History of the Amersham Area

Amersham in Flanders poem

Amersham in Flanders, a poem by Paul England

poppy_image_ww1_databaseJust over a year after the start of World War I, the people of Amersham came together to raise money for the British Farmers’ Red Cross Fund, one of a number of fundraising groups supporting the British Red Cross during the Great War.

Miss Ford collecting for "Silver bullet for Kaiser" 1914-18 war (PHO9164)

Miss Ford collecting for “Silver bullet for Kaiser” 1914-18 war (PHO9164)

Activities on 10th September 2015 included ‘ladies with trays of beautiful buttonholes and flags at the (Amersham) Railway station’, a vast ‘jumble sale’ of unwanted goods with local builder/undertaker Mr. Darlington as auctioneer and side shows such as coconut shies, hoopla and ‘throwing at the Kaiser’.

The fundraiser included two concerts in the Market Hall. At both concerts, Paul England’s specially commissioned poem, Amersham in Flanders was read to ‘… quite an ovation’. At the first concert the recitation was by Miss Marjorie Ford whilst the author read his poem at the second.

Today, Paul England’s poem retains its poignancy in comparing the experience of Amersham and the front line in Flanders.

Amersham in Flanders

Here today in Amersham
All the world is fair
Plenty smiles upon the land
Health is in the air
Jolly taverns grace the town
Honest farms and mills
Peace and beauty smiling down
From the sheltering hills

Here today in Amersham
Just to live is good
Standing by the Pightle walk
Up in Rectory Woods
Out away to Mantle’s Green
Round by Charlesley’s Slipe
Only think of Weedon Hill
When the corn is ripe!

Go the round of Amersham –
Shardeloes our own!
Little lovely Missenden
Coleshill on her throne
Fare no further! Come again!
‘Tis an idle quest!
Only here in Amersham
Life is at its best

Over there in Flanders
The earth is sown with dead;
Not with poppies, but with blood
There the fields are red
Shrapnel shrieks above the trench
Death is in the air
Fiery torture, choking stench,
Front the heroes there

Over there in Flanders
(God be with them all)
There be those who think of us
When the bugles call;
Facing Hell and all its powers
Foremost in the fray,
Lads we love, those lads of ours,
Think of us today.

Home, last year, in Amersham
Happy are the rest
One and all, at England’s call
Burned to do their best;
Young and proud they marched away,
Calm and undismayed –
O well for those who went that day,
But ill for them that stayed.

(Is it scarce a year ago
Since we lost our lad?
Ah, the days are long and slow
When the heart is sad
Sometimes in a dream at morn
I can see him still
Potting rabbits in the corn
Bathing by the mill)

Over there in Flanders
Some are laid to rest –
Just a cross above the head,
Flowers upon the breast
Ye that mourn, lift up your eyes
Though your hearts may break –
In heaven they stand, a glorious band
Who died for England’s sake.

Gather at your own church door
Read the record there!
Father, mother, friend and lover
Bow your heads in prayer;
“Holy Michael, be their shield!
England’s Saint, watch o’er them!
Send them safe from Flanders’ field
To Amersham that bore them”

You can listen to Reg Mason, a WWI veteran from Amersham, reciting the poem as part of an interview in the museum’s oral history collection.