In Remembrance by Di Coffey

The young soldier winces
as rough sacking
is pulled over his head.
He smells sour wheat grains,
peers through loose weave
at a line of soldiers, restless men,
fingering their guns.

Fear gnaws his bones,
sickens his stomach
and he shudders in dawn’s mist.
Yesterday a thousand men
were blown to smithereens,
or shot, or bayonetted;
dying for King and country.

Over the top, men,
had been the order.
Up and at em.
He’d endured the boots of men
climbing over him,
heard them die,
screaming for their mothers.

He remembers running,
hiding in a barn,
puking when discovered.
Was it only yesterday?
Why had he lied about his age?
By rights, he shouldn’t be here
at The Battle of Mons.

Guns are cocked, aimed,
and Private Thomas Highgate,
at seventeen, too young
to be in his regiment,
is old enough
to be shot for cowardice.

Private Thomas Highgate was executed on September 8th, 1914.  He was the first soldier to be shot for cowardice in WW1 despite the fact he was only 16 when he lied about his age to get into the army.

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