Lest We Forget - A Different Voice

Date: 25 Apr 2023

Lest We Forget - A Different Voice


Does the name Jessie Pope sound familiar?  Possibly not - it wasn't to us as we researched an reflected on the brave should who fought so bravely on the Gallipoli Peninsula - a place Karyn visited about 10 years ago, moving and still - with not one sound of birdsong despite the beautiful trees and foliage that now calm a place of such loss and sadness, for so many.


We thought we would mark this significant day looking back on the rare works of Jessie - a name perhaps lost in the chapters of history.

Jessie was born on 18th March 1868, in Leicester and was educated in London. She was a regular contributor to many publications including Punch, The Daily Mail and The Daily Express, also writing for Vanity Fair, Pall Mall Magazine and the Windsor.

She stands almost alone as an English female poet who was decidedly and patriotically vocal about the War. This was in marked contrast to her male colleagues, many of whom were soldier-poets, who, under slaughter in the in the trenches, were almost all against it. Her reputation also extended to New Zealand. After her first New Zealand mention in the Colonist, 23 September 1903, she received mentions regularly in New Zealand newspaper reviews.

It was her war poetry, mainly published in the Daily Mail, encouraged a public duty for enlistment.

During World War I, Pope became the ‘war girl' in verse and used for recruitment purposes. However, she is one of the few English war poets to recognise ANZAC feats of bravery and their ‘imperishable renown' in poems such as ‘Anzac', and ‘Cobbers'. Kiwi soldiers enclosed some of her poems in letters sent home in New Zealand soldiers' parcels. Family members then sent the poems in to local newspapers that republished them. She achieved a reputation with her war verse comparable to Tennyson's ‘Charge of the Light Brigade' in some parts of New Zealand.



Jessie Pope's war poetry and reputation fell into obscurity after World War One.



We know that you're sportsmen, with reason,
At footer and cricket you're crack;
I haven't forgotten the season
When we curled up before the “All Blacks.”
In the matter of wielding the “willow,”
We own, to our cost, that you're it,
The “ashes” you've borne o'er the billow—
Though they're home again now, for a bit.

There are weightier matters to settle
To-day, amid bullets and shells;
And the world stands amazed at the mettle
You've shown in the farDardanelles.
The marvellous feat of your landing
Your exploits by field and by deed,
Your charges that brooked no withstanding,
Though you poured out the best of your blood.

You left your snug homesteads “down under”;
The prosperous life of your land,
And staggered the Turks with your thunder,
To give the Old Country a hand.
For dare-devil work we may book you,
You're ready and keen to get to it.
If a job is impossible, look you,
The boys from “down under” will do it.

—Jessie Pope, in the Daily Express,London.
(“Feilding Star”, 16 November 1915)


They were “cobbers,” that's Anzac for chum.
But it means rather more than we mean -
A friendship that will not succumb,
Though distance or death intervene.
Adventure, success, and mishap
In boyhood they'd shared, so no wonder
They jumped at the chance of a scrap
And booked with the crowd from ”down under.”

In a narrow Gallipoli trench
They chanced upon glimpses of hell,
And a thirst there was nothing to quench
But a deluging downpour of shell;
Perpetual ridges they took,
They charged and they cursed and they shouted,
But nothing their recklessness shook
Till one of the “cobbers” got “outed.”

The other one came back at night,
Exhausted in body and brain,
And groped round the scene of the fight,
But sought for his “cobber” in vain.
His spirit was heavy with grief,
His outlook was sombre and blotted,
But his bayonet brought him relief
Next, morning— and that's when he “got it.”

Scene: Midday,Victoria street,
An Anzac (in blue) on each side -
A coo-ee, wild, ringing, and sweet -
The taxicabs swerve and divide.
For traffic they don't care a toss,
There, right in the middle, they're meeting;
Stay, let's draw a curtain across
Where the two long-lost “cobbers” are greeting.

—Jessie Pope.
(“Poverty Bay Herald”, 16 February 1916)


It hangs on the wall, a trifle battered,
The wire is warped and the lining tattered.
And the leather inside shows speakingly how
It's been wet with the sweat of a soldier's brow.

Month after month, through that fierce campaign—
The bitterest fight that was fought in vain—
It was jammed on an Anzac's lean, brown poll,
As he pierced his way to a glimpse of goal.

Furlong by furlong, aye, inch by inch,
From the sniping shot to the cold-steel, clinch-
Fists, “rough-housing,” any old tools—
He got there each time by “Rafferty rules.”

Till a shell, with his name on, gave him a call—
And that is the tale of the cap on the wall,
But the sequel, though strange, is an equally true one—
Its owner, thank God, is now wearing a new one.

—Jessie Pope.
(“Poverty Bay Herald”, 7 March 1916)


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