War poetry: 100 years ago

Have you ever thought what it was like 100 years ago?

The horrors you had to face, no-one would ever know.

You join up or sign on, willing to go and fight;

Now that you’re in the army they train you to get you right.

We’ll be home for Christmas, you tell your girlfriend or your wife,

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You don’t know how lucky you’ll be to come back with your life.

Now you get to France or is it Hell?

I’ve seen it all, these tales I’m going to tell.

Are you ready to go over the top and stare death in the face?

They get you there quick enough, you don’t have to race.

The whistle blows. Out of the trench you climb into a living hell.

Is it your turn to die? Only God can tell.

Machine guns open up, your pals drop like flies.

It’s something you’ll never forget, the blood and the cries.

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You gain about 100 yards and half the lads who went over the top are either wounded or dead.

We’ll all be home for Christmas, that’s what someone said.

There were 800 of us when we started off, all them years ago;

Now we’re down to 80, where did all the rest go?

They won’t be coming home, you know that for sure.

Over 700 of our lot and half a million more.

Home for Christmas they said! More like four years.

Over a million dead and twice as many tears.

John Williams


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