The Leicesters’ poems in HM Deerbolt Prison

Adam Travis at Deerbolt Camp (1)

For the last three weeks, the project has been delivering workshops in HM Deerbolt Prison as part of a twelve-week programme.  So far, we have looked at topics including Victory Gardens, propaganda and Barnard Castle’s role during the war.  Last week, the inmates read about Deerbolt’s role as a military camp and looked at poems written by Private S. Strickland in the Teesdale Mercury.  This inspired them to write their own poems about their time at Deerbolt.  

On the departure of the 10th Leicestershire Battalion from Barnard Castle in November 1915, the Teesdale Mercury published a poem by Private A. Clarke that read:

 

“The Leicesters’ Farewell”

At last we are leaving, no longer we will stay,

For after many rumours we are really going away;

So we say good-bye to dear old Barney now,

For no longer will they hear the Leicesters’ old row.

 

“We are the Leicester boys” every day we sing,

And very oft in Barnet you’ve heard our voices ring;

So now we are leaving the dear old spot,

I’m sure our song by you will ne’er be forgot.

 

To Cannock we’re going, just one more new place,

But its old attractions can ne’er Barney replace;

For how we have liked it no word can express,

And in parting we’re feeling a kind of distress.

 

To fight for our country is the way for us all,

Some will come back, but others will fall;

But those who come back no doubt will say

That the best friends they had were Barney-way.

 

The girls, too, will feel lonely when we have gone,

For the Leicesters seemed attractive to every one;

But they must keep smi’ing all the whole day through

Till the return of the boys in khaki and blue.

 

Many, many friends we are leaving behind,

Who to us soldier boys have been so kind;

A welcome we had, none better could we wish,

So it’s a hard farewell we have now to wish.

 

We shall miss the old castle and river Tees,

And the museum, too, which all of us did please;

In fact the whole place, go where you would –

It was home from home, and extra kind of good.

 

So now, after many months we’ve to say good-bye,

To do our best for our country we will try;

So good-bye to Barney is the Leicesters’ farewell,

And pleasant tales of thee we can always tell.

 

From one of the Leicester boys.

 

Here is a link to Private Clarke’s Farewell in the Teesdale Mercury:

http://teesdalemercuryarchive.org/pdf/1915/November-17/November-17-1915-05.pdf

 

However, a week later, the Mercury published a note from Private S. Strickland that stated, ‘The poetry, “The Leicesters’ Farewell”, was not composed by Private A. Clarke, but by myself.’  

The article then continues with another poem, written by Strickland, that reads:

 

“Farewell for the Present”

 

We have left dear old Barney to our dismay,

And on to Rugeley Camp wended our way;

The old memories still go through our mind

Of the old Barney friends who were so kind.

 

We could not forget them, though far away

We think of them all, and the town every day;

For we are the Leicester boys who can’t be beat,

And under our tunics good hearts do beat.

 

We’ve heard of the long faced now in Barney seen

By the girls who were come “Leicester’s Queen,”

But they must keep smiling, for days are in store

When they will see of the Leicesters a lot more.

 

Dear old Barney, the Leicesters’ second home.

We will think of thee wherever we roam;

So for the present we have to say good-bye,

And we drink your health till the glass is dry.

 

Yours respectfully, Private S. Strickland

 

Here is a link to Private S Strickland’s poem in the Teesdale Mercury:

http://teesdalemercuryarchive.org/pdf/1915/November-24/November-24-1915-04.pdf

 

Here is a link to the article detailing the Leicesters’ departure from Barnard Castle:

http://teesdalemercuryarchive.org/pdf/1915/November-03/November-03-1915-05.pdf

 

After reading these poems, one of the inmates wrote the following.  He entwines his own experience at Deerbolt with his thoughts about Deerbolt’s role during the war.

 

So we’re here in Barnard Castle, where so many soldiers slept.

Their memory does live on.

Their families well they wept.

 

Now there lies a prison gate,

So many of us waiting,

Until the time when we go home,

At times it is frustrating.

 

But as day falls inside these walls, we all understand,

That soldiers fought all those days to hold their children’s hands.

 

Life is so young for us and in time we will mend.

So in that tunnel you remember there is light at the end.

 

So upon release better yourself and make your life so bright,

Many of us will wear that armour, and where there’s love there’s fight.

 

We thank our families for staying so strong because at times it’s flying.

The love and support they give to us will always keep us trying.