A Songwriter’s Tribute

Frank and Florence Rawlinson.

Christian missionary Frank Rawlinson, born in Britain and educated in the United States,  had lived in Shanghai almost his entire adult life when war broke out between China and Japan in 1937.  As a lover of Chinese culture, he was horrified by the naked Japanese aggression he saw played out in the country he had come to consider a second home. As a pacifist, he was opposed to war in principle, but had gradually arrived at the conclusion that China had no other choice but to resist.

War erupted in northern China in early July 1937 and spread to Shanghai one month later. On Saturday August 14, the second day of battle over the city, Chinese planes attempted raids against the Japanese cruiser Izumo moored in the Huangpu River. None of the attacks was successful, but resulted in two separate tragedies in mid-afternoon, when Chinese aircraft accidentally dropped bombs over heavily crowded areas of Shanghai.

Rawlinson was killed in one of these disasters. He had been driving in his car with his wife Florence and his daughter Jean to fetch the afternoon newspaper and was on his way home when one of the bombs exploded near a theater crowded with refugees. Rawlinson was hit in the chest by shrapnel and died within minutes, as his wife and daughter were watching in despair.

Many years later, Jean’s son, and Rawlinson’s grandson, Grayson Hugh, wrote a song, For The Innocent, as a tribute to “a peaceful man” who was “caught in someone else’s war.”  The song, included in Hugh’s 1992 record “Road To Freedom,” also honors all lives lost in war. In its raw emotion, it shows how war is a traumatic experience whose shadows linger decades after the guns go silent.

Click on this link to listen to For The Innocent:

For The Innocent


words & music by Grayson Hugh
(dedicated to my grandfather Dr. Frank Rawlinson,
and to all the countless lives lost in war)

In trees and fields the snowflakes fell
gently on the gravestone of one I knew well
cut down way before his time
on some rocky road
caught in someone else’s war
for some cause of old
now he lies here
far from anyone
and it’s snowing for the innocent

He was a writer and a peaceful man
never held a rifle in his hand
but upon that fateful day
a bullet from a gun
sought him out as if to say
“I’ll find the meekest one”
now it’s over
before it has begun
and it’s snowing for the innocent

To you war makers, I’ve got this to say
there’s a long list growing of debts you’ll pay
you’ll pay for every brick and bone
and body in the mud
for every name on every stone
every drop of blood
your house is crumbling to the ground
there’s nowhere to run
stone by stone, it’s falling down
beg for mercy
there will be none
and it’s snowing for the innocent
snowing for the innocent
oh yes it’s snowing for the innocent
yes it’s snowing for the innocent

from the album ROAD TO FREEDOM by GRAYSON HUGH (MCA 1992)
© 1992 by Swamp Yankee Music/ASCAP. Used By Permission.

Categories: Battle, Media, Memory


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