Messengers of war

In September '39 I joined the British Army
Just like my father had so many years before
My mother cried and told me I was much too young to go
But go I must I said because the Hun was at the door
"England expects me to do what I must do.
"And if the worst should happen, then a message will get through
"And I'll be thinking of you both, and you will think of me
"But live or die, I have to try, and what will be will be"
The last I saw of either they were waving at the door
And off I tramped into the world headed for the war

I racked my satchel on my back and thumbed my way down south
Just like my father had when he went to fight the Hun
I was too thick for the RAF, and never seen the sea
But the army would take anyone prepared to shake a gun
The next afternoon I was standing in a queue
The King had called us all to arms, the signal had got through
One hundred thousand men were setting out to slay the beast
While overhead we heard the roar of engines headed east

I reached the desk and found myself quaking at the knees
Just like my father had so many years before
"And how old are you, son?" the recruiting sergeant asked
I said, "Fifteen if it's peacetime, but sixteen if it's war"
"And can you ride a motorbike?" the smilin' sergeant said.
I said, "Forward, backward, sideways, or standing on my head."
He looked impressed and made some notes and pushed me through a door
And the Royal Corp of Signals was the way I went to war

They set me up in khaki and they handed me a gun
Then sat me on a motorbike and showed me front from back

They put me on a transport ship and sent me off to France
And one of many off I rode, thumping down the track
"And if you see the Germans son, make sure you bleedin' duck.
"Just open up that throttle and ride that bike like f*%@
"But whatever else might happen, and whatever else you do,
"Come blood, or death or glory, you must get your signal through!"
I thought about my father who had come this way before
Whilst serving king and country as a messenger of war

Well, the British Expeditionary Force was up ahead
Building its defences on the Franco-Belgian border
But by May 1940 we were counting up the dead
And on the 26th GHQ gave out the order
Operation Dynamo had started with a rout
The Germans were advancing and our troops were pulling out
I delivered my despatches with the last one saved for me:
"Head for Dunkirk, laddie, wreck the bike and face the sea.
"We don't know how they'll do it but they'll not leave us alone.
"And if it's in God's plan, then they'll bring us safely home."
So I smashed the bike as best I could and dumped it in the sand
Then splashed out in the Channel and prepared to make my stand.

The little ships came hurrying as we waded from the shore
Our rifles held aloft, but our hopes falling fast
"You've nine in this boat, chum, can you take a couple more?"
And they dragged me from the water and I hung onto the mast
And somehow in the early morn we hit the beach at Dover
Cold and tired and grateful that the worst of it was over
But when they did a head count we found three of us had drowned
And I sent a signal home reading simply: SAFE. STOP. SOUND

A month or two went by, they pronounced me fit and well
I carried fresh despatches near and far and in between

The Germans gave us death, and in return we gave 'em hell

And slowly we dismantled the Nazi war machine

We rode at Singapore, Alamein and Sicily

Ever on the move, and always set to win

And finally with Overlord the tide of war had turned

We hit the beach at Arromanche and headed for Berlin


In November '45 I was finally demobbed

The same recruiting sergeant met me on a northbound train

"How went your war?" he asked. "It seems you made it through the fun."

"Well, I got my signals through," I said. "Every bleedin' one.

"And now I'm headed home from where I hope to stray no more

"A messenger of peace and not a messenger of war.

"My mother will be crying, but my father will be quiet,

"There'll be food upon the table, and a glass of beer tonight."

And the sergeant told me of a wife and children numbering four

And mentioned that he too was once a messenger of war.

And then we sat in silence having little else to say

And when he limped out of my life, I limped the other way


óDanny DeFazio





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