Island Soldier

Royal Newfoundland Regiment of WWI

I grew up on Change Islands in NL.  Many people served and still do who are from or have roots in our town but I always think of those who were lost in the first and second world war on Newfoundland on this date. Their pictures hang in public halls and family living rooms. They are remembered yet in memory they become abstract sometimes.  We recall their stories and their lives while at the same time we forget how very human these men and their familes were.

I wrote this little ballad this morning as I thought of one young man who died at Beaumont Hamel, Pte Archibald Porter who did not get to leave descendants or tell his story.  He was 18 when he died.  He could be any soldier but it isn't, it is Archie whose body was so destroyed he was listed as missing until his mother Lucy implored a local man to investigate if he were truly dead.  He was and a telegram came with a medal and a cheque from the war office a year later with the sad news.  I think of him every Nov 11 simply because I think somebody should.

Island Soldier
He walked the trails that we all walk
He laughed in the air we breathe
He fished the sea from which we take

The bounty he bequeathed

He rolled his baccy on a creaking dock
He elbowed his friends in joke
He sang aloud many a song
He lit up many a smoke

He chewed a blade of grass and wondered
At what was past this land
And he grinned and said “I think I’ll join”
And find out that first hand

He travelled far across the sea
How he missed that crimson sky
that warmed his island home each night
and bid each day good bye

He suffered in a foreign trench
While an island breeze swept though
The memories of an island boy
Who did what boys must do

He wrote that things were going well
While his heart beat in his throat
For death knocked on his door each day
though he dare not tell them in a note

The world he saw was a muddy hole
Where he waited for the day
To live or die at chance’s choice
In a place so far away

She walked the trails that we all walk
Laughed in the air we breathed
Until a telegram came through
With all that he’d bequeathed

A small salary and a metal disc
All traded for a son
But the king was happy as was the land
That the war was finally won

He traveled far across the sea
Far from the crimson sky
That warmed his island home each night
And bid him fond good bye