For those that never came back, and for those that came. back broken
Don’t Tell ‘Em I’m Only Sixteen Mum
Don’t tell ’em I’m only sixteen, Mum,
Or they won’t let me go the front,
I’ve been issued a Lewis machine gun,
Which I clean as I sit on my bunk.
I’ve heard there’s a big push tomorrow,
The barrage is starting at dawn,
The sky’s grey and dark with Gods sorrow,
The Poppy’s stand limp and forlorn.
We stand in the mud of the gloomy old trench,
Waiting silent for daybreak to come,
Backing us up are Belgians and French,
All shaking from fear of the Hun.
Some lonely boy in a dugout, is playing a gramophone now,
Memories of crisp sheets and my bedroom at home,
Taking my girl to the theatre, to see the show, Chu Chin Chow,
Surrounded by men in the close-crowded trench, I’m alone
Don’t tell ’em I’m only sixteen Mum,
Or they won’t let me go over the top
I’m no longer a schoolboy, so, I must go and battle the Hun,
I’ll make you proud, Mum, and I promise I won’t get the chop.
The Sun’s golden fingers, are now probing the top of my trench,
A whistle is blown, the ground starts to shake, my ears filled with brimstone and noise,
Dawn’s freshness, corrupt, by explosions, the smoke, the cordite stench,
A shout, and the smell of fresh mud hits my face, as I climb up the steps with the boys.
The barbed wire fence is in tatters, like a snake’s skin, just freshly sloughed,
The whipcrack of bullets buzz by my head, like so many furious bees,
We slowly move into the maelstrom, friends falling like rain from the clouds,
Away to my left is Sid from the village, chest crimson, he sinks to his knees.
Through the smoke I see a small crump-hole, half filled with my comrades, and mud,
I look back to the trench that was home, about fifty yards I would guess,
I crouch and hobble to safety, and see Charlie, who’s covered in blood,
I held his hand, as he died in the green slimy mud, I cry, “My God, what a mess”
Don’t tell them I’m only sixteen Mum, I’m really just doing my bit,
If the Captain finds out that I’m under-age, they’ll send me home in disgrace,
It’s just that I’m so very scared Mum, that on the next push, I’ll get hit,
Then it’s back to the factory, white feathers, and old ladies who spit in my face…
Don’t tell them I’m only sixteen Mum….
Lest We Forget…
Mark Charlwood 2020