21 October 1966

villanelle about the Aberfan coal mining disaster, in which 144 people, including 116 school children, died when a coal mining waste tip collapsed. There was a lot of anger at the National Coal Board for its neglect of safety, and at the inquest, one father insisted, "I want it recorded – "Buried alive by the National Coal Board." That is what I want to see on the record. That is the feeling of those present. Those are the words we want to go on the certificate."

The miner insisted the coroner record
The Pantglas School building a homicide scene
They were buried alive by the National Coal Board

We Are Not Heroes

We are not heroes, not the valiant sort
We let them take us, fell in to survive
The heroes are the ones who stood and fought

Our bodies packed together frail support
The nudging of her foot kept me alive
But we're not heroes, not the valiant sort

Our best fought underground, our martyrs caught
Resistance from the shadows, fire and strive
The heroes are the ones who stayed and fought

Verses from the First World War: Conscientious Objectors

Published in Solidarity 397, 9 March 2016

Once the Military Service Act come into force in 1916, men aged 18-41 had to apply to a Military Tribunal if they believed that they had a reason not to be drafted. The majority had health, work or family reasons, but 2% were Conscientious Objectors (COs): men who objected to military service because they objected to war.

War Poetry: Challenging the Nationalist Narrative

From its declaration of war in 1914, Britain’s ruling class appealed to patriotism to boost its support and its military recruitment. By 1916 both were flagging. On the pages of socialist newspaper The Herald, poets used verse to question both nationalism and the war’s aims. When the government asked men to fight for King and Country, was it shielding its true motives?

Memento Mori (Gallipoli, 1915/16)

Hopeless force the Dardanelles
Shells, death knells and straits to hell
Terra firma, firmer terror
History puts it down to error
Wounded yet still predatory
Terrorise for territory

Ground of flesh and rocks from bones
Lay out wire for telephones
Cable London, cross terrain
Thousands dead, a few yards gained
Must despatch a good news story
Inched a bit more territory


Subscribe to RSS - History