SERGEANT’S DIARY (Written for ‘Voices from the Front’ Project – Commemorating Gallipoli)

SERGEANT’S DIARY

Landed
on Turkish soil.
I lie in the open,
enemy fire all around.
Slept light.

Snipers –
but not a scratch!
Dug ourselves in the trench.
We didn’t return the fire
last night.

Attack!
Take the village
held by foreign snipers.
Casualties on our side are slight
tonight.

The Turks
didn’t wait long
for us at the trenches –
still, Sergeant Major Bennett killed
outright.

Rough cross,
small inscription
on the spot where he fell.
Buried by an X Coy party
last night.

Hunger
digs itself in.
Two biscuits and water.
No wash, but managed to change socks
tonight.

Shrapnel.
In our trenches,
three of us having tea
when one of them bursts over head.
Sit tight!

They crept
to our trenches,
they were in their thousands
hideously yelling Allah!
last night.
The Turks
at close quarters
caught between the two lines.
We could not help mowing them down –
that’s right.

Our dead:
the bravest men
unrecognisable –
their identity discs shining.
Daylight.

Thank God!
I’m still alive.
What a sight when dawn broke –
the whole ground littered with dead Turks,
cordite.

V Beach –
French batteries –
the whole Achi Baba,
a mass of flying earth and smoke,
gunfight,

white flags
being pushed in,
Turks howling for mercy,
but we know a little too much,
I write.

Still on
the front trenches –
should have been relieved,
but all movements have been cancelled –
finite.

Went out
with two crosses
to put over the graves
of the brave men who were slaughtered.
Sleep tight.
Maggie Sawkins

Note on composition: The poem uses the form of the cinquain. Each stanza contains 5 lines. The first line has 2 syllables, the second 4 syllables, the third 6 syllables, the forth 8 syllables, the fifth 2 syllables. The text uses extracts from
the diary of Sergeant D Moriaty, No 8308, 1st Royal Munster Fusiliers, 86th Brigade, 29th Division, Expeditionary Force.

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