I was sent to work at the old Repat.
It was forty years since the war,
Those ancient diggers would sit and swear
At the pain of the limbs they wore,
The wounds would open as years went by,
They’d come for another slice,
That war was never over for them,
And morphine was paradise.
I saw one veteran struggle and curse
As he ripped at the buckles and straps,
The new prosthesis had rubbed him raw
As his knee began to relapse.
He tore the leg from his wounded stump
Sat on his bed, and roared,
Then swung the article over his head
And flung it across the ward.
The others had ducked as the leg took off
And bounced off the opposite wall,
‘I’ll have to report you,’ the nurse exclaimed,
‘It’s a good leg, after all!’
‘You wear it then,’ was the man’s response,
‘For it’s driving me insane,
What would you know of Flanders Fields?
You wouldn’t deal with the pain!’
My job was to settle and calm him down
So I asked him about his leg,
‘When and where did you lose it, Dig?’
The veteran tossed his head.
‘You’ve heard of a place called Flanders Fields
Where the bullets came in like hail?
Well, I was there with the Anzac’s, son,
At a place called Passchendaele.’
‘Our Generals were trying to ****** us,
I swear, on my mother’s head,
They kept on sending us over the top
Until half of the men were dead.
The German gunners would enfilade
As we struggled against the mud,
I’ll never forget the battlefield,
It was spattered with bones and blood.
They’d send artillery shells across
At the height of a soldier’s knee,
We’d watch them come as they parted the grass,
They were Grasscutters, you see!
Well, I was running with bayonet fixed
And praying for God’s good grace,
When suddenly I was lying there,
I’d tumbled, flat on my face.’
‘It’s strange that I never felt a thing,
When the Grasscutter got me,
It took a while ‘til I saw my leg
Was gone, from under the knee.
But that was the end of the war for me,
The end of the life I’d known,
I spent some time back in Blighty, then
I came on a ship, back home.’
I never chided those men in there
Though they’d curse and swear, and roar,
For every man was a hero where
They'd trudged in mud through the war.
That Repat. job was a fill-in job
And I left, still young and hale,
But I never forgot the Grasscutter
Or the man from Passchendaele.
David Lewis Paget