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War hero's poems under the hammer; Soldier poet Dicky's works are expected to fetch pounds 6k.

Byline: FIONNUALA BOURKE

HE died aged just 21 as he led his men into battle in Tunisia during Operation Torch in World War Two.

The bloody battles that Richard 'Dicky' Spender witnessed were the inspiration for a series of poems he wrote which are now to go under the hammer at auction. It is expected the collected works of the former pupil of Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon, will reach up to pounds 6,000 when they are put up for sale by Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts in London on March 27. Spender, a platoon commander in C Company of 2 Para Battalion, was killed in 1943 while assaulting German positions during the British-American invasion of French North Africa. Six of his poems are connected to his training and service with The Parachute Regiment.

Balloon It is presumed that the first of these, entitled 'All my world has suddenly gone quiet', was written before a balloon jump on his training course at RAF Ringway, in Cheshire, and the nearby drop zone at Tatton Park, in 1942. The course comprised of two balloon jumps and five jumps from converted Whitley bombers. Spender's gravestone in the Imperial War Graves cemetery in Tabarka, Tunisia, is inscribed with lines from his poem The Young Soldier.

It states: "In High Proud Exultation, Let Us Repay, Laughing Blood With Spilt."

He has been called the 'Cygnet of Avon' and his poems were published by Sidgwick and Jackson in three books. The Times Literary Supplement was in no doubt of Spender's significance, writing in its obituary of him, "Those familiar with the work of the young solder-poet will be aware of the loss his death must mean to English literature."

Letters included in the sale, along with the manuscripts of his last nine poems, show Spender kept his spirits up during the war.

Writing to his parents he said: "There is no need to bother your heads about my skin.

"Just keep well yourselves, Old Folks, & keep the Home Fires switched on..."

To his brother he showed a more concern about the war..

Four days before his died he wrote: "This place is absolute hell. Everybody gets knocked off amid scenes of utter wet cold misery, & still up we come for another bloodbath."

Parachute Battalion: Last poems from England and Tunisia Today some silent valley of Tunisia Shall tremble at their stroke from sky unsheathed, And, with the night, perhaps some God looking down With dull, cold eyes, by the near stars will see One, lonely, grim battalion cut its way Through agony and death to fame's high crown And wonderingly watch the friendless strength Of little men, who die that great Truths shall live.

AUCTION: Richard Spender is buried in Tunisia
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Geographic Code:6TUNI
Date:Mar 4, 2012
Words:455
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