Thursday, October 3, 2019


St. Ives, Cambridgeshire
Edward Hilton Young’s poem “Air Service (For M.J.G.D. 1896-1918)” remembers a young pilot who, killed at the age of twenty-one, was “swifter than all things save the wings of death.” E.H. Young was an officer with the Royal Navy when late in 1916 he met Royal Naval pilot Jeffery Miles Game Day at Harwich. The officers shared an enthusiasm for tea and the belief that life should be lived “all out”—holding nothing back from devoted action.  They became close friends, meeting numerous times during the war, the last time in February of 1918. In his memoir of Miles Day, Young recalls listening to his friend talk about his home in St. Ives, Cambridgeshire: “It is not about his own marvellous service that he likes best to talk: he is happiest when he is talking about country places and especially about his own country-side of river, fen, and mere. He loves them truly.”*
E. Hilton Young

On February 27th, 1918, Day’s plane “was shot down by six German aircraft which he attacked single-handed, out to sea…. because he wished to break the [enemy’s] formation, in order to make it easier for the less-experienced people behind him to attack.” His plane in flames, Day “nose-dived, flattened out, and landed perfectly on the water. He climbed out of his machine and waved his fellow-pilots back to their base; being in aeroplanes [not sea-planes] they could not assist him.”** Despite an immediate and lengthy search, Day’s body was never found.  He is remembered on the naval memorial to the missing at Chatham.

Less than two months later, Young was seriously wounded while manning a rear gun on the H.M.S. Vindictive in the raid on Zeebrugge. Although his right arm was amputated, Young returned to active duty and survived the war.  In 1919, he published his only book of poetry, The Muse at Sea. The book closes with a trilogy of poems remembering Jeffery Miles Day; the final poem recounts a visit to the birthplace and home that Day loved.    

Miles Jeffery Game Day

This was the way that, when the war was over,
we were to pass together. You, it’s lover,
would make me love your land, you said, no less,
its shining levels and their loneliness,
the reedy windings of the silent stream,
your boyhood’s playmate, and your childhood’s dream.

The war is over now: and we can pass
this way together.  Every blade of grass
is you: you are the ripples on the river:
you are the breeze in which they leap and quiver.
I find you in the evening shadows falling
athwart the fen, you in the wildfowl calling:
and all the immanent vision cannot save
my thoughts from wandering to your unknown grave.
                        St. Ives, 1919
            —Edward H. Young
* Edward Hilton Young, “Memoir,” Poems and Rhymes by Jeffrey Day, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1919, pp. 12-13.
** Edward Hilton Young, “Memoir,” p. 8.


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