Private John Scott
Old Fritz must have suspicions, but as yet he gives no sign,
All’s quiet as we take up our positions in the line.
But swift fly the hours of darkness on that too brief summer night,
Till the roar of that pitiless cannonade that heralds dawn’s first light.
Dawn! While the screaming shells their relentless way pursue
Dawn! With the blessed larks singing in heaven’s blue
Dawn! With the startled enemy returning fire for fire!
Dawn! With the heavies streaming in to smash the enemies wire
Shell after shell comes crashing in, and even we feel the shock
Of the impact of that fierce barrage, making the very earth rock!
Can we stick it? Time drags slower now while we wait for Zero Hour;
With the sound of that furious cannonade ever increasing in power!
With streams of bullets raking the trench, it’s time to chance an eye
In the midst of Hell let loose, to spot where Pendant Copse does lie.
Comes another whine – and another burst – and – thank God – it’s another miss!
But we’re longing for a Blighty just to get us out of this!!!
All Honour to the gallant lads who nobly played their part;
Who flinched not from the task assigned, though doomed-doomed from the start
The great attack, long heralded, was made, but made in vain;
And many a brave “D” Company lad was numbered with the slain.
And we, who survived that ordeal, have each our memories –
And I, too, have my memories –none more vivid than these –
Back from the hail of machine guns and the shrapnel bursting high,
Comes Ronnie Priestley, hobbling in, with a bullet through his thigh
Grimly joking in spite of his wound, as into the trench he drops;
“There’ll be no need for signallers today on Pendant Copse,
‘Tis plain the attack has failed, you chaps had best stay put”, he said
“I saw young Birks go down – and many more lie yonder dead.
And when that shell dropped in our trench, there, not two yards away,
A startled face, eyes fixed on mine! (It seems like yesterday)
A startled face, o’er which a sudden crimson hue o’erspread;
Next – deathly pale, as the lifeblood drained and he slumped on the fire step – dead.
Later I saw Joe Anderson – Joe with his arm in a sling –
Clumping along the trench-boards, as happy as a King.
Joe with a nice little Blighty – going out of the line
Nor would I be the only one wishing such luck were mine!
Then down at Euston Dump I met Ron Priestley once again.
Lying on a stretcher – in his eyes a look of pain.
Grimly asking – “Are we winning?” as I helped him to a smoke,
And – if I got a chance to “Get a field card to his folks!”
That night, when darkness fell, I sat and dozed on some dugout stairs,
Heedless of strafing overhead, whether ‘twas ours or theirs.
Eighteen-pounders banging away in an all-night serenade
While down there in the dugout was a dying soldier laid!
Lulled by the laboured breathing of our comrade dying there,
Already gone beyond recall – beyond all pain – all care.
Growing fainter and fainter as his life ebbed swift away,
I fell asleep on those dugout steps – Yes! Slept till break of day.
Dawn! What a glorious morning! All quiet again, thank God!
Save for that sniper’s bullet that spitefully bites the sod!
And a far, faint cry from the battlefield, where still some wounded lie
And again the call comes “Carry on! Gallant 18th DLI!”
Written in 1916 by Private John Scott