Poems of Wartime Years

W N Taylor

My experience of World War II was in the Far East - South East Asia Command (SEAC), but these are not 'war poems' in the ordinary sense. They are thoughts and memories of the periphery rather than the centre of action, and reflections afterwards in subsequent years, some pertaining to other wars, bearing the stamp of futility, cynicism, sadness and a flicker of hope. I was a medical student when the war began in 1939, larking about with my friends, (see "A Cycle of Sonnets") but knowing that when we qualified we would be called up. After serving with an infantry battalion in coastal defence on the Isle of Wight, I was posted to a West African division and accompanied them into the jungles of Burma. This involved a fight against disease as well as the Japanese. When this was over, I sailed off with my African soldiers and returned them to their homes in the Gold Coast, now called Ghana. Before demobilisation I served for a short time in a prisoner-of-war camp in Scotland, attending to German prisoners. It was disconcerting to be back in civilian life. Peace was full of unease, and hardly seemed peaceful. The effect of the war on social life, and upon my reaction to it, was disturbing. Our culture had changed, and I felt not for the better. I was uneasy; and thinking moreover of the international unrest and subsequent wars, I wondered what it was all leading to. I still wonder.

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