Rob. T. Anderson
April 19th 1942
Copyrighted Dec. 1932
Robert T. Anderson
I’ve dug up this lot from my kit-bag, Old mem’ries of days “Out There”, If there’s interest for old time comrades That’s all that I really care. These few have eluded the Censor, The Critic they may not evade— But if they reach Pals in hospital wards, I’ll feel that I’m more than repaid. Here’s to you, old pals, who still suffer, And should they but bring you a smile, Or lighten one hour when you’re lonely, I’ll know that my verse is worth while. [unnumbered page]
[unnumbered page; includes illustration: Robert T. Anderson]
Troopers in France
ROBERT T. ANDERSON
Author of “The Old Timer and Other Poems”
“Canadian Born and Other Western Verse” etc.
COLES PRINTING CO.
(Note.— In reading certain French words occurring in this book, which should be printed with an aspirate as “lavé”, “pavé”, etc., the pronunciation should be given like “lavvy” and “pavvy”.) [unnumbered page]
TO J. B. L. CLAXTON, ESQ.
(For Zero Hour, February 11th)
Sergeant Major, we were with you in the days of long ago, When we did some rough campaigning in the mud and in the snow, And ’twill take some more depression than a drop to ten below To hold us when the Muster Roll is calling. From the right—Number. There’s some are not so active as they were on old parades, With quite acute reminders in their backs and shoulder-blades But we’ll all swing into action without any call for Aids, And be ready when the Muster Roll is calling Eyes right—Dress. It’s good to have old Memories that will cling while life shall last (So much life is slipping that we fain would hold them fast) [page 8] And to see familiar faces of the comrades of the past, Who will rally when the Muster Roll is calling. Troops—SHUN. We’ve answered, Sergt.-Major, all attention to the eyes, We’re glad to meet our Officers and have them fraternize, And we’ll gather on Parade Ground ’till the last old trooper dies, To answer when the Muster Roll is calling. Half Sections, Right—Walk—March. Oh, lift your game old feet up, and forget they want to lag; The Cook-House Call is sounding, and our tongues begin to wag, (And overlook a comrade if he totes a friendly jag, For, after all, the Muster Call has sounded). To the halt—Form Troop.
We hold our strength for Britain; Yea, now at the Mother’s call, Having asked us lately for little, She shall find us proffer our all, There are strong men born on the prairies, There are hard men bred of the hills Speak, Old Mother of Empire, For one are thy children’s wills. Out of the dust of the cities; Fresh from the lure of the trail; Keen from the breath of the mountains, Thy young men shall not fail. Our pride is the pride of our fathers; Our hope in thy charge of the seas; See, we are here in our thousands, Ye have only to choose from these. Ye lay no stress on the clamor Of crowds bombastic and vain, [page 10] Words that are honeyed or servile, Or boasts that are born of the brain, But ye ask for our hearts, old Britain, And we render our strength as it came; Lo, here are multiplied talents That never were hoarded in shame. Ever the fore-front of battle Has known our breed to be there, Ever the frontier has called us, Where there were hardships to bear, Have we kept back from the dangers? Have we avoided the fray? Nay, or our Mother’s reliance, Had not been on us today. Ye shall have toll of our legions Raised on the threshold of war; Those that are new to the struggle Shall be as bravest ye bore, Only we will to be Britons, Not to be guarded alone— But that the might of our new lands Straight may encircle the throne. [page 11] Scots with their wealth of traditions, Wealth that no tongue can traduce, Men of the blood of the Angles Weary of biding a truce; Hot blood of Erin forever, Welsh that are true to the core; Mother, our blood shall be given, Say, can you ask us for more? Aye, and with pride we can say it, Here in the ranks by our side Are men, whose ancestors, in battle Against our own people have died, No more shall Sebastopol vex us, And Waterloo’s glory descends, For they who have ranked as our foemen Are worthy to stand as our friends. Mother, ask of thy millions; Straightway thy sons obey. Out on the veldt or the prairie Men will be hastening away. Never a land thou hast peopled But willingly gives of its best, And here, in our Canada, Mother, Are waiting thy men of the West. August 6, 1914. [page 12]
FAREWELL TO CANADA
Farewell, Farewell to Canada We’re out across the seas, We’ve looked out last at Canada: We sniff the ocean breeze; There’s some will sniff the cannon’s breath, The shell will burst for some, But we’ll do our best for Canada Whatever else may come. Then let the war notes clarion forth; The brazen trumpet sound, We’ll all be proud of Canada Wherever we are bound. The Homeland, The Homeland, The far spread towns we know; The broad Dominion claims us yet, Wherever else we go. Oh! welcome to the outer seas That Britain’s might retains, For madly yet the British blood [page 13] Goes coursing thro’ our veins; The hot blood surging strongly now May ebb on sodden field, But hope out lov’d ones placed in us They never yet must yield. We are the boys of Canada From mountain and from plain; They’ll miss us from the ranges now, And from the garnered grain, And many a bright eye will be dim And many a heart be sore, For a soldier boy in Khaki Who has turned his face to war; By rugged Illicilliwaet The Grizzly now may roam; In Koot’nay’s wilds, the black-tailed deer May rest himself at home, By Athabasca’s winding course The Moose may challenge long, For the hunter lads are marching Where the German legions throng. [page 14] Farewell, farewell to Canada ’Till none can answer when, But ’till a brighter day hath dawned And peace hath come again; Then, when our rifles may be mute And Britain’s wards be free, We’ll turn our face to Canada Across the leagues of sea. October 12, 1914 (On Board R.M.S.P. Arcadian)
WHEN THE CANADA BOYS GET THERE
Oh, the Unter den Linden is a very pleasant drive, And they brew good beer in Berlin, And the troops of the Kaiser, they are very much alive, But they’ll have to let the bulldogs in, For you can’t get away from the bulldog breed, And they’ll scent Wienerwurst anywhere, But just keep a little of the scraps that are left Till the Johnny Canucks get there. Chorus: For we didn’t come all the way across the sea, For the lovely little trip all alone, Without some small desire to go and face the fire, And raise a little rumpus of our own. Old Kaiser Will der Grosser is a very funny man, With his brass-potted soldiers all a-row, But the boys out of Canada are coming all they can, And they had to let the bulldogs go, They are coming away out of Valcartier, And they haven’t drained the old land bare, But don’t whip the Germans any more than you can help Till Canada’s sons get there. [page 16] Now, nobody thinks for a minute and a half We are out on a picnic or a spree, But the boys that left Canada with cheery song and laugh Will go singing on the road to Germanee, Double, double, double, for we all want trouble, And we all smell trouble in the air, And just keep a little what the Kaiser’s going to get Till Sam Hughes’ boys get there. Cheer up, Uncle Billy, for you’ll very soon be dead, And the house of Hohenzollern on the bum, But the road to der Vaterland is lying straight ahead, And there’s plenty more Canadians to come, For you may throw a brag at the old red rag But you can’t turn it into a scare, And you’d best keep a-running for the old home town When the Canada boys get there. On Board R.M.S.P. Arcadian, 12-10-14.
THE OLD NINETEENTH
Come all you men of the 19th Drags, Who fought in France under umpteen flags; When Danger calls, then nobody lags ’Mong the Men of the old Nineteenth. Come muster in, O, come muster in, For now is the time we must all begin To look about for our next-of-kin— The boys of the old Nineteenth. They picked them out of the best there were, And sent them off with a Devil-may-care; When they wanted men they were always there— The lads of the old Nineteenth. When the Frenchmen saw them upon the go They thought they were part of the Wild West Show, And shouted for “Parapluie Chapeaux”* They wore in the old Nineteenth. When the Sergeants called, they were right in line, And a good rum-ration would go down fine, For very few of the bucks decline In the ranks of the old Nineteenth. [page 18] They knew every farmer along the way By the Belgian front and the Pas-de-Calais And they peeked into every Estaminet Did the men of the bold Nineteenth. When they were sipping the bon bon biere, The rosy vin-rouge, and the vin-blanc clear, They wished that la Guerre run its twenty-fifth year— The men of the gay Nineteenth. Gay young Lotharios rode near and far, And Tony the Mexican thumbed his guitar, So the Mamselles are wondering whereabouts are Les troupes a’ cheval—the Nineteenth. In Lillers and Ballieul the folk knew them well, In Ploegsteert, in Arras, and grim La Boiselle, And te Allemands knew them when fighting like— well— The men of the bold Nineteenth. When beaucoup zigzag (having francs and to spare) They could steer their chevaux with a soldierly air, And they helped to settle up Wilhelm’s affair, Did the men of the old Nineteenth. [page 19] O, what are we waiting for, you and I? We’re waiting for someone to notice we’re dry. A slight touch of Cognac to drink a health by To Soldats au Guerre—the Nineteenth. Come, fill once again—To the Colonels we knew, Likewise to the Troopers, there still are a few; When the next war occurs, may we wave an adieu To the boys of the New Nineteenth. *Umbrella Hats.
In face of all who were our Empire’s foes He wished to play his part, and as he fell He proved his manhood, for in dying well He gave his all for all that freedom knows.
Comrade-in-war, in peace we leave you here, ’Mid other Britons who have gone before. A friend to Peace, an enemy to Fear, You found peace only, thro’ the ways of War. [page 20]
I’ve seen all shades of color since I sailed across the Drink, The blackest brand of Sengalese, the brownest shade of Chink The Japonaise (Canadian) with eyes so much aslant And little Gurks with lengthy knives and trousers wide but scant; The Bengalese with piercing eyes, and lances long and keen And many tribes of lesser folk who come upon the scene, I’ve looked upon the lean Zouave, in baggy breeks of red, So picturesque in broidered vest, with fez upon his head. We’ve hob-nobbed with the Spahis too, who ride the desert sands, And spoken with a lot of men from queer outlandish lands The Portuguese so seldom shaved—with trousers skimp and spare. [page 21] And Belges in their tasselled caps and Gens d’Armerie air We’ve seem ’em all, we’ve looked ’em o’er—both officers and bucks, And we haven’t seen an outfit yet we’d swap for our Canucks. July 16, 1917.
“THE OLDEST ALLIES IN EUROPE”
Here in the low lands of Flanders When Bourbon of Guise held power, Came many a lanky Scots lad From many a northern tower, With purse that was sore depleted, But sword that his arm could swing; O! so came our soldiers of fortune When Louis Quatorze was king. And here with the lazy barges Asleep in the dull canal, And the tall, trim trees a-standing As Dutch trees ever shall; The horse-ponds willow-bordered, And the hop-poles long and spare, He stayed—but he dreamed of the heather That scented the Highland air. He thought of the mountain passes When the grey mist wrapt them in gloom; He thought of the shaggy cattle That stood knee-deep in the broom; He saw the blue wreath curling From the cot by the dashing stream [page 23] But he woke to the Flemish farmsteads And a folk that never dream. And now we have come to the places Our Scots lads knew in their day; The same old windmills are standing, The same old shrines by the way; We clatter our horse by the causeway, Old arches resound to the clang, The half-timid burger at daylight But glimpses the troop as we gang. O! here we are riding in Flanders Where the diced-band often has been— The roadways are thronged with soldiers, And many a one of our kin, The kilts swing by to the pibroch Thro’ the white dust of the road, They gang to the trench light-hearted, As brisk as their father’s strode. Yet each one thinks of the braeside His earliest years had kent, And each has thought for his own lass And placed where oft they went; And each has a pride in his own heart— A pride that’s no useless thing. [page 24] That he stands as stout soldier as any When Louis Quatorze was king. When our lads came in the old days They fought for the pillage and pay, They rendered their swords to the war lords— For men who were richer than they, But ours that have come into Flanders Come not for plunder or gain, But as a bulwark to freedom, So shall they ever remain. The Frank as he turns to the battle And sees the long lines oppose, Can mind of the Prussian invasion When his land was trodden by foes, But his confidence comes with the long lines Of dusty, khaki-clad men, For the “Oldest Allies” in Europe Are now together again. France, April, 1915.
It’s me that was a soldier Afore the year was out With their shouting and their cussin’ An’ a chasin’ round about. I’ve crawled whole miles of dusty fields An’ floundered in the mud; But the Sergeant only spoke of me As something of a Dud. Says the Sergeant to the rookies As was drillin’ in the sun, “Gor’ blimey, wot they’ll send us For to make the Jerry’s run; Now keep your bloomin’ shoulders straight An pull that belly in— O Lor’ but this is penance ’as been sent me for my sin.: Says the Sergeant to us rookies As was runnin’ round the square “I’m goin’ to make you soldiers If you’ve got the guts to spare. Now keep your blasted heads erect An’ grip your rifles strong— Oh Lord, the Kaiser will be glad We’ve brought this bunch along.” [page 26] When we was doin’ bayonet drill An’ chargin’ sacks of straw, The sargeant said sarcastic things That kind of made us raw, Said he, “Now, mind them sacks is Huns An’ take this trench by storm, Oh, Lord, won’t George V Rex shed tears To see this mob perform.” It’s left-right round the drill hall, An’ ‘alt, an’ don’t forget, You bloody bunch of raw recruits I’ll make you soldiers yet, You keep your rifles at the slope An’ dress up by the right Now, won’t them Proosian Guards be pleased When you comes in the fight?” They fed us on Slumgullion, An’ Tickler’s jam and cheese Till we were ready for the line An’ service overseas, Then as we heard the big guns pound, Our hearts were poundin’, so We sang as on route marches “Are we down hearted—NO?” [page 27] Now we was in the melee An’ the sergeant copped it fair An’ as we wiped his bleedin’ mouth An’ seen him gasp for air He faltered out, “I’ve drill’d recruits An’ heaps of ’em’s been kill’d But this last batch of barstards Were the best I ever drilled!”
Yes, we have faced the German lines with all a Briton’s scorn, And we have seen the powder smoke roll back across the morn; Have breathed the cruel, reeking gas that brings the strongest low, But we have clenched the musket-butt and grappled with the foe. For o’er the serried heaps of dead in khaki, blue and gray, We saw the German helmet spikes, and maddened for the fray, Right up against their battle front we slashed our bayonets thro’, And then we thought of Canada and every thrust was true. For not a mongrel breed are we, tho’ of old races blent; Our pride is love of liberty and not our long descent, We came not out of Canada for pillage or for pay— But God be with the foeman bold who dares to bar our way. [page 29] No “lion cubs” men recked us then, as, all unused to war, They turned us loose on Sals’bry Plain to see the Winter o’er, And we have waited weary months for just such chance to come; Cheer now, tho’ many a comrade’s voice for evermore is dumb. When once the weary soldiers rest between the burst of shell, We’ll creep across those gory heaps and view this man-made Hell. These—that were comrades yesterday—we have a trench for them, God “strafe” those who made the war; He amply shall condemn. Poor mangled flesh of friend and foe in one long shallow grave, These died with curses on the lip when none had power to save, Their Landwehr fell in bleeding droves that one King’s power should be; We came that Britain’s plighted word should hold by land and sea. [page 30] Now answer to the muster rolls; Oh God! how few there stand, These regiments out of Canada with few to give command, We’ve helped to hold the Ypres front we’ll hold them back again, But ah! there’s many a weary heart for our Canadian men. Flanders 6-5-15 (After the Second Battle of Ypres)
I ran into the Corp’ral as I cross’d the billet yard, The Corporal turned round about and looked at me quite hard Said he, “You’ll have your buttons shined, for tonight you’ll be on guard.” An’ that’s what it is to be a soldier. I’d just been doin’ fatiguay for damn near all the troop, There’s a game of Crown and Anchor and I meant to join the group; But the bloody two-stripe caught me so it’s me that’s in the soup An’ that’s what it is to be a soldier. Now all the lucky civiles are lyin’ in their beds An’ me that is a soldat is trampin’ round the sheds, It’s enough to drive enlisted men to go and join the Reds But that’s how it feels to be a soldier. I’ve been muckin’ round the horse lines in the rain an’ in the shine, If I’d chance to go on furlough, I’d be feelin’ fit an’ fine, [page 32] But by everything that’s holy they’ll shove me up the line For that’s what it is to be a soldier. Now the clouds are slowly driftin’ an’ the moon is breaking thro’ And I’m feelin’ beaucoup fatiguay with still some hours to do, An’ I can’t refrain from scratchin’ for I’m more than itchy cou, But that’s how it feels to be a soldier. Now tomorrow’s kit inspection an’ we’ll lay the blasted lot So the Gen’rals an’ the colonels can inspect them on the spot From our spare shirts to our toothbrush every last thing we have got For they do take an int’rest in the soldier. Now after kit inspection, don’t we know it’s comin’ quick The order to go up the line where shells are fallin’ thick, O’ some of ’ems mallingerin’—but I am feelin’ sick For there’s damn rotten jobs they ’ave for soldiers. [page 33]
Disaster occurred to a trainload of young Royal Scots Territorials when two trains collided at Quentin Hill near Carlisle, May 1915.
I wasna in the battle that oor Scots lads fell (Hey the bonnie fetchers as they were) Amid the wire entanglements ’mid shriekin’ o’ the shell, But there’s mony a mither sobbin’ in despair. Little thocht orr brave anes, when they were settin’ forth, (O, the stout hearts that they bore) Tae lie aneath the heather in their ain lo’ed North. An’ no to shed their life-bluid in the war. Lightly slid the coach lengths frae cheerin’ throngs behind (Thrangs wi’ faces strugglin’ tae be gay) An’ pang’d wi’ youth an eargerness adventures new tae find The michty train went thundering on its way. Sune will pass the border o’ the land that gave them birth [page 34] (O’ the little foresicht gien tae men) The Borderland they’re passin’ is the Borderland o’ Earth An’ Scotland’s braes the last they’ll ever ken. A sudden burst of tumult as the coaches sweep and sway (Steek your een in terror as a dream) They’re doom an’ owre the road-bed—Oh, God o’ mercy stay- We canna see aucht mair for smoke an’ steam. Oh the sounds o’ anguish an’ the fearfu shrieks o’ pain (Oh, the awfu’ horror o’ it a’!) The madd’ning licht o’ torment that beats intae the brain— The heat that drives the rescuin’ haun’s awa’. Alang the railed embankment just a wee frae Gretna Green (The bonnie North country that we ken) There’s the waest sicht at sunrise, the Border lang has seen, An’ they’re pickin’ up the wreckage—an’ the men. [page 35] My heart is sair wi’ thinkin’ on the sichts at Quentin Hill (Oh, the awfu’ sichts that there are) For the forms aneath the blankets that are lyin’ charr’d an’ still As they drew them frae the wreckage o’ the car. The sun blink’d bricht an’ bonnilie, and’ ushered in the morn, (o, the gladsome weather o’ the May) An’ by the wee white farm-hoose lay the forms a’ sear’d an’ torn, An’ there’s drool alang the border-side the day. There’s weepin’ in Auld Reekie, ay an’ mony a toun beside (Hey the prood places an’ the auld) They hae bred richt mony sodgers an’ hae sent them far an’ wide But these owre soon are lyin’ stark an’ cauld. Scotland—Mither Scotland, ye sall lay them tae yer breast, (These amang the bravest ye hae borne.) They wad hae died for Britain, an’ they wad have stood the test, An’ we’re prood o’ them, Auld Mither, tho’ we mourn. [page 36]
THE GENERAL DIDN”T KNOW THAT WE WERE THERE
The Army called a Grand Review to judge us by our looks, The summons was for every rank that was upon the books, Dog Robbers, Poultice Wallopers, and even greasy cooks, But the General didn’t know that we were there. With a chum I once was walking, when I was a raw recruit, We met a General Officer and tipped him the Salute, He either was too busy of he didn’t care a hoot, Or the General never knew that we were there. There was a kind of fracas in a Harv’ estaminet They tried to shoot the lights out, when a few of them got gay, Of course, they called the Red Caps, but a number got away, And the General didn’t know that we were there. [page 37] There was a scrimmage up the line, and we were in it too, A General was looking on to recommend a few. Some men collected medals—and no doubt it was their due; But the General didn’t know that we were there. Now, when the war is finished and the last great gun is heard There’ll be Generals a-writing how the whole damn thing occurred, And we’re just common Troopers, so of course, ’twould be absurd If the General ever knew that we were there.
EPISTLE TO HAMISH GOW
Mon cher ami— Very pleased indeed I was To have your little note, because, Tho’ nineteen-sixteen finds me here ’Mid scenes I once had pictured queer— Of cobbled roads, and hedges thick, And rows of trees, and towns of brick, And strange old wind-mills standing tall, With arms outstretched for breeze or squall, I still have thoughts (in English, too) For my old friends, including you I, still, Alberta scenes hold dear When your elections are not near; Yet, Heaven be thanked! Berlin and chance, Have brought us here to Northern France, Where, though war’s havoc here we mark, We hear no word of Joseph C-a-ke! Altho’ at times the whizz-bangs fall, We hear no politics at all; Though poison gas whiles fills the air The politicians are not there, To spiel their oratorical flow Of what they think and what they know. [page 39] How pleasant in these rural parts To find but kind and genial hearts (For hereabout, as you must know The bold bad Bosches dare not show). And all our British press agree On what our own brave troops must be— True simple souls whose noble worth Is known to few of us on earth; Yet each one prompted by desire To brave the deadly rifle fire “For England, Home and Beauty dear;” To leave behind all craven fear And dying, win V.C.’s or fetch Two columns in the Daily Sketch. Dwell softly, for these thoughts stretched far Are what the public think we are, Now old Romance, and printed lore, We bow to thee whom we adore. Let pass each dream, tho’ far from true, We are not all we seem to you; Yet all the heroes of old time Were not just all we read in rhyme. Now by the “papier” brought today, I see great news is on the way, And o’er all news that men may bring [page 40] Just hark the herald, Scarlett-Synge, By March, perhaps, the war may end (She tells it to us as a friend) Yet whether in this present year I cannot find the statement clear. So we may get to March, and yet Have months of cold and wind and wet, And while we wait for these Peace Talks, May wear out 14 pairs of socks, And throw our well-worn shirts away While marvelling at the strange delay; Whole tons of rations—jam and cheese (And breakfast bacon, if you please) With bread and tea, and more at length, That gives the soldier fighting strength, May straightway come, and straightway go, (For Tennyson would put it so,) Yet still, as March around shall swing, We’ll think of Dr. Scarlett-Synge. Now James, dear James, it gives me pain To read your letter once again; How many a rack and wrench and screw The damned rheumatics bring to you! No doubt when some few years slip by, And we’re at home, and high and dry, With feet up by our own fireside, [page 41] Like some old hulk above the tide, We’ll rouse old thoughts of scenes of blood, And watery roads and Flanders’ mud, Then hardships far, and half unreal, Our own stiff joints shall help us feel. Well having won, tho’ not with cheer, Across the threshold of this year, We deem it duty to survive And help to keep the war alive: Thus when, at times, our hope seems gone, The boys’ rum ration helps them on, And keeps them hoping to attack When Russia drives the Bulgars back, So when such hopes as these are mine, I fain would drop old friends a line And tell them half of what I know (But here the censor has a show) So all the wise thoughts I retain Which ought to make my letter plain. Good luck to all on the old job, And I remain, sincerely, BOB.
France, January 1916.
The Bold Bad Bulgarians have proved themselves a plague, For they have no ideas of Conventions at the Hague, And their best line of Kultur is very, very vague All along the road to Salonica. The French and the British, they held the foe at bay With six of the big guns, they could not get away; Then they got a speedy hustle on—or so the papers say All along the road to Salonica. Jean Crepaud and Johnny Bull, to travel were not slow But they left three Irish regiments to shield them from the foe. And the bold bad Bulgarians were heaped up in a row All along the road to Salonica. [page 43] The only cheerful aspect, as far as we can see Is that we’ve got a Scot now, where but a Scot should be And we’ll have no Haig Conventions but the Kaiser will agree It’s as far to Tipperary as Salonica. France, December 19, 1915.
FROM WAR LETTER
Written Somewhere in Flanders, May 22, 1916. A Fleming informs me of something most queer, That eight meals a day is the minimum here. He offered to tell me each name on the list, But as soon as he started I bade him desist, For I told him in Canada over the seas, It took some tall rustling to get hold of three, And should I go back when this war shall abate, I might starve on three meals if once used to eight. But I must say it’s great how our health all agrees, With Macconochie Rations and beaucoup the cheese, And now that the hot days of summer are come, The boys are bemoaning curtailment of Rum. It’s a most useful issue, ’tis wise to provide, But that’s not the issue we came to decide, And if we preserve all our spirits intact, I hope our Advancement will soon be a fact. [page 45]
THE WORKING PARTY
As I was coming down the lines and feeling quite forsaken, I ran across that soldier fine—Our Sergeant Paddy Aiken; His belt was on, his spurs were bright, and shouted loud and steady, “There’s a Working Party going tonight so haste and get you ready.” “It’s up the line for you, my buck Up the line, my hearty, Up the line with the best of luck, And it’s you for the Working Party.” You will not ride your horse to war, if it tends to make you happy, But trot along to the cook-house door, and see that you make it snappy, You’ll draw iron rations to stand the test (just a couple of war mementoes, Two of the tins of Macconochie’s Best or some of the real Fray Bentos. “It’s up the line for you, my buck Up the line, my hearty, Up the line with the best of luck, And it’s you for the Working Party.” [page 46] Tonight the stars will be shining bright—the Star Shells from the trenches, And you’ll be up where it’s far too light among the much and stenches You’ll hear the passing whizz-bangs whine, you’ll hear the shells resounding You’ll hear big-guns, each side the line, at their eternal pounding. “It’s up the line for you, my buck Up the line, my hearty, Up the line with the best of luck, And it’s you for the Working Party.” Now have your rifle oil’d and shined, (you’ll maybe need it later) And don’t forget and leave behind your trusty respirator; You’ll wear your tin hats, all so light, with first-aid dressings handy, For if Fritzie opens the Ball tonight you’ll need them fine and dandy. “It’s up the line for you, my buck Up the line, my hearty, Up the line with the best of luck, And it’s you for the Working Party.” [page 47] Now at the Cross roads you’ll fall in and from the right will number In two big trucks they’ll then begin (to pack you in like lumber) Now why in the world did ye want to join and come with a fightin’ Squadron They’ll pay ye off in the Devil’s own coin in a WAR that’s strictly mod’ren. “It’s up the line for you, my buck Up the line, my hearty, Up the line with the best of luck, And it’s you for the Working Party.” Tho’ now ye’re like a Sardine Pack (here’s cheer if ye’d but listen,) There’ll be lots of room for ye comin’ back if the half of the bunch is missin’ Ye’ll bend your backs to shovel and pick but there’s duty in your labor An’ Honors can come to ye just as thick as they would with a cavalry sabre. “It’s up the line for you, my buck Up the line, my hearty, Up the line with the best of luck, And it’s you for the Working Party.” [page 48] Now we were in that four years’ row with quite a few commanders And poor Paddy Aiken now is lying there in Flanders, But when our minds slip back a cog where star-shells once were falling We’ll hear with, just a touch of brogue his Irish accents calling: “It’s up the line for you, my buck Up the line, my hearty, Up the line with the best of luck, And it’s you for the Working Party.”
Now, nineteen months have slipped around Since the channel we cross’d over And still the Deutchers do not pound The old chalk cliffs of Dover And quite a few of our old boys Are Cappies now and Majors. Yet some of us still plod along And are the same old stagers Every day in the week. We’re wearing grey-back shirts that still We’re very glad to have on, Yet many months they have not had Acquaintanceship with SAVON, Yet all the boys are very well In fact, I might say thriving, And would not spend their francs on shirts If payday were arriving Every day in the week. We’ve curried down our weary plugs Until their hides are tender, And when we catch the Kaiser’s thugs Their chances will be slender Roll on, sweet days of coming peace, And changes sweet and pleasant For gladly would I change the shirt That I have on at present. Every day in the week. [page 50]
“LA GRANDE GUERRE”
They brought them down—these men of ours— From the hillside where they fell— These that went forth, but an hour ago, So blithesome and so well, On sheets of the corrugated iron, That served as stretchers sound, Four men to the corpse, they carried them Across the broken ground. Each gray, grim form lay stark and stiff In a blanket tightly sewn, And back on the flats they laid them down, Where they shall not lie alone, The little forest of crosses stands Unpainted and bleak and bare, Grim as the trees all shrapnel-scarred, With marr’d limbs high in air. A wood oft swept by a rain of death— A fair land ravished sore— Oh, pity it is that the hand of man Does all these things, and more. Brave Nature, heedless of sack and ruth, Soon covers the mounds with green, Then ever again the storm descends O’er the carnage vaults between. [page 51] Out there in the land that men abhor, Are shell-holes deep and round Filled with the water of many rains, And dead that were not drowned, Rotted sand-bags and rusted wire, And iron all warped and drawn, And under it all the human moles, Are tunnelling ever on. For not content with dispensing death From the God-free air as well They must burrow, like worms, the earth beneath, And be mining the gates of Hell. These, that were formed in the image of God, We were taught at our mother’s knee, They have mangled out of the semblance of men, And where shall the glory be? Oh, carry the dead to the dead below, For I see where the earth-heaps brown, They are bailing the water out of the graves, And lowering dead men down, Men have err’d thro’ the judgement of kings, Since the primal feuds outgrew, And the mighty Moloch, that thirsts for blood Is glutting itself anew. [page 52] Yet under the uniforms gray or green As they carry the dead away; Each is the form of a man—no—more— Modelled out of the Maker’s clay. And they speak of that mystical part—the soul That is salvaged out of the loss, And rises up from the fields slain By the blood-stained way of the Cross. O, talk of the glory and lustre of war, And the medals they pin to the breast Think of the courage we share with the brutes, And the strength that those arms possessed, Then look at those forms that are pitiful now, And over success we’ve scored, The tears that are blotting the Honor Lists Make medals a poor reward. Flanders, June 10, 1916.
BIVVIES IN FRANCE
I wish I could show you my “bivvie” in France— You might call it far from neat; Its roof is an army blanket gray. And also a rubber sheet. At present it’s under an apple tree That is white with the blossoms of May; Tomorrow, perhaps, ’twill be pitched the same. But a good many miles away. At night, if the air be damp and chill, Or even there happen a storm, I can lie quite snug ’neath a saddle-rug, Wrapped up in my “British Warm.” So why should I worry about “la guerre” And the scraps that we all may see, When, among all the bullets that Fritzie holds, There may not be one for me. I’ll crawl, while I can, in my bivouac frail, And bed down as best I may, For many poor lads who lay warm last night Are under the Belgian clay. It’s a queer old world at best, you know. And there’s much that we leave to chance. For many who once held “Castles in Spain,” Are reduced to “bivvies” in France. Written at Haut Loquin, May 7, 1916. [page 54]
Now, I’m just a bit of a Horse Wrangler That has drifted into this show, An’ I don’t figure out as a troubadour Like Blondel long ago. Still I’d like to voice the sentiments Of common men like me, In regard to a Prince, that is a PRINCE An’ that’s our Edward P. There’s many a man of lesser rank With none so much excuse, Who would have stayed in the home corral When the Kaiser’s herd bust loose, But when the pick of the round-up came To be marked for Oversea, If anyone hung back on the rope It was not Edward P. [page 55] Now all we chaps from Canada West We value men on their own, But we are not such an ornery lot As not to respect the throne, And we always know a thoroughbred When such a one we see, And we don’t back up for the Horse-Guards bunch In respect to Edward P. Now, we’re goin’ to ride the ranges here Till our Tanks have forced the line, And when the German herd stampedes We’ll follow it to the Rhine And when we hit the home-stretch As soon as they set us free, There’ll be none have Alberta’s welcome As much as Edward P.
“A” SQUADRON, CANADIAN CORPS CAVALRY
The 19th Albertas we used to be Until we were joined to the C.C.C., But now we may travel for many long moons And never be known as Alberta Dragoons— For such is life in the Army. When we were new soldiers, unused to drill, They gave us big pistols to pack at will; But though we have cleaned them and kept them from dirt, They have taken them from us, for fear we get hurt— For such is the way of the Army. Oh, when we were still upon Canada’s shores, We thought cleaning buttons would never win wars; But now all the money they give us to use Is invested in Brasso, instead of booze— For such is the way of the Army. It occurred to our foolish and juvenile mind That the steelwork on harness should never be shined; [page 57] But now we know things have been otherwise planned, And a trooper who’s lacking in grit or in sand Can never get on in the Army. We once sported Cavalry boots that were nice, From our own private incomes we paid out the price, But alack! they have issued us puttees again, And are making us walk like the infantrymen— The regular steps of the Army. We used to walk out with a swaggering air, And fine nickel spurs (such as officers wear), But all fancy spurs now are under a ban, For the plain steel belongs to the soldiering man Who is only a “buck” in the Army. Long since we went out on exercise ride, With our loose khaki shirts all unbuttoned quite wide, But now every button our tunics must show And we pack our smoke-helmets wherever we go— For such is the rule of the Army. Oh, poor old “A” squadron—they call us that now— There’s one consolation we all must allow, [page 58] They may take all our marks of distinction away But the General wills that the Stetsons shall stay As long as we stay in the Army. “Oh, what did you do, Daddy, out in the War?” “Oh, hush, child, I served in a Cavalry Corps.” “And tell me the way that you won the V.C.” “By wielding a shovel on Hill 63,” When I worked like a horse in the Army.” “And tell me, dear dad, were you chargers most keen?” “Oh yes, ma cherie, we had horses to clean, They were specially keen ’bout the time they were fed, And on grazing parades they were frequently led— For such is life in the Army.” Oh, kind friend, I prithee, give ear to my lay, And do not depart till you hear what I say: You can trust the old soldier right down to the ground— Could you lend me a franc until pay-day comes round? For once I belonged to the Army. Flanders, July 27, 1916. [page 59]
(Trooper A. K. MacKinven, “Ceann Loch gu Brath.” Died of Wounds.)
You had the heart of a Celt, old Mac, With you real old Highland name, And you could not brook to bide in peace When the call to other came. So you were one of the first to ’list, And you laughed at the shell and bomb, Knowing the dangers we had to face When they sent us down on the Somme. Now, well I mind, when another fell, And your Muse brought forth for him, Our empty saddles are filling fast, And we now ride gay and trim. Yet you would have written a line, I’m sure, Had Fate but made decree That you keep riding down the roads of France, And turned thumbs down for me. You had the readiest laugh, old Mac, That echoed our lightest joys, So whether in camp or estaminet [page 60] You could be “one of the boys.” They’ll miss your voice from the troop for long, And from out of the squadron, too; There’ll be “beaucou’” ghosts on the ride tonight— Do they ride as fast as you? I often think, as a soldier will— As soldiers have always thought— Of the vanished ones who came with us, Rode with us, worked, and fought; So I see “Slim” Gayer on the ride with you And a dozen more bucks beside. (They wouldn’t be officers, over the crest, When you travelled the Great Divide). There were neither of us with stripes, Old Mac, Oh well! is it cause for shame? We were happy enough to be doing our bit And playing our part in the game. It is not for you that our sorrow flows, Since you no help require— But a poor old mother is broken, I know, In a village of old Cantyre. I know you were Scotch to the core, Old Mac, But your heart loved ever best The spaces broad and the places wide [page 61] Where men think big in the West. So Canada claimed you, too, at heart, And there’s honor in this alone, That you came with Canada’s First—and died As one of Canada’s own. France 23-10-16.
WHO LEADS THE BAY MARE HOME TONIGHT?
By Trooper Angus K. MacKinven
Of the “A” Squadron, C.L.H. Died of Wounds
Who leads the bay mare home tonight— The little hard-mouthed bay Fifteen-three, with a camel’s gait, But a stayer all the way? He’ll have an easy time who does, For the bay mare travels light, But he’ll travel knee to knee with the ghost Of him who “went West” tonight. Oh, the “Foot-slogger” envies our easy time And sneers as we pass him by, And we could almost envy him— Ay, envy him,—and why? For the road patrols that he doesn’t do, For the rest we never get, For the “All right, boys, take it easy now” ’stead of “Hell! Ain’t you mounted yet?” [page 63] We’re a military all sorts, We’re the service “lucky dip”, Today we’ve a Vet’s Inspection, To-morrow, an all-day trip. And tonight, a full-fledged sapper, A would-be martinet, Hears our non-repeating cuss-words From his blankety parapet. And he was out there with us, But his saddle is empty and light, For back in his maxim emplacement Fritz pumps death out into the night. There’s a lass will weep in Blighty, There’s a home back Winnipeg way— Ha, the squadron’s on the move now, And Jackson’s leading the bay.
Extract from a letter of mine, March 18, 1916:
“Rather a peculiar thing happened in the squadron not long ago. One of recent draft from the Fort Garry’s was sent up on a working party—the first trip into the trenches for the poor lad. A richochet bullet took an eye out almost before the trooper had a chance to look about him.
“Well, when this unfortunate soldier departed never to return to us, his bay mare was given to another man, also a recent arrival from the Fort Garrys’. The successor to the mount fell the victim of a sniper very shortly afterward. So impressed was a Highland friend of mine, in the 4th troop (in which the dead men had ranked), that he, having a natural adaptability for verse, turned out some very creditable stanzas entitled “Who Leads the Bay Mare Home Tonight?”
All night the search-lights rake the skies; Their long white arms grope to and fro, And in between the fan-flares rise, And the red rockets of the foe, From the low sand-dunes of the north, Where Belgium’s army stands at bay, The maxims bark defiance forth To the invading hosts in gray. Unto the Vosges far away The long sand-bagged entrenchment runs, Where Britons grouch at long delay, And Frenchmen curse behind their guns, Here, where I tramp my beat tonight, Seeing weird shapes in hedge or tree Even the shafts of ghostly light Have brought strange fancies unto me. I care not who the man may be, But when he is apart—alone, His thoughts burst from the common sea To seek a channel of their own, And though grim war lies out beyond. And No Man’s Land lies in between, Peace comes to wave her magic wand In darkness o’er each war-skaithed scene. [page 65] A sentry’s ear must needs be keen To every sound that breathes or bodes; Advancing millions seem to mean Those countless hoof-beats on the roads, And yet I know that day by day The same strong stream of transport flows, With food for man and beast that play The check-game with our Empire’s foes. Hear! Up along the road, there goes An army marching in the night, Where have they gone? No sentry knows When shall they come? No king hath sight. There, where they turn, a Calvary rears; With pierced side and thorn-made crown, After these nineteen hundred years A lonely Christ looks sadly down. And still battalions from the town— Young, fresh-faced lads, if one could see With just the healthiest tinge of brown From open life by dale and lea. What troops are these? We must not say, Therefore it is they march by night, But those who meet them in the day Know ever then how Britons fight. [page 66] And these have others’ wrongs to right Tho’ Empire holds so much at stake, There are brave ideals in the sight, That cause men die for Britain’s sake. Perchance, the self-same road they take Where Caesar’s legionaries trod, Or Charlemagne caused nations quake, And baptized Saxons unto God. The tall trees by the roadway nod With spirits passing in the air, And on the highway, hard and broad, The marching feet are everywhere, Whether it be by flood or field, We finish what our own begin; Our Empire’s place we cannot yield; We only know that we must win. Now, in the East, the dawn breaks gray, And with the morn the night-lights pale, When shall Peace walk abroad by day To teach men where their bravest fail? Strong men go up to fight in war, But leal men plan how strife shall cease, For men true to the very core, Are giants in the ways of peace. Written while in billets near Bailleul, March 1916. [page 67]
TROOPERS IN FRANCE
In the Fall of 1919, a scouting party of the Canadian Light Horse were let thro’ the advanced Canadian lines in order to locate the exact position of the enemy who had retired at this point. In the early dawn the mounted party advanced up the Le Sars road, but presently came under Machine Gun fire and lost a number of men and horses.
Later, the same morning, in the direction of Pys, several troopers made a mounted patrol and succeeded in penetrating behind the enemy machine guns. The information procured for headquarters caused the Canadian line at this point (Courcellette) to be advanced eleven hundred yards.
There are little wooden crosses that the men are taking up To place upon the graves of those we knew— The boys who rode out with us on our little lone patrols, And the ones who carried in the stretchers too. We shall see as long as life shall last, the sights a soldier sees Where the tide of battle back and forward flowed, [page 68] And among the blackened corpses on the pave west of Pys There’s a Light Horse trooper lying in the road. When the early mist was rising, and the morn was damp and cold Thro’ the rusted wire we carefully rode on, And when the sun came showing like a little band of gold, ’Twas a charnel vault we look’d on in the dawn. Oh out across the broken ground we know of graves that lie Where we placed men in the shell-holes as they fell, But the chance of doing greater things can nerve men on to die, And they had allotted tasks, and did them well. Composed at Divion, France, October 2, 1916.
C’EST LA GUERRE M’SIEUR
Ol’ Monsieur Beauvais on de Rue Bruay I met heem mese’f only yesterday, And all de ol’ bonhomme have got to say Was “C’est la guerre, M’sieur. Soldat Canadien been here long tam Dat’s mak’ plaintee troub’ for me an’ ma femme, Eet’s not veree pleas’ wit whole t’ing I am, But C’est la guerre, M’sieur. I know eet, de Boche, he ees come long way, Mak’ de Grande Avance on de Pas de Calais, He mak’ eet too free evree place he stay, But C’est la guerre, M’sieur. Oh, Sacre Tonnerre! wat I tell to you Dat’s veree bad t’ing wat dat Boche weel do— But Canadien’s stealin’ my hop-pole too, Oh, C’est la guerre, M’sieur. I don’t lak dat soldat w’at’s ver’ bad t’ief, But hee’s always tres jolie w’en goin’ on leef, An’ he geev me beaucoup of de Boulli beuf, An’ C’est la guerre, M’sieur. [page 70] Dat Allemand Soldat dat come on here He dreenk eet too mooch of de bon bon biere, But Canadien’s likin’ de vin blanc claire, Oh, C’est la guerre, M’sieur. Canadien’s bon soldat on Grande Attaque An’ mebee hee’s drivin’ l’enemei back, Would M’sieur but geev me de small tabac? For C’est la guerre, M’sieur. I feel eet mon peep for firs’ tam today, Ees Monsieur un sergeant—un chevalier? An’ w’en do you t’ink eet ees come La Paix? Oh, C’est la guerre, M’sieur. O pauvre la France, dat ees longue longue guerre, We tak’ eet too mooch of de prisonnierre, W’y not sen’ dem over to Anglaterre? For C’est la guerre, M’sieur. Dat ees beaucoup brigand w’at ees pillage on me, Escadrons d’infanterie billet ici, I am caput—perdu eef la guerre no finis But C’est la guerre, M’sieur. [page 71] Weel M’sieur have eet un tasse la biere? I geeve you “Bon Chance”—dat ees “Good Luck”, M’sieur, An’ donnez m’ois un petite souvenir For C’est la guerre, M’sieur. Ol’ M’sieur Beauvais on de Rue Bruay He speak wit’ all soldat who pass dat way, But de ol’ feller never have mooch to say But C’est la guerre, M’sieur.
‘Twas a song of peace that angels sang On that Noel of long ago, While humble shepherds watched their flocks In the star-lit fields below, Great Kings of the earth, they then made war, And war is as red to-day, But the soldiers’ hearts go back to the peace Of their hearth-sides far away. ’Twas a manger’d stall of the rudest kind To which the Christ Child came, And near two thousand years from His birth— We lie in stalls the same, Now, none can call us men of Peace, Who dwell in loft and byre, But peaceful days are dear to us Some leagues behind the Fire. Hark ye! what sounds are these ye hear Borne thro’ the frosty air? The rumbling roar of mighty guns Great nations bring to bear. Oh, bring your costly gifts of myrrh And incense highly priced, [page 73] But sacrifice of blood give we Two thousand years from Christ. Shall this be deemed acceptable Blood off’rings spread abroad, Or like the sacrifice of Cain Rejected be of God? Well weigh we, all the lessons learned Both sides opposed in Strife And ne’er make allied cause with DEATH Who should make cause with Life. ‘Twas a song of Peace the Angels sang O’er Bethlehem town of old What Songs sing now the heavenly choir O’er broken hearths and cold? There are broken altars and ruined homes And blood-washed slopes as well, And with shame we say, we are keeping the day That men still call “NOEL”. France, Christmas 1916.
SOUVENIRS OF THE WAR
We haven’t much time to sorrow For the men we let behind, Whom we hastily covered in shell-holes Where the ugly trenches wind. To-morrow, perhaps, they’ll move us To another place on the front; We’ll miss many old-time comrades When we pull off another stunt. There’ll be lots of brand-new faces With new drafts drifting in: To-day they are sorting out trinkets To send to the “next of kin.” The Paymaster’s busy, I tell you, With lists and labels galore, Tying up tiny bundles— Souvenirs of the War! Just a check this lot as I give it (There isn’t much to send) A little wrist watch—now broken— The gift of a lady friend. A Testament, too, from Mother, Quite clean on each leaf inside, And a little old, dog-eared diary, Made up to the day he died. [page 75] There’s photos of all the homefolks— His own looking brave and stern— A packet of one girl’s letters, Always too dear to burn; A couple of battered badges Which, perhaps that girl may prize; (There’s lots of work for the pay-clerks With every man who dies). Of course, you’re thinking of Charlie And the last we saw of Mac, We, all of us, prayed to get forward And never a man held back. So, whether they dropped on the pave Or were simply blown to bits, It’s only some more that’s added To the score we settle with Fritz. There are souvenirs meant to be handled, Looked on, cried over, and such, And ones that lie deep in our memory But do not respond to touch. Scenes that will rise to fancy, When war has faded from sight, And we look down on old “Sausage Valley,” And fields where we labored by night. [page 76] We’ll go back with some empty saddles When the regiment moves again, They’ll start the old drill all over For the sake of new cavalry men, We’ve been in the line of battle. Looked Death in the face, and stared, Some that have gone were youngsters! How does it come we’re spared? Some will have ribbons upon them, Each will have jousted with fate; Soldiers are men who can see things Too frightful to ever relate, Oft in the years long-coming Mem’ry will haunt us back To corpses in gray and khaki— Horrible, bloated, and black. We haven’t the time to sorrow For comrades we left out there; We did what we could for the living, The dead had no cause to care; When our turn comes for passing The same as those we miss We won’t ask more of tribute— Than a little old poem like this. France, Oct. 11th, 1916. [page 77]
“CANADA’S LAST HOPE”
We once were three that now are one, For henceforth it shall be That they shall ride as only one Who once rode forth as three. And we that were “Straubenzie’s Horse”, And always in the Van, Are “Colonel Leonard’s Hopefuls” now Three squadrons to a man. By devious ways we wandered forth To seek our fame and scars; And some of us were bold dragoons And some were called hussars. Oftimes we had been called by names Not “kultured” or refined— But when they gave us “C.C.C.” It almost struck us blind. [page 78] We’ve ridden down along the Aire, We’ve been beside the Somme We’ve been a bit of everywhere They need a fighting “homme.” We often left our old chevaux And shovelled sand galore, But when they called “Corps Cavalry” It struck us to the core. Each squadron had a chosen badge, And each was loathe to change; And each draft that came along Had badges new and strange, ’Twould sore perplex Von Hindenburg To tell what men we were, For no one really seemed to know, And no one seemed to care. As we went out upon a ride, The soldiers, by the way, All thought we were Stranthcona Horse Until they heard us say: “We are Hussars!” “We are Dragoons!” “We are some R.C.D.!” “Fort Garry Horse,” and “C.M.R.’s,” And — who the h—ll are we? [page 79] A little bit of everything Could sit a horse and ride— The pick of Western shovelry That dug both deep and wide, Until our travelling orders came, And then in groups and scores We heard the commands of “Sections file,” And started—“forming fours.” ’Tis pleasant after strenuous toil, Of weary, winter days, To clean our rusted swords and spurs, And rustle in the strays. And soon upon our shoulder straps The “C.L.H.” will shine, When “Canada’s Last Hope” at last Goes riding up the line. Oh, Fritzies! tremble in your boots, And shiver while you may, For Canada’s own “shovelry” Are getting under way, You’ll find us “odds and ends” no doubt, But when the charge goes through, The end will not be as you planned, For the odds are not with you! Composite Regiment Divisional Cavalry of 1st, 2nd and 3rd, Contingents: “A” 19th A.D.; “B” 1st Hussars (London, Ont.); “C” 16th Light Horse (Regina). Col. Leonard succeeded Col. Van Straubenzie. [page 80]
ALL IN THE NIGHT ATTACK
Oh, Madam Migonne at Divion, She laves our clothes with care, She never uses the hot water For she has none to spare She never uses much Savon So when she brings them back We’re searching the seams of our lingerie All in the Night Attack. O’ the little crawling cooties Are with us in our dreams, O, soldier loan me a candle To run along the seams, I’m sitting up over the cow-barn And the night is cold and black There’s a lot of lives that are sacrificed All in the Night Attack. Now infantry men have troubles Like blisters upon their feet, And it must be hard on Kiltie Men To search in every pleat, [page 81] But even the favoured cavalry, Are getting on to the knack, Of looking after the little things All in the Night Attack. Now from bewhiskered poilus We have derived a few, And new breeds from the Heinies To add to those we knew. So when we’re back in billets, (And life a wee bit slack You’ll find us joining briskly All in the Night Attack.
IT WASN’T THE FAULT OF THE COLONEL
Written on a very special occasion, being the issue of new Grey-back Shirts at a time when they were sorely needed by the squadrons.
Oh why are the Cavalry boys so gay When Winter days are not far away, When we constantly wade thro’ the lines in dirt? Well, the secret lies in a good clean shirt— But it isn’t the fault of the colonel. When the Summer days were warm and long, They rode their horses so wiry and strong, And took them over the jumps and runs, And slashed at turnips instead of Huns— Which wasn’t the fault of the colonel. When they’d worked all day, their King to please, They crawled in bivvies under the trees, And took off their shirts by candle light, And killed everything they found in sight, Which wasn’t the fault of the colonel. They straffed the Fritzies who held them here, And longed for pay-day, and francs and beer; Then they paid instalments on debts they owed, And sought the estaminets down the road, Which wasn’t the fault of the colonel. [page 83] “Madame’ your biere’s no bon,” they sang, And they raised their song till the rafters rang, But they drank the biere ’till ’twas all napoo, And hit for camp ere the First Post blew— Which was all the fault of the colonel. There were working parties that called them out Where the Allemand shells dropt round about, And the pale moon watched them flit like ghosts To wiring parties and listening posts, At advance points set by the colonel. One dark, dark night, as they forward stole, An officer slipped in a deep shell-hole ’Twas a painful moment of fear and wrath, As one of the Reg’ment indulged in a bath, Which wasn’t the plan of the colonel. Our General Byng reviewed them all, And he liked their looks and he liked their gall; He remarked that they sat their horses well And hadn’t a doubt they could run like hell When they worked on a scheme of the colonel’s. But now all the reg’ment are scrubbed to the hide. And are trusting there’s underwear to be supplied, So when we ride up, the bad Bosches to meet, We may have cold backs, and we may get cold feet— But it won’t be the fault of the colonel. Contay (Somme) France, 20-9-16. [page 84]
OUT OF ACTION
The Cook, he dished the “Dog Vomit” up (he may have called it hash) There was Pork and Beans and Macconochie Stew and a lot of other trash; There are thirty men on the sick parade and the regiment gone to smash, So the Medico ordered up the Number Nines. The ‘Cook’s Bitch’ scoured the dixies out, and he did not sand them well And what’s come over the fighting men is more than I can tell, I’ve a touch of the collywobbles myself and I know it feels like hell But the Doc has ordered up the Number Nines. The King’s effective fighting force is something can’t be had, The adjutant looks serious—the colonel’s fighting mad, And the line-up on the Sick Parade reports ‘Beaucoup Malad’ While the ‘Croix Rouge’ is dispensing Number Nines. [page 85] We’re not the sort of shock troops now, to hold the foe at bay We wouldn’t give a tinker’s damn if the war should end today, And it’s time the Poultice Wallopers were carting us away For you do get results from Number Nines. Now some of these fine days again, we’ll have a go at Fritz But now as far as we’re concerned we’re ready to cry quits Just one more sight of Number Nines would drive us all to fits. For one does feel disgust at Number Nines. Now, some that go malingering have not the guts to spare, And some that get on Sick Parade, they never should be there, But who’s eaten our Slumgullion has more than had his share ’Till they bring on his dose of Number Nines!
ON THE “DUCK-WALKS” EAST OF YPRES
On the “duck-walks,” east of Ypres, thick with mud and splashed with gore, Where the shells are ever hurtling thro’ the holocaust of war, I can see our own men toiling in those awful days agone, So our mitrileurs were thankful, and their guns went rattling on. We’ve done all kinds of soldiering, and tried all kinds of jobs, In quite all kind of places, and felt all kinds of throbs; But the Valley of the Shadow seemed the closest on the nights When we tumped* along by Boethoek, on the way to Abram Heights. We used to feel our stirrups in a kind of pride that we Were not so much foot sloggers as a kind of cavalree; We’ve done some queer apprenticeships on cheval and on shale, But the queerest on the “duck-walks” out en route to Paschendaele. *Referring to use of the “Tump-line” in packing loads. [page 87] There are so many gruesome sights a soldier has to see, One cannot shut one’s eyes to half the hell of misery; But I’ve quailed before the stretchers coming laden—coming slow, And the blood a-dripping, dripping, to the “duck-walk” down below. Oh, many a time in boyhood have we looked on martial views, Where artistic fancy revelled in the mingled reds and blues; But here the scene is blackened in the mud and in the rain— And the red is on the board-cleats, where a stretcher had but lain. The infantry come marching, not together, but out-spread; They do not have the pipers striding jauntily ahead; They left all pomp behind them where the pave roads are clear, And they’re going into action strung with packs and sacks and gear. They learned to do their “form-fours” on the British barrack squares, But here they’re stepping gingerly without the martial airs. [page 88] You have to feel, on dark nights, the place your foot would seek, And the way is long and narrow out along by Zonnebeke. The flashes of the big guns herald far their roar of hate— The barking of the small guns sounds in between the great; And out across the quagmire you can hear spasmodic breaks— The punctuated rattle that our own machine gun makes. Get down from off the “duck-walks”, get in the mud and ooze; Crouch in beside machine guns in any trench you choose; And when our own barrage-fire rips out its hail of death Across the trembling earthworks you’ll feel the spirit-breath! You’ll feel the cold air passing, you’ll sense the spectres there, The wraiths that pass so constantly from horror and despair; [page 89] Your eyes will peer beyond you to-ward where the foeman wait, And you’ll wonder if the good God hears these awful hymns of hate. I have seen dead Fritzies lying as I’ve seen our own boys fall; And I’ve seen some tiny Bibles in their knapsacks after all; I can hear each bullet zipping from the belts that we have filled And I know there are some prayer books on the men that we have killed. Along the line of rusted wire where awful fragments cling, Beside a battered “pill-box” I saw a woeful thing— Just one poor, fair-haired farm lad, drawn from a Saxon farm, His latest home-land parcel beneath his shattered arm. Oh Kaiser, had you seen him, with face turned to the skies, You had not thought your kingship the greatest thing to prize; Oh Kaiser, had you forseen some sights we soldiers see, [page 90] You’d rather be a private like your poor man, or me. You would not feel the greatness thrust on you by your birth, If you crouched in this charnel on blood-polluted earth; The gas you launched at Ypres you thought would turn the scale, And there’s gassed green corpses lying on the ridge by Paschendaele!
(Written while attached to Borden and Sifton Batteries Motor Machine Gunners at Paschendaele.)
TO THE ONE LITTLE GIRL WHO CARES
You are never out of my mind sweetheart, You are never out of my mind, Wherever I go in the War land, Whether fate be harsh, or kind, A man has his orders to follow, So he cannot be free to go. But beyond the confines of the Army His thoughts have continual flow. Away to the one little girl he loves Thro’ the quivering lights and airs, And some of these days he is going back To the one little girl who cares. You are never away from my dreams at all— And day-dreams are dreams that last— What were the words that you whispered low When I held your hands in the past? What were the words that you meant to say When I kissed you and clasped you tight? Would your heart beat faster I wonder, my love, If you lay in my arms tonight? [page 92] And I love you, sweet, for the promise you gave And the hope that each message bears— And some of these days I am coming again To the one little girl who cares. I know there are chances we take, sweetheart, And it’s cruel to think too long On the things that would happen to both of us If the chances we trust went wrong: But somehow I’m sure I will see your face In the light of a happier day, And you’ll give me the kisses I’ve missed so long Since I’ve wandered so far away, From all that made life what it ought to be. What a glory the old world wears To the happy man who is travelling back To his one little girl who cares. France, July 6, 1917.
They rounded us up for Church Parade And the Sky Pilot took us in tow, He said the Lord was on our side— And I guess he ought to know He quite het up to his discourse (Which wasn’t what you’d call tame) An’ I kind of feel for the Jerry Boys Who are playing a losing game. There’s quite a flock of these pilot birds That follows us round abouts, And I haven’t a doubt but lots of them Are pretty decent scouts, There may be truth in the hot stuff What them Padres, at times, orate, But there aint no call for us common bucks To be singin’ no Hymns of Hate. Now, Church Parade is optional, But nary a Buck declines, For those that are left are Catholics A cleanin’ up the lines, And when the Dogans do their stunts It’s up to the Protestant League— [page 94] The Mormons, the Jews, and the Gentiles, To do the extra fatigue. So that’s why I’m here a listenin’ To what this Reverand can tell, How we’re on the road to Heaven And Fritz on the road to Hell; And then we’re shoutin’ our War song We’ve sung so often before— About Onward you Christian Soldats A marchin’ into the War. Now, we’ve been up to the front lines And took our chances in Hell. And we haven’t no love for the Kaiser And Krupp’s and Co. as well; But tho’ we are straffing the Kaiser’s troops, It’s only fair to state, We haven’t much time upon either side To be singing Hymns of Hate.
THE BUCKLE OF BRASS
Toward the end of the War while Canadian Light Horse were lying near Houdain, intimation was given to the troops that the General would inspect on the following day. It was further stated that the Colonel wished every man to pay particular attention to shining the large buckle on the respirator which was worn by Cavalry men when not in use in a position across the back. It appeared that on recent inspections of other units the General had evinced his displeasure at finding that soldiers had neglected to shine this particular part of their equipment.
The word came down the lines at noon The General will be with us soon, He wishes to see you in Battle Array, So polish by night, and polish by day, And the Colonel cautions what-e’er you pass You do not neglect the buckle of brass On the back of you respirator. We burnished out chains with all our might Till the clear blue steel was shining bright And made a raid on the squadron canteen [page 96] For dope to polish and savon to clean; We made each buckle to shine like glass And we did not neglect the buckle of brass On the back of our respirator. The Officers hastened to one and all “Now take ye heed that whatever befall You must oil your rifles full bright and clear And shine each shell in you bandolier And tho’ there be rain (as may hap, alas) Give a finishing touch to the buckle of brass On the back of your respirator.” We groomed our horses with extra care With a kerosene rag we smoothed their hair: We blacked the hooves of our loved chevaux And combed their manes and tails just so. We were soldats all of the premier classe So we rubbed encore on the buckle of brass On the back of our respirator. The word came down the lines once more This time ’twas the Sergeant the word that bore, “Let your saddles be polished, as never yet Let your bridles be glist’ning and free from sweat, And the Colonel is anxious and lays much stress On the buckle ye shine both more and less On the back of your respirator.” [page 97] So our saddle-blankets were brushed and aired (The saints bear witness no toil was spared) We folded them neat in the cavalry way And we polished by night and polished by day... Then we covered them well on the orchard grass Lest the night air tarnish the buckle of brass On the back of our respirators. The morning came and with early light We sped to stables with all our might. On the silky hides we lavished care And breathed soft words on the morning air, Then to our own “Manger” we hastened en-masse With a passing touch to the buckle of brass On the back of our respirators. The trumpet’s blare on the silence broke On the back of each saddle was rolled each cloak Our gun buckets glistened full bright and sheen, And the steel of our sword blades was blue and keen, Our stirrups gleamed in the morning sun, And we saw that the buckle was not undone On the back of our respirators. Our saddles were placed and our girths made tight And we rode from camp in the early light, Our limbers followed along behind [page 98] Soaked in whale-oil until they shined. The headquarters troop came by at a trot And the quartermaster was flustered and hot For the adjutant said as he saw them pass “Have you given full care to the buckle of brass On the back of your respirator?” The colonel sat at the cross-roads high And eyed each trooper as we rode by. He saw how each Stathcona boot was laced He noted each Stetson was properly placed; As each squadron swung by the ville Grande Place He noted each back with the buckle of brass On the back of the respirator. To the field of parade did each squadron file And took up its place in the Army style The heavy wagons to place they drew, [page 99] The limbers rolled up and the mess carts too, Each trooper sat like a statue dumb Wondering when in Hell will the General come? The tin-helmet swung at his shoulder strap Ran rain to his tunic and rain to his lap, The horses miserably paw’d at the grass And rain ran down on the buckles of brass On the back of the respirators. Now Glory be, there’s a sudden stir The word comes quickly “He’s coming, sir.” The Colonel stiffens, the reg’ment “SHUNS.” And down from each saddle the cold rain runs, The sedan of the General rolls to a halt Out steps the General dry to a fault! Un Petit drapeau at the side of his boot And the General stands to receive our salute. “Draw Swords” and each squadron swings bravely in sight Each sword held erect, and each eye to the right And each trooper feels as his back has been turned The eye of the General steadily burned Noting all his deficiency, poise, and demean, All his equipment so thoroughly clean But full concentrated alack and alas On that now hoodooed nightmare, the Buckle of brass On the back of the respirator. [page 100] Now swords were returned and troops galloped on Over hurdles and ditches they sprang and were gone, Over wide stretch of meadows they rode as in chase Till again on Parade ground they dropped into place And each trooper thought having mind but to this I wonder if there can be aught that’s amiss With that damnable buckle that ought to be bright That looms up so plain in the General’s sight On the back of my respirator? And still in each saddle each trooper sat cold And the mud on his leather was sad to behold And he hoped in his heart that the Brass Hat would say “The Parade is called off for the rest of the day!” Oh, could we but sink in some secret crevasse To be lost out of sight with that buckle of brass! On the back of our respirator. The rain drizzled cold as it can do in France And the Colonel gave order the regiment advance For the General wished that the show might encore So the squadrons drew swords, and saluted once more [page 101] Each troop-leader thinking as by he did pass The General’s displeased with the Buckle of Brass On the back of our blankety-blankety-blank-blankety respirators! Now over the fields they manoevered in haste And their previous gallop again they retraced. Each horse on its mettle, each man all alert And all the equipment well smothered in dirt, Till at last they drew up knee to knee, trace to trace And looked for a smile on the General’s face, Each thought “Can it be that our chance we’ve let pass And we can’t curry favor with buckles of brass On the back of our respirators?” Shrilled the whistle that bade ‘prepare’, Troop leaders raised their hands in the air Horses stood fast as if spell-bound And troopers seized rifle and came to ground Thinking all admonition was nothing but gas, There will be no comment on the buckles of brass On the back of our respirators. Not the General came to each troop in turn And nothing of fault could he discern Tho’ he peeped in each trooper’s haversack, And unfastened bandolier flaps at the back, [page 102] And squinted down gunbarrels and unslid bolts, And prob’d in the works of 45 Colts, And undid nose-bags securely tied, And saddle-wallets on either side. And felt men’s tunics in order to see If first-aid dressings were where they should be And troopers erect with jaws held square, Could feel the General fingerin’ there At the back of their respirators. O Gawd be thanked, he is thro’ at last, An’ the order among the troops was passed All to mount and to ride again And we hit the highroad back to Houdain, O, the regiment’s ignorance might be crass But the General’s pleased with the buckle of brass On the back of our respirators. The word came down the lines next day The Colonel had some words to say, The Gen’ral’s remarks to him were plain He was pleased with the troops and wouldn’t complain, Only this one fault he would caution, alas— There was some neglect of the buckles of brass On the back of the respirators. [page 103] O, echo a cheer for La Belle France An’ a cheer for the squadrons three—Bon chance An’ a cheer for our General, give once more Who could notice this after four years’ war, That troops might have mettle and yet o’er pass The baser metals of tarnished brass On the back of the respirators.
FROM WAR LETTERS
Cher Docteur: To me eet ees plaisair I’m sure To relate I am well, so I cannot be cure, An’ at Noel, I hope you are veree same way, W’en I’m wishin’ ma frien’ all de same, “bon sante.” Of course, I am missin’ dat fros’ and dat snow, An’ longin’ sometam for dat 40 below, But I don’ come an’ sit by de stove now toute suite Or I’m gettin’ de chillblain all over my feet. Eet isn’t long letter I sen’ you dis tam, For I’m readin’ your speech to les docteurs, by dam. I peety de whole of dose medical men, But I’m readin’ eet over an’ over again. Excuser moi, for my letter ees short— But I want to get on wit’ your sapre report, Geeve all my regard to my former confrere, On de Bureau de Sante, dis tam of de year.
I am sure we are going to win the war because lately we have been getting “Parritch” for breakfast. What dae ye ken aboot that? Hoch der Haig!
France , December 4, 1916. [page 105]
France July 16, 1917.
Still we are eating the government grub, with infinite pains and relish, And things we find in our old mess-tub are sometimes strange to our (hic) bellish. Some of the boys that thrive on beer, could dine on Egyptian mummies, But we get an appetite over here, that’s hard on the Tommies’ tummies. ‘Bully bif’ and Macconachie Hash and Slumgullions called in question, And tea that the Indies sent to smash our health with the Indy jestion. It’s nice to be soldering out in France, on the road to the Great Eternal (For those who sit on the seat of hostilities, and dine at the mess of a Colonel). Nevertheless, without despair, I’ve eaten my grub and I’ve done my share, I’ve eaten my share, and I’ve done my bit and I won’t be peeved when it’s time to quit.
Bethmann-Hollweg, we notice is now out of bounds — or rather out of business. Good-bye Beth, we’re glad you go. It’s a chancy job in the Chancellor show. You hated us all and we understood, so nobody thinks you are gone for good! [page 106]
Behind the lines, somewhere in France, We’re waiting for the great advance, And doing things, from day to day, To help us on our weary way. You’d be surprised, you would, in fact, To find our squadron still intact, Despite the German shells and mines (It’s often dull behind the lines) Somewhere in France. Behind the lines in Belgium, too, You still might find us, quite a few Still rusticating on the farms Or lying idly on our arms, And watching all our sleek chevaux (Our King and Country need us so). Of Uhlans here we see no signs, It’s stagnant, quite, behind the lines Somewhere in Belgium. We used to have some idle hopes Of charging down the Rhineland slopes, And doing Cossack posts and stunts That we have practiced more than once. [page 107] But, nimble troopers as we were, We could but stay behind and swear, And wish to brave the shots and stenches, And “foot-slog” in to man the trenches Somewhere in Front. But still we’re guarding farms and things (It’s not our fault, or even Byng’s) This here patrolling round the farms Is meant for Frenchy Gens d’Armes, And watching roads in open view Lest some slim Fritzie should creep through Poor Devil! If he hits our rounds, (Estiminets are out of bounds) Somewhere in Flanders. The Infantry are doing splendid, But, God send, ere the war be ended, They need our Cavalry that’s mounted (If our old steeds are still accounted) We’ll amble in, our pace no greater, Should they require us some years later, And stall our horses out of malice In Kaiser Wilhelm’s Potsdam Palace Somewhere in Deutschland. France, 12-2-17. [page 108]
DAMES OF FRANCE
“The Dames of France are fond and free
And Flemish lips are willing”.
(Suggested by queries made to Mr. Will R. Bird by former Canadian Soldiers as to former haunts and habitudes of the old occupied territory”.)
Oh, do you mind of Stout Marie Who dwelt near Bailleul Ville? She had as many buxom charms As man could wish to feel, The only fault with Sweet Marie Her weakness lay in spots, As when she mucked about the byres With dung on her sabots. Or have you thought of fair Eloise At Madame Laundry’s place Who combed her hair three times a day But seldom washed her face? [page 109] She does not love you any more For needless ’tis to say. She has filles and garcons three or four And another on the way. Or Rosie with the well rouged cheek? You bade her au revoir She added cuss words every week To her long repertoire She comes no more on promenade Nor does she longer roam. She’s married to her own chasseur And wags her tongue at home. Or, have you news of dark Nannette With coal black eyes aglow? Has she left that estaminet We drank in long ago? Can still she mix the grenadine Or pass the foaming beer? And has she kept each collar badge She claimed for souvenir? Have you been by the magazine Old Madame Beauvrie’s place Where young mam’selle from Armentiers Sold us whole yards of lace? [page 110] They loved us for the francs we spent And smiled each time we came “Apres la guerre finis—mes braves Dis place ees not de same.” And have you been to Divion (And how do folks behave) An’ were you at the Barber Shop Where madam gives the shave? Does she still leave her half-dressed brats Meand’ring round the place While she—with “munjee” in her mouth Slaps lather on your face? Oh, Comrade Bird, Oh, Comrade Bird Who knows the War Zone well, How are the petite demoiselles We knew at old Cassel? And have you been by Mont des Chats To see those kitties there Who once were fresh and fair to see But now are only fair? Oh, la! la! Oh, la! la! la! Fair demoiselles we knew! There are no dames in Canada Are quite the same as you. [page 111]
NIGHTS THAT WE REMEMBER
The Star Shells lit the firing line We heard the hardware screech and whine, And cold sweat trickled down our spine On nights that we remember. The calm old moon looked down and smiled She saw the well-worn shovels piled And out of the trenches the Cavalry filed On nights that we remember. “Ware Wire” men, and “Close up tight” “Shell hole here,” and “keep to the right,” Watch for the guide tape on darkest night— Such nights as we remember. Down the duckboards and darkened way We floundered on till dawn of day, And all were ready to hit the hay After nights that we remember. Too tired to think, and with brains grown numb We had one desire that we wished would come— We wished that the Sergeant would bring our rum After nights that we remember. [page 112] In lousy dug-outs we laid down, To us the war held little renown, But a wished for warmth, that our cares may drown After nights that we remember. Now War is a nightmare (Thank God) that’s gone, But it helped us go forward from Arras to Bonn— The little RUM RATION that helped us on After nights that we remember.
BOYS, LOOK AT US NOW!
(February 11, 1932)
When we wanted to join, to go abroad The Major looked at us kind of odd, He thought we were kind of a roughneck crew, But he’d lick us in shape in a year or two And boys, look at us now. They gave us lectures on warfare based, On the way the Boers on the Veldt were chased, We drank it in with a deal of lore For we were not versed in the ways of war But boys, look at us now. O, didn’t we drill and didn’t we shoot And do a helluva lot to boot And didn’t we ride our old chevaux Down where the Riviere Jacques Cartier flows— And boys, look at us now. We all were afraid they would end la guerre Before we got over to Anglaterre, But in order to quench our thirst for blood They let us wallow in Wiltshire mud And boys, look at us now. [page 114] Now, this is the day we celebrate For they took us abroad on this very date. We were dome brave bunch when they took us there, And dumped us over at St. Nazaire But boys, look at us now. Now, the Kaiser knew that his fate was met Tho’ the war might hang on for some years yet, And it gave him a pain in his tummy-tum-tum When they brought him word the Canucks had come But boys, look at us now. The fireworks started with gas galore Which we were not taught was a feature of war. To our stunts we added a gas parade And gas-masks came to the whole Brigade So boys, look at us now. Then they taught us our methods were obsolete— That men fought better upon their feet That the days men fought upon horses’ backs Were the days of the Knights and the Battle-axe. So boys, look at us now. [page 115] We learned to footslog and gravel crush, We learned to shovel in sludge and slush, We learned to paddle in trenches wet, And we learned a lot we would like to forget For boys, look at us now. They taught us to scout (ere we went o’er seas,) Such as finding our way by the bark on trees, But they told us to ditch three-fourths of our loads And you must not trot on the Flanders’ Roads Oh boys! Pity us now! We visited all the estaminet rounds, Till they placed the estaminets out of bounds Then we found that Sheridan’s views were right And that war was Hell by a good Damsite. For boys, look at us now. Oh, you old duffers that listen to me, You had your fill of a fight o’er sea, You had your chance to do or die And now you are back to Canada Dry. And boys, look at us now. Some of your belts are not so slack, Some are stiffened and kinked in the back. Some are balder than what they were, But all have a look of Devil-May-Care. Boys, look at us now. [page 116] We’ll meet again, and in year to come And few will answer when most are dumb. Till the last old gaffer goes doddering by, And says with a tear in his vacant eye “Oh boys, look at us now!” You may not think it to look at me I’m not so young as I used to be But I served in France with the troops eftsoons, And we were some bunch in the Old Dragoons But boys—look at US now!
THE OLD GUARD
We’ve answered the roll call, Sergeant And some of the troops are here But always the number at roll-call Is lessening year by year, Still we draw in for a hand-shake Still we rise up for a toast— But comrades who journeyed ahead, boys Are those we remember the most. Dark days of battle and scouting Cold days of danger and gloom Come to us all for a moment To melt in the lights of the room, Over each glass and decanter We linger ’till glimmering dawn And into our groups come the faces— The faces of men that are gone. Comrades of “Bivvy” and billet (Some of the best we’d made,) Mates who were with us on picquet And numbered with us on parade. [page 118] All the patrols have gone forward. Do the connecting Files show? Yes, for we follow in order Down thro’ the years as we go. You that have ridden beside us, You who have joined in our song Tho’ we are gathered in mufti, We know where your heart must belong Along with columns of khaki Your thoughts glide to years long sped. We must keep to the ranks till ordered To join with the comrades ahead. You mind how we flocked to the Arm’ries Each one with a keenness to ’list, But then we were only rabble Whatever our hopes might insist. By “Swede-torture”—aye and by route-march, By things that we couldn’t escape, They brought us to thinking as Soldiers And hammered a squadron to shape. But then we were strange to each other As strange as we were to the war. ’Till the “bivvy”, the trench and the billet Had fostered an ‘esprit de corps’. [page 119] We groused in the slack-time behind lines We marched in the mud and the rain We endured (and enjoyed) and tonight, boys We live it all over again. We weren’t too strong on salute, boys Perhaps we were somewhat a mob, But the rough-necks that Canada sent there Were able to handle the job. We’ve never been sorry we answered When the Motherland gave us the call And—we grew to respect and to honor The men who went thro’ with it all. There’s some out of touch with the column (God knows where the stragglers may be) But pass the word on to close up there (Tho’ nothing ahead can we see) We’ve trust in the Unseen that guides us We still have a forced-march to do, And the Young Guards will cheer, in the passing The Old Guards that pass in review.
February 11, 1932. [page 120]
COMRADES OF THE WAR
Ye comrades of the War years Who sleep so sound and still, The sun is on the crosses, And the Lark is on the hill, We still have bitter memories Of nights of rain or frost, But ye left the battle early, Ere we counted all the cost. The war graves of our soldiers They lie on every hand, But filled are now the trenches And tilled again the land. They fed us high on Glory That lures men on to war, And now we tread the home trails That you may tread no more. We tread again the home trails The trails that once ye knew, And now no glory waits us But only tasks to do, And still new conflicts face us And still we “carry on” But we must face the twilight And you left in the dawn. [page 121] Oh, cheery were ye comrades At all the tasks they set: Men sang and joked while marching In fog, and cold and wet, Now I would sing a chanson To those whose tasks are done, For life thro’ clouds and shadow Holds little glints of sun. Ye dead that lie in Flanders Your graves are marked with care And the poppies blaze about ye And the lark is high in air. And home—where ye had longed for New forces walk the street Dejected ones—old comrades Who now must face defeat. They rallied to the roll call Young men, and staunch and true “Your King and Country need you,” Was what was said to you. They mustered in their manhood They served their country well But we forget the living And honor those who fell. [page 122] We’ll take the torch ye threw at us And still will hold it high, To keep it brightly burning Lest faith and freedom die, We’ll still hold fast to ideals That cling to Britain’s crown; But can we see old comrades About us here go down? Old faces come about us In silence of the night Old forms that we remember Were with us in the fight, But the men with haggard faces We meet with every day, Are the ones who bring us anguish That will not pass away.
[unnumbered page, includes illustration]