Preamble: (The following was written at Messines, France, in June, 1917 and posted to Australia but was banned by the Censor, and now sees print for the first time. DS).
The Sleeper-Cutters’ Camp
My sole address at present is a battlefield in France –
If it’s ever going to alter there is only just a chance –
To dodge the ‘Jerry’ rifles and shrapnel flying around –
I’ve burrowed like a bunny to a funkhole in the ground.
The floor is just a puddle and the roof lets in the damp
I wish I was in Aussie where the Sleeper Cutters camp.
The tea is foul and bitter like and ancient witch’s brew –
The bread is sour and scanty and you ought to see the stew –
The ‘Lootenant’ that’s leading is a leary kind of coot –
We always call ‘im ‘Mr’ so plain ‘Bill’ would never suit.
I’d sell my chance of Heaven for five minutes with the scamp
Where the red bull’s chewing nut grass near the Sleeper Cutters’ Camp.
If another war is starting I’ll hang out with the ‘jibs’
Not much in being a hero with a bayonet ‘tween your ribs –
Hard fighting for the Froggies pushing Huns across the Rhine
They can take Alsace and Flanders and Normandy for mine.
All I’m needing is a pozzie where ground is not so damp
‘Neath azure skies of Aussie – just a Sleeper Cutters’ Camp.
Here, sitting in a dug-out, with a rifle on my knees –
I fancy I am back there once again among the trees –
With long-lost friends I’m chatting by the camp fire’s ruddy glow
Where we boiled the old black billy in the days of long ago…
The signal comes to ‘Fall in’
I can hear the Diggers tramp –
Farewell, perhaps forever,
To the Sleeper Cutters’ Camp…
From ‘Songs from the Canefields’, by Abergowrie poet Dan Sheahan (born in Cork, Ireland in 1883-died in Ingham in 1977) and published with the permission of the Sheahan family.