I left to serve with happy heart,
no thoughts of death or fear,
I even smiled and thought to tease, my Mother’s silent tear.
“Don’t worry Mother, dry your eyes and wish me all your best.
For Kaiser Bill will scamper quick, when Pals he tries to test.
We’ll sweep him up and throw him out of Flanders bonny fields.
For God is with the righteous; his glory as our shields.
I’ll be right back afore you know, your tears will hardly fall,
So see me off, with one more hug, for I answer duty’s call.”
A warm farewell from cheering crowds and bands of fife and drum.
So soon to France and trenches, and cold that made me numb.
With whizzbang shells and sniper fire,
my happiness soon ebbed.
For nothing saps your spirits,
like rats gnawing on the dead.
The winter turned to mud and snow,
some died from it alone.
No silent night this Christmas,
the war had changed its tone.
No honour left ‘tween Fritz and us,
no truce to play a game.
Our only goal, to kill them all,
for they’re the ones to blame.
Then the push to end it, how true that was for me.
I got twelve yards with stumbled steps and didn’t even see,
the bullets cutting like a swathe,
my guts all ripped to hell.
No pain, no sound, no screaming cries,
no tolling of a bell.
My face in mud, my breath all gone,
a darkness then a light.
I know I’m dead, yet am back home,
my Mother in my sight.
Her tears are falling hard and fast,
a bugle call is played.
A silence falls around the town.
Then poppy wreaths are laid.
My perch on high, unbounded force,
affords a spirit’s view.
I think some years have flown past,
I’m sure it is a few.
No more my pals who made it home,
seem to gather here.
No more can I see Mother,
no more her silent tear.
Yet now some others march instead.
Old men who were not born,
when I went forward into death,
my young life ripped and torn.
And though no wreath that’s laid this day, restores my life to me,
Each allows my soul to rest, held safe in memory.
By Ian Andrew,
Taken from The Little Book of Silly Rhymes & Odd Verses
Flanders Image © IMW
Wreath Sketch © Alison Mutton
All other imagery © Ian Andrew