The Last Casualty

There seems to be no ending to consequences of events. 


The Last Casualty¹

So Barham sank just like a stone
With eight hundred men and more.
A widow woman wept alone,
Though she’d been here before.

Her husband Harry on the Hood
Now slept beneath the sea.
Her only son’s now gone for good
A Barham lad was he.

A banister was robust where
That rope stopped her dead weight.
She’s left behind all worldly care
Where sorrow was her fate.

In life she’d loved and did what’s right,
She’d helped the poor and weak.
She hanged there in some dappled light:
So lonely, dead and bleak.

So, there behind the opening door
The agent felt cold dread.
A pool of fluid on the floor,
A silhouette of the dead.

It mattered not how good she’d been;
Fate took away her Hope.
Now, there’s this horror too be seen;
It hung there on her rope.

The hallway of the house was bleak
Where she last hugged her son.
And she hung there for near a week
Once her last act was done.

Her end had been so sudden though
When vertebrae were broke.
She had not done a dancing show
That day she did not choke.

She’d choked with tears for several years
All lonely grim and cold.
Through many years she’d shed her tears
But now she’d not grow old.

The state had waged its wars at sea,
But not all deaths were there.
More tragedies are yet to be
When sorrow’s everywhere.

Just one last casualty was she,
For trauma took her down.
She’d hanged, she’d not died out at sea
It’s quicker than to drown.

© Trevor Morgan, 2015


1. “A war widow was found hanged in the hallway of her house. The estate agent handling the sale of her house entered the property to show a potential buyer around. It was then that he found her….” Newspaper report

Verdict… she had taken her own life whilst the state of her mind was disturbed…Coroners report, Portsmouth, June 1955.


A Sinking

This is a loose amalgam of several old sailors ditties.
My family had many members serve in the Royal Navy in both World Wars.
Most of the tales about that time I got from old women as a child. The men rarely spoke about what they had been through.

(Men actually survived this, but not many)


U331 – Beneath the sea

Hans Diedrich gained his iron cross,
We all do what we can.
Strangers to him would face a loss:
Oh, how they’d hate this man!

Men do what they are trained to do
They do the best they may.
That periscope it showed a view
That’s with him to this day.

Three plumes of white rose up midships
Upon that close up foe.
With silent prayer upon his lips
He saw that deadly blow.

The forward tubes stood empty now
Torpedoes were away.
Hans Diedrich made a silent vow:
He’d not forget this day.

His boat had shuddered with each boom
That echoed through the hull.
And right there in that murky gloom
His brain seemed tired and dull.

Rude awakening

A lack of sleep can slow things down
Or weaken deep emotion.
As struggling men sought not to drown
Mid terror and commotion.

U331 would slink away
The battleship would sink.
That was to be a fatal day
Amid an acrid stink.

Beside the turret near the bow
Two seamen felt each blast,
They struggled to the side somehow
But she went down so fast.

Soon they were swimming in a sea
That frothed and bubbled so.
There were so few that now swam free
Most had been dragged below.

Below the sea beneath the waves
Dragged down there in their ship.
Good friends gone to their early graves,
One sailor bit his lip.

For silence seemed to settle then
The sea became quite still.
It chilled the bones of swimming men
These waves would slowly kill.

Young Frank he wore a lifebelt though
So rested for a while.
The injured first would sink below
Shock makes the soul docile.

The water was not all that cold
So Death would not come fast.
Events they could so slow unfold,
Some things seemed meant to last.

Now Frank and James they both could swim
James had no lifebelt so,
He knew his chances would be slim;
Time would drag on so slow.

Frank’s lifebelt could support these two,
Frank helped James take a rest.
It was the natural thing to do;
The sun sank to the west.

A periscope then glided past,
Some beasts await their prey.
It turned towards the north at last
Before the break of day.

Some beasts are strong and charge head on,
With guile some pull prey down.
While fishes here could feed upon
Each victim who would drown.

Yet all night long they drifted there
And all the next day too.
The weather was quite calm and fair
The sky the clearest blue.

That second night sleep nagged at them
They fought hard not to sleep.
Each star seemed like a diadem
Above the hungry deep.

Beneath their feet the fish swam by
Some gorged on human flesh.
Though neither man would choose to die
Sleep caught them in its mesh.

And James he sank below the waves
Sometime through that long night.
Sailors may go to dark deep graves,
James sank without a fight.

Deep in his sleep within a dream
He met his dead Granddad .
That old man’s face it seemed to beam,
So, James did not feel sad.

He sank there to a fateful death,
His dream made him content.
He did not struggle to take breath
And soon his life was spent.

Asleep Frank drifted on along
The currents of the sea.
His fit young body was still strong,
So, Death was not to be.

He felt a tug upon his hair
A bowman yanked his head
He was the last man rescued there
Now all the rest were dead

He puzzled at where James had gone,
James had been in his dream.
This last survivor seemed so wan
Then he began to scream.

But morphine soon made him slump down
There in the rescue boat.
It never was his fate to drown
Sobs whimpered in his throat.

That boat it rode the gentle swells
They searched for sometime more.
Long gone now were the acrid smells
That Frank had smelt before.

In future years those smells would be
With him both night and day.
A tortured soul is never free
Some things don’t go away!

Dedicated to kind old Uncle Frank

This is a part of a series of verses about the sea.

Hyde Park’s Discordant Corner

In the 1960’s I got entertainment at Hype Park Corner.
Freedom of speech is essential in a democracy even if we are free to talk twaddle.
We drift towards dictatorship if we restrict freedom of speech even if what some say is just plain nasty.

Hyde Park’s Discordant Corner

People standing, people talking, people stating point of view,
Alone in groups people standing round each speaker disagreeing.

Argy bargy, argy bargy, “this is how the world should be”!
Argy bargy, argy bargy, “you are not as right as me”!

People standing, people talking, people stating point of view

Yack yack, yack yack, “ people like you should get the sack”
Yack yack, yack yack, “you’ld better take what you said back”!

Alone in groups people standing round each speaker disagreeing

Praise be, save me, “Have faith in God and no other”
Save me, praise be, “he will love you like a mother”!

People standing, people talking, people stating point of view.

Refute, deny, “These Christians say have faith, comply”,
Refute, deny, “or in hell you’ll frazzle and fry”!

Alone in groups people standing round each speaker disagreeing

High flown, monotone, “We have the moral point of view”;
High flown, monotone, “we are twice as right as you”!

People standing, people talking, people stating point of view,
Alone in groups people standing round each speaker disagreeing,

Alone in groups people standing listening to the points of view.

© Trevor Morgan, August 1968

Words in quotes not mine, they were heard said on that sultry Sunday at Hyde Park Corner. I wrote them down and composed this on the bus going home.

Fate and a stone bridge

A man had a weakened body so his mind did the wandering.

Stephen Hawking was that man.

His mind could wander across time and space.
It is in time and not space that my mind seeks to wander.
I do not take easily to things theological but two works have seemed to light a spark in me. These are works by Gildas and by Boethius.
I add a book by Hawking to this now.

“For whatever lives in time
that present proceeds from past into the future
and nothing is established in time
which could embrace the entire space of its life
but in fact it does not yet apprehend tomorrow
while it has already lost yesterday;
in life today you do not live more fully
than in that passing and transitory moment…

Severus Boethius; “The Consolation of Philosophy”

I have seen the remains of an ancient bridge that had stood for centuries. The softness of water brought it down.
However, ideas, ideas from a creative mind, can endure longer than that old bridge. They do not remain unaltered but in their turn sew the seeds of more ideas in time to come. They grow and populate thoughts in folk in those future times.

Fate and a stone bridge

The rain it rained for many a day,
The stream seemed filled with ire
As many a thing got swept away;
The road became a mire.

The ancient bridge it juddered then
For waters tear at stone.
Brute hardness is of no use when
Sweet Life is gone, has flown.

A bridge may stand for many a year
So rigid and secure.
It knows not when its end is near,
For nought but Fate is sure.

But go all must when it’s their time
And none may gain delay,
For whether old or in your prime,
Fate always has its way.

Yet when the raging torrent’s gone
The bridge will be no more.
The tiny weeds need not be wan
Their future is secure.

The lesser things may long endure,
Great structure’s all must fall.
Through might none may here be secure
Time sees an end to all.

A wounded man may wander home
And live to be so old.
His life might fill a weighty tome
Where his long tale is told.

Ah, “For whatever lives in Time…”
Proceeds on at its pace.
They may be mired in sin and slime
Or be touched by pure Grace.

Dedicated to the Memory of Stephen Hawking

Feathers Ruffled

Some verses come to me out of the blue.
On 21 September 2001 is was sat in a falconry display on the beautiful island of Mull. I was relaxed and content. The Falconer showed us an American Bald Eagle and said: “She cannot fly as she has a damaged wing”.
This was 10 days after the attack on New York.
These verses came to me in an instant.

Feathers Ruffled

Bald eagle with a damaged wing,
Hawks guided in as planned.
We hear a carrion vulture sing
Where dead flesh is at hand.

Bald eagle has small feathers harmed,
Hawks dead upon the ground.
The vulture’s kind now cower alarmed:
The eagle makes no sound.

The vulture hides deep in a hole
From justice that is planned.
Yet, in his dark deceitful soul
He thinks he is God’s hand.

Sometime from out the sun’s stark rays
We’ll hear the vulture’s dead
And where the well-fed eaglet plays,
The ground is coloured red.

© Trevor Morgan 21 September 2001

The Curse of “Free Verse”

I have ventured to poetry classes and groups in the past.
On each occasion I have been confronted with hostility towards lyrical verse and contempt. I avoid such encounters now.
It seems to me the poetry establishment has peer reviewed itself into irrelevance.

Free Verse Curse

Who misbegot this tommyrot?
That does not beat a time.
It’s rhythmlessness so soon forgot,
This formless ooze of slime.

A falsehood that they oft propose –
They claim the name of “Poet”!
Pure tripe is all they can compose:
And deep at heart they know it.

Trevor Morgan 14 March 2015


Poetry competitions are much the same. They have been awarding prizes to short works of prose for long decades and calling the tripe poetry. After awards the winning rubbish is forgotten as it always was unworthy.

Council with the Elves

We say someone is mad if: “they talk to the fairies”.
The name Alfred comes from two old English words.
“Aelf” is Elf.
“Rede” is council or debate.
So Alfred can be said to mean “Elfish council” or “Talks to the elves”.
So England’s greatest king and warrior, like many a little child may have talked to the fairies when in play.
A childhood full of play is such a good thing.
It builds the adult.

A little boy

A little boy he played down by the stream.
He romped with glee and danced around about.
His eyes they seemed to have an elfish gleam.
His mother loved to hear him sing and shout
And watched him from afar as he would play.
It seemed as if he danced with many friends
And yet he was alone here on this day.
That stream across the meadow slowly wends;
That boy he played the whole long day away.
He seemed to talk to folk who seemed not there.
Each child may play in every way they may.
His childhood it was lived so free of care.
His mother’s words this son would always heed
This youngest boy of Her’s she’d named Aelfrede.

Council with the Elves

That Elves here share our land to folk is real,
There’s many kinds of beings in Midgard∗
And though to most of folk, much is concealed,
Yet faith in other things makes life less hard.
The child inside a man may help him dream;
For “save you are as one of these…” you’re lost.
Now devious elfish council helps men scheme
Whilst hidden in our wastes when touched by frost.
To dream and scheme on how to fight that foe
That ravaged all our lands and drove folk out.
Amid defeat and all our tears and woe
Aelfrede gave us new hope we lost all doubt.
The devious ways of devious men who plan
Reveal that elves dwell in the realms of man!


∗ Midgard: old English for the world.

Trevor Morgan 2010

From: “Tale of a darkened soul”

The Tale of Old Granny Goose

This yarn is based on a local folktale in Somerset.
It is said that there was a major Viking raid. The Vikings ignored an old woman and left their ships unguarded and raided and plundered inland. When they were away the old woman cut all the ships tie ropes so they drifted out into Bridgwater Bay. This left the raiders marooned and unable to escape the counterattack by the men of Somerset and Dorset.
This was one of their first major defeats in England.
For the purpose of this narrative I have them mistake the old woman for an omen of their gods as Alder is a sacred tree associated with Freya. There is evidence that people at that time in Somerset also had sacred trees.

The Tale of Old Granny Goose†

“Beside the Axe down near the sea
Her geese they grazed each day.
She loved the music of the wind
That blew in from the bay.

She’d sat and watch the world go by
Beneath her alder tree.
She sat beneath a darkening sky
But felt alive and free.

Within a bubble in her pool
A water spider rose,
The breeze upon her cheek seemed cool
As she sat in repose.

The water boatmen skimmed about
The spider rose and sank,
Far off she heard a strange tongue shout
Off by the river bank.

A dragonfly then settled there
And seized upon some prey,
She watched with fatalistic stare
This seemed the strangest day .

The Dragon prow of some great ship
Moved silent into view;
Quite startled there she bit her lip
Oh God what could she do?

She raised herself up with her stick
It was stout alder wood.
Her stomach churned and she felt sick
And trembled where she stood.

Beside still water in the shade
A Dane came with his spear
And there the lowest bow he made;
His eyes showed signs of fear!

He gave to her a coin of gold,
Belt and bone handled knife.
His burly hands seemed wet and cold
As she feared for her life.

Another dragon prow passed by
Then many, many more.
She heard the spearman gently sigh
He turned back to the shore.

Great hordes of men then mustered there
And many bowed to her.
That cold chill seemed to leave the air
She sat and did not stir.

The tales of raiding Danes were dire
They’d plunder and they’d rape.
They’d put all buildings to the fire
And few folk would escape.

She sat and watched those Danes depart,
She sat beneath her tree.
As all moved off she then took heart;
She was alive and free.

Within a bubble in her pool
A water spider sank.
The breeze upon her cheek seemed cool,
She paused and then she drank.

Those ships had come in with the bore∗
The tide would soon go out.
They were tied here along this shore;
Now, no Danes were about.

She limped from an arthritic hip,
But she knew what to do.
She slowly walked past each fine ship
And cut their bow lines through.

She puzzled at the ways of life,
How raiders bowed so low
And gave her such a useful knife.
Now she felt all-aglow!

Smoke rose across the eastern sky.
She watched it swirl and rise.
She knew afar that folk would die;
She watched through moistened eyes.

The tide had now begun to turn,
She hid close by her tree.
She knew that many a home would burn
For what will be will be.

Those Dragon prows of noble ships
Now drifted past quite slow.
She softly prayed through her dry lips
And watched those great ships go.

Retreating tides ebb back to sea,
Those ships were on their way.
Each dragon prow so proud and free
Was bound now for the bay.

Those raiding Danes came raging back
Loaded down with plunder.
They stopped beside the river track
Faces all like thunder.

Then on the crest of yonder hill
There came the local men.
All armed and ready for the kill:
Those Danes were luckless men.

Beware old women wizened grey,
Beware what they might do
For it could be a fatal day
Unless your deeds are true

She sat and watched the world go by
Beneath her alder tree.
She would grow old and she would die;
Here in a land that’s free.

A dragonfly it hovered there
It hunted for some prey,
An old thrush snatched it from the air:
This seemed the strangest day.

The water boatmen skimmed about
The spiders rise and sink.
So, who knows what this tales about?
Perhaps it made you think!”

Trevor Morgan 2007


† The Anglo Saxon Chronicle records that in the year 845: “…the men of Somerset…with the men of Dorset, fought at the mouth of the Parret with a Danish army there made great slaughter, and took the victory”.
This was in the reign of King Aethelwulf father of Aelfrede the Great.

∗ Most of the rivers about the Severn Sea had tidal bores before the flood prevention works of the 19th century.

Albany Major in his book “The Early Wars of Wessex” points out that at this time Wessex had been in a state of constant war with the Wahls of the South West. This raiding army of Danes entered an area well practiced in warfare.

Sonnet – The good man’s prolonged death

Life can be unkind, even as it ends.
This sonnet is from a narrative work about the early wars of Wessex.
I wrote it not long before spinal surgery. I was screaming inside my head with pain at the time.


The good man’s prolonged death

The pain brought clouds of darkness to his mind.
His soul screamed for relief but there was none,
None for the pain continued on with its pure grind
And nothing, nothing now could here be done.
He’d screamed and screamed but screams brought no relief
And when he stopped he panted to take breath.
When sleeping drafts brought sleep the sleep was brief,
Then when awake he’d pray for some swift death,
But Death held back refusing to relent.
For some the end is swift, ah, oh, so quick.
Although he screamed aloud that he’d repent
The Fates they seemed now up to some old trick,
The suffering of the cruel may well seem right;
This good man’s end seemed cruel, an act of spite.

© Trevor Morgan 2010

From: “Tales of the Gewissae”

HMS Bluebell

On 17 February, as Convoy RA 64 was assembling off Murmansk, Bluebell was hit in the stern by an acoustic homing torpedo fired by U-711, which caused her depth charges to explode. She sank in less than 30 seconds at 69°24′N 33°42′E From her crew of 86 ratings and officers there was only one survivor: Albert Holmes from Southampton.


HMS Bluebell – Sunk off the Kola Inlet 17 February 1945

Rising up to seek the light,
Upward through the winter cold.
Springtime is not yet in sight,
Ah, not all things will grow old.

Plucked up when it reached full bloom,
Thrown aside – but not forgot.
Lost there in the chill and gloom,
That place now – a sacred spot.

Bluebells bless our woodland floor
In the spring foretell of peace.
Each year may there grow yet more,
Let Bluebell’s glory never cease.

In the woodlands Bluebells grow,
Growing up through winter’s cold.
How they make a glorious show
Precious more than burnished gold.

Little ship sunk in that sea
All but one went down with her.
Died to keep this old world free;
Young men die when old men err.

From: “Arctic Elegies”