A POETRY competition by a Pembrokeshire charity has allowed people to explore their time in the armed forces and their family’s experiences in the Second World War.

This year’s VC Gallery poetry competition tasked the entrants to explore the theme of remembrance with the question ‘What remembrance means to you’.

Anne Phillips and Charlotte Richards were declared the winners for the over 15 and under 15 categories.

Anne’s poem was entitled Remembrance is a Tucked Scarf while Charlotte’s was Lest we Forget, which can be found below.

A VC Gallery spokesperson said: “Anne’s and Charlotte’s beautiful poems were two of many poignant entries which the judge, Helen Grant, thoroughly enjoyed reading over the last month.”

On Anne’s poem, Helen said: “This sonnet’s rhythm pulls you in. The repeating image of the tight scarf is powerful.

“The last image is a clever metaphor for life and death; the darkness of blood and the lightness of marble.”

Anne was delighted to have won. Asked on her inspiration for the poem Anne revealed a remarkable backstory: “The sonnet has undergone some serious working and reworking and was the toughest poem I had written for a while. The first line came wholly in response to the memory of my father placing crosses and poppies in Swansea market, outside Westminster Abbey.

“My dad was a navigator in Lancaster’s 619 Squadron.

“He was shot down, August 31, 1943, the sole survivor, and was captured near Jüterbog.

“He survived a death march firstly out of Heydekrug, in the summer of 1944 and then out of Gross Tychow in February 1945.

“From the anecdotes that were passed down he was in Dixie Deans crew.

“This win is doubly poignant because his ancestors came from Llawhaden in 1850s.

“They worshipped at Rhydwilym but moved from there and eventually built their own chapel — Adulam in Bonymaen.

“The final line is also based on the Cenotaph/memorial in Pontarddulais.

“While the car was being MOT-ed I sat there just writing what I saw. The lettering has rusted in places.”

On Charlotte’s poem, Helen said: “I thought the use of taking the well-known phrase “Lest We Forget” and using it as the frame for the poem was clever and effective.

“‘They shall not grow old,’ is a beautiful last line considering our act of remembering keeps their bravery alive.”

Ten-year-old Charlotte said: “This year has been different for us, we’ve had to adapt and adjust our lives just like those before us.

“We will be forever grateful and we will remember. I’m over the moon to have won.”

The judge Helen Grant was spoilt for choice with the quality of entrants’ work and wishes to thank all those that took the time to enter and tell what remembrance means to them.

Helen said of the competition: “Being able to read entries that were full of empathy and honesty was an experience I am very grateful for.

“From the strength in form in both first place poems, to the incredible humbling narrative and striking imagery found in the runner up poems, it certainly wasn’t an easy choice.

“Finding out the backstories of winning entrants was especially humbling and I am very glad poetry could help play a part in expressing remembrance for all entrants.”

Second place went to B Thomas from Haverfordwest who served in the armed forces, he said: “I am delighted to have received second place, before this I had not written a poem for about 10 years and the competition gave me the incentive to start writing again.

“I served in the Royal Welsh regiment and completed a seven month tour of Afghanistan during my service.

“I have viewed all of my experiences with an open mind.

“Since leaving I have been an active member of the British Legion, supporting all year round but especially during the poppy appeal.”

On Ben’s poem, Helen said: “This poem emanates empathy and struck me for its universality... we are all just people who don’t choose where we are born. I couldn’t stop myself from continuing to return to this poem.”

Hear Barry John, founder of the VC Gallery and 24 year Army veteran read this poem at youtu.be/dz0KT0glhYg

All prize-winning poems were on display at The VC’s Bridge Street Gallery for Remembrance Day and will be part of their permanent Remembrance exhibition, which can be viewed by the public all year round.

The competition was made possible due to funding from the Arts Council of Wales and is part of The VC’s ongoing commitment to providing people with an artistic outlet during difficult times.

For more information please contact The VC Gallery directly via: admin@thevcgallery.com.

Remembrance is a Tucked Scarf... by Anne Phillips

Remembrance is a tucked scarf tightly wound

against November griefs in frost bound air.

Ribbons of roll calls summons the dead - their

litany of names now a nation’s prayer.

Remembrance: a scarf secure in the winds

makes cotton dressings staunching bloodied limbs;

howling shellshock ruptures combatants’ minds

(their) death -demons dance while the home-front sings hymns.

The more we recall the more they retreat,

shot down in black night; not knowing they die.

Memories bleach bones and stones where they lie.

Marching white crypts ruled by a dead drumbeat.

Remembrance: red scarves, poppies, tall columns,

and blood-rust scars on marble monuments.

Lest we Forget... by Charoltte Richards

L - ove our country

E- veryone is proud

S- how our respect

T- wo minute silence

W- ear a poppy with pride

E- veryone will remember

F- orever we will remember

O- n the 11th hour, 11th day, 11th month

R- embrance Sunday

G-rateful we will always be

E- very soldier was brave

T-hey shall not grow old

B. Thomas’s poem...

Fellow soldier I hope you understand

I never hated you, your family, your land.

Fellow soldier I’m sorry you had to fall

it was you or me, I stood tall.

Fellow soldier, I didn't want to kill,

following orders, all part of the drill.

Fellow soldier, as your life ends

I feel in another world we could have been friends.

Fellow soldier, though you can't grow old

your paradise awaits, whilst earth is so cold.

Fellow soldier, we thought each other so insane,

you no longer have to feel this unbearable pain.

Fellow soldier, along with your death

it took my ability to catch a breath.

Fellow soldier, it will take a long while

to erase the image of that dying smile.

Fellow soldier, war is definitely not what it seems

you are at peace, I hear all the screams.

Fellow soldier, the only difference between you and me:

I'm now locked in chains and it's me that set you free.

Fallen petals in the wind... by Adele Jones of Treffgarne

Standing statue-still pressed hard against the November chill,

past and present fusing as the gulf between collides.

The whispers of lives once lived swirling amidst the crowd,

scattering in the wind as the crimson petals blow.

“Shh, it’s their two minutes of time now,” I’m told.

Cloaked backs hunched forwards and heads bent low,

her gloved hand warm and soft in mine.

As the clock slows and just a faint tick is heard,

it’s time for those who walked before to whisper their lost stories,

sensing their hearts filled with poems left untold,

feeling their inescapable fates of extraordinary deeds,

revealing unrecognised valour and courage spent,

to allow others to breathe, to listen, to touch and to see,

and to remember…

Their pain infused into our landscape and our existence.

As the haunting bugle call cuts through the sombre silence,

the present now restored,

and those in the shadows fall once more,

returning to their ageless journey,

the warm hand, gone, no longer in my grasp,

now scattered too with the falling petals red,

destined to dance eternally in the cool late autumn breeze.

She said, “Remember those no longer here, the peaceful, quiet, victorious dead.”