Poetry and the Second World War
Lives of the Poets

Brief biobibliographical notes about the poets writing during WW2 (alphabetical order)

There is so little readily available biobibliographical information on Second World War poets that I make these notes, incomplete as they are, public.
Additional information is more than ever welcome  and should be sent tomy e-mail address

* means there is a recording of this poet reading at the Poetry Archive

Dannie Abse (1923- )
Served in the Royal Air Force, but did not publish his first volume of verse, After Every Green Thing,  until 1948.

Drummond Allison (1921-43)
Studied at Queen's College, Oxford. Served with East Surrey Regiment in North Africa and was killed in action between Naples and Rome in 1943. Poems in Poetry from Oxford in Wartime and posthumous The Yellow Night (1944). Michael Sharpe edited The Poems of Drummond Allison in 1978. A Collected Poems of Drummond Allison, edited and introduced by Steve Benson, was published privately in 1994, through Bishop's Stortford College.  

Kenneth Allott (1912-73)
Poems (1937) make him best known as a poet of the 30s, but The Ventriloquist's Doll (1943) was published during the war. Kenneth Allott was a conscientious objector. 

Brian Allwood (1920-44)
Worked in Mass Observation before the war. Served in the RAF, killed in action in Italy. Now or Never (1944)

Kingsley Amis (1922-1995)
Served in the Royal Corps of Signallers 1942-45. Bright November published by the Fortune Press in 1947, but only 6 poems from this collection were retained in Collected Poems 1944-79.

John Arlott (1914-1991)
Police Detective Sergeant 1934-45. Worked for the BBC after the war. Of Period and Place (1944) and Clausentum (1946)

John Atkins (1910- )
Served in the Home Guard. Experience of England (1942). Published Walter de la Mare. An Exploration in 1947. 

W.H. Auden (1907-73)
Journey to a War (1939) especially the sonnet sequence "In Time of War" is a parable about the difficulties of politically engaged writing. In January 1939 Auden went to New York and stayed on as reviewer and university lecturer at Ann Arbor, Michigan. Another Time (1940) includes "September 1, 1939", written the weekend war was declared. During the war The Double Man (1941) and For the Time Being (1944) were published. Auden became an American citizen and was refused for active service, but in 1945 he spent a few months in Germany with US Air Force’s Strategic Bombing Survey  studying the effects of aerial bombardment, a harrowing experience reflected in "Memorial for a City".  "The Shield of Achilles" (1951) is a retrospective vision of war, and one of Auden's most powerful short poems.
See the W.H.Auden Society

Donald Bain (1922- )
At Cambridge with Nicholas Moore, Hamish Henderson and Alex Comfort, he edited Oxford and Cambridge Writing (1942). Served in Royal Artillery and Gordon Highlanders until invalided out and his few published poems come from that period. Best known for "War Poet". Became an actor after war.

Peter Baker (1921-1966)
Enlisted instead of going to Cambridge. Served in Royal Artillery, captured by Gestapo. Became publisher and MP after war. The Beggar's Lute (1940)

George Barker (1913-91)
Wrote Lament and Triumph (1940) and, after his return from Japan via the US to Britain, Eros in Dogma (1944).

John Bayliss (1919-78)
Studied at St. Catherine's College, Cambridge. Served in the RAF in India. The White Knight (1944) Edited, with Derek Stanford, A Romantic Miscellany (1946).

Samuel Beckett (1906-89)
Became a member of the Resistance, narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo and went into hiding in unoccupied France.

Martin Bell (1918-78)
First successful poem was a translation of Gérard de Nerval’s sonnet "El Desdichado", written while serving with the Royal Engineers in Italy.

William Bell (1924-48)
Educated at Merton College, Oxford. Served in Fleet Air Arm. Killed in climbing accident on the Matterhorn 1948. Elegies (1945) and Mountains Beneath the Horizon (1950)

Sir John Betjeman (1906-84)
* Attended Magdalen College, Oxford. Worked for various government departments, including as a Press Attaché in Dublin 1941-43. Published Old Lights for New Chancels (1940) and New Bats in Old Belfries (1945). Auden wrote an introduction to his choice of Betjeman’s verse and prose, Slick but not Streamlined (1947).
Official site here. Read the Guardian article about his spying in Dublin.

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)
Completed translation of the Divine Comedy in 1943. Posthumous Burning of the Leaves (1944).

Edmund Blunden (1896-1974)
Fellow and tutor in English at Merton College, Oxford 1931-43 (to Keith Douglas, among others), then worked on TLS and in 1948 was part of UK Liaison Mission to Tokyo. Evolution of his thought can be seen in the successive publication of : Poems 1930-40 (1940), Shells by a Stream (1944) and After the Bombing (1949).

David Bourne (1921-41)
Joined Air Force July 1940, killed in action September 1941. Poems (1944)

Jocelyn Brooke (1908-66)
Educated at Worcester College, Oxford. Served in Royal Army Medical Corps in North Africa and Italy. December Spring (1946) and The Elements of Death (1952)

George Bruce (1909- 2002)
Educated at Aberdeen University. Taught at Dundee High School 1933-46. Became a conscientous objector when war broke out. Sea Talk (1944)

Basil Bunting (1900-1985)
Imprisoned and mistreated as a conscientious objector during WW1 (Bunting was a Quaker), he abandoned his conscientious objection during WW2 and was sent to Persia where he stayed on after the war, first in the diplomatic sevice, then as a journalist, before being expelled by Mossadeq.
See the Basil Bunting Poetry Centre at the University of Durham

John Buxton (1912- )
Studied at New College, Oxford. Taken prisoner in Norway in 1940, he spent the rest of the war in Oflag VII. Westward (1942) and Such Liberty (1944)

Norman Cameron (1905-53)
Studied at Oriel College, Oxford. Worked in Intelligence, producing propaganda with a small group that included film director Alexander MacKendrick and literary editor T.R.Fyvel. Work in Hand was published by the Hogarth Press in 1942.
See a brief review of his biography

Roy Campbell (1902-57)
Born in South Africa. Controversial figure who supported Franco during the Spanish Civil War. A selection of his poems, Sons of the Mistral, was published in 1941. In 1942 he volunteered for service in the British Army and after training briefly with Wingate's commando force, was posted to East Africa as a coast-watcher. Talking Bronco (1946) came out of that experience.

Demetrios Capetanakis (1912-44)
Demetrios Capetanakis : A Greek Poet in London (1947)

Charles Causley (1917- 2003)
* Served in Royal Navy 1940-46. Later said his experiences in the navy inspired him to become a poet. Farewell, Aggie Weston (1951) and Survivor's Leave (1953).
Read one of his poems here

Stephen Coates
Involved in education during the war. First Poems (1943) and Second Poems (1947)

Alex Comfort (1920-2000)
Conscientious objector during war, as is shown in his first volumes of poetry : France and Other Poems (1940), A Wreath for the Living (1942), Elegies (1944) and The Song of Lazarus (1945). A pacifist who was among the few at the time to protest at the Dresden bombing.
Read a good profile and an excellent selection of his poetry.

Robert Conquest (1917- )
Studied at Magdalen College, Oxford. Served in Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in Bulgaria and the Ukraine. Edited anthology New Lines (1956), which launced the careers of Philip Larkin and the 'Movement' poets.

Herbert Corby (1911- )
Armourer, then instructor in the RAF. Hampdens Going Over (1945) and Time in a Blue Prison (1947).

Timothy Corsellis (1921-1941)
Worked in ARP during Blitz, then in Air Transport Auxiliary. Killed in action 1941.

Nancy Cunard (1896-1965)
Worked for the Free French Forces in London and edited anthology Poems from France (1944).

Ralph Nixon Currey (1907-2001)
Born in South Africa and studied at Wadham College, Oxford. In This Other Planet he wrote as an artillery officer of exile in a world of mechanistic killing. Indian Landscape was a verse record of three years' service in India where he edited with R.V. Gibson the forces anthology Poems from India. Wrote British Council pamphlet Poets of the 1939-45 War (1960).

Idris Davies (1905-53)
A conscientious objector, Idris Davies taught in London and South Wales during the war. In 1943 wrote "The Angry Summer", 50 short untitled sections chronicling the General Strike. Published Tonypandy and other poems (1945).
See a review of his Complete Poems

Cecil Day Lewis (1904-72)
Studied at Wadham College, Oxford. First publication of the war : a translation of Virgil's Georgics, which contained as an epigraph an answer to the question asked in Parliament "Where are the war poets?". Joined Home Guard 1940 and worked 1941-46 for the Ministry of Information. Published Word over All (1943) and wrote poems for Poems 1943-47, published 1948.
Read a good profile here

Paul Dehn (1912-76)
Studied at Brasenose College, Oxford. Served in the Intelligence Corps. The Day's Alarm (1949)

Patric Dickinson (1914-1994)
Served in Artists' Rifles until invalided out, then worked in Features and Drama Dept of the BBC 1942-48. The Seven Days of Jericho (1944) and Theseus and the Minotaur (1946). Edited an anthology of Soldiers' Verse (1945)

Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)
* Collected Poems published 1942, Collected Rhymes and Verses 1944.

H.D. (1886-1961)
Pseudonym of Hilda Doolittle, an Amercan poet living in London during the Blitz. Her wartime Trilogy (The Walls Do Not Fall, Tribute to the Angels, The Flowering of the Rod ) was composed 1942-4 and published 1944-6.

Keith Douglas (1920-44)
Read English at Merton College, Oxford. Posted 1941 to Palestine with Nottinghamshire Rangers. Wrote memoir of service in North Africa, From Alamein to Zem-Zem (1946). Returned to England late 1943, sent to France in June 1944, killed 4 days after landing.
Read " Vergissmeinnicht " here

Ronald Duncan (1914-82)
A conscientious objector, Ronald Duncan farmed in Devon. Edited Townsman 1938-46. Postcards to Pulcinella (1940)

Lawrence Durrell (1912-90)
Press Officer in Athens, then Cairo 1941-44, Press Attaché in Alexandria 1944-45. First book of poems A Private Country (1943), considered to be on a par with Wallace Stevens’ and Auden’s first books.
See the site of the International Lawrence Durrell Society

Clifford Dyment (1914-71)
Wrote and directed military-training films, then films on civic and agriculture for MoI. The Axe in the Wood (1944) and Poems 1935-48. The Railway Game (1971) is his autobiography.

T.S.Eliot (1888-1965)
The war stimulated Eliot to write three little-known occasional poems "Defence of the Islands", "A Note on War Poetry" and "To the Indians who Died in Africa" (all included in Collected Poems ). More importantly, it inspired him to turn Burnt Norton (1936) into a sequence. East Coker was published in 1941, The Dry Salvages in 1942, Little Gidding in 1943, and the sequence as a whole, under the title Four Quartets , in 1944.
Read a profile here and visit an excellent site here

William Empson (1906-84)
Went to teach in China 1937, returned 1940 to work for the BBC, first in Monitoring Department, then as Chinese Editor organizing radio broadcasts to China and writing features for the Home Service. The effectiveness of his work provoked Nazi propagandist Hans Fritsche into dubbing him a "curly-headed Jew". Second volume of poetry The Gathering Storm (1940)
Read this reprint of an essay by Frank Kermode in the London Review of Books

Gavin Ewart (1916-1995)
Studied at Christ's College, Cambridge. Served in Royal Artillery in North Africa and Italy 1940-46. Published nothing between first volume 1938 and second 1966, but the 9 poems he wrote during the war and 3 backward glances at the war, are included in The Collected Ewart 1933-1980.

James Farrar (1923-44)
Joined the RAF in 1942, killed in action July 1944. The Unreturning Spring (1950)

Iain Fletcher (1920-88)
Posted to Middle East, where he befriended Bernard Spencer and G.S. Fraser. Orisons, picaresque and metaphysical (1947).

G.S. Fraser (1915-80)
Studied at St. Andrews University. Spent most of war in Egypt, where he frequented Lawrence Durrell, Terence Tiller and Bernard Spencer. Published Home Town Elegy (1944) and The Traveller has Regrets and other poems (1948). Helped found the Salamander Oasis Trust.
Read " The Traveller Has Regrets "

Roy Fuller (1912-91)
Served as radar mechanic in East Africa, then as a radio and radar officer at the Admiralty, experiences commemorated in his first three books : Poems (1939), The Middle of a War (1942) and A Lost Season (1944). Coolly and honestly records boredom and deprivations suffered by most civilians during Blitz. Observed that "Service discipline made my verse more precise."

Roland Gant (1919- )
Listen, Confides the Wind (1947)

Wrey Gardiner (1901-81)
Edited Poetry Quarterly from the Grey Walls Press at Billericay. Sharp Scorpions (1940), The Chained Tree (1941), Questions of Waking (1942), The Gates of Silence (1944) and Lament for Strings (1947). edited anthology This Living Stone (1941). Papers 1918-1981  held at Columbia University. 

Robert Garioch (1909-87)
Pseudonym of Robert Garioch Sutherland. Scottish poet conscripted in 1941, spent rest of war as POW. Experiences recorded in "The Wire", a chilling vision of captivity.
Read this short profile

David Gascoyne (1916-2001)
* Actor during war. Gascoyne's most important book Poems 1937-42 , illustrated by Graham Sutherland, has a religious quality, which came from the influence of Pierre Jean Jouve.
Go to the David Gascoyne homepage

John Gawsworth (1912-1970)
Pseudonym of Terence Armstrong, king of the Caribbean island of Redonda, who served in the RAF during the war. Collected Poems (1949)

W.S. Graham (1918-86)
First three books of poetry written during war : Cage without Grievance (1942), The Seven Journeys (1944) and Second Poems (1945).

Robert Greacen (1920- )
Studied Social Sciences at Dublin University. Edited anthology Lyra with Alex Comfort (1942). Published The Bird (1941), One Recent Evening (1944) and The Undying Day (1948).

Robert Graves (1895-1985)
* Spent the war in Devon, with his third wife Beryl. His son David was killed in action. The propaganda surrounding Dunkirk inspired the delightfully satirical poem "The Persian Version".
Visit the Robert Graves Trust

Geoffrey Grigson (1905-1985)
Worked for the BBC. Edited two anthologies The Romantics (1942) and The Poet's Eye (1944). Published Several Observations (1939), Under the Cliff (1943) and The Isles of Scilly (1946).

Bernard Gutteridge (1916-85)
Served with Combined Operations, with Alun Lewis, whose death he recorded in "Burma Diary".
Almost all the poems in The Traveller’s Eye (1947) describe experiences during military service in Madagascar, India and Burma.

Stephen Haggard (1911-43)
Descendant of Rider Haggard. Studied at Munich University. Staff Captain in Devonshire regiment, in Intelligence. Shot dead in mysterious circumstances on a train going from Jerusalem to Cairo in February 1943. I'll Go to Bed at Noon (1944)

Charles Hamblett (?-1975)
Studied at the School of Arts & Crafts, Cambridge. Served in the RAF. Edited anthology of WW2 poetry, I Burn for England (1966).

Michael Hamburger (1924- )
* Studied modern languages at Christ Church. Though he took no part in combat, his army experience is recorded in A Mug's Game (1973). Translated Poems of Holderlïn (1944) and published The Later Hogarth (1945)

John Heath-Stubbs (1918-2006)
* Studied at Queen's College, Oxford. Published in 8 Oxford Poets (1941), then in  his own Wounded Thammuz (1942), Beauty and the Beast (1944) and The Divided Ways (1946). Hindsights, his autobiography, was published in 1993. 

Hamish Henderson (1919-2002)
Studied at Downing College. 22 at the time of El Alamein, which he saw as one of the major formative events of his life. It gave rise to his only volume of poetry Elegies for the Dead in Cyrenaica (1947, new ed. 1978)
Read a good profile

James Findlay Hendry (1912-86)
Studied at Glasgow University. Served in Army Intelligence. Published first two books The Bombed Happiness (1942) and The Orchestral Mountain (1943), but chiefly remembered for founding (with Henry Teece) the New Apocalypse movement.
Read this mini-profile

Geoffrey Holloway (1918-1998)
Served in Royal Army Medical Corps in NW Europe. Rhine Jump (1974).

John Jarmain (1911 -1944)
Studied mathematics at Queen's College, Cambridge. Fought in the Middle East, killed during the Normany landings. Poems (1945) contains "El Alamein".

David Jones (1895-1974)
Has a site dedicated to him at Case Western Reserve University.

Sidney Keyes (1922-43)
Studied history at Queen's College, Oxford. Edited 8 Oxford Poets with Michael Meyer 1941. Joined army April 1942, trained at Dunbar. Killed in action in Tunisia April 1943. Posthumous collection The Cruel Solstice (1943). Collected Poems edited by Michael Meyer 1945, issued in paperback  in 1988, and recently re-edited by Carcanet.
Read " War Poet "

James Kirkup (1918- )
Studied at Durham University. The Drowned Sailor (1947).

Philip Larkin (1922-85)
Went up to read English at St. John’s College, Oxford in 1940. Its austere war-disrupted atmosphere evoked in his novel Jill (1946). Ran library in small town of Wellington 1943-1946. The North Ship published 1945. See one of James Fenton's essays in The Strength of Poetry, "Philip Larkin : Wounded by Unschrapnel".

Laurie Lee (1914-1997)
During WW2 worked as a script-writer with GPO Film Unit 1939-40, which was taken over to become the Crown Film Unit 1941-43.and in the MoI 1944-46. Poems included in third volume of John Lehmann’s Poets of Tomorrow (1944) and first book The Sun My Monument appeared that year.

John Lehmann (1907-87)
Studied at Trinity College, Cambridge. Wrote poetry in early 1930s, then edited magazine, and became a publisher, before writing again during WW2 : Forty Poems (1942) and The Sphere of Glass (1944), considered his best single volume.

Denise Levertov (1923-1997)
A nurse in wartime London, she published her first volume of verse The Double Image in 1946. Emigrated to the US in 1948.
See a short profile

Alun Lewis (1915-44)
1940 enlisted in the Royal Engineers. Married Gweno in July, 1941, became captain in the 6th Battalion, South Wales Borderers. After long period of training and retraining, battalion sent to Burma. Died in mysterious circumstances in March 1944, near Goppe Bazar, Burma. Raiders’ Dawn published 1942 and Ha ! Ha ! Among the Trumpets postumously in 1944.
More at this homepage

Maurice Lindsay (1918- )
Editor of Poetry Scotland and Captain in the Cameronians. The Advancing Day (1940), Perhaps Tomorrow (1941), Predicaments (1942), No Crown for Laughter (1943) and The Enemies of Love (1946). His wartime experiences are recounted in two chapters of his autobiography Thank You for Having Me (1983).

Emanuel Litvinoff (1915- )
Pioneer Lieutenant in West Africa. Conscripts (1941), The Untried Soldier (1942) and Crown for Cain (1948).

Christopher Logue (1926- )
* Served in the British Army 1944-8, as Private in Black Watch. Served two years in prison before receiving a dishonourable discharge.
Read a short profile

Herbert Lomas (1924- )
Served in the army in India. 1943-6.

Edward Lowbury (1913-2007)
Spent three years of the WW2 in the Royal Army Medical Corps in East Africa. "August 10th, 1945 - The Day After " is one of the few poems to be written at the time about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

George MacBeth (1932-92)
Memoir A Child of the War (1987) : father killed in an air-raid in 1941. Long poem "A War Quartet" (1969) evokes experience of combattants in WW2.

Norman MacCaig (1910-1996)
Studied at Edinburgh University. Conscientious objector during WW2, serving in Non-Combatant Corps. Far Cry (1943) and The Inward Eye (1946), heavily influenced by New Apocalypse. No poem from these collections survives in his Selected Poetry or Collected Poetry.
Read a short profile

Hugh MacDiarmid (1892-1978)
* Conscripted for war work in Clydeside industry in 1942. His autobiography Lucky Poet was published in 1943.
Read a short profile

Sorley MacLean (1911-1996)
Scottish poet writing in Gaelic. Studied at Edinburgh University. Served in Signals Corps in North Africa, wounded at El Alamein. Major collection Dain do Eimhir (1943) prepared for publication in his absence.
Read a short profile
A tribute by the late Iain Crichton Smith
Perceptive comments by Seamus Heaney

Louis MacNeice (1907-63)
* Studied at Merton College, Oxford. Autumn Journal (1939) written during the Munich crisis. Published two major collections, Plant and Phantom (1941) and Springboard (1944)  while working full-time for the BBC.William Walton's and Louis MacNeice's Christopher Columbus was commissioned nominally to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Columbus' first voyage in 1492 and actually to celebrate the United States entering the war on the Allies' side at the end of 1941.
Read a profile by the Academy of American Poets

Charles Madge (1912- 1996)
1936 founded Mass Observation with Tom Hopkinson. Second book of poems, The Father Found,  published 1941.

H.B. Mallalieu (1914- )
Served in Royal Artillery 1940-46, first in Italy, then in Greece and Austria. A Letter in Wartime (1942).

John Manifold (1915-1985 )
Australian poet and critic who studied at Jesus College, Cambridge and worked with a publishing house in Germany before the war. Served in Intelligence in West Africa, alongside Free French, then in the Middle East and France. The Death of Ned Kelly and Other Ballads (1941), Selected Verse (1946), Collected Poems (1948). Papers housed at the University of Queensland. 

Alfred Marnau (1920- )
The Wounds of the Apostles (1944) and Death of the Cathedral (1946).

John Masefield (1878-1967)
Appointed Poet Laureate 1930. Published 10pp. pamphlet Some Verses to Some Germans (1939), a book of 24 poems and prose, illustrated by official war artist Edward Seago, entitled A Generation Risen (1942) and a 12 pp. poem Land Workers (1942). The Twenty-Five Days, The Flanders Campaign and the Rescue of the BEF from Dunkirk 10 May-3 June 1940, a prose account, was not published in full until 1972.
See the John Masefield Society homepage

Roland Mathias (1915- )
A Welsh poet, who studied at Jesus College, Oxford and was a conscientious objector during the war. His first books were Days Enduring (1943) and Break in Harvest (1946). Sam Adams has published a biography (1995), a Collected Poems (2002) and a Collected Short Stories (2001).

Christopher Middleton (1926- )
* Poems (1944) and Nocturne in Eden (1945)
Read a short profile

A.A. Milne (1882-1946)
Second book of poems Behind the Lines (1940). During the second world war Milne wrote verses for Punch, and evacuees were sent to stay at his home in Cotchford. His son Christopher served in the Royal Engineers and suffered a head wound, but recovered well, and returned home safely in 1946.

James Monahan (1912-1986 )
Studied at Christ Church, Oxford. Attached to BBC German Service 1939-42. Served in Special Forces and No. 10 Commando 1942-45. Far from Land (1944) and After Battle (1948)

William Montgomerie (1904-1994)
Poet and collector of Scottish folklore. "The Edge of the War 1939- " is included in Desmond Graham's Poetry of the Second World War.

Nicholas Moore (1918-86)
1938-40 edited magazine Seven. 1941-45 produced 5 books of poetry + one under pseudonym Guy Kelly. Edited anthologies and pamphlets for the Fortune Press and Editions Poetry London. The Glass Tower (1946) is good selection of his earlier poetry.

Edwin Morgan (1920- ) 
A conscientious objector,  whose university studies were interrupted by military service in the Royal Army Medical Corps 1940-46.
More at this website

Edwin Muir (1887-1959)
After spending the war in Prague, he published The Voyage (1946), which contained "The Castle".

Norman Nicholson (1910-87)
His first volume of verse, Five Rivers, was published in 1944 and contained "Cleator Moor".

Leslie Norris (1921-2006 )
Friend of Alun Lewis. Joined RAF 1940, invalided out July 1941. Became Air Raid Warden. Out of his service in WW2 came Tongue of Beauty (1942) and Poems (1946). He continued to write poetry and went on to teach at American universities. From memories of his father's service in WW1 came the fine poem, His Father, Singing.
A profile

Kathleen Nott (1910-1999)
During the war she was evacuated to Bournemouth, where, while her husband was engaged on scientific war work, she was involved in army education. Landscapes and Departures (1947)

Mervyn Peake (1911-1968)
Sapper in Bomb Disposal group, invalided out in 1943. Peake is best known for his novels, especially the Gormenghast trilogy, Titus Groan (1946), Gormenghast (1950) and Titus Alone (1959), but he also wrote poetry during the war, including "The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb", which he published with his own illustrations in 1962. Two books of verse were published during the war : Shapes and Sounds (1941) and Rhymes without Reason (1944). In 1946 he went to Belsen as a war artist to make a pictorial record of the victims and their environment.
View his War Drawings, an online exhibition of the Imperial War Museum

Ruth Pitter (1897-1992)
Worked as a clerk in War Office during WW1. Set up a gift shop with her companion Kate O’Hara during WW2, which was twice bombed. The Rude Potato (1941) ; The Ermine : Poems 1942-52.

William Plomer (1903-1973)
Served in the Admiralty. The Dorking Thigh and Other Satires (1945).

Hugh Popham (1920-1996)
Served in the Royal Navy. Against the Lightning (1944) and The Journey and the Dream (1945).

Roy Porter (1921-2002)
Studied at Merton College and St. Stephen's College, Oxford. Published in Oxford Poetry. World in the Heart (1944).

Paul Potts (1911-1990)
A Canadian serving in a commando during the war, part of the amphibious shock troops trained jointly by the army and the Royal Marines, originally to repel the threatened German invasion. Instead of a Sonnet (1944), unfavourably reviewed by George Barker in Poetry Quarterly 7,3 (1945)

Ezra Pound (1885-1972)
When war broke out, embarked on a series of fanatical addresses to American troops, broadcast on Rome radio. Arrested by partisans 1945 and handed over to US forces, who held him for 6 months at a disciplinary training centre near Pisa, pending trial for treason. Repatriated, found unfit to plead, incarcerated in St. Elizabeths Hospital, Washington DC 1946-58. The Pisan Cantos drafted in the DTC, published 1948.

Frank Templeton Prince (1912-2003)
Studied at Balliol College, Oxford. Served in Army Intelligence. "Soldiers Bathing" is one of the best-known poems of the war.

John Pudney (1909-77)
Served with Royal Air Force. Produced many poems during war, especially "For Johnny", written during an air-raid in 1941, and featured in the film The Way to the Stars. Selected Poems (1947) one of the first books to be issued in the wide-circulation Guild Books.

David Raikes (1924-45)
Studied at Trinity College, Oxford. RAF bomber pilot in the Middle East and Italy.The Poems of David Raikes (1954).

Kathleen Raine (1908- 2003)
* Studied at Girton College, Cambridge. Stone and Flower (1943) and Living in Time (1945) published under Tambimuttu’s Poetry London imprint.

Arnold Rattenbury (1921- )
Left St. John's College, Cambridge for war service, which ended prematurely in 1943. Editor of Our Time and Theatre Today 1944-49.

Sir Herbert Read (1893-1968)
Studied at Leeds University. As editor for Routledge and Kegan Paul, he encouraged the neo-romantic poets. His most famous poem, "To a Conscript of 1940" forms a bridge between the experience of two wars. His anthology The Knapsack (1939) was specially designed to be easy to carry around.

Henry Reed (1914-86)
Attended Birmingham University. Worked as teacher and freelance journalist 1937-41. After a short period in the Army, he was transferred to the foreign office to work in Naval Intelligence 1942-45. Later worked for BBC3. A Map of Verona containing the most famous poem to have come out of the war, "Naming of Parts", was published in 1946.

Alistair Reid (1926- )
Served with Royal Navy in Pacific, began writing poems after emigrating to America after war.

Keidrych Rhys (1915-1987)
Served in anti-aircraft in the London Welsh regiment, then became a war correspondent 1944-45. Published The Van Pool (1942). Edited three anthologies : Poems from the Forces (1942), More Poems from the Forces (1943) and Modern Welsh Poetry (1944).

Edgell Rickword (1898-1982)
Founded and edited Left Review 1934-38 and Our Time 1944-47, and was instrumental in setting up the Left Book Club.

Anne Ridler (1912-2001)
Studied at King's College, London and in italy. Published A Dream Observed (1941) and The Nine Bright Shiners (1943).
Read her obituary

Lynette Roberts (1909-1995)
Wife of Kiedrych Rhys. Poems (1944).

Michael Roberts (1902-48)
During the war worked for the BBC’s European service and later became principal of a teacher-training college.

W.R. Rodgers (1909-1969)
Studied at Queen's University, Belfast. Awake (1941) and Europa and the Bull (1952).

Alan Rook (1909- )
Studied at Magdalen College, Oxford. Saw action at Dunkirk, later invalided out of army. One of the Cairo poets. Soldiers, This Solitude (1942), These are my Comrades (1943) and We Who are Fortunate (1945).

Alan Ross (1922-2001)
Studied at St. John's College, Oxford. Served with Royal Navy 1942-47, his final post being interpreter to the British Naval C-in-C, Germany. Many poems in The Derelict Day,Poems from Germany (1947) and Something of the Sea : Poems 1942-52 (1954) reflect Ross’s experience of the war. "J.W. 51B A Convoy" which celebrates the heroism and the exhilaration, as well as the horror, of a naval battle, is considered the finest narrative poem of WW2.

J.M. Russell (1925- )
Commissioned into the Royal Scots Fusiliers and served in India and Burma. The Grinning Face (1947)

Anthony Rye (1922- )
Pseudonym of Samuel Youd, aka John Christopher, SF author of The Tripods trilogy (1968-9). Served in the Royal Signals 1941-46. Published The Inn of Birds (1947)

Vita Sackville-West (1892-1962)
Served on Kent Committee of Women's Land Army. Selected Poems (1941). The Garden, started in 1926 and finished in 1946, is a treatise on gardening and a meditation written in time of war.

'Sagittarius' (1896-1989 )
Pseudonym of Olga Katzin. Published Sagittarius Rhyming (1940), London Watches (1941), , Quiver's Choice (1945) and Pipes of Peace (1949).

Derek Stanley Savage (1917- )
Conscientious Objector. The Personal Principle (1943) offers a good insight into critical thinking of the time. A Time to Mourn (1943)

Vernon Scannell (1922-     )
* Studied at Leeds University. Served in the 51st Division of the Gordon Highlanders at Dunkirk and El Alamein. Imprisoned twice for desertion. Graves and Resurrections (1948). In 1976 published critical work, Not without Glory. Poets of the Second World War. An Argument of Kings (1987) is an autobiographical prose account of his war experiences, published in the same year as Soldiering On. Poems of Military Life .

Francis Scarfe (1911-86)
Studied at Durham University. Entered army 1941 and by 1945 was a lieutenant-colonel in Education Corps. Inscapes (1940) and Forty Poems and Ballads (1941) published by the Fortune Press.

Alexander Scott (1920-89)
Studies at Aberdeen University interrupted by service with the Gordon Highlanders 1941-45. Awarded the MC. « Coronach », elegy for the dead of his battalion probably his finest poem.

Tom Scott (1918-1995)
Served in Nigeria. His Collected Shorter Poems has recently been published.

Edith Joy Scovell (1907-1999)
Studied at Somerville College, Oxford. First two volumes of poems Shadows of Chrysanthemums (1944) and Midsummer Meadows (1946).

George Scurfield
Served in Royal Artillery in the Middle East. The Song of the Red Turtle (1941)

Howard Sergeant (1914-?1986)
Travelling accountant with Air Ministry 1941-48. The Leavening Air (1946). Edited, among other anthologies, For Those who are Alive (1946), An Anthology of Contemporary Northern Poetry (1947) and Poetry of the Forties (1971).

Edward Shanks (1892-1953)
In Poems 1939-1952 (1953) tried, not very successfully, to turn his Georgian manner on the modern world of WW2.

John Short (1911- )
Educated at Balliol College, Oxford. The Oak and the Ash (1947)

C.H. Sisson (1914-2003)
Studied at Bristol University. Served in Army Intelligence Corps on India's NW frontier 1942-45. Collected Poems 1943-1983 not published till 1984.

Dame Edith Sitwell (1887-1964)
* Two wartime collections, Street Songs (1942) and Green Song (1943) caught the heroic mood of the time and may have inspired neo-romantic school. "Still Falls the Rain" is a famous, to some infamous, war poem.

Montagu Slater (1902-56)
Wrote film-scripts and collaborated with Benjamin Britten. His only published collection of poetry is Peter Grimes and Other Poems (1946).

Stevie Smith (1902-71)
Spent the war working and reviewing books and living with her aunt in London. Her third collection of poems, Mother, What is Man ? was published in 1942 and her third novel, The Holiday, was written during the war.

Sydney Goodsir Smith (1915-75)
Studied at Edinburgh University and Oriel College. Worked for War Office, teaching English to Polish Army in Scotland. Skail Wind (1941), The Wanderer (1943) and The Deevil's Waltz (1946).

Muriel Spark (1918-2006)
Returned to England from Rhodesia in 1944 to work for the Intelligence Service in a department producing anti-Nazi propaganda. Secretary of Poetry Society 1947 and co-editor of Poetry Review 1948-9.
Official website

Bernard Spencer (1909-63)
Studied at Corpus Chrisit College, Oxford. Worked for the British Council in Greece, Egypt, Italy, Spain, Greece again, Turkey and Austria. Died in mysterious circumstances : found dead by a railway track in Vienna. Aegean Islands and Other Poems (1946).

Richard Spender (1921-1943)
Enlisted instead of taking up scholarship to Oxford 1940. Killed in action in Bizerta 1943. Laughing Blood (1942) and Collected Poems (1944).

Sir Stephen Spender (1909- 1995)
Studied at University College, Oxford. During WW2 served in National Fire Service and was co-editor, for two years with Cyril Connolly, of Horizon. Ruins and Visions (1942) and Poems of Dedication (1947). Celebrated entry of Diary for 3rd September, 1939 : "I am going to keep a journal because I cannot accept the fact that I feel so shattered that I cannot write at all."

Derek Stanford (1918- )
Served in the Non-Combatant corps 1940-45. Edited A Romantic Miscellany (1946) and published Music for Statues (1948)

Gervase Stewart (1920-41)
Gervase Stewart was educated at Tyneside Academy and went to St. Catherine's College, Cambridge in 1939-40 to read theology. He volunteered for the RAF and became a fighter pilot instructor. Killed in a mid-air explosion over the Caribbean on 25 August 1941, he is buried in a miitary cemetery in Trinidad. No Weed Death (1942) was published posthumously, with a foreword by Henry Treece.

Patience Strong (1907-1990)
Wrote daily religious verse for the Daily Mirror throughout war. Selection published as Poems from the Fighting Forties in 1982.

Hal Summers (1911-2005)
Studied at Trinity College, Cambridge. Private secretary to Aneurin Bevan and worked for the War Office. Smoke after Flame (1944) and Hinterland (1947). 

Julian Symons (1912-1994)
Served in the Royal Armoured Corps and was invalided out in 1944. Second book of poems The Second Man published 1944. Edited An Anthology of War Poetry for Penguin Books (1943).

Tambimuttu M.J. (1915-83)
Sinhalese poet and editor of Poetry (London). Edited anthology Poetry in Wartime (1942)

Dylan Thomas (1914-53)
* Rejected for war service, he wrote scripts for Strand Films, a documentary film unit and, sporadically, for the BBC. His collection of autobiographical short stories, Portrait of an Artisit as a Young Dog was written in 1940, and Deaths and Entrances published in 1946. The latter contains the famous "Refusal to mourn the death by fire" and "Among those killed was a man aged one hundred".

Ronald Stuart Thomas (1913-2000)
The Stones of the Field (1946), his first volume of poetry, was privately printed .

Frank Thompson (1920-44)
Studied at New College, Oxford. Served in Royal Artillery in Desert War and Sicily landings, then his knowledge of Russian and Slav languages led to work with the special services. Brother of historian E.P. Thompson, who sent his poems to the Salamander Oasis Trust.

Terence Tiller (1916-87)
Studied at Jesus College, Cambridge. 1939-46 taught at Faud I University, Cairo. Poems (1941), The Inward Animal (1943) and Unarm Eros (1947).

Ruthven Todd (1914-78)
Studied at Edinburgh College of Art. Until Now (1942), The Acreage of the Heart (1943), Planet in My Hand (1947).

Henry Treece (1912-66)
Studied at Birmingham University. Served in the RAF and Intelligence 1941-46. Towards a Personal Armageddon (NY,1940), Invitation and Warning (1942) and The Black Seasons (1945). Edited, with J.F. Hendry, the New Apocalyse anthologies.

John Waller (1917- )
Descendant of Edmund Waller. Studied at Worcester College, Oxford. Edited the magazine Kingdom Come at Oxford 1939-41, served in the RASC in the Middle East, then became Features Editor of the MoI in Cairo 1943-5 . Fortunate Hamlet (1941) and The Merry Ghosts (1946).

Vernon Watkins (1906-67)
Studied at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Sergeant in RAF 1941-46. First book The Ballad of the Mari Lwyd (1941), followed by The Lamp and the Veil (1945).

Victor West (1920-2002)
Joined the King's Royal Rifle Corps as a volunteer. Captured in 1941 in Crete, he became one of nearly 20,000 prisoners and spent the next four years in German prisoner-of-war camps. There he forged passes and ration books for escapers, gave anti-fascist pep talks, and began to write poetry, sometimes while restrained in handcuffs. Combat's degrading horrors and the rigours of captivity became his principle themes as a poet in the late 1960s.
Read his obituary

Jonathan Wilson (1924-1944)
After attending Marlborough College, joined the army and died of wounds at Venloo, Holland on 20 November, 1944. His collection of poems, False Starts, was privately printed by Marlborough College Press in 1943, then reissued by Jonathan Cape in 1946, under the title Poems . The new edition contained a portrait frontispiece and an introduction by G.M. Young.
Read "Autumn 1944"

George Woodcock (1912-1995)
A conscientious objector, who founded the magazine Now in 1940. The Centre Cannot Hold (1943).
Read a profile

David Wright (1920-1994)
Graduated from Oriel College, Oxford 1942. First collection sent to publisher 1943, but not published till 1949.

Peter Yates (1914- )
Pseudonym of William Long. The Expanding Mirror (1942) and The Motionless Dancer (1943).

Douglas Young (1913-73)
Studied at St. Andrews University and New College, Oxford. Controversy and imprisonment followed conscientious objection to right of British Parliament to conscript Scots into armed forces. First book of poems Auntran Ballads (1943) and A Braird o Thristles (1947).


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