A long-lost book of war poems that lay unnoticed in a York archive for years will finally be published next week.

The poems were written by Canon John Purvis, the founder of the Borthwick Institute in York.

As a young Green Howards lieutenant, Purvis served in the trenches in the First World War.

He was wounded during the Battle of the Somme in 1917.

The young soldier wrote poetry throughout the war, some of which was published under the pseudonym Philip Johnstone.

They included the poems 'High Wood' and 'Chance Memory' - which, according to Gary Brannan, the Keeper of Archives at the Borthwick, were highly regarded and even became part of the school syllabus.

"His works are studied with the same esteem as those of people like Wilfred Owen and (Siegfried) Sassoon," Gary said.

The Rev Purvis came to York in 1947 as the Vicar of St Sampson's Church. He later became a Canon of York Minster and the first director of the Borthwick Institute when it was founded in 1953.

It was only when he died in 1969, however, that it emerged that he was the war poet who had published as Philip Johnstone.

And it was only a few years ago that an entire notebook of previously undiscovered poems by him was found in his archive.

These have now been transcribed and edited by Sue Mendus, an emeritus professor of political philosophy at the University of York.

And they will be officially published next Tuesday (July 4) at a celebration to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Borthwick.

Gary said that the young Lt Purvis had written poetry throughout the war. To begin with, it was idealistic and optimistic, and full of belief that the war was a just war.

But as the fighting dragged on, his poetry became darker, Gary said.

One poem in the new collection, entitled 'The last mess in billets', was written the night before Purvis went over the top for the first time. "He was injured, and never emotionally recovered," Gary said.

The poem includes the sombre lines: 'My heart is whispering/ the last night here. To this loved company/ What things tomorrow, if tomorrow be?'

The new poetry collection - ‘Verses and Fragments: Poems of the Great War’ - will be officially published on Tuesday July 4 at an event for invited guests only at the Borthwick.

Among those present will be Liz Jackson, a surviving cousin of Canon Purvis.

  • Verses and Fragments: Poems of the Great War’ by Canon JS Purvis will be available from the Borthwick Institute at the University of York from July 10, priced £8.