14 - A Series of Short Films

Life on the Home Front
A Series of Short Films

14_small is a series of creative short films by Junction 15 in response to the poems of Staffordshire’s Poet Laureate 2013-14, Tom Wyre on the theme of life on the Home Front in WWI.

This magnetic collection of poems and short films is a combination of live action, archive footage and superb animation filmed by Emmy Award winners Junction 15, with students from the BA (Hons) Animation, BA(Hons) Stop Motion Animation and Puppet Making courses at Staffordshire University.

14 was commissioned by Staffordshire Libraries and Arts in partnership with Archives and Heritage.

The Staffordshire Poet Laureate performs regularly at spoken word events within the county and acts as an ambassador for poetry, promoting attractions, events and activities that are specifically recognised as being associated with Staffordshire.

14 was commissioned by Staffordshire Libraries and Arts and in partnership with Heritage and Archives.
For more information please visit our website www.staffordshire.gov.uk/arts



Staffordshire’s Poet Laureate role is to initiate poetry events in the county and for people to enjoy and engage with poetry.

The Staffordshire Poet Laureate performs regularly at spoken word events within the county and acts as an ambassador for the poetry, promoting attractions, events and items that are specifically recognised as being associated with Staffordshire.


Tom Wyre

Tom Wyre was Staffordshire’s Poet Laureate 2013-14 who appeared at the prestigious O’Bheal festival in Cork in 2013 and has featured in many other events. In May 2014, he performed at the 4-day poetry festival in Laugharne and the associated Dylan Thomas (DT100) celebrations.

He has recently completed a number of special commissions such as new WW1 related poetry for the National Memorial Arboretum, The Great War Staffordshire project with his acclaimed collection called 14, Hanley CQ development 2015 and the children’s educational charity Beanstalk.
His latest book complete with CD is called
Through The Lucid Door.


Junction 15

Junction 15 are an Emmy award winning film production and internet video marketing company based near Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, and operating throughout the West Midlands, UK and overseas.

They are experienced and talented filmmakers produce creative, broadcast quality films that engage, inform and inspire audiences.



The Poems

Watch the full film


Individual Poems



He, She, It.
Whatever shape taken,
Morphed as autumn approached,
Sable black, silken like quivering shadows,
Shifting between melting moon and shrouding clouds,
Soaked its soul into the rooves of sleeping Salt.
Beyond in ushered trees and fields,
Everywhere a sky’s scream,
Yet something hovered in silence.
Cloaked, a face veiled in tears,
Not for a lament, just empty.
Spread across the days,
Deftly clutching the hours,
Time asleep in death,
Resisting the awakening.
No consciousness of ill,
Just the way of worlds.
A scythe and hourglass,
Sharpened and broken,
Fire and war on the horizon.
He, She, It,
Warmed its hands,
Salivated with anticipation.




August 1914,
Autumn with a different face,
A mask with a secreted smile,
A new guise in something dark.
Cheers and youth running to the call,
A call for arms, brave souls,
A cull for all their hearts and limbs.
Recruits eyed in sights,
Blinking from their wrappers,
For round the corner crossfire,
Queued in rows to wear green,
Single filed like numbers on a page.
Lemmings over white cliffs,
Dive into the unknown,
For an abyss like trench,
For a gun-metal fish that swims in tears,
For clouds torn by propellers in tomorrow’s hours.

Such a joy to join,
A chance to halt the Hun,
Maybe some mythical monster.
Innocence lost in future kicks,
Over a football, a swig of schnapps,
A bitter sweet bite of fry,
Lost upon a general’s frown.
Handshakes soon over,
Shell shocking shakes take over.
Three young Tommies on a match,
Dragging smoke spied by snipers,
Creeping gun-smoke snares its catch.
Gore given up at fever pitch,
Cloaked up clouds choke the sky,
Black as pitch,
Time burnt wielding its scythe.

Leaves falling along with dreams,
Bodies in a ditch, lain out and threshed like corn,
Peppered by machine gun, assaulted by gasps,
A harvest spilled for a blood filled moon.
Shadows strewn over ploughed fields
With sanguine seeds sown,
Since the doves have flown,
For four years of winter.

Some party that started out with fireworks,
Chrysanthemums in starbursts,
Ended with the flower dead-headed and crushed,
Under white hot glares.
Our sanity lost then blinded by flares.

A Blizzard Rides Through



Pomp and circumstance,
A celebrated colonel,
Cheering romps into Salt,
Astride silver skin steers his steed,
For this blizzard unfastens every window,
Blasts out every opened door,
A call to man and boy.
A military pied piper on high,
Men and boys rally to the cry,
A bayonet edged glint in his eye,
A punch of mirth bolted into the sky.
Thousands around answer the salutes,
Salutations for king and country nearby,
Noted in song he whistles his tune,
Flutes, bugles, trumpets revel in their chatter,
Interrupted by drums, bass and snares clatter,
Triangles and the odd bassoon.
Crowds hail hearty on the winds of change,
As an infant in its mother’s arms cries out;
Wisdom from the mouth of a babe.
The blood rises through heartbeats,
Spirits so high with pride they must fill,
To spill as tears that never dried,
Festering on stone within four years.
Young and old alike charmed
To avoid snowy feathers.
The familiar years of battle echo,
Their trumpeted circumstances,
Marching aside hooves both equine and cloven,
Woven on nearby fields.
Dancing with the drums,
Artillery thuds to tap out the elegy of war.

A Mother’s Musings



I’ve never been religious, but if it helps to keep my boys safe,
Stuck in the mud in Flanders, then I will pray for them.
Years only seem a tick of the clock and a beat of my heart;
Just yesterday when they were in my arms.
Now they’re away, a call to arms to fight,
King, country, a flag and a pointed finger,
From a military lord says it all tonight.
Guess what though Mr Kitchener?
I’ll tell you right now I need them more!
To call me Mum and let me know that they are fine,
I’ll sit here by the fireside and keep the flames alive.
Watching them, holding the hopes in a candle nearby,
Ducking the bullets with them in my worried mind,
Sharing the horror of shells with my every step,
Holding their hearts in mine, beating away my tears,
As a mother I would be there for them to be here.

The Belgian Boy



My name is Alexander Maes,
You won’t know me;
I’m just a boy,
Torn up inside with the turmoil,
Ripped away from my home.
An unnoted letter on a page,
A page called Leuven,
Misread by Germany,
Discarded in outrage.
They burnt the books,
Libraries smashed, houses burnt.
My father taken to another place,
Bullets despatching him,
With other franc-tireurs.
My sweet mother,
Her smile straightened out from her,
Some ink stains blotted out from my mind.
My brother stolen,
Sent to them for forced labour.
I fled against my will,
My aunt instilling necessity in my bones.
Crammed me on a train,
Squashed in a seat,
My brain grated on sounds from trundling wheels.
Smoke from the chimney rushing past windows,
Steaming ghosts of memories,
My windows on a shifted world.

Here now as a refugee in Salt,
I look at the sun and for the sun.
A farmer’s wife with windswept smile;
A mother missing her boys,
Takes me under her soft wing,
An unconditional love,
One for this orphan.
Maybe one day, just maybe,
I may see the sun once more.

Letters Never Sent



Dear mum don’t worry, I sleep with the knitted woollen socks that you made
For me to keep my soles warm,
To beat off trench foot,
To cheer my soul.
A smile creeps out from the starving knapsack of his dreams,
And nips him on the nose to remind him that it’s winter 1915,
Snarling with the wind between the trees.
Lice crawl to itch and bite with the running rats,
But his mind parks them in a cage for the sake of mum.

My darling wife, your arms fold around me,
A willing captive behind my sleep like swan’s wings,
Caressing my heart as you hear my snore to dance out
The waltz of late night hours in your bosom of dreams
That drums upon my ears.
I would beg it be your heartbeat,
To drown out the thuds and thunder,
Endless shells, the dance of hell.
Your cherry lips sweet on mine,
No gravestone on your tongue, just juicy joy.
Our heart beats as one for our child to listen to,
Our child mirrors a hope on the way……
A growing arrival ……

Oh Lord, this field of long razors churned to something beyond redemption,
Makes my hairs stand on end like tree trunks with the shakes,
Labyrinths, streets of trenches, blown out guts in muddy gutters,
Beyond the rancour of butterflies chopped by tank tracks.
Oh crikey…… Gas! Gas! Where’s my mask?
Creeping noxious mists,
Spinning their cruel hands around my throat,
Burning my breath,
Wading, so no days to parade through my life now,
Pervading waves of pea green and foaming puss yellow,
The depths of a darkest grain of sand found in my eye.
Time waves goodbye sinking in the blinking of a question.

The Lost Brave



Roaming the mud pie whirlpools through black lilies,
Replaced by bloody poppies like floral blobs,
Seeping from a bandaged land and torn
Soil cut and tormented by twirling tracers,
Razors amidst the bruised sky.
A brazen bleeding backdrop canvassing cries,
A death knell sounded upon draping clouds,
Thundering iron clatters the stars in bursts.

Trees with branches shaken, limbs strewn,
A son forsaken, forgotten soon.
The sun stained opaque with mustard tears,
Strained rain screams out crimson,
Trenches and tunnels to the underworld,
Shuddering stares, wooden stairs cracked and bare,
Howitzer horrors and fiery flares,
Forked tongues lick imperial ghost of lies,
A snake never buried in time for Christmas.

Our soul marches and trudges in a trance,
Wandering in between night and day,
A twilight in war torn time.
Swirling bullets, scythe-like sink into the wind and make it howl;
Oblivious boy shocked by spat out shells
Whistles on the breath of heaven to drown bells of hell.

No sweet birdsong to greet this shredded day,
Mourning crow calls unanswered, float away,
With future seeds scattered on ploughed khaki fields.
Medals ribboned to flow in the wind from his lover’s kiss,
Amiss with a smile, she sheds a tear as he falls from reach.
His eyes look upwards to fly a kite as in prayer,
Mercy please find me before the despair,
Too late for his dreams and bones.

Then all you can now hear in Ypres is silence,
The silence of innocence shocked,
Rocked to sleep through the breeze,
As shame peers down upon braying peers,
Choking back jubilance as they gaze at lost leonine hearts.

The Farmer’s Tale



I plough my own furrows in eager, begging soil,
Along with the wrinkles in my frown.
It is Autumn as you see in Salt.
The leaves of trees in my fields,
Fall like folded pages from a sun yellowed book.
My good old Shires George & Billy long gone,
Other horses taken for the “Great” war,
Dragging supplies no doubt in bigger furrows,
Trenches for a different harvest, again no doubt.
Either way it is always blood, sweat, tears.
As a farmer, I have to stay,
As a man and father of my two boys away
I have to say, nay shout within earshot,
I need to be there this very day.
I want to help them in their fight,
Guide them through this endless night,
Avoid scathing looks sometimes,
From those handing out feathers,
Like they’re flying out of fashion.
No doubt some poor soul is missing their wings.

Others who are stuck here face other mines,
Men as brave moles chipping the seams,
Keep the home fires burning and beyond.
For souls carried on the wind through streams,
Poor bloody voices fired in screams,
Some blood stained harvest,
The still grasses still drip.
But what would I know?
I’m just a farmer,
Tending my corn,
Stacking the sheaves,
Counting falling leaves,
Praying for my sons and those unborn.

A Swiss Baker



We now live in a misted time.
The steam off my ovens on windows,
A metaphor for the world.
Fingers pointed at me and snarls aimed
For sharing sounds that I had learnt then grown.
Accents are interesting, but sometimes divisive.
I live in fire branded years, with smoke and haze.
As always, it seems it’s not what is said,
But how it’s said and how it sounds.

Xenophobia like a steam train in life,
Gathers speed along with the bloodstream,
Churning swirling smoke as in my chimney,
Obscuring clarity, vision and sanity,
On a derailed track leading to my door.
I feel like my life, my eyes have been shattered.
Is it not as clear as the broken glass to see?
Did they see their reflections as they threw the red bricks?

My canopy torn, daubed with ignorance “Get Out Kraut!”
From bruised windows, no value seen,
For now just hard shaped shrapnel.
I pleaded I’m Swiss not German,
I even nailed my birth certificate to the door.
Surely now proof of “innocence” an outlet for reason.
I’m here to bake bread for my adopted kith and kin,
Neighbours and customers,
A few not so kind or loyal any more.
The tempers flare as hot as my kitchen,
The anger rises with the kneaded dough.
So metamorphic for sense to be needed,
It can mould in one and change.
Pity that the opinions of some are not so made of flour.

Fear wishes to push me into a pigeon hole that I don’t fit.
I fear that the world in 1916 is as cuckoo as the little bird in my clock.
Shards of glass sprinkled like rough cut diamonds,
Scattered like something lost in my village of Salt.
Fractured stars glinting in the moonlight on my shop.
On the pavement, snow lined and frosted,
Lies a clear jigsaw that once read
Peter Geis, Master Baker.

White Feathers



A young lady in wide brimmed hat and feathers,
A beauty on the face of it,
About my age, approaches,
Unsure at first, she then runs,
As I hope for a kiss or smile or at least hello.
I stagger half back as she plants a white feather
Pressed hot into my hand.
Coward she brands me without reason,
Its softness suddenly feels hard,
A plume that cuts me like a razor would,
Grabbing a hand of salt.

She obviously hadn’t noticed my hobble,
My exemption,
Except I’m not exempt from my life,
If she reads my sentence.
She didn’t look past my blue suit,
Its world weary wear and a tear at the seams.
She didn’t read my thoughts, but then how could she?
She doesn’t witness my nightmares
As I stagger through the daylight,
Imagining the crossfire, the blasts that rip into my silence,
The shelled insults that shock my spine and make me shake,
Even when a shotgun chases the crows.
Now I’m shaking for a different reason,
A mixture of anger, sadness.

She hasn’t seen the lines of men with bandages for faces,
Hands on each of their shoulders for guidance,
No light you see in No Man’s Land,
Crosses like pins on a torn patchwork of mud,
No time to sleep a wink on such a quilt,
No cushion, unless you shake death’s hand,
Shaped as a bullet or shell or something yellow and drifting.

She’s never heard the dance of hell,
The whistle before we dash over the top,
The final whistles of mortar falling as you dive into blackness
Into the void.
Men, some my friends poised on fire steps, never to move again,
Machine guns mowing them down, cutting their heads like flowers,
Slashing their torsos as a blade through blades of grass,
Men bleeding like poppies,
Some frozen in searchlights, paralyzed in body and mind,
Screaming upon barbed wire, scrambled dancing with death.
Some begging with bowels hanging out and stuffing gone.
You say I’ve got no guts,
Young woman unknown,
To me a coward comes in other forms.

She didn’t smell the rancour of phlegm fizzing mists,
Plumes that burn your throat and lungs,
The rancid clouds that left mates choked and stiff,
As they drowned stumbling through the smoke.

She didn’t taste the bitter mud as I fell in numbness,
My face blinded, one eye in darkness to sense death.

She hasn’t felt the weight of expectation,
The burden of carrying your brother to his grave.
Thankfully she hasn’t touched the darkest clouds,
I hope that she never does.

The Dawn Casts My Shadow



My mind pushes back the dawn,
Eyes fixed on an easterly door,
An eye in the sky I wish to stay shut,
My heart tied to time’s ticking clock.
One day I don’t wish to see the sun.
No good can come of this,
Someone deserved, tell me what I’ve done.

Here in twilight, memories and dreams stir,
Solitude tugs at my mother’s hopes for me there.
A forced march to step from my nemesis,
A cursed luck to tread upon ghostly glare.
This bloody, muddy field lit by phosphorous,
No land for any man,
Let alone a boy.

Just seventeen, I lied about my time,
My age grew a beard eager to fight.
Bloody carnage, shell shocked,
Crazed by war’s madness;
My wondering wits upped and took flight.

Here I stand with hands tied,
Propped to attention, my last post,
Head bowed but not in shame,
Eyes trapped in a bandage.
Rifles with thousand yard stares,
Cold steel fingers point in accusation.
Silence eager to spit out spite,
Biting, smoking muzzles.
A sentence meted out without words,
Justice discarded on a summary whistle.
My heart drums fast to drown my ear.
I ask once more why we are here,
Rhetorical pause, answered by a bullet.
To deafen the mouthed pleas of “No”!
Here I now lie,
Hands no longer tied.
Flower of youth scythed on windy sighs,
Flung with my dreams into this shallow pit.

The dawn sun still casts my shadow,
A sleeping soul stands over his double.
My fate staring back into the past.
Never white feathers, just falling snow.

Silver Cigars



An express train floats rigid overhead,
Heads under beds, even fear spreads in the dead.
These Z’s have no time for dreams of sleepy sand,
Hum drumming, a humungous hornet,
A nightmare buzzing, a roaring silver cigar.
Its quarry is Fenton’s coal and steel,
Carving the rock to fuel and prop up war.
Superimposed against the sky a great silhouette,
Suspended in the searchlights,
Slipping out of mists,
Raiding without the flinching moon.
Bombs released whistling upon rooves,
Slate cracking shrieking for the sky to fall in.
Windows shatter and clatter their shards,
Blast furnaces ripping with additional blast,
Neighbours slipping into gardens,
In their minds swatting the shadow,
With rolled up newspapers,
Wishing for the balloon to fall to earth,
Like a punctured whale thrashing a propelled tail.
Instead the doom laden ghost slips behind clouds,
A whirring ghost ship muffled in misty shrouds,
Slinks away after dropping death,
Like an airborne thief in the night.

Bomb Girl



A daughter from a farm in Salt,
Men away, patriotism and a heavier purse,
Munitionettes yellowed like canaries,
A different sort of mine for them to see,
Ones with fuses, working hard crushing powders,
No powder to cover this face.
Essential work albeit for a sad cause,
They say a fight to end all wars,
Best not to think too much of it.
Dexterity used to preening hair and plucking eyebrows,
Applying lipstick, red turned to revenge,
Working to apply the kiss of death,
Factories filling shells with pitch,
Broom handles and mallets,
Acid fumes and breathed in blackness.
Twisting the fuse, detonator blocks, innocent casing.

An iron mask diffusing dreams,
Stares at the closing trees and spits its shell,
A cuckoo that spins through the sky,
Batters the fathers as babies cry,
Head butting hell for birds shriek and burst from nests.
A different sort of garden dug and hoed,
A radical blossom blown,
A gnarled seed sown,
Trenches raked for the home front and the carrots topped to toe.
Cordite a spiteful perfume,
Mothers and wives forced to maim sons,
Albeit those of other brothers.

No Sugar



First sugar, no sweetness left to sprinkle, expectant mouths
Wartime and principles cane the taste, rationed lives
Canned U boat pressure, dogged merchant navy
Unsure queues chained to hungered news
Make do Salt, but you can’t eat words
No hoarding, be fair, share out
No pins or maggots here
Count out every
Last grain




Conscripted by circumstance,
Funnelled into a war spun web,
I had no choice.
I trained to be a teacher,
A true calling,
Nein, Nein, No.
In fact I know I am a teacher,
Chalks and blackboards borrowed for other lessons.
I teach history, now assured that we never learn.
Handed a rifle, ordered into uniform,
Now swapped for another.
From Dusseldorf, my name is Franz.
Not Fritz, Kraut or Hun,
Not someone choosing to shoot or bomb you into a box.
How the hell did the sky turn upside down?
Rattle me and spit me out to sit in here as a prisoner,
In Brocton’s tree lined bars and cross wires,
Under a tower’s beady eye.
I’ve given up one set of chains for another yoke;
On a farm, replacing horses, I plough this field,
Digging other trenches, but at least the air is clean here,
Free from mustard and here the birds sing.
The unnatural quiet of the Western Front,
Yells loudly in between pounding shells,
More so since the birds have flown.

I am a man of words,
Now my tongue sleeps,
Lost for them.
A man and not a number,
A prisoner of conscience,
Haunted by men marching towards me in rows,
Laughing and singing those first days,
Buttons polished like suns.
For all of the world,
Their dreams in their kitbags left behind.
They just walked towards me and stared,
Pipes playing in the air.
I might as well have shot at mirrors,
Taunted always by the pull of triggers.

My innocence cracked as I also died that day,
Inside I knew wrong, but instincts are strong,
For preservation, my soul sold out,
Clambering from an open box.

I have three loves back home,
My wife, my mother and my fatherland.
My biggest love here is my love of life.

I’m now here until the end,
At least until the bug strikes.
As I said to you,
I just wanted to be a teacher.

Armistice and Arrivals



1918, sanity arrives along with a baby’s cry,
A gasp for air from a new born child,
A last gasp in time for a nation’s hopes,
A world rocked in a displaced cradle,
Escaped madness capable of disbelief,
Now gets its tilt back in line,
For the sun or at least some light to shine.
With old men decorated in a siding,
In a train of cut glass and pride.
Permission for peace signed,
Yet none needed for war four years ago.
The brightest cheers for a grey November dawn,
111111 starts to echo and gather pace,
Newspapers and smiles spin in every tongue,
An armistice albeit too late for some that day.
They’re coming home, they’re coming home
From clawed and bitten land, sea and air.
Rifles in the ditch where ones had fought,
Thought, hoped, prayed, dreamt and slept,
Some are still sleeping there.
Behind the doors, you can still hear the cheer,
The cheers and glasses clanking and clinking,
Laughs in a bar, sounds buried for some time.
Mirth seeping through from the Holly Bush,
Ale, wine, dancing and song deafening the drums,
This time different drums beat with the heart and feet,
A warmth in the walls missing for years.
Outside in the crisping night that flickers in the fire of stars,
A different form of shell and firework.
Wilder celebrations whistle and burst,
Pyrotechnic acrobats flare their nostrils,
Bouquets and wheels spin,
Balloons, roman candles, rockets,
Somersault in Salt’s sky with aluminium silver,
Candescent calcium oranges, copper blues,
Bright lithium reds and barium greens,
No phosphorous this time, no evil seen.
Beaming faces with searchlight eyes,
Look out and admire the heavenly stage,
Count their blessings and raise their arms,
For those who laid down theirs.
Calling the men and women back home.

The Arrival



A telegram arrives,
Paper coffin hermetically sealed,
Stamped with wings and ferried through sorrow.
A punched out note that sinks its fangs into conscience,
A punch into one’s senses from a steel blue second,
An envelope that wraps up a wife or a mother’s world.
Three leaden bombshells masquerading as letters,
Sounds that draw tears, tear out and tangle heartstrings,
Tied by crushed barbed wire on Flanders fields.
Syllables that twist the knife and break the heart,
Cause the smiles to curl down into cries,
Make eyes well and thoughts run backwards.
With broken clocks, memories cast their ghosts.
Whispers turn to echoes,
Departing river flows from laughter,
Through happy days;
Such reverie now turned to nightmare.
A deafening cacophony of voices all shout,
Scream from the ether and bang your skull.
A statement that should never be,
An epitaph for youth who paid the price;
A wasted land where no man breathes.
The ones who packed away their troubles for good,
Those two pennies laid to rest,
Those three stones of words with gravest faces.
“Lost In Action”.




He, She, It.
Whatever shape taken,
Looked furtively around and fed upon the aftermath.
Slinking in the shadows of itself,
It had gorged upon bleakness, ignorance and greed.
Knowing that despite this now brief respite,
Another day would come,
Tomorrow, sometime soon, sure for a year later,
A war of a different kind, at first too tiny to see.
He, She, It.
Hid behind a seed in time,



Poems and narration by Tom Wyre. Films by Junction 15.

Animated Films

A Blizzard Rides Through: Directed by Eloise White. Animation & Design: Andy Bell, Kristy Legg, Eloise White, Jonny Lazarus. Sound Assistant Jim Forsyth.The Belgian Boy: Animated by Naomi Blakeway, Paul Murphy, Tracy Dunn. Narrated by Matthew Weaver.Letters Never Sent: Sound Design Adrian Lees.The Lost Brave: Animation & Effects Chris Owen, Backgrounds Jack Gooden.Bomb Girl: Animated by Darcy Trafalgar, Siddhanth Shetty, Lewis Jacobs. Narrated by Meg Ellis.

Live Action Films

Mothers Musings: Narrated by Maria Hazelwood. Starring Elizabeth Lane. The Farmers Tale: Archive footage from Staffordshire Film Archive. A Swiss Baker: Starring Jonathan Patten. White Feathers: Narrated by Jordan Hammersley. Starring Anthony Phillips. The Dawn Cast My Shadow: Narrated by James Morton. Starring Charlie Wright. POW: Starring Gary Salt. Armistice & Arrivals: Archive footage Staffordshire Film Archive, Imperial War Museum Free Archive. The Arrival: Starring Elizabeth Lane.

Commissioned by Staffordshire Libraries and Arts – Staffordshire County Council.
Exhibition and digital design by Meddings Associates.