This site is updated weekly and serves to posthumously publish the poetry of Jack Clarkson, a sergeant in the Royal Tank Regiment.
Jack’s poems were collected together in a manuscript by his twin sister, May and are reproduced here by kind permission of his daughter, Sue, as a way of preserving the voice of an ordinary man of Moston, Manchester whose perspective on the world gives us a way of understanding a time which shaped our modern world.
Read more about this story at the Site Story page.
Across the whitened balustrade,
She serves the savoury brew,
And with an utter nonchalance,
She’ll sling a sandwich too.
And if your taste will run to ice,
You’ll get a frozen stare,
If “Jane’s” the name you utter,
While she is standing there.
She ain’t do small, nor too big,
Through the tables she can weave,
An’ she’s quite well up on manners,
On Sundays she uses her sleeve;
Her ready smile, like Tate and Lyle,
Is soft and rather sweet
And she’ll even put some sugar
In the brew she brews so neat,
She ain’t related to Gunga Din,
Though acquainted with his trade,
And if you’re parched with a slaking thirst,
She’s a ready and valued maid.
So enter ye to her domain,
And feast, and please your eye,
On a charmer that you can’t ignore,
And on goods you cannot buy.
We’ll have to build a cast-iron house
With window glass eight inches thick
and re-inforce the doors and door frames,
With best quality Portland brick,
and install heavy duty plumbing,
The type you find on ships
And do away with plastic switches
Just in case Jim slips
Into his normal habits,
Of moving like a troop of tanks,
And damaging property right and left,
And falling foul of the banks,
Who will groan at his withdrawals,
To repair his shattered cave,
Be gentle, Jim, when you are married
Just think of the money you will save,
And you will have to stop the brewing
All your furnishings smelling of hops
And instruct your shirt tail i manners
When out of your trousers it pops.
But of course your Jean will control things
And like all women you can be sure,
That when she’s in charge of the purse strings
She’ll slap on the marital cure:
You’ll be orderly, punctual and properly fed
And assured of what’s wrong and what’s right
And don’t argue, for even a double bed
Can be a very cold place in the night.
But good luck Jim, and to your little wife
May she with much fortitude bear
Only because she loves you so much
A life of such Wear and Tear.
You’ve heard tell of the famous battles and peace,
And names bandied about, new and oldm
But one whose exploits all others decrease,
Is the Man of the Band, Corporal Gould.
The Regiment was stationed in barracks,
Field training a thing of the past,
The tanks, in solemnity, dormant,
And the gun barrels cleaned out at last.
So now we went back to the drill square again,
To prepare for the next job in hand,
And pay respects to Her Majesty’s birthday,
With the Regiment, the Brigade, and the Band.
The buildings echoed the marching feet,
The shouts of command loud and clear,
“Left wheel,” – “Eyes right”, and everything neat,
As the full dress rehearsal came near.
We paraded that morning all glitter and shine,
From beret to boots standing proud,
And the band marched ahead in setting the time,
And “Boy Willie” was played, clear and loud.
There was five days to go, when befell the blow,
That the Band Seargant-Major took ill,
And much speculation was rife in the ranks,
As to who would be footing the bill.
For a band on parade is a wonderful sight,
But the Regiment could be facing disgrace,
For the Adjutant said to the Colonel that day,
“We have no one to take up the mace”.
The Colonel he frowned; his foot stamped the ground
And the Adjutant’s gaze was on high,
As if seeking the answer from the fleecy white clouds,
Or the Important One up in the sky.
Together they strolled to the bandroom to talk,
To the buglers, the drummers, and all
As to who would now lead the band on parade,
And who could bravely answer the call.
The Colonel related the facts to them there,
And sadly they heard what he told,
When from the ranks of his comrades around him,
Out stepped the good Corporal Guould.
A soldier, long-served in band duties,
Saying “Five days is a long enough span”,
He exchanged a look with the Colonel,
And they departed to work out a plan.
So for three days, the redoubtable Corporal,
With the aid of a Tannoy en route,
Marched back and forth on the Seargant’s Mess lawn,
Each thirty-inch pace, boot by boot.
And the mace was canted, and levelled, and swung,
From the morn to commencement of night,
And the Colonel he said to the Adjutant,
“I think that it’s working out right.”
The next morning, the Regiment paraded,
The last time, before the great day,
And we marched; the band going before us,
And the Corporal leading the way.
All went well, and the Colonel delighted,
Had ordered the day to be free,
So off we went to our billets,
To drink copious cupfuls of tea.
The sun rose gold on that special June day,
As we embussed for Munster’s great square,
And the citizens came, and the families from camp,
High rank officers, and the Town Mayor.
The band played soft martial music,
As the the General inspected the ranks,
And standing, one in each corner,
Were four of our great first-line tanks.
The flags flew high at the mast-heads
As the General returned to the base,
And the officers drew swords with a flourish,
While we waited, for the move of the mace.
With souted commands, we turned to the right,
Into column; the drum notes came loud,
The mace swung up hight, its point to the sky,
And the Regiment marched, fierce and proud.
Not a man on parade, could be but afraid
For the man at the front of the band,
And a silent prayer, from Colonel to trooper,
For the sureness of the Corporal’s right hand.
We came to the base, and up went the mace,
“Eyes right”, – as it turned in the air,
And shining bright, it fell through the light,
To be caught by the hand, fair and square.
At the second marker flag, it went up again,
The Regiment gave an audible sigh,
As it was caught once more in that perfect grip,
Having turned, and come down from on high.
At “Eyes front” – we marched off, to the end of the square,
Our step firm and strong, and now bol,
And sitting on the terrace, white as a sheet,
Was the wife of the good Corporal Gould.
Again up went the mace, while she, white of face,
Had fainted, – or so it’s been said,
“One for you, love”, with a smile, said the Corporal
And none begrudged it, of the men he had led.
From Colonel to cook, his firm hand we shook,
For his story was told far and wide,
And we carried him home on our shoulders that night,
And we carried his wife by his side.
So when you hear claim, of great deeds of fame,
And campaigns in the heat and the cold,
Reflect on the courage displayed to us all,
By the Man of the Band, Corporal Gould.
It can take her awhile to suppress a smile,
At the mysterious way that we tick,
And her innocence in matters martial,
Could make her think we were sick.
But no matter her husband’s station,
Be he Colonel or Trooper bold,
She’ll be sympatheyic to his duties,
And the way that he does what he’s told.
For she’s a Lady of the Regiment,
Worth all our respect and care,
And she’ll keep the home fires burning
At the times when you’re not there.
She’ll make sure you’re turned out proper
And inspect, ‘ere the Adjutant’s eye
Could find a fault with your tailoring,
Or an awkward twist in your tie.
She’ll help you, clean your ‘brasses’,
Or put a knife-edge crease in your slacks,
And pre-test you, for your trade tests,
Like – “How many links in a track?”
And she’ll make you a home near a desert,
On a heathland, or in a town,
And no matter the many frustrations,
She’ll never let things get her down.
For she’s a Lady of the Regiment
A ‘soldier’, through and through,
And when the demands are heavy,
She’ll share the burdens with you.
And she’ll add a touch of gentility,
And an aura of romance,
Be it Regimental Open Day,
Or even a Squadron Dance.
And she’ll bring your kids up decent,
Taking care of their woes and joys,
With dollies’ clothes for the daughters,
And Band-Aids for the boys.
And she’ll see that they do their school work,
And show interest in their play,
Giving them much more attention,
Wjile their Dad is far away.
And young soldiers in the barracks,
Will be glad when she stops and talks,
And includes them in her family,
When she takes the kids out for walks.
For she’s a Lady of the Regiment,
And she’ll strive to play the part,
Of Wife, and Mother, and Comforter,
With a good and generous heart.
So give her the best of the time that you havem
For we know she has no peer,
She must be cossetted after the beer.
For she’ll often be sad and lonely,
The men may go out, and die,
But it’s the Ladies of the Regiment,
Who have to wait, and cry.