No Man’s Land
Dear Mother and Dad, this is the first chance
I’ve had to write as we’ve been on the move,
It fell down with rain most of the way here,
The wind was something cruel, and mud over
our boots all the way, over our puttees
where we slipped in shell holes – it was that dark.
We did look a picture – tell Harry.
We had to stand in our wet clothes all day
until they dried on us, socks and all.
Jack’s Letters Home, 1917–18 tells the story of Cynthia Fuller’s uncle who was killed aged 19 on the Western Front during the First World War. The poems are based on real letters written by Jack to his family between February 1917 and April 1918, but not discovered by the poet until 2000.
They tell of his transformation from shop assistant to soldier and the harshness of conditions during training, and show his determined cheerfulness and his pleasure in the regular letters and parcels of home cooking he received from home.
This sequence of poems also enters the inevitable silences, voicing his mother’s constant anxiety and telling of the intensity of her relationship with Jack, her elder son. His body was never found, but his name appears on a war memorial in France. This collection is another memorial to him and all the other young men who did not come back.