Tuesday 31 May 2016

More Trench Poetry

Wednesday 31st May 1916: Sergeant J Curran back in Blighty with the 3rd Bedfordshire Regiment(1) sends us the following verses composed by one of the men of his late Regiment, 8th Bedfords:

“When you’re sleeping on the fire-step in a blanket soakin’ wet;
When the mud is in your eyes and mouth, and in your ‘air you bet;
When the rain comes through your dug-out roof and drops upon your nose;
When your feet are blinkin’ ice-bergs and you ‘aven’t got no toes;
When the “neighbours” in your shirt are dancin’ horn-pipes on your chest;
When you’ve dug for fourteen days on end and haven’t ‘ad no rest;
When the Corp’ral’s pinched your rations and the Serg’nt’s pinched your rum”
“Never curse or swear, my Lad – Remember Belgi-um”

“When the “Alleman” blows off your ‘at or ‘elmet with a “crump”;
When the aerial torpedoes scarcely give you time to jump;
When you’re always in the ‘ottest part and never ‘ave no luck;
When the “whiz-bangs” come so thick, you ‘aven’t got a chance to duck;
When trench-mortars, bombs, and shrapnel seem to ‘ave a love for you;
When in trying to retaliate your own guns shell you too;
When you ‘ear the bullets singing and your ‘ead they nearly ‘it;
Never mind, but just remember you’re a-doing of you “Bit””

“When your billets in a low shed and the bloomin’ roof all leaks;
When you’re only paid five francs for pretty near a dozen weeks;
When, if “sick” the doctor gives you M and D and sends you back;
When you’ve lost your iron rations, your smoke ‘elmet and your pack;
When your rifle’s choked with mud and you get “F.P.” number two(2);
When your pals all go to Blighty – every bloomin’ one but you;
When you’ve got to “Pop the Parapet” and courage is at zero –
Just remember who you are, my boy, a Bloomin’ British ‘Ero!”(3)

Source: Bedfordshire Times 9th June 1916

(1) Almost certainly recovering from wounds or disease.
(2) Field Punishment No. 2 – the prisoner was bound at the wrists in chains or placed in handcuffs for up to two hours per day for up to 28 days

(3) This splendid poem seems to be modelled in style on Rudyard Kipling’s “Barrack Room Ballads”

1 comment:

  1. I have a typed copy of this poem (with some minor differences) in my late father's poetry collection. He records it as being found in the trenches in 1917 by his father (my grandfather) who served with the Leicestershire Regiment. It's good to have some info on its source.