Son reads special poems in memory of wartime father

'I just sat with a pen in a pub, with a pint, and that is what appeared on the paper.'

Those are the poignant words of a North Elmham man who wrote 19 poems, called A Tommy's Tale, in memory of his father who fought in the first world war and died aged 84 in 1984.

Christopher Carling, 46, of Wensum Drive, will be doing a special reading of his poetry tomorrow at the Tracks in the Railway Tavern, North Elmham, near Dereham.

Money raised from the sales of his work and the event will go towards the Combat Stress military charity, which specialises in the care of veterans suffering from mental health problems.

Christopher's father, Cyril Carling, was born on January 31, 1899, in Beverley, Yorkshire, and when he was just 15 he lied about his age to join the army in 1914.

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A year later, he was sent back to England from Mesopotamia in the Middle East, but undeterred the teenager caught the first train to Scotland and joined the Highland Light Infantry as a private.

Cyril's regiment became involved in the infamous Battle of Passchendaele, known as the third battle of Ypres, which lasted from July 31, to November 6, 1917.

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Christopher said: 'His commanding officer was shot during the Battle of Passchendaele and my father took control and led the other soldiers to safety. My dad was a very modest man and always said he did what he had to do.'

Cyril was involved in the first world war for the whole of its duration, from 1914 to 1918, and was promoted to a sergeant and a Lewis gun instructor in the Highland Light Infantry.

He was also awarded the prestigious military medal, which was given to soldiers who carried out acts of bravery and devotion under fire.

After the war finished, Cyril served seven years with the Highland Light Infantry in the Rhienland before leaving the Army to start a tailor apprenticeship with his father, Robert Carling, who owned Carling's Tailors in Beverley.

Christopher added: 'I think during my dad's later years the war haunted him. He was very disillusioned by the first world war and was anti-war. He used to say war brought out the best or the beast of a man.'

Father-of-two Christopher, who has always enjoyed writing and performing, started writing the poems for A Tommy's Tale five years ago.

'The inspiration came from thinking about my dad. When I was writing the poems I felt he was stood behind me watching, My dad achieved a great deal. He didn't just make up the numbers; he more than earned the King's shilling,' he said.

At the start of A Tommy's Tale, the words are very pro-war, but towards the end the poems become 'bitter' and very anti-war, according to Christopher.

He added: 'I'm proud of it (A Tommy's Tale) because it is my way of saying thanks to dad. If a traumatised soldier can benefit fully from it, I'll be quite happy. I have quite a sense of achievement.'

The 46-year-old suffers with post traumatic stress disorder, following a car accident 11 years ago, and said he wanted to raise the awareness of the Combat Stress charity, which was set up in 1919. After Cyril's time in the Army, he had a long and successful career as a tailor and ran Carling's store, in Beverley, where he lived for the rest of his life. In the late 1960s, he became president of the Federation of Master Tailors until he retired from the profession in 1975.

During his career he made suits, kilts and cassocks for several vicars of Beverley Minster.

In the second world war, Cyril was too old to fight and worked as a special constable for the police in Beverley and Hull, which earned him the special constabulary medal.

Christopher, who moved to North Elmham 20 years ago, described his father, who died from a heart attack, as an 'altruistic gentleman'.

He will start reading the poems from 2pm tomorrow and there will be a raffle at the free event.

If you would like to buy A Tommy's Tale, which costs �3.99, contact Christopher on 07827 564825 or email

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