God, I have never spoken to you,
But now I want to say 'How do you do'.
You see, God, they told me you didn't exist
And, like a fool, I believed all this.
Last night from a shell hole I saw your sky -
I figured right then that they'd told me a lie.
Had I taken time to see the things you made,
I'd have known they weren't calling a spade a spade.
I wonder, God, if you would shake my hand -
Somehow I feel you will understand.
Funny, I had to come to this hellish place
Before I had time to see your face.
Well, I guess there isn't much more to say,
But I'm sure glad, God, that I met you today!
I guess the 'zero hour' will soon be here;
But I'm not afraid since I know you're near.
The signal! Well, God, I'll have to go -
I like you lots - this time I want you to know.
Look now, this will be a terrible fight.
Who knows, I may come to your house tonight.
Though I wasn't friendly with you before,
I wonder, God, if you'd wait at your door.
Look! I'm crying! Me! Shedding tears!
I wish I'd known you these many years.
Well, God, I'll have to go now, so good-bye.
Strange, since I met you - I'm not afraid to die."
poem was taken from the body of a dead American Soldier.
Ghost of 'Spam Can'
want to land at Ridgewell,
To put old Spam Can down,
But all I see are fields of wheat
In England's golden gown.
So I circle in the sky
In a ship that needs no gas.
With a crew of dead and wounded,
That knelt at morning mass.
We want to land, and live again,
To feel, to laugh, to weep.
To be again, to wake again
From war's death twilight sleep.
Oh fire the flares at Ridgewell
And show us where to land.
Show us where to touch our wheels,
To feel our feet, unbend and stand.
To kiss the earth,
God's Essex yellow clay,
To reaffirm the warming touch,
Of this land, and another day,
With our memory of a land
Our home, America.
Blessed, lovely, lovely land,
My home America.
But who's ripped up the landing strip,
Banished every ten man ship
And left us on our own.
Every engine sound is hushed,
Every wall of brick is crushed.
Levelled every Nissen Hut,
Mile of cable laid, now cut.
No echoing hanger left to haunt,
Or in which for winds to moan.
No anxious watchers round the tower,
Searching eastwards, faces gaunt.
Where thousands toiled,
Is flat and bare,
As though they wished
We'd not been there.
Christ it's bloody funny,
But see our tragic tears
As we circle lost and aimless,
Overdue by fifty years.
We've tried a line up over Clare,
No friendly tower, no guiding flare.
No Yeldham railway track to guide,
As over Ashen church we glide.
No way our sad, sad way to find
As loved ones fade so far behind.
We did it all, yours now the debt.
Ours, not NASA's great mankind step.
Derek Mayes (Ex RAF Ridgewell)
Long Way Back
height and heading westwards in the darkening sky,
Losing blood and drifting from the conscious eye,
Heading back to Ridgewell, my home away from St.. Miguel,
After bombing Schwienfurt bearing plant and being shot to hell.
We'll never make a landfall, we never will touch down,
We'll have to ditch off Clacton,
Odds - on we're going to drown.
We'll never make the coastline,
But sink to a watery grave,
Swallowed by the swell, sickened by the smell
And lost by the wash of a wave.
If we survive the crushing splashdown,
If we manage to get into the raft,
We might die in the night from cold, or just fright,
Or freeze in the icy draft.
Bud's bleeding to death by his waist gun,
Ed's 'blown it' in the rear
Jep's jumped with no chute a while ago,
From fire and goddam fear.
Murphy's entombed in his ball on his back,
Chester was killed in the nose by some flak.
We in the cockpit hold on in great pain,
One's lost an arm, one won't see again.
Keeping us airborne needs the strength of a bull,
But we're far too exhausted to combat earth's pull.
But fire and blood and noise and guts,
And all the devil's arms,
Can never shake our godly fear
That bravery holds and calms.
If I make it back to Ridgewell,
If I get back on the ground,
I will drink all night
To 'freeze out' the fright.
Or in thanks profound, gaze, gaze all around
And cry with tears that make no sound.
Or from relief, or in disbelief,
Just quietly sob.
Poor bastards in the air, and those
Poor bastards on the ground,
Poor bastards in the sky
And those who didn't hear the sound
Or feel the fire that killed them.
Poor Yanks in the air,
Poor Yanks in the sky,
Poor Yanks - no thanks,
You cannot know,
And would not believe what they did.
Ten young Yanks, feet firmly on the deck,
Yet falling through the sky
In a mangled spinning wreck.
No one to see them die
As muck and blood and slosh and shit,
Splattered when the hot flak hit.
Head and hand, foot and shoe,
Blood and guts and sprays of spew,
Metal doors, whole bodies,
Whipping past each crewman's view.
The sky a cloud of bursting shell
They in terror, flew through hell.
With drifting chutes and burning planes,
As virgin men aged fifty years in fifty fleeting minutes.
Did I see you there Bud,
Did I hear you cry,
Were you flying with us Bud,
As we went in to die?
Did you follow us from Ridgewell's
Green and peaceful fields
Of waving corn and simple folk,
Loyal to knightly shields?
It was for home, and such as these
That we fought and flew,
Oh that the whole world were like them
That stood up as Dowding's few.
But you cannot believe, or barely conceive
The rigors of our fight.
But, time will show the might of our blow
In Europe's fight for right.
Derek Mayes (Ex RAF Ridgewell)
Up on the field,
The rattle of the wind
In dry seed;
Casting new flower,
Parsley and cowslip
Across a broken land,
Where soft tears drip
And sunlight streaks
The sullen fields
Pieces of yesterday
In a ploughed furrow,
Testament of time
That was here
In concrete and brick,
Mud and toil
Death and fear.
Through Winter's gate,
When first embers
Shade the Ridgewell land,
Foresake them not
These men we know,
Where skylarks rise
In azure glow.