A Man of Few Words

Melville Hardiment

Black eyed Corporal Farrell
was a man of few words other
than the usual anglo-saxons
sprinkled around barrackrooms
and camps. He had no words
for the ragged shrapnel slicing
through his kneecaps but
used his morphia and that was that. 
We sat side by side in the sun,
for 'lightning never strikes twice
in the same place' I had said.
Side by side wishing the frank
sharp crack and slap of shrapnel
would cease and leave us be. 
He might have dreamt of England
and some soft hospital bed. I don't
know, and we just waited. And then
a sniper's bullet holed his head.
He looked at me reproachfully and barked

Editor's note: Hardiment was a sergeant in the East Yorks Regiment, who took over command of his unit when his officers were killed on landing in Normandy. He fought a campaign through the murderous cornfields south to Caen. By the time he was wounded near Toufreville, east of Caen, some forty-one days later (the event described in this poem), he and his corporal were the only members of his company still intact.

The Voice of War -- Michael Joseph Ltd (1995)