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Uniform: Remembrance Day 2010 - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Uniform: Remembrance Day 2010

Uniform: Remembrance Day 2010


Old men, as such, are very much alike;

And dress themselves – are dressed, as oft as not:

For they are old, and hands may not obey

The mind’s commands as once they did obey

Commands far sterner – dress themselves, I say,

Much of a muchness; and occasion, time,

The purpose of the day, quite often will

Impose a uniformity of dress.


There’s nothing uniform in uniform.


And these old men, attired as they have been

In clothes distinctly undistinguishing;

In Bath chairs or with sticks, or tottering;

Look very much the same: until one sees

A dullish green and claret double striped,

Or red and blue in patterns infinite,

Or blue and buff, or black and trebly gilt –

These regimental ties that surely bind

And bind fast those who bound themselves in youth

To regiment or battery or troop.


There’s nothing uniform in uniform.


One wonders: are they playing at this role?

Young soldiers but pretending to old age,

A regimental concert running on

For more than the duration of the war?

Of course they’re not: one knows that. Even so,

The young men that they were, one yet perceives:

They peep out shyly from the mask of age,

And signal presence in the stripes of silk

That signify their regimental lives.

The yeomanry who left the hussar’s role,

Retrained as gunners, with a hussar’s dash;

The tank crews that survived in Normandy

When bocage meant no more than sudden death;

The sailors pared and honed by storm and sea

To something sharper than the well-honed dirk;

The Few who rode the deathly airs of Kent

And came safe home: all these live on in them,

The men now old who offered their young lives.


There’s something uniform in uniform.


Here is a Gloster of Korea; here,

A sapper who remembers fiercer suns;

And there a Scot who wears the Burma Star.

And there’s a younger man, a Desert Rat

All empty-sleev’d since Basra, standing tall.


There’s one thing uniform in uniform.


In Brussels is no revelry by night:

By day, dull, cautious bureaucrats

Work daily to betray the victories

These men, and those who fell, once won in blood:

‘The nation state must end. It leads to fear,

And fear to ego, and from that, to war.’

Ad interim, the quiet British graves

Of all the Fallen must be vandalised

With EU signs and plaques; the Menin Gate,

Dieppe, and Becklingen, all these must change,

Be changed, not in the twinkling of an eye –

‘No trumpets, please, that’s not the EU’s way’ –

Transmuted to a Europhile ideal,

Made safe – un-British – common to the foe

As to the victor who fought for the right

And justice and the freedoms of mankind.


In London, there are subjects of the Crown

Who will not own allegiance to the same,

And owe their loyalties to foreign foes.

They burn the poppies of remembrance, scream

Abuse at those who died to free them to that act,

Adhere to those with whom we are at war.


‘Was it for this those men now old once fought

Beside those who shall never now grow old?’

‘Well ... in a sense, perhaps –’ (one hears the tone

Of donnish equability, perturb’d,

Mild, quibbling, measured, bloodless, quizzical)

‘– They did, you know: free speech, and it is that,

And after all we mustn’t go too far....’

Well, yes; yet I would gladly see an old

Risaldar-major of the War, two Sikhs,

And one old Ghurkha, men true to their salt,

Explain that concept to the protesters.


There’s one thing uniform in uniform.


My father is not on parade this year:

He has for many years enjoyed his sleep

In that green rural churchyard, far and far

From ice and mountain, Chinese bugles blown,

And all that was that grim Korean hell.

As well he sleeps: he need not watch and damn

As students riot, Belgians plot, and foes

Use British liberty to mock the dead.

It seems the end, a grim collapse: and yet,

Old men who once were young ‘Dukes’ at the Hook,

RM commandos who’d known Um Qasr,

The Paras of Goose Green – men young, men old;

The Wrens, the nurses, chaplains, signallers –

All these, the Forces, old or newly trained,

Old soldiers and those serving on this day,

Keep yet their Covenant, and see us through.


There’s one thing uniform in uniform.


Procurement’s buggered. All the money’s gone.

Our sovereignty is like a fort besieged.

The law is daily twisted out of shape.

And yet the Forces bide, and like grim death

Hang on like bulldogs of tenacity.

They save the sum of things for little pay,

And less respect. We shall remember them.

At sunset and at dawn, we shall pay heed

And tribute to those standing – and who fell –

Between us and the darkness, bright with faith:

(There’s one thing uniform in uniform)

Whose way was duty – and whose names yet live.





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6 comments or Leave a comment
pathology_doc From: pathology_doc Date: November 11th, 2010 11:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Here is a Gloster of Korea; here

(For us Aussies, that line brings to mind the Gloster Meteor fighters of the RAAF which served in that war.)

OT: See icon. One day when Harry's in his bath chair, aged a hundred and sixty or so, do you think he'll still look back a century and a half with a tear in his eye? They say long memory sharpens with old age...
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 12th, 2010 01:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you.

And I imagine he should thus remember, with advantages.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: November 12th, 2010 09:47 am (UTC) (Link)
A fine poem.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: November 12th, 2010 01:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you.

It seized me by the throat and demanded to be written.
noeon From: noeon Date: November 22nd, 2010 07:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm finally catching up and this one caught me by the throat.

How very sad and, equally, well done.

noeon From: noeon Date: November 22nd, 2010 07:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think I stole your words. Oddly. I hadn't thought I'd read that comment, but the mind is funny. I meant to say, I was sniffling and teary and knew naught what to write, but it came out in that visceral sense of pain.

6 comments or Leave a comment