Tuesday, 10 March 2015

In far off days we tell..

This moving poem about the Battle of Neuve Chapelle was written by J H Craigie of Orkney. It is a newspaper cutting which was kept in a scrapbook by Dr. Duncan, Stromness during WW1.

As the text is a bit faint, here is a transcription:

Neuve Chapelle by Lance Corporal J H Craigie

In a dirty trench I am lying
Amidst dying and the dead
With a piece of shrapnel sticking
In my dazed and aching head
For I've been sorely stricken
In the carnage that befell
Among the Seaforth Highlanders
That day at Neuve Chapelle

At morn we mustered full of hope
And strength and lusty life
And marched with hearts as true as steel
Into the deadly strife
The foe we scattered like the chaff
To all the winds that blow
But the price of our great victory
None but soldiers know.

The very heavens quivered
With the roar of shot and shell
The fire and fumes around us
Made the quaking earth a hell
My colonel, he is wounded,
My captain, he is slain,
My mates around are lying
Upon the gory plain.

And now my sight grows happy
And my head is strong and light
I see my father's cottage
At the falling of the night
And through the window pane the light
Comes flickering from the fire
For now the night is flickering fast
Around me cold and dire.

Oh yes, I hear my mother's voice
As in the days of old,
"Come in," she cries, "we're waiting,
And its getting dark and cold
Come in and lay your aching head
Upon your mother's breast
Your father he will take the book,
And then you'll go to rest."

He cleared his head and slowly sank
Upon the miry clay
And one more Seaforth Highlander
Gave up his life that day.
And sons of Orkney yet unknown
In far off days will tell
Their children how the Seaforths fought
And died at Neuve Chapelle.

The Battle of Neuve Chapelle took place from 10-13th March 1915. It was a British offensive in the Artois region of France which broke through at Neuve Chapelle, but the British were unable to exploit the success. (Information taken from Wikipedia)

Sadly James Craigie did not survive the war and was later killed at Loos, according to this report also saved in the scrapbook on page 23.

"Our Roll of Honour
Killed in Action
The parents of Lance-Corporal J H Craigie (a native of Deerness) of the 8th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, have been notified that their son was killed in the action at Loos in September. Lance-Corpl. Craigie was first reported as missing, and it was stated at the time that he was neither killed or wounded, and the presumption was that he had been taken prisoner. No news came from him, however, and a few days ago the relatives were officially notified that he had been killed. Lance-Corporal Craigie is third of four young Deerness men who has fallen. The fourth, his brother, has been twice wounded, and is still in France. The relatives have the sincerest sympathy of the whole community in their bereavement."

Archive Reference for Scrapbook: D1/1127.

Our current exhibitions chart Orkney's experience of WW1 at home through the use of official documents, letters home, newspaper articles, diaries and photographs. We have three so far, each covering three months of the war. Click the dates to see a taster of each display so far: Aug - Oct 1914, Nov 1914 - Jan 1915 and Feb - Apr 1915.


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