Remembering the 39th Battalion

by Bruce Cooke

A poem I wrote to remember the 39th Battalion who fought the japanese so bravely under overwhelming odds. The poem was read out at our local remembrance day ceremony several years ago and was printed and framed by the Shepparton RSL club.

The Silent Hero

He shuffles down the footpath with the help of his old cane
The slowness of his movement tells us all he's feeling pain
His body's old and feeble, he's unsteady on his feet
The fact that he's still here, he considers it a treat

He likes to back the gee gee's and have a drink down at the pub
That ice cold amber fluid is something he won't snub
You never hear complaining, or whinging of his fate
Always a friendly greeting, a "how are ya goin' mate?"

He seems to be just some old man who can't keep up the pace
A harmless grey haired codger, who takes up too much space
But let's go back some decades, the world was different then
When the larrikins and teenagers were wanting to be men.

With the Nazi threat in Europe, our soldiers had gone forth
Then the seventh of December brought us peril from the North
For when the yellow threat had come our fear had made us stare
To come up with some fighting men, our cupboard now was bare.

The few old guys still left behind, portrayed to us no hope
But to grab these idle teenagers was seen to be a joke
But joke or not there was no choice, but form a fighting band
Who else was left to face the foe and save our rugged land?

No girls to chase, the smokes are scarce, no brylcream for the hair
While training in the jungle growth, you never seemed to care
New Guinea was their port of call to face the coming foe
Young boys all thrown together and never in the know

The heat, the flies the mozzies, not the hardest things to face
Mountain peaks, dense jungle foliage, contrived to slow the pace
To face the cruel invaders to keep the country free
When all they had was a backpack and their trusty 303

Like all of us they suffered fear to face this great unknown
To hell with fear! There's work to do to get us all back home
The enemy decided to treat them with contempt
Their triumphant march to Moresby seemed settled in cement

These ill behaved soldiers soon became a major sore
With Tojo as their target, ever ready for some more
They'd hit and run and disappear, right before their eyes
And when they met face to face, the Japs became their prize

They fought and died without a flinch and seemed like powerful Gods
Determined to avenge their mates regardless of the odds
They didn't whinge or show their backs, never pleading for a hand
The only thought inside their head, protect their precious land

And when the conflict ended and survivors left for home
There was comfort in the knowledge that they fought right to the bone
There was no bloody fan fare or look what I've just done
They settled back to family life, but found there was no fun

For their mates who gave their precious lives to save this mighty land
Their memories will all live on, not buried in the sand
So when you pass this poor old man please show him some respect
He fought for you in days gone by, your lives he did protect.