Charles Hamilton Sorley

I’ve been asked to come up with a short poem (two 4 line verses) about a deceased, under-rated / under-valued hero of Scotland. I remembered one of my favourite WW1 poets, Charles Hamilton Sorley. He was born in Aberdeen in 1895, sent to France in May 1915 and was killed in October of that year during the Battle of Loos. Tragically, he didn’t last long to say the least, but long enough to write some of the best poems of that war, including “To Germany” and “When You See Millions of the Mouthless Dead.” References to these two poems appear in my wee poem.

 Charles Hamilton Sorley
 b. 19th May 1895
 d. 13th October 1915
 You saw the millions
 and the millions more
 that followed in your war
 and the wars it spawned.
 You joined them, the spooks,                                                                                                                                           one more loss; nothing gained.
 Rest as gently as you can,
 in the darkness, thunder, rain. 

By photos,poetry and haiku by Derek Ross

I am a photographer/ poet from Dumfries in South West Scotland. I concentrate on minimalist images and prefer using an iPhone these days. As far as my writing is concerned, I usually write short poems (some in Scots dialect), hence my interest in haiku and related forms.


  1. My father gave me a book of “War Poems” edited by Brian Busby, which included several of Charles Hamilton Sorley’s poems. I understand that his last poem was recovered from his kit after his death, and includes the lines in your post, “When you see millions of mouthless dead Across your dreams in pale battalions go…”. I am in the final chapters of reading “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque. Your post added a benediction to the lives that were lost. I am delighted that Liz Gauffreau recommended your blog. By the way, a few years ago my family visited Dumfries. It is a beautiful city!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am, in turn, delighted to hear from you. Many thanks for your considered reaction. I’ve always been fascinated by the WW1 poets, very powerful and moving poems! Think my favourite (if that’s the right expression) is “Strange Meeting” by Wilfred Owen. I didn’t know that Sorley was born in Dumfries, nor that he died so young (20!). Who knows what he could have done.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I also read that Sorley attended the same school as Siegfried Sassoon. I cry every time I read Strange Meeting. I agree – who knows what these young men could have done. I remember when was my son was a cadet in the Seaforth Highlanders when he was 14 or 15 years old. Seeing him in his uniform was difficult for me because it was a reminder of the tragic consequences of war. When my father went to war in 1943, he remembers his mother playing a hymn on the piano as he walked down the road. Poetry allows us to feel the emotional nuances of things that we hopefully will never experience, and the ignite our courage to look for peaceful outcomes and solutions.


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