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Dedicated to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Great War.
This poem is an apology for unfulfilled promises.


I was persuaded to enlist so I lied about my age.
Had I known the truth, I would have assuaged
The sins I’d committed which were all in my head.
But my pals paid my price; they’re all dead.

But whatever the reason, I was on the front line.
‘Though I’d tried so hard not to cry or whine
If only I could, I would certainly have fled,
Away from the others, for they were all dead.

The Chaplain had led us, in a sermon of sorrow,
“God keep us safe to live for tomorrow.”
It was Easter Sunday, when we bowed our heads,
Praying for our brothers who now were all dead.

I thought they were joking about the ‘Vickers’ machine gun –
It had killed so many. They’d no more see the sun
Break through the clouds, shinning overhead.
How could they ever? They were all dead.

So I stood in the trench, my rifle in hand,
Fearing the order, awaiting the command.
“God keep me safe,” I whispered, I cried,
“Not like the others, for they’ve all died.”

I thought about my darling, my dear sweetheart,
And the promise I’d made her that we’d never part.
Then the guns fell silent as I looked ahead.
In a flash it struck me – I’d soon be dead.

My legs felt weak, my stomach heaved aloud,
Around me each soldier had his bare head bowed.
That pitiful sight should have filled me with dread,
For I knew that soon they’d all be dead.

But I was not moved for them; not I.
I shouldn’t have been there, I didn’t want to die
In that Hell-hole, that blasted place of dread.
I wanted to live, but soon I’d be dead.

My brother was a doctor; he didn’t want a gun
Or a bayonet to kill the Hun!
“Don’t worry brother, I’ll protect you,” he’d said.
But he broke his promise; he’s also dead.

So I stood there waiting, praying to my God,
Like all the other lads in my squad.
“Over the top boys!” our Officer then cried,
His very last words just before he died.

I later found the Chaplain face down in the mud,
In a pool of bloody water, his own private flood.
“All men are brothers,” so often he’d said.
But he was wrong. He’s dead.

I find myself walking through a storm of lead,
Over No-Man’s Land, where so many have bled.
As I fall to the ground, I ask with a sigh,
“If God gave his Son why must I die?”

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Hamish McGee
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