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Heroes by David Partridge
Don't speak to me of heroes until you've heard the tale
Of Britain's merchant seamen who sailed through storm and gale
To keep those lifelines open in our hour of need
When a tyrant cast a shadow across our Island breed
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
While 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 from Malta to the Cape.
Tracked by silent U-boats which hunted from below,
Shelled by mighty cannons and fighter's flying low,
They clung to burning lifeboats when the sea had turned to flame
And watched their ship mates disappear to everlasting fame.
I speak not of a handful but 3O,OOO plus,
Some whose names we'll 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 seabirds cry their last goodbye to family and friend.
Freighters, troopships, liners and tankers by the score,
Fishing boats and coasters, 2OOO ships and more
They flew the Red Duster 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
From Britain's Merchant Navy who died to keep us free.
In Waters Deep
In ocean wastes no poppies blow,
No crosses stand in ordered row,
Their young hearts sleep ... beneath the wave
The spirited, the good, the brave,
But stars a constant vigil keep,
For them who lie beneath the deep.
'Tis true you cannot kneel in prayer
On certain spot and think. "He's there."
But you can to the ocean go
See whitecaps marching row on row;
Know one for him will always ride
In and out... with every tide.
And when your span of life is passed,
He'll meet you at the "Captain's Mast."
And they who mourn on distant shore
For sailors who'll come home no more,
Can dry their tears and pray for these
Who rest beneath the heaving seas
For stars that shine and winds that blow
And whitecaps marching row on row.
And they can never lonely be
For when they lived ... they chose the sea
© 2001 by Eileen Mahoney
"Crossing the Bar" is an 1889 poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Tennyson is believed to have written the poem (after
suffering a serious illness) while on the sea - an extended metaphor to compare death with crossing the "sandbar" between
the river of life, with its outgoing "flood", and the ocean that lies beyond death, the "boundless deep", to which we return.
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.