Grandad Ernie’s Rosary by Sheila Jacob

Cambrai, Northern France, November 1917



Sarge reckoned we’d nail the Jerries this time,

nab the town of Com-bree, cut off their supplies.

We was all in it together with our rifles, shells,

machine guns and biplanes but them new tanks

was more trouble than they was worth, groaning

and grinding, getting stuck in the blinking mud.


Jerry whizz-bangs came flying out of nowhere,

blowed us off our feet, we was all over the shop

coughing and cussing be’ind waves of smoke.

My best mate Frank copt it right in the kisser,

I ‘eard ‘im cry No-oo then ‘e was screaming

though ‘e ‘ad no mouth to scream with, poor sod.


We crawled for cover, ‘oled up safe for the night.

Frank used to mither ‘ave yow said yowr prayers

 young Ernie, ’ave yow changed yowr wet  socks?

So I said one for Frank, ‘oped ‘e’d gone to ‘eaven,

took a pair of warm socks from under my ‘elmet

and stubbed my septic toe against some stones.


Only they wasn’t stones they was wooden beads

on a proper Rosary, blimey it was a whopper,

the sort monks and nuns wear round their waists.

I stopped effing and blinding, wiped the beads,

buffed the cross against my tunic and ‘eld it tight.

It was the same size as my ‘and, fitted a treat.


I sat for ages puzzling where it ‘ad come from.

I fingered the beads, carved like roses they was,

remembered our Liz and Joe the bab, I ‘adn’t seen

‘im yet, wondered if ‘e was blond  like our first lad

‘oo couldn’t ketch ‘is breath, turned blue on my lap.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death

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