Friday, December 6, 2013

A Stretcher Bearer Poem

I recently read Emily Mayhew’s book “Wounded” about the British Army’s medical corps during WWI.  I read a poem that a royal army chaplain attached to a field hospital wrote based on what he heard from stretcher bearers attached to his unit.  Reading it brought tears to my eyes.   After finishing it, I felt almost like I’d walked a couple of miles in foot-deep mud, smelling dead bodies, and cringing at the sound of incoming artillery rounds.  Can you imagine how badly a man would have to be injured to require a year’s worth of hospitalization and how hellish an environment he would be in for other men to regard that as an extraordinary bit of good luck?  It is my opinion that anyone who cannot make a rhyme does not qualify as a poet.  About the only bit of explanation this needs is that M.O. stands for medical officer. 

“Easy does it – a bit o’ trench ‘ere
Mind that blinkin’ bit of wire
There’s shell ‘ole on your left there
Lift ‘em up a little ‘igher
Stick it, lad, ye’ll soon be there now
Want best ‘ere for a while?
Let ‘im down then – gently, gently
There you are, lad, that’s the style
Want a drink mate? ‘Ere’s me bottle

Lift ‘is head up for ‘im, Jack
Put my tunic underneath ‘im
‘Ows that chummy?  That’s the tack!
Guess we’d better make a start now
Ready for another spell?
Best be goin’, we won’t ‘urt ye
But ‘e might just start to shell
Are you right, mate? Off we goes then
That well over on the right
Gawd almighty, that’s a near ‘un!
‘Old your end up good and tight
Nigh mind, lad, you’re for blighty
Mind this rotten bit of board
We’ll soon ‘ave ye tucked in bed, lad
‘Opes ye gets to my old ward
No more war for you my ‘earty
This’ll get ye well away
12 good months in dear old blighty
12 good months if you’re a day
M.O. got a bit of something
What’ll stop that blasted pain
Ere’s a rotten bit o’ ground, mate
Lift of ‘igher – up again
Wish ‘ed stop ‘is blasted shellin’
Makes it rotten for the lad
When a feller’s been and got it
It affects ‘im twice as bad
Ow’s it goin’ now then sonny?
‘Ere that narrow bit of trench
Careful, mate, ther’s some dead jerries
Lawd almighty, what a stench!
‘Ere we are now, stretcher case boys
Bring him aht a cup o’ tea

Inasmuch as ye have done it
Ye have done it unto me.”

Emily Mayhew

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