Keith Johnson

Silver Star - 3,129 Points (9th June 1944 / Cheshire, England)

Final Training Flight - Poem by Keith Johnson

What happened once has yet to end,
Since the cards were put down,
And the evening cocoa drained,
Around the stove at the Sergeants Mess.

Turn in lads. Tomorrow is another day.
Another training run across to Ireland
And back across the steel-grey sea
To Cumberland, coasting home to Millom.

Touch Douglas on Man, on to Slieve Donard
Across the steel-grey sea and its mists
Up to sight Belfast and back to St Bees
Ahead Scafell and down to Black Combe.

Vince, you are the pilot it seems from orders -
It's lucky you played baseball for Buffalo
This is a home run with four bases
So let fly a homer and slide home the Anson.

Rene, you'll be navigator - we'll try the new compass.
You are only twenty but you're smart
I had to laugh after your mother Nolia wrote:
'Unfrozen by the Mounties in Chapleau'.

Joe they have you as the back up pilot.
Maybe we could wing some extra juice
To buzz Michael and the two Marys
Over Clutha's saintly Celtic Soccer Country.

Tom you'll be there as the radio crackles.
Dumb bastards, they have nothing to say
And when 'eh up' you turn on the tyke-talk
Let's hope they too come from the Dales.

As for me, I'm Sunny Jay, Bob's your Uncle -
A thirty-three year old who helped
With the cadets and watched his sixth form
Join the RAF and had to follow.

The Anson is second nature now -
We flew them from Oudtshoorn
Up the railway to Bulawayo:
"I like flying and flying likes me"

A commission delayed - expect no less
As the Avro Lancasters hatch and queue
At Broughton, off the factory lines,
Just down from the graveyard at Blacon.

Fire Dragons feeding on men and boys,
Ready for the Terror Anschlag
To bathe Siegfried in blood
In the straff and flak over Berlin.

One more and another flight tomorrow
Across the broken steel-grey sea
To test a new compass with some runs -
And temper sons staked for the dragons.

I'm a teacher, the thinker, the pipe-smoker -
The Londoner who has to take
The Blitz 'nach hause' but keep the boys safe -
A soft spot under the dragon's wing.

As I turn in tonight, I watch the stars
And think of my wife who was here
Three short weeks ago in Silecroft -
Black Combe walks, beer at the Miner's Arms.

We have no son - only a daughter at home,
Who shelters snuggled with Meg and her cigs,
As the streets of Loughton shake and flicker
From the raids of the beasts' distant kin.

Dear God, keep them safe this night
And at the rising of the sun
Engrave our hopes in what's foreshadowed
As we trace across the steel-grey sea.

Topic(s) of this poem: war

Poet's Notes about The Poem

On my father's last evening 13th October 1943 before he died in a training exercise in Royal Airforce Bomber Command 8 months before I was born on 9th June 1944

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, July 24, 2014

Poem Edited: Thursday, July 24, 2014

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