BBWB 15: Trenchlives

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The nightingales are singing near
Convents of the Sacred heart
But miles away, by bombadeer
Two armies blown apart

The 9th (Service) Battalion
Is crunch’d up from the rear
First taste of frontline action
Aface ‘Double Crassier’

Whose heap of spoil symbolical
Transmorphs as armoury;
Devices diabolical,
Devised by Germany

Anxious to slay the Black Watch boys
If ever nappers pry
Above the parapet, employs
Its deadly hue & cry

In murd’rous zeal of steel and lead
Flung cross the narrow strip
Of No-Man’s-Land, where no men tread
The gorge of brinkmanship

Where sniper bullets whizz on by,
Men turn to see their friend –
Brain’s hanging out, blood-gush afly –
Pay the Devil’s dividend

The lucky ones get cushy ones,
The Hindus call them ‘blighties,’
Back hame to mothers, brothers, sons
& lovers in their nighties

For trenchlife wasnae paradise
Meals nastily uneatable
Beds scritch with rats, clothes scratch with lice
Swarms undefeatable

Too hot ! Too cold ! Too wet ! Too bored !
To every nerve-end straining
Together suffer’d in concord
Fraternity sustaining

To be a soldier of the soil
To wear King George’s khaki
With them who see & share your toil
With hubris never narky

To be among beloved mates,
Abroad, for King & nation
Concurs as psyche aggragates
In seraph-wing sensation

Sharing immortal moments, soars
Amang a band of brothers
For they’re the ones who fought our wars
While, nameless, we’re the ‘others’

The drouth of Wullie McIntyre
For sneaky whiskies partial
To frying pan from throat of fire
He’s dragg’d off to court martial

“Please, private, answer to your charge
Of being drunk on duty,”
“Ach! Ya dinnae ken what drunk is, sarge”
Lieutenant Broon, sat snooty,

Listens in silence, sniffs, then deals
Field Punishment Number One
Fetter’d a week up on the wheels
Of mobile carriage gun

Unloos’d only for number twos
& pack drills at the double –
When Mcintyre his post renews
He’s ceas’d to cause more trouble

As on it went, the carousel
Of quarterlives in trenches
Where slaughter thrives, a living hell
Of death & evil stenches,

Cocytus wails; the days, the nights
The sights, the frighten’d screaming,
Patrols of stabbing, throttling fights
Hot balls of death down streaming

Unshaven, crouching, hollow-eyed
Neath everlasting rain
Of shells, men will’d the other side
To come their way again;

To match & meet a fellow man
Or blown to smithereens?
Aye, bloody fights far better than
Invisible machines!

Now Peter Currie finds his boys
He’d join’d a diff’rent unit
Where bored of piping’s unripe noise
He’d switch’d to do his bit

& gazing on George Goldthorpe’s stripes
Quo’ he, “Who made thee sergeant?”
“O buggar me! its Peter Pipes,
From whence have you been sent?”

“I’d heard about the coming push,
Just knew I had to be there,
To listen to ye buggars gush
Back hame wouldnae be fair!

& so I’ve join’d the auld Black Watch
Tis more my fighting mould
This mad, miraculous hotchpotch
Of Scotch lads brave & bold,”

“& English too” “Aye George… ehm… sarge!
I’m glad you’ll be beside us,
When at the Kaiserscum we’ll charge
& scatter frighten’d spiders

Like Jonnie Cope at Prestonpans!”
“Siddoon yon Jacobite!”
“Ach Jock, we are the Clan of Clans
As one we all can fight!”

Then flying dustbin overhead
Sends everyone drop-doggo
No Brodick boys this time are dead
But there’s an awfa’ long way to go

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