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

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.

Trevor Morgan 2015

From: “Saga of Sabah”

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Sonnet – Churchill

I saw Churchill once when in the Navy.
I was stood at a crossing waiting for a long time to cross a road in London. There was a traffic jam and his car stopped in front of me. As I was in uniform I saluted. The old man looked really bored and he looked right through me like I was not there.

Churchill

Sonnet – Churchill

A boozer who attracted only strife
And then disaster came and sealed his fate.
Lack lustre in the lottery of life,
Who was called on in war to lead the state
And this ensured the fame of this great man.
His back against the wall for those long years
And though around the last years of his span,
His strength was there through all the loss and fears,
Through all of those defeats and long retreat.
Not like Cnut he helped to make tide turn;
His fortitude would be his greatest feat.
Within the Axis tyrants had to learn
That those who start long wars and dirty strife;
Beware of those who’ve had less luck in life.

© Trevor Morgan, 10/5/2018

The stain of trauma

Some things we carry with us alone in the mind.
Things impossible to share.

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The stain of trauma

Trauma may leave a darker stain,
A certain special scent.
Now once that’s burned into your brain,
Somehow it won’t relent.

Now there’s reminders everywhere
That brings it back to mind.
For where there’s things we cannot share,
Then life becomes a grind.

We can smell things that aren’t at hand,
Flashbacks burn in the brain.
Tormented minds just cannot stand
The trauma and its stain.

False scents seem true to haunted men
Whose torments won’t relent,
And they are only ended when
All of life’s force is spent.

Survivors carry such a cost,
Too much for some to stand.
And when it seems all hope is lost;
They die by their own hand!

Why do we let our young men die,
In so much pointless strife?
Though many more are wasted by
A long but blighted life.

© Trevor Morgan, 5/5/2018

We have failed our veterans.
We have failed all our victims of trauma however caused.
We are yet to become a real civilised society.
This is sad.

Battle’s heat

Tennyson wrote of the glory of war.
Wilfred Owen said he wrote of the pity of war.
Battle it seems to me brings out the best and the worst in people.

battle

Battle’s heat

In battle’s heat the heart turns cold;
There’s joy in taking life.
It’s been the way since time of old,
Through struggle and through strife.

When locked in action most will kill;
It is so quickly done.
In combat there’s a dreadful thrill,
A demon’s sort of fun.

Excitement spurs men on to do
Such murderous deeds in war.
In all of this there’s nothing new,
It’s all been done before.

The thrill you feel when you impose
Your will upon a foe,
Or watch them twitch in their death throes
And feel the pleasure’s glow.

It matters not then at that time,
Conscience is not awake!
It’s only later that the crime
Might leave sad souls to quake.

© Trevor Morgan, 4/5/2018

Note:
Some veterans have described a sort of euphoria that possesses them in the heat of battle.
It is only later that traumatic stress may set in.

St Paul’s Bay

As a junior seaman I entered St Paul’s Bay in foul weather.
We were in a ship’s boat on a training trip.
I was a 16 year old and serving with the seventh destroyer squadron based in Malta. I knew the biblical account of the ship wreck here that St Paul and all on board survived in classical times.
How that ancient captain managed to beach his ship and save his passengers on the only narrow bay on this rocky coast amazes me still.

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St Paul’s Bay

The steer board tore against his grip,
Storm waves rose all about.
His reefed in sails they might yet rip;
His soul felt clouds of doubt.

He thought of Byblos and his home
Above the wine dark sea.
He swore no more now would he roam,
He feared this destiny.

Ahead a sea bird glided by
Across those raging seas.
He heard a faint bewitching cry;
Such birds soar with such ease.

The shearwater was heading west,
Dark skies loomed sour and grey.
That bird she seemed serene and blessed;
Would she show him the way?

He eased about towards the lee
And went the way she flew.
He rode crests of that monstrous sea
With all the skills he knew.

He prayed that bird take him safe on
Towards some safe shore line.
Inside of him some faint Hope shone;
Could this bird be some sign?

Two passengers sat calm serene
Where waves crashed all about.
There faces wet with watery sheen,
Still now they seemed devout.

He was paid well for them to go
To Rome to face some fate.
Yet now they sat here all aglow
Mid seas that raged of hate.

Ahead the sky was black as black,
That shearwater part white.
With darker feathers on her back,
She came and went from sight.

A ships boy there came to him then,
Said “Birds lead to mischief,
They nest away from beast and men
On rocky shore or cliff”.

A panic gripped his heart and mind,
He thrust the steer board out.
Mid such spray that he seemed half blind;
He heard his Bosun shout:

“We missed those rocks you saved us all”,
As cliffs loomed to his right.
The bird let out a frantic call,
A bay came into sight.

He drove his ship straight at the shore,
The prow ploughed through the sand.
Her planking creaked then cracked and tore;
Death still seemed near at hand.

A wave took two men overboard
And straight onto the beach.
They stood and cried out to their Lord,
Then Death slunk out of reach.

The sea became becalmed at last,
That wrecked ship’s days were done.
With broken keel and shattered mast,
Against that storm she’d won.

And Saul of Tarsus walked some way
Up from the low shoreline.
He stopped but briefly, stopped to pray,
“God, could this be a sign”.

Back by the ship the captain stood
And spoke with fervent joy,
“Bosun”, he said “That boy did good”;
“Who sir, we have no boy…”.

His mind it reeled, his mind it spun,
Upon that low shoreline.
He saw rays of a rising sun,
“God, could this be a sign”?

A demon spirit left that bird
She settled on her nest.
That demon stuttered word on word,
“Satan, I failed your test…”!

And Saul of Tarsus travelled forth
To Rome to lose his head.
In that great city to the north
His cause would not lie dead.

From: The Tale of Frigar

War dead

I came home from the far east in 1964.
This was one of the first poems I wrote a year later and sober.

Borneo helicopters

War dead

In the way that we the living breath and live
They do not
In the way that we the living can love and have
They can not
We have time in hand to do some more with life
But they do not
We have time in hand to see some more of life
But they can not
Yes we have time in hand to do some more with life
But they do not
Were their lives wasted and put to little use?
For they complied
Were their deaths graceless, was it just abuse?
And yet they died
Now they have gone and we left in their place
Help is now too late
As, we are left to carry on the race,
It was just their fate.

© Trevor Morgan 1965

Note:
I am still looking for poems I wrote back then.
Filing is not a strong point with me!

The longest night

Strange how when nothing happened it can leave a vivid memory.
Being powerless as things go on about you has a very special sort of dread about it.

single star

The longest night

A single star shone in the night
Above the Sula Sea.
We stayed down low quite out of sight;
Yet, what would be, would be.

We heard the fighting there inland
To west and east as well.
That shining star seemed oh, so grand
Here at the gates of Hell.

In darkness there we all lay still
And not a word was said.
Nights there are so warm, not chill;
More stars shone overhead.

No matter all the care you take,
Your training and your skill.
Despite all of the plans you make,
One odd stray round will kill.

A lone sea gull let out a cry,
A strange sound in that night.
Some great events they passed us by
Far off and out of sight.

Those thunders echoed far away,
The clatter of each shell.
Now in my mind there was no doubt,
We’d passed so near to hell.

But cold fear raged within my gut,
There in that humid heat.
My soul was stuck there in that rut;
And Hope was in retreat.

All’s cold there in that void of fear;
With future gone from sight.
There’s nothing calm there’s nothing clear,
That was the longest night.

© Trevor Morgan, 18/4/2018

Lost patrol

It was easy to get lost surrounded by mangroves!

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Lost patrol

Stranded marooned on a shore,
Not knowing what we should do.
Although we’d seen things before
This was something quite new.

Thundering around all that noise.
There’s mist and smoke blocks the sight.
That soon hid all of those boys
We’d landed here in the night.

Stuck in the mud and the trees.
Caught in the quagmire and mess.
The mud came up past our knees;
Where we were no one would guess.

Nor does it matter at all.
That memory’s stuck in that mud.
As we all now may recall
The stench of death and of blood.

© Trevor Morgan April 2018

Draft for second edition of “Saga of Sabah”

Barman in Maryland

Getting drunk can be fun, it may also need a mop and bucket

Barman in Maryland
(tune: Maryland)

Good people now,
Good people true,
It’s time you had a hearty spew.

You’ve drunk the wine,
You’ve drunk the beer,
And now you’ve come to vomit here.

Take careful aim,
Don’t get all messed,
The barman here won’t be impressed.

Then when you’ve brought the last lot up
You’re welcome here,
We’ll fill your cup.

Good people now,
Good people true,
We make our living out of you.

© Trevor Morgan 2018

Recoil’s recollections

This verse was read out at the Limbang Reunion Manchester 2002.
It was chosen instead of the usual Lawrence Binyon poem.

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Recoil’s recollections

The recoil’s still felt in the shoulder
Of an old man who once aimed a gun.
A picture now stands on a mantle
Of a young man who’s someone’s dead son.
One of them lived to grow older;
Now the other’s eternally young.

© Trevor Morgan, 1999