This poem owes a legacy to Kipling’s Tommy Atkins. The British have always had a somewhat bipolar attitude towards their soldiers, lauding them as heroes at one moment and then condemning them as ruffians the next. Unlike the Americans, who have a Department of Veteran Affairs, ex servicemen are all too often forced to rely on underfunded charities and many receive minimal help to deal with the traumas they suffer in service.
A Soldier’s Lot
Son would you be willing
To take up the monarch’s shilling,
A serving of her majesty the Queen?
To continue the tradition,
Through triumph and derision.
Go where your Pa and Grandpa both have been.
See your best friend die
Whilst he looks you in the eye,
To satisfy a politician’s pride?
View the face of war
And all that’s been before,
Yet know the real villains won’t be tried?
Be the one night darling
Of that harlot called the press
And then to be forgotten on the morrow,
With their articles of glory
And pay cheques, fat like rats
Fed upon the images of death and sorrow.
Follow in the footsteps
Of two centuries of men,
A banner that has flown for Britain’s freedom,
Then hear of its demise
Because we must all downsize,
And heroes in this day who really needs ’em?
Be so very blind
To the one you left behind,
For the needs of love are constant, harsh and cruel
And when you’ve done your duty
You no longer have your beauty
She’s gone, left you behind to play the fool.
But, if my words won’t hold you back
And you’ve set yourself the track
To serve your country well, without regret
When the hunting dog is old
He is cast into the cold
I hope your master, unlike his, does not forget.