A Cruel Ruthless Bitch Named War – George Mansford

Was it so long ago when we seemed immortal and soldiered together

Sent to train at Canungra in all sorts of miserable weather

Ambushing, attacking and defending by day and by night

Being toughened up by experts and learning how to fight

Running, jumping, shooting, yelling and always trying to be best

Preparing for Vietnam which would be our ultimate test


Then came the time, from our shores we did leave

Were we really that young, so innocent, sonaïve?

Soon we were in an arena of death for the very first time

Fleeting shadows, bunker systems, paddyfields and lots of mines

Tired, thirsty, hungry, filthy, stumbling and tangled in wait- a-while vines

An urgent jargon of “fire mission”, “bush ranger’, “dustoff’ and other call signs


Always the curses and the wry jokes when there was bad news

The constant yarns of when we went home and what we would do

The taunts, the jibes at those other units was all part of the rare fun

Seeking news of footy finals and which horse in the Melbourne Cup had won

The hovering chopper, the wounded and dead lifted and a final goodbye

Then back to the task at hand and no time to cry


Arriving back in Oz close to midnight and hustled away

Told not to wear uniform on leave forever and a day

Returning to a familiar city but finding a strange new race

Two legged sheep in cloth walking the streets at busy pace

Yesterday’s cheers now converted to glares and “why did you go?”

Noisy chanting protests and VC flags being waved to and fro


Now in today’s dawn, the silence is broken and the bugle does call

Its mournful moving sound is heard by all

Beyond the sea of mourning faces I see them once more

Ghostly images of youth never to return to their beloved shore

Weary, panting, going forward into certain danger to have another go

Few outside the brotherhood would understand what made them so


As the parade ends, I hate to admit it but after so many years, I’m old

Certainly much wiser and definitely not bold

Thankful to have been so fortunate for such a long life

Unlike dear comrades who perished so young in times of terrible strife

I know that tonight in restless sleep I’ll hear the night birds shriek and cry

A curse on that cruel ruthless bitch called war; dear God; why oh why


George Mansford©June 2011

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