DURING the prologue to the centenary of the start of the First World War we have received some incredible stories from Bugle readers, many of whom have only recently found out about ancestors who were involved in the fighting by working through the arduous task of family history.
But it has been the Bugle's privilege to feature the experiences of these lads who went off to fight, and hopefully over the coming months and years we will continue to include more stories of these brave young men.
The Great War affected every community in the country and the war memorials are a constant reminder of the sacrifices made, dozens of names of soldiers, sailors and airmen etched in stone that can evoke a sense of both sadness and pride at the same time. We all have different thoughts on the matter and some of us find solace in writing poetry. Many of the most poignant poems ever written in the English language were composed as a result of the Great War, and in keeping with this tradition Isobel Byrne has penned a piece of poetry which honours every name on every stone and marble war memorial.
In the early days of the war the majority of Black Country lads who joined the army enlisted with the South Staffs Regiment, and for this reason Isobel has called her poem "Staffordshire Knot".
Dun yo loike the view? Ay it sommut?
Yo can see why Jerry wanted it for hisself.
Yo'm awonderin' 'ow I got 'ere, ay ya?
Listen mate, an I'll tell yo true.
It woz the night afore. Me and my pals was chatting-
Lices gits in plaices
Weear you don know yo've got plaices.
Till yo'm a scratchin' 'em all over!
We woz all browned off, see.
We'd bin tolled we'd gorra go for a stroll the next day.
Well, We'd dun one of 'em - down Gommercourt way.
Dun yo know it?
Theer was thirty of us then. All good pals.
And now theer's Just Bert, Jack and me.
Bert woz a loff, always jokin,
So 'e sez, to cheer us up, see.
"I bet yo a packet of fakes
I git to the top afore yo 'Arry".
"Yo'm on", I sez, "but 'ow cum yo'rn so sure, our kid"?
I knew wo't 'is answer would be. It always woz,
"Cos yo'm too small."
We all loffed - well, yo' ad to loff, day ya?
I sez to Jack, "Yo 'eered that, day ya? A packet of fakes."
"Ar", he never woz a talker - they ay from Darby End.
Then it started, the blasted rain.
Wus than the shellin' that Woz.
It 'adn't stopped when we went over the top.
Bert sez, "I doh want to worry yo,
But me lice am putting on Life-belts."
Jack loffed. Then the bullets 'it 'im, in the mouth an' all.
So we left 'im, at the starting line, yo might say.
There was wet and mud. And, for a change, mud and wet.
Just doh axe 'bout the mud.
Me and Bert stuck it as best we could.
Wot else could we do? No rations got up.
Even the rats woz runnin' away.
Half way up we woz, after thre wiks.
Bert sez to me, "Dun yo know what toime
We'm supposed to meet the submarine"?
I turned to 'im, but e'd gone.
Slippt off the duck board and that was that.
I woz the only one of us left.
Fightin' mad, they calls it.
Anyroad up, I throws me Mills
And bang, goz a machine gun crew,
And some'ow carried on.
An' 'ere I am, at the top at last.
Wot a view, eh? 'Eavenly ay it?
Day 'ee carve a nice Staffy Knot?
Still, by the toime 'ee dun mine
I reckon he'd a lot of practice.
Look wot it sez under it:
Pte H Small MM, killed November 8, 1917, aged 19,
That woz Ma - 'er could only afford two words.
That's a loff an' all. Er'd never even noticed I'd joined up.
Not wiv seven others at 'um.
Stil, I'm wiv me pals, we'm all together now.
There's Jack down at the bottom, an Bert 'alf way up -
Yo must 'ave past 'im commin.
An 'ere I am, at the top. I wor too small at the end.
But I never did git me packet of fakes!