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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

April 2009


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Here's one I made earlier.


From Field and Forge and Ivory Halls

Across the channel came that murderous song,

Chants of all we want is our place in the sun.

And all of a sudden the world’s askew,

Laughter to tears and right to wrong,

Turning lives sour with bullet and gun.

Those lyrics so loud, and ever so clear;

Junkers don’t march in search of a friend,

And tiny Belgium just lay in their way.

With Ghent and Bruges subdued by fear,

Who’ll rally to our cause, our ways to defend?

We will! They cried, roused from innocent sleep,

And from field and forge and ivory halls,

To colours they flocked, amateurs all.

Britons and cousins, their word they did keep,

To spite old Hun smirking at KK’s calls.

Through death, disease; four crippling years,

On and on they pressed, skills driven to hone.

And, learning their trade from a fearsome foe,

Turned his arrogant smirks into tears

When they marched through Cologne.

© John Sales 2009

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Thinking head on then...................in the meantime, here is an old 18th century British song that would do for marching and volunteering:

Hark! Now the drums beat up again

For all true soldiers, gentleman.

Then let us ‘list and march I say,

Over the hills and far away.


And it’s over the hills and o’er the main

Through Flanders Portugal and Spain

Queen Ann commands and we’ll obey,

Over the hills and far away.

Here’s forty shillings on the drum

For those as volunteers do come.

With shirts and clothes and pleasant pay,

When over the hills and far away.

Hear that brave boys and let us go

Or else we shall be pressed you know;

Then ‘list and enter in to pay

And over the hills and far away.


The Constables they search about

To find such brisk young fellows out.

Then let’s be volunteers I say,

For over the hills and far away.

He that is forced to go to fight,

Will never get true honour by it,

While volunteers shall win the day

When over the hills and far away.


No more from the sound of the drum retreat,

While Marlborough and Galway beat

The French and the Spaniard every day

When over the hills and far away.

For if we go ‘tis one to ten

But we’ll return all gentlemen.

All gentlemen as well as they

When over the hills and far away.


Hark! Now the drums beat up again

For all true soldiers, gentlemen

Then let us ‘list and march I say

For over the hills and far away.


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Another hodge podge, from an Aussie.

They left the sunburnt plains, the narrow crowded streets. The stuffy offices, the dark, breathless mines. They walked, they rode, they caught trains, to sign their name, make their mark, in the halls, in the tents, where ever the army set up their enlistment office. From all walks of life, from the well heeled, with a father to make way for a commission, to the black man, whom the white folk distained, they came to volunteer to fight for 'The Mother Country'.

Why? Each man had his own reason. Myth would have it that they were off on an adventure. To see the world. The 'six bob a day' tourist.

Some would say that their ancestor's bonds made them honour their roots.

Some went because it was the right thing to do.

Others went to avoid the law.

Some went to be with mates.

Others could not face being looked upon as a coward.

Whatever their reason, they volunteered.

To die.

Not that they may have thought that they would die.

No, war was glorious. A charge here, a few shots there, and they would be home by Christmas.

The sea voyage of thousands of miles, - a lark. Crossing the equator, - a spectacle. The exotic east, - a walk through history. Good old England, - home of Grandparents, cousins.

A few misdemeanours along the way. Those Aussies, running amok, causing trouble at every port they landed. Well, some may have, others didn't. After all, it was an adventure, every minute to be explored, every sight to be remembered. The government was paying.

And then.

Gone was the pretending that a straw dummy was the enemy to stick your bayonet through. Gone were the long marches to nowhere. The photos at the pyramids, the cuppas with the grateful British folk, the warm beds, the peaceful days.


Landing on a shore that spat death, - welcome to the war. The cliffs that were scaled by the uninitiated, the innocent. In minutes, boys became men. In days, men became stealthy merchants of death. Those men learnt that war was not glorious; it was dysentery, hunger, pain, thirst, heat, and death. Death at the speed of sound. Death in so many ways. They shrugged their shoulders, they got on with surviving, with taking the enemy as he was, got on with questioning the orders that few could put sense to.

They died in their thousands. Lone Pine, The Nek - carnage.

And when the heads saw sense and evacuated, the men felt sorrow. For so long they had given their blood, sweat and tears for this godforsaken piece of land out in the East, and now, as they softly, silently, sadly walked past the graves of those who gave their life, the men asked, For what, did they die?

Back to the exotic East.

Good food again, and leave! New uniforms, weight regained. So good.

But not for long.

The heads then sent the men to hell.

To the muddy hell of Fromelles, Messines, Passchendaele, Pozieres, Mouquet Farm. Death by shrapnel. Death by gas. Death by being buried alive. Death from freezing. Rotting feet, rotting lungs.

To the blazing hell of the desert. The thirst of the long treks, knowing that the beast that carried them was part of them; they lived because it carried them, and so they felt its thirst, its aching muscles having been saddled for days, no water for days, iron rations, and they marvelled at the beast who carried them, and the soldier felt the beast's death as one of their own.

The sniping Arab, the wily Turk, the desert sandstorms, the freezing nights, the blazing days, hunger, thirst, and death - desert war.

The men gave respect only to those who earnt it, gave no quarter to those who did not. The men had their own laws, and judged as they saw fit.

A rag tag army, 'a bunch of wild colonials', who bore the condemnation proudly, who perversely took pride in those tags.

Because they knew that they gave their all. That they gave their lives, their lungs, their sight, their legs, to a cause that was not of their country's making, not of their government's making, but of another's. One to whom they had rallied, as free men. They had made their mark, signed their name, as volunteers to serve in a virgin army, against enemies that had practised and prepared for war for centuries.

A virgin army, an army where class quickly did not matter. There is no class in death and destruction.

An army of soldiers who were judge and jury of their own, and from whom a stockman could become a Captain, and a Jew, a General.

An army whom, as time moved on, became a force that was feared. An army who did what they said they would do, be it take no prisoners, hold a line against impossible odds, offer mutiny on the break up of its battalions, or show compassion to the weak and suffering, no matter the nationality.

They stood as men of the two countries that nurtured them. The convict, the free settler, the black man, the immigrant, - coming together as one, as a cohesive, determined force who had answered the call.

An army of soldiers that legends grew upon.

Their love of the bayonet. Their skills in marksmanship, tunnelling, - the mongrel bred Waler they rode. Their compassion, their rage, their disregard of authority, their initiative, their larrikinism, their bravery, their tenacity.

But legends have to have a seed of truth. And in all, the seed of truth lays in the word Anzac.

Anzac, the men who volunteered to fight another's war, so far across the seas that home leave was not an option.

Anzac, - a word that is recognised through Belgium and France with a smile, - a sad, grateful, reflective smile.

Anzac, - Attaturk's words shall remain for ever.

Anzac, because men left the shores of two free nations, having volunteered, not conscripted, but volunteered to fight. For what?

That is the question, is it not?

They are all dead now. We can not ask those individuals who survived the Great War, The War To End All Wars, why they joined, what did they think they were doing. Can we?

One can only read their memoirs, their diaries, the Court Martials, the Routine Orders, the War Diaries, and surmise.

Surmise, why a normal, intelligent man would volunteer to fight a battle that was not his. Why he would sign his name to so much pain and suffering.

And one can be thankful, that he did so, and gave two young nations a voice amongst other nations.

And be thankful to he, the Anzac soldier, who gave us the creed of courage, initiative, compassion and mateship, that creed which has lasted through the last century, and into this one, and has given strength to those who fought later battles, to those who endured the pain and suffering of later wars.

There are two countries who do remember their war dead, and perversely, who remember not the triumph of winning, but the loss, that of Gallipoli, that which is foremost in their conscience, because in the stalemate of Gallipoli, two untried armies, - two countries, - became ANZAC, and as volunteers, they endured, they won respect, and they left their mark upon the rest of the war, and on the wars to come.

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keep writing the "hodge podges" Kim - Grand stuff indeed.

I'll "volunteer" this piece.............................

The Volunteer - 1914

I'd read about the crisis

And I'd seen the posters too.

My mates were set on joining up

So what else could I do?

We walked to the nearest Drill Hall

And signed up for the local mob.

Came out all neat in uniforms

And clutching a recruiter's "bob".

My mother went all tearful

When she saw me in khaki.

And my dad he took me down the pub

For all his mates to see.

They sent us to the country

To make men of us they said.

But the marching made our feet all sore

And the webbing rubbed shoulders red.

The weather was delightful,

It rained in buckets all the time.

And still they sent us marching

In the mud and the wet and the slime.

What a surprise one day after breakfast

When they issued us rifles to hold.

Shoulder, present, order and port

And your fingers turned blue with the cold.

Surprising though it may be,

Well it seemed like that to me,

The rabble that we once were

Became an efficient Company.

The Colonel was delighted

When we marched off down the village street

Waving goodbye to the locals,

In step to the big drum’s beat.

The train took us to Southampton

And we sailed that night for France

Trying not to be seasick

And looking forward to our first advance.

By train and bus and marching

We arrived at last at the Front.

And all keen and so excited

To be part of the next big stunt.

The keenness and excitement

Soon left our minds and care,

In the noise and the hell of Aubers Ridge,

Cuinchy and Festubert.

The Bluff, Hill 60, Ypres,

Loos, Vimy Ridge, High Wood

Flers –Courcelette and Warlencourt,

You'd forget them - if you could!

But you can't forget, just remember

Your mates that you left there.

And at Messines in the salient,

Bourlon Wood and Flesquieres.

I couldn't believe it was over

When we had the parade through Lille.

And none of my mates was there with me

But I remember all of them still…………

Don't ask too many questions,

No"Why?", "What for" or "Well?"

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred on my chest

Tells all there is to tell.

Copyright - Tony Nutkins April 2009

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A great start folks...

Salesie: deeply powerful, moody and melodramatic

Kim: Hodge Podge my a*se its a very effective peice of prose...combining short story narrative with a loose verse structure and metric influences. I am afraid I am not sure what the technical term would be outside of Narrative Prose but the informal term is: Bloody Good

Squirrel: You have the ability to recreate the voice of the common soldier..excellent

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An experimental piece.


King’s Shilling

In 1914, took a little trip,

Along with all the others,

Down to see old Sergeant Jones,

Keen to sign on dotted slip.

It’s the infantry for you, A One,

So sign your name if willing,

And swear an oath on this little book

Before you get your shilling.

In 1915, took a little trip,

Along with all the others,

Down to see the busy docks,

Keen to sail on that old ship.

It’s off to old France for you, A One,

Ne’re mind those girls all thrilling,

You’re on Kitchener’s tight apron strings,

Now you’ve grasped your shilling.

In 1916, took a little trip,

Along with all the others,

Down to see the old Somme plain,

Keen to finally get to grip.

It’s over the top for you, A One,

Ready to do some killing.

You’re lucky to be in this big push,

It’s time to earn your shilling.

In 1917, took a little trip,

Along with some of the others,

Down to see old Menin road,

Set firm to give ‘em some gyp.

It’s through that foul mud for you, A One,

Must be in for a milling.

How long before we break ‘em for sure;

When will I earn that shilling?

In 1918, took a little trip,

Along with one of the others,

Down to see Arras in spring,

Needed to cover the rip.

It’s back to the wall for you, A One,

Forget you’re in a grilling.

Just fight and hold against their big push,

Twas you who took the shilling.

In 1918, took another little trip,

Along with none of the others,

Down to see a sight for sore eyes,

Determined to see ‘em turn flip.

It’s one-hundred days to laurels, A One,

Gaps in their line not filling,

Then back to the ship, old Blighty bound,

After earning that bloody King’s shilling!

© John Sales 2009

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Good stuff John.

Last night, just as I was turning in, this one came to mind. It's about the same Soldier as in my first effort, only this time a view from someone else.....................

The Volunteer - 1918

“What are we to do with Thompson?”

Exclaimed the Colonel with a frustrated sigh.

“We’ve tried to get an award for him;

He’s earned it many times over; please give him one more try.

He’s been a Scout, a Sniper, a bayonet man,

Rifle Bomber, now a Signaller too.

There is no course that he’s not been on

And he always passes in the top few.”

He’s been out with us since we came here

The most reliable of all of my men.

Just sit him down and talk to him,

Let’s get him something if we possibly can.

He’s refused every award we’ve put in for,

Won’t take a stripe, or promotion at all.

He’s the best Platoon Sergeant we’ve not got

So let’s get him to see things rational”.

So, I sat down with Private Thompson

After speaking with the NCO’s,

The Officers who’d known him best

And those who’d been with him in most of the shows.

On his own a machine gun he’d captured,

Taken prisoners by the score.

He’d been out in front in every attack

And on trench raids always to the fore.

He’d brought in wounded from both sides,

Kept an eye on the new men too.

He was always the first to offer to help,

Digging, fatigues and wiring; whatever was to do.

He was the scruffiest soldier anywhere

That any of us had ever seen.

But when you took a good look at him

While untidy, he was always clean.

The stories that I’d heard about him

Were bravery and endurance personified.

But he thought he was nothing special

With not a hint of puff nor pride.

I said he was the finest soldier

That any of us had ever seen.

But he said, “Just doing my job Sir,

Nothing special I am nor have been”.

I said there must be something

To recognise the contribution he’d made.

To his comrades, the Company and Battalion

And the lives of the men he’d saved.

He took a draw from his cigarette

And looked straight at me with those blue eyes so clear.

“With respect, I’m nothing special Sir.

I’m only a volunteer”.

Copyright: Tony Nutkins April 2009

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Salasie and Squirrel, I really wish I could do poetry.

The short lines that you guys say so much in.

Squirrel, I agree with Gunny. You bring their voice out.

Salasie, you lead us through history, with poetry.

Ta Guys.

Gunny, I don't know what it is either. :blush::unsure: I just write what the music brings.




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Salasie and Squirrel, I really wish I could do poetry.

The short lines that you guys say so much in.

Squirrel, I agree with Gunny. You bring their voice out.

Salasie, you lead us through history, with poetry.

Ta Guys.

Gunny, I don't know what it is either. :blush::unsure: I just write what the music brings.




Kim - the music you "pass-on" is plenty good enough for me, mate.


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thanks for your comments. Had to think hard about the first one but that second one just came as it were- wife wasn't too pleased when I was sitting up in bed roughing it out at 11 o'clock last night!

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thanks for your comments. Had to think hard about the first one but that second one just came as it were- wife wasn't too pleased when I was sitting up in bed roughing it out at 11 o'clock last night!

She didn't fancy a bit of rough then?


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I couldn't possibly comment!

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Another two excellent entries.

I like the idea of the same poem viewed from another persons perspective...a nice touch and well worth the"not tonight dear I have a poem"

Salesie I like the repeated refrain...it has a Kiplingesque quality (rudyard that is not the exceedingly good cake maker)

I have the germ of an idea forming

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This can be considered prologue to my Marie stories.

It began before Britain declared war. My mother is French, and she followed the news that August with great interest. I was busy with my job, and not being in the Militia I had no more than a general interest.

But within a week all that had changed. We had three men in the office leave to join their regiments at Valcartier. Mr. Thomson took me aside.

"John, I can't stop you if you're planning to enlist, but we're so short handed now I'd appreciate it if you didn't."

He'd been very good to me, and I hastily re-assured him that enlisting wasn't in my immediate plans.

My father was relieved when I told him, but Maman was in a quandary. Her country had been invaded, and she wanted to help, but I was her only son.

Peggy was happy as well. We were getting to know each other better, and I could sense that before too long she'd be expecting me to propose. Meanwhile there were warm summer nights, and dances and dinners.

But that winter, while "our gallant boys" were dwelling in the mud of Salisbury Plain, news on the home front was not good. Uncle Beau and Uncle Pierre had been killed in the great battles in Meuse. Grand-pere had had to flee his home as the Germans advanced.

We lost two more men from the office to the newly-raised battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

In June 1915 my best friend's parents received a telegram. Bill had been killed.

I was doing the work of four men at the office.

Then, one day, as I walked out for lunch I passed the Christie Street hospital, which was now filled with wounded and sick soldiers. Outside, one man was lying in the sun. His right coat sleeve was pinned up. He'd lost his arm. He was fumbling with a pack of cigarettes with his good hand. Embarrassed, I hurried over to help him.

"Thanks, mate." was all he said. But he gave me a look. It wasn't "why aren't you in uniform?" It might have been "why do you still have two arms?" I muttered some excuse and bolted. His eyes haunted me.

The next day I went to the first recruiting party I could find. I didn't tell my parents, nor Peggy, before I did.

Maman kissed me and cried. Father put his hand on my shoulder and said that I'd done the right thing.

Peggy took it hard. I didn't get many chances to see her, and somehow, when I tried to see her she was always busy.

She did come to see us off at the train station as we left for Camp Borden.

"Goodbye, John. Good luck." she said in a tight voice. Her parting kiss had little warmth in it.

I boarded the train, wondering what lay ahead of me, and even more, what had I left behind.

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Given this month's Volunteer topic - I thought all who frequent this thread may be interested in reading a fitting tribute (written in 1917) to a most unlikely 1914 volunteer.

Robert Ernest Vernede, a pre-war published author and poet, volunteered at the out-set of war though over-age and from a most un-soldierly background, and, poignantly, today is the 92nd anniversary of his death in action in 1917.



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The German advance was sudden and swift. The infantry were overwhelmed and retreated rapidly. As the troops streamed past us the officers called "Save the guns! Leave what you can't take quickly!" We hitched up the guns as the Germans got closer and got them all away but we had to leave several limbers and the GS wagons behind. That stuck in out throats, I can tell you.

The German advance was halted before they reached our old positions, leaving our equipment in no-man's land. The infantry kept the Germans' heads down with their accurate shooting so the kit was untouched by nightfall.

The officer said "I need some volunteers to take horse teams out and fetch those limbers and wagons back" I stepped forward with a crowd, all anxious to take the bad taste from our mouths. "Thank you, men. Corporal, carry on!"

We walked the horses slowly to the old positions so that the harnesses wouldn't jingle and held the horses' heads to try and stop them making any noise. We reached the old positions and the teams were brought to their loads and hitched up. "OK, lads" I said, quietly "when I give the word you gallop the horses as fast as they'll go back to our lines. Don't stop if anyone falls off. It'll be up to him to get back as best he can."

The drivers mounted and the rest of us climbed onto the wagons and limbers. "Go!" and away went the teams, the horses moving beautifully from a standstill to a full gallop. I was sitting on the back of a wagon when a German popped up, pointed his rifle at me and shouted "Hoi! Shtop! You my prisoner!"

What could I do? We all knew what crack shots the Germans were and I was unarmed on a bucking wagon so I waved to him and doffed my cap. Whizz! The bullet was a near miss! He took aim again so I started to pull faces at him and blew him a raspberry. Whizz! That was further away and he was getting angry with me and himself. The bullets go further away each time and the last time I saw him he had thrown his rifle on the ground in disgust and shook his fist as we reached our line.

"All present and correct, Sir"

"Thank you, Corporal. Well done."

(based on one of my Grandfather's stories)


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Excellent entries - looks like this month is going to be a cracker.

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Micheal, Drip by drip, you feed us more of Marie.

This will be a wonderful epic if we ever get to the end. Keep going, we need to know more.

Keith, loved it!

Salesie... TA.



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Once again we have some great stuff - my fascination with WW1 started with Wilfred Owen so its great to see the literary tradition continued.

Time for a picture I think. I've tried to do this in a poster paint style - not sure I was very successful but its all good practise!

Land Army Girls - they were all volunteers I believe.


Here are the preliminary sketches.


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Micheal, Drip by drip, you feed us more of Marie.

This will be a wonderful epic if we ever get to the end. Keep going, we need to know more.

It's going to be the connecting bits that will kill me!

I thought of incorporating my entry from "He was a good officer" but that man was a Barnardo boy, and John has a French mother still very much alive.

I don't know how much of Marie's earlier history I can give, since village life in 1916 France isn't my field.

It may not fit any topic, so may have to be a free-standing piece, but John's struggle to get back to Marie when the war ends is one that has to be written. Do I have him back in England and witnessing the Kinmel riot? Does he desert? Time will tell.


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