"Why do they do it? I dunno,"
   Sez Digger Smith. "Yeh got me beat.
Some uv the yarns yeh 'ear is true,
An' some is rather umptydoo,
   An' some is -- indiscreet.
But them that don't get to the crowd,
Them is the ones would make you proud."

With Digger Smith an' other blokes
   'Oo 'ave returned it's much the same:
They'll talk uv wot they've seen an' done
When they've been out to 'ave their fun;
   But no word uv the game.
On fights an' all the tale uv blood
Their talk, as they remark, is dud.

It's so with soldiers, I 'ave 'eard,
   All times. The things they 'ave done,
War-mad, with blood before their eyes,
An' their ears wild fightin' cries,
   They ever after shun.
P'r'aps they forget; or find it well
Not to recall too much uv 'Ell.

An' when they won't loose up their talk
   It's 'ard for us to understand
'Ow all those boys we used to know,
Ole Billo, Jim an' Tom an' Joe,
   Done things to beat the band.
We knoo they'd fight; but they've became
'Ead ringers at the fightin' game.

Well, wot I've 'eard from Digger Smith
   An' other soldier blokes like 'im
I've put together bit by bit,
An' chewed a long time over it;
   An' now I've got a dim
An' 'azy notion in me 'ead
Why they is battlers, born an' bred.

Wot did they know uv war first off,
   When they joined up? Wot did I know
When I was tossed out on me neck
As if I was a shattered wreck
   The time I tried to go?
Flat feet! Me feet 'as len'th and brea'th
Enough to kick a 'Un to death!

They don't know nothing, bein' reared
   Out 'ere where war 'as never spread --
"A land by bloodless conquest won,"
As some son uv a writin' gun
   Sez in a book I read --
They don't know nix but wot they're told
At school; an' that sticks till they're old.

Yeh've got to take the kid at school,
   Gettin' 'is 'ist'ry lesson learned --
Then tales uv Nelson an' uv Drake,
Uv Wellington an' Fightin' Blake.
   'Is little 'eart 'as burned
To get right out an' 'ave a go,
An' sock it into some base foe.

Nothin' but glory fills 'is mind;
   The British charge is somethin' grand;
The soldier that 'e reads about
Don't 'ave no time for fear an' doubt;
   'E's the 'eroic brand.
So, when the boy gets in the game,
'E jist wades in an' does the same.

Not bein' old 'ands at the stunt,
   They simply does as they are told;
But, bein' Aussies -- Spare me days! --
They never thinks uv other ways,
   But does it brave an' bold.
That's 'arf; an' for the other part
Yeh got to go back to the start.

Yeh've got to go right back to Dad,
   To Gran'dad and the pioneers,
'Oo packed up all their bag uv tricks
An' come out 'ere in fifty-six,
   An' battled thro' the years;
Our Gran'dads; and their women, too,
That 'ad the grit to face the new.

It's that old stock; an', more than that,
   It's Bill an' Jim an' ev'ry son
Gettin' three good meat meals a day
An' 'eaps uv chance to go an' play
   Out in the bonzer sun.
It's partly that; but, don't forget,
When it's all said, there's something yet.

There's something yet; an' there I'm beat.
   Crowds uv these lads I've known, but then,
They 'ave got somethin' from this war,
Somethin' they never 'ad before,
   That makes 'em better men.
Better? There's no word I can get
To name it right. There's somethin' yet.

We 'ear a lot about reward;
   We praise, an' sling the cheers about;
But there was debts we can't repay
Piled up on us one single day --
   When that first list come out.
There ain't no way to pay that debt.
Do wot we can - there's somethin' yet.

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002-06