Dulce et Decorum Est

Dec 21, 2008 by

When people think of War Poetry it’s usually divvied up between the patriotic stuff and the anti-war poetry, especially the first world war. At work we’ve got a large selection of WW1 Christmas cards, mostly sent by soldiers. A lot were drawn by a soldier in a unit then copied to make a card for all of them; if you weren’t front line life could be pretty dull. There’s some wonderful art, but also some brilliant songs and poems. Thought I’d share a couple with you for Christmas.

This first is from the Royal Engineers, who designed their own card with outlines of every bit of equipment they could think of. Mallets, trench pumps, extending rules… And on the inside is this song.

The Toilers

1. The rain comes down in torrents,
And all the trenches fail;
The mud is deep and sticky,
One cannot move at all.
No water in the tanks today!
No water for the tea!!
Send someone for a sapper
From the 103 R.E.!!!

2. The C.O. grouses lustily-
“This tench is very bad.
The N.C.O.’s are hopeless,
The men are going mad.
They cannot get their sandbags,
Or a stick of nine by three;
Send someone for a sapper
From the 103 R.E.!”

3. The men have no protection
From the shells, and rain and frost.
They all must have deep dug-outs;
Not a moment must be lost.
A C.O. gets excited,
And ‘phones the B.G.C.,
Who asks for lots of sappers
From the 103 R.E.

4. The works’ report is handed in
On Friday afternoon,
Of all the jobs that have been done,
Or will be very soon.
A wire comes in at 6 p.m.
From the irate C.P.E.-
“Are you doing any work at all,
Oh! 103 R.E.?”

This one is accompanied by a picture of a tired solider in the desert, and a shield with four kinds of insect and a crocodile on it, as well as an exploding thermometer.

Greetings from Mesopotamia,
Your knowledge of which should shame yer,
In this so called Garden of Eden
Our troops have done some doughty deeds in.
We’re not in the lime-light view,
Flies, such heat, you never knew;
Fevers, Arabs, Turks, thirst, boils
Shells and bullets are our toils.
But now its getting somewhat cold,
Now we think of friends of old,
And hope that when this reaches you
Huns and wars are finished too.

On that note, I’ll sign off for Christmas. That and I’m typing this on the train, with a dodgy wifi connection and the beginnings of motionsickness… Ta-ta!


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