Mateloes Poems

LEEUWIN -late 60's early 70's 



A Sailor's Christmas

T'was the night before Christmas,..... the ship was out steaming,
Some sailors stood watch while others were dreaming.
They lived in a crowd with racks tight and small,
In a 60-man berthing, cramped one and all.
I had come down the stack with presents to give,
And to see inside just who might perhaps live.
I looked all about, a strange sight did I see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stockings were hung, shined boots close at hand,
On the bulkhead hung pictures of a far distant land.
They had medals and badges and awards of all kind,
And a sober thought came into my mind.
For this place was different, so dark and so dreary,
I had found the house of a Sailor, at once I saw clearly.
A Sailor lay sleeping, silent and alone,
Curled up in a rack and dreaming of home.
The face was so gentle, the room squared away,
This was the Australian Sailor today.
This was the hero I saw on TV,
Defending our country so we could be free.
I realised the families that I would visit this night,
Owed their lives to these Sailors lay willing to fight.
Soon round the world, the children would play,
And grownups would celebrate on Christmas Day.
They all enjoyed freedom each day of the year,
Because of the Sailor.......... like the one lying here.
I couldn't help wonder how many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve on a sea, far from home.
The very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.
The Sailor awakened and I heard a calm voice,
"Santa, don't cry, this life is my choice."
"Defending the seas all days of the year,
So others may live and be free with no fear."
I thought for a moment, what a difficult road,
To live a life guided by honour and code.
After all it's Christmas Eve and the ship's underway!
But freedom isn't free and it's sailors who pay.
The Sailor says to our country "be free and sleep tight,
No harm will come, not on my watch and not on this night."
The Sailor rolled over and drifted to sleep,
I couldn't control it.......... I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours, so silent, so still,
I watched as the Sailor shivered from the night's cold chill.
I didn't want to leave on that cold dark night,
This guardian of honour so willing to fight.
The Sailor rolled over and with a voice strong and sure,Whispered,"Carry on Santa, It's Christmas, and All is Secure!"




by Rachel Firth

Autumn leaves rustling, together to the appointed
place, the old warriors come.

Pilgrims, drifting across the land they fought to

Where they meet is not important anymore.

Greetings echo across a lobby.

Hands reach out and arms draw buddies close.

Embraces, that as young men they were too
uncomfortable to give, too shy to accept so lovingly.

But deep within these Indian Summer days, they
have reached a greater understanding of life and love.

The shells holding their souls are weaker now,
but hearts and minds grow vigorous, remembering.

On the table someone spreads old photographs,
a test of recollection.

And friendly laughter echoes at shocks of hair gone
gray or white, or merely gone.

The rugged slender bodies lost forever.

Yet they no longer need to prove their strength.

Some are now sustained by one of "medicine's miracles,"
and even in this fact, they manage to find humor.

The women, all those that waited, all those who
loved them, have watched the changes take place.

Now, they observe and listen, and smile at each other,
as glad to be together as the men.

Talk turns to war and planes and foreign lands.

Stories are told and told again, reweaving the
threadbare fabricate of the past.

Mending one more time the banner of their youth.

They hear the vibrations, feel the shudder of metal
as engines whine and whirl, and planes-tanks-jeeps
come to life.

These birds with fractured wings can be seen beyond
the mist of clouds, and they are in the air again, chasing
the wind, feeling the exhilaration of flight close to the heavens.

Dead comrades, hearing their names spoken, wanting to
share in this time, if only in spirit, move silently among them.

Their presence is felt and smiles appear beneath misty eyes.

Each, in his own way may wonder who will be absent in another year.

The room grows quiet for a time.

Suddenly an ember flames to life. Another memory burns.

The talk may turn to other wars and other men, and of futility.

So, this is how it goes. The past is so much the present.

In their ceremonies, the allegiances, the speeches and the
prayers, one cannot help but hear the deep eternal love of
country and comrades they will forever share.

Finally, it is time to leave.

Much too soon to set aside this little piece of yesterday,
but the past cannot be held too long, for it is fragile.

They say "Farewell"..." See you another year, God willing."

Each keeps a little of the others



This refers to all of us



The Old Navy


Then - If you smoked, you had an ashtray on your desk.
Now - If you smoke, you get sent outside and treated like a leper, if your lucky.

Then - Mail took weeks to come to the ship.
Now - Every time you get near land, there's a mob topside to see if their mobile phones work.

Then - If you left the ship it was in Blues or Whites, even in home port.
Now - The only time you wear Blues or Whites is for ceremonies.

Then - You wore bell bottoms.
Now - Bell bottoms are gone and 14 year-old girls wear them everywhere.

Then - You wore a cap/hat with every uniform.
Now - It's not required and you have a choice of different hats.

Then - If you said "Shit," people knew you were annoyed and avoided you.
Now - If you say "Shit," you'd better be talking about a sewage plant.

Then -The Ship's Office writer had a typewriter on his desk for doing daily reports.
Now - Everyone has a computer with Internet access and they wonder why no work is getting done.

Then - Your girlfriend was at home, praying you would return alive.
Now - She is on the same ship, praying your condom worked.

Then - If you got drunk off duty, your buddies would take you back to the ship so you could sleep it off.
Now - If you get drunk off duty, they slap you in rehab and ruin your career.

Then - Drinking mugs were made out of steel and you could heat coffee or hot chocolate in them.
Now - Drinking mugs are made of plastic; you can't heat them because they'll melt, and anything inside always tastes like plastic.

          Then - Officers were professional sailors first.  They commanded respect.
          Now - Officers are politicians first. They beg not to be given a 'wedgie'.

          Then - They collected enemy intelligence and analyzed it.
          Now  - They collect your pee and analyze it.

         Then - If you didn't act right, they'd put you on extra duty until you straightened up.
         Now - If you don't act right, they start a paper trail that follows you forever.

         Then - Medals were awarded to heroes who saved lives at the risk of their own.
         Now - Medals are awarded to people who show up for work most of the time.

        Then - You slept in a barracks block, like a soldier.
        Now - You sleep in a dormitory, like a college kid.

        Then - You ate in a mess hall or cafeteria.  It was free and you could have all the food you wanted.
        Now - You eat in a dining facility.  Every slice of bread or pat of butter costs, and you can only have one.

        Then - If you wanted to relax, you went to the Rec Centre, played snooker, smoked and drank beer.
        Now - You go to the Community Centre and can still play snooker, maybe.

        Then - If you wanted a  beer and conversation, you could go to the Junior Sailors' and Senior Sailors' messes or Wardroom.
        Now - The beer will cost you heaps and someone is watching to see how much you drink.

        Then - The canteen had bargains for sailors who didn't make much money.
        Now - The canteen competes with David Jones Food Hall.

        Then - If an Admiral wanted to make a presentation, he scribbled down some notes and a Flag Lieutenant spent an hour preparing a bunch of                         
        Now - The Admiral has his entire staff spending days preparing a Power Point presentation.

        Then - We called the enemy things like "Nips", "Gooks", "Commie Bastards" and "Reds" because we didn't like them.
        Now - We call the enemy things like "Opposing Forces" and "Aggressors" or "Insurgents" so we won't offend them.

        Then - We declared victory when the enemy was dead and all his things were broken.
        Now - We declare victory when the enemy says he is sorry and won't do it again.

        Then - A commander would put his butt on the line to protect his people.
        Now - A commander will put his people on the line to protect his butt.

        Thank God I was  in the "Old Navy"  - and proud of it.




It was two o'clock that afternoon in the Sin Bin down below

Mustering up three chairs I thought a table would be the go

There was me Spike and Shiner, and the joint was filling fast,

And the sailors all cheered loudly as a new keg gave a blast

The arrival of two kiwi frigates and the pommy ship Renown,

Everyone's at Royal Naval House it's the sailors favourite haunt

We might get lucky with some sheilas with heaps of skin to flaunt

The sailors from all the ships in town arrived in a constant stream

Dressed in No. 2's and their best tid gear, spit polished shoes a?gleam

A cab pulled in with the Kiribilli gorilla from a pub up around the Cross

She filed through with some other sheilas, the crushers not caring a toss

Doctors advised her against a bra after examining her special case

that way the weight of her tits would pull the wrinkles from her ugly face

The sailors knew her well and warned newcomers against getting close

She's as welcome as a fart in a phone box and known to pass on a dose

Around two thirty the joint was crowded, the place was in full swing

Full as a seaside dunny on boxing day, the sailors all doing their thing

If you turned your back your beer disappeared, the sheilas you couldn't trust

Most were there for all the free booze, others were there for lust

Lenny the Loop and Jeff the Jaw selectively buying the sailors a beer

Trying to con some drunken OD, their objectives plain and clear

The room was loud and full of smoke the sailors were having fun

Most sang along as the juke box again played the House of the Rising Sun

We need a volunteer for the dance of the flamers who thinks that he is able?

One drunken figure with bleary eyes began climbing on the table

His bell bottoms already around his feet and being assisted by some joker

A sailor with such a hairy behind like his has got to be a stoker

Two of the sheilas braved the crowd and climbed up alongside to take part

One clearly heavier than the other and in her struggle let go a fart

The paper burnt right down to the end the extra methane fanned the flames

The stoker's arse was doused by a jug of beer but none wasted on the dames

The Kirribili gorilla was drunk and upset and looking for a place to sit

Come on you bastards, come pour me a beer I'm as dry as a witch's tit

One drunken pommy bought her a beer plus a fiver that he gave her

It'll take him six weeks to get over the dose she returns him as a favour

And Shiner looked up as he emptied a jug as we joked about whose turn to shout

In time these days we'd never forget, I fell silent as I looked about

Suddenly the picture loses all sound as I remember mates from past days

Sunday at Johnnies the memories of faces fade to little more than a haze

Aahhh! JOHNNIES!!! The good ol' days (& nights)



I LIKE standing on the bridge wing at sunrise with salt spray in my face and clean ocean winds whipping in from the four quarters of the globe, the ship beneath me feeling like a living thing as her engines drive her through the sea.

I LIKE the sounds of the navy the piercing trill of the boatswains call the syncopated clang of the ships bell the harsh squawk of the main broadcast and the strong language and laughter of sailors at work

I LIKE navy vessels, nervous darting destroyers, plodding fleet auxiliaries, sleek submarines and steady solid carriers.

I LIKE the proud names of navy ships Australia, Melbourne, Sydney

I LIKE the lean angular names of navy destroyers Anzac, Vampire, Vendetta, Voyager.

I LIKE the tempo of a navy band blaring through the upper deck speakers as we pull away from the tanker after refueling at sea.

I LIKE the pipe "libertymen fall in" and the spicy scent of a foreign port.

I LIKE sailors, men from all parts of the land, from city and country alike and all walks of life, I trust and depend on them as they trust and depend on me for professional competence, comradeship and courage in a word they are shipmates.

I LIKE the surge of adventure in my heart when the word is passed "special sea dutymen close up".

I LIKE the infectious thrill of sighting home again the waving hands of welcome from family and friends the work is hard and dangerous, the going rough at times the parting from loved ones painful but the companionship of robust navy laughter the all for one and one for all philosophy of the sea is ever present.

I LIKE the serenity of the sea after a day of hard ships work, the beer issue, watching flying fish flit across the wave tops as sunset gives way to night.

I LIKE the feel of the navy in darkness the masthead lights the red and green navigation lights and the stern light the pulsating phosphorescence of radar screens.

I LIKE drifting off to sleep lulled by the myriad noises large and small that tell me that my ship is alive and well and that my shipmates on watch will keep me safe.

I LIKE quiet middle watches with the aroma of kai on a winters night.

I LIKE hectic watches when the exacting minuet of hazy grey shapes racing at full speed keeps all hands on a razor edge of alertness.

I LIKE the sudden electricity of "action stations" followed by the hurried clamour of running feet on ladders and the resounding thump of watertight doors and hatches as the ship transforms herself from the peaceful workplace to a weapon of war ready for anything.

I LIKE the sight of space age equipment manned by youngsters clad in No8's and sound powered phones that their grandfathers would still recognise.

I LIKE the traditions of the navy and the men who made them and the heroism of the men who sailed in the ships of yesteryear. An adolescent can find adulthood, in years to come when sailors are home from the sea they will still remember with fondness and respect the ocean in all its moods, the impossible shimmering mirror calm and the storm tossed green water surging over the bow and then there will come again a faint whiff of stack gas, a faint echo of engine and rudder orders, a vision of the bright bunting of signal flags snapping at the yardarm and a refrain of hearty laughter. Gone ashore for good they will grow wistful about their navy days, when the seas belonged to them and a new port of call was ever over the horizon, remembering this they will stand taller and say.