Shrapnel

Original Text: 
Soldier-Songs From ANZAC Written in the Firing Line (Melbourne: George Robertson, 1915), 5th edn.: 9-14.
1I was sittin' in me dug-out,
6        It wasn't lady's brand-
7But there ain't no tea plantations
9I was just about to 'ave a drink,
10        An' was thinkin' of the day
12        An' bust up all our pay,
13When, boom! I nearly choked meself,
14        I spilt me bloomin' tea;
15I saw about a million stars,
16        An' me dug-out fell on me.
17They dug me out with picks and spades-
18        I felt an awful wreck-
19By that bloomin' Turkish shrapnel
20        I was buried to the neck.
21Me mouth was full of bully beef,
22        Me eyes were full of dust;
23I rose up to me bloomin' feet,
24        An' shook me fist an' cussed.
25A Sergeant says, ."You're lucky, lad,
26        It might 'ave got your 'ead;
27You ought to thank your lucky stars.."
28        I says, ."Well, strike me dead.."
30        'Ad slapped that shell at me;
31'E spoilt me Queensland bully,
32        An' spilt me bloomin' tea.
35I swore if I reached ."Connie."
36        I'd revenge that little bit.
37I was walkin' to the water barge,
38        Along the busy shore,
41I could see that khaki cluster
42        Around the water tap,
43An' was kiddin' I was 'ome and dried,
44        When down comes the bloomin' shrap.
45I 'eard a loud explosion,
46        Above me bally 'ead,
47An' a bloke, not ten yards distant,
48        Flopped sudden down-stone dead.
49'Ave you ever seen a tiger snake
50        A-dartin' from its coil?
51'Ave you ever seen the brown fox
52        A-dashin' through the toil?
53'Ave you ever seen the lightnin'
54        When it flashes all around?
55Well, they were slow beside me
56        As I flattened to the ground.
57I crawled be'ind some boxes,
58        But got an awful scare
59When a shell lobbed fair among 'em
60        An' there was timber in the air.
61I crawled from out the debris,
62        An' lay pantin' in the sand;
63Then I cussed the Turkish shrapnel,
64        Every Turk upon the land.
65But when they knocked off firin',
66        An' I'd recovered from me fear,
67I started for the trenches
68        Like a bloomin' prairie deer.
69I've 'ad some narrow shaves, but that
70        'Ad fairly took the peach;
71I bet I'd rather die o' thirst
72        Than risk that Shrapnel Beach.
73We were sittin' in the firin' line
75As we took a spell from fightin'
77When a shell burst on the parapet-
78        It made us feel quite ill.
79The sentry on look-out says,
81We scattered just like rabbits,
83Then when we got our scattered wits
84        We cussed the bloomin' ."shrap.."
85We cussed it when it busted
86        A yard or so outside;
87We cussed it when it missed us,
88        A 'undred yards out wide.
89With shrapnel an' with cusses
90        The air was pretty thick,
91With oaths an' sand an' bullets,
93A captain crawled up swearing,
94        His oaths were worse than ."Damn;."
95When a shell case clipped 'is 'ead off,
97It's always bloomin' shrapnel
98        Wherever you may be,
99A-sittin' in yer dug-out,
100        Or bathin' in the sea.
101If in support you're lyin',
102        Fightin' in the firin' line,
103Or sleepin' in reserve,
104        You'll catch it every time.
106        At Courtney's Post, and Quinn's,
108        That deadly shrapnel spins.
110        Somewhere an armoured train;
112        They cause us grief and pain.
113Khelet-Bahr, an' Sahr-el Bahr,
114        At us they 'ave a slap,
115An' if they catch us nappin'
116        Down comes their bloomin' shrap.
118        They try to knock us silly;
119An' Chanak, 'on the Asian side,
121I don't mind bombs and rifles,
122        An' I like a bay'net charge.
123But I'm 'anging out the white flag
124        When the shrapnel is at large.
126        An' 'ears the whistlin' train,
127It's the nearest pub, for shelter
128        From shrapnel once again;
129But until I gets back safely
130        I'll bet me biggest nap
131That I'm 'anging to me dug-out
132        When I 'ears the bloomin' shrap.

Notes

2] dinkum: really. Back to Line
3] bully beef: tinned beef (OED ."bully." n. 5). Back to Line
4] 'ard: hard. Back to Line
5] dixie: iron kettle or pot. Back to Line
8] 'eathen: heathen. Back to Line
11] sink the pints: down quickly some pints of beer. Back to Line
29] gunlayer: ."one who aims or lays a gun." (OED ."gun." n. 17). Back to Line
33] bally: bloody Back to Line
34] kit: knapsack of equipment, goods, carried by a soldier. Back to Line
39] Maxims: water-cooled, recoil-operated machine guns. Back to Line
40] Big Lizzie: 15-inch naval gun, mounted on a British warship, as described in "Gallant Australians," The Age (May 8, 1915), which reported: "As the Turkish infantry advanced it met every kind of shell which our war ships carry from "Big Lizzie's" 15-inch shrapnel to 12-pounders." Reference courtesy of Ron Nash, Perth, Australia. Back to Line
74] Auction Bridge: game of cards, based on whist. Back to Line
76] Walker's Ridge: ridge held by ANZAC troops on the north flank. Back to Line
80] 'Beachy Bill': ."A well-known Turkish howitzer which enfilades [rakes with shot] the beach and firing line." (poet's note). Back to Line
82] sap: covered trench Back to Line
92] navvy: construction labourer. Back to Line
96] ."Grand Slam!.": attack in force (OED ."slam,." n. 2, 2c). Back to Line
105] Shrapnel and Deadman's Gully: ."Australian Troops' testing places." (poet's note). Back to Line
107] At Courtney's Post, and Quinn's, Pope's Hill, and Johnson's Jolly: ."Different positions in the Australian firing line.." Back to Line
109] Grove: emended from the original ."Groves.". ."Strong Turkish position in which [their famous howitzer] is skillfully concealed.." Back to Line
111] Achi Baba: Achi Baba, Khelet-Bahr, Sahr-el Bahr and Chanak are ."Unsilenced Turkish forts." (poet's note). Back to Line
117] The Goeben and the Breslau: ."Turkish battleships." (poet's note). Back to Line
120] Willy-Willy: tornado. Back to Line
125] 'Stralia: Australia. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2004
Rhyme: 
Form: