Poem by Giles Watson, 2014. The drawing is after Cecil Beaton’s photograph, ‘War Child’, which was first published on the cover of Life magazine, September 23rd, 1940. An explanatory note inside the magazine said: “The wide-eyed young lady on the cover is Eileen Dunne, aged 3 ¾. A German bomber whose crew had never met her dropped a bomb on a North England village. A splinter from it hit Eileen. She is sitting in the hospital. A plucky chorus of wounded children had just finished singing in the North English dialect, “Roon, Rabbit, Roon.” The reference to the skin on milk is one of the examples given by Julia Kristeva of objects which might lead to an abject response in her Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, (Trans. Leon S. Roudiez), Columbia University Press, 1982, p. 3: “When the eyes see or the lips touch that skin on the surface of milk — harmless, thin as a sheet of cigarette paper, pitiful as a nail paring — I experience a gagging sensation and, still farther down, spasms in the stomach, the belly; and all the organs shrivel up the body, provoke tears and bile, increase heartbeat, cause forehead and hands to perspire. Along with sight-clouding dizziness, nausea makes me balk at that milk-cream, separates me from the mother and father who proffer it.” This text has strongly influenced my thinking about these poems and images.


Poem by Giles Watson, 2010; revised 2014. The picture is my crude initial response to a photograph of a grieving and terrified child, scribbled out in crayon and darkened with paint applied with a toothbrush. Samar Hassan’s parents, Hussein and Camila, were both shot by U.S. troops in Tal Afar in January 2005. Soldiers on a dismounted patrol gave two warning shots to stop an approaching car, and when Hussein accelerated rather than stopping, they assumed that the vehicle was carrying an improvised explosive device, and fired into it. An early version of the song provoked a pained response from one of the soldiers involved in the incident, and whilst he may still not agree with the politics of it, I hope he feels that this new version is a more accurate representation of the way such tragedies bear upon soldiers as well as civilians. The British media at the time reported that the car had failed to stop at a checkpoint, but his personal communication denies this. This revision also takes account of what happened afterwards to Samar’s brother, who was injured in the incident and flown to America for treatment. His case was given widespread media coverage in the USA, and because of this, when he returned home to be with his sister, he was murdered by Iraqi insurgents. Chris Hondros, the photographer, was later killed whilst covering the Libyan war in Misrata. The phrase “we think they’re only pixels” is a reference to Baudrillard’s insistence that the Iraq War was a media construct. The original press photograph, by Chris Hondros, can be seen here:­7-INS-63710/12434…


Song Lyric by Giles Watson, 2011. My sources are the three videos on the WikiLeaks site, and various internet and newspaper resources on the plight of the heroic 22 year-old Private Bradley Manning, who leaked a video of the disgusting events described above, along with other documents revealing war-crimes committed by US forces in Iraq, and is now detained by the US government in conditions which have aroused the suspicion and criticism of Amnesty International and the United Nations. I have tried to stick as close as possible to the dialogue recorded on the helicopters, augmented with the testimony of Ethan McCord.


Words by Giles Watson. Music by Judith Reid


Poem by Giles Watson, 2012. Sapper John Lane was a 45 year-old miner from Tipton in Staffordshire. He and four colleagues from his colliery served at the besieged village of La Boisselle in 1915-1916, in a desperate subterranean struggle of mining and counter-mining. Neither Sapper John nor his colleagues returned. He was killed 80 feet below the surface when a German mine exploded, detonating a British charge of 5,900 pounds. For further information on La Boisselle, which has been the subject of recent archaeological excavations, see:


Poem by Giles Watson, 2013. A response to increasingly bellicose postings on a pacifist website. Pacifists too rarely extol the positive qualities of peace. Inspired by Tippett’s A Child of Our Time and Vaughan Williams’s Dona Nobis Pacem.


‘ …. as a collection [this] is probably is as close as I have come to something which expresses, on the whole, the positive qualities of peace:




 Hindsight Radio National ABC:  ‘Standing for her Convictions: the campaigns of Vida Goldstein’ 22 Feb 2009

World War One [series] Radio National ABC: ‘Hell and Healing‘ 28 June 2014