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War poems about war in Asia

Except Vietnam - See the Vietnam section

Ernie Yeomans

Ernie Yeomans was born in 1947 and served in the British army from December 1961 until May 1980.

He doesn't regard himself as a poet but writes to pass the time and for the pleasure of it. He is influenced in his style by the poems of Rudyard Kipling. He is a veteran of the “confrontation.”

After each poem the author has provided some useful notes to help readers with some special terms that occur in the poems.

CONFRONTATION

I know that I’m no Kipling but I like to jot a rhyme,

And when I’m on the night shift it helps to pass the time.

It’s usually about the time I spent out in the East,

It was a long, long time ago – half a century at least.

 

My time out there was wonderful, the best I ever had,

I was seventeen when I went out, nothing but a lad,

You grow up fast out in the east, I know that’s true for sure,

Though the gov’ment won’t admit it, they had sent me off to war.

 

The country was Malaysia, a nation new and bright,

But some bugger called Sukarno was itching for a fight,

He wanted to control the east and run it for himself,

To make his own new nation, and he’d do it all by stealth.

 

He tried to stop Malaysia from being given birth,

And when he couldn’t get his way he made it hell on earth,

All he wanted was Sarawak - Sabah and Brunei,

And the whole Malay Peninsula, beneath its bright blue sky.

 

He craved it for himself alone, for power he did thirst,

So he started ‘Confrontation’ - in Borneo at first.

But Indonesia had no friends, that nation stood alone,

Malaysia had many and they came across the foam.

 

For she was in the Commonwealth, and new she could get aid,

And help would come from far and wide, a Commonwealth Brigade,

They gave it number twenty-eight, of many nations it comprised,

And they’d do their duty to protect, without a compromise.

 

We would protect Malaya, the peninsula of course,

Others were in Borneo, to provide a border force,

There were Commandos from the Royal Marines, SAS and Arty too,

Infantry and Sappers, sailors, Gurkhas and aircrew.

 

They fought them in the jungle, so green and dark and damp,

Patrolling in the ulu, and then coming back to camp,

Their camps were up on hilltops, well defended by a few,

So that they could see the enemy when they came into view.

 

When they were out patrolling, along the jungle tracks,

They did so with the greatest care, they had to watch their backs,

For the Indons may be out today to lay an ambush down,

To try and catch them unaware, those soldiers of the crown.

 

When he couldn’t win in Borneo, Sukarno changed his tack,

He’d land on the peninsula and take us all aback,

But his sneaky plan just didn’t work, for we were waiting there,

To surround them and encircle like a rabbit in a snare.

 

There were Aussies; there were Kiwis, Brits and Gurkhas too,

To the defence of proud Malaysia, the old brigade it flew,

We dashed on out into the field, the RMR to help,

And sort out the insurgents, let ‘em know just how it felt.

 

Then in 1966, it all came to an end,

For poor old Indonesia had no more money for to spend,

Sukarno, he had spent so much upon the jungle fight,

That his Generals overthrew him and it finished overnight.

 

The Tunku and the Agong were lavish with their praise,

And we could settle down again, to gentler, softer days,

For this land they call Malaysia is beautiful I know,

And now we’d help develop it, now we’d help it grow.

 

Malaysia has grown a bit, since those far off days of yore,

She has her own Defence Force - doesn’t need us anymore,

But if you were just to ask the lads - who served there way back when,

They say they’d go tomorrow if the need arose again.

Ernie Yeomans

 

'Confrontation' – notes provided by the author

 Verse 1 - Confrontation was from 1962 until 1966.  Not quite half a century yet.

Verse 2 - The last line refers to the UK government's refusal to recognize the conflict as a war. 

Verse 3, line 2 - Dr Sukarno, President of Indonesia.

Verse 7 - Arty = Artillery.  Sappers = Royal Engineers.

Verse 8 - Ulu is the Malay for jungle.

Verse 10 - Refers to the action on the Malay Peninsula of 29th October 1964.

Verse 11 - RMR = Royal Malay Regiment.

Verse 12 - Some license here.  Confrontation did not finish overnight but decreased gradually until a cease fire was agreed.

Verse 13 - Tunku = Tunku Abdul Rahman, Prime Minister of Malaysia
- Agong = Yang di-Pertuan Agong, head of state and effectively King.


Stand To!

He shakes me gently by the foot

And whispers in my ear

Come on lad it’s time to go”

Get ya backside into gear”

 

I roll out of my hammock

Drop softly to the ground

Move off to my position

Careful not to make a sound

 

Face the front you lucky lads

And watch your arcs of fire

It may just be today they come

So we stay still and perspire

 

My best mate John is on my left

And Jake is on my right

I know we’ll watch each other’s backs

If it comes down to a fight

 

I look down on the valley

From high up on the ridge

Down along the river

To the native’s old rope bridge

 

The trees pop up their leafy crowns

Through a sea of swirling mist

Across the silent jungle

By the sun ‘t will soon be kissed

 

Will the Indons come today?

I wonder if they might.

We’re ready for them if they do

We’re ready for the fight

 

I feel my hands a’ shaking

As the dawn draws ever near

Am I shaking from the morning chill?

Or could it be from fear?

 

At last the sun burns off the mist

Jungle noises echo round

And we get what we’ve been waiting for

The order to stand down

 

Ernie Yeomans

 

'Stand To' - notes 

Stand to is the period from just before daybreak until full light and from dusk until night has fallen.  This is the most likely time for attack - in the half light.