Your Country Needs You


Doug, a dear friend of mine, died recently at the age of 95.  In 1943, at the age of eighteen, he was drafted into the Royal Air Force and trained as a pilot. In the latter stages of World War Two he was posted to the Cocos Islands in the East Indian Ocean from where he carried out several missions.  At the end of the Far East War in September, 1945, he took part in the relief of Changi prison, the notorious Prisoner of War camp in Singapore where the Japanese interred many of their prisoners.

I have written this poem in an attempt to understand something of the situation which he and many other young men faced in those precarious times.   


Given a bomber at twenty one
A young man’s coming of age
Told to use it wisely
On the far east’s war-torn stage

A Lancaster
A lethal gift
To war’s sad sorry tale
An airborne killer
Sky high thriller
Death following in its trail

You grow up quickly in a war
No marking time
No second thoughts
Prevarication precluded
No time for rage
Get on with it
With reality engage

This his introduction
No subterfuge
With minimal instruction
No simulation
Taught to deliver destruction
Reality games now

Yes, young man,
Your country needs you
To fill the gaps left by those
Who bought it
– For their country –
Before you do the same

But, chin up
Soldier on
stiff lip and all that
Who knows
You may be home by Christmas



Ground crews of No.356 Squadron RAF based at the Brown’s West Island, Cocos Islands, celebrate on hearing the news of the surrender of Japan.  (Published under the terms and conditions of the Imperial War Museum Non Commercial Licence, including use of the attribution statement specified by IWM. For this item, that is: © IWM (CI 1557)


10 thoughts on “Your Country Needs You

  1. Thanks Roland for giving us such a moving poem. Young men, some had never been away from their mothers more than a day, proved their courage every day. God bless every person who says to their country, “I will defend you even unto death.”


  2. I am sorry for your loss Roland and can hear you will miss Doug sorely.
    You have given him and his family a beautiful gift with your poem. It touches deep in its perfect poetic description of a young man’s dramatic start of life as a man, the terrible choices and a learning curve that is so beyond normal.
    I bet that in spite of all this he would take you along to museums to see the Lancaster in its might.
    To every minute know this might be the last but not thinking it.
    ” But, chin up
    Soldier on
    stiff lip and all that
    Who knows
    You may be home by Christmas ”



  3. What a wonderful and moving tribute to your friend Roland. It is hard to comprehend the sacrifices made to allow us to keep our freedom. Thank you for this poem in Doug’s memory.


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