Sunday, 9 November 2008

The War Poems of L S Ongley

All poems by L Sarrell Ongley.

Our Bungalow ~ 13 March 1945

Bare brick walls all cold and damp
With freezing stony floor
A tiny closet wet and foul
The lighting system poor

Shaky beds of nails and plank
No mattress can be seen
A draughty roof of timber logs
The dripping rafters green

A smoky stove burns twice a day
The atmosphere is dead
One table is the furniture
Reprisal it is said

Some window panes are missing
the door wont fit the frame
Two heaters never operate
For coal is just a name

Fifteen feet by twenty
Is the length of our prison hut
Eighty men packed sardine tight
With every window shut

Stalag 357.Fallingbostel. Hanover. Germany.

Stalag Exercise ~ 15 April 1944

Twenty times a day I walk
Around the compound square
Twice to a mile is ten of the best
Quite a fair jaunt without any rest
A deed not common but rare.

Rainy days I do the same
The lads just stand and smile
On the third time round they point and nod
While I race faster across the sod
A picture of ease and style.

Mühlberg P.O.W. CampDresden. Germany.

I Would Like ~ 16 August 1944

I would like to have a four pound loaf
Of steaming snow white bread
A vat of butter rich and fresh
Enough to turn my head
A china plate piled high with steak
Six soft fried eggs on toast
Tomatoes in their dozens
With a chunk of fatty roast.

Stammlager 4BMühlberg-on-Elbe. Dresden. Germany.

Red Cross Parcel ~ October 1942

The Red Cross keep us fit and well
With many a tasty dish
No sooner is the issue made
We fry up spuds and fish

The chocolate lasts a little spell
Our prunes we soak and stand
Twelve biscuits spread with butter thick
My word they do taste grand

The meat roll fried in margarine
With Yorkshire salt and milk
While toast and butter heaped with jam
Slides down like folds of silk

The bully smeared with mustard
Between two hunks of bread
Can be described as having
All powers to turn the head

The oatmeal mixed with rasins
Makes porridge sweet and stiff
Our breakfast cheese warmed on the toast
Gives a savoury niff

Pork sausages baked in eggs
Mixed veg with Irish stew
Sweet custard smoothed o'er apple duff
At last we rest and sip our brew

The creamed rice sweets and apricots
We hold for yet a while
While cocoa in the evening hours
Completes the welcome pile

Maybe I've missed the honey sweet
The golden syrup too
But if their are some missing tins
I leave the rest to you

Without the Red Cross helping us
Our lives we might have lost
So when the war has passed us by
We help what e'er the cost

The cigarettes we cherish most
Their help is great indeed
When food is short we pull the belt
For nicotine is feed

My text to you is finnished
No more there is to be
The weekly Red Cross parcel gift
To you I bend my knee.

Campo Concentranamento 54.P.M. 3300. Fara Sabina. Rome. Italy.

The entire collection, and a his autobiography, can be found here.


Unknown said...

It seems the poet is on to his literary nature, but I find the stanzas short-sighted and lacking in a bigger idea. The rhymes presented seem rushed at times, thus constricting the free use of cadence and words within a given phrase, which adds a sort of jumpy or obstructed reading of the poems.

May I suggest Tennyson's "Ulysses"?

Jean-Jacques said...

Well, being a bit "uneducated", not having attended any university myself, and having English as a near-native second language, and having experienced conscription and army life (but not war) and hunger, and having worked among the working classes in England and Ireland, and indeed considering myself to be working class, and being familiar with English food and army rations, and knowing how a cigarette can be your next-best friend, and having read a couple of POW novels, I thoroughly enjoyed these poems. I thought they were superb actually!

Thanks for sharing Michelle.

PS: commas deliberately and incorrectly added for effect ;-)

Michelle said...


If you read my post on Remembrance Sunday you'll see that the poems were never meant to be works of literature. You'll also see that the writer passed away two months ago and I'm not sure he would have cared what anyone thought of his stanzas or syntax anyway. He didn't write as a poet, he wrote as a man.

I suspect that's why you had some difficulty understanding them - some works you read with the mind, some (such as these) with the heart.

Michelle said...


Glad you enjoyed them. I particularly love the one of his dream for fresh bread and steak piled high. I think you need to know deprivation to understand the beauty of a fresh white loaf with butter. Not that I've been in a war, but having lived through sanctions and the edges of the Bush War I know all about doing without and how miraculous parcels of food goodies can be. :-)