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Monday's Poem

John McMahon was born and raised in Northern Ireland. He was a delivery boy for a Belfast grocery store when he joined the Royal Air Force.

He was shot down in Holland, the plane's only survivor. Hidden by a Dutch family, he eventually became a German prisoner of war. The story of his gruelling two years in Stalag VIIIB in eastern Germany is told in his book Almost A Lifetime.

A long march in 1945, led by the German soldiers, forced a physical collapse and he was left to die. A German civilian found him and delivered him to medical aid, thus saving his life.

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© 2008 John McMahon

Young Men and Flying Gear

They were young and so was I
we had volunteered to fly.
Jacko, our skipper, who was twenty-seven
maintained that he would keep us out of heaven.

There was Al and Alex and Murray and Murray 2
and then Dinny the Canuck to complete the crew.
Of course me, Paddy Mac, was in that count
Because a Lancaster crew was seven no doubt.

Now count again, that's only six
someone's not good at arithmetic.
Oh we forgot young Chovers, he's nineteen years
our mid-upper gunner, as yet no need to shave.

We flew in sunshine above the clouds.
We flew in rain with floods on the ground.
We flew at night on training flights
just proud to be part of air force might.

We talked to each other about ourselves
sometimes we let flow the fears in our heads
but we were young and carefree too
believing we were the crew to get through.

Crews flew out and returned no more
soon we ignored it and stopped keeping score.
But those questions in our conscious minds
Were they dead, maimed or in prison confined?

We listened to stories of flak and shell
some said it was like flying into hell.
There were searchlights bright as the sun's own light
and the Luftwaffe in the sky ready to fight.

Now training over, we were ready to go
seven more young men to enter the flow.
Winged youthful gladiators on a course to the foe
they penetrated enemy night skies to deliver their blow.

But Christmas bells rang loud and clear
and seemed to say peace to all and good cheer.
Those Merlin engines ceased to rev
and the bombs were put away to bed.

The snow lay deep upon the ground
like a blanket muffling air base sounds.
Its robes of white stopped runway's use
as if to say "I called this truce.

This is the time of peace and goodwill
so guns of death I will still
and let's remember those who flew out each day
never to return with us to stay.

To those young crews who take their place
my blanket of white will you embrace.
Now dance and sing, enjoy this interlude of peace
for soon war's horror will again be released.

I must go now before it's too late
cause soon I'll melt and dissipate
great war machines and young men and flying gear
will race down lighted runways to disappear."

We had our dancing, we had our time
and Christmas faded down the line.
Then Jacko came and said with a grin
"We're on tonight, you've had your fling."

So a great war machine waited to clear
then with the youthful crew and flying gear
it raced down the runway and disappeared
never to return again.

My six flying comrades were soon all dead.
With a parachute, a miracle, I was saved.
In enemy-claimed soil I knelt and prayed
to that other great pilot my thanks I said.


Dedicated to my flying pals, so very long ago

Flight Lieut. Jackson, R.A. age 27
Flying Officer Dunand, E.J. age 25
Pilot Officer Lane, A.W. age 22
Flight Sergeant Magder A.M. age 21
Sergeant Clover, A.G. age 19
Sergeant Alexander, A. W. age 22