|During my Basic and Trade Training, I cam across a song that was to have a
profound effect on my outlook in the Army, this was a song that the BBC refused
to play, and yet whilst it wasn't banned within the Army, we were certainly
asked to refrain from Singing it in public, lest it upset the Locals.
Sergeant Michael G. Willets,
27, 3 Para, On the evening of the 25th May 1971 a terrorist
entered the reception hall of Springfield Road Police station in Belfast. He
carried a suitcase from which a smoking fuse protruded, dumping the case on the
floor he fled out-side, inside the room were a man a woman and two children and
several police officers. One of the police officers raised the alarm then began
organising an evacuation of the hall through the reception office. Sgt Willetts
was on duty in the inner hall, on hearing the alarm he sent an NCO to the first
floor to warn those above and hastened himself to the door towards which the
police officer was thrusting those in the reception hall and office. He held the
door open while all passed safely through and then stood in the doorway
shielding those taking cover.
In the next moment the bomb exploded with terrible force. Sgt Willetts was
mortally wounded. His duty did not require him to enter the threatened area. All
those people who were approaching the door from the far side agreed that if they
had had to check to open the door, They would have perished. Sgt Willetts
waited, placing his body as a screen to shelter them.
By this act of bravery, he risked and lost his life for those of the adults and
Sgt Michael Willetts was awarded the George Cross (Posthumous)
In a station in the city, a British soldier stood
Talking to the people there, if the people would
Some just stared in hatred and others turned in pain
And the lonely British soldier, wished he was back home again
'Come join the British Army' said the posters in his town
'See the world and have your fun, come serve before the Crown'
The jobs were hard to come by and he could not face the dole
So he took his country's shilling and enlisted on the roll
For there was no fear of fighting, the Empire long was lost
Just ten years in the army, getting paid for being bossed
Then leave a man experienced, a man who's made the grade
A medal and a pension, some memories and a trade
Then came the call to Ireland as the call has come before
Another bloody chapter in an endless Civil War
The priests they stood on both sides, the priests they stood behind
Another fight in Jesus' name, the blind against the blind
The soldier stood between them, between the whistling stones
And then the broken bottles, that led to broken bones
The petrol bombs that burned his hand, the nails that pierced his skin
And wished that he had stayed at home surrounded by his kin
The station filled with people, the soldier soon was bored
But better in the station than where the people warred
The room filled up with mothers, with daughters and with sons
Who stared with itchy fingers at the soldier and his guns
A yell of fear, a screech of brakes, a shattering of glass
The window of the station broke to let the package pass
The scream came from the mothers as they ran toward the door
Dragging children crying from the bomb upon the floor
The soldier stood and could not move, his gun he could not use
He knew the bomb had seconds left, not minutes on the fuse
He could not run to pick it up and throw it on the street
There were far too many people there, too many running feet.
'Take cover' yelled the soldier, 'take cover for your lives'
And the Irishmen threw down their young and stood before their wives
They turned toward the soldier, their eyes alive with fear
'For God's sake, save our children or they'll end their short lives here'
The soldier moved towards the bomb, his stomach like a stone
'Why was this his battle, God, why was he alone?'
He lay down on the package and he murmured one farewell
To those at home in England, to those he loved so well
He saw the sights of summer, felt the wind upon his brow
The young girls in the city park, how precious were they now
The soaring of the swallow, the beauty of the swan
The music of the turning earth, so soon it would be gone
The muffled soft explosion and the room began to quake
The soldier blown across the floor, his blood a crimson lake
They never heard him cry or shout, they never heard him moan
And they turned their children's' faces from the blood and from the bone
The crowds outside soon gathered, and the ambulances came
To carry off the body of a pawn lost to the game
And the crowd they clapped and jeered, and they sang their rebel songs
One soldier less to interfere where he did not belong
And will the children growing up, learn at their mothers knee
The story of the soldier who bought their liberty
Who used his youthful body as the means towards the end
Who gave his life to those, who called him 'murderer' not 'friend'
Reproduced with the Kind permission of Harvey Andrews 9th June 2003
In a recent email from Harvey mentioned that the Lyric to Soldier are now
being studied by schools in New Zealand in the "War Poets" category, alongside
Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, personally, I think a fitting tribute.