War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

Artists Rifles

I’m reading British WWI poet Edward Thomas’ The South Country, written in 1908 just 9 years before he was killed at the Battle of Arras. I hadn’t realized he belonged to the rather astonishing Artists Rifles

it’s unimaginable that in modern times an entire battalion of artists would be mustered to serve as light infantry. absolutely unimaginable.

still, every time I was in a camp on Ex or A’stan, or even when I’m invited to special events (e.g. the Olympics with 3VP, memorial svcs), an artist would approach me to talk about their work as either a poet or sketch artist or tattoo designer.

one poet sat next to me in a BAT outside the wire in A’stan and read me his poem. this soldier was in transport and was just about to go out for a “drive”. the road he regularly drove was a mine-field. he and his buddy high-fived each other before they headed out and not looking each other in the eyes said to each other, “look after my wife and baby if something happens to me”

I’m heading to London to the Imperial War Museum’s Archives where I hope to read original letters from some who served in the Artists Rifles (note: no apostrophe). I hope that the A’stan poets’ families keep their emails and letters. something tells me that every word was printed off and put in a special place. someday those words will be read again.

*Battle Honours: The Great War (3 battalions): Ypres 1917, Passchendaele, Somme 1918, St. Quentin, Bapaume 1918, Arras 1918, Ancre 1918, Albert 1918, Drocourt-Quéant, Hindenburg Line, Canal du Nord, Cambrai 1918, Pursuit to Mons, France and Flanders 1914–18.

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled Artists Rifles. It was posted here on October 01, 2011.


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