David Lewis Paget
They spent the night on the Prince of Wales
Not one of them slept a wink,
Packed like herrings against the rails
It was hard to even think,
They scribbled their final letters to
The folk that they loved back home,
Then briefly thought of the western plains
And the lives that they once had known.
They’d never fought in a foreign war
They’d never been far from home,
But were part of the greatest Empire
That the world had seen, since Rome,
They would stay to fight in the fields of France
In the shattering burst of shells,
But first were sent from the Pyramids
To the straits of the Dardanelles.
There were miners from Coolgardie
There were farmhand boys galore,
Ready to fix their bayonets
As they closed on the Turkish shore,
The boats were lowered at two o’clock
With the Moon behind a cloud,
And then the pinnaces towed them in,
For some it would mean a shroud.
It was said that they’d land at Gaba Tepe
But they couldn’t afford a flare,
The current drifted them further north
So they landed at Sari Bair.
A line of Turks took to their heels
When they saw their bayonets,
But they surged across the beach to find
They were blocked by a line of cliffs.
They cursed and they clawed their way up these,
They were stranded in ravines,
The Turks were firing down on them
From the heights that they hadn’t seen,
The second wave got the worst of it
As the boats came in a glut,
The beach was strafed with an enfilade
And they died, still standing up.
They saw their mates from the Groper state
Drop dead without a cry,
Face down, out in the harbour with
Their harness, floating wide,
A Digger would curse that he’d lost his hat
Would sit and peer about,
Then blood would gush from his forehead
And you’d know that his lights were out.
You couldn’t be still for a moment there
You had to move on ahead,
The snipers up on the heights would
Take a sight, and you were dead.
They pushed on up and they took some out
And the view was better there,
They knew they needed to take the heights
Of the hill called Chunuk Bair.
The maps that they had were out of sync
And the scrub was six feet high,
They’d stumble blindly over a ridge
To drop where the bullets fly,
The reinforcements, down on the beach
Were still pinned down to a man,
With half the company out of reach
Or filling their mouths with sand.
They never made it to Chunuk Bair
The party was forced back down,
Back on the beach the sea was red
In a fifty yard surround,
The ships were shelling, and overhead
There was shrapnel, flying free,
Most of the officers were dead
And the rest were out at sea.
There’s blood on the sides of Chunuk Bair
There’s blood in the hills and plains,
And the bleached white bones of Australian sons
Are revealed in the winter rains,
A nation blooded a world away
From its acres of golden wheat,
Where its people stop on an April day
And they bow their heads in the street.
Their losses, they were horrendous
And the Turks lost even more,
Eight thousand diggers had lost their lives
And you may well ask, what for?
They left the beach in December
In the night, just as they came,
And Rosemary grows on the Turkish shore
That engraved the Anzac name!
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Poet's Notes about The Poem
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