Charles Causley Centenary 2017

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great Cornish poet Charles Causley, born on 24 August 1917 during WW1.

Causley was born at Launceston in Cornwall and was educated there and at a teacher training college in Peterborough.

His father died in 1924 from long-standing injuries from the First World War.

Largely because of this, Causley had to leave school at 15 to earn money for the family, working as an office boy during his early years.

He enlisted in the Royal Navy and served as a coder during the Second World War, aboard the destroyer HMS Eclipse in the Atlantic and later in the Pacific as part of the crew of the aircraft carrier HMS Glory.

Causley later wrote about his wartime experiences in his poetry, and also in a book of short stories, Hands to Dance and Skylark.

Charles Causley Wikipedia

He served in the Navy in WW2 and there was a strong element of the futility and waste of war in his poetry.

About 15 to 20 years ago I was considering writing a short book about the First World War’s effects on life in Cornwall (a job since ably done by Pete London).

I was struck reading Causley’s poetry with its biographical elements by several poems about returning servicemen in the area after the First World War, shellshocked and to be pitied. I was planning to write to or interview Causley about this, Launceston not being far away. However  things got busy and it never happened, partly because Causley died soon after in 2003.

I grew up in the asylum belt on the edge of London, my mum whispering to me that the asylums were full of shellshocked veterans. There was a suggestion that it had affected my own family.

This must have been the same not only for Causley’s Launceston, many towns and villages in Cornwall but for many communities such as workplaces. Zoos and botanic garden staff served and those who survived must have come back different people for the experience of serving in WW1 and WW2.

Remembering Charles Causley, born 24 August 2017.

Posted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens, 24 August 2017.

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