Tommy's War

July, 1914

Rifleman 47041

by Tom East

       Over the bridge from Glanrhyd Hospital

       there is a long-grassed field.
       Officially, it's 'Bridgend Mental Hospital Cemetery',
       though there's only one stone to be seen:
       that of a shell-shocked soldier of the Great War.

       Approaching the marker of Rifleman 47041,
       CW Murphy of the Monmouthshire Regiment,
       (no name, official initials),
       you all at once realise you're walking upon the bones of others,
       not important enough to have their passing signed,
       even in wood, by someone doing a job.

       A shiver runs through you at this sudden knowledge;
       and another when you stand before the last resting place of Rifleman 47041,
       looking at the mass-produced crosses and paper flowers,
       just wondering why.

       Is it better to lie in a white-bleached war grave,
       or in an anonymous, unmarked grassed plot
       in a mental hospital?

      Not much of a choice is it?
       Especially when you have to go through hell
       to get there.

*

There is little to add to what the poem says. My visit, in the summer of 2004 with the friend who told me about Mr Murphy's grave, records events exactly as they were.