Men openly had their handkerchiefs to their eyes. There aren’t many occasions when such behaviour is acceptable, but at Never Such Innocence, a commemoration of the First World War mounted at Australia House, it was practically de rigueur. That was a measure of its success. As is the fact that discussions are under way for repeat performances to be mounted at Canada House, India House and New Zealand House. The poems and diary extracts had been chosen to include the startling with the familiar, the jingoistic with the angrily anti-war.
It was the brainchild of Lady Lucy French and John Julius Norwich led a cast who gave their services free, to raise money for military charities. My moment of emotional weakness came during Polly Hemingway’s reading of Helen Mackay’s Train, about the parting of a serviceman from children whose mother, we learn, is already dead.
Will the train never start?
He takes the boy’s chin in his hand,
leaning out through the window,
and lifts the face that is so young, to his.
They look and look,
and know that they may never look again.
Will the train start?
God, make the train start!
Got to stop-I’ve gone misty again.
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