Falklands War Poems
War poems (below) are by the men who fought to defend the Falkland Islands against the invasion by Argentina in 1982. Some of the poems show the personal and lasting price paid by the men who fought in this war.
The Falkland Islands, in the deep south of the Atlantic Ocean, are a territory that had been held and occupied by British people for over 200 years. Britain sent forces to defend the small population on the Falkland Islands. The battles caused much suffering on both sides and 40 years later many are still suffering from the effects of this almost forgotten war.
At Bluff Cove a British ship was hit by an Argentinian war plane with the loss of 56 lives and the injuring of many more servicemen. A young British gunner had the task of shooting down incoming Argentinian planes but his missile launcher jammed and since then he has felt responsible for the loss of these lives. Some of the devastating effects of this traumatic experience are recorded in poems on this page. The soldier also wrote a compelling book on his experiences in the British army. The soldier was Tony McNally
War poems on this page
Click to select
These are just a small selection of the poems I gathered on the Falklands war and many important and interesting poems have been omitted here. They can be found in the Falklands War Poetry anthology which I edited.
David Roberts, website editor
Poems by Tony McNally
Poetry, mainly about his 1982 Falklands War experiences, Northern Ireland and the trauma he suffered. Tony's introduction gives an insight into what he experienced and how it affected him.
A little about me - Tony McNally, Cloudpuncher
Tony McNally was born in Barrow-in-Furness, England, and has spent most of his life living on the fringe of the beautiful Lake District. As a young lad growing up he always dreamed of being a soldier, joining the army cadets as soon as he was old enough. This led on the joining the Royal Artillery at the age of 16, when the playing stopped and the real soldiering began. `Cloudpuncher` (an army nickname for Rapier missile operators) follows Tony through his training, his time in Germany and his growing up from a `spotty teenager to a young soldier and `man of the world`
In 1982, still only 19, he is sent of the war with `Maggie's Army` to the Falkland Islands to man the Rapier missile units defending the troops and the landings. After early initial success, and euphoria of shooting down two enemy aircraft, he was to witness the carnage of the destruction of the `Sir Galahad. `His Rapier missile unit 32 alpha on the hillside overlooking the sound, was useless disabled with a minor electrical fault he sat there `as though at the cinema` watching the tragedy unfold in front of him, helpless to do anything. This sight was to come back to haunt him again and again images of the dead and the badly burned bodies of the guardsmen lying around the shore and in the water.
After the eventual victory he was to witness the clearing up, the bodies, the desecration, the utter inhumanity of war.
He returned home to a hero's welcome, but he did not feel like a hero. After all the training and the action of war, the return to utter boredom of routine, drill, spit and polish, drove him to leave the army and go back to `civvy life.` home in Furness he could only find mundane employment in a factory and the boredom of `civvy life,` gradually turned his attention to the exciting prospect of becoming a mercenary. He applied for a job, advertising in `Soldier of fortune`, with a Vietnam veteran operating in Africa. After a short Mediterranean holiday he came back to find his face plastered all over the National newspapers branding him a `mercenary. `After less than three years he enlisted again and this time was sent to Northern Ireland. there he was to see another kind of horror and war the hatred of man for his fellow man. In the Falklands the Argentine enemy were like him soldiers doing a job for their country.
But in Northern Ireland, there were fellow British people trying to kill him! Every smile could hide a bomb. Even children were unwittingly involved in traps laid for unwary soldiers. If it wasn't bullets and bombs it was fridges and unmentionables dropped from the balconies of flats. The dehumanizing experiences there were to affect him deeply. After five years he left the army for good and returned home, again to a `dead - end` job as a security guard. But now the `traumas` , nightmares and hallucinations, started to seriously affect his life. His marriage was suffering and his wife feared actual harm. He sought help and was eventually diagnosed by a civilian doctor as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition the British army refused to accept existed.
`Cloudpuncher` follows Tony through his eventful at times shocking army career and then through the struggle to recover his `self` and rebuild his life and, ultimately, to find contentment and fulfilment.
How fortunate a man I am to smell
The newborn scent of my baby Annabelle
She gives me unconditional love
Her proof life must go on
Heaven bound white dove
I pray thanks dear Lord I survived my war
In 1982 some never reached the shore
She has stopped me from taking the easy way out
That sweet smell of innocence
There is no doubt
How fortunate a man I am to tell
This is my daughter, my Annabelle.
Such a feeling of happiness I have never felt
Tears of pure joy so warm so loving
My Mother welcomes me, I can smell her scent
Rising up above the battlefield
My comrades smile
My enemies smile
Flying home on the wings of Angels.
Wash away my hatred and black pain
Cleanse my soul of this earthly madness
Creator if you have created why?
Some sort of sick joke?
Death? Oh how a comfort it becomes
To love to hate to Kill
You have had your fill.
I bow at the feet of What?
Its comical even though it hurts
When all sense and reason become nothing more than an electric spark
To ignite another bout of angst
Rain lash these eyes that have laughed at the unfortunate
Ridiculed the weak.
Is this my punishment?
Cleanse me let me sleep.
Men Who Sit On Chairs
Men who sit on chairs send us to war
They tell us how to fight
They add up the score
Men who sit on chairs send us back home
Minus one or two or three or four or more
Men who sit on Chairs send letters to the bereaved
They tell of the heroism of what they have achieved
Men who sit on chairs sleep soundly in their beds
Unlike the men in psyche wards being force fed on their meds.
I'm happy and sad
Compassionate and bad
Can't sleep at night
Can't do anything right
I wanna be alone
But not on my own
I'm in love but I hate
I'm a burden on the state
I'm possessed by the war
I killed what for?
I see shrinks
I see docs
Remember my arctic socks
I'm disloyal cause I'm ill
Is it right to kill?
I can hide in a crowd
My face a grey shroud
I cry for no reason
My country shouts treason
All the pills and the booze
Make bad memories ooze
I was 19 in June
Under a bright crystal moon
I died that day
But I'm still here to say
For the brave and the free.
My award - PTSD.
Why do they look at me that way?
Why do they look at me that way?
"He's not all there", I've heard them say
Leave me alone you faceless folk
To fight in war it aint no joke
I've lost my wife my job my friends
Was it all worth it? That all depends
I don't know why I feel this way
I took my oath
I did obey
I killed because I was scared to die
By blowing those Sky hawks from the sky
Those retard bombs they drove us mad
They sent us on the Galahad
The screams of the dying, twisted metal shards
A floating burning hell of dead Welsh Guards
I did not cry for them that day
Why do they look at me that way?
My brain recorded events for me
I seem to torture myself with glee
In the capital Stanley we drank ourselves sober
The Sergeant Major said "The party is over."
They sent us back to our home shore
Amongst our families we were still fighting our own war
It's nearly twenty years since we won the day
Those painful memories just wont go away
I love my Country and my brothers in arms
On November the 11th I'll sing hymns and psalms
I will wear my medals with pride on that day
The only day of the year they don't look at me that way.
A murder of crows lands by the landfill site
I know the meaning of life
Smiling I feel slightly foolish
"What’s your problem?" I giggle to a crow
Energised beyond belief
The 9mm Browning feels cold to touch
Staring at the hand I wonder if it knows how to use it
The knuckles are hairy
White mark totally gone from the wedding finger
I’m now in love with something beyond the boundaries of this world
Don’t fuck with the safety you idiot
Ha Ha Ha
Keep the weapon pointed down the range
Or inside your mouth
One of the crows looks my way
Can he see my gun?
Do crows ever commit suicide?
You're all collectively repulsive to me
I am part of the bacteria of human filth
But I’m happy truly happy for the first time in my life.
There are more of Tony McNally's in this anthology of Falkland's War Poetry
Watching Men Burn
is Tony McNally's account of his induction into the British army, his war experience and the emotional consequences of his time in the army.
Commander N A `Bernie´Bruen MBE DSC WKhM
Bernie Bruen was commander of an eighteen man team of bomb-disposal divers in the Falklands War. These poems and notes constitute a record and tribute to the the outstanding courage and achievements of these men. Bernie Bruen is concerned that his team should receive the official recognition that it clearly deserves - hence the reference to "forgotten men".
Bernie Bruen writes:
After reaching the Islands, the Team was kept hard at work on many different and hazardous tasks which culminated in being bombed in the Hospital at Red Beach, four days later. Many of these 500lb'ers failed to explode and the Team worked all night to build a huge defensive wall of wet, gravel-filled sandbags to protect the operating theatre and wounded in the wards. At certain pre-determined times work stopped while the next notch on the bombs' time-delay-fuze ticked off - everyone taking cover. The expected explosion not being forthcoming, work resumed until once more interrupted by a possible detonation 'window'.
Softly, now, and mind your noise.
Don't disturb the wounded boys - sleeping.
Though they dribble down your neck,
Put the sandbags on the deck - weeping.
Use the shingle from the shore.
Bring a couple hundred more - dripping.
Roundly, with a turn belay!
Detonator's on delay - slipping.
Time is short, so lift and haul;
Got to thicken up this wall - stacking.
"Beat the Clock to Beat the Bomb!"
Such a fitting axiom - cracking!
Strip to trousers, boots and belt.
Push yourself until you melt - sweating.
Heave 'em up; no time to lose,
Only minutes on the fuze setting.
Hacked it! - with a bag to spare,
Finest bulwark anywhere - lasting.
Let the sucker detonate;
No way it can penetrate - blasting.
Background to poem
This poem was written shortly after the event it describes and is by Nigel Bruen who was the commander of a team of eighteen Royal Navy bomb disposal divers who were the most highly decorated unit in the Falklands conflict.
He explains, "It was written after the horrific night of 8/6/82 when the casualties from Bluff Cove flooded into the hospital at Red Beach from one direction and those from HMS Plymouth came from another. My diving team were fully employed looking after the wounded and other survivors, nursing and helping the surgeons in the operating theatre. A sailor from the Plymouth grabbed the attention and admiration of the Team: although badly wounded himself, he was greatly concerned for his 'oppo', wounded in the head, next to him."
The stretchered sailor, by his friend
Whose hand he clasped and willed his pain to mend,
In whispers to a medic, raised
Imploring eyes whose sparkle, morphine-glazed,
Said, "Help my oppo, please, not me;
He's hurting bad, and worse - he cannot see."
Attempts to save ships
Immediately after this, as soon as it became light, an element of the Team helicoptered to Buff Cove to try and save GALAHAD - again - and TRISTRAM too. It was a sad sight to see their old friend Sir G, abandoned and burning, a large pall of blackened smoke roilling up out of her hatchway, as explosions shook her hull beneath.
The derelict - RFA Sir Galahad at Bluff Cove
She lies as lies the rabbit or the doe,
With broken back and rapid, shallow breath,
Who rises even yet before its foe
And shouts defiance; shouts it unto death.
She lies and cries from pity and from shame;
Looks up to give a blind and helpless call
Whose answer echoes, calling out her name,
"No-one will come. There is no hope at all."
She lies and sighs so lonely in the dawn,
Her bulkheads at the mercy of the tide,
Her lifeboats gone, their ladders left forlorn
Who slowly swing and scratch and scratch her side.
She lies and dies; she sees the waves advance
And waits to feel them wash her life away;
Until the long, grey ships her pleas entrance
And softly come to help her on her way.
The Divers jumped from the helicopter onto the still-burning TRISTRAM's deck (the pilot would not land) and set about hunting for UXBs within her. Totally dark, cold and dank, they searched with torches, their heart-beats almost audible in the unaccustomed silence. Far separated though they were, each one somehow always knew just where the other was and they emerged simultaneously on the deck - - 'all clear!'
Tristram at the cove
It was all too easily definite.
All it required was to take our kit
Into a twisted Ship and climb
Ladders and walkways, a step at a time,
Down and through her cavernous bowels,
Ignoring the damage's groans and growls,
Past the engines, looming and damp,
With only the warmth of a battery lamp,
Hanging from girders blackened with soot,
Gauging the strength of the plates underfoot,
Thoroughly, doggedly, further apart,
When all you can hear is the beat of your heart,
Finding the source of the havoc to know
That nothing else lurked and was waiting to blow,
Cautiously peering in corners to see,
Silently searching - Tommo and me.
Exploring the burning ship and discovering a body
After putting out the fires and explosively removing the stern ramp to allow salvage of the desperately needed ammunition in the hold, it was time to board GALAHAD and see what could be done there. Fires still raged aboard and explosions from deep within rocked the ship. There was little that four men could achieve, beyond salvaging what gear they could. There was only one other man on-board, a young soldier who had failed to escape the Argentinian attack and lay where he fell.
To a young Galahad
Naked is no way to die, nor yet to lie
Frozen in the act of living;
At first I thought you caught in spasm,
Locked into a callisthenic dorsal arch,
Muscles - shoulder, thigh and arm -
Straining with the effort.
Then I saw your face half burned away to show
The grin of teeth that lies beneath the skin,
Your fingers burned to stubby stumps
And dog-tags gone;
Only your boots and one arm thrust
Into a shirt marked your haste to leave.
(Did you once sun yourself, running your hand
Lazily over some girlfriend's thigh
As she in turn smoothed oil upon your back?)
Somehow you died whole, unbroken
Until you tumbled to that griddle deck
That burned and scorched and seared,
Welding you to it.
Who was the man who caused your death?
Was he like those who yesterday
Pilfered through our kit, while we
Hunted bombs and rockets
Deep in a dying ship?
Your Ship is dying too, burning,
Rumbling to the explosions that
Rock the pall of blackened flames.
I cannot help her.
Excuse me if I leave you now
But there are jobs to do and fires to fight.
Snow is in the air and bleakness coming
With the winter wind.
Although you can feel nothing, yet
This tarp will keep away the chill
And clothe you for a while from prying,
I leave you with your ship
To guard as you have done in lonely vigil;
But I will tell them where you lie
And, if tardily, someone will come
To tend you.
Graham Cordwell's introduction
I have visited your website often and it has given me great inspiration. I was first diagnosed with chronic PTSD in 2002, some 20 years after the Falklands War, and began writing poems for the first time in February 2007. I am still reading through the many wonderful poems which continue to inspire me and I am still writing.
I have taken a great deal of time and given much thought to submitting examples of my work and am now taking the first steps into the unknown.
Full name: Graham John Cordwell
Alias or nickname: GraCor
I was born 30th April 1956 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. The middle child of five, at the age of 16yrs and 4mths I joined the British Army as a boy soldier. At 18yrs I completed adult recruit and parachute training and was posted to 2nd Battalion of The Parachute Regiment (2 Para) with whom I served for nearly 15 years before resigning in March 1988.
During this time I served 4 tours of duty in Northern Ireland, totalling almost 3 years, and saw active service in the Falklands War in 1982. I married in 1978 and have two children. Unfortunately the marriage didn´t survive the Falklands War and we divorced in 1986. I served as a police officer for 3 years in Surrey Constabulary, England before resigning and moving to Norway with my new wife in 1991.
In 1994 at the age of 38yrs at went to college to become a social worker and thereafter worked with people with drug and alcohol problems. In 2002, after a mental breakdown, I was diagnosed with chronic PTSD. I have spent the past 5 years in treatment and rehabilitation. I am eternally grateful to my wife who manages to keeps me sane and I hope to be well again one day.
Graham John Cordwell (GraCor)
You embrace my soul and warm a longing heart
Fill my lonely existence with comfort on empty days
You take away my inhibitions and release the laughter behind the mask
Give meaning to my pain, my feelings find a voice
The friend in time of need, your hospitality is infamous
I cannot live without your vile caress; it gives succour to my weakness
We are a symbiosis of MADness, a mutually assured destruction
Whilst I climb the walls and plumb the depths
The grim reaper knows me well and has visited many times
Despair maintains a constant vigil
I have sacrificed my life upon your alter and loathe you with a vengeance
But seek you out at every turn
I dare not face the day without you, even though your fire consumes me
Your demons haunt my every waking hour
I wrestle with my consciousness, a struggle I cannot win
But I will not slip this life, not yet
At last to sleep, a silent desolate refuge, a monotonous empty void
Where all thought is banished
A sublime release from all responsibility, I become as nothing
Unseen and forgotten
No angst or imposition, no pressure to perform
No feeling, nor pain
I succumb to the substance of choice, self-medicated
At least for a while
Graham Cordwell, 2007
Life on hold – An ode to PTSD
I do not own the causes of my pain
But they demand ownership of my mind
Grief and trauma are not contagious
But no-one wants to be touched by them
The unseen wound that never heals
The mental scars hidden from prying eyes
You pass me by with surprising regularity
Seeing what others do not
Hearing the sounds, smelling the odours
Vicious and invasive to this day
Dreaming uncomfortable visions
I cry out, remembering effortlessly and without desire
Slow-motion replays in an eternal loop
The sweat, the anguish, the shame
I should work as others to earn a daily crust
But am I valued even though I cannot provide
I once had status and responsibility, long gone
Once independent, reliable, energetic
The demons have captured me, body and soul
I stare at the flickering screen, it holds my gaze
I am overwhelmed by indecision
My mind aches for relief
Release from this mental struggle
I am tired, oh so tired of being tired
I want to sleep again without intrusion
Not to fear the laying of my head upon the pillow
Not to struggle with long nights of lonely vigil
I want to feel awake, alive, refreshed, anew
Once at the centre, now the fringe
The boundary pushing ever outward
Friends and colleagues getting fewer
The loneliness of a crowded room
Days without purpose, yet no time for thought
I see no future, but obscure the past
A haunting melody with sad refrain
I feel, therefore I must endure the moment
Attacked relentlessly by predatory thoughts
Mental knives that slash into my brain
Feelings uncontrollably surging, my heart awash with sadness
Gushing tears of bloody anguish, staunched only by chemicals
Then emptiness, a flat-lining void bereft of sensation
Empathy with the dying soul
Still here, life on hold
No rewind possible for this poor soldier
My imposed employment, to exist
Ask the existential questions, endure without respite
Fleeting moments of happiness in a sea of pain
I am a soldier still on duty, staggering on
Don’t pity me, just don’t look away!
Graham Cordwell, 2007
25 Years On
Can´t sleep, afraid to dream
Can´t wake, too tired for lack of sleep
Can´t love for fear of losing
Losing you because I can no longer love
Days turned upside down
No focus, no structure
Time disappears without recollection
I plan so much, but achieve so little
Ironclad exterior, jelly at the core
The mask is all that binds me
I struggle to mouth the truth
Do you really want to hear my story?
Crying in my dreams, transported back to `82
The gorse and peat are still burning
Lanolin, smoke and cordite
The smells offend my nostrils
Every year I´m carried back, an eternal bond
Goose Green, a brief but violent visit
Yet vivid in my thoughts
Do they think of me, as I of them?
I lost it once in `85, it only cost my marriage
A minimal price some would say, a glitch
An aberration, that’s life, it happens!
Replaced the lid and carried on
I have a life, but not worth living
Invasive thoughts of death
A simple task to end it all
A struggle to maintain control
Feelings of dysfunction
Arms and legs, diminished feeling
Pain radiating throughout a ravaged body
Saddened eyes holding back tears
I could cry, but would anyone hear me
I will not show my weakness
A sense of pride holds me tight
Duty refuses to give up
The second time was `95
I thought the end was due
But no, I found the lid once more
Renewed the armour against the world
Then, alcohol induced psychosis
A comfortable friend
Long nights without reality
An empty, numb existence
In `02 life became a blur
A mystic fusion of realities
Raging heartbeat in my ears
Control, a seldom luxury
Struggle to maintain reality
A desire to own my fears
Fear of owning anything at all
Life without an existential meaning
If I cried, you’d see me bared
Undressed and naked as a child
I want to share my feelings
But would you survive the deluge?
I am tired, middle aged and marking time
A half lived post war dream
Years fit snugly into thoughts
A lifetime translated into moments
Now the final bureaucratic humiliation
An intimate inquisition, irrefutable proof of life
Ill and tired of repetition, I want to rest
To be finished, 25 years on
Graham Cordwell, 2007
Blood red sky, violent
Silence that grips the senses
Wind that cuts to the bone, but dries the flesh
Sudden stillness of the sunset that calms our fears
The soundtrack of our lives haunting, sometimes vivid
Clinging to a thought of a lover far away
Summer turned to winter
Antipodean stars that guide our way
Fleeting images of life and death amongst the flames
The wrenching shrills of tormented souls
A fools overture lingers in my mind. Did his country call?
Maybe it´s in my mind, not real, not false
Happy smiling faces, heavy hearts and limbs
We came so far and left so many
The elation of the moment engulfs us, intoxicating, numbing
A thought of home is shunned with painful realisation
Voices reach across the ether, time and space connect
A conspiracy of human destruction, fate is close to deal another winning hand
My mind turns to birth in the midst of death
I want to go home, but duty spurs me on
I cry inside, but no-one hears, only the guardians of my sanity
Fragile like the skin on water, one touch and my secrets overflow
Staccato glances reassure me, I´m back inside
Safe for now. Did anyone see?
Graham Cordwell, 2007
I have been labelled
What am I worth?
In a society that doesn’t care
Cost-effective, best practiced, clinically excellent
My "best before" date is long since passed
Arthritic joints compete with wasted muscles
Body couch-bound and clamped in situ
A life without purpose
My parameters redefined by others
Medicated, sanitised, forgotten
Held in limbo, geared down, restrained
My body a straight-jacket for my existence
Neuropathways blocked or disconnected
Chemicals surging in my blood
A juggernaut raging in my head
The outside world thundering in my ears
Drive-in, drive-thru, driven society
Without rear-view perspective
Revved up and steaming forward
No place for those who can’t keep up
I am disabled by my mind
Society is disabled by my presence
I am left to ponder life
Kodak memories, filled with Prozac moments
Graham Cordwell, 2007
Running the corridor that never ends
Searching relentlessly the wall of doors
Revisited by smells and visions
Vivid as the reality that shattered into my consciousness
Dulled by alcohol and indifference
Warmed by the hearth of a strange fire
Do you know this place?
Anesthetised, we sleep standing in our shoes
Sometimes woken by a nervous reflex
Sorry, time gentlemen please!
Graham Cordwell, 2007
The Abandoned Soldier
The eyes betray the pain
Hollow, empty eyes
A lifetime in one glance
Blinking moist with sadness
In search of understanding
Barely holding back the tear
Alone, standing to attention
A solemn sight for all to view
A stubborn look about the face
Lips taught with embers of defiance
A wry ironic smile
A stoic sense of duty
The glorious dead do not grow old
The living are but vague reminders
Of a soldier's gift and a nations debt
A collective shame unwashed in generations
Putrid and bitter without a voice
Crying out for respect and restitution
Body racked with untold hurt
Phantom pain from near useless limbs
Age has wearied him
And the years condemned
The shadow of a once proud man
Who took the shilling and paid the price
Young men, old beyond their years
Damaged minds in ravaged bodies
Witness to the horrors
Victim of the daily struggle
Stiffened with age and unseen scars
He does not complain, we taught him well
Communities of dead from conflicts past
Stand testament to our human failure
Leaders give no deference to the fallen
Dulce et decorum est…, the oldest lie
Loved ones nurse a heavy burden
Complicit in their fervour
Hand picked like poppies of the field
Blossoms of the poor and disadvantaged
Moulded to be the nations guardians
Hailed as saviours in the morning
Old heroes slowly fade away
Discarded when the sun goes down
In the autumn of our lives
Old soldiers reminisce
Amidst the dreams of death and glory
Two minutes can seem a lifetime
In remembrance of the fallen
A fleeting memory remiss
The promise has been broken
No longer duty-bound
Honour lies bloody on the altar
A sacrificial lamb
The soldier has been abandoned
In a society that doesn’t care
Graham Cordwell, 2007
There are more of Graham Cordwell's poems in Falklands War Poetry
Please support the campaign for "The abandoned soldier." - GC.
Sculpture: The Abandoned soldier