Heartless Turncoats

Dad, acting co-pilot, prepares to fly from Compton Abbas Airfield near Shaftesbury. With him are Mum and my youngest daughter, Rachel (aka Rowan).

A hundred miles to Bletchley Park
as the weather whips up a storm.
My precious cargo: Dad
a frail veteran braced to perform.

Windscreen wipers squelch a beat
as I drive through the gate
only to be brought to a halt
by an SS officer conjuring up hate.

Stern faces encased in helmets
brandish machine guns and Lugers.
Why is the German Army camped
at the secret lair of code-breakers?

Body language screams “You shall not pass”.
They force a slow, wet shuffle
through puddles; tough for an old
soldier unable to move at the double.

Bedraggled, Dad collects his thoughts
shaking inside the meeting room
as his Parkinson’s disease gets
worse in the gathering gloom.

Did Dad decipher endless Morse code
beside a remote Scottish loch
only for heartless turncoats to
agitate him years later at a road block?

What a cruel joke to play
on that silver-haired conclave
of clever men who shortened the war
and defeated Hitler the knave.

Dad addresses his brothers in arms
using comedy as an antidote
to stubborn weekend Nazis.
Steady now, he strikes just the right note.

Richard Foster
June 2017

To mark Father’s Day today I wrote this poem about Dad’s close encounter with the “German Army” when he joined fellow Second World War veterans for an annual reunion at Bletchley Park, the secret lair of the code-breakers.

Sgt Pepper landmark


Sergeant Pepper was released 50 years ago today,
adding psychedelic colours to dull and drab grey.
It’s never gone out of style,
thanks to Abbey Road studio guile.

Richard Foster
June 2017

A clerihew to mark the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles.


The Foster family at the font, from left, Jack, Thomas, Mandy, David and Harry.

Rite of passage for Thomas and Harry,
held above the stone font at the church door
waiting to be doused, ripe for a party
as family gathers like a merry corps.

Oil and water mix as the twins are named;
ritual repeated countless times before
on previous generations, proclaimed
throughout the parish, added to the lore.

Two lives begat outside their mother’s womb,
now opportunity beckons for both.
Two medical miracles primed to bloom,
brothers in arms ready to plight their troth.

Thomas and Harry may you enjoy grace
and find your true place in the human race.

Richard Foster
May 2017

Last Sunday my twin nephews Thomas and Harry Foster were Christened at St James’s Church Shaftesbury, Dorset, in a ritual that goes back to ancient times. I am privileged to be Harry’s godfather and marked the happy family occasion with this sonnet.

*Ye Olde Elm Tree

THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY: Dan Foster (right) playing at Ye Olde Elm Tree

Slip jigs and hornpipes fill a pub’s taproom
as a pure drop session steps up the pace.
Musical energy sweeps like a broom
as notes, not tied to staves, fly through the space.

Music by the people, for the people
taught to the next generation by ear
on fiddle, banjo and penny whistle.
New melodies take flight for all to hear.

These musicians are nourished by clear streams
flowing rapid and deep since ancient times
watering roots, inspiring countless dreams,
feeding a tradition with sparkling chimes.

Tankards, tunes and chat create a good craic;
once hooked by the muse, there’s no going back.

Richard Foster
May 2017

* A pub in Crossgate, Durham, that hosts a traditional music session each Monday evening. My son Dan Foster was a regular when studying folk music at Newcastle University. He returned last month when visiting England from his home in the USA. He had not played with these guys for more than two years, yet slipped into their ensemble playing seamlessly. I suppose that’s what happens when you are fluent in the language of music.


Fate decreed that you start this odyssey
but what navigator set your course
when your gigantic mass slipped in the sea
to become an object of latent force?

What attracts you to the open ocean?
Do you want to explore the Atlantic?
Does poetry lurk in your slow motion?
Is a wanderer’s life so fantastic?

Are you aware mariners fear you?
Your white bulk reminds them of Moby Dick.
They abhor how you clog up the deep blue.
Are you part of some malevolent trick?

The tide draws you on, pulled by the Moon,
a leviathan immune to harpoon.

Richard Foster
April 2017

The Duke of Edinburgh opens the Worldwide Fund for Nature’s HQ

The logo designed by Sir Peter Scott

VIPs select nibbles from a tray;
armed with a press badge, pencil and notebook,
I pluck up courage to approach my prey.
His Royal Highness stops speaking to look;
he had been chatting to Sir Peter Scott,
who lost his father in an icy lair.
I’m now exposed in another tight spot;
like quarry locked in his cross-hairs, I stare.
No need to flinch, just ask him the question:
“What’s your favourite conservation scheme?”
“Myself” he says without hesitation,
confirming he holds hacks in low esteem.
The Duke was there to open Panda House;
a sportsman who bagged tiger, stag and grouse.

Richard Foster
November 2016

Working as a reporter for a news agency in early 1980s, I was sent to Godalming, Surrey, to cover the official opening of Panda House, HQ of the Worldwide Fund For Nature (WWF).


Image from the Imperial War Museum archive in London.

He cared for carrier pigeons
in the mud and blood of Flanders
but didn’t look after himself

and succumbed to pneumonia
during the final push, eleven
days before the guns fell silent.

No pigeon delivered this news
just a telegram boy pedalling
while bells rang out the Armistice.

Her hair turned white as she read,
comforting their teething baby.
She felt the pain every Poppy Day.

She didn’t fancy keeping his
pigeons after that.

Richard Foster
February 2017

In memory of Richard Blundell, Pioneer 204570, Royal Engineers (Carrier Pigeon Service), who died on Friday 01/11/1918, aged 27. Buried at Etaples Military Cemetery.