Friday, 24 April 2015


Another year, another ANZAC Day.  Another time to remember the lives of the many who went and didn't return.  As an old seadog, I think in particular of the many thousands of merchant seamen who perished in cold and lonely oceans.  This year I came across a poem by David Partridge called Heroes. 

Don't speak to me of heroes, until you've heard the tale
Of allied merchant seaman, who sailed through storm and gale
To keep those lifelines open, in their hour of need
When a tyrant cast a shadow, across the island breed.

Captains, greasers, cabin boys, mates and engineers 
Heard the call to duty, cast aside their fears.
They stoked those hungry boilers and stood behind the wheel
While cooks and stewards manned the guns on coffins made of steel.

They moved in icy convoys from Scapa to Murmansk
And crossed the western ocean, never seeking thanks.
They sailed the South Atlantic where raiders lay in wait
And kept the food lines open from Malta to the Cape.

Tracked by silent U-boats which hunted from below,
Shelled by mighty cannons and fighter's flying low,
They clung to burning lifeboats when the sea had turned to flame
And watched their ship mates disappear to everlasting fame.

I speak not of a handful but thirty thousand plus,
Some whose names we'll never know in whom we placed our trust. 
They never knew the honour of medals on their chests
Or marching bands and victory and glory and the rest.

The ocean is their resting place, their tombstone is the wind,
The sea bird's cry their last goodbye to family and friend. 
Freighters, troopships, liners and tankers by the score,
Fishing boats and coasters, two thousand ships and more.

They flew the old Red Duster as they sank beneath the waves
And took those countless heroes to lonely ocean graves.
Their legacy is freedom to those who hold it dear
To walk with clear horizons and never hide in fear
So when you speak of heroes remember those at sea
From our merchant seamen who died to keep us free.

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