John-Ward Leighton CD

OLD SWEATS

John-Ward Leighton CD: Old Sweats
John-Ward Leighton: 1956
this morning
at my coffee haunt
fighting writers block
my journal on the table
in front of me
a clean white page
accusing me
of sloth
and wouldn’t settle for the pictures
in my camera
then picking up my pen
I cast my mind back
and asked the heroes of memory
the old sweats that guided me
when I was young and green as grass
men with little formal education
but a lot of warriors wisdom
some could not write their names
but would always have your back
in tight situations
and knew the little tricks
to save you aggravation
and save you from stupidly
giving your life for the nation
my first Trooping the Colours
with our founder
taking the salute
supported by two canes
having lost a leg
in the desperate fight for Ypres
in the war to end all wars
his young aide
opening an umbrella
it was sprinkling rain
and Hammy swinging
his cane at the hapless 2nd Lieutenant
and saying sotto voce
as he pointed his cane
to us
saying
“They do not have umbrellas,
and neither shall I”
we would have gone into the fire
with a leader like that

after the parade I donned
my dress blues
and went to a photographer
half way down the hill
who specialized
in hand coloured prints

I had just turned twenty years old
and on my first European adventure

Author’s Note: Hamilton Gault, a Montreal millionaire, raised the regiment in 1914, which became the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. The regiment will celebrate its one-hundredth birthday next year.

Both my father and I served withe the first battalion. Dad from 1933-1945 and me from 1955-1958