Remembrance Day: Recorder readers choose their favourite war poems and songs

Remembrance Day poppies

Remembrance Day poppies - Credit: Archant

From the bleak depictions of trench life by the First World War poets, to the rousing sound of Vera Lynn’s patriotic songs, Recorder readers have been selecting their favourite war poems and music ahead of Remembrance Day.

Donna Bowers chose the late 20th Century poems Just a Common Soldier (A Soldier Died Today) by A. Lawrence Vaincourt and Why Wear a Poppy by Don Crawford.

She posted on Facebook: “Just a Common Soldier reminds us of what happened to those who returned as they got older and who it was that paid the price of freedom - the soldier not the politician.

“Why Wear a Poppy reminds us of the sacrifice that many families made and still make when family members serve in the armed forces.”

Iain Wilks picked Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen.

Owen, who died one week before Armistice Day, trained with the Artists’ Rifles in Hare Street, Gidea Park.

Iain said: “His poem tells the truth about the horrors of war; it evokes a vivid portrayal of soldiers’ deaths during a gas attack.

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“All politicians should have to study this piece before sending our troops to conflicts in far-flung countries.”

Ingrid Brandon, Elm Park Regeneration Partnership’s chair, selected When the Tigers Broke Free by Pink Floyd.

She said: “This chilling and haunting song by Roger Waters is about how his father died in World War Two. It should be played every Remembrance Day.”

Havering’s councillors and MPs have also been busy choosing the literature and music that means something to them.

Council leader Cllr Michael White picked The White Cliffs of Dover by Vera Lynn and After Visiting the Field of Waterloo by the Romantic poet William Wordsworth.

Cllr White said: “I think The White Cliffs of Dover is synonymous with the war and I like the words in the Wordsworth poem.

“But I also like the poems that actually describe what war is like. I think it’s important for my generation and future generations, who hopefully won’t go to war, to know that.”

Cllr John Mylod picked the same song, because it “seems to encapsulate everything that happened in the last war”.

However Andrew Rosindell, Romford’s MP, decided on Rule Britannia because “it is rousing and patriotic and reminds us all of the days of the British Empire when we ruled the waves”.

Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham and Rainham, picked the song Eternal Father, Strong to Save by William Whiting, because his father John was a sailor in the Royal Navy for 27 years.

For his poem, he chose Dulce Et Decorum Est because Owen was “the greatest poet of the First World War, who described better than anyone the shared sacrifice of war”.

Cllr Andrew Curtin, cabinet member for culture, towns and communities, selected the Leningrad Symphony by Dmitri Shostakovich and Crimean War poem The Charge of the Light Brigade, by Lord Alfred Tennyson.

He said of the poem: “I think that it has a real sense of remorseless rhythm which must be just like a cavalry charge and it manages to combine both old and new, [with the] clash between old ways of fighting and new ways - cavalry versus guns.”

Cllr Curtin also noted the talents of war artists, including First World War painter Paul Nash.

He said: “He used simple colours with some quite mutilated forms to create very powerful and very evocative images of the way in which the war was a mixture of the industrial scale destruction which new machines could unleash, with the silence and loneliness of death.”

Send your favourite war poems and songs to