There’s a village they call Shotley to the east of Ipswich town.
The port of Felixstowe across the way.
There’s a stone built frigate, ‘Ganges’, near the Orwell flowing down,
And skirted by the shores of Harwich Bay.
Well we joined as Nozzers new, the ‘sailor-boys’ in blue:
And punched our oppo’s teeth out in the gym.
We marched and doubled-fast! Then we climbed that bloody mast:
The Foreign Legion never was as grim!
Ten divisions – Admiral’s all-parade ground, Nelson Hall,
And Nozzers lane tucked out of sight away.
There was Collingwood & Blake;
there was Benbow, Hawke & Drake:
And Grenville – down the long, long covered way.
The ‘dabtoes’ learned to sail a boat, correct a starboard list,
And take evasive action from the bombs,
They could ‘bend’ & ‘splice’ & hitch’, they could knot a monkey’s-fist’,
There was semaphore and flashing for the ‘Comms”,
Down Laundry Hill on jankers, tin–hat shades the sweating frown,
And bayonet bangin’ ‘ard against the thigh.
Rifles chaffed our collar-bones, the hot sun scorching down,
From inverted bowl of blue, the summer sky.
“Do just as you are told, lad, make do with what you got;
Obey the orders, boy, no ‘if’s’ or ‘buts!’”
The disciple was ‘hot’ and some went ‘on the trot’
But they dragged ‘em back and lashed ‘em with twelve ‘cuts’.
We had Faith and we had Hope, we had Charity as well;
But these were not just virtues – as you know!
We stumbled and we fell – on those concrete steps to Hell,
Our souls were signed to Ganges – be it so.
What faith? What hope? What charity? Was there really no comparity?
As we staggered up those steps with muscle–pain?
We-e-ll, we knew we’d had enough – but assumed that we tough –
So they made us double up and down again!
GANGES motto states at length, that ‘Wisdom, it is strength!’
Is there one of you who wouldn’t go agen?
Tho’ you flogged us, and you flayed us by the livin’ God what made us;
You took us on as boys – and made us men!
Copyright; John Douglas, from the book; ‘HMS GANGES (Roll on my dozen!)’ (1978.)