What Did You Do During The War Grandma?

Woman in war

“Suppose they Gave a War and Nobody Came.”

That was the caption on a popular poster back in the day.  Wouldn’t  it be lovely, but we are not there yet. And as Remembrance day approaches we remember the fallen in wars where everybody went and many didn’t return home. War leaves no stone unturned, no human untouched, and its tremors reverberates for generations.

To the forever empty nests because of war and conflict

Let’s take a look at  war through a couple of poems written by women. The unheralded and subordinated voices. The first is by Eva Dobell who was a British poet nurse and editor.  Here is her famous poem:

by Eva Dobell (1876–1963)

Crippled for life at seventeen,
His great eyes seems to question why:
with both legs smashed it might have been
Better in that grim trench to die
Than drag maimed years out helplessly.

A child – so wasted and so white,
He told a lie to get his way,
To march, a man with men, and fight
While other boys are still at play.
A gallant lie your heart will say.

So broke with pain, he shrinks in dread
To see the ‘dresser’ drawing near;
and winds the clothes about his head
That none may see his heart-sick fear.
His shaking, strangled sobs you hear.

But when the dreaded moment’s there
He’ll face us all, a soldier yet,
Watch his bared wounds with unmoved air,
(Though tell-tale lashes still are wet),
And smoke his Woodbine cigarette.

We salute the unsung heroes, the caregivers,  the listeners, the people left to survive the peace and  pick up the traumatized pieces of lives forever changed. The widows, orphans and casualties on the home front. The victims of dangerous working conditions in munitions factories and special operations.

And here is a poem from a woman who served on the home front.  A brilliant description of one of the many roles that women had to fill to feed families during the war.

The Women’s Land Army by Rose Perritt

A world of chaos, a world at war,
Destruction as never seen before,
A world of heartbreak, world of fear,
And misery so hard to bear.
Armies wrong, and Armies right,
Marching forth to kill and fight,
And lo, the toll of death was high.

An Army came, but not to kill,
Only hungry mouths to fill,
An Army clad in brown and green,
About the countryside was seen,
Around the farmyards, on the roads,
With horses, carrying heavy loads,
A womens army, firm of hand,
Had come to conquer on the Land.

In lonely ones, or gangs together,
In strange fantastic English weather,
That never a moment may be lost,
In tearing winds and biting frost,
They tended livestock, planted seed,
Tilled, manured, conquered weed,
Picked potatoes, cabbage, beet,
So that England still could eat.

Now a world at peace, a world still mad,
A world all blasted, weary, sad,
A lot more hungry mouths to fill,
The green Army is needed still,
Little reward will come their way,
But beauty in their hearts will stay,
That comes to those that understand,
Love of a horse, the love of the land.

Rose Perritt (WLA 134339) served in Bedfordshire working for Bedfordshire War Agricultural Committee based at Cople Hostel

If you are lucky enough to know someone who lived through this period, find out if they are  willing share this  this most intense time in their lives.  Let me know what  you learn.


J. L. James
Follow me

J. L. James

Writer at EmptyBesters
Social Commentator, Original EmptyBester.
J. L. James
Follow me

2 thoughts on “What Did You Do During The War Grandma?

  1. Fantastic Judith! A lovely tribute and very fitting for my own post done today before I even saw this – just goes to show how alike us women think. And I love what you said at the start about the tremors reverberating for generations. They really do – they are certainly still echoing in my family. I stood by my uncle’s grave yesterday during the two minute silence with a huge knot in my stomach because of the misery his death, at 19, caused my grandmother, my mother (who was 14 at the time and idolized her big bother) and all the family. This is lovely, just perfect.

    1. Absolutely amazing Gilly! Just saw your post too. I think we as writers have tuned into the collective consciousness of the ‘feminine.’ It is about time the contributions and suffering of women are recognized as equal during wars. Many women died on the inside when their male relatives died in the war, as you witnessed with your grandmother. Many women also gave their lives in service. Their stories are rarely told, so now it begins with a generation ready to speak and a generation ready to listen. I hope others will share a story about women’s contributions during the war. It is great: two minds, one thought, an ocean apart.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge