Anthem for Doomed Youth

Writers and Literature of The Great War, 1914-1918

The Cricketers of Flanders

The first to climb the parapet
With 'cricket-ball' in either hand;
The first to vanish into smoke
Of God-forsaken No-Man's-Land.
First at the wire and soonest through.
First at those red-mouthed hounds of hell
The Maxims, and the first to fall, --
They do their bit, and do it well.

Full sixty yards I've seen them throw
With all that nicety of aim
They learned on British cricket fields
Ah! Bombing is a Briton's game!
'Lobbing them over,' with an eye
As true as though it were a game,
And friends were having tea close by.

Pull down some art-offending thing
Of carven stone, and in its stead
Let splendid bronze commemorate
These men, the living and the dead.
No figure of heroic size
Towering skywards like a god;
But just a lad who might have stepped
From any British bombing squad.

His shrapnel helmet set a-tilt,
His bombing waistcoat sagging low,
His rifle slung across his back:
Poised in the very act to throw
And let some graven legend tell
Of those weird battles in the West
Wherein he put old skill to use
And played old games with sterner zest.

Thus should he stand, reminding those
In less believing days, perchance,
How Britain's fighting cricketers
Helped bomb the Germans out of France.
And other eyes than ours would see;
And other hearts than ours would thrill,
And others say, as we have said:
'A sportsman and a soldier still!'


From Never Such Innocence : A New Anthology of Great War verse / edited and introduced by Martin Stephen. -- London : Buchan & Enright, 1988. pp. 57-58.