An echo from the past.
Many an English footpath leads to an English Church. It was one such path
that led us,quite by chance,to the isolated church of St,Mary in Stanford
on Teme,Worcestershire. As I rested my tired legs on a bench in the church
porch a familiar but unexpected word,on what I thought to be a war memorial
caught my eye. Closer inspection revealed this inscription " The names of
the men of this parish who served in the Great War 1914-1918 ". There
followed a list of twenty two names,one of which read "E.Bond. Stoker. HMS
Honeysuckle " I who had served on another,later HMS Honeysuckle in another
war felt an immediate rapprochement with Stoker Bond. We had not only served
in the same Navy,sailed on the same seas and fought the same enemy, but,
preserved from the dangers of the sea and the violence of the enemy, had
both returned with a thankful remembrance of God's mercies, to enjoy the
blessings of the land. Not a bad thought to keep in mind as we continued
our walk down the beautiful Teem Valley.

Frank Chester. May 2004.

'A lagging file doubles slowly round the square,
The slurring slap of boots clear in the evening air,
Each pair of arms upthrust holds high a rifle,
Though now perhaps the arms are bent a trifle,
Full rig-of-the-day they wear,leggings,belt,
The dangling bayonet at each step felt,
Who are they?Why,blacklist men,villains all,
Who sassed some officer,ignored some P.O.'s call,
Forgot to muster,or did their leave o'erstay,
Or were found skulking in some hideaway.

They're coming closer,panting,wringing wet,
Their uniform all sticky,soaked with sweat,
Feet burning,muscles aching,parched with thirst,
they'd like to drop,but none dares to be first.
They'd one eye on the P.O.-they hope
He'll let them bring their rifles to the slope:
With arms so nearly numb you'd even choose,
The rifles bouncing once more on that shoulder bruise.

They lag,arms sagging feet scarce off the ground,
Praying that they'll hear the order sound,
What comes?''Pick up them feet''the P.O.cries,
''And keep them arms up straight.''No one sighs.
The fellows summon up more strength and stagger on,
Around the parade ground once more,all hope gone.
There was a time when I was with them too
Oh.happy days if then we only knew.'

John Stewart (K114 Bellwort)