Smiling in the War – a poem by Molly Heartwood


Smiling in the War


London, East end, 1916.

I became a Red Cross nurse two weeks after the war started.

It was hard work, long hours and emotionally draining.

The hospitals were full of wounded soldiers.

Night shifts were the worst; all of the men with shell shock cried out in their dreams, speaking of loved ones and the horrors of war.

Many were blind and disorientated.

My mother writes to me trying to hide her worry

but it is there.

We had our picture taken today, I was second from the top.

It was strange as we were told to smile; how can we smile in these times?

It is hard but we carry on and smile any way.


By Molly Heartwood,

Age 12

Molly wrote this poem at our poetry workshop led by local author Jenny Alexander at the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro, during our World War One exhibition Heart of Conflict. It responds to the themes of the exhibition and its poignant subject matter. As Molly writes, she is 12 – and shows a sensibility way beyond her years.