Poignant link to Ballymena on BBC war poetry show

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The story of a World War One nurse who treated a badly wounded Ballymena soldier during his long and painful descent to death will be told on BBC2 as part of the Remembrance season.

Acclaimed poet Simon Armitage has commemorated remarkable stories from World War One with seven new poems that will feature in an hour-long Culture Show special.

In The Great War: An Elegy (8pm, BBC Two, Saturday 8 November) the poet writes a poignant poem connected to each of the stories he learns about on a journey that takes him from Northern France to the village of Brora in the Scottish Highlands.

The first stop on his journey of discovery and remembrance is to the small town of Etretat in Normandy, Northern France, where he follows the story of nurse Edie Appleton, from Deal, Kent, through her detailed diary entries and sketches.

Her great nephew, Dick Robinson, from Blockley, near Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, reads Simon’s poem, Sea Sketch, that recalls Edie’s care of dying and wounded soldiers and the comforting effect of the English Channel where she swam and from where she drew inspiration.

Perhaps the most powerful of her diary entries concerns Harryville soldier James Lennox from Edward Street, who was severely wounded on July 1, 1916.

His wounds were mortal and he passed away, after weeks of stoic suffering on August 22.

Great War researcher Sue Light said: “Few men are named in Edie’s diary, but there are occasions where the man can be identified. During July and August 1916, she (Nurse Appleton) nurses a young man who everyone knew was without hope, but somehow clung to life for weeks.

“Although not identified at first, he is later named as ‘Lennox’ and by his date of death, I could eventually pin him down as:-

LENNOX J, Rifleman, 12th Btn Royal Irish Rifles, 24, Date of Death: 22/08/1916; Service No: 1925; Additional information: Son of James and Sarah Lennox, of Edward St., Harryville, Ballymena.; Cemetery: Etretat Churchyard.

Ballymena Times editor, Des Blackadder, who provided a newspaper photograph and further details on Lennox said: “The account of his final days is very touching - it is so rare to have this sort of descriptive writing of an ordinary soldier. You can read the Edie Appleton diaries online, they are very powerful.”

If you want to find out more about Ballymena’s role in the Great War then simply google for the Ballymena 1914-1918 website.