Bristol 2014 The City And Conflict From The First World War To The Present Day

Bristol 2014 is part of the First World War Centenary Partnership

First World War Centenary Partnership Programme

Bristol 2014 is supported by:

Heritage Lottery Fund Arts Council England Bristol City Council Business West Society of Merchant Venturers University of the West of England

It is coordinated by Bristol Cultural Development Partnership.

'Over the Top'

David Burl
22 Jul 2014

The whistle blows,
Final for some,
And the men mount
Ladders out of
Trampled trenches;
As to the gallows,
Silently pleading
For reprieve

An officer leads
Brandishing a revolver,
Out of range of the enemy
And good only
For the encouragement
Of stragglers,
Momentarily sceptical
About the grand plan

The Germans had swapped
Industrial efficiency
For chivalry,
And aligned their Maxims
In the optimum X-formation;
So that the spinning
Eviscerating rounds
Never missed

Men fall,
Muscle and soft tissue pulped;
Air gulped,
For the torn man's tipple
Of luke warm water
From a khaki canteen

At last
An officer minds
The Balaclava mindset;
And signals the retreat
To the waterlogged trench:
Survivors shiver
At the thought
Of the next sortie


David Burl

I first started writing poetry when I was about 20. My first poem was about a girl I saw on a bus – and how I interacted with her. For the next 45 years I produced poems rather slowly (about one every two-and-half years!). When I was 65 I completed my Ph.D. – and (having retired) had plenty of time to write poetry. I increased my production rate to about three per week – and have currently written about 300 poems (contained in six slim volumes). I do not specialise in particular topics, but attempt to produce a poem about an arresting idea or image. My poems tend to be short (typically 10 or 12 lines). I try to express the subjects in as few words as possible; and to use language in an original way. My favourite poets are W B Yeats; Ted Hughes; Dylan Thomas; T S Eliot; W H Auden; Geoffrey Hill; Wilfred Owen, R S Thomas and Robert Frost. My favourite poem is 'An Irish Airman Foresees His Death' by W B Yeats. My other main activities are Karate (in which I have just obtained my Black Belt); and consultancy for a Third World Charity. I am a Christian – and God is an important theme in my poems. I am married, with four children.

Do you want a fern basket like this? Join the Sixth - Recruiting advert