My part in the war

I think my time in the cadet force
can safely be ignored,
I doubt me in a uniform
did much to promote a war.
I did clean and fire a rifle
and I got to fly,
but none of those activities
caused anyone to die.

The same cannot be said when later on,
I plated gold on navigation aids* –
some were for the military
to guide them on their raids.
I don’t know what craft they went in
or what damage they inflicted,
I was in a low-paid job
so my insight was restricted.

Some years later I was back
loading stuff into a vat
of cyanide and caustic soda
and other chemicals like that.
There were few skills I could claim
to get me paid work once again,
but this time the coating would be zinc
to stop them rusting in the rain.

One of the commonest jobs we did
were boxes like lawnmowers used to carry,
but these held machine-gun ammunition
for England, St George and King Harry!
They went on armoured cars and tanks
to ensure a constant state of flow
of bullets to mow down the ranks
of whatever enemy might show.

They were a bastard job to do
because the slot was just too tight
for much metal to get through –
we struggled hard to get it right.
I doubt my colleagues gave a toss
for what became of all our labours.
They never thought what it might cost
if they were used to kill our neighbours.

No more did I, if truth be told,
but disliked the idea that I played
any part in the destruction
those weapons may have made.
It shows how hard it is for us to know
what the products of our work are for
when so much of our industry
is in the business of equipping war.

rs 8.11.18