Writing To An Unknown Soldier

As many of you will probably know, today (11th November) is Armistice Day, or more commonly, Remembrance Day, a date chosen as it marks the end of fighting in World War I. Many countries use this date to commemorate the service done by their armed forces, especially in the two World Wars, but also in other recent conflicts, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today at school we had a Remembrance Service, which included the traditional silence on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month and the Last Post. In honour of the date, I thought I’d share with you a poem I wrote for English a couple of years ago. I would love any feedback you have for me on it :). I’ve also included a few photos I took on a school trip to the Belgian battlefields a couple of years ago.

I just want to note – although my poem mentions a German soldier, it doesn’t specifically apply to WWI/WWII, that was just the context we had to write the poem in. 

Letter to an Unknown Soldier

To the German soldier that killed my best friend,

I barely caught a glimpse of you,

Before old Robert was shot down

At point blank range.

But I saw enough of your expression

To know you didn’t mean it;

I saw enough of your grey, gaunt face and your grief-stricken features

To know you didn’t mean it.

I barely caught a glimpse of you

Before you pulled that trigger,

But I saw enough

To wonder:

About you, and your life

Did you have a best friend?

And did they go to war?

Perhaps it would be better to ask,

Did you still have a best friend?

When the guns stopped firing?

When you limped

Bloody, bruised, your comrades blown to bits and your patriotism in tatters

Off the battle field

Carrying a coffin, on a stretcher, or staggering on your own two feet

I barely caught a glimpse of you,

But I saw enough to wonder:

Did you have a family?

And do you still have one now?

A new wife, a giggling child, a competitive brother, a moody sister, a loving mother and a proud father?

Maybe just an obscure cousin

Or an estranged great-aunt

Supporting you as you carry the weight of your family’s expectations

Did you have a job?

Work on the family farm, perhaps,

Or in your neighbour’s fields?

Did you have great plans?

Of grand careers

Unthinkable luxury

Or just happy families?

Were you excited for war, eager and ready to serve your country?

Did you believe in the cause?

Did you hate the Allies?

Were you a willing accomplice in this bloodthirsty game?

Until you stepped onto the corpse-strewn playing field

And realised

You were just a pawn in this complicated contest

Of knights, bishops and kings.

Until you saw the death, the destruction

Surrounding you.

And did you regret

The futile deaths of enemies and comrades

From the start?

Or was it only when you looked into my best friend’s eyes?

When you saw the hope, the fear and the resignation,

And the desperate terror

That lay in the stagnant pools of his pupils?

Was it only then that you regretted pulling that trigger?

For your country, for your leader, and for a cause you no longer believed in.

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There you have it. Let me know your thoughts! Did you commemorate Remembrance Day at all? What remembrance customs does your country have? – in England, we have a minute’s silence at 11am and all wear poppies, as well as having services on the Sunday closest to the 11th.

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12 thoughts on “Writing To An Unknown Soldier

  1. hermionefowl says:

    That was absolutely beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes. We don’t have Rememberance Day, but we have Anzac Day in April, which is basically the same thing. We wear poppies, have the Last Post, etc

    Like

  2. LyfWithEm says:

    That poem was so, so beautiful. I think it’s so important that all these soldiers are remembered for their bravery for what they did for their families, their countries and for us in future generations. They practically sacrificed themselves for our future and we should forever be thankful. I wrote a post on this as well, because it’s so important. We had a minute silence at school today.

    Like

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