The F. W. Harvey Society

An image showing F. W. Harvey and the Memorial Window at St Peter's Church, Minsterworth
F. W. Harvey and details from the Harvey Memorial Window at St Peter’s Church, Minsterworth, Gloucestershire.

The F W Harvey Society is based in North Gloucestershire, U.K. and holds meetings and events throughout the year to celebrate, explore and enjoy the work and countryside of Will Harvey.
New members are welcome.

The 1914-1918 War

Frederick William Harvey (1888-1957) achieved fame as a War Poet, his first verses were written while he served in the Great War. He was a friend of Ivor Gurney, the poet and songwriter, and Herbert Howells, the Lydney composer – all three were from Gloucestershire; Will Harvey was known as ‘The Laureate of Gloucestershire’ and ‘The Forest Poet’.

Ducks

Harvey’s best-known poem is Ducks, which was a popular inclusion in many anthologies, but he is also respected for other works such as ‘In Flanders’, put to music by Ivor Gurney, ‘If We Return’, ‘The Horses’, ‘Spring 1924’, ‘Quietly I will Bide Here’ and lighter verse such as ‘The Catch’ – cricket was one of Harvey’s passions.

War Service

Harvey was a ‘citizen-soldier’ of the Great War, joining a Territorial Battalion and inspiring one of the first trench newspapers, the Fifth Gloucester Gazette. Here his verse captured the longing for home, the camaraderie of his friends and humorous insights that made soldiering bearable. Decorated for bravery and then commissioned as an officer he was finally incarcerated as a Prisoner of War until the Armistice.

In the community

Harvey came from a Minsterworth farming family, settling in the village of Yorkley for the last thirty years of his life. He became a solicitor, specialising in defending those who could not normally afford legal representation. He was deeply committed to remembering his fallen comrades, advocating for veterans of both Wars and standing up to injustices.

Broadcaster and Lawyer

Harvey became a broadcaster but was most at home in his local village, commonly found in local pubs and participating in skittles, choirs and village life. He was keen to explain the law and literature, and to help anyone with their troubles. Author and poet  Leonard Clark acknowledged him as his inspiration, ‘a brave unshackled spirit’ and observed: ‘The Foresters loved every inch of him’.

Generosity

The Forest of Dean abounded with stories of his generosity and unassuming ways. Clark observed that when Harvey died he was a “poor man as the world understood riches, but how many he enriched with his simple goodness and fidelity”. Harvey’s life has been written about since the 1980’s, and there has been a recent welcome resurgence of interest in his literature. His words and his outlook are resonant to many concerned with justice, the countryside and remembrance.