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Commemoration and Creative Responses : Literature : On active service

Some of those on active service found outlets for their emotions through poetry. The diaries and letters of many soldiers writing from the front lines include poetry. For example, the personal records of South African veteran Corporal Herbert Conrad, now kept in the archival collection of the State Library, include a transcription of a popular anonymous poem Dreaming of home.

Len Hussey, writing from the Western Front in 1918, dedicated his poem Ships that pass in the night to '...some of my dear old pals who fell in the world's great war'.

He lay for hours through the dark cold night
And yet he felt no pain

But the ground was met with bloody sweat
And soaked with a deep red stain.

The publication of collections of poetry written by the soldiers serving on Gallipoli and on the Western Front was used by many patriotic organisations in fundraising drives. Proceeds from the sale of The purple bar, published in Adelaide in 1916 by the Soldiers' Mothers' Band, were used 'in aid of the Memorial Rest Home for mothers of soldiers'.

The most successful of these publications was The Anzac Book, a collection of poems, short stories, sketches and cartoons, created by soldiers in the trenches at Gallipoli. Compiled and published by official war correspondent, CEW Bean, it sold over 100,000 copies. A similar publication, Khaki and green: with the Australian Army at home and overseas, published for the Australian Military Forces by the Australian War Memorial in 1943, records the creative work of the soldiers of the Second World War.

Dreaming of home [poem]
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Poem from letter written by Len Hussey
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Poem from the diary of Percy Wells
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Progress to denial : a poem : [extract]
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