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Songs of War and Peace

Songs of War & Peace


The war poems contained in this book were written in Malaya during the Second World War; the 'peace' poems are of more recent vintage. Autobiographical details of my war years and writing follow.

I was a corporal in the 8th Division Signals, and we arrived in Singapore in January 1941. We went up onto the Malay Peninsula and our Signal Section was billeted at Port Dickson on the west coast. I was in 'J' Section, a section detached from the main body of Signals to serve the 22nd Infantry Brigade. We did parade and jungle training in this area and then moved to the southern east coast, to Mersing, where we prepared operational and defence fortifications. I was promoted to a Sergeant and became the leader of a Line Section. This meant we were often more out in the field than at base, although, of course, we slept there. When war broke out in December 1941, following the Pearl Harbor attack, I was immediately occupied in line-laying and maintenance. When we withdrew to Singapore Island, I was badly wounded during the fighting. For war action I was awarded the Military Medal and received a Mention in Despatches. We spent three and a half years in Prison Camp before release in late 1945.

When we were at Port Dickson, I was called upon to produce a journal for the 22nd Brigade which consisted of the 18th, 19th and 20th Battalions. I shaped and edited the journal known as On Guard, and from it are taken the poems in this volume entitled 'Impatience', 'Endless Dreams' and 'Procrastination'. Later in the year, my own unit Commander called me to his Headquarters at Kuala Lumpur and asked me to produce a similar journal for the 8th Division Signals, which was printed and distributed just as war broke out between Japan and the Allies. From this journal, simply titled Through, I have drawn my poems 'Query the Quislings', 'Sing a Song of Signals', 'Do I Then Dream?' and 'Chandu Shop'. The poems are reproduced without alteration.

After fifty years I still cannot evaluate the poems, and, since they were written in a war situation, their strong patriotic note may seem strange to this present generation. One of the reasons for including them in this volume is because after the war two strange fires destroyed, with one or two exceptions, all my pre-war poems, war poems and post-war poems. These amounted to hundreds in number, and I have written few war poems since those fires. One volume of my later poems has been published titled The Spirit of All Things (Troubadour Press, 1992) and another is about to be published: All Things of the Spirit. This present volume is a small collection of songs of war and peace published on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the end of World War II and our release from Japanese Prisoner-of-War Camps.

I believe the critics have a right to know something of the origins of the poems contained in the first part of this book. As can be seen they were formal in mode, and were exceptionally caught up in feelings that soldiers have when a war is going on (much of it elsewhere) and when they hear reports of civilian apathy on the home front, and of union strikes when all hands, so to speak, should be to the pump. It should be noted that a drawing of a Cenotaph in the form of the one in Martin Place in Sydney was included with the text of 'Awake Australia!'. On it are the two bronze figures of the Sailor and Soldier, and the poem 'Impatience!' naturally follows as part of the feature.

Perhaps when all is said and done these poems have a kind of antique value, and this alone may justify their being included in this book. They certainly show fervent patriotism and youthful fervour, but then that was our mood. Looking at them over fifty years later, they seem so much out of our present mood, to say nothing of our contemporary modes of writing and thinking.

As I have reported, the bulk of war poems, including many written in the POW camp and following discharge from the Army, were unfortunately burned. So, too, were novel manuscripts. Readers of my fiction writing will know I have had many volumes of short stories published, plus a few novels. Prominent among these were the two award-winning novels, Tall Grow the Tallow-woods and Laughing Gunner. The latter is a collection of short stories of war, prisoner-of-war days and the time of rehabilitation following the war.

The 'peace' poems in this present volume are not specifically about peace, but represent the life of freedom we can live when rid of the traumas of war. Whilst I have written much fiction regarding war, my later years have not been occupied with that subject. I have visited a number of War Cemeteries in different lands, but my interest in the Kranji War Cemetery is because it was there that many of my friends were laid to rest. I was one of the first, during prison days, to bury a fellow soldier in what later became the official War Cemetery. In these days fifty years later one recalls such events with deep emotion. The poem 'Love's Elegy in Kranji Memorial War Cemetery' portrays, I believe, the depths of such emotion. The memories of war are never erased, and the days of peace are often occupied with such remembrance.

Songs of War & Peace
Troubadour Press

by Rev. Geoffrey Bingham

Rev. Geoffrey Bingham

Subject: Poetry, Anthology

Book Code: 341

Pages: 59 pp, Book

Pub. Date: 1995

ISBN: 1 87565 308 2

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