James Bell Salmond was a Scottish journalist, poet and novelist who served in the Black Watch during the First World War, edited The Scots Magazine for over twenty years, wrote acclaimed histories of Scotland, and edited the Hydra magazine at Craiglockhart War Hospital, with Wilfred Owen as his sub-editor, before handing over the editorship to Owen when Salmond himself was discharged from the hospital. 

Captain J. B. Salmond

A full biography of Salmond published on the Scottish Poetry Library’s website states: ‘Salmond’s poetry was collected in The Old Stalker and Other Verses, published by the Moray Press in 1936. Written In Scots and in English, the poems look back on the First World War with pity, and with a fiercely critical stance against the hypocritical treatment of soldiers both during and after the war.’

His poem Twenty Years Ago takes the view of ‘The boy that went a-soldiering’, looking back from August 1934:


With poisoned gas they choke him,
With shell and shock and flame
The beauty of his body
They mangle and they maim.
And when it was all over,
They worship for an hour,
And build him a memorial,
And bring to him a flower.
And as the years piled higher,
They dipped a bloody pen
Into a well of filthiness
And killed the boy again. …