A Portrait of Fear

Tomorrow would have been my Dad’s Birthday. He was born on the 1st April 1925. I was, indeed am, very proud of him. This is a poem that he wrote about his experiences in World War Two, when he served with The Suffolk Regiment. Despite his long career in the British Army, when he served with REME, The Suffolk Regiment remained “his” Regiment until the end of his life, and when he died, the Suffolk Regiment roses, one red, one yellow, were placed in the ground with his casket of ashes. He was a soldier to the end.

                                                                A PORTRAIT OF FEAR

(Battle of the Rhineland 2nd phase February 1945)

 

You form up for battle, and march to the start line

And that’s where you wait ‘til the time set to go.

That’s where you sweat, with fear and foreboding,

Knowing the past, and knowing the foe.

Spread out in the forest, we kneel in formation,

But first we must fight with our innermost fears.

The chill in the stomach that turns to ice – water

We never will know it in subsequent years.

The barrage commences, the shells pass above you

Please God let me live to go home again.

Or will I lie dead? fingers curled in the forest

We all want to live, despite all the pain.

Death used to strike in the Normandy summer,

Now it is here, in the mud and the rain.

Who will remember when this is all over?

Will I survive to go home again?

You’re scared of the Spandaus, the Mortars, the shellfire,

What wouldn’t you give to be somewhere else.

What stops you from going is letting down comrades

Disgracing your parents, disgracing yourself.

It’s time to go forward, time to stop dreaming

Just pick up your Bren gun and smile at your friends.

Shake out in formation, move forward together

Under the barrage, whatever the end.

Bren slung at the hip, you advance through the forest,

The fear now subsides as you get on the move

Spread out and wary, and looking all round us

We all trust each other, we have nothing to prove.

Don’t talk about courage, we would laugh if you said it

It’s no place for heroes in the poor PBI

Just keep up with Chalky and Knobby and Dusty,

Knowing that someone is shortly to die.

Step over the Germans that were caught in the barrage

Wounded or dead, we keep on our way

We can’t see their comrades, belting out tracer

It’s speed of reaction that will save you this day.

PART TWO, 50 YEARS ON.

We never forget our mates that sustained us

The grin on their faces, but always the strain

Some lie ‘neath their headstones, still young and still serving

Our bonds still exist as we go there again.

GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS

THAT HE LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS

(Remembrance hymn after WW I and WWII, banned by some clergy.)

Oh Valiant hearts, who to your glory came

Through dust and conflict and through battle flame

Tranquil you lie, your manly virtue proved

Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

 

This hymn is denied us by priests with no feeling

They don’t have to tell us that war was a sin

We know cos we’ve been there, we know cos we’ve seen it

We know the true cost much better than him.

But man can show virtues that Christ would approve

He did not live without any pain

His message was love, that Knobbie and Chalky

Shared with his mates again and again.

And what of those Germans that tried hard to kill us?

They too said “Our Father”, those Huns of the press

If wounded so badly they whimpered for “Mutti”

Young men call for Mother in times of distress.

Kill or be killed is the law both sides follow

But good men show love to the hurt and the maimed

Both sides had such good men with Christian upbringing

When they come to their maker, they are not ashamed.

I hoped that those days are left far behind us

But small wars ensure that the madness remains.

Young men crossed the line again in the Falklands,

Will it continue again and again?

We prayed that our children will never have known this

The sound of the shells as they pass up above

The fear in the gut that tries to engulf you

Life is for living, life is for love.

By George Fouracres, one time C.Coy, Ist BN Suffolk Regt.

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