A Tank


Cambrai, June 1917.

A tank

Was a crawling clanking cacophonous coffin

And stank

Of rank, fear and petrol, cordite and sweat.

And the men inside

Had a bumpy old ride

And yet

It promised an end to the need to send

Un-armoured men

In their hopeless thousands

To die on the wire in the killing ground waste of machine-gunned

No man's Land.

So they sent the tanks

Hundreds of tanks

Rank after rank of clanking tanks

Roaring and spitting and crushing the wire

Guns from their sponsons all belching fire

But a lot of them stopped

Dead in their tracks

Nose-down in ditches

Mechanical hitches

Shattered by shells

Abandoned in holes

At impossible angles

Their contents mangled

Shocked or stunned

Unable to shoot

Their impotent guns

It had seemed such a good idea at the time

( Leonardo da Vinci's clever design )

To keep the men safe

Behind armour-plate

And to thunder right over the Hindenburg Line.

But we didn't quite

Get it right

We'd 400-odd tanks

Cannons barking from mud-splattered flanks

Crawling and roaring - a terrible sight


The Boche came off best

And the battle itself was a terrible mess

So in the end the trenches won

And the land still lay under

The unending thunder

Of guns.

© nigel hallworth 2014