Sheila’s poem sums up the futility of war

MY WORD: Sheila Simmons displays her poem. Below, her grandfather Charles Bamford.
MY WORD: Sheila Simmons displays her poem. Below, her grandfather Charles Bamford.

PRIVATE Charles Bamford was just one of the thousands of British Tommies to lose their lives during one of the biggest battles of the First World War.

But he was also a much-loved husband and father with a family back at home in Hartlepool.

Sheila Simmons with a photo of her late grandfather Charles Richard Bamford

Sheila Simmons with a photo of her late grandfather Charles Richard Bamford

The impact of Charles’s death on his family – and the futility of war – has now been brought vividly to life in verse by his granddaughter Sheila Simmons.

Sheila uncovered details about her grandfather’s sacrifice during research into her family history.

And she turned it into an emotional poem for the 100th anniversary of the start of the war.

Sheila, 64, read it out during a service at St Hilda’s Church during Hartlepool’s high profile commemorations.

“Everybody liked it and said ‘you’ve got to get that published’,” she said.

Charles, an only child and who would be an orphan by the time he was 15, was born in Coldstream, Scotland, but it is not known what brought him to Hartlepool.

But here he married Sarah Bedford and they had three children, including Sheila’s father Tom Bamford.

“They went from this happy little family group and he was killed in 1916,” said Sheila.

Charles joined the Durham Light Infantry when war broke out and served as a private. At 30, he was quite old compared to many of the young men who also gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Sheila, who is mum to Claire, 46, and Stephen, 38, added: “He was one of the unfortunates where no body was found to bury. All that’s left is his name on a wall.”

The impact of the Charles’s loss to his family back home is hard to put into words but provided the inspiration for Sheila’s poem.

She said: “Whenever I asked my dad about his childhood he talked about being hungry.

“But he said if it wasn’t for my granny they wouldn’t have survived.

“It is hard for us to imagine starvation. Back then there were no benefits or war widows pension.

“I don’t know how they got by really.”

The Battle of the Somme took place between July to November in 1916 and was intended to be the Allies’ big breakthrough.

But it turned into a shocking slaughter with 60,000 casualties and 20,000 dead.

The terrible waste of life inspired Sheila, a grandmother of two, to put pen to paper.

Her poem features lines such as “War’s a useless waste of effort of time and energy and life.”

And “Why couldn’t the problems be resolved before so many thousands died?”

Sheila, of Argyll Road, Hartlepool, added: “I do a lot of poetry but most of it is funny and about things like liposuction.

“I just feel we don’t learn anything from war.

“People just die then a few years later we have another one. Killing people doesn’t work.”

I’ve found a photo of my granda

He was killed in World War One

He wasn’t very old you know

When he was struck down at the Som me

It doesn’t seem quite fair to me

That a man just in is prime

Was sent away for cannon fodder

It really was a crime!

There was terrible class distinction then

And the politicians made the rules

And loads of jobless Tommies

Went to the trenches led by fools

It mattered not how many died

How many families were bereaved

How many children were left fatherless

How many lonely women grieved

“War is hell” they kept on saying

And to avoid it they should have tried

Why couldn’t the problems be resolved

Before so many thousands died?

My grandmother was left alone

With three children under five

God knows what she did back then

Just to keep her kids alive

There was no social security

And no child care system then

Women alone had terrible lives

Surviving without their men

I know that life has now moved on

For grieving women there’s more scope

The government takes care of them

For them there is more hope

But I’m sure life never compensates

For the men that they have lost

And war, no matter what the cause

Has a terribly dreadful cost

No politicians go to war

Their positions are protected

Their lives aren’t put upon the line

Their families aren’t dejected

I think that war should never happen

And there should be peace or everyone

Injustice should be fought still

But without killing everyone

There’ve been other conflicts since that time

And all the families still ask why

Was it our uncle, brother, son or dad

That was sent out to war to die

War’s a useless waste of effort

Of time and energy and life

That leaves many fatherless children

And many lonely wife

It’s eight plus eight plus 80 years ago

Since granda gave his all

But did we learn any lessons there

I don’t think we learned at all

I never knew my granda

I never knew my gran

If granda was anything like my dad

He was a proud and gentle man

It’s a shame that all that’s left of him

This man who gave his all

Along with 70,000 others

Is his name upon a wall