A Buteman reader, who asked to remain anonymous, has written a fitting poem in the run-up to this weekend’s Remembrance Sunday.
‘Horizontal Joe’ they called me. And they were right. Forever flat on my face it seemed. We were in the desert in North Africa, fighting Rommel - in tanks! It was burning hot in there and the heat baked the grime on our faces and blistered our hands and our feet.
Sometimes when there was a break in the shelling we climbed out and stood about on the sand which, too, burned hot on our feet.
“Gie’s a fag, Jock”. Then, just as we began to relax for a moment it started again, shells hurtled over or bullets whizzed by and there was I face down, horizontal in the sand, tasting the grit and the sweat and the fear! We were far from home, far from dear old Scotland. Far from the green of the distant hills and the warmth of the pub at the corner.
I had celebrated my 21st birthday, my ‘coming of age’, inside the roasting can of an armoured tank from where it was my duty to send out death and destruction on other young boys like myself.
Happy days indeed!! But yet, ironically or maybe inevitably we found a warmth and camaraderie in face of the common enemy which bound us together then and long after we returned to civvy street.
“Duty calls”, they had said as they delivered my call-up papers.
“Someone else would have been better at this”, I thought, as the noise of the guns crashed all around us. We were advancing but my only thoughts were “Oh God, please stop the noise!”
Turn the sun off! Where’s Jock? Oh no, not Jock! I need new breeks! Oh help, another shell! “Flat on your face, Joe!”
Move on, move on and on - forever it seemed until, at long last there was a lull, then we heard a different kind of noise.
People shouting? Kissing me? Flowers? Oh, my leg hurts! What did they say? We’ve won! Won the peace! For you!
Please remember us and never let it happen again!