My Unknown Soldier

Abbeville wood
on a mid-summers
Darkness creeps,
stealing heat and
colour from the beds
of the slaughtered.

I stand aghast,
beaten, by the enormity
of this rolling field
of dead.

I came in search
of a man that faced
German guns
a century before.

A man shamed and
for flying in the face
of patriotism.

The sin of standing
with the British
when Pearse and Connolly
were struggling to win
Irish freedom.

The unknown soldier!
Terence Ferguson, 2nd Batt
Royal Irish Regiment.

A rifle man
soaked into the mire
of the Somme,
the hell-fire of trenches
the smell of death.

The crucifixes run
from horizon to
in rows of unknown

The dead and forsaken,
the lost generations,
the Willy Mc Brides
the Sean O’Connell’s.
The forage and fodder flailed
by the scythe of heavy gun.

The sun drops behind
painting the rows
in a wash of blood
and lavender,

A ghost rises
in the western woods
and walks, translucent
through a field of comrades,
the sound of rifle and mortar.

His bearing is proud
his shoulder square.
He looks just like me
but younger.

He walks the rows
until he arrives front,
dead centre
and there he turns
and salutes the field
before dissolving into
time and mist.

Palsied legs
take me stumbling to the grave,
the spot that a ghost
And this white memorial
is like so many others.

The epitaph.

Unknown Soldier
2nd Batt Royal
Irish Regiment

I am glad that at last
I have found him.

Dave Kavanagh

In 2016, the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, students form many Irish schools and colleges took part in a wonderful project called My Adopted Soldier.
The young people researched an Irish soldier lost in WWI, went to visit their home places, met surviving family an stitched together lost memories. (Often these soldiers had been written out of Irish history and their sacrifice unheralded because they were considered traitors to the cause of Irish independence)In July the students travelled to Abberville woods and other cemeteries and found the graves of their soldiers. The scenes were extraordinarily emotional. Young people of sixteen and seventeen came face to face with the reality of war and death with an understanding of their adopted soldier, many of the young men the same age as those who came to find them. I thought it an extraordinary and a wonderful project. I was moved to tears myself watching the documentary of the journey to the Somme where 78,000 men perished in a single day.

You can read a little about this wonderful project here.


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