Poetry thread

Discussion in 'General' started by Andy in West Oz, Jul 19, 2007.

  1. Andy in West Oz

    Andy in West Oz Senior Member

    In my recent readings, I've been coming across a few poems written/inspired by air/ground crew so thought I'd start a thread dedicated to that type of poetry. I know there's a poetry section in the general discussion, just thought I'd start a "specialised" one...plus I enjoy posting!

    Of course, we have John Gillespie Magee's justiafiably oft-quoted High Flight. Will post others later when I have access to what I've read (at work at mo!) but one of my fave's is Peter Clare's signature.

    On weald of Kent I watched once more
    Again I heard that grumbling roar
    Of fighter planes; yet none were near
    And all around the sky was clear
    Borne on the wind a whisper came
    'Though men grow old, they stay the same'
    And then I knew, unseen to eye
    The ageless Few were sweeping by
  2. spidge


    What about another by Magee?

    Per Ardua

    by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

    They that have climbed the white mists of the morning,
    They that have soared, before the world's awake,
    To herald up their foemen to them, scorning
    The thin dawn's rest their weary folk might take.

    Some that have left other mouths to tell the story
    Of high blue battle — quite young limbs that bled;
    How they had thundered up the clouds to glory,
    Or fallen to an English field stained red.

    Because my faltering feet would fail I find them
    Laughing beside me, steadying the hand
    That seeks their deadly courage — yet behind them
    The cold light dies on that once brilliant land...

    Do these, who help the quickened pulse run slowly,
    Whose stern remembered image cools the brow —
    Till the far dawn of Victory know only
    Night's darkness, and Valhalla's silence now?
  3. Andy in West Oz

    Andy in West Oz Senior Member

    Wow. Eyes welled up there.
  4. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Quietly! Quietly! Whisper my Name.

    So many long years ago I died, under Norman apple trees.
    But now my Spirit wanders, as a warm and gentle breeze.
    Hush! Quietly, Whisper my name, in that long forgotten place.
    Then feel the warmth of my Spirit, caress lightly on your face.

    For now, I am the jewelled Summer Lark, that soars on high.
    Bright in heavens concert hall, my song will fill the sky.
    I am the tumbling cloud’s that rise, to touch the face of Joy.
    No longer held by earthly bonds, a once young and vital boy.

    In an instant life was swept away, in a brutal savage war.
    Look not for me in Normandy, for I am there no more.
    I am the peace in woodland glades, in veiled cascades of green.
    Feel me close, in your times of joy, sensed, but never seen.

    Whisper my name, and hear my voice, in cascading woodland spring,
    Or England's flowered primrose banks, wherein the bluebells ring.
    Don’t mourn for me, quietly call my name, I'll visit in your dreams.
    And, fill your mind with the beauty, of heavens joyous scenes.

    Hush! Hush! Just whisper, quietly, call my name.
    Whisper quietly.

    By Brian Guy.
    For all my Friends of long ago.
  5. spidge


    Well done Sapper!
  6. Andy in West Oz

    Andy in West Oz Senior Member

    Magic, Sapper, magic.

    From the acknowledgements of Pursuit Through Darkened Skies by Michael Allen is this snippet:

    ...of flak, intruders, beams,
    Of dummy runs and how to weave,
    Sorties and strikes, and tales like dreams
    Which none but airmen would believe.
  7. Andy in West Oz

    Andy in West Oz Senior Member

    From acknowledgments of They Gave Me a Seafire by Cdr R. "Mike" Crosley, DSC, RN (arrived today and I'm judging it by its cover...stunning!):

    They say in the RAF that a landing's OK
    If the pilot gets out and can still walk away.
    But in the Fleet Air Arm the prospect is grim,
    The landing's piss poor if the pilot can't swim.

    Cracking show, I'm alive!
    But I've still got to render my A25.

    They gave me a Seafire to beat up the Fleet,
    I polished off Nelson and Rodney a treat,
    But forgot the high masts that stick out from Formid
    And a seat in the Goofers was worth fifty quid.

    Cracking show, I'm alive!
    But I've still got to render my A25.

    (Apparently, a Form A25 was rendered in quadruplicate to higher authoritie, by the Sqn concerned, to establish the cause of the accident.)
  8. Andy in West Oz

    Andy in West Oz Senior Member

    From Appendix 7B in Silently into the Midst of Things by Atholl Sutherland-Brown:

    There's a little sand-swept desert
    To the south of Pha-Pha-Mau,
    Where the pie-dogs, snakes and vultures
    Roam the plains:
    How they lived was hard to tell,
    For this last outpost of Hell
    Offered nought but grim stark death
    In its domains.

    It was known as Pha-Pha-Mau,
    And, 'tis said that once a war
    Brought some airmen and their planes
    Therein to fly.
    But the kites ne'er left the ground,
    And their crews just moped around,
    Decaying as the years went rolling by.

    They were wrecks, just skin and bone,
    Forgotten by folks at home,
    In dreams they had their wisps of heaven.
    One might find the place perhaps
    Along desert camel tracks,
    To see the remnants of that crowd '177'.

    Natives say at dead of night,
    In the distance ghostly nights
    Illuminate the runways and the trees,
    While a high-pitched ghostly roar,
    Fills the skies o'er Pha-Pha-Mau,
    As some ghostly pilot revs his Hercules.

    Despite having read the book recently, I'm at a loss to put this in context. I must be missing something.
  9. Andy in West Oz

    Andy in West Oz Senior Member

    From page 163 of Spitfires, Thunderbolts and Warm Beer by Philip D. Caine. Poem is written by an early 1943 4th FG pilot and transcribed into a letter to the parents of our hero, former 66 Sqn and Eagle Sqn, LeRoy Gover.

    Fighter Pilot

    I know that it will come, but when or where?
    In rattling burst or roaring sheet of flame,
    In the green blanket sea choking for air,
    Amid the bubbles transient as my name.

    Sometimes a second's throw decides the game,
    Winner takes all, and there's no replay,
    Indifferent earth and sky breathe on the same,
    I settle up my score and go my way.

    The years I might have had I throw away,
    They only lead to winter's lingering pain;
    No tears call them from those who perchance stay,
    For spring however spent comes not again.

    When April brings once more the gentle rain,
    Mention my name in passing, if you must,
    As one who accepted terms, slay or be slain,
    And knew the bargain was both good and just.
  10. Kyt

    Kyt Very Senior Member

    Andy, Phaphamau was where 177 Squadron were based for training from April to August 1943. Have a look at page 25-26. Not a pleasent time.
  11. Andy in West Oz

    Andy in West Oz Senior Member

    Thanks Kyt. That's why I couldn't remember. I read the first 50-100 pages and then didn't have time to read for at least a month. Should have started again.
  12. marcus69x

    marcus69x I love WW2 meah!!!

    By Wilfred Owen.

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares2 we turned our backs
    And towards our distant rest3 began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots4
    Of tired, outstripped5 Five-Nines6 that dropped behind.
    Gas!7 Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
    Fitting the clumsy helmets8 just in time;
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
    And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime9 . . .
    Dim, through the misty panes10 and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
    In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering,11 choking, drowning.
    If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud12
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest13
    To children ardent14 for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
    Pro patria mori.15
  13. Andy in West Oz

    Andy in West Oz Senior Member

    From page 211 of Bret Freeman's excellent Lake Boga at War, which details the "secret" flying boat repair base in country Victoria (a few hours NW of Spidge), is this poem by Lt Bill Lahodney, USN, recalling a hairy take off from Exmouth Gulf (couple of days drive north of me in West Oz!) in Sept 43:

    I think that I shall never be
    Much closer to eternity
    Than when through swells I'm bouncing hard
    No flying speed, controls like lard

    Controls like lard, a heavy sea
    Bounce one up high, bounce two, bounce three
    Bounce four way up, the airspeed reaches,
    Just forty knots, oh give me speed

    With forty knots, God, even thou
    This PBY could not fly now
    Oh Sir, that last one got a rivet
    Hey second pilot more juice give it

    MOre gun you say, the throttle now,
    Is resting forward on the bow
    Bounce 5, K-A RASH, the bottom sir
    Has nought but stringers left down there

    We'll raise the floats, but hurry quick
    This heavy sea we now can lick
    One hundred feet, this PBY
    With 50 knots, stayed in the sky
  14. Kyt

    Kyt Very Senior Member

    One of the two poems that I know off by heart

    DISABLED by Wilfred Owen

    He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
    And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
    Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
    Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
    Voices of play and pleasure after day,
    Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

    About this time Town used to swing so gay
    When glow-lamps budded in the light-blue trees
    And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,
    -- In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
    Now he will never feel again how slim
    Girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands,
    All of them touch him like some queer disease.

    There was an artist silly for his face,
    For it was younger than his youth, last year.
    Now he is old; his back will never brace;
    He's lost his colour very far from here,
    Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
    And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race,
    And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.
    One time he liked a bloodsmear down his leg,
    After the matches carried shoulder-high.
    It was after football, when he'd drunk a peg,
    He thought he'd better join. He wonders why...
    Someone had said he'd look a god in kilts.

    That's why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
    Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts,
    He asked to join. He didn't have to beg;
    Smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years.
    Germans he scarcely thought of; and no fears
    Of Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts
    For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
    And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
    Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
    And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.

    Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
    Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
    Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.
    Now, he will spend a few sick years in Institutes,
    And do what things the rules consider wise,
    And take whatever pity they may dole.
    To-night he noticed how the women's eyes
    Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
    How cold and late it is! Why don't they come
    And put him into bed? Why don't they come?
  15. Andy in West Oz

    Andy in West Oz Senior Member

    This is the poem I always try to remember and what started my interest in this type of poetry. Again Lake Boga at War, page 150-151:

    They fly through the sky with a nonchalant air
    With Zeros they play like the tortoise and the hare
    And word gets aournd for the Japs to beware
    The Cat-Boats are flying tonight

    They hang on the bomb racks, a dozen or more
    And twenty pound frags simply litter the floor
    So start up the donks and we're off to the war
    The Cat-Boats are flying tonight

    After plugging along for an hour or two
    The skipper looks round at his trustworthy crew
    The Observer's asleep and the Engineer too
    The Cat-Boats are flying tonight

    Comes a break in the clouds
    And a light down below
    The skipper has had it so says "let em go"
    And mixed bombs and beer bottles rain on the foe
    The Cat-Boats are flying tonight

    They head here for home and the skipper retires
    And dreams of the headlines next day. that
    The fires were visible ninety miles distant - "the liars"
    The Cat-Boats are flying tonight

    The clouds are clamped down on Cairns like a vice
    The Wireless Op twiddles his dials once or twice
    "I can't get a bearing - the sets on the ice"
    The Cat-Boats are flying tonight

    The "RPC's" gone and the compass is swinging
    But on through the night the great Cat-Boat is winging
    Then the engines cut out and we hear angels singing
    The Cat-Boats are flying tonight

    So down through the clouds on the old "bank and turn"
    And when somebody yells "and there's Cairns just astern"
    And down on the water the landing flares burn
    The Cat-Boats just made it again

    We lassoo the buoy after fighting the tides
    Then off into town for a quick one at Hides
    And so ends one more of our hair raising rides
    The Cat-Boats were flying tonight

    Tho' dicing with death every day of our lives
    We still find some time for our girlfriends and wives
    Whacko! when the 240 hours arrives
    The Cat-Boats will not fly tonight.
  16. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Do You Remember Soldier?

    The turbulent sea, on that far and distant shore.
    Bursting rockets flash, and mighty cannons roar.
    "Queen" red, an epic story, still waiting to unfold.
    Where lie hidden beaches "Sword" and "Gold".
    Remember Soldier
    Hot Norman sun and dust, the fields of waving corn,
    So many dear friends we lost, so little time to mourn.
    The sounds of battle are faded, and far distant now.
    Gone, the chilling mindless fear, cold and sweating brow.
    Remember Soldier?

    The incoming tide, the rough salty Channel's spray.
    Remember our fine young men, who sadly died that day,
    So innocent and untried we were, to storm the Norman shore.
    What unknown valiant deeds took place, in that fog of war.
    Remember Soldier!

    Machine gun and mortar fire, swept the beach with death.
    "S" mines exploding in the air, blasts hot and fiery breath.
    "Schu" mines shattered young men's limbs, gory splintered bone.
    They cannot father children now, no children's voices home.
    Remember Soldier?

    Advance inland, the Sappers call! "Bash on, Bash on, Bash on!"
    Then to Pegasus Bridge, to raft and bridge, now, all sadly gone.
    "Hillman's" guns stood in our way, unmarked, untouched, it stood.
    Heroic acts by Sappers here, then died in Le Besiley Wood.
    Remember Soldier?

    Hermanville and Benouville, we took along the way.
    Then on to Caen, destroyed, one dreadful Summers day.
    Across the Orne, now Goodwood, raised its ugly head.
    Eighth Brigade will lead, why us? let others lead instead.
    Remember Soldier?

    To Vire at last, but wounded now, and soaked in blood.
    Exhausted, stained with gore, and dirty Norman mud.
    The chase is on! down Tinchebray road, vicious battle's rage.
    To Falaise, the Enemy surrounded, and safely in the cage.
    Remember Soldier.

    Did it really happen to us, in those distant summer days?
    Are we the same valiant men, who took part in the fray?
    Sadly now, we are old and tired, but still remain unbowed.
    Why not? why not indeed, we should all be very proud.
    Remember Soldier.

    Where would Europe be, had Hitler had his way.
    His dark age, now removed, men look for better days.
    Buchenwald and Belson, sadly stained the Earth.
    Because of us, a new Europe, has already given birth.
    Remember Soldier!

    We who paid a dreadful price, pride, will dull our pain.
    Beware, that darkened evil sky's, must never spread again.
    Those who paid the greatest price, rest easy in your grave.
    Because of you, we shall never be, a Nation, bowed, enslaved.
    Do You Remember Soldier?
    "Of course you do, and never will forget"!
    Brian Guy. Sapper. 246 Field Company R. E. E.ighth Brigade.
    Third British Infantry Division. 29th of July 1999
  17. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    I'm not a much on poetry but that was good. Thanks for posting it.
  18. Kitty

    Kitty Very Senior Member

    The first 3 poems did the rounds of the American 8th Airforce in 1943

    By 1/Lt David F. Berry

    If enlisted men meander
    And indulge in rape or slander,
    It's their airplane commander they defame.
    If his officers are lazy,
    Or alcoholically hazy,
    And, in fact, a little crazy, he's to blame.

    If they don't salute their betters,
    If they fail to pay their debtors,
    Or write censorable letters, or get stewed;
    If they get back late from passes,
    Or decline to go to classes,
    You can bet it's not THEIR asses that get chewed.

    For the pilot has his uses.
    He's the one that makes excuses,
    Answers charges, takes abuses from them all;
    Though a flyer of acumen,
    He's considered less than human
    If he cannot keep his crewmen on the ball.

    When a gunner's finger freezes,
    Or the navigator sneezes,
    Or unprintable diseases ground the crews;
    It's the pilot's fault they're dying.
    (If they aren't, they should be flying.)
    And don't argue - for you're lying in your shoes.

    If, returning from a sortie,
    When the gas is down to forty,
    And three engines abort, he brings them down,
    Is the crew more understanding?
    Sympathetic? Less demanding?
    No! They criticize his landing with a frown.

    Yes, it certainly is tough
    For the hero of this ditty,
    But don't waste your tears of pity on this fool;
    For although he's nurse and mother
    To Joe Blow and Joe Blow's brother,
    He'd trade places with no other, the dull tool!


    Can't write a thing - the censor's to blame-
    Just say that I'm well, and sign my name.
    Can't say where we flew from, can't mention the date;
    Can't even mention the meals that I ate.

    Can't say where I'm going, don't know where I'll land.
    Can't even inform you if I'm met by a band.
    Can't mention the weather, can't say if there's rain.
    All military secrets must secrets remain.

    Can't have a flashlight to guide me at night,
    Can't smoke a cigarette except out of sight.
    Can't keep a diary, for such is a sin,
    Can't keep the envelopes your letters come in.

    Can't say for sure now just what I can write,
    So I'll just close this letter and tell you good-night.
    I'll send you this letter to say that I'm well,
    Still hoping and praying, and fighting like hell.

    By a radio gunner before a mission over Italy

    Oh, Hedy Lamar is a beautiful gal,
    And Madeleine Carroll is, too.
    But you'll find if you query, a quite different theory
    Amongst any bomber crew.
    For the loveliest thing of which one could sing
    (This side of the heavenly gates)
    Is no blonde or brunette of the Hollywood set.
    It's an escort of P-38s.

    Yes, in days that have passed, when the tables were massed
    With glasses of Scotch and Champagne,
    It's quite true that the sight was a thing to delight us,
    Intent upon feeling no pain.
    But it isn't the same nowadays in this game,
    When we head north from Messina Straits,
    Take the sparkling wine - and just make mine
    An escort of P-38s.

    Byron, Shelley, and Keats ran a dozen dead heats
    Describing the view from the hills
    Of the valleys in May, when the winds gently sway
    An array of bright daffodils.
    Take the daffodils, Byron; the wild flowers, Shelley;
    Yours is the myrtle, friend Keats.
    Just reserve me those cuties - American beauties -
    An escort of P-38s.

    Sure, we we're braver than hell; on the ground all is swell.
    In the air it's a different story.
    We sweat out our track, through the fighters and flak
    But we're willing to split up the glory.
    Well, they wouldn't reject us, so heaven protect us,
    And until all this shooting abates,
    Give us courage to fight 'em - and one more small item -
    An escort of P-38s.

    Let Them In

    Let them in Peter, they are very tired
    Give them the couches where the Angels sleep,
    Let them wake whole again to new dawns fired
    With sun not war and may their peace be deep.

    Remember where the broken bodies lie
    And give them things they like, let them make noise,
    God knows how young they were to have to die
    Give swing bands not gold harps, to these our boys.

    Let them love Peter, they have had no time
    Girls sweet as meadow wind, with flowing hair,
    They should have trees and bird song, hills to climb
    The taste of summer in a ripened pear,

    Tell them how they are missed, say not to fear,
    It’s going to be alright with us down here.

    We toast our hearty comrades who have fallen from the skies, and were gently caught by God's own hand to be with him on High.
    To dwell among the soaring clouds they've known so well before. From victory roll to tail chase, at heaven's very door.
    As we fly among them there, we're sure to head their plea. To take care my friend, watch your six, and do one more roll for me.
    — Commander Jerry Coffee, Hanoi, 1968

    I sweep the skies with fire and steel
    My highway is the cloud
    I swoop, I soar, aloft I wheel
    My engine laughing loud
    I fight with gleaming blades the wind
    That dares dispute my path
    I leave the howling storm behind
    I ride upon it's wrath.
    I laugh to see your tiny world
    Your toys of ships, your cars
    I rove an endless road unfurled
    Where the mile stones are the stars
    And far below, men wait and peer
    For what my coming brings
    I fill their quaking hearts with fear
    For death...is in my wings.
    — Gordon Boshell, written after watching Battle of Britain dogfights from the streets of London

    Whenever I see them ride on high
    Gleaming and proud in the morning sky
    Or lying awake in bed at night
    I hear them pass on their outward flight
    I feel the mass of metal and guns
    Delicate instruments, deadweight tons
    Awkward, slow, bomb racks full
    Straining away from downward pull
    Straining away from home and base
    And try to see the pilot's face
    I imagine a boy who's just left school
    On whose quick-learned skill and courage cool
    Depend the lives of the men in his crew
    And success of the job they have to do.
    And something happens to me inside
    That is deeper than grief, greater than pride
    And though there is nothing I can say
    I always look up as they go their way
    And care and pray for every one,
    And steel my heart to say,
    "Thy will be done."
    — Sarah Churchill, daughter of Sir Winston

    An airman is always quite free, sir.
    To land with a bump or a greaser.
    Any old clunk,
    can land with a thump,
    But pro's go for smoothie crowd pleasers.
    — Anon
  19. Andy in West Oz

    Andy in West Oz Senior Member

    Wonderful additions to the list, Kitty! :cheers:
  20. Kitty

    Kitty Very Senior Member

    Got several more flying poems, but not WW2 based I'm afraid.

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