War Memorial, Marion County, Oregon (detail). Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives/ Wikimedia Commons

Some of them never come home to fanfares,
they dump their kitbags down at the door,
kiss their wives and let their children
wrestle them down to the kitchen floor,
switch the telly on, pour out a whiskey,
search for the local football score.

Some of them skip the quayside welcome,
dodge the bunting and cannonade,
make their landfall in silent harbours,
nod to the coastguard, but evade
the searchlight of public scrutiny
like those engaged in the smuggling trade.

Some of them land at lonely airfields
far removed from the celebration,
hang their flying gear in a locker,
cadge a lift to the railway station,
make for home and take for granted
the short-lived thanks of a grateful nation.

Some of them miss the royal salute,
the victory parade along the Mall,
the fly-past, the ships in formation passing
the cheering crowds on the harbour wall.
Remembered only by friends and relatives,
some of them never come home at all.

Iraq, 1991


Peter_WytonPeter Wyton served in the RAF for three decades and has published eight volumes of poetry, most recently Not All Men Are From Mars (Oxuniprint/Women’s Aid, 2008). His individual poems have also been widely published and anthologised. ‘Unmentioned in Dispatches’ is included in the new edition of The Oxford Book of War Poetry edited by Jon Stallworthy, published in June 2014. Since 1996 Peter has performed his poetry at festivals, arts centres and other venues including the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Glastonbury Festival, Ledbury Poetry Festival and Lewes Prison. He lives in Gloucestershire.

Author portrait © Jo Bell


Read an extract from the introduction to The New Oxford Book of War Poetry by Jon Stallworthy.