The Lessons Of History

The lessons of history are all around
Etched on death’s memorial
But who looks at memorials?

The war to end all wars ended
But the peace had not been won

Exchanging eyes
Has not proved a workable proposition
And yet the attempt goes on
And mankind is condemned to try again
To seek an end to conflict
By perpetuating conflict itself

Those lessons from the past
Unlearnt
At best misunderstood
Ignored
And so it continues
The errors of the past
Visited on countless future generations

Fear reigns
And stultifies hope
Because mankind remains
Because mankind will not change
Still comatose
Sleepwalking into conflict again
Again
And yet again

Original sin
Casts its sinister shadow
Over hope
And so
The cycle continues
War and peace
Unfeasible bedfellows
History hardly notices the difference

But we do
And suffer for it

The two illustrations above were scanned from my copy of Holbein’s ‘Le Triomphe De La Mort’ published in

1780 … Etchings of Holbein’s originals by Chr.De Michel

A Fear-Full Life

A life lived through its worries,
Trying to forget.
The risks that come with being,
With which life is beset.

The siren prompted fear
In that kitchen-table home;
Dad away in the army,
And Jerry would cross the foam.

The smog was dark and dismal,
The midday sun obscured;
Cloaked in knife-cut cloud,
How was it we endured?

A dose of National Service –
Your country needs your youth;
Learn to fight for your country,
The threat – more than the truth.

The Bay of Pigs a worry,
Suez a cause for fear;
The lads fought in Korea,
While we were shivering here.


Then Aids brought worries aplenty;
Cold War a constant threat;
Always there were worries,
For ever fears to be met.

Polio and smallpox,
Diphtheria, whooping cough,
A plethora of scourges –
All those we have seen off.


And then we met with covid,
A world of worry and threat;
Another scourge to face,
None of them over yet.

A world so full of worry,
Yet life’s still worth the trouble
The joys in family and friends
Ensure we can face the struggle.

My MoJo

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My MoJo

Please let me have my mojo back,
My passion has abated;
Now faded into lustless life,
All rapture now vacated.

This fractious war’s collateral damage
Has snagged me in its thorns,
And leaving me dispirited,
Has taken other forms.

For all the hurt I now repress
The damage leaves its mark.
What will it take to bring it back
That vital vibrant spark?

 

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What Did You Do In The War, Grandad?

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 A recruitment poster from 1915. It was released to encourage enlistment in World War 1. (Wikipedia)

What did you do in the war, grandad?

 

What did you do in the war, grandad,
The war against Covid Nineteen?
What did you do to help, grandad,
Before they found the vaccine?

What did you do in the war, grandad,
Yes, That war of Twenty-Twenty?
The war in which so many died, grandad,
Bet you helped aplenty?

What did you do in the war, grandad,
That war against the virus?
Were you one of the brave, grandad,
Who fought so hard to save us?

Well, I stayed at home and watched, darling,
I just shut myself away,
Yes, I stayed indoors and cried, dear,
Too frightened to go out and play.

 

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Songs My Mother Sang

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Song Book: Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Songs My Mother Sang

The songs were of chill and anguish,
Sad songs with wistful themes,
Telling of loss and longing,
Songs of uncertain dreams.

Wistful, anxious, plaintive,
Sung in the dark days of war,
As though no end to suffering
Would reach us evermore.

She sang of the wandering gypsies,
The old lady sweet and kind,
Of old Barbara Frietchie’s flag,
And the boys who were left behind.

But though her words were sombre
I knew as she held me tight,
Her clutch was so warm and tender
The darkness would turn to light.

 

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Your Country Needs You

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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.   

TO  DOUG

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

 

1945-Cocos-EndOfWW2inFarEast

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)

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Dubrovnik … From The City Walls – # 2

[ Photo Blog  #66 ]

I now continue my tour of Dubrovnik with more photographs taken from the superb viewpoint of the magnificent 16th Century walls surrounding the city, during my visit there in 2006.  It is amazing to realise that, only 15 years before my visit, the city had been under siege from invading forces of the Yugoslavian People’s Army during the Croatian War of Independence.

At that time Dubrovnik was a designated UNESCO ‘Protected’ World Heritage Site and the attack on the then besieged city shocked the world.  It had been caught up in the war being fought in the former Yugoslavia.  The military engagement saw the city under siege from both land and sea and constant shelling destroyed many of its ancient baroque buildings and marbled streets.   Many of Dubrovnik’s inhabitants were killed or injured during the bombardments.  Most the buildings in the old town were struck by shells.  The city walls were badly damaged in many places, and its palaces, churches, its monastery and fountains were also badly damaged.

Incredibly, by the time of my visit, Dubrovnik, as you can see from my photographs, had, at a huge cost, been largely restored to something approaching its former glory.

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The SIREN

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An Anderson Shelter from WW2 – c. 1940.

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Click on the link below to hear the siren sound of an ‘Air Raid Warning’, followed by the ‘All Clear’, accompanied by a video with some memories of the 1940s in the U.K.  . . .

Siren Sound

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The SIREN

The Air Raid Warden came to say:
‘It’s best to be prepared;
A little forethought and hard work –
Don’t want to make the young ‘un scared.’

Dad dug a cave deep in the garden,
Covered it with earth.
Our escape in time of stress,
Yes, this is what our lives were worth.

Then in the night the wailing came,
Woke me from my dreams.
Homes haunted by this dreaded sound
Soon learnt to know just what it means.

Escape to shelter in the dark,
All lighting was forbidden.
To hide in dark and musty gloom,
From bombs and fear hopefully hidden.

That siren sound has haunted me,
Its memory’s with me still.
The fear and dread, diminished now,
But yet it brings to me a chill.

All this, for me, was what war meant –
‘Twas hiding in the shadows,
While sounds around brought fear and doubt,
And longed for hopes of new tomorrows.

 

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Bombs Away

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Retro Advert seen in a charity shop in Devon, UK … Photo – WHB 2016

Bombs Away . . . Keeping our boys Regular

A provocative
narrative
Re a sanative
laxative.

As an ex-airman I can say

Advertising ‘Bombs Away’

Should not be a cause of laughter

I have heard of nothing dafter.

I consider it a waste,

Certainly leaves a nasty taste.

This advert I would call a fail,

In fact it is beyond the pale.

So airmen of the world unite,

Stop them talking utter tripe.

Dropping Bombs is not a joke,

Save it for that Hitler bloke.

He’s the one deserves derision,

Not our brave boys on a mission.

Nothing regular about a war,

Always ends with blood and gore.

So don’t make fun of our boys in blue,

Or the next one missing could be you.

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