After A Day at War (South Vietnam, 1969)

In the gloom of each day when it’s dying
Standing to is the normal routine.
A time which I use for reflecting
On what we have done or we’ve seen.

It’s the time, when my view blends with darkness;
And as daytime gives way to the night,
I review the way that we’re working.
Are we doing this wrong or right?

Did Jim keep his distance from Stan at the creek?
Why Rod was stung by those bees.
And Frank, who found that crossing point
Despite its concealment by trees.

And the cache that we found on the high ground.
The call of a barking deer.
Searching that corpse before burying.
And asking – why am I here?

Mick Shave

Immediate Action and Life’s Handicap

When tracer snarls about your ears
Because the bastard knows your there.
When so much noise explodes the fears
And drills take over what you do;
Run, crawl to cover, get your breath.
There he is, he’s in your sight,
Take satisfaction from his death
Let loose that round to end the fight.

Mick Shave

An Observation (make of it what you will):

I once overheard some colleagues bemoaning the introduction of a new rifle, not because of its small caliber but because of its cumbersome appearance:

I was once a soldier smart,
Learned to stamp my feet, the art
Of calling out ‘The Time’, the thrill
Of perfect, synchronising drill.

We did it in the Sunshine glare
On what was called parade ground square.
It’s something that I’ll always miss.
Those halcyon days, what perfect bliss

To march along in line abreast,
Our arms swung well up to our chest.
Rhythmic, gravelled, crunching feet,
With Pipes and Drums, and pagan beat.

When marking time we’d raise our knees,
Oh what a jape, oh what a wheeze.
We’d point the toe, dig in the heel,
Stay with the marker on the wheel.

Saluting dais comes in sight
So make your dressing by the right.
Neck to collar and chest out,
This is what it’s all about.

Look at us, performing fleas:
Shoulder, order, stand at ease;
Perfect creases, looking good,
Just like all good soldiers should.

Mick Shave

My Toast to The Regiment

The well aimed shot, the instinctive kill,
Return the same intrinsic thrill.
To see it twitch then lie quite still,
Was once the measure of our skill.
So, being alive and because we can,
Let’s raise our glass to the fighting man
Of The Royal Australian Regiment.

(all stand and with raucous voice)
Tip your glass e’n when your old and roar back down the table.
Boast and glare, give back the stare, for you, sir, have been able
To cut and thrust, to fire and move, to prove yourself in might,
To show that you enjoyed the gore and carnage of the fight.
So, being alive and because we can,
Let’s raise our glass to the fighting man
Of The Royal Australian Regiment.

(pass the beer from hand to hand while this is said)
Ah! Here’s the horn of plenty. Drink from it deep without a fuss,
Then bone the bard – but not too hard – would you believe he’s one of us?
That Viking fought at Maldon which, ’tis said, was quite a brawl.
And be careful with that legionnaire he’s just got back from Gaul.
So, being alive and because we can,
Let’s raise our glass to the fighting man
Of The Royal Australian Regiment.

A toast to those who enjoyed their war,
But never dwell on “things” they saw,
Who gain a quiet satisfaction
When thinking of themselves in action.
So, being alive and because we can,
Let’s raise our glass to the fighting man
Of The Royal Australian Regiment.

Mick Shave

Champion Company – a tragic comedy that really happened

One morning safe in barracks while sitting on the loo,
Our Colonel, who’d put duty first, was wondering what to do.
Now, he’d sounded out the adjutant and the R.S. M.
He’d asked that pair what did they think would occupy the men.
They had answered ‘drill, sir. Men love parade ground stuff’.
But the Colonel, after consultation, thought they’d had enough.
Their morale it should be lifted, satisfaction thus enjoyed.
‘We must not have the men abused, but gainfully employed’.

Thus, next morning doing block jobs, the diggers were astonished
When told by sergeant of platoon that toilets must be polished.
”Tis for honour and the Company’s pride’ he’d said to busy soldier
‘And pleased it is you’ll be my boy before you’re too much older.
That instead of stamping feet on square or theory of the gun,
Or concealment from an enemy, or stalking (which is fun),
You will spend your time with elbow grease each morning here with me,
Polishing taps and porcelain and cleaning lavatory’.

So that every week when CO. comes to look at WC.,
Accompanied by the Major and all the powers that be,
And they poke round toilet ledges, check louvred slats for dust,
These expert, fighting officers smelling drains because they must
Ensure their Colonels wish, and we to quench our Major’s thirst,
So that of Battalion’s toilets it’s his that comes in first.
And young, fit, soldier volunteers, now feeling damned annoyed,
Are to be denied all training to be gainfully employed.

But enough of silly moralising, holier than thee,
Who was it beat up all the rest for champion company?
Well, that was Sergeant Kusba, who were a devious swine.
He’d doctored water closets so they smelled like table wine.
Well, ‘twer lemon essence really, after which one could not flush.
And a secret guard on toilet bowls to ward off morning rush.
Which was borne by me and Sergeant Glen ’til trickery did we smell,
After which we cornered Kusba in the Mess and gave him Hell.

So we as well began to use the lemon essence trick.
We all professed to satisfy but thought our Colonel thick,
As he stood at water closet breathing deeply, satisfied,
The diggers standing by their beds all laughed until they cried.
And the CSM., cognisant, fed-up as much as we,
Served the Colonel and his minions a scrumptious morning tea,
Whilst they stood relaxed and at their ease upon our polished floor,
Between urine trough on one side, on the other, closet door.

Mick Shave

Some Advice

Beside that track in jungle green
(Bare the bayonet, beat the drum.).
Sweat-soaked, dirty, thus unseen
(Bare the bayonet, beat the drum.).
These young men who crouch so still
Are poised to pounce, to make their kill,
In doing so they’ll do your will; if you
Bare the bayonet, beat the drum.

Platoon or Company, Section strong
(Bare the bayonet, beat the drum.),
Led by those who can’t do wrong
(Bare the bayonet, beat the drum.),
Trained by the same consummate skill,
Focused thus to do your will,
But – yours to pay is the butchers’ bill; if you
Bare the bayonet, beat the drum.

And when they stop too old to serve
(Bare the bayonet, beat the drum.),
Ensure they get what they deserve
(Bare the bayonet, beat the drum.);
For at that time they must not find
That you and yours have changed your mind.
So, if you’ll then feel less than kind, don’t
Bare the bayonet, beat the drum.

Mick Shave

Political Will (comparing then with now)

Last night I spoke with Caesar’s ghost.
We’d quaffed a glass or two of wine.
But then the bastard made a boast,
How his blokes would be beating mine.

Now, a General I have never been,
I’m saying that reluctantly;
And could not argue what he’d seen.
Thus had to think most carefully.

Therefore I spoke of contact drills,
Of duty weeks and other thrills.
And of the things that I have seen
Tales of what I once had been.

But carefully, not beating breast,
For after all His was the best.
Recounting only what I saw,
Not saying much about my war.

But why not tell of where I’ve been?
Am I ashamed of what I’ve seen?
Or, I’m asking, is it wrong
To beat one’s chest, to sing one’s song?

That man of Caesar’s who jumped ship
With Eagle held in calloused grip
Inspiring witnesses to roar
Then wade with him to Britain’s shore.

Is he so different? Or might I say
To Caesar, oiy come have a look
At all these men so brave today.
Would you have put them in your book?

No, really what I’d meant to say
To Caesar was that on that day
He’d launched his men through thick and thin
Because he meant those men to win.

Whereas in our bold day and age
No matter who might shout and rage
We don’t do that any more.
We’ll fight, but not to win the war.

Which is why I left the swine,
Came back to Earth, peered at my wine.
He knew, thus his boasting leers.
I knew he knew, thus my shame and these my tears.

Mick Shave

Poem – Memories The Ninth Battalion (Australia)

By Sun filled day and frosty night,

O’er rugged hills and desert sand,

We learned to work as teams, to fight

In jungles of another land.

From every city, state and town,

All the lovely countryside,

Impelled by Grim War’s cold, bleak frown,

Gathered we at fair Woodside.

And some of us were volunteers,

But mostly we young conscripts were,

With youthful hopes, ambitions, fears,

Young men’s dreams of love were there.

And lusts, for we weren’t choir boys,

Nor simpering wowser nor old maid;

We searched for brawling, drinking joys,

And chased the girls of Adelaide.

Oh, Adelaide, what wondrous pubs,

The Rundle, Gresham (Mind you Roy?);

The Western, Finden, all were hubs

Of social, sinful, youthful joy.

But scarce the city trips sublime,

Beneath the awesome stars our home,

And Sun-bronzed we became with time:

Leigh Creek, Cultana, ours to roam.

At Murray Bridge we fired our weapons ( honed our drills),

Formed section and platoon at Humbug Scrub – and that was fun.

We dug, dug, dug to prove to them that be our skills,

And by night stood freezing piquet on the gun.

Canungra’s forest where, chilled to bone,

We learned to ambush, and by sudden flare to kill.

The Flinders Range, those hills of stone;

Shoalwater Bay did prove our skill.

And at the last and having passed our nation’s test

(for some a final accolade),

And to that question answered yes,

We bade farewell to Adelaide.

At Murray Bridge we fired our weapons (honed our drills),

Formed section and platoon at Humbug Scrub – and that was fun.

We dug, dug, dug to prove to them that be our skills,

And by night stood freezing piquet on the gun.

Mick Shave

Poem – Regimental Square ANZAC Day, 2017

I thought “I’ll march this Anzac Day,”

To Sydney thus I’ll make my way.

But then, to set my medals straight,

I pause a moment at my gate

To ponder ‘neath the starry sky

On where I’m going to and why.

To there, the Square on George Street.

The place where all we blokes do meet.

To greet once more to have a say,

Gathered there on Anzac Day,

To think for moments in that Square

About the men no longer there.

No longer there but always there

These ghostly memories on the Square.

Their presence felt as we give thanks,

Shuffling, murmuring in their ranks,

And as the bugle calls last post

We proudly stiffen with that host.

Standing tall with all those men

Who link our presence now with then;

Their bayonets, bullets, marching feet

Providing terms on which we meet:

Our bridge, our nexus, common ground

For sharing with them that sweet sound

Which gently fades away.

Mick Shave

Poem – In Memory?

A  poem written by Mick Shave at  Keswick Barracks in Adelaide on 14th November 2017  at 9 RAR’s reunion and commemoration of  its 50th Anniversary.

Old soldiers never die,
They just keep on marching by,
In revue or by the right,
Their legions prove a wondrous sight
When viewed in memory.

But looking on with memory,
Shows only what we want to see.
And while illuminating youth,
It hides from us the actual truth,
Does memory.

It never shows the blood, the fear,
It obfuscates the anguished tear,
And as those shadows march on by,
Do we forget they had to die – to live
In memory?