A few ο f the Scots decided to write in Gaelic, making them even less acceptable to a literary establishment. For all these reasons the poetry ο f the Second WW made less impact on the peacetime public then that ο f the First WW. It offered no equivalent to the intense concentration ο f the horrors ο f trench warfare and it had no clear message, ο f hope. Most moving ο f all are some ο f the poems by young women, who describe not only the heartbreak ο f losing their loved ones but also the initial panic they felt at being thrown into barracks with other women from totally different backgrounds.
Even today, the poems ο f the First World War are much more widely known than those ο f the second. The wealth ο f poetry from the Second World War forms a unique genre in British and European history. Men and women wrote these poems from all services and ranks, in contrast to the narrow group ο f the First World War poets. Unlike them, so many leading poets did not return to continue writing and counter the myth that the Second World War produced little ο f note.
Many poets were leaders ο f their units undertaking tasks they could have delegated. But it was their war, they believed. It was an age ο f ideas and ideals, and from the destruction, a better world would emerge. In half a century the world has changed, but not in the way the compassionate generation ο f the Second World War envisaged or intended. To help understand the men and women ο f the war, and above all, answer the question why so many wrote poetry, let us begin with one man, as yet undistinguished, spending his 21st birthday, digging, not in the garden ο f his London home where he grew up, but with the Australian infantry at Thermopylae, Greece.
It was the twenty-fourth ο f April 1941. By a strange chance the Aussies where awaiting a German attack on the same ground where Leonidas and his 300 Spartans fought to the last man against the Persians over two millennia before. No placard had commemorated this piece ο f history, but the man digging, John Brooks, had read ο f the Greek legend.
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