Whilst taking part of the Black Watch Battle Group that was blockading the Iraqi town of Fallujah during the second Battle of Fallujah, we were conducting vehicle checks at roadblocks when word came over the radio that we were to pull back immediately.
A short time later it transpired a suicide bomber had driven into the midst of one of our road blocs and detonated his bomb, killing three British soldiers and their Iraqi interpreter.
The Black Watch had been diverted from returning home at the end of their tour to complete this mission, during which they took heavy casualties. For some reason, the proximity of the operation to Christmas (on the British side it occurred mainly in November 2004) and the fact that the men had been returning home made their deaths seem even more tragic.
I struggled for a long time to summarize my feelings on the matter when I realised that the key point about someone no longer being there is just that; it’s their absence. This poem uses a lot of soldier slang, a glossary is provided at the bottom. There is also a link to a video from ITV’s coverage of the anthology it appears in.
There’ll be no extra drill now,
No PT and no bull,
No stagging on in barracks
Or going on the pull.
No gripping from the Sergeant,
No scoff in the canteen.
You’ve done your final duty,
Your record’s true and clean.
And the boys will gather round now
To see you on the plane,
Away from dirt and misery,
Away from dust and pain.
Your family will be waiting,
Your girl will wear her best,
As we take you back to hearth and home
To lay you to your rest.
Bull – Bulling one’s boots is to shine them but its wider meaning is the preparation of ceremonial kits for parades etc.
Drill – The close order marching seen at ceremonies.
PT – Physical training
Stag(ging) – to do sentry duty
Gripping – a (sometimes physical) form of managerial control
Scoff – food
Although there are a few mispronunciations, the poem appears at roughly 1:23 into this piece by ITV.