War Words – Poetry Challenge Exhibition


Photograph of exhibition at Cunard Building, Liverpool in April 2015


Between September and December 2014 as part of the First World War Centenary commemorations, Liverpool John Moores University’s Merseyside at War project ran a poetry challenge ’War Words’. Entries are now closed and selected poems have been made into banners, these will form a touring exhibition.

February – Outside the Picton Reading Room, Central Library.

March – Allerton, Childwall and Norris Green Libraries.

April – Cunard Building Reception.


All entries can be viewed below.

Under 18 Category

Whitefield Primary



Heygreen Community Primary



St John Bosco Arts College



Mosslands School


Kirkby High School




Adult Category


BENEATH THE POPPY FIELDS                                       Lynne Smith

They marched off willingly to another land

All Pals together, together they stand

They never knew how it would really be

Hell in those trenches they will see

Their friends gone one by one

In a war so senseless, their lives now gone

Those brave of the bravest

Their memory lives on

Never forgotten as time goes by

They gave us our freedom

As beneath the poppy fields they now lie



DITCHED                                                                    Angie Stowell-Smith

Entrenched in a ditch no runners in sight

Not enough masks we’re aware of our plight.

We can’t see well our sight is blurred

Chaos ensues, guns are heard.

We hide our fear lest we appear weak

Men fall around us our future looks bleak.

We struggle to survive we’re confused what to do

In the mire I find a leg (with its shoe).

The enemy is triumphant or so it seems

Its defences are strong, its numbers are teams.

Still stuck in this mud the bombing increasing

Our strategists are planning our reserves depleting.

The carnage continues our troops are wounded

The public is outraged the frontline confounded.

When all seems hopeless with an air of despair

Our backs against the wall, finally….back-up is here!



Indian Singh                                                                          Fabiyas M V

Hiding in the trench in the French sand,

Indian Singh fights like a British soldier.

It seems it is the ending of the universe.

Dark curls of smoke rise up – cradles are

shattered, and buildings collapsed. Roar

 of the war planes gobble all the shrieks

by the mothers and their mothers in a jiff.

Wounds play a sad raga on the strings in

the throats of some fallen military men.


Indian Singh seeks his sweet lady among

the golden corns in a Punjabi wheat field

during the horrible silent interval. A red

salwar kameez flutters in the day dream.

A sudden roar makes him raise his rifle.

Though he is Britain’s adopted son, he

fights for his new mother with true love.


She opens with a smile the creaking gate

to the ecstasy of reunion- soon this smile

is scattered like a phial in an explosion.


She waited for him with the same verve

for years and years in vain, until the earth

worms claimed her wrinkled body one day.


Thousands of memorial stones were erupted

here and there after the First World War, but

not a single stone remains to honour his valour.



Mersey 11                                                                               Andrew P Hoyle

Crossing the Mersey

my friend and I

off to St Helen’s

for king country and I


many fields I crossed

both far and wide

oh how I cried

those tears of pride


now on the banks

of the Mersey I stare

with thoughts I dare

not speak


my friend is not in

fields over there

yet prisoned in

 fields where their

is no peace


I why I stare

with thoughts

so deep till I

am in my field

of deep.



Sailing                                                                              Andrew P Hoyle

Sailing on this ship to Flanders

my companion quips


it’s a beautiful ship

carrying the brave


sailing on the ship

back from Flanders

carrying the corps

my companion remorses

they were the brave




I will not quiver

in my trench

with the stench of death

I will muster my will

go forth to quench

those guns that kill



The Silent Witness                                                         Dorothy Burgess 

(Hall of St. George)

I am this noble city’s sentinel

Trusted keeper over wind-swept souls.


My grey granite steps bore silent witness

To young hearts standing proud abreast

Blood and treasure, Liverpool Pals,

King’s finest, City’s best.


Listen now….

Hear echo from Somme, Passchendaele and Ypres

Drifted skyward on pipers’ lamented tone

Captured steadfast, in my pillared arms of stone,

Safe held, I am their worthy, forever keeper


A century passed….

Misty, winter-sun poppies emblazon heartfelt recall

Named and nameless on memorial stone and wall.

As the sun goes down, and in the morning

I bear silent witness to the spirit of our brothers.



Red                                                                                         Linda Jackson

“My Darling as you read,

This shall be my last communication you see”

I’m afraid I shall never leave this trench unless my body is buried with fellow man, buried with dignity or sent out to sea?…


The impact of the gunshot, I can no longer hang on my love…

I was so afraid before, the pain I no longer feel, for the cold had taken over, it’s like a million pins upon a bed that I lay to slowly die…


Goodbye my darling I say as tears run down my bloodied cheek

The memory of your face I see, sweet porcelain skin, within your heart forever in the corner of your mind, my memory you shall so seek.


If one could only “pack up these troubles in my old kit bag”,

Quote from the fading band

My love for you will never die, do not forget me,

My death in vain, the stench of death and war

Unwashable blood on every hand.


The cries for help, the light around me slowly dimming, the cold from the ground, Time is not upon my side.

Remember my life and other Comrades and wear this Red flower I handpicked for you, its name I believe is “poppy” to always wear with “BRITISH PRIDE”



FOUND IN A DRAWER                                                  Derek Taylor

Silver, pretending to be base,

flat, round, modest,

self consciously ribboned

red white and blue,

surprised at being lifted from its case,

Military Medal the encyclopaedia says.


Spring, first seeds of guilt

as I caress

‘For bravery in the field’;

trace round the edge,

name, number, rank;

stare at King George V,

Britt:omn:Rex Et Ind:Imp.


The deed never talked about.

Should I have asked, acknowledged?

There were enough years,

silences across the fireside,

a log crackling like gunfire.


Guilt advances, sure of itself,

the medal grows warm in my hand.

He’s crouched in a trench,

time races towards

beginnings and endings.

Dread of the whistle, the bugle, the ladders.



Brought Home                                                                     Neil D Crawford

Mourners all in sombre suits, no trendy funeral this,

a black mamba of grief writhes toward the cathedral door.

Soldiers, literal comrades in arms, with downturned rifles

and regimental colours held low.


Plumed Lancers in dress uniform, resplendent on their little

used, ceremonial mounts. The smell of horse dung fills the air.

Onlookers, feeling helpless, bow their heads in

quiet respect.


The two waiting hearses bear wreaths that tell the fuller tale

- Son, grandson, nephew, boyfriend, mate – a British lion

whose roar is forever silenced, learning his age I see

he was more a cub.


Police explain the delay to angry motorists,

some are still furious even when informed,

their momentary inconvenience, it seems,

outweighs momentous sacrifice.



Elegy For the Fallen and the Falling                             Neil D Crawford

Consider an insignificant spear on yesterday’s warm

red grass. Today, men of honour constantly intrude

into History’s overgrown garden.


Our weary daughters weep for flags, which, though

ragged, still flutter in the same old breeze that blew

on our tired grandfathers.


Here their comrades lie, long ago laid down in the

tidal wave path of a white cross ocean, ten thousand

sleeping legions, a squandered generation.


Our master’s machine, far older than individual

mischief, in the early morning light surrenders

to an ever swelling sea.


Down in the depths of this dire imagination

I see tomorrow’s warriors, soldiers of

the future.


Clad, not in shining armour, but in rags reflecting

hunger both physical and mental, a broken, white,

crooked cross they bear.



Remembrance Sunday                                                     Neil D Crawford

It is not a day for selfish aims or ends.

Our games, our friends, our fads and trends,

all fade into insignificance, evidence of our



In comparison to their sacrifice,

their eternal selflessness.

They gave their lives that we

might drown in facile shallowness.



The Score                                                                          Neil D Crawford

Eight coffins.

Eight flags.

Eight real lives lost,

Scores more destroyed.


Heart sickening point scoring

from disgraced politicians.

‘Your cuts are deeper than

our cuts’.


For the true depth of the cuts

look no further, one only has

to witness Wootton Bassett.



A BRITISH GRENADIER                                                  Peter Gillott

My daddy was a private in the British Grenadiers.

He felt afraid quite often though a Guardsman has no fears.

His country gave him khaki, several bullets and a gun

and a bayonet for prodding current enemies —— the Hun.


He square—bashed at bare barracks where the discipline was harsh,

and they put him on false charges till he grew a Guards moustache,

and his mates told filthy stories, picked up fag—ends, boozed and swore

in a pithy foreign language which he hadn’t used before.


Soft sergeant cried, “Want medals, lads? You’re lucky. Now’s your chance.

Your king is kindly giving you free trips to Belly France.”

Dad ate an English breakfast being paid in English coin

But he left it in the Channel between Folkestone and Boulogne.


First baited in the Bullring by some bastards on a stunt.

to stay behind and bully those condemned to go up Front.

a rattle in a cattle—truck. Forced marches to the drains

called trenches as replacements for the wounded and the slain.


He never killed a German for he swore he never would

though they told him only dead ones were considered any good.

But friend and foe were similar transmuted under fire

to ragged bits of bodies hung like washing on barbed wire.


In cabbages near Cambrai on the last of his patrols

an observant machine—gunner perforated him with holes.

While stranded playing dead he feared that Jerry might attack

and his girl might think him coward. He’d been wounded in the back.


A stretcher—party found him deep in dark that hides the bled

and they lugged him to a tent where yards of bandages turn red,

and he signed a printed post—card, I AM WOUNDED and they sent

card and carcass back to Blighty as his usefulness was spent.


In coma he revisited the horrors he had seen

but was blind to his fiancée and his language was obscene.

Though many prayers were proffered in the hope that he would thrive,

the weary doctors whispered, “No, that number won’t survive.”


He lived and he got married and I’m told that if he’d died.

I would never have existed but remained the other side.

Well, I’m here and incidentally I caught him in the bath

and saw those wounds inflicted down on dubious duty’s path.


November they remember (or forget as like as not)

dumb soldiers who were slaughtered in the mud and left to rot.

Dad wears his Service Medal and intones the clichés well

but he knows highroad to Heaven’s via No Man’s Land of Hell.

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