When people consider war poetry, they tend to think of the famous First World War poets such as Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon or Edmund Blunden.
Some of the most noted poets of the First World War did not survive the conflict – but those who did would continue to write, reflecting their earlier experiences but within the context of the Second World War.
Edmund Blunden was offered a scholarship to study at Oxford in 1914 – but instead he enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment. He took part in some of the worst fighting of the First World War on the Somme and at Ypres.
He took up his scholarship after the war, becoming an academic. In 1945, Blunden was a full time writer and would have seen VE Day as providing the perfect opportunity to use his poetry to reflect on the true meaning of victory.
His unpublished poem V Day is part of IWM’s collection and forms a thoughtful reflection on the nature of victory in 1945. Above all, he concentrates on the struggle that so many had endured over the previous six years, finishing on the recognition that ‘We have come through’.
Extracts from the poem were read by Prime Minister Boris Johnson as part of the national commemorations of the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
Through ‘Voices of War’, a short selection of oral history interviews revealing first-hand experiences of the end of the Second World War that will be available on our website on 8th May to mark VE Day, IWM is exploring the meaning of Victory in 1945 and the ways in which it remains relevant today. This is the most appropriate time to highlight and widen digital access to Blunden’s Victory poem which, together with other personal testimony in the way of oral history, poetry, letters and diaries, reflects an individual response to warfare.
Read the poem V Day, written in Edmund Blunden’s own hand, below.