A Few Poems Written By POWs While In Captivity 1940 - 1945
Home from arbeit half past four
Then a mad rush for the door
Might just make it, blow that wire
Two's up on that bloody fire
What's for tea mate? Where's the wood?
Last weeks meat loaf, is it good?
Lost the pan so borrow Jacks
"Oi you" two's up with that axe
Finished? Good I'll have a go
Wood won't burn, so puff and blow
Canadian meat loaf, nice stuff pork
Yes I'm two's up with the fork
Slight mishap (pan overturned)
Contents black but not quite burned
Finished with the table there
OK, two's up on that chair
Tea is over, great the need
To have a wash then sit and read
What's that called? Lets have a look
I'll be two's up on that book
Blackouts down, approaching night
Soon be time to douse the light
But think while getting into kip
I won't be two's up on that bloody ship
I wonder what she really is
and what her name will be
I often try to picture her
as she takes us out to sea
I don't expect a beauty
as I know there will be few
But even if she's very old
for us I'm sure she'll do
And her beauty and her colour
and her style might all be gone
Maybe she's not working
but lying idle all alone
But on that day she does our job
off her path she will nor roam
So comrades keep your chins up
she's the boat that takes us home.
Everyday we look for him with longing in our hearts
The man who brings us news of home and also Stalag Marks
He never seems to hurry, but he gets there just the same
And if there's any mail for us, we almost go insane
Let's hope they never call him up, or take him off his job
And that his mailbag gets so big he has to hire a cab
For that's all that we live for, news of folks at home
And if the mail comes often, you'll never hear us moan
So do your stuff old postman, and do not let us down
And when you die and leave this earth, you'll surely get a crown
In an Eastbourne homestead, sits a woman sad and grey
She's thinking of a year ago, when her son he went away
She spends a lonely Christmas, for her there is no joy
She wonders what fate, is in store for her beloved boy
He obeyed his country's call, the foe he went to fight
His broken hearted Mother, in tears he left that night
But now he lies a prisoner, somewhere on foreign soil
For him there is no pleasure, nothing but work and toil
But she knows that after the storm, the sunshine follows rain
And like a true British Mother she bears up to the pain
For she hopes that next Christmas, her son by her side will be
Sharing her yuletide pleasures, enjoying his liberty.
We've not finished our journey lads
We still have a load to bear
We must face the future sternly lads
Our joys and woes we must share
The way's been a tricky one lads
No roses are strewn in our way
Our road's still a sticky one lads
Hardships are barring our way
But it can't last for ever lads
We shall soon see dear "Blighty" again
Cheer up, from the misery sever, lads
And keep smiling through the pain
When my army days were starting, and I was on the square
I first saw Geordie Martin who didn't think it fair
That in ugly canvas clothing and equipment that seemed odd
He should be an awkward member of a really awkward squad
And when parades were over, to the barrack he would go
There Geordie would amuse us, with his constant tales of woe
He was forever wishing that the present time was gone
For almost every phrase he spoke contained the words "Roll on"
Twas "Roll on dinner" "Roll on tea" and "Roll on when I'm off C.B."
"Roll on the day I draw more pay, Roll on the time till I get away
To the unit stationed overseas, for there you soldier at your ease
The natives keep your equipment clean, while you pass the time in the wet canteen."
One day I said to Geordie, after he had had his say
"Have you ever realised how you wish your life away?"
"Surely the present is not so bad? and think of the merry times we've had"
But Geordie slowly shook his head as smilingly he turned and said
"One of these days before we're thro' you'll be saying Roll on too"
Then the war came, and as before a soldier I became
But I wished I was back in "civvie street" I didn't want fight or fame
I thought of Geordie Martin as I said "Roll on peace"
And I fervently wished my life away till hostilities would cease
The last time I met Geordie Martin was in Stalag number eight
As I came marching tiredly in, he stood beside the gate
"I know what you're thinking" said Geordie "but I haven't the heart to gloat"
But I'm sure you'll all agree to say with me:- "ROLL ON THAT BLOODY BOAT!!"
In a street a crowd of boys were standing
Watching those gallant troops march by
And by their side there stood a woman
Till the tears fell from her eyes
Far, far away in Sunny Belgium
Where he fell fighting with the brave
And his dying words were Mother
I have always thought of you
Day by day the anxious Mother waited
News from her gallant soldier boy
Till one day she received a cruel letter
Saying, Mother I have thought of you
Like a hero he fell fighting
Fighting for the good Red, White and blue
And his dying words were Mother
I have always thought of you
Give A Thought
Have you ever wondered what they think
In Blighty day by day?
Have you ever wondered if they say a prayer
For you while you're away?
Let me reassure you lads
They give us all a thought
To those who have not yet returned
Who went away and fought
Do you ever give a thought to them
Amidst their strife and cares?
Do you also think to say each night
Just one or two small prayers?
You'll find that life goes better lads
When everything seems blue
If you give a thought to those who wait
So patiently for you
Who but my Mother could render such joy
As she did for me when I was a boy
When my heart was near breaking o'er some small pain
T'was my Mother who made me well again
If my brain was racking o'er something at school
She knelt down to help and sat by my stool
And she showed me the right way the sum could be done
Truly a fond Mother guiding her son
And I looked for the day when to work I'd begin
To see her smile when I brought my pay in
Once I thought that Cupid had come my way
When a beautiful girl made my head sway
When she went with another and I felt blue
The comfort my Mother gave me saw me through
She took and caressed me and said "Oh my boy
A beautiful face is not life's only joy
But kindness of heart and kindness of deeds
Make this world a garden without any weeds"
And I hope that someday, some way I will see
To repay her for all she has done for me
But it must be something unique and divine
To show my great love for that Mother of mine
"Why bless my soul" the prisoner cried
As if he really would
If you aren't all the same
It ain't no blinking use
You think you're going home this year or next
Or sometime soon
But something tells me you're all wrong
You're here for good you coon
How oft' you hear this pessimist
Spreading the blues around
In every party, every camp
this man is to be found
Yet if you stop to think a while
There's not the slightest doubt
It doesn't need a college boy
to really work things out
So keep that sunny British smile
and look on him with scorn
Remember you'll be home one day
As sure as you were born
It is easy to be nice boys when everything's O.K.
It is easy to be cheerful, when you're having things your way
But can you hold your head up and take it on the chin
When your heart is nearly breaking and you feel like giving in
It was easy back in England, amongst the friends and folks
But now you miss the friendly land, the joys, the songs, the jokes
The road ahead is stony, and unless you're strong in mind
You'll find it isn't long before you're lagging far behind
You know there is a saying that sunshine follows rain
And sure enough you'll realise that joy will follow pain
Let courage be your password, make fortitude your guide
And then instead of grousing, just remember those who died
They died to earn your freedom, t'was not too great a price
If only you are worthy of so great a sacrifice
They bore their cross in silence, they sought not wealth nor fame
And you must try to emulate, and glorify their name.
To My Wife
(An apology and a promise)
I've not been a very good husband, in fact as husbands go
I seem to have broken all records in giving my wife cause for woe
I used to stop out of an evening, in a pub playing darts with the boys
And never at any time troubled, that my wife wasn't sharing my joys
I'd drink and I'd curse and I'd gamble, and sometimes I'd rave and shout
My dinners were left on the saucepan, till most of the taste had boiled out.
I joined the Army against her advice, we stationed a long way from home
Had four days leave before going abroad, was captured and no more could roam.
I wrote to my wife when a prisoner, half fearing she'd ignore my plea
Requesting that she'd send me quickly, some clothes, cigarettes and beef tea.
Back came the reply, as soon as could be, full of loving and tender thoughts
Saying the goods I requested were on the way, with others of various sorts.
Now there's one thing captivity's taught me, the worth of my wife and son
And when I get back to Blighty, I'll see that they join in my fun
They tell me there are model husbands, I don't think they'll call me that
But if I don't make a better job this time, just call me a bloody rat.
This last verse is not what any prisoner wrote, but it is one of the monologues that Albert Stage used to recite to us from his bunk of an evening. I can't remember any of the others.
Happy Harry's Last Beer
The saloon was filled with punchers whiling the time away
They had come in from the prairie, aiming to spend their pay
The poker schools were going strong , playing for big pots
Till the silence of the night was stirred, by six or seven shots
At once the men all stiffened, their gaze went to the door
For there stood Happy Harry with seven men or more
With guns still smoking, face masked, they strode towards the bar
While his men drank rum and whiskey, Harry said "I'll have a beer"
The Sherriff's hand went for his gun. To take them by surprise
But Fiddling Frank had seen his move, and shot him, twixt the eyes
"I'll have you know" then Harry said "that I'm the big boss here"
And just to show he meant it , he drank another beer
He beckoned to the pianist saying "music, maestro please!
My men have ridden hard today and now must have some ease"
As each one grabbed a partner, the band struck up a reel
Playing "Lovely Mary Morrison" and "Happy lad of Leal"
But Harry just stood thinking of other things more dear
And to help him drown his sorrows, he took another beer
His blue eyes suddenly rested on lovely dark eyed Lou
And Cupid seemed to say to him "She's the girl for you"
Her sweet face flushed with embarrassment as he walked up to her chair
He stopped and bowed before her in his most assuming air
"May I have the pleasure of this dance with you" he said
His blue eyes seemed to harden as she shook her lovely head
"I'm sorry sir" she answered and calmly waved her fan
"But it's already promised to a far, far better man"
"Then tell me who he is" he said "This better man than I"
And I promise you dear maiden, before dawn he shall die"
But she would not even breathe the name of her young man so dear
So Harry shouted "Clear the floor" and drank another beer
Then as he grabbed her roughly to tie her up with bands
A voice both calm and steady, said "Buddy fill your hands"
"I'll give you just one sec" it said "before I call your play"
As Harry braced himself erect his body seemed to sway
His men all ran up to him, and said "boss wait till dawn"
"Your aim ain't quite so steady for the night is wearing on"
But Harry brushed them to the side and said "I'm ready now
Get out of my way a minute, while I show this youngster how"
As someone shouted "Let 'em rip" their hands went to their sides
Two guns came out, two muzzles flashed, but one a little late
And Harry crumpled to the floor in a semi conscious state
His men knelt down beside him, as he lay dying there
They heard him make his last request, "Make mine another beer."