Naming of Parts by Henry Reed
Sue Butler’s choice number 3.
Read the poem here
I was not literally a war baby. However both my parents were nineteen when the war began, my mother a clerk in an insurance office in Holborn (I can barely imagine what that was like for an active teenager) and grieving her beloved elder brother who died very suddenly three months before war was declared. Her WAAF service, which culminated in following the army across Belgium to Berlin, remains to this day the most vivid part of her life. The war was part of my childhood.
I love the imagery and music of Henry Reed’s poem, definitely a favourite during my reading aloud in the bath days. I think I found in it a way to relate to my own feelings about war, the way I understood what my mother was telling me but recognised how different her perspective was from mine. The poignancy and waste of war were not part of her stories. I was a teenager and there is a certain romance in this poem which no doubt appealed too, perhaps even a whisper of flower power woven into protests against the Vietnam war.