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Poems from the Second World War selected by Gaby Morgan

May 4th 2020

World War II can be a difficult topic to cover with children – finding the right balance of facts and experiences. Sometimes fictional accounts don’t quite have the gravity we want and real accounts are too graphic for KS2. This book, ‘Poems from the Second World War’ is a beautiful balance between the two.

The wealth of language and imagery this book will bring to your classroom is perfect to explore with children. Our personal favourites from the collection are ‘Embarkation, 1942’ and ‘El Alamein’ both written by John Jarmain. The first gives a sense of nervousness and fear, the ‘hollow of waiting’, of a soldier setting off to war and the developing sense of tentative camaraderie between the new acquaintances – ‘a timid wisp of song’. While in contrast, the second poem, written much later in the soldier’s experience, speaks of the devastation of the war in Egypt, at El Alamein, and the replacement of the battlefield with a memorial: the pain and suffering has been covered up and forgotten and those who come to see it now could not imagine the horror of what was there before. The powerful yet beautiful use of language draws the reader into the first-hand experience of the poet and is fascinating to unpick.

Published by the Imperial War Museum, this collection of poignant and moving poetry is selected especially for children and tells the stories of war from a range of viewpoints: children, soldiers, mothers and nurses. Their experiences tell of life on the Home Front, the battlefield and as a refugee of the Holocaust. Whichever aspect of World War II you have chosen as a focus, there are poems to support children’s understanding.

The poems by John Harmain are just two of the poems from the collection we have chosen for Year 6 to use in our new resource for schools ‘Pathways to Read’. You can find out more about this programme for children from Year 2 to Year 6 on our website or by contacting admin@theliteracycompany.co.uk for a sample pack.