Teenager's poem chosen for Remembrance Day

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The Independent Online

For Rebecca Sullivan, it was just a piece of homework. But the 13-year-old's ode to the fallen so moved workers at the Royal British Legion that it has been selected from thousands to lead the Armistice Day commemorations this Saturday.

Yesterday, the teenager said that she had gone from being "extremely nervous to just a bit nervous" at the prospect of reading her poem entitled "There Lie Forgotten Men" in front of a huge audience.

She had, she said, been inspired by images of dead soldiers in the First World War trenches during studies into the subject at Highlands School in north London.

"They were just lying there and nothing was happening apart from the bombs you could hear. In a way it makes you think, 'I am glad I am not there and feel very sorry for the people who were'," she said.

The youngster, who has never written verse before, was compared to First World War poets including Rupert Brooke by workers at the British Legion.

She seemed a bit confused by the suggestion: "That's amazing. I don't really know who these people are because they are from quite a while ago but it is really flattering. It really is quite weird. I thought it was just a piece of homework but everyone else said it really moves you."

It was her teacher, Caron Fitzgerald, who first spotted her talent and, having checked it was all Rebecca's work, passed it on to the Legion.

"Rebecca's poem was just different. I didn't have a thought when I was reading it, I had a feeling. It was very, very striking. I told her so and she just shrugged her shoulders."

Ms Fitzgerald said that she had been stunned by the enthusiastic response from her young pupils to the subject. She added: "It inspired everyone. The kids have responded amazingly well. I have got a wall of poetry in my class room and have run out of space."

Stuart Gendall, a director at the Legion, said that Rebecca's work was chosen from around 10,000 poems sent in as part of their school programme.

"It struck me and my colleagues as being particularly poignant. The imagery was very effective and it had a lot of maturity for a 13-year-old."

He said such projects proved that Remembrance Day was still relevant to young people, especially at a time when our servicemen and women continued to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. "You can just imagine images get through. There are a huge number of young people who have family serving today. They can't help but see the conflict that is around us."

Rebecca will read her work at 10.30am on Saturday before "silence in the square", a mass two-minute silence in Trafalgar Square.

As well as Rebecca's recital, there will be live performances by the Christmas number one hopefuls the All Angels, and Charterhouse School Choir. The GMTV host Ben Shephard will count down to 11am, when the nation will fall silent before the two minutes is broken by the customary reveille from a lone bugler, and an RAF fly-past of four Typhoon aircraft. Those present will be invited to place poppies in fountains on the square.

From 'There Lie Forgotten Men'

She stands there alone

At the edge of the silent place

And she is shocked

New wars brew and these forgotten men

Will play no part in them

The dead silence warn no ears but hers

In great halls, in moments of great decision

What they fought for is forsaken

And by day's end new gravestones

Appear on the blood red ground

She finds what she seeks

'Sgt John Malley Age 27'

His life brutally ended

And she stands by his grave

But he can give no answers

And she weeps for him

For the empty hole he left behind

And for the new emptiness

Soon to join the black chasm.

And her tears join the flood.

By Rebecca Sullivan