Monthly Archives: May 2013

Blind Faith: 1914

 

[Condemning the Guilty Hierarchy of One Hundred Years Ago]

 

When I at last surmount the top in hasty, tumbling terror

And perish in a screaming hail of hurtling, furious steel

I trust my General weeps at my devastating, fatal error

As he witnessed me, but how sadly did he generally feel?

 

You fool! Do you think your General generally acts heroic?

And casts his precious body uncomplaining in line of fire?

He keeps aloof from fiery Death because he acts the Stoic

For blood, mud and body parts would soil his grand attire.

 

He is retired a couple of dozen miles in some sweet Chateau

Attended by splendid, fully fledged moustaches by the dozen

Never thinks Old Nick schemes to entertain him down below

Who hopes to learn the General’s secret and call him ‘cousin’.

 

That secret being a steely, unquenchable belief in sacrificing men

To grind a hundred yards of ground that bleeds the blood of boys

Baleful with Staff, alive to croissants and Champers by half-past ten

Still marshalling regimental remnants to execute other crazy ploys.

 

Our Tommies told many times of their churning, burning passions

Of lice and rats and officers, targets of their bitter, everlasting fury

But not the German boys who, like ours, fodder in princely fashions

Waved off to handclasp Death in a cycle still not examined by a jury.

 

 

An Aftermath of Tears

Present arms! The spectral sergeant of the drill echoing across the punished land

As rustlings of grim murmuring sprang like odour from the choking, weeping grass

Then add our legs, our knees, our feet, our eyes and ears and much more to hand’

 

The dead, fragmented whisperers said.

 

And so, this army of the dead heaved sighs and blindly shuffled as it came to pass.

 

[ Visiting a WW1 battlefield and discerning the whisperings ]

.

From This World to the Next: 1917

Ripped from shoulder to waist by villainous shrapnel

Lay the lad

In his own cooling pool of blood, pleading to be shot

Prayed the lad.

 

As I watched, Death absorbed him as many another

But not before his call of surprise and joy for ‘Mother!’

Cried the lad

As he understood she waited there, quite beyond us

Beyond us here in the rampaging terror of awful war.

God Bless, my lad.

 

 

(Inspired by a passage in Harry Patch’s ‘Last Fighting Tommy’; P94)

Sgt Harold Slocombe RHA

Sgt Harold Slocombe RHA

 

Great-Uncle Harold, who lived until two weeks before his 106th birthday, recounted his experiences on the Western Front.

 

It was he who told us of the troops’ three main hatreds in the terrifying conditions in which they found themselves in the trenches or with the artillery to the immediate rear.   Surprisingly, the German troops were not in the top three!   As with Harry Patch in his outstanding autobiography ‘The Last Fighting Tommy’, Harold’s mates saw the German lads as being in the same dreadful position as themselves.   Of course, they had to fight but their fury was directed at targets on our side of the barbed wire; the lice, the rats and their own officers.

 

A sergeant in the Royal Horse Artillery, Harold, along with others, was called upon to crawl up to the front-line trenches when communications with the Artillery were damaged, dragging replacement wire. Usually he and the others were told to go away in the choicest language by their own troops, as any detected movement brought more shelling.   Although wounded himself three times, Harold still referred to the boys in the trenches as the PBI, – poor, bloody infantry.

 

Born 1892 in Liverpool, he was a Territorial undergoing manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain when war was declared in August 1914.   His RHA unit immediately returned to Liverpool and were housed in tents in one of the City’s parks. As their guns were those of the Boer War, the Unit didn’t reach the front line until they were re-equipped, early in 1915.   Once there, Harold survived everything until the end of the War.

  

In common with so many other soldiers who saw terrible things, he remained quiet and modest about his exploits.  Until his unexpected death in 1998, he had a crystal clear mind and possessed great dignity   I say his death was unexpected as a loving tribute to him, for he had been in excellent health and appeared indestructible.   Harold, along with such as Harry Patch, were voices surviving to shout accusation at those responsible for the appalling decision to go to war, condemning millions of our countrymen to fight in what became known as The Great War, the most terrifying in European history.  We are all aware that those who took the decision to wage war were those who remained furthest from the field of battle!

 

Harold’s third close encounter with the Grim Reaper was in 1918.   By then, the Germans had perfected their technique for identifying British gun positions and quickly destroying them.  The British countered by hastily moving their guns to new positions after a short period of shelling and to do this they required the horses to quickly re-position the guns.   On one occasion, Harold was on the lead horse of thirty-six horses and in sole charge!   He heard the shell coming over, the explosion and of being hit by shrapnel.  The horse he was riding sensed that Harold had been hit, panicked and bolted, dragging the other thirty-five horses along.   Amazingly, none of the horses was hit, just Harold.   Fortunately, pals managed to restrain the horses and Harold was shipped back to hospital in Canterbury and was still in hospital when the cease-fire was declared.   As he recovered, he was informed that he would be returning to France in charge of a gang of Chinese labourers to help clear the battlefield!   He complained that as he had spent most of the War on or near the front line, it was unreasonable to ask him to do this.   His resentment, along presumably with many others, resulted in a change of heart by the ridiculous authorities, who then decreed that clearing the battlefields was to be undertaken only by men who had not served at the Front.      

 

Harold’s 105th Birthday Party

 

In October 1997, the North West Section of the WW1 Veterans’ Association arranged Harold’s 105th Birthday Party, inviting four veterans along with other guests.  The  combined years of the five veterans came to more than 500!   All five were glittering company and enjoyed recounting their stories for the assembled guests at the care home where Harold lived.   One of them was Mick, also from Liverpool, who had been a sniper.   It so happened that the home’s dog, Heidi, was an Alsatian cross, a lovely gentle dog much loved by the residents.   A male care-worker at the home whispered to me that on no account was anyone to tell Mick that Heidi was German, otherwise Mick would shoot her!   In cold print this might not appear as hilarious as it did at that moment, when we had with us five inspiring survivors of the trenches.

 

Each of the veterans told of horrifying experiences but the story I most remember concerned the night before the cease-fire.   An officer told a particular Company that in all likelihood the cease fire would come in the morning but that still meant some men would have to patrol in no-man’s land that night.   He called for volunteers but no one would.  One of our veterans was selected by the officer to go out on patrol.  With his mate, he slithered out and they made their way to a crater where they hid.   For some reason they didn’t feel safe and decided to move to another crater.   As they kept low in their new position, the German artillery fired some of the final shots of the War, hitting the cratered area they had just left.  A fantastic last minute escape that he was able to recount at Harold’s party, 79 years later.

Witch Broom Boom

There once was a witch of Tarporley

 

Who became unfortunately poorly

 

When mounting her broom

 

She soon made sonic boom

 

But smashingly crashed near Chorley.

 

Dat Macbeth’s One of Us, La!

When Macca came ter Liverpewl

‘E turned around an’ said

Dem judies at de Grafton

Wud look dead good in bed.


Wid all dat fancy talkin’

Wid all dat fancy slang

‘E got a mind ter sling dat kilt

An’ join dat Scouser gang.


An’ so Macbeth, ter break away

Came ‘ere ter feel more free

Came down ter start a takeaway

An’ make a mint in Wavertree.

 

From den till now ‘e wasn’ foreign

An’ dat’s because ‘e ‘id ‘is sporran.

Grafton Judies Hail Macbeth

Grafton judies clocked our Macca’s charms

An’ hasty-like slammed in fresh bubble-gum

Many judies shimmied in ‘is red an’ ‘airy arms

An’ fantasised about ‘is crackin’ kilted bum.

 

But Macca couldn’ grasp de Grafton lingo

Our chewin’, darlin’ judies quickly uttered

Mobbed by grisly grannies ‘ere for bingo

Many a falsie bosom ‘eaved and fluttered.

 

Our sweatin’ grannies licked der cherry lips

An’ gasped dey’d never seen a better feller

Clockin’ ‘airy chest an’ ‘airy arms an’ ‘airy ‘ips

As Macca fled, three judies snarled ‘Yer yeller’.

 

Our Macca couldn’ hack it back on gruesome Dunsinane

Or in de Grafton, Speke, Sefy Park or even Penny Lane.

 

 

(The second, and concluding, sonnet concerning Macbeth,

who journeyed south to become our Macca.  He became

a proud Liverpool Scot.)

Amalda, Booze and Party-time Collide

Unfortunate Amalda Potts

Dosed up on beer and cider

Unpleasantly she got the trots

Only drunks would sit beside her.

 

She vowed a vow to end all vows

She vowed a vow to heaven

She vowed she’d drink what came from cows

At least till half-past seven.

 

But Amalda Potts, a tad unstable

Demonstrates her party trick

Dumping mates beneath the table

Hailed the hottest party chick.

 

So youthful pleasures, booze and party joy

Are swell or Hell for flirty girl and giddy boy.

 

 

 

( A cautionary sonnet warning of incendiary powers

at work when flirty girls, giddy boys, booze, and

party-time collide. )

Miss Amanda Milinthrop the First

Miss Amanda Milinthrop the First

Developed a substantial thirst

Resulting in her looking bleary

Hoping mates still find her cheery.

 

She loves the thrill of gin and tonic

Although affected something chronic

Dancing on or slumped under table

To cope with booze she wasn’t able.

 

Miss Amanda Milinthrop the very First

Screwballed when she’d slaked her thirst

Swigged from Three to well past Eleven

And woke up dead just outside Heaven.

 

The moral of this tale will maybe shock

A crazy mind won’t let you safely rock.

 

LFC – The Present Groaning

When you ride the surging passion

And are engulfed within the roar

When you urge the team to fashion

One more victory, then you soar.

 

 

Then you soar towards the heavens

You soar among the stars

Goals may not come in sevens

But we dream of ‘spectaculars’.

 

 

Such passion overwhelms you

Sprinting through the veins

Forever we will hold you true

Success breaks all the chains.

 

 

The inner voice, the scalding hope, the glue of DNA

Make Red supporters long for the feats of yesterday.