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  • Jo Clement

Forthcoming: House Sparrows

'House Sparrows' was chosen for publication in this handsome Forward anthology In Flanders Fields.  The collection features a range of work that approaches the centenary of World War One from a variety of perspectives. 


My memories of the war are all hand-me-downs, stories told by my Nana Margie and her mam, Great Nana Hedley. In WW2 she was an 'Aycliffe Angel' in a local munitions factory. The name is significant because, I am told, Nazi broadcasts by William Joyce (dubbed "Lord Haw-Haw") threatened these women directly. He said the little angels of Aycliffe wouldn't get away with it. Waves of bombs proved not to just be propaganda and attacks hit the North of England hard. You can find out more via testimony collected in the BBC's archive here. The brevity of my own memories about WW1 are in direct correlation to the impact of the loss of my Great Nan's brother, who fell on a grenade to save his friends. My family were told no other details, so I wanted to address that loss in this elegiac poem. My Nan did talk about how she made shells in factories, the explosions that stole limbs from her friends and of the yellowed arms and faces of those who worked with explosives in Heightington. The men talked little of their experiences.  In WW2, while my Nan made bullets and machine stitched uniforms, her husband was held as a prisoner of war in Crete and Germany, twice escaping. With those escapes, came captures and returns back to incarceration. Having read stories of escapees being badly punished and some even shot, we know now that while we laughed at his crafty escapes, he took a deadly risk each time he fled.  My Grandad on my mother's side was once a Coldstream Guard at Buckingham Palace. This was an honour bestowed on him for the traumatic explosion of his tank. He served so closely under Bernard Montgomery that he even cut his hair. Through sparrows carved in wood, my poem addresses all these inherited memories and opens dialogue in absence.

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