Back to John Ottewell introduction


(Antwerp, September, 1944)

It fits tight and snug
(too bloody tight, too bloody snug)
In that small thigh pocket,
And in the coppage flag beneath it
Lies another dressing -
The good old ‘French Letter’.
So, if you’re going to ‘cop a packet’
Everything’s ready for the occasion.
Waiting three inches above the left testicle,
For that’s how the Army plans things.
A place for everything and everything in its place.
And when it occurs, quite frequently,
Everything's bloody ‘SNAFU’
and you can’t get the flaming things out in time
Which means
You either bleed to death
Clawing at a bloody button
Or go raving mad with tertiary Syphilis years later.

NOTE : Written whilst contemplating a visit to an Antwerp Brothel whilst ‘loose’ on the city, with money in our pockets and mixing with the population celebrating their Liberation.


(British War Cemetery)

I saw an army on parade
Rank upon rank, immobile
Erect in shining armour
And in my eyes each soldier
Carried out the perfect drill.
No foot, no rifle butt awry,
Precision, sheer perfection
(a Sgt-Major’s dream come true).

And having watched this proud display
For one long morning on a green clothed hill,
I left the scene with misted eyes
To join my ‘pilgrim’ friends in local bar.
And as the sun came down, a lonely bugle
Played the final requiem for those
In splendid shining ranks, still waiting
For the order to ‘DISMISS’.