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Poetry kept Falkirk soldiers’ spirits high in WWI trenches

Private John Walker from Grangemouth died in a London hospital half an hour before his wife could reach him

Private John Walker from Grangemouth died in a London hospital half an hour before his wife could reach him

 

As the bullets and bombs cascaded around them in the trenches, brave soldiers found solace in writing verses about their plight.

While World War One raged on in the battlefields of northern Europe, many of Britain’s fighters wrote poetry to distract them from the horrors of one of the worst conflicts known to humanity.

The grandfather of Christine Henderson – Lance Corporal Harry Russell from Camelon of the 10th Batallion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders – was 23 when he fought in the Battle of Loos in 1915.

A fitter in Port Downie Iron Works before the war, he was wounded twice – once in the head and another “severely in the thigh” – but fortunately sustained no injuries in the battle itself and was somehow able to put his thoughts into a poem to send home to his mum and dad.

The end is particularly sombre. It read: “May God forgive each noble lad who on that day was slain; May he provide for those they left, who will wait for them in vain; For their freedom and their country they bravely gave their all; And are on our roll of honour – those brave heroes who did fall.”

Private James McCulloch of the Royal Defence Corps also wrote a poem for Private John Walker from Grangemouth following the latter’s funeral after he was “mortally wounded in the great advance” at the age of 37.

On his return to Britain he was taken to a hospital in London. His wife journeyed down to be with him but he had taken his last breath just 30 minutes before she made it to his bedside.

Pte McCulloch wrote: “Just half an hour, and his wife was too late; To kiss his lips ere he entered death’s gate; Can you wonder we swear to avenge the fate; Of the soldier we buried today; With deepest affection, and pride, we will mourn; The brave soldier we buried to-day.”

 

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