A poem for Remembrance Day

Think Not That They Are Lonely
[The peoples of the occupied lands defy their German oppressors by placing flowers on the graves of British aviators.]

Flt Lt Owen Chave

Think not that they are lonely where they lie
Your tears are not the only ones to bless
Their sacrifice, for no one passes by
But pays his homage to their quietness.

As demi-gods they rest, and on each shrine
Are laid the votive gifts that children bring;
All Europe’s flowers are heaped there for a sign
That their swift fame need fear no tarnishing.

As far as I can tell, Flt Lt Owen Chave had no connection with 617 Squadron, although as he spent the early part of the war as a flying instructor, some of the squadron’s pilots may have passed through his hands. During this time, Chave wrote some rather good poems which are not widely known. The one shown above appears in a collection called Air Force Poetry, edited by John Putney and Henry Treece and published in 1944.

Owen Chave. [Pic: Brighton College]

Owen Cecil Chave was born in Southampton on 29 April 1912, the son of Sir Benjamin and Lady Chave (née Rachel Morgan). He was educated at Brighton College between 1926 and 1931. On leaving school he worked first in insurance, and then became a schoolmaster. However, he really wanted to be a writer, and before the war had poems and articles published in a number of magazines including Punch and The Spectator. He joined the RAF Reserve in 1936, and gave up teaching to work in commercial aviation.

When the war started, Chave became an RAF instructor, flying Airspeed Oxfords at RAF South Verney in Gloucestershire. He found this a frustrating experience, as can be seen below in the typescript of a humorous poem published in Punch:

Pic: Brighton College

A book of Chave’s poetry, Winged Victory: Poems of a Flight Lieutenant, was published in 1942, using the pseudonym ‘Ariel’. Eventually, he was allowed to volunteer for operational flying and in 1942 he joined 15 Squadron at RAF Bourn, flying Stirling aircraft. He flew on a number of operations until, on 14 February 1943, his aircraft was shot down by a night fighter over Belgium, with the loss of everyone on board. The crew was buried in a local graveyard and, after the war, reinterred in the Heverlee Commonwealth War Cemetery.

When the clocks strike eleven this Sunday morning, please pay homage to the quietness of the grave of Owen Cecil Chave – and indeed to all those who have fallen in war, combatant or not, many of whom who have no known place of rest. Think not that they are lonely.

Chave information at Old Brightonians, Brighton College
Chave crew page at Aircrew Remembered

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