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WHAT IS YOUR FAVORATE MILITARY BASED POEM

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Not so much a poem, but a songtext...

When I was a young man, I carried me pack, and I lived the free life of the rover,
From the Mary's Green Basin to the dusty Old Back, I waltzed my Matilda all over.

Then in nineteen-fifteen, me country said son: it’s time to stop ramblin', there's work to be done,

so they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun - and they send me away to the war.

And the band played "Waltzing Matilda", when the ship pulled away from the key,
in amid all the tears, flag waving and cheers - we sailed off for Gallipoli.

Oh, t’well I remember that terrible day, when our blood stained the sand and the water,
and how in that hell, they call Suvla Bay, we where butchered like lams at the slaughter,
Johnny Turk, he was ready, he primed himself well, he rained us with bullets and he showered us with shell,

and at five minutes flat, we where all blown to hell - nearly blew us back home to Australia.

And the band played "Waltzing Matilda", when we stopped to bury our slain,

well we buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs - then it started all over again.

All those that where living just tried to survive, in that mad world of blood, death and fire,
and for ten weary weeks, I kept myself alive, while around me the corpses piled higher,
then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse-over-head, and when I awoke in me hospital bed,

and saw what it had done, I whished I was dead - I never knew, there was a worse thing than dying.

Oh no more I'll go Waltzing Matilda, all around the green bush, far and near,

for to hump ten tent pegs, a man needs both legs - no more Waltzing Matilda for me.

They collected the wounded, the crippled, the lamed and they shipped us back home to Australia,

the armless, the legless, the blind and the insane, all those proud wounded heroes of Suvla,

and when our ship pulled into Circular Key, I looked at the place, where me legs used to be,

and thanked Christ, there was none there waiting for me - to grieve and to mourn an to pity.

And the band played "Waltzing Matilda", when they carried us down the gangway,

for nobody cheered, they just stood there and stared - then they turned all their faces away.

Oh, now every April, I sit on my porch, and I watch the parade pass before me,

I see my ole’ comrades, how proudly they march, renewing their dreams of past glories,

I see the old men, all tired stiff and worn, those weary old heroes of a forgotten war,

and the young people ask, "what are they marching for?”- and I ask myself the same question.

And the band plays "Waltzing Matilda", and the old men still answer the call,

but year after year, their numbers get fewer, someday no one will march there at all.

. . . . . . . . .

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda,

who’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me,

and their ghost may be heard,

as they march by the billabong

so who’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

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"Have You News of my Boy Jack?

"Have you news of my boy Jack?"

Not this tide.

"When d'you think that he'll come back?"

Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

"Has anyone else had word of him?"

Not this tide.

For what is sunk will hardly swim,

Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

"Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?"

None this tide,

Nor any tide,

Except he did not shame his kind -

Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,

This tide,

And every tide;

Because he was the son you bore,

And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!"

Doubly ironic because Kipling pulled strings and lied to help his son Jack get into the Army. Jack was posted 'Missing, presumed dead' after only three weeks at the front. R.I.P. them all.

Edited by peter monahan

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An Airman's Hymn
by Wallace Llewellyn Berry

When the last long flight is over
And the happy landings past
When my altimeter tells me
That the crack-up's come at last.

I'll swing her nose for the ceiling
And I'll give my crate the gun
I'll open her up and let her zoom
For the airport of the sun.

Then the great God of flying men
Will smile on me - sort of slow
As I stow my crate in the hangar
On the field where flyers go.

Then I'll look upon His face
The Almighty Flying Boss
Whose wing spread fills the heavens
From Orion to the Cross.

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Wife of a Soldier

by Bertholt Brecht

What did the wife of the soldier get

From the ancient city of Prague?

From Prague she got the linen skirt.

It matched her shirt did the linen skirt

She got from the city of Prague.

What did the wife of the soldier get

From Brussels, the Belgian town?

From Brussels she got the delicate lace.

All the charm and grace of the delicate lace

She got from the Belgian town.

What did the wife of the soldier get

From Paris, the City of Light?

From Paris she got the silken dress.

Born to possess the silken dress

She got from the City of Light.

What did the wife of the soldier get

From Libya's desert sands?

From Libya, the little charm.

Around and around she wore the charm

He brought from the desert sands.

What did the wife of the soldier get

From Russia's distant steppes?

From Russia she got the widow's veil.

And the end of the tale is the widow's veil

She got from the distant steppes.

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Bilco's selection earlier is also a favourite of mine, and fairly well known, appearing in various anthologies. here is a companion poem, less commonly seen, by the same pote:

LESSONS OF THE WAR

II. JUDGING DISTANCES

Not only how far away, but the way that you say it

Is very important. Perhaps you may never get

The knack of judging a distance, but at least you know

How to report on a landscape: the central sector,

The right of the arc and that, which we had last Tuesday,

And at least you know

That maps are of time, not place, so far as the army

Happens to be concerned—the reason being,

Is one which need not delay us. Again, you know

There are three kinds of tree, three only, the fir and the poplar,

And those which have bushy tops to; and lastly

That things only seem to be things.

A barn is not called a barn, to put it more plainly,

Or a field in the distance, where sheep may be safely grazing.

You must never be over-sure. You must say, when reporting:

At five o'clock in the central sector is a dozen

Of what appear to be animals; whatever you do,

Don't call the bleeders sheep.

I am sure that's quite clear; and suppose, for the sake of example,

The one at the end, asleep, endeavors to tell us

What he sees over there to the west, and how far away,

After first having come to attention. There to the west,

On the fields of summer the sun and the shadows bestow

Vestments of purple and gold.

The still white dwellings are like a mirage in the heat,

And under the swaying elms a man and a woman

Lie gently together. Which is, perhaps, only to say

That there is a row of houses to the left of the arc,

And that under some poplars a pair of what appear to be humans

Appear to be loving.

Well that, for an answer, is what we rightly call

Moderately satisfactory only, the reason being,

Is that two things have been omitted, and those are very important.

The human beings, now: in what direction are they,

And how far away, would you say? And do not forget

There may be dead ground in between.

There may be dead ground in between; and I may not have got

The knack of judging a distance; I will only venture

A guess that perhaps between me and the apparent lovers,

(Who, incidentally, appear by now to have finished,)

At seven o'clock from the houses, is roughly a distance

Of about one year and a half.

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The Charge of the Light Brigade by Tennyson.

As i'm an American,i'm not privy to the more personal histories of the British army in verse, but I do know this one.All know this one.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Half a league,half a league,

Half a league onward,

All In the Valley of Death

Rode the six hundred

"Forward the Light Brigade!"

"Charge for the guns!"

Into the valley of death

Rode the six hundred

"Forward the Light Brigade!"

Was there a man dismay'd?

Not tho'the soldier knew

Someone had blunder'd:

Theirs not to make reply,

Theirs not to reason why

Theirs but to do and die:

Into the valley of death

Rode the six hundred

Cannon to the right of them,

Cannon to the right of the them

Cannon in front of them

Volly'd and thunder'd

Storm'd at with shot and shell,

Boldly they rode an well,

Into the jaws of death,

Into the mouth of Hell,

Rode the six hundred

Flash'd all their sabres bare

Flash'd as they turned in air,

Charging an army,while

All the world wonder'd:

Plunged in the battery smoke

Right thro' the line they broke:

Cossack and Russian

Reeled from the Sabre stroke

Shatter'd and sunder'd

Then they rode back,but not

Not the six hundred

Cannon to the right of them,

Cannon to the left of them,

Cannon behind them

Volley'd and thunder'd

Storm'd at with shot and shell

While horse and hero fell

They that had fought so well

Came thro' the jaws of death

Back from the mouth of Hell

All that was left of them,

Left of six hundred

When can their glory fade?

O the wild charge they made!

All the world womdered

Honor the charge they made,

Honor the Ligh Brigade,

Noble six hundred

Alfred Lord Tennyson

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The Charge of the Light Brigade by Tennyson.

As i'm an American,i'm not privy to the more personal histories of the British army in verse, but I do know this one.All know this one.

There is a wealth of military based poems out there. I've collected them in a journal for years.

One of my favorite American Military Poets is our own General George S. Patton, Jr. Look back a page or two and you'll find one of my favorite works of his. "Through a Glass Darkly."

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I like this one....the message bears remembering even now.

Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)

Aftermath

Have you forgotten yet?...

For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,

Like traffic checked a while at the crossing of city ways:

And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow

Like clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,

Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.

But the past is just the sameand War's a bloody game...

Have you forgotten yet?...

Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz

The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?

Do you remember the rats; and the stench

Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench

And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?

Do you ever stop and ask, 'Is it all going to happen again?'

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack

And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then

As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?

Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back

With dying eyes and lolling headsthose ashen-gray

Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?...

Look up, and swear by the slain of the war that you'll never forget!

March 1919.

The above poem was published in the collection Picture-Show in 1920.

It can be found in:

Sassoon, Siegfried. Collected Poems. New York: The Viking Press, 1949.

Untermeyer, Louis, ed. Modern British Poetry (New and Enlarged Edition). New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1969.

Colin

Edited by ColinRF

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I find this incredibly moving-'Requiem for an Airgunner' by R W Gilbert, who was in Bomber Command in WW2

The pain has stopped,

For I am dead.
My time on earth is done.
But in a hundred years from now,
I'll still be twenty one.
My brief, sweet life is over,
My eyes no longer see,
No summer walks,
No Christmas trees,
No pretty girls for me.
I've got the chop,I've had it.
My nightly ops are done.
Yet in another hundred years,
I'll still be twenty one.

Patrick

Edited by pjac

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I find this incredibly moving-'Requiem for an Airgunner' by R W Gilbert, who was in Bomber Command in WW2

The pain has stopped,

For I am dead.

My time on earth is done.

But in a hundred years from now,

I'll still be twenty one.

My brief, sweet life is over,

My eyes no longer see,

No summer walks,

No Christmas trees,

No pretty girls for me.

I've got the chop,I've had it.

My nightly ops are done.

Yet in another hundred years,

I'll still be twenty one.

Patrick

Patrick,

I hope he survived but it is very much to the point, many didn't I suppose.

Jock:)

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Jock, I believe Gilbert survived despite being shot down. As you say, many didn't. Of the 120,000 who served in Bomber Command 55,573 were killed (45 per cent). Apparently only U-boats had a higher casualty rate.

Patrick

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Patrick,

I am being distracted right now just talking to local Germans, an American 4 engine bomber came down nearby also a 'nachtjager' all within 2ks or so, I am busy trying to find out more!

I have also attended many an 11/11/ 1100hrs at our local Becklingen war cemetery, having walked the length and breadth of it, the whole thing is sad especially those killed in the dying days but the other thing that stuck in my mind is that every so often you find 5 or 6 stones grouped closer together and then when you read the caption you reallize these are crew mates from downed planes buried together!

One of my favourite films still is the 'Memphis Belle' the part about writing the families always gets me!!

They must have balls of steel or just no choice either way they did it!

Jock:)

Edited by Jock Auld

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Vergissmeinnicht

Three weeks gone and the combatants gone

returning over the nightmare ground

we found the place again, and found

the soldier sprawling in the sun.

The frowning barrel of his gun

overshadowing. As we came on

that day, he hit my tank with one

like the entry of a demon.

Look. Here in the gunpit spoil

the dishonoured picture of his girl

who has put: Steffi. Vergissmeinnicht.

in a copybook gothic script.

We see him almost with content,

abased, and seeming to have paid

and mocked at by his own equipment

that's hard and good when he's decayed.

But she would weep to see today

how on his skin the swart flies move;

the dust upon the paper eye

and the burst stomach like a cave.

For here the lover and killer are mingled

who had one body and one heart.

And death who had the soldier singled

has done the lover mortal hurt.

Keith Douglas

Edited by Les

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A.E. Housman

Here dead we lie

Because we dd not choose,

To live and shame the land

From which we sprung.

Life to be sure

Is nothing much to lose,

But young menthink it is

And we were young.

And Kipling "The American Revolution - After"

The snow lies thick on Valley Forge,
The ice on the Delaware,
But the poor dead soldiers of King George
They neither know nor care.

Not though the earliest primrose break
On the sunny side of the lane,
And scuffling rookeries awake
Their England' s spring again.

They will not stir when the drifts are gone,
Or the ice melts out of the bay:
And the men that served with Washington
Lie all as still as they.

They will not stir though the mayflower blows
In the moist dark woods of pine,
And every rock-strewn pasture shows
Mullein and columbine.

Each for his land, in a fair fight,
Encountered strove, and died,
And the kindly earth that knows no spite
Covers them side by side.

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