31 July 2017

'Over the Top: Ypres, July 31, 1917', a War Poem by Sergeant Stanley B. Fullerton, Returned Soldier



Century-old verse by Sergeant Stanley B. Fullerton (1869-1952), a son of Amherst, Nova Scotia, from his self-published chapbook Poems (1918). The poet's spelling and punctuation are respected.
OVER THE TOP

Ypres, July 31, 1917 
Calm was the morning, not a Hun to be seen,
     As I peeped o'er the land which at one time was green
There in the distance, with a tangle and twine
     Lay the broken barbed wire of the German first line 
Peacefull it looks now, but, ah, they don't know
     That our Boys will be over, we have not long to go.
As I stood in the trench with my phone on my back,
     I looked at our boys who were soon to attack. 
You could tell by their faces, they were deeply in thought
     As you'll always see them before the battle is fought
I then heard a whisper, what's that I hear?
     It was passed by their Captain, is the signaller here. 
Yes, I replied, sir, he answered, thank you
     Two minutes, sir, for zero, it was time to stand to
In that two minutes, they filled the first line,
     Then a roll of great thunder and up went our mine. 
Oh, what an explosion it made one feel shocked
     As we stooped 'til it settled, Lord, how the ground rocked
Then, with a spring, a jump and a hop,
     Like pulled with a string we were over the top. 
Crash, bang, went our guns an unceasing clatter
     As the German first line we started to batter. 
It was like one long fire, with a bursting of shell 
     Nothing could be worse for him, no, not even hell, 
We reached their first line and were slashing them hard,
     Some called for mercy Oh, mercy comrad
With terror stricken faces they were trembling with fright,
     When we get to close quarters they've no heart to fight. 
Onward we went with a rush through the mud
     For our next obective which was, this time, a wood.
At this we were cautious, they had so many runs,
     We knew it was fortified with many machine guns. 
I spoke on my phone and warned my O. C.
     Fire on second target, sir, the big scraggy tree.
I'm going to fire now, he said, so take a good sight
     That is just about it, sir, try two degrees, right 
Got them, that's perfect let them have fifty rounds;
     I knew that would get them, they are running like hounds. 
Now for a smoke as calmly I stood
     Watching my shells burst into the wood. 
Then came a runner with a message that read
     Order all guns to lift, we will now go ahead.
Onward they went, some at the double
     Taking the same wood without so much trouble. 
Then came the report; our objectives are gained 
     The advance was completed so there they remained
It was now gettiug late and night drawing near
     So I found an old dug out, says I, I'l stop here. 
What a miserable feeling as I sat there alone 
     And smoked up my woodbine with my ear to the phone
Then laid my head on a dirty old sack
     Waiting, in case of a counter attack.  
It poured, Heavens hard, rained all through the night, 
     Wet through and slashed up, I did look a sight;
Moreover than that I was feeling half dead 
     Being forced to partake of some German black bread. 
Then came the next morning I was pleased to see light,
     Thanking God to myself for his guard through the night
On my phone came a call so I answered hello;
     A Battery, signaller, you may pick up and go. 
I then disconnected, put the phone on my back
     Then took a glimpse around to make sure of my track.
I braced myself up after picking my trace,
     Then set off in excitement, you bet, a good pace 
Firmiy I walked beneath the Hun's bursting shell
     I am in for a hot time, I know it quite well
Then eventually I reached my old battery once more
     I was pleased to sit down by my old dug out door 
I sat there thinking of what would come next
     I thought of the trenches so badly wrecked.
I have been in some battles but proved this the worst
     I will never forget YPRES on July thirty first

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3 comments:

  1. "Stanley B. Fullerton (1968-1952)"

    A time-traveller, perhaps?
    Even 1868 seems unlikely for d.o.b. - a sergeant of nearly fifty in the front line?

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for catching that, Anon. A particularly bad typo. The correct year is 1869. I too questioned his age, so looked up his Attestation Paper on the LAC website.

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