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Authors: Kerry B Collison

Tags: #Poetry

The Happy Warrior

BOOK: The Happy Warrior

Published by: Sid Harta Publishers Pty Ltd

23 Stirling Crescent, Glen Waverley,


[email protected]

Telephone: + 61 3 9560 9920

Facsimile: + 61 3 9545 1742

ABN: 46 119 415 842


“The Happy Warrior Trust”

45 Strickland Drive

Wheelers Hill, Vic 3150

Australian Internet site:

First Published: April 2001

This edition: June 2015

Copyright: Kerry B. Collison and Paul Barrett 

Cover Design: Mario Cicivelli 

Design, Typesetting, Graphics: Chameleon Print Design 

Photographs courtesy of the Australian War Memorial

© This book is copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any person without the written permission of the copyright owner.

Collison, Kerry B. and Barrett, Paul 

ISBN: 9781925280623 (eBook) 


Approximately half of the poems contained herein were provided by members of the military and ex-military, and the general public. The remainder were collected through researching the Private Records Database at the Australian War Memorial. Many of these poems were unsigned or untitled, making it impossible to identify the author. In other cases the contact details provided by the donor to the AWM were no longer current.

Every effort to identify the author and copyright holder of each poem has been made and where successful, the appropriate permissions sought and acknowledgements made. However, there are some poems where we have been unable to contact the author or copyright holder.

If we have included a poem that you wrote or for which you are the copyright holder and your permission has not been obtained, we apologize and trust that you are not offended by its inclusion in this compilation. If you contact the publisher, an acknowledgement will be made in future reprints or second editions.

Paul Barrett & Kerry B. Collison

Digital edition distributed by

Port Campbell Press

eBook Conversion by
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‘In Flanders Fields'

‘For the Fallen'

 Lieutenant General P. J. Cosgrove, AC, MC

Compilers' Note:
 Warrant Officer Paul Barrett & Kerry B. Collison

‘Character of the Happy Warrior'
 - William Wordsworth

Chapter One:
 The Boer War

Chapter Two:
 World War I

Chapter Three:
 World War II

Chapter Four:
 Other Conflicts

Chapter Five:
 Prisoners of War

Chapter Six:

Chapter Seven:
 Training, Ops & Exercises

Chapter Eight:

Chapter Nine:

Chapter Ten:
 On Reflection

Chapter Eleven:
 Dreams of Home

Chapter Twelve:
 The Lighter Side

Chapter Thirteen:
 Other Characters

Chapter Fourteen:
 ‘Those Left Behind'

Chapter Fifteen:
 Social Comment

Chapter Sixteen:

Chapter Seventeen:

Ranks and Glossary

‘We Shall Keep the Faith'

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies grow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

The red poppy, the Flanders poppy, was first described as the ‘flower of remembrance' by Colonel John McCrae, who was Professor of Medicine at McGill University of Canada before World War I. Colonel McCrae had served as a gunner in the Boer War, and went to France in World War I as a medical officer with the first Canadian contingent.

At the second battle of Ypres in 1915, when in charge of a small first aid post, he wrote the poem above in pencil on a page torn from his dispatch book.

The verses were apparently sent anonymously to the English magazine, ‘Punch', which published them under the title ‘In Flanders Fields'.

Colonel McCrae was wounded in May 1918 and died three days later in a military hospital on the French coast. On the eve of his death he allegedly said to his doctor: “Tell them this, If ye break faith with us who die we shall not sleep.”

For the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,

England mourns for her dead across the sea.

Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,

Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn in drums thrill: Death august and royal

Signs sorrow up into immortal spheres.

There is music in the midst of desolation

And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,

They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again:

They sit no more at familiar tables at home;

They have no lot in our labour of the daytime;

They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,

Felt as a wellspring that is hidden from sight,

To the innermost heart of their own land they are known

As the stars that are known to the night.

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,

Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,

As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,

To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon

(1869 — 1943)

The RSL Ode is taken from the elegy ‘For The Fallen', by English poet and writer Laurence Binyon, and was published in London in ‘The Winnowing Fan; Poems of the Great War' in 1914. The verse, which became the Returned Servicemen's League Ode, was already used in association with commemoration services in Australia in 1921 and not only adorns war memorials throughout the British Commonwealth but is also at the heart of all rites of the RSL.



The Happy Warrior Trustees wish to thank the following donors for their financial support in the production of ‘The Happy Warrior'.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited 

Mincom Limited

Independent Building Products Limited 

Rio Tinto

Adacel Technologies Limited 

Safe Air Limited

Total Logistics Management Pty Ltd 

Bill Sutton

Compilers' Note

Paul Barrett, Warrant Officer Class 2 and Kerry B. Collison

This anthology of poems about the military is by members and ex-members of the Australian Defence Force and others, including some by our Kiwi cousins. They span the whole of the twentieth century, from the Boer War to peacekeeping in East Timor. 
The title ‘The Happy Warrior' is taken from ‘Character of the Happy Warrior', by William Wordsworth. Although this poem was written about 200 years ago, its uplifting message is just as appropriate today, with Australians adding their own unique ‘character'.

In making our selection, we searched far and wide for words from ‘unsung heroes' who had responded to the touch of the Bard. Many of the poems are courtesy the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Others came to us by word of mouth as news of our project spread. In some cases we had to choose from several versions of a poem. Many were not signed or dated. 
The writers of these verses are not professional or established poets. They are straight from the war zones, the training grounds, the home front or somewhere in between. Some went to 
‘the front' in their tender years, or for other reasons had little education. So much the richer, then, are these verses, which show so many skills of the seasoned poet: rhyme and rhythm or free verse in robust narrative or quiet reflection; imagery and ‘Aussie talk' galore; pathos and hyperbole, heroic and mock heroic styles. At times imperfect, of course (beware the purist!), but all with undeniable soul, spirit and ‘character'.

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