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

For The Slaughter
Ivan Southall

Submarine silhouetted starkly

On the silver platter, toylike,

For the slaughter.

Clearly as a ringbarked naked tree

Against the hot and glaring mallee,


The blood-lusting shark itself sweet prey

To eagle wings avenging.

How often in like manner had

The U-boat crept upon the victim.

Stealthy shadow lacking profile,

Dealing death when least expected

To lonely merchantmen.

Suddenly from utter blackness

Comes the aircraft spitting madly,

Hate for hate with savage purpose,

Death for death with bell-like fury,

Bombs away upon the enemy.

God oh God, why must man kill

Why must we train for self-destruction.

How we yearn for love and laughter.

Children yet in throbbing heartbeats

But so barbarous.

God oh God forgive we mortals

Who rupture peace and follow orders,

Who feign heroics and win our medals

For slaying others.

With German U-boat 385 - a naval submarine - in the crosshairs, the brave captain dropped his payload. The vessel was crippled from beneath the surface from the plane's depth charges and left dead in the water. Flying above, Mr Southall circled overhead as the Navy moved in to collect more than 40 survivors. 'It was terribly deliberate,' he later wrote of the attack in a book titled 'They Shall Not Pass Unseen'. 'It was premeditated murder ... their white faces in the moonlight, looking up at me.' The Captain was promoted to Flight Lieutenant a few months after. 'Suddenly you understood what it meant to defeat a U-boat,' Mr Southall wrote. 'Through circumstances over which you had no personal control, you have been given the chance to justify your crew and yourself.' Upon landing safely, the future award-winning author detailed his pure dread of the experience in the form of a poem.

ivan southall

sunderland attacks uboat


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 • Last Modified: 22 March 2022, 13:08