On Friday 22nd December, we were very lucky to be visited by Penny Mordaunt MP, Sarah Giles (Big Ideas Passchendaele at Home project) and Josh Brown from Portsmouth Poetry, to award the winners of the Portsmouth Poetry Passchendaele Competition during our celebration assemblies. The winning students were Isaac Butler from Y8, with his poem ‘Frederick Arthur’, about a Portsmouth soldier who fought in the Battle of Passchendaele and Jessica Needham from Y10, with her poem ‘Hope’.
The judges thought the poetry submitted by ALNS students was of ‘exemplary quality’ with winning and highly commended entries displaying ‘interesting and inventive subject matter or approach, evidence of lines of good poetry and use of language and a strong understanding of the nature of trench warfare and empathy with those who endured it’. ‘Frederick Arthur’ by Isaac Butler was judged to be ‘astounding’ for the author’s age and to be ‘truly moving’; ‘Hope’ by Jessica Needham was judged as an ‘emotional imagining of the confusion and fear that engulfs a soldier’.
Winners and runners up in both the KS3 and KS4 categories were awarded Waterstones vouchers, met with the special guests and will have their work published by ‘Big Ideas’.
I once believed it an honour to fight, to die for one’s country,
My love, I dare to admit,
My life lost, nevermore found.
I once believed it noble to lie about my age, to benefit one’s country,
My love, my biggest regret,
15 years, too soon to end.
I once believed it wise to leave my city, to fight for one’s country,
My love, I no longer recollect my home
Heartbroken, I fear never to return.
I once believed the sea breeze would linger, to remember ones country,
My love, the stench of the dead,
A graveyard, now my rotten lodgings.
I once believed in the seductiveness of fighting, to save ones country,
My love, I miss my queen’s street,
Passchendaele, with its brutality consuming.
I once believed it a chore to grow old, to burden one’s country,
My love, I wish for such a privilege,
Portsmouth, my love, keep my seaside home warm for one day I dream to return to you
By Isaac Butler
The light shone down as if it were God reaching out to me,
Wrapping mellowness and delight around my green and purple shoulders,
Birds and soldiers sung as the clouds danced in the harsh blue sky.
Screams pierce the beautiful peace of the joyful soldiers,
The joyful soldiers now worried and frightened scurry in the mud like mice,
My mind races, my heart pounds, my legs freeze.
Surrounding soldiers shake while pulling back the cocking handle to prepare for fire,
Shouts ring and run in my ear, blocking out the thuds and yells of other men in despair,
Thunder and lightning awakens on the horizon of the filth.
What lies between me and surviving?
What will happen to our men?
Will this be the end?
Silent shafts of bright sunlight penetrates the smoke,
Men moan and sob in the foul contamination of the dirt.
Fighters lay in agony among others.
Roars continue to spread, infectious howls reflect emotion,
The thought of being out of this nightmare swims in my head,
Doubts flood and swallow my aspiration.
I try to reach for help but God is no longer between my arms,
What feels like forever may have come to an end.
I thought wrong.
By Jessica Needham