As I noted in a previous post, the poet and glass-engraver Laurence Whistler (1912-2000) was the brother of the artist Rex Whistler (1905-1944). Rex joined the Welsh Guards in 1940. In July of 1944 he was commanding a tank in the Guards Armoured Division in Normandy. He was killed by a mortar explosion on July 18.
Laurence Whistler wrote the following poem after his brother's death.
A Portrait in the Guards
So these two faced each other there,
The artist and his model. Both
In uniform. Years back. In training.
Not combatant yet. But both aware
Of what the word meant. Not complaining,
But, inwardly, how loth.
They talked of this, perhaps. Each knew
The other, or himself, might be
Unlucky. But each knew this true
Of anyone at all. And so
There was no thrill in it. A knee
Jigged to the hit-tune of some show.
Each scrutinized the other frankly,
As only painter and sitter do:
Objectively and at leisure. Face
That must not, please, relax too blankly
Into repose. And face that threw
Glances, the brush being poised in space.
So both, it may be, had the sense
Of seeing suddenly very plain
A very obvious thing: the immense
Thereness of someone else: a man
Once only, since the world began.
Never before, and never again.
It could be, while a cigarette
Hung grey, each recognized the other
As valid utterly and brother.
It should be so. Because, of all
Who in that mess-tent shortly met,
These would be first to fall.
Laurence Whistler, Audible Silence (1961).