100 years ago today at dawn’s first light, Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli to fight a bloody campaign that would last for eight months and result in the loss of thousands of lives.
ANZAC Day today is a day of remembrance and recognition. A day to commemorate Australians and our New Zealand comrades who served, and lost their lives, in all wars, conflicts and peace keeping operations.
In commemoration, I introduce a poem written by my Father some years ago.
In “A Young Man’s Promise” the reader is walked across a World War 1 battlefield, where the ghosts of conflict reach out to rattle their chains with resonating imagery, and a young man honours his great grandfather.
For all who have and will serve. Lest we forget.
A Young Man’s Promise
By Richard Forcey
He walks with slow and measured tread
Across the fields where many died
While ghosts of armies long forgotten
March with him, quietly, by his side.
And as he picks his way through cornfields,
Scenes once faded fill his eyes,
He hears exploding shells long fallen
Now drowned out by a million sighs.
Young men in ragged great-coats cower
In rat-infested trenches foul
And wait the dreaded words,”Let’s go,lads!”
Once more to face the mortar’s howl.
As through the cloying mud they blunder
There’s just one thought in every mind,
“Let it be quick! Oh please God, spare me,”
Drawn-out dying, screaming, blind.
Moonlight, searchlight, stark white flare,
Each flicker rouses numbing dread
Exposing corpse-strewn blasted earth
A shattered school room, children fled.
A row of houses, crumbled, burning
An upturned pram, two bloated cows,
A little girl with death-glazed eyes,
Her blood defiling floral blouse.
And stumbling forward, bayonets fixed,
Towards the whites of foreign eyes,
Does any wild spectre think
He’s just a tool the system plies?
Now bullets whine amongst the debris,
Announcing battle to commence
The rag-tag horde runs forward, yelling,
To spend themselves in vain offence.
The din of conflict, then the silence,
Cold rain falls on cratered ground
The sole survivor, gasping, retching,
Claws blood from eyes and looks around.
A reeking, smoking landscape greets
His blurred and disbelieving gaze
A field sown thick with shattered comrades
Will haunt him all his living days.
So now the youth who picks his pathway
Through swaying tracts of golden corn,
Reflects upon the needless slaughter,
The “glory” under banner torn.
The ghosts recede – Great Granddad’s medal
Laid on the ground by loving hand,
The young man turns, head bowed, then briskly
Walks wondering from the hallowed land.