Meg poem

The Sapper’s Lament

The Sapper’s Lament

I’m complaining of my head and eyes
  and also of my chest;
I never get a minute’s sleep; I can’t march
   with the rest
Because my feet have flattened out, and
   since my bunions came
(After my wife had turns last year) I’ve
   never been the same.
My mother suffers from her nerves, she
   says she had fits when
She was a kid. My father’s dead – he
   died when I was ten
(Though ’twasn’t that that killed him). I
   left school at Standard III
And mighty glad to leave I was, and ran
   away to sea.
But when I got the chance to quit I took
  a job on land
For sea life is a rough life and there’s
   some jobs I can’t stand.
(I told you of my eyes and feet and
   how I cough at night
Till it feels as if my head’ll bust?) My
   back’s never been right
Since an accident I met with when
   a lorry knocked me down –
They kept me weeks in hospital, and they
   baked my whole back brown
But it made no difference to the pain,
   [and so] I made them pay

Full compensation – I can’t bend or lift
   things to this day.
But when they called me up I came and
   tried to do my share,
Was it my fault about my head and
   chest and feet? It’s not fair
To label me a shirker when I go sick.
   I know you
Would like a little medicine if you
   suffered like I do.
They put me down as A1 when I joined –
   they didn’t care
How much I coughed (though I coughed a lot)
   and if I had been near
To having one foot in the grave ‘twould still
   have been the same,
And now I’m on a draft you know and
   seeing that I’m lame
And my back’s bad and my chest weak
   I thought that you’ld agree
My category needs altering, it should be
   C – or E.

Margaret Taylor

1945 Meg poem

Two Years in Khaki

Two Years in Khaki (1945)

I little knew, two years ago, when dressed
Newly in khaki, what these years would add
To my small store of knowledge. Looking back
I still know little but I’ve learnt a lot
Of things both good and bad and for them all
Am grateful. I can cram my life’s
Essentials, in a moment, in two packs
And travel night and day asking not where
(nor caring either.) I can live within
A crowded mess yet call my soul my own.
I’ve met more people, seen more places than
Ever I did in peace-time. I’m prepared
To try my hand at any job I’m given
Without expostulating first, and I
Who hated changes, can accept them now
With fatalistic calm. I yearn no more
For steaming baths, dry clothes, or ham and eggs.
If I can get enough to eat and drink,
Can sleep by night and can keep warm by day,
And get my letters quickly, I’m content –
Well, more or less content, a bowler hat
Is all I ask for more: I’ve learnt enough
In these two years to know it suits me well.

Margaret Taylor 1945

1944 Meg poem

A Poor Exit

A Poor Exit

We came down the steps to the
waiting ambulance slowly. The ‘sick-on-
leave’ had the paper parcel containing
his small kit tucked under one elbow
and I supported the other.
  Ten minutes ago the street had been
deserted. Now there were twenty or more
children circulating noisily round the
ambulance, fingering the sides, poking
the tyres, and even attempting to let
down the steps at the back (a feat
not to be accomplished without practice.)
It was Saturday, a school holiday,
and here, it seemed, was a heaven-
sent diversion. I did not blame
them, but I prayed that none of the
smaller fry would camp beneath it
before we moved off.

A Poor Exit

   The chattering diminished as we
descended the steps, the spotlight
focussed on us mercilessly, and for
a minute there was quietness. Then
a stage whisper inquired whether ‘that
was a lady doctor?’  ‘No’ The
reply came from a sturdy circa-6yr-
old, evidently in authority. ‘No, she
is a soldier.’ In support of his
authority I hid my stethoscope
behind my back as I advanced.
 ‘She’s a – – – she’s a – – – General’
he went on, a little puzzled and
probably wondering why so important
an officer should visit so unimportant
a place. ‘She’s got three pips and
a crown, she must be a General.’
   By that time I had climbed
up beside the driver and was
eager to be removed from the
range of further speculations. As
the engine started a tousle-headed
imp of insatiable curiosity emitted
a shrill pipe ‘It isn’t three pips
and a crown, Tommy, it’s three pips
and a button!
   And then we departed – a poor
 exit I thought.

Margaret Taylor 1944

1943 Meg poem

Inspections Advice

The Sapper’s Lament

Said the S.M.O. to the J.M.O.
With a frown “Now, did you say
Four hundred skin inspections are
Too many on one day?
Now listen, I will tell you how
Inspections can be done
Efficiently and only take
Ten seconds for each one –
Nearly four hundred in an hour.
(Don’t shake your head I pray
I tell you it is simple if
You do it as I say.)
Teach them to follow fast in turn
And glance as each goes by
At hands, axillae, chest and back
Their teeth, then turn your eye
In rapid survey o’er the girl.
If any should look ill
Or if they have symptoms to air
Tell them to wait until
The end, then you can spend what time
You have, or like, on each.
Oh, inspections are mere child’s play if
You practice what I preach!”

Margaret Taylor 1943

1944 Meg poem


Titles (Jan 1944)

The A.T.S. with one accord
Say ‘Ma’am’ when they address her
But though this is an ugly sound
It does not much distress her.

The men, uncertain, call her ‘Sir’,
‘Madam’ or ‘Doctor’. These
Alike she accepts with easy grace,
For she’s not hard to please.

E’en when a sapper, semi-sober,
Greeted her as ‘Kid’
She chuckled and forgave him, but
She turned a trifle red.

Margaret Taylor  Jan. 1944