, and was particularly good on drunks and children (he was a big drinker and had lots of kids).

I knew he served with distinction in ww2 but didn't know he got machine gunned and didn't know he deserted (twice).

He served in the 51st Division of the Gordon Highlanders, seeing a good deal of action in Libya and Tunisia. It was near Gabes in Tunisia that, coming on the aftermath of a massacre, he wandered off, hitched a lift to Tripoli, was caught and sentenced as a deserter, and was committed to a military prison in Alexandria. After some brutal treatment, he was released on a suspended sentence so as to take part in the D-Day landings in Normandy. He was wounded and was sent to a military hospital in Lancashire. Then, in a convalescent depot in Hamilton, in the very month of the German surrender, May 1945, he went on the run again. And now he was "Vernon Scannell".

http://news.independent.co.uk/people/obituaries/article3174403.ece
 

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