Posts Tagged ‘WWI’

Yesterday, 27th July 2018, I was a speaker representing the Irish Air Corps at the unveiling of a stone plaque memorial at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin to commemorate an Irish pilot of the Royal Air Force Major Edward ‘Mick’ Mannock, who perished during the Great War. I was asked to write and deliver a poem and some historical context to that period of history and the connections of Irish military aviation to it and afterwards.  This was an event forming part of the RAF100 anniversary and I am extremely grateful that I was given the opportunity to contribute to the remembering of Ireland’s role during the conflict and beyond, but especially the commemorating of the Irish who were part of those sizemic events. The poem was included in the Glasnevin Trust’s event programme (shown in images), for which I am also grateful to the manager, historians and staff.


‘WHEN WE FLEW; Death of an Irish Airman in the Great War’ by Michael J. Whelan – published in THE Glasnevin Cemetery event programme for commemoration of Irish WWI pilot Major Mick Mannock VC  – 27TH July 2018




 (Death of an Irish Airman during the Great War)



O how I witnessed worlds amongst the clouds,

that peace, the freedom, those futures and the past,

to patrol a morning’s sun to its final spark,

spilling out a day’s horizons.


Remember, I alone, chose this path,

to roam the skies above the autumnal Earth,

short lived but truly spent.


And, when that moment came

to fall from heaven’s breaths,

only the fields of France embraced me.

Yes, I am of Ireland, do not blame the enemy,

for as brothers, in that same ground, we rest.


But think of us,

in all the years to come,

when you contemplate our war,

that when we flew

we were part of the few

who gave for you our all.


Written and recited by Corporal Michael J. Whelan at the RAF commemoration in Glasnevin Cemetery on 27th July 2018


‘WHEN WE FLEW; Death of an Irish Airman in the Great War’ by Michael J. Whelan


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Soldiers  - Michael J. Whelan

Soldiers – Michael J. Whelan



                    The Great War



Lost, and full of fear,

the mud covered trooper

escapes from hell,

tumbles in the depths of the underworld,

while floundering in the shell scarred bowels

of No-Man’s Land.


He climbs towards life through broken Earth,

where splintered stained glass windows

tell him he’s beneath the ruins of a church.


He creeps between dappled portals of light,

over alabaster icons in the shadow crypt

laid out on the floor many months before.


He hears scratching nearby,

fears his enemies close,

raises his sights to the sole rotted boots of a soldier

hanging out from a blood stained altar.


He cannot see the face,

imagines a crown of thorns upon the head.

He cocks his rifle, sends a bullet to the breech,

crawls forward expecting to fight

and trips on the cord-wood corpses

of others dressed as he.


Suddenly he sees a monstrous rat

like a ravenous dog gnawing wildly

at the nose cartilage of this altered crucifixion.


He shoots and the white dust rises.

War finds him again

but all are already dead.


Michael J. Whelan


Published in ‘Tallaght Soundings 3; A Collection of New Work from The Virginia House Writers -Edited by Maria Wallace,’ November 2015



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scarred landscape - Michael J. Whelan - 2014

scarred landscape – Michael J. Whelan – 2014





(Exactly one hundred years ago in 1914

the world was at war and the soldiers

believed it would all be over by Christmas)




All winter we fought to go home

and in the end we killed and they killed us,

a promise never kept.

Now it’s far too late, too late you see –

for the robins rest on frozen fists

in the great corpse trench,

snow blankets all the dead,

where every night we ran to ground

‘neath furrows of blood and guts

when thunder strafed down

devouring all our hearts,

before the midnight moon

picked out the forlorn path

above our little war,

between the trapping wire

where some brave lads ventured out

on hearing the Silent Night

cross over No Man’s Land’s red stains

of men where once men were;

and there they met between the gaps

to sing the chorus, kick a ball,

share rum and schnapps,

light candles in the dark,

until the Generals ordered – shoot that moon,

and new friends warred and maimed

but every dying soldier knew

it was  Christmas time at home.


Michael J. Whelan



Published in Tallaght ECHO newspaper (Christmas Supplement) 18 December 2014

Artwork: Michael J. Whelan

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LANDSCAPES OF WAR AND PEACE 1914-2014: WAR POETRY & PEACEKEEPING – Michael J. Whelan (Design – David Power )


Poetry Exhibition – Michael J. Whelan

at the Red Line Book Festival 2014

01 – 20 October

‘The Great War’ it was said, ‘was the war to end all wars,’ it wasn’t and Ireland’s soldiers and peacekeepers have found themselves caught up in the many conflicts spawned in its wake. This exhibition  LANDSCAPES OF WAR AND PEACE 1914-2014: WAR POETRY & PEACEKEEPING by poet Michael J. Whelan includes poems inspired by his experiences as a United Nations peacekeeper with the Irish Defence Forces and five poems from poets writing during the period of World War One.

Venue:                           Red Line Book Festival 2014 (South Dublin Libraries) – County Library Tallaght 1st – 20thOctober

Launch:                        6th October

Information:            Further information will be available on the Red Line Book Festival website

All welcome

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Photo: Michael J. Whelan

Photo: Michael J. Whelan




What a great leveller – death

for the pompous General with his airs and graces

is buried within just a few paces

of a lowly soldier who was not fit to tie his laces,

who couldn’t

read a book or spell his name

but did his duty just the same,

the great reward – his family’s pride

protecting his country they knew he tried

and lost his life in loyal stride

nobly defending the General by his side

and though he knew the lowly soldier

the General had never once called him over

to ask of home and family matters,

their rights of passage lineage bent

one a peasant the other gent.


Michael J. Whelan


On Hurting Ground: Poetic Silhouettes on Soldiers, History, Love and Tragedy by Michael J. Whelan (2009)

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GOLGOTHA (the place of the skull) GOLGOTHA  
(The place of the skull)
…after Siegfried Sassoon,
                                   poet WWI…
At once I knew the resurrection,
then far away the thudding of the guns.
In the clockwork of that battle
a silhouette came to me
carrying beams of wood across his breast,
walking with words of love
along the broken trench
to lay upon the floor of my Golgotha.
‘I know you,’ I said in the midst of the strafe,
‘Yes, you know me,’ he replied,
‘like war we have known each other forever.’
Michael J. Whelan
Published in the ECHO Newspaper (Life Magazine p.46)
07 March 2013,
www.echo.ie/ Sketch by Michael J. Whelan – 2013

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MESSINES - Battlefield 2012 (c)Michael J. Whelan

MESSINES – Battlefield 2012 (c)Michael J. Whelan


Remember how we laughed and dreamed,
made love in the pink meadow
hiding from all the world. …
I spun a daisy chain,
hung it round your naked shoulders-
how it rested on your breasts.
Shone the light of buttercups under your chin
and you mine,
you smelled of wild roses.
But that is a dream now,
a fable we created
in the mountainy summer sun
before war came to us,
you and I are the only actors.
I see you waiting for me
in pink meadows.
Where I am there are no flowers
only white petals in my heart.
Michael J. Whelan
Poem shortlisted and awarded ‘Commended’ in the poetry section of the Jonathon Swift Creative Writing Awards 2011.
Published in Tallaght Express, Edition 15, November 2011…. re published in TALLAGHT SOUNDINGS 2 – A Collection of New Work by Virginia House Creative Writers – Edited by Maria Wallace (Dublin, 2013).
Photo (c)Michael J. Whelan – Messines Flanders. This is the ground fought over!    My photograph made at Messines 2012, near monument to Irish soldiers and Cemetery WWI.

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