HEROES

I received a copy of the following poem from a gentleman in England whom I now consider to be a good friend in spite of the fact that we have never met.  Such is the power of the internet, and such is the influence of a common cause ~ the maintenance and promotion of the history and traditions of the British Merchant Navy, and the recording of the stories that add colour and flavour to that history.

In the course of my research into the life and times of my father and the ship with which he was associated for so many years, I have come to admire and respect those men and women who faced hardship and dangers unknown and mostly unimagined by those of us who stayed ashore.  No more dangerous and terrifying times could have been faced by our Merchant Seamen than those encountered in the War years. 

The following poem may be found on the T.S. Vindicatrix Association of Western Australia's website, and I have received the gracious permission of both the author and TSVWA to reproduce the poem here.
  

                                                                                  Heroes.

 HEROES

 
Donít speak to me of heroes until youíve heard the tale

Of all those merchant seamen who sailed through storm and gale

To keep the lifelines open in freedomís hour of need

When a tyrant cast a shadow over every nationís creed.

Captains, greasers, cabin boys, mates and engineers

Heard the call to duty and cast aside their fears.

They stoked those hungry boilers and stood behind the wheel

Whilst cooks and stewards manned the guns on coffins made of steel.

They moved in icy convoys from Scapa to Murmansk

And crossed the western ocean, never seeking thanks.

They sailed the South Atlantic where raiders lay in wait

And kept the food lines open to Malta and the Cape.

Tracked by silent U-boats which hunted from below,

Shelled by mighty cannons and fighters flying low,

They clung to burning lifeboats where the sea had turned to flame

And watched their shipmates disappear to everlasting fame.

I speak not of a handful but thirty thousand plus,

Some whose names weíll never know in whom we placed our trust.

They never knew the honour of medals on their chests

Or marching bands and victory and glory and the rest.

The ocean is their resting place, their tombstone is the wind,

 The seabirdsí cry their last goodbye to family and friend.

Freighters, troopships, liners, and tankers by the score,

Fishing boats and coasters, two thousand ships and more

Flew their countryís ensign as they sank beneath the waves

And took those countless heroes to lonely ocean graves.

Their legacy is freedom to those who hold it dear,

To walk with clear horizons and never hide in fear.

So when you speak of heroes, remember those at sea,

                               Defiant merchant seamen who died to keep us free.

 

                                                                  David  Partridge October 2002

 


Mr. Partridge has advised me that the poem was originally written with the men and women of Britain's Merchant Navy in mind, but upon recognizing the sacrifice of so many other fine sailors from other countries, revised his work to reflect this.