The ship’s foghorn signaled five short blasts
and the limp flag that doubled as a shroud
was hung at half mast. Respectful, we stood
in silence, among the huddled crowd.
But one minute seemed little recompense
for those gullible boys of war who lied,
that they may serve as numbers in the trench
and follow in the steps of those who’d died..
Not for these brave boys a sense of shame
to be dragooned as shirkers trapped in flight
Kitchener did his job, each kid was game,
they’d not be fingered with feathers coloured white.
In line they stood and signed their names in blood.
So full of hope they were, joyful and bright
till first they marched through troughs of sodden mud
and limped on hobbled feet throughout the night.
Then came the long listless days of waiting,
more at war with hungry rats and lice. Cold
were the winds in the trench where they were praying,
with time to think why arrant lies are told.
When hell is unleashed, when howitzers roar,
there are posts to be had, money to make.
One should not let good conflicts go to waste,
say men who glory in the cult of war.
Thus shrapnel takes the callow eye of youth
and in the throats of boys lead bullets lodge.
Our history has scant regard for truth,
our sons are merely units lost and logged
Yet still we meekly yield to those mad plans,
convinced their nation needs us at the hour,
offering up as sacrifice our sons,
one thousand now, but soon one million more.
We hear the soldier’s song, so brief and terse,
yet deem sufficient pinning poppies red,
or hope a brief commemorative verse
will heal old wounds, or sanctify the dead.
Thus to the shrill whistle of blasting shell
the earth shall groan. The bloodied soil will cry
out from the fields of Ypres, now green and still:
none will be spared! not man nor child, nor I
Colin Christopher Cairns
“… men, materials and money are the immediate necessities”.
Lord Horatio Kitchener