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Will Harvey and Yorkley

 

 

Frederick William Harvey

FW 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.

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.

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. Leonard Clark acknowledged him as his inspiration, ‘a brave unshackled spirit’ and observed: ‘The Foresters loved every inch of him’. 

 

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.