The Lee Shore

In the age of sail the greatest danger was not an enemy.
IT WAS THE LEE SHORE.

The gentle lapping waters of Lyme Regis Bay hold a secret. On the sea floor there are more wrecks than in most other parts of the seas. The Bay faces south west and the prevailing winds are from south west. In stormy seas this is a lethal combination.

The Lee Shore

They fought the wind, they fought the tide,
They fought the raging sea.
No matter though how hard they tried,
Those rocks stayed to the lee.

And lee shores are the curse of all
Who sail upon the sea.
For you don’t need the sirens call
With rocks close to the lee.

The wind and tide will kill you there,
Though you may tack up wind.
And drowning takes away all care;
Even when you’ve not sinned.

There’s no discerning in a gale,
The wind, the rain, the tide.
Exhaustion leaves you cold and pale
And there’s no where to hide.

The rocks they welcome each ships hull
And puncture it right through,
And they may fracture many a skull,
As lee shores welcome you.

So, fight the wind, and fight the tide;
Try tacking from the shore.
Lyme Regis bay is not that wide,
Where corpses wash ashore.

There many a widow has been made
Of wives of men at sea,
They plied the sea on honest trade,
Near shores there to the lee.

© T Morgan 10 January 2017

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Bits and Pieces

Anyone who has served in the Royal Navy will know Jack has a dark sense of humour. Even death is there to be laughed at!

Bits and Pieces

Oh, his legs got blown off for Britain,
His arms for Albion’s Isle
As his head flew away,
Yes, I’ve heard men say,
It was wearing his usual smile

Chorus

There’s now little doubt
That’s his life had gone out
When all of his bits
Got splattered about

Yes, his head got blown off for Britain
Flew off for Albion’s Isle
As his chest split apart
It showed his big heart
And his entrails flopped out in a pile

Chorus

But what had his death done for Britain
Now he’s gone and forgotten
And his bones and his spine
Lay bleached in sunshine
Politicians are still just as rotten

Chorus

But his passing was put in the log
Noted with emphasis due
It said “he’s heroic”
His mates are more stoic
For a long time they’ve been left to rue

Chorus

His life was given for Britain
He died for Albion’s Isle
Yet while Tom’s torn to shreds
Leaders die in their beds
No matter how bad or how vile

Chorus

©Trevor Morgan 31August 2003

Brutality of War

Wilfred Owen said he wanted to write of the “Pity of War”.   He did that so well. I saw things through different eyes in a different time and in beautiful and far away places. With the backdrop of forests, mangroves and the tropical seas things seemed more contrasting to me.  The stink of phosphorous within the exotic ecology of  North Borneo seemed so brutal.

 

He still sees the glint of sunlight

Those two men were clear on the height,
I noted their slow stooping run,
Through the sun’s glint on the fore sight
Quite calmly I aimed the bren gun.

I felt the recoil in my shoulder,
Heard metal sounds of the spent rounds,
Chill gripped my soul and grew colder.
My conscience screamed like baying hounds.

The men jerked up static and stiff,
Each grunted a guttural sound,
There came an end to this mischief
As folding they slumped to the ground.

I still see the glint of sunlight,,
There on the fore sight of the gun
But an evil can’t be put right:
“Oh My God – Just what have I done!”

 

Aftermath of Action

Sweet sickly smelled the killing scene
Where so much rich red blood congealed.
The scene seemed intimate, serene,
As if some sacred scroll was sealed!

Until all of their blood had chilled
He stood in shock and shook with grief;
As violently as they’d been killed
This aftermath brought no relief.

There was there now a strange bond sealed
‘tween soldier and his victim
And his stained soul would hold concealed
How killing them had altered him.

For really, he could not see why
All these young men just had to die.

 

Sonnet
Tauau Bay, Sabah, 1963

Tracer tracks and the stinking smell of smoke,
For it was there faith sank without a splash
As hope ebbed slowly in the stink and choke
To the sounds of fire and the distant flash.
Then charity failed and it had to go
As landing craft ran round into the bay;
Helicopters whirled down and flew in low,
The action was fought out on that fine day,
With pressure on triggers so gently squeezed
Until the gun recoils against your grip.
Death in a vicious spitting hail’s unleashed.
This with the flashes from a distant ship
And with the whine of shells erupting fire
There came the news stories written by a liar

 

From: “Saga of Sabah”, 2002

The Tamil Girl

In October 1963 in Singapore I was too slow to stop a fatal motor accident and a little girl died.  I spent months involved in the Indonesian Confrontation, an undeclared war, along the shores and mangrove swamps of Sabah, Borneo.  I am still troubled by dreams they have nothing to do with conflict.  It is a nightmare where a child died.

R.I.P. Little Girl

 

Ghost of a Tamil Girl

The Tamil Girl died in my grasp
Though not a word was said
I hold her still though I’m now old
– Sad memories in my head –

I held her dying on that day
I’d tried to save her life
As Death will have the final say
My soul’s now torn by strife

For, “If only”, “Oh, If only…”
Repeat around my brain
In a soul now sad and lonely
I bear this bitter stain

Oh, if only I had stopped her
Running into the road
My conscience feels like I’m a cur
I’ve had to bear that load

For on the day that She had died
My actions were too slow
Time and again I’ve sobbed and cried
About that fatal blow

“Watch out” I’d said – not in her tongue
She’d run out all the same
I’ve never heard her requiem sung
And never knew her name

I’d fetched her from that roadside there
Placed her before her folk
But I still carry so much care
It makes me almost choke

And now at night deep in my sleep
In dreams I meet this child
And she looks sad if I should weep
Her ghost’s serene and mild

Are souls of those who have died young
Like angels of the Lord
And in our dreams are we among
A sort of heavenly horde?

Are we shown glimpses of a place
Beyond the void of Hate
Where there may be a state of Grace
Beyond the grasp of Fate

The Dead who flit about our dreams
May help us in our woe
They’re not as real as waking schemes
Yet bring a gentle glow

Through sorrows we may face each blight
Protected by their charm
These dead who visit in the night
May guard the mind from harm

 

© Trevor Morgan 18 April 2004 amended 2012

THE ATLANTIC BLOCKADE (1807-1860)

HMS_Black_Joke_(1827)

The political correct brigade here [In Britain], say we should apologise for the slave trade. It seems the long campaign by the Royal Navy to blockade the trade is now forgotten: Can we also say “thank you”?

The Royal Navy’s Africa Station blockaded the Atlantic approaches to the West African coast from 1807 to 1860. This was a long and unsung struggle to end the slave trade. Now it is forgotten and the English are told they must apologise. Yes, English merchants had profited from the trade but this was atoned for in this blockade and with the loss of life endured during those long decades. There should now be a public thanks giving to go along with the empty gestures of apologies. For it was only by this long struggle that the trade was gradually erased.

Fact: Ships of the West Africa Squadron seized almost 1600 slave ships and freed 150,000 enslaved Africans aboard them.

The Volunteer Slipped

He heaved into his hammock
That watch was long and dull
Monotony’s so long and strong
Goes on without a lull

His dreams were strange and fitful
Long years had took their toll
The work they did was good, not wrong
And yet it sapped the soul

Most slave ships could outrun them
Yet still they strove to win
Disease had took so many a man
Yet there they fought dark sin

For decades on this station
The navy would endure
They strove to stop an evil trade
In that there was allure

His fitful sleep soon over
He was soon back aloft
As lookout high up on the mast
The morning breeze blew soft

Eleven long years he’d done here
This would be his last ship
The yardarm damp with morning dew
Was said to cause the slip

Death came when he hit the deck
And silenced his last yell
The ships log would record a death
It said: “… the Lookout fell…”

Long years that watch had been kept
The dark trade would demise
But thankless tasks are soon forgot
For this world is not wise

That long watch would at last end
The slave trade would be gone
This long blockade would be forgot
Yet widows would be wan

Efforts of this long blockade
Have fallen now from sight
Our people need no dark tirade
Our people stopped the blight

Yes, Our work stopped this foul trade
We died ‘neath tropic skies
Our efforts though have been betrayed
Where dupes apologise!

 

The Mariner and the Murmuration

I was on the Somerset Levels one early evening when I found myself amidst a myriad of starlings. Some flew so close I felt the draft from their wings. They then arose above me like a glorious host and filled the air, there must have been near to a million of them. I was transfixed. This was a very special gift to witness such an event. I saw a lone hen harrier stoop through the Murmuration and despite her efforts she failed to catch a single starling.  Her chicks went hungry that evening

Sonnet

The Murmuration of Starlings

“That streaming flight of birds went streaking by
It seemed as though they might block out the sun
A million starlings swarmed across the sky
The harrier there she stooped but she caught none
That flow of birds had parted round her flight
At sunset though the flock had settled near
They seemed to fill all trees within our sight
The twilight sky seemed calm and all was clear
The evening star grew bright until moonrise
Shone silvery light across the low wet land
Then myriad stars they seemed to fill the skies
There’s more to this than we may understand
Maybe there’s mystery in all we see
Yet none of us may know what is to be

Watching the Murmuration

The flock it seems to flow not fly
Like eddies in a brook
Above me there they filled the sky
And all here stopped to look

That flow of birds would twirl and roll
And reel around the sky
The sight of them they warmed his soul
As their flight rolled on by

A Mariner watched a harrier dive
And saw her pass straight through
I saw the starlings all survive
It was a wondrous view

The harrier passed right through the flock
Though it sought flesh to rend
Those myriad birds they seemed to mock
And seemed to part then blend

Coordination seemed the key
Each bird knew what to do
Was there in this some mystery
In how all these birds flew?

The harrier sought but it took nought
Each stoop here gained no prey
It rushed straight in the way some fought
This would not be her day

It seems attack is not the way
Where foes elude attack
We ought think of a better way
That we might now come back…

I watch each sunset full of Grace
Gaze at the evening star
I see the Moon’s big silvery face
And hear a lone night jar

Sorties Away

Long time ago I was in the operations room of a carrier as she turned into the wind and launched a whole squadron of her aircraft.  As a radar operator I tracked them until they went below our radar horizon.  Strange something as mighty as a carrier has to turn into the wind to launch a strike.  This is predictable and ought to make them vulnerable, but they operate within a screen of escorts that are needed to protect them.

Sorties away

Carriers turned into the wind
In distant deep wide seas
And now because some fools had sinned
The world is out of ease

And sortie after sortie went
To deal a hammer blow
With a resolve that won’t relent
They’re sent to cause more woe

The carrion of the deep will feed
Upon much mortal flesh
And madness will not yet recede
We’re all caught in its mesh

Carriers turned back on their course
Their sorties are away
But actions done without remorse
May cause yet more dismay

Jutland and after

HMS Chester was a light cruiser that got within range of German battleships.  She fought and survived but at a terrible cost.

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Closing in for action – Jutland May1916

Across the sea there to the east
Grey forms were steaming fast
Some spewed smoke like some ancient beast
This day could be their last

Great waves form patterns so beware
They roll before the eyes
With complex movement everywhere
Beneath those eerie skies

Each pattern’s change in motions strange
Form part of destiny
So as two fleets came into range
Then what will be will be

The rapid firing of each gun
Resounded through the hull
The belching smoke that dulled the sun
Went on without a lull

A flash upon the forecastle deck
One gun then ceased to fire
It had become a twisted wreck
Become the gunners’ pyre

Another gun fell silent too
Its crew tossed all about
Without legs what were they to do
The lucky soon bled out

One untouched man stood in a daze
A boy bled at his post
As sense came back within this haze
Hell had a new outpost

The horror of the scene was grim
Good mates were bleeding free
His training then it guided him
Like all men on that sea

The toiling crew worked to put out
Some raging fires below
There was no time for hope nor doubt
Before that deadly glow

Those legless gunners got some care
Their stumps were tourniqueted
But Fate it can be so unfair
Each Death was just delayed

The two survivors of the blast
A man and dying boy
Each in their way would be down cast
And never now know joy

 

From: “Jutland and After”
Dedicated to Arthur Wicks who lived through the battle and relived it for 50 years.

Book

Saga of Sabah – and other Sagas of the Sea

book

I have a book of poems published in Sabah, Malaysia.

Sabah State Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
Trevor Morgan, Saga of Sabah and other Sagas from the Sea
ISBN 978-967-11517-8-5
1. Poetry–Environmental aspects–Sabah
2. Borneo–Foreign relations–Indonesia
I. Sabah State Library
808.81

This is copyright and may not be kept in storage in any media in the United Kingdom

Buku Saga 1

Kulit Saga 1

Widows’ Sea

Widow’s sea

The boat rolls gently on the wave
A small bird’s flying by
We know the sea’s a sailor’s grave
And like the breeze we sigh

The seaweed’s washed up on the beach
It’s scent is on the air
Her sailor’s soul is out of reach
Winds blow the widow’s hair

An eagle soars above the shore
The tide is on the turn
It flies above the sailor’s grave
A widow’s left to yearn

The tern dives in the gentle wave
Then rises to the skies
And flies above the sailor’s grave
A lonely widow cries

Whitebait are caught there in a net
The fisherman’s at sea
There are to be more widows yet
It’s what is going to be

The widow’s weeping by the bay
The orphans by her side
Yet these sad times will pass away
For goodness will abide

The boat lulls on the gentle calm
Soon no clouds in the sky
In stillness is a gentle balm
And widow’s tears will dry

From: “Typists in the towers”