Sunday, 3 April 2016

Remembering Isaac Rosenberg



The words penned by war poets should never be under estimated. They were often committed to paper whilst the individual served in the trenches of war and as such form an accurate reflection of what they saw and experienced. Spare a moment’s thought today, on the 98th anniversary of the death of war poet and artist Isaac Rosenberg (25th November 1890 – 1st April 1918). Considered to be one of the very best war poets, Rosenberg’s Poems from the Trenches are recognized as some of the most outstanding poetry written during the First World War. Whilst studying poetry and fine art at Slade School of Fine Art (UCL) he was mentored by Lancaster born Laurence Binyon (author of For the Fallen the third verse of which we know better for the words – ”they shall grow not old, as we who are left grow old . . . . .”) Rosenberg enlisted in the army in October 1915 and at 5’ 3” was assigned to the 12th Bantam Battalion, Suffolk Regiment. After turning down the offer of a commission he transferred as a Lance-Corporal first to the South Lancashire Regiment, then to the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment in which he served on the Western Front in France, On 21st March, 1918, the German Army started its ‘Operation Michael’ Spring Offensive on the Western Front. A week later, Rosenberg sent his last letter and a poem home to England: Through these Pale Cold Days. He then marched off to the front lines with reinforcements. On the 1st April 1918, he had just finished a night patrol, when he was killed, aged 28, along with another ten King’s Own Royal Regiment soldiers. He died in a town called Fampoux, north-east of Arras and was first buried in a mass grave. In 1926 the unidentified remains of six of the soldiers were individually re-interred at Bailleul Road East Cemetery, Plot V, Saint-Laurent-Blangy, and Pas de Calais, France. On 11th November 1985, Rosenberg was among 16 Great War poets who are commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner. The inscription on the stone was written by a fellow Great War poet, Wilfred Owen. It reads: "My subject is War and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.”