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i.m. Captain Keith Douglas (1920-1944)

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In Calvados you have your cross
And though you won, you most surely lost.
Your sacrifice, at twenty-four, to modern 'wit'
Is nothing more than a crying bore.

Who now has read Alamein to Zem Zem
Your story of the war in the western desert?
For though you certainly knew how to kill
You knew the cost, for you had no draperies over your eyes
Or heart. No deception, no disguise.

And when you were chained to an office,
Hidebound behind the front line,
Somebody laid a golden coin upon your tongue
And lyric water sprang anew amongst the desert flowers.
You very nearly lost your mind. So in October 1942,
Against orders, you set off to see what you could do.

This venial sin was soon forgot in the crush of war
And you drove your tank indomitably!
And then on the 9 June 1944,
As keen to do your bit’ as you’d been in 1939,
Normandy took your life.
Killed by enemy fire,
Your body was buried in a road side grave.

After the war your dear remains were reinterred at Tilly-sur-Seulles
War Cemetery, south of Bayeux, plot 1, row E, grave number 2.








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keith jeffries

Thu 6th Jun 2024 00:03

another hero, another poet, another soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice. My Uncle Leslie was a nineteen year soldier in the Royal Warwicks who was killed at Tournai, as the British Army moved back toward Dunkirk. He was killed in a German air attack. His mother, my grandmother, never recovered from his loss.
Thank you for this poem to enable us to appreciate the calibre of our fallen and the debt we owe them for our freedom.
Thank you indeed.

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Greg Freeman

Wed 5th Jun 2024 20:55

I knew about Keith Douglas in the desert, but didn't know he was a Normandy victim, John. He and Alun Lewis, both poets who died in the second world war, don't get the praise and notice they deserve, compared with those from the first world war.

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