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Poem from an ANZAC about mates

Chris Smith
Article image for Poem from an ANZAC about mates

Duncan Butler, 2/12 Field Ambulance, 8th Division A.I.F. reflecting on his time as a POW working on the Burma Railway.


I’ve travelled down some lonely roads,

Both crooked tracks and straight.

An’ I’ve learned life’s noblest creed,

Summed up in one word … “Mate”.

I’m thinking back across the years,

(a thing I do of late)

An’ this word sticks between me ears;

You’ve got to have a “Mate”.

Someone who’ll take you as you are,

Regardless of your state,

An’ stand as firm as Ayres Rock

Because ‘e is your mate.

Me mind goes back to ’42,

To slavery and ‘ate,

When man’s one chance to stay alive

Depended on ‘is Mate.

With bamboo for a billy-can

An’ bamboo for a plate.

A bamboo paradise for bugs

Was bed for me and “Mate”.

You’d slip and slither through the mud

And curse your rotten fate,

But then you’d ‘ear a quiet word:

“Don’t drop your bundle Mate.”

And though it’s all so long ago,

This truth I ‘ave to state:

A man don’t know what lonely means

Til ‘e has lost his “Mate”.

If there’s a life that follers this,

If there’s a Golden Gate,

The welcome I just want to ‘ear

Is just, “Good on y’ Mate.”

An’ so to all that ask me why

We keep these special dates,

Like “Anzac Day” …

I answer: “WHY??!  – We’re thinking of our MATES.”

An’ when I’ve left the driver’s seat,

An’ handed in me plates,

I’ll tell ol’ Peter at the door,

“I’ve come to join me Mates.”


Chris Smith