Saturday, April 09, 2016

At Last.

I can no longer visit Holland for the Arnhem Pilgrimage. I decided to  put the poems on my Blog the originals had pictures that I took during the visits but they would not copy over with the text. In any case they would have inflated the size of the posting. I did put the picture from the cover of the anthology though. 
An Arnhem Anthology.

               The War and Remembrance Poetry of

             Ben Grader AKA Derek Lilly

Written over the years between 2000 to 2014 during visits to Arnhem & the Oosterbeek War cemeteries & the German War cemetery at Deurne. I was not there myself but I have heard stories from many veterans.

“You may do as you wish but I will soldier no more” 
Unknown soldier Napoleonic War

"I am sick and tired of war —- Its Glory is all moonshine
War is Hell"
General Sherman







                                              An apology

I was privileged to know a couple of Arnhem Veterans very well, Mervyn “Gilly” Potter and Eric “Butch” Thorne.  From what I was told by them over the years I pieced together many of the things that happened during the operation Market Garden.

My own service in Holland began in September ’44 in Eindhoven and Helmond in Brabant. I had made friends there during the ‘44-45 winter and had mentioned that I would like to ‘one day’ perhaps visit, to see them again.

In 1999 I was told there were seats on the coach for the Arnhem Pilgrimage run by the Thanet Branch of the PRA. I was told by Mervyn  “If you don’t go now you know you will never go” so I made the first of many visits with that group. 

A couple of Dutch friends took me down to Helmond where they had arranged for me to receive unexpectedly, the Helmond Liberation Medal and the kindness I had from that visit sticks in my memory still.

A year later Ernst had made contact with one of the sons of the family I knew and took me down to see him and his wife. On the way back to Oosterbeek we stopped to see the German cemetery near Deurne. As I explained below that poem I had not written poetry for a long time but the emotional “explosion” I received kick started me into writing once again.

Each Arnhem Pilgrimage visit since has seen a few poems added to the folder. I write them as though I myself had been there because emotionally I use memories I have heard from the veterans I have talked to.

I would like to make it clear that I am in no way an Arnhem Veteran myself, although perhaps the way in which I have written might make it seems as though I am. I did my service via D Day in Normandy up through to Schleswig Holstein and saw many things that had a very great effect on the 20 year old that I was. A very naïve country lad gullible and inexperienced 

Anyone that wishes is welcome to freely use or quote from these poems. If used an acknowledgement to the author will be appreciated.


derek.lilly@btinternet.com



The German Cemetery Deurne

In green Dutch fields - in silent rows
the crosses stand at Deurne
mute sacrifices to a madman's whim.
Some, fledglings, snatched from the cradle
then, brainwashed by a subtle propaganda
were willing victims - some were unwilling
yet, unable to protest, knowing what fate
awaited them should they rebel
were victims too.
But all bear evidence in their mass,
to the futility of war.
So if somewhere there is a fool
who speaks of conquest, as a glorious thing,
please - let them look at Deurne
and then think again.

Ben Grader  16-09-2000

I had not written poetry for about 20 years when I was taken by a Dutch friend to see the German War Cemetery at Deurne. The youngest that I saw buried there was 17 years old, the oldest was 80. It made such an impression on me that it kick-started my writing again.
This was what boiled up in my mind.




Aftermath.
We have seen, without the danger, men descend,
dangling beneath a silken shroud.
The morning was not wet, as years ago,
the sun shone down in kindly blessing,
there were no threatening guns. No enemy,
to greet them as they did in years gone by.
The ‘Vets’ in orange - jumping in pairs ,
were welcomed with applause not ominous death.
No S.S. men to shoot them, or field grey,
of foes prepared to blast them down.
Only a crowd with joyous memory
of liberation in those far off days,
and still remembering with a sense of joy,
the jubilation of deliverance.

Ben Grader September 22nd 2001




Challenge to youth
I am an old man now, but I am lucky
for I live. So many of my age group died
Dutch, British, and Americans with others too.
You may say, and many will, that, "War is Evil".
I agree with all my heart and soul
but worse than war, is subjugation by a foreign power
oppression underneath dictatorship. All freedom lost
even the freedom to be wrong; and yet
have liberty to say things still.
And so what will you have
a meek subservience to Jackboot Law?
or will you have the bravery, to say, as we did
"Evil is wrong, we’ll not accept, oppression
In any form or guise
Even to giving up our lives at need."
and in so doing, making sure that others
might be free, of forced subjection
Lose their liberty, beneath a conqueror’s foot.
For some men’s nature; though ‘tis not ideal
is to impose their power on others.
Could there be a perfect world, ‘twere well
but this is not to be; as Burns has said
"Man’s inhumanity to man", a phrase
that sums up my whole argument
and puts it, better; than I could at any time.
For today’s youth has never
seen the facts
but only heard, through history
what we had faced, when we
gave up our youth, our teenage years for you
the generations yet to come.
Are you in turn, prepared to do the same
for future generations in their need?


Ben Grader September 19th, 2001



The Bitter Prayers
We met there at a clearing in the trees
a bare two hundred metres side to side.
The path that ran down through the heart
dividing up the crosses on each flank.
Our comrades lay in perfect line
and row on row, with here and there
a name we recognised, a face recalled
When was the last time we had talked?
only for them to fall to death’s grim scythe.
How had they failed to make the break
as we did? Was he the one whose body
dead already, had saved me from a certain death
from mortar blast? Or had he been the one I carried
in my arms, already deadly wounded, bleeding fast
into the aid post at the nearby house?
Here is a name I well recall, our section humorist
where is his laughter now? His crazy shout
of ‘Wo-o-o-ho-o-o Mahomed’ from the line
rallying companions to a bitter stand
until supplies ran out. Then, we retreated
house by house, and road by road.
Until in dead of night, a river flowing fast
some got to safety on a further shore.
Those days have gone, yet memory recalls
a dozen instances or more, of long departed friends
near sixty years ago, back in the distant days.
Away in the golden years of youth.


Ben Grader Monday, 24 September 2001  



Amersfoort

 

The wire has gone – the chains remain – in memory

the tower stands, reminding of the days,
so remote now, but still retained in minds
of those who suffered here so many years ago.
Their numbers thin, and generations now forget
what happened to their fellows in the past.
Here symbols still stand, and can recall to mind
those frightful days, the winter of starvation, bitter cold;
extermination camps, a liberation try – which failed
but yet brought hope, and thoughts of better days to come.

Ben Grader September 2002




In Memories

 

In our memories you will remain

and we will gather in remembrance.
Each year as Autumn comes
we will recall your sacrifice.
We will meet in this green place
and commemorate the days
when you paid with your young lives
to free us from tyranny.
You failed but still it gave us hope
that one day soon
Holland would be free again.

Ben Grader September 2002




Remembrance

The children still remember tho’ they were not there
but from their parents, memories have been passed on
of that September morn, when on a misty day
the ‘chutes had drifted down, and liberators came.

Now on a Sunday morning, with flowers in their hands
they pay respects to those who died in noble cause
and veterans too have come to see the graves
of comrades who had died so many years ago.

Over the ages Father Time has made his toll
the ranks are thinning now as he has reaped
a sacrifice, and numbers are reduced
the youngest stripling then, approaching eighty now.

Now on command the children move, placing the flowers
on the graves they tend with care.
A sadness overcomes them and some weep
recalling parent’s words, of sacrifice in vain.

Hard were the battles in those autumn days
as street by street they fought a bitter war
outnumbered, and outgunned, they still held on
only to find no re-enforcement’s come.

Their dream of freedom may have gone
but still the Dutch civilians gave what aid they could.
The injured taken in, their wounds were dressed
and comfort given to those whose need was great.

Then in the aftermath they hid them from the foe
and helped them to escape when they were well
until in after-year they could return, to give them
in a time to come, again, true liberty at last.

Ben Grader Oosterbeek 2002

The 58th Year

So once again the time has come

to pay respects to brothers gone;
we were the lucky ones, who came out whole
unscathed in all save minds; which still recall
the former battles of those long-gone days
in nightmare dreams, which come to us at times.

In them we see our comrades fall:
yet we in bullet showers remain unhurt.
The fairest of the forest ever go the first;
while we, the duller plods are left behind.
And still, the people flock in hundreds on the day
to give their thanks for liberation in the past

Even the very trees appear to mourn;
as errant leaves, moved by a vagrant breeze
scatter across the service as they sing;
and we who came today, will not forget
our friends who died so many years ago;
that all might live in freedom once again.

Ben Grader Oosterbeek 2002






Again

Once more we meet on Hallowed Ground
though years have passed, our memories stay undimmed
our comrades died in battle’s heat, yet still
the sacrifice they made is not forgotten as the years go by.

They gave their lives for others’ liberty
a “War to end all wars”, yet strife goes on
for liberty cannot be cheaply bought
but must be purchased time and time again.

Always the lesson must be learned anew,
the bitter struggle to ensure, that freedom,
though it’s thought by some, not to be worth fighting for
is passed unfettered to our nations youth.

One tyrant dies, or is removed, another takes their place,
dictatorship imposed by force, ensures a country’s misery.
Only when Nations’ United in full unity, not just in name
will act as one, can freedom have true meaning in the world.



BenGrader September 2003



Faith
Another year has passed, we stand once more, beside the stones,
our ranks are thinner now, as age has reaped its toll.
Still we keep faith with comrades now long gone.
Long gone, but not forgotten are those days
the ready comrade-ship of friends we lost.
Although they gave their lives for freedoms sake
sometimes it seems a sacrifice in vain.
A liberty too dearly bought, the price too high
scorned by some peoples of today;
yet were it not for us, where would they be?
if generations there should be at all.
Dictatorship from left or right must be opposed
freedoms most precious gift, the principal
to speak out as we will with no restraint
must be maintained, no matter what the cost.

Ben Grader 2004

I Had a Friend

I had a friend at Amersfoort his age like mine a bare eighteen;

we had gone to school together, knew each others families.
Ours was a friendship that had stood the pace.
Then he went on, to Bergen-Belsen; I was left behind;
and so I lived, while he had died. Exterminated like a pest
in spite of victory so close. I ask myself ‘Why was it done?’
but get no answer that makes sense to me.
Now each autumn as the acorns drop, I still return
and place a rose in memory on the memorial.
I find I can no longer hate the ruthlessness, which happened here;
age has softened my relentless animosity, yet I remember still.

I had a friend at Amersfoort his age like mine, a bare eighteen.

Ben Grader October 2004

A few years ago when visiting we were taken to see the Amersfoort Concentration Camp Museum and memorial and I was struck by the fact that someone had placed roses for remembrance on the memorial slab. I had seen the Bergen-Belsen camp just after it had been liberated and the sight still lingers in my memory even today. When I came upon a picture which I had taken at Amersfoort it set my mind working and I tried to place myself in the mind of the person who had put the roses there.
I Had a Friend’ was the result. Derek. AKA Ben Grader



Oosterbeek the 60th year

 

The Warriors have all been laid to rest

their chariots now slowly rust away
and we, the ones who only linger on
have come once more to pay them our respects.

We too are drawing to the close of life
our vital spirits slowly ebb away,
Sixty long years have passed us since the day
we dropped at Ginkel Heath to liberate.

We landed on a dull September morn
our gliders filled the skies like clouds of flies
our parachutes pale shapes against the clouds
we entered into action right away.

And now the halt, the lame, the aged vets
stand on a Sunday morn at Oosterbeek.
The comrades still in memory remain
the names on stone still etched in memory plain.

So we remember for one final time
before we too reduce to dust at last
the friends we lost so many years ago
in that adventure in an early age.

Ben Grader September 2004





War Cemetery.

He saw the many stones, and then the tears
coursed slowly down his cheeks, and when they asked
“Why do you weep?” He said with softened voice,
“I weep for lads cut down in youths full flower,
I weep for all the stark futility
the very inhumanity of war;
even the thought of killing fellow man
repels me, is against my way of life.
Yet when the clarion call stirs up my blood
I can become as one with them myself.
So did I weep – because I realise
I am as bad as those that I condemn.”



Ben Grader September 2004



Pilgrimage



September comes around again
we turn our thoughts to journeying
Once more we visit where our comrades lie;
our numbers dwindle steadily and now
we wonder will this be the final time.
The troubled world still boils with heated wars
as terror factions wage their petty spite;
so was the sacrifice they made in vain?
was it a wastage of their precious blood?



Ben Grader September 2005




 Service

Sunday has come, the sun shines brightly down
the silent crowds, gather in multitudes.
The children flock with flowers in their hands;
and on the word place them upon the graves.

Traces of frost still show upon the grass,
but colder still, is the dank earth; the graves
in which our comrades lie. And we have come
to honour them today, with our Dutch friends.

They fought away from country — far from home
nor could they go back, at the battle’s end.
But we will carry Poland’s banner high
to proclaim still our love of liberty.



Ben Grader 18th September 2005





Visit 2005


We have visited again and seen the stones
The flowers grow, rich in their colours;
The close cropped grass is smooth,
silence is broken only by the birds.

We will come again on Sunday
when the crowds turn up in numbers.
They will celebrate the time sixty-one years ago
when the try was made to liberate

Children will place flowers of remembrance;
as they do each year; Dutch people do not forget
as some other nations do. They still
remember although sixty years have passed.


Ben Grader September 14th 2005


We WILL Remember.


The sun gleams golden through the leafy trees;

the carven’d stones are lined in many rows;

Music plays quietly as the mourners sing,

it is September come around once more.


Our comrades died in battles chaos heat

yet we remember as we said we would.
Each year infirmity will claim more lives;
but we will visit ‘til we too are dust.

They gave young lives for freedom’s sake. Shall we
forget the sacrifice they made? Oh No !
We WILL remember them as they lie here;
in quiet peace for which they gave their all

Ben Grader September 2005







Memories.

The smell of new-cut grass refreshing as
the scent of new-laid dust in summer shower
assails our nose as we go through the gates
where they prepare the lawns for Sundays prayers.

The blossoms grow in colour beside the stones
with maybe here and there a special plant,
which was perhaps a favourite flower at home.
Tears that were shed so many years ago
have all dried up; but memories don’t fade.
Death was the final outrage visited
upon the victims lying here in peace
and we will not forget though years may pass
our fellow squaddies from our army days.






Ben Grader September 2006






Time passes.

The time goes by; summer is gone too soon
and once again September comes around;
numbers have dwindled fast and few are left
the stripling youths of sixty years ago
are now old men whose years are nearly done,
we too will soon be dust and buried deep.
Our youths today no longer seem to care
but still in Oosterbeek each year, they mourn
and yet our countrymen, whose family’s blood
was shed, have all too soon forgotten it.
Material acquisition fills their minds
so was the sacrifice our comrades made
a vain attempt to clear the world of sin
which all too fast sprang back despite the war
as evil spreads again throughout the world.

Ben Grader September 2006

This poem is dedicated to Dennis & Debby Bovet of Den Haag Holland, who organised a concert to raise funds that helped to defray our travelling expenses to the Arnhem Pilgrimage in September 2006. The Dutch people remember what often, our own countrymen do their best to forget.

 



Why.

Life is so short already, why are some    
cut off so early from their course of days?    
They say with all sincerity that God    
takes first the ones that he loves best, to rest.
But what of those the loved one’s left behind    
a life of sadness is their daily fate;    
they must rely on happy memories    
to reconcile them, till their time is come.    
Or are we thrown in nature’s riddle, to sift    
and sort us into sheep, and goats, and size.
Is it mere chance that takes us to our death?    
a coin that’s flipped, a dice that’s cast aside?
There must be something more than empty space    
our spirit goes to when we close our eyes.
‘Twould be so cruel to torment us in life    
if we could not meet them in after days.
             

Ben Grader September 2006

he Sunday Service
The crowds are gathering, the seating fills;
the sky is clear, not like the day
they landed on the heath, weather was fickle then.

But they were young, and danger just a thrill;
The thought of death did not occur
until they saw their comrades fall
brought down by random fire

They fought, they did their best
only to fail – and then
they made it to the riverbank and boats
though some died on the shore.

Now on a Sunday morn, in Oosterbeek
Dutch children lay the flowers on the graves
and will their children too bring flowers in their turn?

Ben Grader 21st September 2008



The 64th Year

Captains and privates side by side
rank makes no difference here;
many are just “A soldier of the war -
Known only unto God”

Stones stand in stiff and regular rows;
grass is cut fine in paths between.
Flowers are placed in favoured spots
and visitors pace the hallowed grounds

On Sunday crowds will gather here
Dutch children will bring flowers once more;
each year the service for the dead
repeats to show the thanks they hold.

Today we visit, poppies in berets;
and crosses in our hands;
we can in private grieve for friends we lost
who vanished a lifetime in the past.

Ben Grader 17th September 2008.



The Visitor
I strolled along a street in Oosterbeek
and I was asked by many a resident
“Did you come here in 1944,
to liberate us from the German Reich?”
I said each time “Why no!  I was not here
I paid my visit to Holland in the South
I was in Brabant not in Gelderland.
It is not me that you should seek to praise;
I did not parachute to Ginkel Heath
Nor did I strive with 30 Corps in vain
to reach the bridge that Colonel Frost had held”
And yet, they shook my hand and said “You came,
so now we welcome your return to us.”


Ben Grader 17th September 2008.






65 years on.

So now we are away, this the last year
our visits now are done and we will go no more.
65 years have passed since the eventful day
the operation doomed to fail, no matter what the bravery
of those who surpassed mortal courage
’Till to say the simple words
“I was there” is testament enough.

Now we stand in reverie amongst the stones
recalling friends long gone, long gone, but not forgotten
though their faces dim over the years
we still remember those that died
Our numbers yearly drop, as age conducts its toll
The youngest ‘babes’ at Arnhem,
now old men of eighty years and more.

BenGrader September 2009





Flowers in the wind.

‘Tis Sunday and once more the children come
with flowers in their hands
Sunflowers bright, to lighten dirt-dark graves
Black Eyed Susan daisies to stand against the stones.
Children whose parents were not born then
but who will carry the observance down,
and then in turn will pass the message on
to their children in due course.
And so it goes one generation to another;
tradition passes down from school to school
and family to family, for they will not forget.



Ben Grader September 2009.






Memorials

So often overlooked they stand in gardens here and there,
the simple words of thanks in carven stone.
“To the men of X troop or company
who valiantly stood until the last”
They will not forget though years may pass
your sacrifice was not in vain.
You gave them hope they would be free again
until at last the oppressor’s yoke was gone
and they could celebrate with no more fear.
So now when the surviving vets return
they welcome you with all the due acclaim.

Ben Grader September 2009






To the Children of Gelderland.

Each year they give their time and holding flowers
they come once more, up to the lines of standing stones.
The Sunday morning service – may be long – but patiently
they wait until the time has come, to lay their blossoms
on the graves of those, who sacrificed their lives
for freedom; oh so many years ago.
Myself, I was not there at Ginkel Heath, I was in Brabant
yet I appreciate the memories, that still hold fast.
We veterans dwindle now as age, relentlessly,
and yearly, cuts our numbers down, until one day,
there will be one surviving vet; left as the lonely last.
Newspapers will plug the fact - to boost their sales
not really caring; yet in Gelderland, I wonder if the children
set and strong, will still bring flowers to a Sunday service,
to commemorate the battle long ago. I do not doubt,
the memory lives strong today and so the passing years
will not dilute the service to the ones, that gave their lives,
although in vain, to break the oppressor’s yoke.


Ben Grader September 2009




Flowers in the Wind (2)
Sunday has come; — we stand in silence;
the congregation mourns the loss of friends.
Here they lie with others in the graves
white tombstones to commemorate their regiments
The rows are straight, and marked
with greensward borders in between.
Immaculately kept as on parade
with all in place and none astray
And now the children come with flowers;
roses for remembrance, and colours bright.
They stand before the graves, and on the signal
place their offerings on the ground
Each year they have done this in memory
passed down by parents who have done before.
And so tradition has passed on by family
and carried on for over sixty years.

Ben Grader September 2010



Remembering.

The seats are empty -- chairs unfilled
Sunday will see the crowds attend.
Our comrades lie here in the earth
they did not choose; nor did they want
the fate that brought them to their end.
For no man craves a hero’s death
They were just lads and few of them
had really entered into life,
before they found a sudden stop
to future dreams of happiness.
Here they lie; but nor forgotten
each year they are remembered every day
and now in Oosterbeek the folk
still show that they appreciate
the sacrifices made for Holland’s freedom.

Ben Grader September 2010



The Pilgrimage

Where are they now the Heroes?
as once more we journey forth
on pilgrimage to commemorate their sacrifice
before we too will join them in the ground
Folk say: and it is true “Old age comes not alone”
each year sees some drop out as Death’s scythe
takes its toll, and numbers lessen yet still,
we do our best to visit and keep faith
In our minds we can cast back remembering
the comradeship that grew between us
as we served, Faces grow dim but characters
still register until we can recall them true to life.


Ben Grader September 2010




Flowers in the Wind – 3

Patiently they wait; the voice drones on
flowers in their hands the children had filed in
a full five minutes before. When will it be the time
to hold the bouquets in the air to mass applause?
At last the word is given, triumphantly they rise their arms
The congregation greets the move with praise.
Then as one child, they put the flowers down
Each has a grave to place the offering on.
Roses for remembrance or daisies bright
At last the job is done until next year
when other schools will take the duty on
a yearly tribute done with pride and joy.


Ben Grader     September 2011

Stone next to stone.
Stone next to stone; and row on row
names immaterial, some unknown.
The place immaculate, grounds neatly kept
All are united their purpose fulfilled.

Each year we, the survivors: dwindle;
as death whittles us down.
Now at last we can no longer visit
old age and brittle bones have won the fight.

For we are not immortal like the Grecian heroes
Hercules, Perseus, Theseus: who live forever.
time is coming soon for us,
to fold our tents and gently fade away.

Soon we too will be just memories
Like “Do you remember so and so?
He passed away last year
a merciful release his mind had gone”

Will we find that death is merciful to us?
Though it is certain, make it quick.
The thought of dying day by day
is punishment indeed.

 

Ben Grader        September 2011


Thursday
We enter through the gates, to pay respects to those that fell
although ‘twas long ago our comrades lie in quiet and peace.
And all is perfect in this wooded glade where stones stand row on row.

Today is still, Sunday will bring the crowds, as thousands gather here.
Now we can in loneliness and ease, search among the graves
and look for names of our old friends, who perished many years ago.

A wooden cross, stuck in the soil before the naming stone;
will show that they were not forgotten through the passing years.
Sunday the children will places flowers here, as they have done before

Year after year tradition follows on, the schools in turn taking the duty over.
In Gelderland, the memories are kept, and each year acknowledgement is made.
Unlike some nations where they soon forgot, the Dutch keep up their memory.





Ben Grader   September 2011






The Reichswald Cemetery

Young men’s lives are precious, so many years to lose.
Now they lie here beneath the headstones, in silent dignity,
Did they have an easy death? A quiet exit?
No-one will know, always the telegram would say,
“Died for his country, on active service.”
No mention of the suffering that went before,
The agony of shattered limbs, or grievous wounds.
for war is not compassionate, it is the opposite;
sheer violent destruction no matter how ‘twas caused.
The armchair warriors who cry  “Onward to glory men”
whilst sitting in comfort back at home themselves
should try a bayonet charge or two, stabbing out
not peasant soldiers guts, but politicians from the opposing side.
Then they could keep the glory for their own,
theirs: the power they had won; if they survived.



Ben Grader    September 2011







Flowers in the Wind –4

So we went and listened to the talk
the crowd turned up as usual the weather cloudy, but no rain.
And then the children came, with flowers in their hands
each year the schools, following precedent, bring blossoms
to enrich the graves with colour. Roses and daises, Sunflowers bright.
They wait in patience till the word comes forth, then they step forward
and each stone receives its beneficence, This has followed down
over the years since liberation, and I think will carry on in perpetuity.



Ben Grader September 22nd 2012.






Service

It’s Sunday and once more we go to service
our numbers lessen year by year
We meet friends here that we have not seen
since last year, when we met again

Will they be here this time? Or maybe
they too have passed away.
The stripling youths of many years ago
now in their nineties or approaching it

While those of who were of middle-age,
if they survive, have helpers
that will see them through the journey
long though it may be

The chairs are more this year, yet still
as long as family can give support
or friends can travel with us to assist,
we oldsters will attend, until
we too are down below as dust.


Ben Grader Sept 22nd 2012




Old Age

Quickly the days fly past, September comes around again
Our steps are more unsteady now. Years have rolled by
since 1944. Slowly,  in faltering steps we pick our way
between the stones where former comrades lie.
Memories grow dim, but we remember yet
as though ‘twere yesterday, and can still
bring to our eyes their faces. Can recall,
the accents of the country lads amongst them.
Now whilst we linger on, the years still trickling past
we venture once again upon our Pilgrimage.
Our yearly journey that we willingly
go forth upon, with year succeeding year
Until one day, we too, will join them
no matter where their spirits are.
Either in heaven above or down below
whatever fate has cast us for our deeds in life.
No mater which way, we will find companionship
as we had once before. We were a well assorted crowd
came from all walks of civvy life. But mixed in well
and in those heady days of battle did our best.
And though our best was not to grant us victory
neither did defeat blacken our name
for we, in those short days, set out a challenge
“We will win; eventually, Victory will be ours”

Ben Grader September 2012





Flowers in the wind – 5

For sixty-eight years they have done it
and still they carry it on
and when we veterans cease to be
each year the children from the schools of Gelderland
will lay their flowers by the stones
in recognition of the sacrifice.


“Flowers in the Wind” they call it
Is it a labour? No ! it is a deed of thanks
to those who died so others lived in freedom
and that generations yet to be born
could live as citizens of Holland
and not beneath Jack-booted feet.

Ben Grader September 2013




Flowers in the Wind – 6
The time goes by, age brings infirmity
yet still we try to visit every year.
Midweek we gather at the hallowed place
our visit private; just for us alone

On Sunday when the service will be held
the crowds will gather; and the children bring
flowers of remembrance, daises and sunflowers
scattered among the stones of those that fell

Well might it be called “Flowers in the Wind”
as children from the many schools arrive
year after year, with blossoms in their hands
placing them with reverence before the graves.

And this has happened every year
and still goes on; nor will it cease to be
in honour bound by human faith alone
for Gelderlanders don’t forget the past.

Ben Grader September 2013



The Arnhem Pilgrimage

The time has come and we must go, our pilgrimage is over
each year we have paid tribute at the graves,
planting our crosses by the stones
Each year our bodies have become, more tired, more frail
Will we last out until the seventieth year?
only the Lord knows or can tell.
But we have done our duty as we see it
We have traveled hundreds of miles in the years
to visit old companions as they lie in peace
in this green field we have come to know so well
We have joined the Sunday congregation
we have sung the hymns and said the prayers
Soon it will be the time that they are sung and said for us.


Ben Grader September 2013





Day—dreams.
Sometimes, when half asleep and half awake
my memories take me, back to those heady days
confusion and the feel of things gone wrong.
What did we do? We carried on and made
the best of it. Though on a losing side we did not shirk
we tried our best and caution went
we fought as best we could and did not hesitate
to face the enemy; continuing with our task,
but then the weather turned against us
our pocket lost supplies, Those that were dropped
drifted into the hands of our opponents.
Some of us reached the river and the boats
manned by Canadian ‘Sappers’, lifted us
and got us safely to the river’s other bank
Now we return to venerate, in Sunday’s service
those that died in battle in a land then strange
but now, it’s full of friends that join with us
to mourn our comrades who have passed before.

Ben Grader September 2013



Ginkel Heath
The ‘chutes drift down at Ginkel Geath
as Dutch folk celebrate
a happening of many year ago.
The crowds have gathered in the morning hours
Children and grown-ups too rejoice
applauding when they drop and rach the ground.

Veterans are welcomed with open arms
and hands are shaken in enthusiastic joy
although the past is so remote
memories are kept alive as though ‘twere yesterday
instead of almost seventy years ago

Each year the crowds seem larger to my wondering brain;
my eyes take in yet cannot fully grasp the numbers.
Families arrive with children that can barely walk
determined they will celebrate in full

Will this go on forever? I do not doubt
Dutch people don’t forget as other nations do
I expect in Nijmegen, the “Screaming Eagles”
Find the same, a welcome back
and many thanks for what they did in war.

Ben Grader September 2013



Inheritance Flowers in the Wind 7

I was a stripling lad of twenty years
the time this happened seventy years ago.
At ninety now my ageing bones and frame
will call a halt to travelling for this day.
and other, older veterans, have died.

We pass to you, the folk of Netherlands
the memory of our comrades lying here.
Over the years your caring does not fade
but we must leave it now to younger hands.

Back in those days some gave their all, their lives
for freedoms sake, for you, the ones to come.
Now in safe hands your children celebrate
by laying flowers on the many graves.

And in this peaceful glade, this cemetery
as autumn comes, you’ll gather still in time.
As leaves begin to fall upon the graves
each year, as memory holds fast with faith
that lasts perpetually, in Dutch folks hearts.



Ben Grader 2014

The pilgrimage - 3

Over the years our numbers have decreased
and few are left of the original throng
our travelling now at over 90 years
becomes more difficult as time has passed

So we have now, to end our pilgrimage
this the last one of seventy years
although in spirit we will visit still
to where our comrades lie in ordered rows.

Memories hold fast and do not die
it seems like yesterday at times
though things that happened recently
have vanished from our minds in only days

Now on this last event, this final visit
we can ponder, “How long before we too
will join the company?” Age is relentless
Soon the time will come for us.




Ben Grader Sept 2014





Conclusion.

The time has come for me to end my visits
As Mathew says; Though I am willing yet,
my flesh is weak. I can no longer manage
all the journeying, but my heart is here.

As each September comes my spirit
will return to where our comrades rest.
This peaceful haven with its rows of stones
set ‘neath the shade of ever graceful trees.

And as our Dutch friends celebrate
the happening of many years ago
perhaps I too will soar to heaven above
as the hymns pour forth in praise.





Ben Grader 2014


My Testament.



And now my tale is done, my song is sung
I can no longer visit there, I am
too old for distant journeying, and soon
I too will be as them, a body husk
mouldering away beneath the grassy turf.

Casting my mind back to those early years
just what can I recall of D–Day?
Waiting, waiting, waiting offshore until
at last ‘twas time for us to land in turn.

Lorries and trailers, swung on cargo lines
lowered to the ‘Rhino’ that waits below.
The journey to the shore, a quiet one
a landing made at wheel depth, that’s all.

A waterproofing strip to free the gunk
they plastered on before we loaded up.
Then via Gripper’s Cross on to our base
it was a village called Villiers-le-Sec..

Then we went on through France
so many places I just can’t recall
Save one: and that was Falaise slaughter house
where Typhoons caught the German troops.

On and on again we moved
a move, a stop, then move again.
‘Till we reached Belgium, there
a place called Hal, outside of Brussels

I remember that, there we played football
with the local team, and drank their celebration beer.
Then on again to Valkensward
in Holland for a shortened stay

Then to Hellmond and we wintered there
before we crossed the border via Kleve.
then Goch – Xanten saw us cross the Rhine

Rheine itself was on our way to Enschade

Here we worked a while restoring lines
the enemy had sabotaged and made them good.
On to Osnabruck and then on again
To Hanover where Wunstorf was our home

Then we moved to Soltau where we camped
in the arena’s woodlands for a while
‘Twas here we saw the tragedy of Bergen Belsen
taken there to view the awful sight

I can still re-call it now at times and too,
the smell of death that lingered in the place.
Yet there are fools today denying
that these places ever were.

Then as the war had ended we went up
to Shleswig an der Shlei and there we stopped
until the postings out began
and I took up my wanderings again.

They ask me
““Who are you?”
and I reply
“I am a wordsmith
Words come into my mind
and I hammer them out” 

14326310 Ex Driver Lilly D.B.
20 Construction Section
No 1 Company
11th Air Formation Signals
BAOR









Post a Comment