There’s a village they call Shotley to the East of Ipswich Town;
The port of Felixstowe across the way.
There’s a concrete ship called Ganges near the Orwell flowing down,
And skirted by the shores of Harwich Bay.
We joined as nozzers new, the sailor-boys in blue,
And punched our oppo’s teeth out in the Gym
We marched, we doubled fast, we climbed that bloody mast;
The Foreign Legion never was as grim!
Ten Divisions – Admirals all – parade-ground, Nelson Hall,
And Nozzer’s Lane tucked out of sight away
There was Collingwood & Blake, there was Benbow, Hawk & Drake;
And Grenville down the long, Long Covered Way.
The ‘dabtoes’ learned to sail a boat, correct a starboard list,
And take evasive action from the bombs,
They could ‘bend’ & ‘splice’ & hitch; they could knot a ‘monkey’s-fist,’
There was semaphore and flashing for the ‘Comms.’
Down Laundry Hill on jankers, tin-hat shades the sweating-frown,
And bayonet bangin’ ‘ard against the thigh.
Rifles chafed our collar-bones, the hot sun scorching down,
From inverted bowl of blue, the summer sky.
“Do just as you are told, lad, make do with what you got!
Obey the orders, Boy! No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts!”
Ganges discipline was ‘hot’, and some went ‘on the trot,’
But they dragged ’em back and lashed ’em with twelve ‘cuts.’
We had Faith and we had Hope, we had Charity as well;
But these were not just virtues – as you know!
We stumbled and we fell – on those concrete steps to Hell.
Our souls were signed to Ganges – be it so.
What faith? What Hope? What Charity? Was there really no comparity?
As we staggered up those steps with muscle-pain?
We-e-ell, we knew we’d had enough – but assumed that we were tough –
So they made us double up and down again!
GANGES motto states at length, that “Wisdom, it is strength!”
Is there one of you who wouldn’t go agen?
Tho’ you flogged us an’ you flayed us, by the livin’ God what made us;
You took us on as boys – and made us men!
by John Douglas