(Edward Tanham, veteran of WW1 and WW2)

He died when I was thirteen; but none of us knew his full story, which he refused to glorify. He lied about his age to join the Army. He survived WW1, including the Battle of the Somme, and enlisted again, for WW2.

The fact that he was an Irish citizen gifted me an Irish passport, allowing me to have dual citizenship and remain a European citizen after Brexit, something deeply important to me, and to many others.

We cover the truth of the ‘Great War’ with solemn ceremony that hides us from the screaming. It’s well-intentioned. The war poets – who were there – such as Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, described the horror as it was.

The man in the picture came home to Dublin, then moved to Bolton, where he met my grandmother. He never talked about the war. Drink dominated much of his life, and corresponding poverty my Grandmother’s. My father and his siblings had difficult lives until they were old enough to create their own futures.

I could never judge that. I wasn’t at the Somme. I didn’t come home shaking and coughing. I didn’t sell my medals within two weeks of returning from France.

I created the above montage in Photoshop some years ago. The core photograph is real. The rest of the artefacts have been placed on the image. We spent a day at the Imperial War Museum in London, learning and photographing the objects that would have been his world, including the medals.

I wrote the poem, below, in tribute to Grandad, and also to those war poets whose stark honesty inspired my youth. Europe would emerge from the ‘world wars’ with a determination to shape a continent in shared prosperity whose values began with peace and marked an end to the glorification of war.

It didn’t happen quickly. Nothing hard ever does. Britain played a great part in that work, and our dead of both wars deserve our respect and our silence…

Thank you Grandad Tanham. And thank you to all those who were there with you, many of whom did not return from those sad trenches where human suffering reached a new low.

_______________________

Within the mud, that narrow eye

Focussed further, blinking dirt

Of rifle pointed at the foe

Forgetting lice at four

Or deathly cries of left-behind

Those comrades from next door

Back in the dark tenement

Of where you took King’s shilling

A thousand days of shells and gas

And stench and blood

Ago…

——-

Ignoring bullets, the eye that did not blink

Curled light through Enfield’s barrel

To find the only thing that truly lived

Above this trench of suffering.

And in the Sun of the beginning

Found the end of war…

©Stephen Tanham 2021

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.

http://www.thesilenteye.co.uk and http://www.suningemini.blog

15 Comments on “Within the mud, that narrow eye…

  1. My father would not talk about Normandy, only occupation duty. We must honor their service while never forgetting that war is hell for all concerned. A thoughtful tribute. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful tribute, and when I think back to the world and experiences our grandparents and older went through, and never hearing the struggle, it creates even more admiration for those generations. As with you, I thank all those who experienced suffering and atrocities most all of us could never imagine.

    Liked by 1 person

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