AS A young man, Southampton’s own soldier poet, Dennis B Wilson witnessed the horrors of the battlefield – an experience he still vividly recalls at the age of 91.
These memories are at the heart of a new book of his poetry published to mark Remembrance Day.
Some of the most vivid, moving and celebrated literature in the English language was written by the poets of the First World War, such as Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon. And in the next global conflict, poetry was once more used to stir the emotions of those on the home front.
However, some believed the unparalleled scale of inhumanity and violence unleashed after 1939 was beyond poetry.
This was a point of view which Dennis did not share.
As he says of his new book, Elegy of A Common Soldier and Other Poems: “These are the reflections of an ordinary soldier, of any nationality, temporarily withdrawn from the front line to an area of comparative peace, in any of the wars to which unwilling mankind has been subjected by the ambitions, greed or stupidity of his rulers.
“It was written at various times in 1943, 1944 and 1945 – some parts written in slit trenches in Normandy, making unauthorised use of the Field Service Pocket Book; and some parts written clumsily with the left hand while in hospital.’’
Dennis arrived in Hampshire back in 1925, initially living in Colbury and then in Southampton, but a near miss by a Second World War bomb forced the family to move to Chandler’s Ford.
“I was called up by the Army in 1941, although I had expressed a preference for the RAF, being opposed to following the military tradition of my father’s family,’’ said Dennis, who has written poetry all his life.
“Once in, however, I discovered I had an affinity for Army life and decided to make it my career after the war, but I was prevented from doing so after being wounded and disabled by two shells which exploded in my vicinity following the landings in Normandy during 1944, after which my medical category was too low to be acceptable for the peacetime Army.’’
The book, the fourth by Dennis, is described as a “mature collection of 125 poems covering profound human experiences and drawn from a life spanning more than nine decades’’.
Dennis, a lifelong fan of Southampton Football Club, left the Army in 1947 after gaining the rank of captain and embarked on a 48-year career with Encyclopaedia Britannica International Limited.
His publisher, Tim Crook, believes Dennis’s book will become a significant aspect of literature of the Second World War.
“Dennis is a rhyming and scanning poet who writes poems which are easily understood,’’ said the publisher.
“His poems are a remarkable personal history stretching from 1937 to 2010 and cover every nuance and aspect of the human condition and emotions.’’
- Elegy of a Common Soldier and Other Poems by Dennis B Wilson is published by Kultura Press priced £9.99.
- To read an extract from Elegy of a Common Soldier, by Dennis B Wilson click here