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