This is about a Lad from Barking, one of my “Band of Brothers”, from when I first met him.
We bumped into each other festooned with
Haversack, kitbag and side-pack.
He, a big lad with a grin that nothing could dispel,
King Neptune was the boss.
No one could have a grin that wide in the
Atlantic Ocean, his domain.
For three whole days the grin was missing
and he was not alone
'Land Ho!' A shout, and if by magic
Dick's happy grin reappeared.
It grew even wider
at the generosity of South African folk,
of food of every description.
Another ship and Jim and I took
control of his money as he was
wont to visit the canteen too often between
Semolina and sausages of dubious origin
on the menu at every meal.
Dick was happy here.
He could swim, eat English type food
and doze in the midday heat
and not do as mad dogs and Englishmen are said to do.
Another ship, he and five of his friends
are volunteered for coal heaving.
His smile started to disappear until the words
'fore and aft galleys' were mentioned.
His intuition proved absolutely right.
Ginger cake and tea by the pint.
Miles and miles of Iraqi desert
and Dick’s cheerful smile beneath his
Crashhat never faltered.
News and Gossip imparted with a happy smile,
He was the mail delivery man.
Italy suited him.
Spaghetti, wine, beautiful women,
fresh fruit growing on trees…
Just north of Bologna,
in an assault boat,
on a river over-looked by a German machine gun post,
Dick Watling died.
Maurice Wilsher - Newham Writers Workshop