Wednesday, 8 May 2013


A photo that I restored for a lady who had found it behind the walls
 of her home during renovations.  No details are known about this bloke at all.

The remains of five AIF soldiers were laid to rest with full military honours in the Buttes New British Cemetery at Polygon Wood, Belgium.  The remains were discovered by chance in September 2006 during roadwork and pipe-laying excavations near the small village of Westhoek.  This is situated in the middle of the dreaded Ypres-Passchendaele Salient where up to half a million casualties on both sides fell, of which tens of thousands were either never recovered or were unidentifiable.


One of the Zonnebeke 5 was John Hunter, a man,
found buried in the fertile soil of France.
Each one wrapped in a blanket, in their uniforms and boots.
Five young blokes who had lost their final chance. 

This bloke lay with arms folded; his death mask looked serene.
The rising sun badge there for all to see.
A tall bloke with a strong  jaw line whose boots were mired in mud,
a bloke who’d fought with Aussie infantry.

His finders asked forgiveness from him as they moved his bones.
Both men felt the wellspring of emotion
that saw tears slowly coursing  down their weathered wrinkled cheeks.
Perhaps that Aussie thought ‘Gawd! What commotion’.
With reverent respect they placed the soldier’s remains in
the lead lined coffin, ready waiting there.
Searched for identifying marks that would give him a name.
Arranged him snug, with tenderness and care.

They found a piece of evidence that helped identify
along with DNA this man’s remains.
His younger brother was the one who’d wrapped him with such care
as round them shellfire, shrapnel, bullets rained.
The man found was a Queenslander. John Hunter was his name
49th Battalion AIF.
His body left behind in the then ravaged soil of France
by his young brother who fought on, bereft.

And of the five, two still remain nameless.  Sad, sorry souls.
Two others found shared the same Christian name.
Both came from West Australia, fought with the 51st,
Young George Storey  a statistic became.
the other George was George  Calder and Sergeant was his rank,
one wonders if  John and the Georges met
in life, or was it death alone that saw the shared embrace
and war that saw them break out in cold-sweat.

Two thousand seven saw these men reinterred. Three now named.
That day the sun shone bright for these brave blokes.
Full military honours, then a seven gun salute
fired by the 51st, made cordite smoke.
George Calder and George Storey, John Hunter.  Brothers in arms
who fought in Polygon Wood ‘midst battle cry.
These men whose bodies lay in fields.  An unmarked barren grave,
today beneath white headstones safely lie.

Maureen Clifford ©

You can read more of their story here  on the + Polygon Wood Zonnebeke 5 web site
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