It is just twenty-nine short years ago,
a conflict over sovereign soil; a war
that we’d been forced to join, and what is more
we knew him through his brother. So we know
how close we were to being there to pay
our debt, to take up arms, to test our steel
no truth was there so graphically revealed
than those who paid their ransom on the day.
We watched the daily news reports and felt
the chest fill up with so much pride, but most
of all, with choking sorrow at the ghosts
of harrowing life lost; what blows were dealt.
On the night of twelfth of June it was,
irony to say, a “silent night attack”.
But that is what they called it, no way back
for Four Platoon from B Comp’ny that does
not do retreating, second thinking, when
even tough, gut-wrenching work will cost
a life to gain control of hill once lost
that once regained, will look too low a fen…
too low a fen to ask of men to drown,
not in water, nor in bog, but hail;
a mighty storm, a holy cross of nails
that bring the mightiest men to ground;
that bring the bravest to their final test
of courage, and the currency of true
heroes, that history does our souls imbue
a view of these great men who did their best.
Whose duty in the field is marked by stope
for graves, but far too little memory
of their names, rough cut in masonry,
but for one treasure they leave for us… a hope
that every day we try to take their lead
that we may see the need for all of us
to find a little courage, and do not fuss
on things that threaten not our meagre needs.
So they, pinned down, bereft of their advance
on Longdon Mount, crucial for Port Stanley,
were threatened with an idle fate, less manly
than they would want to be. But one last chance:
Commander down, the sergeant, left in charge,
Converts reconnaissance into attack.
So he, with only three men at his back
broke cover, and enemy emplacement barged.
He had no second thought, no looking back;
no thought for safe return or fate to come;
no thirst for beer in mess when day was done.
Though he was so aware, he stayed on track
until he’d reached the offending gun position,
who, ‘till that moment, felt impregnable,
but in their well armed strength, a Tower of Babel,
a blinding sting completed their transition.
But at the moment of his finest hour
Ian McKay, lay slumped on their defences
His present, in a moment, became past tenses;
his glorious, heroic feat turned sour.
One consolation, if there could be one
that he, without a single doubt did save
many lives on route to their own grave;
precious lives were spared by deed so done.
Remember only this, that we shall ever
allow our heads to bow, and fill with tears
the cup of life’s great mercy; recall what sears
the heart and shall not dim their great endeavour.
It is just twenty-nine short years, now spent,
since conflict over sovereign soil; a war.
They, in their pain wouldn’t ask for any more
than that we will remember how they went.
(Read the author’s commentary on this poem)
© 2011 John Anstie