Poems of the Era 4
'We're All Australians Now'
Australia takes her pen in hand
To write a line to you,
To let you fellows understand
How proud we are of you.
From shearing shed and cattle run,
From Broome to Hobson's Bay,
Each native-born Australian son
Stands straighter up today.
The man who used to "hump his drum",
On far-out Queensland runs
Is fighting side by side with some
Tasmanian farmer's sons.
The fisher-boys dropped sail and oar
To grimly stand the test,
Along that storm-swept Turkish shore,
With miners from the west.
The old state jealousies of yore
Are dead as Pharaoh's sow,
We're not State children any more --
We're all Australians now!
Our six-starred flag that used to fly
Half-shyly to the breeze,
Unknown where older nations ply
Their trade on foreign seas,
Flies out to meet the morning blue
With Vict'ry at the prow;
For that's the flag the Sydney flew,
The wide seas know it now!
The mettle that a race can show
Is proved with shot and steel,
And now we know what nations know
And feel what nations feel.
The honoured graves beneath the crest
Of Gaba Tepe hill
May hold our bravest and our best,
But we have brave men still.
With all our petty quarrels done,
We have, through what you boys have done,
A history of our own.
Our old world differences are dead,
Like weeds beneath the plough,
For English, Scotch, and Irish-bred,
They're all Australians now!
So now we'll toast the Third Brigade
That led Australia's van,
For never shall their glory fade
In minds Australian.
Fight on, fight on, unflinchingly,
Till right and justice reign.
Fight on, fight on, till Victory
Shall send you home again.
And with Australia's flag shall fly
A spray of wattle-bough
To symbolise our unity --
We're all Australians now.
AB "Banjo" Paterson
Gaps In The Ranks
Another ANZAC Day is here,
Another milestone passed;
A few more gaps in the ranks -
A few more than the last.
Time’s thinning down the old boys -
Time that keeps marching on;
It seems but yesterday, when, as lads,
They battled on the Somme.
But there’s a gleam in those old eyes -
And still their step is proud;
The old Dig’s on parade again -
While passing through the crowd.
His medals and his colours -
Proudly showing on his chest -
Show the places where he fought,
And where he did his best.
As the Cenotaph he passes,
He’s thinking of his mates -
And of our gallant sailor boys,
And blokes who flew old crates.
Before his mind there passes
Flanders’ mud and Egypt’s sand -
And the everlasting memory
Of the Rose of No-man’s land.
Once again he’s at Gallipoli,
And wading for the shore,
Where he won the title ‘ANZAC’
That will live for evermore.
And he’s proud of all the young blokes,
Who fought in World War Two;
They did the things all over
That the Old Digs used to do.
And they’re marching right behind him,
As they step up with their band;
They proved themselves at Tobruk -
Up in Libyan sand.
When on leave they saw Beersheba
And Jerusalem in the hills;
And they saw Old Dig’s initials
On the wall at Tiger Lil’s.
And they milled round the Wassa;
It must have been a sight
When they tossed the old pianna
In the middle of a fight.
But the march is over,
And the service has begun;
The man of God sends up a prayer
For every fallen son.
They sing Onward Christian Soldiers,
And Nearer My God to Thee;
And we realise the sacrifice
They made for you and me.
The crowd breaks up and go their way;
Some stay to chat with friends;
It’s pounds to nuts Old Dig heads for
The place the elbow bends.
And will he let his head go !
Why strike me pink.....hooray !
He’s the proudest man who walks this earth
For today is ANZAC Day.
After The Service
I saw a man parade today, in uniform complete,
His hat cocked neatly on his head, clean boots upon his feet,
His buttons highly polished, and his belt was shiny too,
His head held high, his shoulders back, like I once used to do.
The pride in him was evident in every move he made,
The smile and twinkle in his eye, that time would never fade,
So young and fit and confident, with his gun upon his shoulder,
And I prayed that he would never see his mates with him grow older.
For if I could alter history the wars would not have been, No-one should ever have to face the horrors I have seen,
In the stinking, sweaty jungles, with the bullets and the bombs,
And the fever and the insects, in a world so full of wrongs.
I saw fighting in the deserts too, in blinding, searing heat, Saw men go mad with thirst, or fear, or not a thing to eat,
I saw injuries and damages that no-one could believe,
And saw months of non-stop “action” without a day of leave.
I was part of ocean warfare in a ship and submarine,
Part of sinking other tortured souls - a memory obscene.
I saw oceans full of burning oil, and lifeboats upside down, And officers and “other ranks” who would either burn or drown.
I piloted a bomber and I bombed from in the skies,
I saw planes explode, or crash to earth, and airmen, too, likewise,
I also flew a fighter and I flew it mighty well,
And I reckon what I saw of war would coincide with hell.
I was nursing sick and broken men to bring them back to health,
And I did all that I could do to protect the Commonwealth,
I fought and fed and flew and rode and drove and sailed and nursed,
And if I could have a dying wish, I’d see those days reversed.
Then no-one would be hurt next time, no mates or cobbers fall,
And everyone would understand the futility of it all,
Now I pray that that young man I saw will be just a sentinel, And I pray that I’m a dying group, - for I am the R.S.L.
Grandpa, What Did You Do In The War?
I’d been mowing the lawn and pulling some weeds, and slipped inside for a breather
I picked up the paper and turned on the news, not paying attention to either
When my grandson came in with a look on his face and a question that hit me full bore
An innocent question, no intention to hurt, “Grandpa, what did you do in the war”?
My skin went all creepy, I had sweat on my brow, my mind shot back fifty years
To bullets that thudded and whined all around, to terror, to nightmares, to tears
I was crawling through mud, I was shooting at men, tried to kill them before they killed me
Men who had wives and children at home, just like mine, just like my family.
“What did you do in the war?” he had asked, a question not meant to cause pain
But it brought back the horrors I’d left far behind in a deep dark recess of my brain
I remembered the bombs being dropped from the planes, the explosions, the screams, and the loss
Of a friend - or an enemy - but a life just the same, replaced by a small wooden cross.
The visions attacked me of tramping through jungles, hot and stinking, with leeches and flies
Of orders that seemed to make no sense at all - of distrust, of suspicions, of lies
I lived once again all those terrible storms, the dysentery, fever, the snakes,
The blisters that lived with me month after month, all those blunders, and costly mistakes.
But how could I tell the boy all about that, ’Twould be better if he didn’t know
It’s a part of my life that I don’t talk about from a good half a century ago
So I gulped, took a breath and tried to sound calm, and bid him to sit at my side
Then opened my mouth to say a few words, but the tears welled up and I cried.
He cuddled to me with a look of concern, and I mumbled of feeling unwell
Then took hold of myself, blew hard on my nose, while I thought of some tales I could tell
“What did I do in the war,” I began, then the stories began tumbling out
And they flowed with such ease I felt better again, and got over my pain and my doubt.
I told him of how I had made many friends, how I’d trained and had gone overseas
Made a joke of how seasick I’d been on the way, almost dirtied myself when I’d sneezed
I told of the joy of the letters from home, of the hand-knitted socks and the cake
That I got for my birthday but three weeks too late ’cause it went somewhere else by mistake.
We talked about mateship and what it had meant to trust someone else with your life
And of when I came home to my family again, to my kids, Mum and Dad, and my wife
Of the crowd on the wharf, the bands, and the pomp, and the pride I felt in the parade
But I’m not ashamed that I hood-winked the boy, a decision I’m glad that I made.
He can grow up without seeing fear in my eyes, or know of the terror I knew
For he’d not understand - and neither he should - all those memories that hit me anew
But maybe some day when he’s older than now, I will tell him what war did to me
But with luck he won’t ask me ever again, about wars that never should be.