The most famous poetry, poets and quotes from World War I to mark Armistice Day 2021

Every November, Britain honors those who fought and died in war.

Armistice Day – the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that marked the end of World War I in 1918 – is celebrated on November 11 each year.

And the second Sunday of the month is Remembrance Sunday, when services and processions are held across the country.

These services will almost always include a two-minute silence, as well as readings of famous wartime poems.

Here is a selection of some of the best known poems from WWI, along with links to the full poems.

“In Flanders Field” by John McRae

In the fields of Flanders the poppies are blowing

Between the crosses, row after row,

Which mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Rare heard among the cannons below.

“In Flanders Field” by John McRae

McRae was a Canadian poet and soldier who died of pneumonia near the end of the war. His poem “In Flanders Fields” is the inspiration for the poppy becoming the emblematic symbol of the memory it is today.

McCrae was appointed medical officer and major of the 1st Canadian Field Artillery Brigade during the war and treated the wounded during the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915.

“In Flanders Fields” gained popularity immediately, and McRae was something of a wartime celebrity, until his death in 1918.

Wilfred Owen’s “Hymn to Condemned Youth”

What bells for those who die like cattle?

– Only the monstrous wrath of guns.

Only the rapid clicking of stammering guns

Can express their hasty prayers.

Wilfred Owen’s “Hymn to Condemned Youth”

Owen is perhaps the most famous poet of the First World War. He fought at the Battle of the Somme before suffering from PTSD and being admitted to the Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh in 1917.

At the hospital, he met Siegfried Sassoon, who inspired him to turn his experiences into poetry. “Anthem for Doomed Youth” is his most famous work.

After returning to the field, Owen was killed in November 1918, a week before the end of the war.

entire poem

“Deux fusiliers” by Robert Graves

And are we finally done with the war?

Well we were both lucky

And there is no need for an oath or an oath

To quickly bind our beautiful friendship,

By firmer stuff

Quite closely related.

“Deux fusiliers” by Robert Graves

Graves was the son of the famous Irish poet Alfred Perceval Graves. He was also a friend of Sassoon’s and played a role in ensuring that he did not face a court martial after making anti-war statements, persuading officials that he was in shock and that he should instead be sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital.

Graves was seriously injured in the Somme and left the army in September 1917 after contracting the Spanish flu, fleeing the hospital without proper permission.

He went on to have a career as a famous writer, writing a number of plays as well as poetry. He lived until 1985.

entire poem

Siegfried Sassoon’s “The Kiss”

It is to them that I turn, in them I trust;

Brother Lead and Sister Steel.

I appeal to his blind power;

I keep her beauty clean from rust.

Siegfried Sassoon’s “The Kiss”

Sassoon survived the war – but barely. He was shot in the head by a British soldier who mistook him for a German in 1918, but survived.

His poetry both described the horrors of the trenches and satirized the chauvinistic patriotism of those he believed were responsible for the war.

Sassoon is one of the best-known poets of the First World War and was decorated for his bravery on the Western Front.

entire poem

“On the Somme” by Ivor Gurney

Suddenly, in the still air, the thud

And the thud and the cold fear possessed me all,

Over there on the gray slopes, where the brooding brooding winter

Hanging between height and depth of the ugly fall

From heaven to earth; and the thud was that of sickness.

“On the Somme” by Ivor Gurney

Gurney also survived the war, although he spent the last 15 years of his life in a mental hospital with manic depression.

He wrote poetry but was best known for his songs, of which he composed over 300.

He was writing the poems for what would become his first book, Severn and Somme, when he was wounded in the shoulder in April 1917 – but returned to combat.

entire poem

“My Boy Jack” by Rudyard Kipling

“Have you heard from my boy Jack?” “

Not this tide.

“When do you think he’ll be back?” “

Not with this blowing wind and this tide.

“My Boy Jack” by Rudyard Kipling

Kipling was one of the UK’s most popular writers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907.

He never participated in the war himself, but wrote government propaganda, including brochures and stories that glorified the British Army.

Her son, John, was killed in action at the Battle of Loos in September 1915, at the age of just 18. “My Boy Jack” is said to be inspired by his death, as is Kipling’s play of the same name.

entire poem


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