Information: Dear Sir/Madam,
This is a poem written by a dear old friend of mine, Miss Daphne Creer in 1943 – inspired by the sound of a squadron of bombers flying over her house in York, England, on their way to a mission somewhere in Europe. Daphne, herself, had joined the Women’s Air Force in 1942 and was one of the first operators of the newly-invented Radar.
The poem has a certain poignancy as her fiancé, a RAF officer pilot was killed in a mission over the North Atlantic in 1944. Daphne never married, probably as a result of the loss of her loved one.
I only heard the poem recently but I was struck by the descriptive language to capture the broad range of emotions which the pilots must have experienced before and during their missions. It is very much an authentic poem of its time – using the language and phrases which were so common in the war years. I think that is what makes it so real to me.
Daphne is a quiet, shy lady and I know it would bring her a lot of happiness to know her poem might find a wider audience. I hope it might be of use to you.
February 25, 2009
TARGET – BERLIN
The night was dark and starless; the wind was fresh and keen,
The bombers stood in readiness, silent and unseen.
The pilots waited tensely the long appointed hour
Some were grave, some were gay, others quiet and dour.
A few were looking quite relaxed with laughing happy eyes
Others with a steadfast look, serious and wise.
Some were playing poker others playing darts
Reading, writing, thinking but with courage in their hearts.
“Damn you for a lucky swine! Some chaps have all the breaks.”
“Could thrash you with my eyes shut, pal – you ain’t got what it takes!”
Whilst some were talking quietly about their folks at home
The other men they’d trained with and those with whom they’d flown.
“Remember old Carruthers and how he loved a fight.
Pity when he bought it – that night we all got tight.”
“And Jackson, was a first class bloke, he didn’t give a damn.
He went down singing lustily the night we raided Hamm.”
“Blake was an amusing cove, couldn’t keep off rum.
When they shot him up I heard him say “I guess you’ve had it, chum.”
And James, remember good old James: a short and hectic life.”
“I remember James alright – two kids and a damned attractive wife.”
And so they talked and so they thought yet each one of them knew
The target was Berlin tonight – they wouldn’t all come through.
Yet each one thought his luck would hold that somehow he’d come back.
That somehow he’d get through the shells, that wall of deadly flak
And now the time to leave had come, they went out through the night
The mess lay quiet and full of ghosts, untidy, filled with light.
When the engines leapt to life, the very air vibrated
The crews were ready, tense and eager, silently they waited.
One by one they taxied out and disappeared from sight
Flying due north-east they went, speeding through the night.
The North Sea lay beneath them – distant, black and chill
Tossing in the darkness, restless, never still.
Engines throbbing evenly – a dull and heavy roar
Cutting through the blackened air towards the distant shore.
The Navigator speaks at last, “Just crossing German coast”
Each man silent eager ready at his post.
And then it comes – the whistling shells, the thousand streaks of light
Searing, tearing upward – shattering the night.
Shaken but undaunted, deafened by the din
The pilot calmly forges on, on towards Berlin.
The city lies beneath them, bristling with guns
One by one the planes go in, unleash their load of bombs.
Fighters whirling round them, crashing to their doom
Through that grim inferno, screaming through the fumes.
Blazing fires, roaring guns, a red and lurid hell
In that funeral pyre of flames many bombers fell.
Limping home to England, a sad and sorry sight
Wounded, tired and battle scarred, uncertain in their flight.
And many of those lads have gone, but up there in the sky
They’ve lit the fires of liberty – we shall not let them die.
©Copyright 1943 by Daphne Creer