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Poetry of Direct Personal Experience
Our Collection of Aviation and Military Poetry

Watching the Lancasters Return
David Lockyer

We watch the Lancs leaving to clout Germany

Crewed by nothing more hostile than mortality

The engines sound sweet, the weather’s on our side

But no one is going just for the ride.


We are the repair boys, the ones left behind

Responsible for fixing any shambles we find

From twisted and riddled to buckled and bent

For returning to airworthy every shrapnel shaped dent.


We’ve given our all beyond sleep and fatigue

Checking our planes are not out of their league

Never knowing if we’re working by sun or by moon.

Just get the job done and get it done soon.


But the time we mechanics hate more than exhaustion

When the hours have dragged and nerves start to crack

Is when our thoughts turn to losses, our missing and dead

As we check the horizon and count fewer specs back.


We’ve serviced their chances with the kit of our skills

Tried not to add to any Messerschmitt kills

With faults of our making like a nut left undone

That stops a propeller or jams up a gun.


Now they trundle away, taxi and take off

Navigate to targets a long way from here

We stay on the ground with their shadows

And watch the last plane disappear.


Joking and hopeful, doubting and afraid

Clinging to uncertainty in the brief of the raid

Placing their lives in the sky like balloon skins

Where a sudden cut of the cards your-turn-has-come wins.


For the time we mechanics hate more than exhaustion

When the hours have dragged and nerves start to crack

Is when our thoughts turn to losses, our missing and dead

As we check the horizon and count fewer specs back.


You can’t stop foreboding from flickering flames

From wondering if your lot are already remains

Or tumbling to the terror of eternity screams

Or being turned in one hit to hot smithereens.


Whether solemn or cheerful or spry Jack-the-Lad

Inevitably some die and some wish that they had

Blistered and blackened beyond love or care

Yet clinging to life with no life to spare.


We watch the Lancs come, like birds from migration

All fuel spent, stark visions to blind

The lucky ones finger the charms of their luck

Try not to remember the ones left behind.


This is the time we mechanics hate more than exhaustion

When the hours have dragged and nerves start to crack

When our thoughts turn to losses, to our missing and dead

As we check the horizon and count fewer specs back.


As each speck becomes the Lanc. shape we know well,

As the aircraft approach and identify crews,

From the damage and gaps in their numbers,

We work out the not-returning bad news.


And the last plane back drags a hole in its wake

Fills the sky with an ominous drone

Don’t wait upon prayers or hope any more

The fallen are not coming home.


Seven more faces we’ll not see around

Seven more family’s telegram disbelief.

Seven more fliers who’ll never touch down

Seven more families beginning their grief.


It’s the time we mechanics hate more than exhaustion

When the hours have dragged and nerves start to crack

When our thoughts turn to losses, our missing and dead

As we check the horizon and count fewer specs back.


Submitted to Aircrew Remembered by David Lockyer. David holds the copyright and permission must be sought to reprint, thank you.

crew picture lancaster

LANCASTER ONE

LANCASTER TWO

LANCASTER THREE

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 • Last Modified: 26 May 2014, 08:06