Rhymes Without Reason
From the "Wipers Times" 1914-1918, reprinted in The Infantry Journal, No. 21, Spring 1991
Arise, My Muse, and from the muddied trench
Let us give utterance to the malicious thought,
Shouting aloud the things we never ought
Even to dream of: come, you shameless Wench,
With tongue in cheek let us set out to strafe
Gunners and Sappers, and the Gilded Staff.
Gunners are a race apart
Hard of head and hard of heart.
Like the gods they sit and view
All that other people do:
Like the Sisters Three of Fate,
They do not discriminate.
Our Support Line, or the Hun's, -
What's the difference to the Guns?
Retaliation do you seek?
Ring them up and - wait a week!
They will certainly reply
In the distant by-and-bye.
Should a shell explode amiss,
Each will swear it was not his:
For he's never, never shot
Anywhere about that spot,
And, what's more, his guns could not.
Sappers are wonderfully clever by birth,
And though they're not meek, they inherit the Earth.
Should your trenches prove leaky, they'll work with a will
To make all the water flow up the next hill
(And when I say "work", I should really explain
That we find the labour, while they find the brain).
They build nice deep dug-outs as quick as can be,
But quicker still mark them "Reserved for R.E."
And, strangely, this speed of theirs seems to decline,
As the scene of their labours draws near the Front Line.
Realizing Men must laugh,
Some Wise Man devised the Staff,
Dressed them up in little dabs
Of rich variegated tabs:
Taught them how to win the War
On A.F.Z. 354:
Let them lead the Simple Life
Far from all our vulgar strife:
Nightly gave them downy beds
For their weary aching heads:
Lest their relatives might grieve
Often, often, gave them leave,
Decoration, too, galore:
What on earth could man wish more?
Yet, alas, or so says Rumour,
He forgot a sense of Humour!
And now, Old Girl, we've fairly had our whack,
Be off, before they start to strafe us back!
Come, let us plod across the weary Plain,
Until we sight Tenth Avenue again.
On up the interminable C.T.,
Watched by the greater part of Germany:
And, as we go, mark each familiar spot.
Where fresh work has been done - or perhaps not:
On, past the foot boards no one seems to mend,
Till even Vindin Ally finds an end,
And wading through a Minnie-hole (brand-new),
We gingerly descend to C.H.Q.
Our journey ended in a Rabbit-hutch -
"How goes the Battle? Have they Minnied much?"
- AFZ 354 – An Army form number
- CT – Communications Trench
- CHQ – Company Headquarters
- Gunners – The Artillery
- Minnie – A German trench mortar
- PBI – Poor Bloody Infantry
- RE – Royal Engineers
- Sappers – The EngineersvStaff – The Generals and other officers at headquarters behind the front lines
- Tenth Avenue – A trench
- Vindin Alley – A trench