The Lost Generation : World War I Poetry : George Willis

Cover of George Willis' Any Soldier to His Son


In 1919, a collection of poems titled Any Soldier to His Son, authored by George Willis, was published by George Allen & Unwin LTD out of London. Although there is not much readily available biographical information on Willis, it is known that he was a soldier in the British army during World War I. The book itself is small, with an olive green cover designed by C.R.W. Nevinson but otherwise lacking illustrations other than the ornate publisher’s insignia on the title page. There is also no dedication or foreword, leaving the reader with little direction on how to read the book. However, the book concludes with a one-page advertisement for three other books of war poetry also published by George Allen & Unwin, including A Gallipoli Diary by Major Graham Gillam, another first-hand account of battle.

Any Soldier to His Son contains eighteen poems, ranging in length but written primarily in rhyming couplets. Notable titles include “Any Soldier to His Son,” “To My Mate,” and “By Green Envelope,” addressed to the poet’s beloved wife. The subject matter of Willis’ poetry revolves around the experiences of a soldier, both during and after the war. Willis investigates the change in a soldier brought on by combat, and the book ends with “A Testament,” in which the soldier is asking for peace in death. In the progression of the poems, Willis is arguably imagining himself as a mouthpiece for all soldiers. Through his poetry, he seeks to help civilians better understand what it meant to be on the front lines or in the trenches, and why soldiers came out of it “shell shocked” (18).

Find Any Soldier to His Son in the UNT Library Catalog.