The Somme

They came to share the great adventure, young and eager, fearful, lest the
Chance to prove their fighting spirit should evaporate, and with it,
Grey return to humdrum lives, no tales of derring – do which thrived
On lips of those who had regaled these youths with bold and gallant tales
Of glorious and great successes, glamoured times of soft caresses
From admiring maidens all, clamouring at the heroes call.

And yet, those who had made so free with tales of soldier's gallantry
In face of hazard, shot and shell, would never comprehend the hell
Which was to come through Satan's door – the face of raw, industrial war.
But even worse, those in command had also failed to understand,
While at war games, their idle chatter would not comprehend the the clatter
Of the lethal, spitting hate of man's creation, far too late.

And Generals, safe in ivory towers, hatched their grandiose schemes, as hours
Slipped away until at last, a new July dawned to a vast,
Cacophony, a thunderous roar, as a thousand guns, of one accord
Belched flame as deathly verse they spoke amidst the fiery, hellish smoke
Telling of untold destruction with each gigantic, huge eruption,
Shattering their adversaries, cowering, in abject misery.

Those bright young Tommies, having sensed that nought could live, were now convinced
As they (who by those in charge were told) that it was now a summer stroll
To merely finish off the action, in victorious satisfaction
That few casualties were sustained, while all that was desired was gained,
And they, brave boys when tales were told, were seen, so gallantly and bold,
To strive and win against all odds, victorious side, by grace of God.

Alas, it was not meant to be, as we now know from history,
That they, the enemy, like moles had taken refuge in deep holes
Which gave them adequate protection from that thunderous insurrection,
So when, at last the barrage lifted, scrambling from their lairs, they shifted
Back into their pre-planned places, arcs of fire in ordered spaces,
Ready for the coming fight, well prepared o'er open sights.

And poor, green Tommy, still believing what was said, by those perceiving
That no human could survive the holocaust that had arrived,
Just sauntered into no-mans-land, exactly as the Generals planned,
To take the ground in leisured fashion, needing not to run or dash on
In unseemly, hurried haste, as, with no perils to be faced,
A breakfast stroll would be achieved with token effort, till relieved.

And then, as in plain sight they walked, singing, whistling, telling jokes,
The faint, familiar deadly stutter, growing ever louder, cut a
Swathe, with lethal hot precision, scythe-like, as cruel emissions
Reaped a harvest of the dead and dying, as lives slowly bled
Into French soil they did defend, but now meeting this futile end,
Brought about by failure of the General Staff, and those above.

When, at last, the count was made, the number of death's grim parade
Surveyed, the time to count the cost in human suffering of those lost
Would surely teach those in command that this was not what they had planned,
So never would they ever make again the simple, gross mistake
Of sending men on suppositions grossly flawed, abortive missions
Guaranteed to fail again ........

Well - history has the the answer - plain! . .TeeCee


Two Minutes 

Patiently they waited. Stood. The young, the old, the great and good,

Listening for the signal toll which marked eleven hours, then all

Was hushed, even the very birds refrained to sing, no sound was heard

Save rustling motion of a breeze disturbing the autumnal trees;

Of movement, motion, little - none. A scene set seemingly in stone.


And thousands, with heads bowed in thought, and some recalling battles fought

In long years past, with memories burned of comrades who did not return.

While those too young to know the pain and loss of war waited, remained

In patient vigil by their side, supporting those who did survive,

Respecting this, their pilgrimage to honour those from war’s mad rage.


The seconds passed by, one by one, and bandsmen’s instruments that shone

And glinted in the morning light, reflecting images in bright

Relief, prepared to play and sound as time came finally around

To end this brief but poignant pause in busy life, remembering wars,

And hoping peace would finally reign, no more the tears, the grief, and pain.


With every year this ceremony is held, we can but pray that the

Leaders of these earthly lands can find a way to understand

That war is simply not the way to settle disagreement. They

Have in their power the means for all to live in peace, and never fall

Into those ways of pain and death. But what’s the chance?……


Don’t hold your breath!



This page is dedicated to all those who have played some part in my life. Family, Friends, Old Comrades and those who have died in the service of this country. 


An Arborfield Apprentice - Forever One Of Us 

He served Monarch and Country throughout his teenage years,
And learned of life, its highs and lows, among his youthful peers.
And as time passed, a bond grew, strong, which time would not erase,
It was to last throughout his life, defying memory's haze. 

Through three long years those friendships grew, as boy became a man,
The loyalty and trust he knew, would still continue on
Despite the different paths life shaped, as each went separate ways,
That spirit of his youth remained, to cherish all his days. 

And even though the years may pass, and memories can fade,
Those early days will still abide, lifelong, deeply engraved,
And, at the end, his epitaph, with pride will just read thus: 




Final Pass Out 

The guard are ‘Standing To’ up there to welcome our lads on the square, 

For now their Passing Out is here, they’ll hear commands ring, loud and clear 

For them to take their rightful place and slow march through celestial gates, 

To join those who have gone before, and join them in the final tour 

Of easy duty, now reserved for those who faithfully have served. 


We who remain will not forget our friends now gone away, and yet 

They still live on in present mind, the old brown photographs we find 

In dusty folders tucked away recall those youthful bygone days, 

When on life’s threshold we stood tall, confident that stand or fall, 

We’d proudly fight and never yield, the boy soldiers of Arborfield!



At the Cenotaph

Yes, I saw them standing there with quiet, understated air,
But what a glorious sight they made, stepping smartly on parade!
For just one hour, or maybe two, the intervening years just flew
Away, and there they were again, ignoring ages aches and pains.

The medals gleamed and shone so bright, reflecting chill November light
As, shoulders back, they marched with pride, honouring their friends who died,
And old, familiar marches brought the memories back of those who fought
With them and fell, so very young, heroes all, with deeds unsung.

And, for those in recent times, far from home in foreign climes,
Too many died, again the flower of youth, sent thence by those in power;
For war was ever made by those who, sat in distant, lofty pose
Required the young to fight and die, with loved ones left to grieve and cry.

But that was e'er the soldiers lot, to battle on, however fraught
The circumstances that are found, and to obey, they're duty bound,
For honour, truth and loyalty are soldier's strengths for all to see;
So, for the price that they might pay, we all must keep Remembrance Day.


Home at Last 

He's home at last, a mother's son, a fine young man, his duty done,
Yet not for him the fond embrace, a loving kiss, a smiling face
Or cries of joy to laugh and cheer the safe return of one so dear,
It is his lot to show the world a soldier’s fate as flags unfurl
And Standards lower in salutation, symbols of a grateful nation. 

Sombre now, the drum beats low, as he is carried, gentle, so
As if not to disturb his rest, by comrades, three and three abreast
Who now, as quiet orders sound, they, one by one then move around
To place him in the carriage decked with flowers in calm and hushed respect,
Preparing for the sad, slow ride through silent crowds who wait outside. 

So the warrior now returns to native soil and rightly earns
The great respect to one so young, though sadness stills the waiting throng,
While flowers strew the path he takes, as the carriage slowly makes
A final turning to allow the veterans standing there to show
The soldiers pride, a silent, mute, proud and respectful last salute. 

Yet, while onlookers stand and see the simple, moving ceremony,
There is a home, a place somewhere, where sits a waiting, vacant chair,
And one great yawning empty space in someone's heart, no last embrace
To bid a final, fond farewell to one who will forever dwell
In love and cherished memory, a Husband, Son, eternally. 

And we who see should not forget that in this soldier's final debt
And sacrifice for duty's sake, it is the loved ones who must take
The hurt, to bear as best they can, and face a future lesser than
The one they dreamed in bygone years, now to regard with bitter tears,
Reflecting, as time intervenes, on thoughts of how it might have been. 

But in their grief there's quiet pride that loved ones bravely fought and died
Believing in a worthy goal which helps give solace, and consoles
By knowing that the loss they bear is shared by all our peoples where
In gratitude, their names will be forever honoured, guaranteed
To be remembered and enshrined, beyond the shifting sands of time. 



 Final Parade

He’ll always be there, laughing, young and full of fun,
With all his mates around, true friends every one.
The things they’ve done together, bind them closer still,
Friendships born at tender age, endure, and always will.

Though life moves on, down well worn roads, and people come and go,
He’ll cherish those whose time he shared, the ones he came to know
So well, when life was rich, the future, still unread,
And boldly looking forward to the challenges ahead.

And through the intervening years, till mortal life’s span ends,
He’ll know that still, above all else, he had the gift of friends,
Who knew his faults, endearing ways, his strengths, and foibles too,
As no one else could, in his time, workmates or colleagues new.

So at last, the Passing Out, when goodbyes must be said,
He’s reached his final goal, to join the pals who’ve gone ahead.
To make a place for him, amongst all those on Heaven’s Square,
Prepared to welcome those to come, their comradeship to share.

Outsiders never understand the bond that holds us tight,
It can’t be put in simple words, it’s like a shining light
That guides us through life’s tortuous path until the final end,
But sums it up in six small words, “ He was my Pal, my Friend.”



God’s LAD

He’s gone to join God’s LAD, the best posting bar none,
No need for coveralls up there, all dirty jobs are done.
The OC and the ASM are there at his command
(The ranks up there are back-to-front, so all salutes are banned!)
No hard graft, and no jobs that may arrive at a late call
In fact it does resemble an earthly Tiffy’s role!

He’s served and done his duty for the country and the nation,
And now he’s harvesting fruits of his well-deserved salvation,
So, if you are relaxing quietly under evening skies,
And think you hear familiar rhythms, don’t be too surprised,
It probably is ‘Lilliburlero’s’ haunting melody,
Coming from the lads who’ve gone to join God’s LAD.



Army Apprentices National Memorial 

It stands in the shade of this green woodland glade, tranquil, restful, a place of reflection;
While the stream running near, nature’s melody, clear, is a setting for quiet recollection.
And here, at its heart, the stonemason’s art commemorates all that they were,
Young boys who came to be trained, and who gained lifetime friends in the time they were there.

This circle of stone tells of “Boys Schools”, now gone and exist only in recollection,
Of the places where boys made their life changing choice to follow a different direction.
But those buildings alone, whether timber or stone, were just an inanimate part
Of a fine learning place; the real soul was embraced by the youngsters who gave it its heart.

If you sit on these benches, you may feel a sense when surrounded by some of these names
Of those who passed through and embarked on a new life of duty, to well earned acclaim,
What they represent, the long, hard years spent loyally serving the Flag and the Crown,
At those schools where they learned, and in due time turned from young boys to adults, fully grown.

And those of them now gone, will forever live on in this cloistered and quiet sanctuary,
They may lie elsewhere, but their spirit will share with their brothers, this place, which will carry
Their story to all who in future may call and read some of the names which are here,
So they will be remembered long after our number have eventually all disappeared.

And this symbol of youth will forever stand, proof of the eager and fine youthful tide
That went on to command, serve in far distant lands with honour and duty and pride.
Proving their worth to Four Corners of Earth that this quadrant so well seeks to show
In four monuments designed with the Four Schools in mind as they were, all those long years ago.




Shot At Dawn 


In the heart of England there’s a place where people go 

To see the art of sculpture, or maybe wander to and fro 

Among the many different kinds of stone memorials, where 

Some visit for remembrance of loved ones and comrades there. 


And there are many fine memorials and shrines to see, 

Honouring all, who through the years have served our great Country 

In years long gone and those today, and even those to come, 

Reminding us of times now past and things that have been done. 


Yet midst the glory of the Regimental icons standing tall 

Celebrating heroism, proud history to all, 

There is a statue of a boy, carved out from marble stone 

Tied to a stake and blindfolded, so lost and all alone. 


And all about him, wooden stakes, with each, a haunting story 

Of mans gross inhumanity amidst his quest for glory. 

On every one, a name, a rank, a Regiment or Corps, 

The age of each and every one thus sacrificed in war. 


But not locked in heroic combat, fighting valiantly, 

These victims of an autocratic, bigoted hierarchy 

Were condemned to a shameful fate, by those who did not care 

That these poor souls had suffered all that they could ever bear. 


And sadly, one recurring theme, a certain, blinding truth, 

Was that a tragic number had barely left their youth. 

These boys who thought to be involved in this wild, brave adventure, 

Then suffered in their innocence, the ultimate form of censure. 


And anyone who has been here cannot but be affected 

By these young victims of their time, fated to be rejected, 

Condemned by history to shame, by an uncaring Nation, 

Pardoned, countless years too late, in paltry compensation. 


It is a sad experience that moves the heart and soul, 

To think of all the hurt of those who loved them, and the toll 

Of countless years before they, in their turn who still remained, 

Were reunited with their tragic loved ones, once again, 

And maybe, in another world will gain that, which was lost, 

The peaceful, caring, loving life which they were owed, at last. 






In the shadow of the peaks on South Arabia’s dusty plain

A roofed gate stands, reminder of a half-forgot campaign,

When once again our servicemen were called upon to fight,

Defending and protecting, (we were told) Great Britain’s might.


But not forgotten, ever, by those who served out there,

Remembering the sweat and stench, the never-ending glare

Of unremitting scorching sun and blessed, welcome relief

As night descended, giving respite from remorseless heat.


Those gates are silent sentinels, through which there is revealed

The graves of those who rest here, in this arid alien field.

They lie, not in the green fields of their rightful native land,

Where flowers bloom and gently wave, by gentle breezes fanned.


Instead, the hard, unyielding ground, volcanic, harsh and dry,

Encloses those who, in the end, came here to fight and die.

Surrounded by gaunt, lofty spires, all stark against the light

Brooding guardians of our countrymen by day and night


They are condemned by history to occupy this earth,

Never able to return to the dear country of their birth,

No loved ones to attend them, no tears will ever fall

On the plain, white simple headstones that lie within this wall.


But this is how it was, in all but very recent years,

And there is consolation knowing willing volunteers

Care for and tend these places sacred to the memory

Of those who gave their lives in the pursuit of liberty.


And not just here in Silent Valley, many other lands

Are hosts to British servicemen and women, where there stand

Headstones engraved with names of those whose fate was finally sealed

To stay forever in the corner of some foreign field.





Heroes. Do they deserve that name? Was it for glory that they came

To serve their country? "No!" they’d say, t’was for the prospect to obey

And answer to their nation’s need for young, fit youth to take the lead

In causes just; defend the weak, wherever tyrants try to seek

To force their will upon all those who yearn for freedom from their cause.


But call them heroes? All they’d see is journalists’ hyperbole,

Just serving, trying to bring peace to those who suffer; work to cease

Their misery, make life again a worthwhile thing, and free from pain

Of prejudice, an end to strife. Return Gods given gift of life

That’s each and every person’s right to dignity, a future bright.


These lofty ideals, they may claim, may not quite set their hearts aflame,

Rather, through their daily role when in support or on patrol,

They aid and help their comrades there, to carry out their duties, where

Dangers lurk and menace waits at every corner, door or gate,

With nerves stretched taut at every turn when omnipresent fear returns.


So are they heroes? That’s to say, not in the more accepted way

Of glory hunting men of steel, dashing, wanting to appeal

To public gaze, be held in awe, strong silent guardians of the law.

These are average common folk who like to laugh, enjoy a joke,

But when it’s time to pay the price, they’ll freely make that sacrifice.


For after all is said and done, to conquer fear and carry on,

Advancing into the unknown, even when all help is gone,

Is heroism beyond reproach, and we should honour those who touch

Our hearts by their example bright, who surely now have earned the right

To stand among our heroes all, who boldly answered duty’s call.



Soldiers Justice ?

Kipling might have put it like this,,,,,,

When they’re out there, in harm’s way,...
And committed to obey
All the orders from above without exception,
Who will give them the support
Without a second thought,
If their conduct is thought to be open to question?

In the air conditioned comfort
Of a calm judicial court,
Who can bring home to those present, the sheer hell
Of the heat, the smoke, the stink,
And the certainty of thinking
That this is the last day, they’ll live to tell?

For, before they open fire
They must contain that one desire
To pull the trigger – first, they have to check
That their orders are quite clear,
Covering circumstances here,
(Just another extra millstone around their neck!)

And if any doubt exists,
They must therefore still desist
Lest they’re seen by some to have performed a crime
Though, in fact it must be said
That it’s likely they’ll be dead,
But at least they will have toed the legal line!

For the the foe they’re really fighting
(and think on, this is frightening!)
Are the desk-bound warriors in their lofty pose
Most who’ve never felt the fear
As ‘incoming’ fire came near,
That the sweat-stained squaddy only too well knows.

Add to that the parasites
In the guise of ‘Human Rights’
Who, like vultures, tout for custom without facts,
Then, to be a soldier now
Must feel a bit, somehow,
Like a boxer with his arms tied around his back.

Yes, they’re heroes to a man,
They achieve all that they can
But the perils that they face when they return
Are dangers very real,
As these current times reveal,
They could also be found wanting in their turn……..



The ‘Little’ Ships


A seaside beach. The children play midst sandy dunes while parents lay,

Absorbing welcome warming sun, relaxing chatter, air of fun.

How far away the mists of fate which rolled along this very place

Seem now, three score and fifteen years long gone, when all that happened here

Was seen with dreadful fascination, seeming death throes of a nation’s

Army, in its futile flight from vast, oncoming armoured might.


These same sand dunes still lying there, were then the meagre shelter where

Men crouched, avoiding bomb and shell as best they could in this pure hell

Of acrid smoke, constant explosions, a world to shred stoutest emotions,

As screams of injured filled the air, some fated too, to perish there,

While at the water’s edge they strayed, in forlorn hope to get away,

To leave this nightmare place behind to any refuge they could find.


Yet, when it seemed that all was lost, a fleet, a veritable host

Of boats appeared, all shapes and sizes, mostly small, and to surprised

And grateful soldiers standing, cold, in waist-deep water, new and old

Boats, being small with shallow draft, shuttled to the larger craft

Which were in deeper water moored, so thankful soldiers climbed aboard

And watched these fine and dauntless men return to save more yet again.


Though now most of those who were saved are gone, the story of those brave,

Bold sailors and civilians all, who, answering their country’s call,

Passed into legendary fame, “The Dunkirk Spirit” giving name

To those who, braving shot and shell, advanced by sea into a hell

Of death, destruction, souls torment, still ventured out and bravely went,

To join our country’s hero’s ranks, and earn a grateful Nation’s thanks. 




Six-One-Seven Squadron.

The Dam Busters.


Towards the gathering night they flew, this gallant band of airmen who 

Would, by their exploits be recalled whenever tales were being told 

Of bold courageous deeds by men, who came to serve their country when 

The dark, grim war clouds cloaked our land with menace, grim, forbidding hand. 


They set forth on this daunting mission with faith and trust in the decision 

And belief in Boffins view that bombs would bounce, a hitherto 

Untested theory, now applied, potentially a suicidal 

Journey into the unknown, yet undeterred, continued on.


And so the legend now was born, how nineteen aircraft, one by one, 

Left Scampton airfield in mid-May, to fly and find the dams that they 

Were to destroy, and flood the plains below, and ultimately gain 

Advantage in the fighting done through three long years since war began. 


As they took to evening skies, attempting to achieve surprise, 

They flew at almost zero feet, a stunning and astounding feat 

Of airmanship, though in the dark, some paid the price of risk in stark 

Realities of flight so low, colliding with the ground below. 


But yet, undaunted, they flew on, and targeted by hostile guns, 

Some fell to earth, not fated to complete their mission, see it through; 

While nine did reached their destination, darkness shrouding observation, 

Making difficult decisions, trying to bomb with precision. 


Ignoring gunfire, smoke and flak, they held their course and, throttling back 

Approached at the height specified, until through simple sight espied 

The twin towers that set the distance, pressed on with complete persistence, 

Pressing bomb release to climb out of harms way, and look behind. 


The missile, true to boffin’s word, skipped and bounced - it looked absurd 

That something, ten tons, five feet long should, like pebble in a pond, 

Behave in such a artless way, yet there it was, and in a spray 

Of water, struck, the towers between, and sank just as was first foreseen. 


Eruptions to a thousand feet; at first crews thought their task complete, 

Yet no, more effort was required, and they bent to their task, inspired 

Until, at last, they did achieve their aim, then, finally took their leave 

For other targets yet to come, complete their mission, then go home. 


And, as the legend tells us so, these men, these gallant fliers go 

On bravely, guarantee success, yet at a cost which, nonetheless 

Is that which airmen recognise, when, by armed conflict in the skies, 

There may be sacrifice entailed, yet willingly they do prevail. 


And now recalling their deeds then, we honour these brave men again,

These fliers, who, some, almost boys, took up the challenge, made the choice 

To take that flight, despite the cost of fifty-three brave souls that lost 

Their future when they ventured there, to do their duty in the air. 


Some say that this is history, and they are right, it is agreed, 

Yet history’s message is quite plain that in ignoring it again, 

Then, once more young folk must arise and maybe make that sacrifice 

That others had made in the past, But let us pray we’ve seen the last! 




Pegasus. Ancient and Modern


Born in mythology, riding the sky,

the mount of Bellerophon, see how he flies!

Noble and fearless, surmounting the clouds,

he wings over the earth with spirit unbowed,


No better emblem could be so designed

to personify he who himself has combined

These qualities matched by his passion to win y

Yet face all that comes with a wink and a grin.

For this airborne fighter is the soldier who flies

into action, and bent on achieving surprise,

Arrives from above, and, trusting his all

to some chord and a shroud to cushion his fall,

Will overcome those who may stand in his way,

for he is determined to fight and obey

The command he is given and never will fail

to give of his best, to defeat and prevail.


And proudly he wears the distinctive beret,

not red, but maroon which he earned in a way

That no average person could ever achieve,

for selection is hard, and many do leave

Before gaining the wings, which proudly acclaim

that this person has endured the hardship and pain

Which lesser men forswear for comfort and leisure,

unable to equal this warrior’s measure.

The names that resound down the years they bestride

are bywords for courage and soldierly pride,

Recalling tenacious engagements and more,

illustrious battles and deeds by the score

Of sacrifice, guts and endurance supreme,

Now marked in the pages of history, seen

By the new generations who admire these men

who have fought and succeeded, again and again.


And when, duty done, they obey fate’s last call

to start that short journey for the final fall,

There’ll be no reserve chute, no static lines there,

for this time the DZ’s located somewhere

In the heavens, where comrades who’ve journeyed before,

from Arnhem, Goose Green, Normandy, many more,

Will welcome them in as they queue at the gates,

while the heavenly jumpmaster patiently waits

To issue them once again with their own wings,

so they will be free to continue the things

That they did in a lifetime of service to others,

accompanied by their own select band of brothers.

For they are the ‘Paras’,proud, brave and daring,

with a motto so apt,


Ready for Anything”