Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Arthur Thomas Herbert Roberts : Thoughts in Rhyme

I am beginning to sort the boxes of papers and photographs that my Mother had accumulated over the years from various family cleanups. What surprises awaited me! My Grandfather, a man of few words, and strict with his children and grandchildren, was at heart a rebel and a poet. Scribbled on bits of paper, torn and tattered, I found four pieces of writing. If these are the words of someone else, my apologies, as all efforts to verify their originality have been taken. I have taken the liberty to illustrate his words, otherwise all credit goes to A.T.H. Roberts.(1898-1984)

To our Pals the “Red Caps"

I landed in London and straight away strolled
To have a clean-up down at Horseferry Road
When a buckshee Lance Corporal
Said Pardon me Please
You have blood on your tunic
And mud on your knees!
As a soldier I gave him a murderous glance
And said I have come from the trenches in France
Where shrapnel and bullets and comforts are few
And brave men are dying for “Bastards” like you


I am here with a woman of vice tonight
Whom I chanced to meet in a Paris Street
Her eyes so challenging whispered come
Though her red luscious lips were dumb
And wrong was victor, I murdered right
I slept with that woman of vice that night
And I’d do the same thing a thousand times o’er
Although the world called me a fool

Note on the slang used: from Australian National Dictionary Centre
1. Red Cap: A Military Policeman
B&P provide the following expanded definition of ‘red cap’ as used in World War I: ‘So called because they wore a sort of lid of red flannel over the top of their khaki caps. The most hated and despised men in France. Employed sometimes for the regulation of traffic, but chiefly to walk about the streets, examine passes, bully private soldiers, arrest absentees and generally exhibit truculence and self-satisfaction. They were also employed to staff military prisons and by all accounts revelled in the secret opportunities for cruelty which the job gave them. Red Caps were not voluntary and no decent man would undertake it if he realized what it implied.’
2. Horseferry Rd: Where A.I.F headquarters were situated
3. Buckshee: A prize, a catch, a windfall, something for nothing

After WWI, Granddad who had been Totally and Permanently Injured with a piece of shrapnel lodged in his temple, received a Government Pension. However Granddad was not to be stopped! He caught and sold fish, carted coal, was a Volunteer Fireman for more than 25 years, grew his own fruit and vegetables, kept chickens for meat and eggs, cows for milk and bees for honey; nothing was wasted - he would collect and sell scrap metal, involved himself in community events and committees - never an idle moment, except to listen to the radio news at 6pm. But Granddad was a thinker, and though these thoughts were never verbalized to family members, for posterity, or his own peace of mind, he scribbled those thoughts in moments of reflection. Below are two more examples of his views on the way society was headed, firstly during WWII (when he carted goods to the Naval Yards) and another, later in life, as he saw his beautiful home suburb of Malabar changing because of people's indifferent attitudes.


The worlds all topsy
This country’s gone real mad
Its worse than in depression time
And god knows they were bad
For then we had no money
To buy our daily bread
Now we all have cash to burn
But we may as well be dead
Our working hours are twice as long
We work till fit to drop
The government’s got the tax craze
And don’t know when to stop
First they ration water
Then they started on the beer
Even kids have rationed milk
There’s something very queer
They blame the manpower shortage
Well they must have some excuse
If you growl you’re not fair dinkum
So what’s the blooming use?
They tell you there’s a war on
And each must play their part
I have just begun to wonder
When They are going to start


 Imagine what it would be like to see
This beauty spot without a tree
A leaf of grass or flower bud
Or bee
But only litter
Left by you or me

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