BBWB 13: Aux Barricades !

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THE BALLAD OF BLACK WATCH BRODICK

CANTO 13

Aux Barricades !


The Black Watch went to Chiseldon,
By Draycot Foliat
Where King Albert’s Anglo-Saxon
Rode the Ridgeway, & a’ that

A blast of bugles stirs the camp
Arise six hundred sleepers
& Graeco-Roman wrestlers stamp
Where shuffl’d slim shopkeepers

A football match divides the day
Malcolm Macarthur drops
His damag’d ankle’s gone agley
& off the pitch he hops

“There’s no more war for you, my son
Its back to Brodick for ye,”
Tho’ in distress he’s a lucky one
As destiny shall show ye

Today the the whole battalion’s
Training on Salisbury Plain
Maneuvers & formations
All day long, & in the rain

But bloodless were the victories
& painless the demises,
“O what a pantomime this is,
Parades & exercises,

With Left! Right! Left! & Right! Left! Right!
Why did I take the shilling?
No mighty enemies in sight
No fighting & no killing!”

His Highness visits, martial dress’d
Inspecting troops at pace
By swift progress him much impress’d
In such a short timespace

Each man now clad in marching gear;
Lee Enfield, bayonet,
Great coats & haversack, appear
“The most stirling asset!”


Lord Kitchener’s Letter to the Troops (1914)

You are ordered abroad as a soldier of the King to help our French comrades against the invasion of a common enemy. You have to perform a task which will need your courage, your energy, your patience. Remember that the honor of the British Army depends upon your individual conduct. It will be your duty not only to set an example of discipline and perfect steadiness under fire, but also to maintain the most friendly relations with those whom you are helping in this struggle. The operations in which you are engaged will, for the most part, take place in a friendly country, and you can do your own country no better service than in showing yourself, in France and Belgium, in the true character of a British soldier.

Be invariably courteous, considerate, and kind. Never do anything likely to injure or destroy property, and always look upon looting as a disgraceful act. You are sure to meet with a welcome and to be trusted; and your conduct must justify that welcome and that trust. Your duty cannot be done unless your health is sound.
So keep constantly on your guard against any excesses. In this new experience you may find temptations both in wine and women. You must entirely resist both temptations, and while treating all women with perfect courtesy, you should avoid any intimacy.

Do your duty bravely.
Fear God.
Honor the King.

Kitchener,
Field-Marshal


The order comes, they’re furth to France,
Those waves of khaki tartan
Southampton swell, in shadows dance
Gytheio & Spartan

The Brodick boys aboard the ship
Her name, SS Mount Temple,
Watch quay-knot ropes all easy slip,
Like balls releas’d downhill.

As harbour-yon loud soldiers went
They railings crowd both sides
Over deep & royal Solent
That footflesh from soil divides

For some it was a last farewell
Tho’ yet they didn’t know it
No prophecies of death compel
Sadness enough to show it

Oer the Kaiser’s murd’rous submarines
The Black Watch slept uneasy
On forage bales, all shades of greens
The Tommy rocks all queasy

Whose happy face rescissory
As stomachs pitch & toss,
Lives shuddering in misery
& violent seasickness

O! torrid night! O! horrid night!
O! poisonous pallaver!
O! morning dawn! O! joyous sight!
O! harbour of La Havre

The wharves awhirl with waving girls
Who wore no powdery shade
Shine colours bright, exotic curls,
Exciting peacock parade

Who pass down booze & caporal,
Who cheer & kiss like crazy
Who all went dotty as men ‘owl
Thro parts of ‘Marcelaisey’


All into gloomy carriages
Men pack, thro’ Normandy
They pass, like broken marriages
No families they’ll see

For France is of its manhood shorn
Her fields to women left
& little boylings, barely born
& old worn men, bereft

“Where are your menfolk?” one replies
“Oh, à la guerre, monsieur,”
This soon a war-cry slogan flies
“Les Black Watch! À la guerre!”

Thro’ Hazebrouck, Houchin, Grenay
Grew soldiers drunk & giddy
As louder, steady, every day
They hear the Flanders smiddy

Forging its iron weaponry
With red-hot hammer blows
All conversation peppery
Whene’er the train down slows

But when at last they bivouack
In pigsty full of shits
If this is “La belle France?” said Jack
Best give it back to Fritz

Where are the rooves, where is the door
Where are those gardens gay
What ruinage from floor-to-floor
& all.. all is decay

& then they felt first cannonade
Of German minenwerfers
Woof! Woof! they went, as shrapnel spray’d
Like speeding silver surfers,

The joy of joining up destroy’d
This war, this life, was real
Compartmentalis’d, deployed
In a tiger’s jaw of steel

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