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Per Ardua Ad Astra


"Per Ardua Ad Astra" ("Through struggle to the stars") is the motto of the Royal Air Force.  It dates from the formation of the Royal Flying Corps in 1912.  Several poets, including John Gillespie Magee, who wrote "High Flight", have attempted to capture the beauty and self-sacrifice of this motto in poetry.  I'm not aware of an official version, but this one, which I believe is anonymous, is my favourite.

In no sequestered plot of hallowed ground our ashes lie,
but in the stormy seas,
from Norway to the purple Hebrides .
On tall Italian hilltops, fortress crowned
In the fair fields of Kent , the Flanders plain,
we fell to earth,
clawed from the embattled skies.

But though this unending day may die,
not all of us are dead
nor dead in vain.
Now, other eyes this ceaseless watch are keeping,
as ours, undaunted by the allied host.
No fear and no reproach our requiem mars,
Our emblem sings from coast to distant coast
"Through hardship to the stars"