Poem by author Timothy Damer, 12th Field Regiment
“Like the people in the Land of Oz,
A Regiment that never was?
….But what happened there is another story,
Let others tell of death and glory,
To-night – what matters gathering here
Is the boys to-gether – and a glass of beer. ”

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THE REGIMENT THAT NEVER WAS
by Tim Damer

You 12th Field men of silvery pow
And deepening wrinkles on your brow
What gives you this annual zeal?
Tell me men, are you for real?

Stooping a little with phlebitis,
Shovelling along in your arthritis,
Are you the boys you say you are?
When was it you went to war?

Your claim has over the years persisted
That a 12th Field Regiment existed,
That perhaps a 1000 men or more
Left here for some far off shore.

Is this just a story you invented
To keep the grandchildren contented,
Just like a fisherman pretending –
Tall talk when you’re elbow bending?

With what imaginings you surround us,
You say these very streets around us
Once echoed to your marching feet
Blistering in the summer heat.

Route marching in all directions,
Returning here for foot inspections
Then to a canteen – over there,
To slake your thirst with five cent beer.

You say behind Guelph’s armoury
‘Without dragropes’ you spent your day,
And with a wooden dialsight stuck in your eye
Laid guns all day till you could *cry.

You talk of Joe and Bert and Bob,
Men who knew and did their job,
With-wreath and crown all shining bright
Balling at you from morn till night.

Was there a Dingle and a Captain Bell?
Were there blankets you used to sell?
Were there morning-after shakes
And poker games for pay day stakes?

Did Sussex, N.B. really pound
To Moose Hall’s alcoholic sound?
Were little things there on a toilet seat
Really able to jump six feet?

Were Petitcodiac’s early slumbers
Disturbed by your advancing numbers
As your convoy roared it’s way
On the road to Tracadie?

Was there a ‘Black Dan’, trigger happy
And a Johnman nick-named ‘Pappy’?
Was there a cook whose cuisine art
Made meals from a horse’s underpart?

Who was ‘Shorty’? Who was ‘Stu’,?
Was there a ‘Dean’ and a ‘Baldy’ too?
Old McConkey, young Bill Steele,
Just names? Or were these people real?

Was there really a ‘General’ Brock,
Whose staple diet was a crock,
Whose only view of the English nation
Was the Windsor Dive at Victoria Station?

Were there muster parades? – and Gunner Vett?
And the Allen boys smelling of violets?
And officers, unsure despite their rank,
If it was punched or bored or counter-sank?

Who can believe you, sitting there,
We can see you guys in a rocking-chair,
Not driving quads on dusty roads,
Pulling guns with their limber loads.

Tell me – Is it all a dream?
Something that could not have been,
Like the people in the Land of Oz,
A Regiment that never was?

But – now memory stirs and faces shine,
Faces something like yours and mine,
Crowding back from the past,
because Our story’s not fiction like Santa Claus.

I tell you Virginia – it is so,
There was a 12th. Field long ago,
And from this very town there went
The vanguard of that regiment.

They once had camped on English green,
And walked in fields where kings have been,
Sipped scottish beer and english tea
And drank Calvados in Normandy.

They landed where the sea ran red –
To instant soup and instant dead.
They stayed a year or so and then
Packed their gear, came home again.

Not all the boys came home, some stayed,
For that’s the way the game was played,
But they would be the first to say
“You guys have one on us to-day”.

Remember the Beach, and Caen and Falaise,
And the rocky road to Calais.
Remember Nijmegen’s wintry scene
And all the places in between.

But what happened there is another story,
Let others tell of death and glory,
To-night – what matters gathering here
Is the boys to-gether – and a glass of beer.

The Regiment That Never Was - Poem - T Damer

 

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