Were You there God
On that summer's day
When a lover and his lass
Made love
Lying on the new mown hay
In the year of nineteen hundred?
And were You there
When nine months later
Tommy Atkins, like a silver bullet,
Shot out his mother's womb?
Oh! What time of happiness
Even for a bastard
And a lover and his lass.

And when about a decade and a half anon
The power of German might and force
Turned out the lights of Europe
In that war to end all wars,
Did You then mind when,
Seeing Kitchener's extended finger
Pointed straight at him,
Young Tommy Atkins
Lied about his age
To join the Colours of the Fusiliers?

Armed with the shilling of his King
And his chest puffed out with pride,
Young Tommy Atkins
Climbed aboard that troop ship
That sailed across the Channel
To a near yet foreign land.
He heard the Padre
Tell the lads that all was well,
That You were on their side,
And they'd be home
Before that Christmas tide.

And when that cargo of human flesh
Fetched up upon the beach,
The lads made their advance
Along the shore
And onwards unto Flanders
Where now the poppies blow
In unforgotten fields.

And Tommy Atkins
As he marched along
Saw not the washing
Hanging on some future Siegfried Line
But the bloodied bodies of his dead
And dying friends
Draped over wire of pointed steel.
But they were not alone - far, far from alone
For You are everywhere.

But Tommy Atkins was not destined
There to die pinned helpless on the wire.
He sheltered shivering in the shadows of his trench -
Freshly dug, and eight feet deep -
With a ladder to escape o'er the top.
He'd scarce been there for half an hour
When, of a sudden,
A funny noise droned overhead.
And then the droning stopped
And something dropped
A little further up the trench.
There was a flash, and then a bang
And bodies burst.
And Tommy Atkins saw his mates
Blown all to smithereens.
But You were there
For You are everywhere -
As everywhere are now
The spread and spattered bodies
Of Tommy Atkins' mates

And later,
When the Padre passed along the trench
He asked why,
When with You standing there beside,
His mates had all been killed.
And the Padre told him,
"The ways of God's are strange"

And then it rained and washed away
Some of the blood and gore -
And what remained was eaten by the rats.
Do You remember
Sending those of Your creatures
To keep Your soldiers company
In their cold and sodden trenches?
Those rats bit into them no less than did the winter nights
As they did try to sleep and dream of home
Amidst the tumult and the noise of battle.
But You were ever with them - were you not -
As your Onward Christian Soldiers soldiered on
In Delville Wood, at Loos and Arras, and at Ypres
And Cambrai and upon the Somme?

So was it You who on that fateful day
Did make the whistle blow
For them to raise themselves above the parapet
And march into the no-man's land?
But march they did - and to great cost.

When all about him fell and he was all alone
In trust young Tommy turned to You;
He turned to You
As he ran and ran and ran in fear and shock
For he knew not which the way he ran -
He was but sixteen years of age.
But You were there to guide him
You were there God, were you not
For the Padre 'd promised
You'd be always at his side?

The Colonel said he'd been a coward
To run away and not to face the foe.
So when dark Night gave way to hazy Dawn
They tied him, blindfold, to a stake
And through their misting eyes
His comrades ripped to ribbons
A heart that bled for England and its King -
His fellow Fusiliers had dared not but obey
When that last and dreaded order came
To take a steady aim and to Fire.
But You who would not save
Your own son crucified upon a cross
Why should You save him?
The Padre bowed his head
And in a broken voice did say
"Amen! Indeed the ways of God are strange."
But You were with him then God, were you not?

When he ran that day in fear and shock,
Why did You make him not to run
The other way and towards the foe,
For he knew not which way he ran?
And whilst he'd still be dead
He'd not have died
A bastard to the Fusiliers.
You were there God -
So why was it so, why was it so?

The Old Pals have returned
But some still lie in Delville Wood
At Arras, Loos, at Cambrai, Ypres
And on the Somme.
Some passed through the Menim Gates
And some stayed well within
Their names inscribed upon the walls
For families and generations
To stand before and bow their heads.
And elsewhere, in the fields of France
The saddened pilgrims chant
"They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old,"
As they pause before the crosses, row on row
In a close yet foreign land.
But not for him a cross to mark the spot
No name upon a stone
Where, bare sixteen, he fell
Shot by his own.

Who will remember him
Where e'er the sun does rise and set?
Remember reader - remember and mark well
He also served who ran away
Confused, and scared and shocked.
So in the fields of Flanders
Where still he lies alone
Will one poppy blow for him, Lord,
Will one poppy blow for him?
You should know God,
You should know
For You are everywhere.
But bloody hell, God
Bloody hell
Were you there - or were you not?

BY:  Alan Booth