Two Fusiliers by Robert Graves (1895–1985)
In memory of 2nd Lt. Vernon Elias Owen (1893-1915).
Robert Graves fought in the Battle of Loos, which claimed the life of his friend and fellow poet Charles Sorley. Graves was then serving with the 2nd Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers but by November 1915 he had been transferred to the Regiment's 1st battalion joining them at Festubert.
The poet Siegfried Sassoon joined that same battalion at Festubert on 24th November 1915. It was here that these two literary giants began a friendship which, apart from a few lapses, continued throughout their lives. Graves recalled the chaos of Loos in "Goodbye to All That". He recalls Festubert in this poem.
The cousins Billy and Vernon Owen were not such "lucky devils". Plucked from universities they fought alongside each other in the same Brigade though in different Welsh regiments. Vernon survived the Battle of Festubert which claimed the life of his cousin but within weeks was mortally wounded in trenches nearby. These two young men were bound not only by shared experiences but also truly by "the red bond of blood".
And have we done with War at last?
Well, we've been lucky devils both,
And there's no need of pledge or oath
To bind our lovely friendship fast,
By firmer stuff
Close bound enough.
By wire and wood and stake we're bound,
By Fricourt and by Festubert,
By whipping rain, by the sun's glare,
By all the misery and loud sound,
By a Spring day,
By Picard clay.
Show me the two so closely bound
As we, by the red bond of blood,
By friendship, blossoming from mud,
By Death: we faced him, and we found
Beauty in Death,
In dead men's breath.