Mike Subritzky

WINDWHISTLE

I never did learn his name
but I know he was married, and had kids.
I know this because the Padre spoke of his family,
during the Memorial Service.

I know he was an Australian,
and by all accounts a good soldier,
and a damn fine photographer.
I know that because they published
some of his work in ‘Reveille’.
–after the Military Funeral.

We brought the guns into action that morning
just after first light,
and then slept beneath the dappled
shade of our camouflage nets.

We were hidden in rocks,
not far from the river,
which ran swiftly over the masses
of grey South Island boulders.
Relaxed and rested after a week
or more of intense Gunnery Training.

I’d been all over the world,
and the name of the place “Windwhistle”
was about as forgettable to me as a hundred
other places that I had sweated,
slept, and soldiered through.

Still, it’s funny how the hand of fate
can intervene, and burn an instant
of time and space into the very core
of your living memory.

I never did learn that Aussie Soldier’s name,
but I watched him die;
crushed beneath the unforgiving tracks
of an armoured fighting vehicle…
just in front of my hidden howitzer.

In slow motion I, and my gun detachment,
watched in silent terror as he bent
to retrieve a lens-cap,
while that tank, angry and loud,
turned on itself and swept him beneath the tracks;
engulfing him in a sea of blood and agony,
beneath those unforgiving tracks of armour plate.

It seemed so very sad and futile
when the young Gunner yelled to me,
“Sarge, shall I go and try and help him…
I’ve got a shell dressing taped to my rifle butt?”
“No son” I replied “Just remain at your post,
and pray for his widow”.

It seemed such an odd name “Windwhistle”,
but I never did forget it,
or the events of that day.
It’s funny how fate can intervene;
and brand your mind forever,
with an instant of pain… and an eternity of horror.