Write Again … In the long green grass

Published 1:46 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2023

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SOE were initials for Special Operations Executive.

World War Two history buffs, and I am one, and have been for at least sixty-plus years. When I think that this all took place while I was actually alive, well, I can scarcely “process” it. I was much too young to understand any of this, though.

The SOE was England’s manifestation, department, for codes, both encoding and decoding. Germany had their own people doing similarly. The role, the significance of this, may never, ever be fully understood.

The actual main country in which operatives were inserted was France. That was where unimaginable courage, on the part of the spies, and the French people who carried out so much in the way of tasks aiding, in no small way, the defeat of Nazi Germany. Nothing ever before, nor since, has been accomplished that rivals what so many did with the singular goal of vanquishing one of the most evil empires in all the history of humankind. Hyperbole this is not.

Now. About a very young man named Leo Marks. He was brilliant. He was a prodigy. He was viewed as a misfit. He was designated head of codes at age twenty-two. Imagine that.

We learn that Marks had developed a fascination with cryptography as a child, when he broke a code his father invented for noting prices on books in his London bookstore.

At the time SOE used “poem codes” for communications. Marks was the one who gave agents a final briefing on coding before they were dropped into occupied territory. He was haunted by the knowledge that security lapses could have dreadful consequences. He said, “If you brief an agent on a Monday, and on Thursday you find he has had his eyes taken out with a fork, you age rapidly.”

On a Christmas Eve, Marks had lost the love of his life, a woman named Ruth, who was killed in a plane crash. When he heard the news, he went up to the roof of his building, briefly considering throwing himself off. Fortunately, he didn’t.

Instead, he wrote a poem:

The life that I have Is all that I have And the life that I have Is yours.

The love that I have


Of the life that I have

Is yours and yours and yours.

A sleep I shall have

A rest I shall have

Yet death will be but a pause.

For the peace of my years

In the long green grass

Will be yours and yours and yours.

This poem has been used, across all the years since the war, at weddings, funerals, and perhaps for other occasions as well. A beautiful serendipity. NOTE – Much of the information shared was from the book ‘Scholars of Mayhem’ by Daniel C. Guiet and Timothy K. Smith.

Should you choose to read it you will find it hard to put down.

Believe me.