The BBC's excellent rendition of Pte Tommy Crawford's poem, "The Stretcher Bearer".

 

BBC English Regions have asked people across the country to take part in a special film, to mark the events of the centenary of the Great War. They’re reading a poem written in 1916 by Tommy Crawford, just 19 at the time - who was a stretcher bearer at Loos (1915) and later on the Somme (1916).

Video and image courtesy the BBC.

The Stretcher Bearer

My stretcher is one scarlet stain,

And as I tries to scrape it clean,

I tell you what - I'm sick of pain,

For all I've heard, for all I've seen;

Around me is the hellish night,

And as the war's red rim I trace,

I wonder if in Heaven's height

Our God don't turn away his face.

I don't care whose the crime may be,

I hold no brief for kin or clan;

I feel no hate, I only see

As man destroys his brother man;

I wave no flag, I only know

As here beside the dead I wait,

A million hearts are weighed with woe,

A million homes are desolate.

In dripping darkness far and near,

All night I've sought those woeful ones.

Dawn suddens up and still I hear

The crimson chorus of the guns.

Look, like a ball of blood the sun

Hangs o'er the scene of wrath and wrong,

"Quick! Stretcher-bearers on the run!",

Oh Prince of Peace! How long, how long?"

Tommy Crawford, Somme, 1916

 

Written by Thomas Albert Crawford who served with the 15th Durham Light Infantry (DLI).

Tommy was injured on 1 July 1916 on the Somme. He survived the war only to lose his wife (from cancer) and his two sons in their early 30s. Tommy re-married and had two sons, Colin and Brian (the author of this information). Colin died at 25 years of age and six months later in 1980 Tommy passed away. Brian has recently published Tommy's memoirs entitled "Tommy" available from Woodfieldpublishing.com - all royalties go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

FWWPA's Editor comments:

Pte 28695 Thomas Albert Crawford, 15th (Service) Bn Durham Light Infantry (later with the Labour Corps, service no. 123884). The 15th Bn was part of 21st Division, which arrived in France in September 1915. The division attacked Fricourt on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme (in which action Pte Crawford was wounded).

Poem and information courtesy the First World War Poetry Archive

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