In a crowded back room, Grandad breathed out his life,
Where the bed and the wardrobe jostled for space
And the shouts of the neighbours sliced through cold air
And afterwards we checked his worldly wealth,
The half-crown in his pocket.
His boots dragged through the vicious mud of France,
His rations went to starving kids in Greece.
But when his duty called he went again,
Led by more donkeys to a forced retreat.
Pulled off a beach and sent to camp near home,
He marched his column straight down City Road,
Took church parade on Sundays, slept at home,
The fought again back, through the fields of France,
Sent home a picture with his eldest son,
Same regiment, same looks.
Another generation sent to war.
The Bocage was the worst, he said,
Couldn’t see them coming.
In between, back-breaking, road mending,
Face chiselled; lines etched.
By wind and rain
Called the boss mister, despised him all the same,
Biked round at night to light up all the lamps.
To earn an extra sixpence,
Never went to a Remembrance Day.
His whole life was a war.
Gained, at last, his country’s thanks,
His pension, not enough, he took a part-time job.
My gran, funeral-ready, all in black,
Pinned on her hat.
“Poor bugger was worth a new hat”,
Helen Jones © 2023