Thoughts of a VAD: Lapugnoy 1917

It was the screaming.

I could put up with most things

and to be honest I had done so

these past few months.

The sound of the bombs

didn’t really faze me

nor the constantly falling rain

and cloying mud.

The fleas I found in my hair

or clothes were just a nuisance

as long as you caught them early.

What I did hate was the screaming.

It made my blood run cold,

the screaming of men in agony,

men who had lost their sight

or had lost a limb.

It ripped my own heart out.

Young boys in pain,

a pain they did not deserve.

Boys who screamed in terror,

far from their homes and their mothers.

Boys who screamed at things

that weren’t there,

at memories of falling friends.

Boys who screamed

when they should be at home having fun.

The number of times I had lied

to a dying boy with the words

‘mams here now son’

were countless.

I lied to help them, to reassure them,

to remind them of their mother’s love,

the love they would never feel

again as they died in this foreign field.

I often wanted a hug from my mother,

I knew what they were missing.

Then when I park up at the Clearing station

or at the ambulance train

I have the honour of seeing them.

Mangled bodies,

missing limbs,

gas burns,

trench foot,


all the pleasures of this so called modern war.

All the pleasures plus the screaming

that never seems to end.

So, rain and wind, snow, and ice,

all this I can put up with.

Incessant screaming though is

another thing all together.

It is unseen.


Starlings in Serbia

Snowy mountain passes

Vibrant blue white sky

Sun glistening on rutted road

Driving as shrapnel flies

Like a Murmuration through the air.

The horror of blood and bone.

Of gas and not so much


No ecstasy here

But the ecstasy of death surrounds.

Smiles and songs, laughter and tears

To keep each other



To the sounds of


As girls just out of school

Drive heavy wagons

From Front to back, from war to peace.

From harm to haven, such sweet


Girls save men, women boys

Their roles reversed

Bravery never questioned

As they do their bit

For country, King and Flag.

Chilblained fingers turning

On unforgiving wheel.

Bouncing and sliding as tyres

Meet ice and bone.

Eyes red raw, from wind and rain.

Brain seared numb by sights seen

And thoughts unseen.

As nightmares fill the daylight hours

With War.

To what will they return?

A land made fit for Heroes?

What of the Heroines?