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.
The Song was written by a folk singer called Harvey Andrews and is based on the Actions of Sgt Michael Willets. The Memorial at the Palace Barracks Memorial Garden reads as follows
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 children.

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'

Harvey Andrews
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.