Colin F. Jones

(Western Front – 1941)

~ 1 ~

The mirage faded then vanished into air,
As they drew nearer dust rising everywhere,
The tree-ringed lakes were gone again,
As thirst thickened tongues were cause to complain.
True wells were recognized by swarms of flies,
Or by Camels or goats on which a soldier relies.
Long tubas grass grew from the sand,
And Camel-thorn bushes pepper-potted the land.
Where the bushes grew there were fish-hook thorns
That ripped the skin becoming festering sores.
Dust filled their eyes and choked their throats,
Heat rising up in shimmering gloats.
Conditions were appalling in the desert wastes,
Made worse by the foe they daily faced.

~ 2 ~

The rock hard ground was so hard to dig,
‘Twas shells-scrapes not trenches, and not too big.
Machine guns were set up behind bush and mound,
Or blistering rocks scattered all around.
The nights were freezing and the stiff cold breeze,
Caused the sand to fly for there were no trees.
From the crests beyond the false crests and hills,
The Artillery fire claimed many wounded and killed
The trauma was appalling carrying wounded men,
Down precipitous slopes then going back again,
To struggle back down the open harsh slopes,
Laden with bodies giving the wounded some hope.
It was a harsh terrain on which to fight a war,
Awesome the weight that those soldiers bore.

~ 3 ~

Bunkers of high ground rise on every side,
The ridge of Laquetat where in forts they hide,
A palm clad watercourse below the terraced mounds,
Four hillock sentries where the Keren road winds.
First were the probes from the anti tank ditch,
Seeking a weak point, a gap or a glitch.
The night erupted with tracer and fire,
As they entered enemy positions under the wire.
African and Indian under European command,
Struggling to survive; fighting hand to hand.
But the Rajputana Rifles had made no headway,
And were back in the ditch where they did not stay.
Thankful of protection from the grenades and bombs,
Were withdrawn from the fight as the new day dawned.

~ 4 ~

Mount Cochen was still swathed in morning mists,
The Askari fighters lying in a state of bliss
When riflemen and sappers came charging at them,
Who had climbed up the crests when night had fallen.
With bayonet and bullet they swept through their lines,
Using boots and rifle butts as they swarmed the inclines.
Chanting their battle cries they ran back down the hill,
To bayonet the Italian Blackshirts with a modified will.
The Matildas were firing as the M13’s fled,
Leaving behind them the hundreds of bayoneted dead.
The Blackshirt Battalion (what was left of it) had gone,
And the battle for Agordat had been finally won.