Just when one thinks that the horrific train of events in the Ukrainian war cannot get worse, you switch to the news broadcasts to find that it got worse, much worse.

I just cannot watch these images anymore from a comfortable distance: it seems to me that those children in their mother’s arms are looking at us in condemnation for our collective inaction in failing to assist the Ukrainian resistance which increasingly has the nature of brave futility - an inherent conflict of terms.

A related conflict is the notion of ‘doing the right thing’ on the one hand and ‘doing what is right’ on the other.

The first position would determine that we should help them by going to war with Russia but this conflicts with the second position where ‘doing what is right’ is not to go to war for fear of triggering a nuclear holocaust.

But are we all to be held ransom by a murderous thug such as Putin? Where we will draw a line in the sand and say ‘you cannot cross this’?

My post-war generation, some of whose fathers went to war, my own father in RAF Bomber Command, remember that an ill-equipped and ill-prepared Britain faced down a bully and told him that he could not do this with impunity which of course led to a devastating war which he lost but it is a certain fact that had we not done so, the world we live in would have been very different and not in a good way.

The same generation grew up in the shadow of nuclear war which was a real and tangible threat at the time, but President Kennedy faced down the Russian premier Khrushchev and the threat disappeared.

Men, and it is always men in power like Putin, and like any bully, gain strength by being unopposed and I believe he needs now to be faced down, except that my generation of old men should not be the arbiters of such an outcome – we will not inherit the whirlwind, our children and grandchildren will.

I have no other answer to this terrible dilemma and felt pressed to illustrate it in a couple of verses below.

Although people from a comfortable distance rightly praise the Ukrainian resistance, I am reminded of the poetry of the First World War and in particular two poems by Wilfred Owen: ‘Dulce et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori,’ (Sweet and Proper it is To Die for Your Country) and ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ both referenced in my poem below along with a line from the anonymous airman’s song ‘The Bells of Hell’.

Perhaps sometimes, we trap people into an identity they would not easily choose for themselves nor otherwise sustain and the question is, knowing the reality of outcomes in violation, death, destruction, horror, unimaginable grief, and a lack of martial support from the West, would the Ukrainians still have chosen armed resistance?

Perhaps they would, but let us try not to trap them further when I am no longer clear about what is served by these tragic unilateral outcomes except that I hang my head in shame.

The Old Lie

Dulce et decorum est

The old lie is whispered again

By armchair juries, all in vain

Amongst assaults of sight

Of pale children, mothers in pain,

And fathers armed for the fight.

Yet, all is lost in their plight;

Hopeless rhetoric, hapless trick

Antidote to fright.

Who will hold their candles now,

Who will stand to disavow

Yet strike the passing-bell

For footprints in the snow

Of those who stayed and fell

And have no tale to tell

To children on their knee

Who heard the bells of hell

Ring for them - but not for me.

Pro patria mori.

Mike Field