Scream in Dolce


(In italics after each date, the 1918 diary extracts of bandsman, James McPartlin, No11 Coy D. Batt, Machine Gun Corps (Suicide Club).) My grandfather.



January 10th 1918

Operation at Stoke War Hospital

Lungs to blast music filled with poison gas,

You laid down your instrument,

Took the shrapnel blast.

Steal a breath…


January 29th 1918

Operation war hospital

Lie there, alive

While your bandsmen march

The tempo of death.

The sepia ensemble on watch

On your bedside table, tap

The beat of guilt

In your heart.

Steal a breath…


February 6th 1918

23 years of age

Celebrate, old man, the passing

Of your youth through bloody wounds

Blow out your candles,

If you can –

Play the second cannon

As a softer tune

Steal a breath…


May 3rd 1918

Stone Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital

And as you heal, forget the distant battle

Drums and horns, tend to your heart

For there lives hope –

Sound the Reveille, rehearse

The last post.

Steal a breath…


July 29th 1918

Left Stone Red Cross Hospital

Pack your kit bag once more

To bear false hopes.

The suicide club fights to the death –

Operations are not finished with you yet.

Steal a breath…


August 24th 1918


Scream in dolce as they whisper,

Instruments still shine.

Another theatre waits.

The twist of a knife lays open

A weeping wound for life.

Steal a breath…


October 18th 1918

Discharge from Hospital

Carry instructions for a lifetime of pain,

A daily dress down parade.

A small sacrifice to return home,

Sow seeds in your garden, watch them grow.

Steal a breath… 


October 31st 1918

Left Stoke Staffs

Turn your back  –

For your war is ended.

Lament in solo, when the sonatas cease.

The bandleaders abandon the trenches

As the Corp take their final applause

Steal a breath…


November 1st 1918

Landed Home

Accept the fanfare, the

Garland of blood dried flowers.

Your life will be short, others’ shorter yet,

And still we forget.

And still we forget…




Published in Telling Tales of Heroes (2Impress 2012)