John Pudney--British


John Pudney
(1909-1977)

 

Prior to the Second World War Pudney worked as a radio producer and scriptwriter for BBC.  In 1940 he joined the RAF as a war correspondent.  As a squadron leader, he served in Africa, the Mediterranean and France.  “For Johnny,” one of the most popular poems to come out of the war was written by Pudney on the back of an envelope during a London air raid in 1941.  Following the war, Pudney became a reviewer for the Daily Express, and editor of News Review.  In his life time he produced twenty collections of poetry, a string of novels, short stories, children’s books, and two plays.  His non-fiction writing included an official history of the Battle of Malta.


Combat Report

"Just then I saw the bloody Hun"
You saw the Hun? You, light and easy,
Carving the soundless daylight. "I was breezy
When I saw that Hun." Oh wonder
Pattern of stress, of nerve poise, flyer,
Overtaking time. "He came out under
Nine-tenths cloud, but I was higher."
Did Michelangelo aspire,
Painting the laughing cumulus, to ride
The majesty of air. " He was a trier
I'll give him that, the hum." So you covert
Ultimate sky o air speed, drift and cover;
Sure with the tricky tools of God and lover.
"I let him have a sharp four-second squirt,
Closing to fifty yards. He went on fire."
Your deadly petals painted, you exert
A simple stature. Man-high, without pride,
You pick your way through heaven and the dirt.
"He burnt out in the air; that's how the poor sod died."

 

For Johnny

Do not despair
For Johnny-head-in-air;
He sleeps as sound
As Johnny underground.

Fetch out no shroud
For Johnny-in-the-cloud;
And keep your tears
For him in after years.

Better by far
For Johnny-the-bright-star,
To keep your head,
And see his children fed.