It's an ENIGMA

A few days ago I posted a blog entitled 'Echoes of War' - which is also the title of my painting and poem about the convoys of ships setting off from here in Loch Ewe for Archangerl and Murmansk in World War Two.

Last evening we were present in a packed Aultbea village hall for a couple of talks. The first was delivered - and right ably - by an eminent ex-RAF officer, latterly diplomat based in Moscow. His subject was the little known export of an entire wing of Hurricane fighter planes c/w pilots and ground crews to Murmansk in 1941. The other talk was given by an eminent historian, his subject being Bletchley Park and the fabulous ENIGMA coding / de-coding machine.

In between these two gentlemen I had been invited to recite my own 'Echoes of War' plus the verse of a couple of anonymous sailor / poets, participants both on those incredibly fraught Arctic convoys. The invitation was truly an honour which I was very glad to accept.

In thinking about what I could say in my preamble I asked myself why it might be that wartime so often produces such a wealth of poetry, some of it being amongst the finest ever composed and lots of it the heartfelt words of folk I suppose like myself who would never have described themselves in ordinary times as poets.
I wondered about the connection .. Going back a question; what is poetry; what is war? We saw the cheefulness of troops marching off to probable death, pilots fresh out from England stumbling around playing games in Arctic snowfields. I myself remember as a young boy those days of rationing, death and destruction. They seemed so, well, so fundamentally happy.

Poetry, I concluded, must be heavily distilled human emotion in words. War, I thought, is heavily distilled human emotion in action. The connection therefore is emotion, emotion released. But not by any means negative emotion. It really is an enigma, isn't it?

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