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DON’T CALL ME HERO - CALL ME HARRY .. Maureen Clifford © The ScribblyBark Poet General Sir Harry Chauvel GCMG, KCB (16 April 1865 – 4 March 1945)
I’d seen him at the club before – he seemed a decent bloke
a quiet unassuming type having a drink and smoke.
His bearing told me that he was a military man
in younger days. I’d overheard him mention the Sudan.
Today I sat next to him – we were both just drinking beer
for it was hot and humid, but was cool and quiet here.
“I bet you’ve seen some heroes where your long career has led?”
he smiled at me and answered and these words are what he said.
“My mates all call me Harry and soldiering is my game,
a job that someone had to do. I never thought of fame.
I’ve tripped around a bit and seen a soldier’s share of hell.
and held men dying in my arms when under fire they fell.
I did a stint in Africa, was there at Diamond Hill,
fought hard to relieve Kimberley, men paid the pipers bill.
The Queensland Mounted Infantry were under my command.
Rough blokes they called ‘colonials’ – but seemed their life was charmed.
I was there at Gallipoli. Sedd el Bahr - Suvla Bay.
Saw Simpson and his donkeys. Bloody heroes every day.
That battle saw promotion to the rank of Brigadier.
The story’s long and blood stained mate. You sure you want to hear?
I went out to the Suez. Anzac Mounted my command.
Where Pharaohs lie ‘neath Pyramids - sarcophagi embalmed.
It’s hot and dry and soulless – we fought battles –one, two, three
on Gaza’s dusty plains and then again at Romani.
Beersheba had the water and the Aussies had thirsts large,
the 4th Light Horse fixed bayonets, the order came to charge
and though the Turks had opened up with their artillery
those fine young blokes on Walers epitomized bravery.
That day there at Beersheba – that’s the one I recall best.
A line of Aussie horsemen riding full pelt o’er the crest.
Four thousand guns, odds ten to one, those fearless blokes had heart
and were no easy target riding fifteen feet apart.
From 4th and 12th five hundred men roared out a battle cry
and rode four miles – full gallop – to the Turkish lines to die.
At one mile out the pounding thunder of two thousand hooves
created fear. Beersheba fell as history now proves.
The Desert Forces my command. Damascus was the town
I led them through, those young heroes none of whom had backed down.
Rough bushmen from Australia, young blokes raw and untried,
their horses bush bred Walers, tough and gutsy, great to ride.
The men wore emu feathers in each dusty battered hat.
All dirty and dishevelled, they were none the worse for that.
Their long tailed horses barely cocked an ear or raised a snort,
to see them you’d be thinking that the battle fought was sport.
‘twas like they rode upon a long familiar country track,
all easy in the saddle every one of them a crack
shot; often spoken of in terms used patronizingly
as that rabble of colonials, but Mate they suited me.”
He drifted into silence as we sat there at the bar.
His eyes gazed into distances I couldn’t see. Too far
away with different soil beneath him- not the shores of home.
The taste for foreign countries still in Harry’s head did roam.
I read of Harry’s funeral, in the paper here one day
The nation showed respect – it was a debt ‘twas right to pay.
A horse led…riderless - and placed in steel stirrups reversed
were Harry’s boots, spit polished. You’d have thought that horse rehearsed.
He was as quiet as a lamb, calmed by a ghostly hand.
Eight generals were the pallbearers – not Harry’s to command.
The flag covered his casket on the caisson where it lay,
as three volleys of seven fired to send him on his way.
The Waler pranced and sidled, nervous mincing steps did stray
but he regained composure - Harry’s hands calmed him today.
The horse wore bit and curb chain; part of his regalia.
The light-horseman whose ghost rode him – a proud son of Australia.
So many years have gone by now – more heroes passed away
Harry Chauvel just one of them remembered to this day.
A bloke feted by Banjo, who about Harry did write,
‘You’ll know him as a rough and tumble fellow born to fight.’
Those words that Banjo penned I doubt were writ in tar that night,
although they had the feel of Harry - got his likeness right.
‘You’ll know him by the feathers in his hat, his swinging stride;
for Harry’s cavalry a bloke who’s born to shoot and ride.’
see some scribbles here - http://scribblybarkpoetry.blogspot.com.au/