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Air Force Poetry

During 2024 we will be sharing Poems written by men who served in the Air Forces.   

 

A new Poem will be posted each month by sharing an excerpt via our Newsletter & Social Media Channels.

If you want to be alerted to these then you can follow our channels via the links above or by subscribing to our newsletter

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Reported Missing by John Bayliss

With broken wing they limped across the sky
caught in late sunlight, with their gunner dead,
one engine gone - the type was out-of-date -
blood on the fuselage turning brown from red:

knew it was finished, looking at the sea
which shone back patterns in kaleidoscope,
knew that their shadow would meet them by the way,
close and catch at them, drown their single hope:

sat in this tattered scarecrow of the sky
hearing it cough, the great plane catching
now the first dark clouds upon her wing-base 
patching the great tear, in evening mockery;
so two men waited, saw the third dead face,
and wondered when the wind would let them die.

John Bayliss (1919-2008) was a British Poet & Literary Editor who served with the RAF during World War 2.  Born in Gloucestershire he was an undergraduate of St Catherines College in Cambridge.

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The Pilots' Paradise by O.C. Chave

High above Betelgeuse, they say,

Beyond Orion’s questing eyes,

Ten million star-strewn years away,

There hangs a pilots’ paradise.

 

Thither when airmen’s bodies fall

Their spirits climb on eager wing

To greet old comrades and recall

Old days of earthward sojourning.

 

They talk of flak, intruders, beams,

Of dummy runs and how to weave,

Sorties and Strikes, and tales like dreams

Which none but airmen would believe.

 

From aerodromes like cloth of green

Mid cloudless skies for ever blue

They sport themselves; and each machine

Is every morning bright and new.

 

And every pilot when he lands

Three-pointed sweeps the glossy lawn;

With young keen eye and strong young hands

He climbs to meet each glowing dawn.

 

What dawns are those, what noonday sun

From which no enemies descend,

What flights when duty here is done

To enter at your log-book’s end!

Flight Lieutenant Owen Cecil Chave (1912-1943) was the Son of Sir Benjamin Chave, K.B.E., and Lady Chave (m.s. Morgan), of Highfield, Southampton, he was married to Joan Sanders.  Serving as a Pilot with 15 Squadron his Stirling Aircraft (BF448) was shot down by a night-fighter on the 14th Feb 1943 whilst taking part in an operation to Cologne.  All seven of the crew lost their lives & are buried at Heverlee War Cemetery in Belgium.

Untitled Poem by Jackie Poulton, 1945

'The WAAF was started, I believe,

Six years ago today.

They couldn't do without us now

Despite what airmen say.

I can't think what the airmen did

Before the women came

To cheer them up and mend their socks

And join in work and game.

When all the WAAF are WAAF no more

And airmen work alone,

They'll think with sighs of girls who made

The service home from home

They'll wish that we were back again,

And talk of "Good Old Days",

Instead of laughing at our trials

And lack of service ways...

The NAAFI and the Sally Ann

Will look a trifle bare,

With only airmen handing round,

No WAAF to meet them there.

We know that you will miss us girls

Whatever you may say,

Because we've shared your service life

In every kind of way.

But when we all go home once more

And are no longer WAAF,

I'm sure we shall look back with pride

On serving with the RAF.'

Not much is known about WAAF Jackie Poulton other than the fact that she was a General Duties Clerk who trained at RAF Kirkham in July 1944.  She wrote this Untitled Poem in 1945.  

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The Bomber by J.C.M. Gibb

The patient one, ungainly blackened brute,

Waiting for night to fall,

With wings and breast unfeathered,

Milkless and destructive all.

Like Damocles - his sword above -

It hangs aloft a while,

To keep a vow made to our dead

In air, in sea, on isle.

With nerves of steel and eyes

That pierce the darkness, velvet-deep,

It shears its way from shore to shore

While men are fast asleep;

And youth, our youth so fine,

So loved by all who know,

Go out alone at night with youth

To overcome the foe.

James Clifford McEwen Gibb A.F.C., was born in 1903 in Kingston, Jamaica.  Post WW1 he joined the Royal Navy during which time he served on the HMS Ganges before being invalided out.  He went on to join the RAF where he initially trained as a pilot before rising through the ranks to Wing Commander.  He died in 1982 in Suffolk.

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Point of View (Heard in a Butchers Shop, Bolton, Lancashire

Trigger Warning!!  The content in this poem may upset, reader discretion advised!

 

'It's slaughter-nothing more nor less-

The bombing in this war...

A dreadful thing...you'd never guess

The shocking sights we saw

In London, when the Blitz was on...

A leg hung from a tree;

A body with the top half gone

And nowt below the knee;

A hand with wedding ring and all;

Two feet in socks and boots;

A baby's head stuck to a shawl;

An arm torn by the roots;

While here and there was flesh in lumps

They shovelled into sacks.

It proper left us in the dumps...

Sent shivers down our backs.'

'It's slaughter, sir.   I've seen a bit

Of what those swine can do.'

His chopper fell and fiercely split

A sheep's head clean in two.

'It's downright murder to attack

Defenceless folk who can't fight back!'

....And swinging dumbly on a hook, 

A dead pig gave him such a look.

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If you think there is a poinant Air Force themed Poem that we should include please get in touch via the contact button below

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