The Shadow Men.

I wrote this poem after attending the ANZAC Day service at Bigges Camp park in Grandchester, in 2012. I thought about putting it up last year and forgot. So I’m posting it today in remembrance of fellow Cavalrymen who I served with in Vietnam, Ted ‘The Beast’ Beasley, Roland ‘Woody’ Wood and last but by no means least Brian ‘Snowy’ Marshall. RIP.


The living – silent stand in groups, throughout the Bigges Camp Park,
Grey clouds hide the rising sun, the trees stand tall and stark.
Kookaburras try to laugh and settle for a cackle,
Magpies land on branches low, then they begin to settle.

The air is cool, the service starts and in one voice we sing,
An anthem now out-dated but for them it was to a king.
There are speeches, poems and messages that tell us why we’re here,
For we come to remember the fallen, and those that we held dear.

The bugle notes have faded, a minutes silence now,
And I see the shadows moving, from ‘neath my lowered brow.
They move out from a faraway place, where fallen soldiers go,
Their movements stiff, unwieldy, their booted feet move slow.

Standing together in ragged ranks, silently they wait
and shed their tears while the Ode is read, for they too have lost a mate.
Reveille sounds and heads held high they stare at the monument,
for the flowers there are a wreath of prayers, waiting to be sent.

While the honour roll is read, from names engraved in stone,
the shadow men step forward, knowing that they’ve come home.
They stare at faces in the crowd, at strangers they don’t know.
A voice echoes from the shadows, ‘C’mon Mates, it’s time to go.’

‘Don’t worry, they’ll still be here for many years to come,
for even we’ll remember them at the setting of the sun.’
I spied the owner of this voice, sitting on a ragged, Waler horse,
a shadow man had come to life, saw me and changed his course.

He wore a battered, felt slouch hat, with a faded emu plume,
and whistled along to Abide With Me, just slightly out of tune.
Bringing his mount to a weary stop – he held the reins with a calloused hand.
I looked closely at his tunic, torn and dusted with desert sand.

He sat patiently, until the final prayer was read,
turned his mount and faced the weary dead.
We sang a hymn from ages past, the shadow men joined in
and the kookaburras nesting high – added to the din.

The ghostly ranks that had amassed began to move away,
I called out to the horseman, ‘A moment, will you stay?
And tell me if you can, the place – where do you go?
So that when my days are over, then I will surely know.’

He reined in his horse and stared at me,
‘You were a cavalryman I see,
Then you will know the place my friend
they’re the open places – the plains that never end.’

Touching a spur to his horse’s flanks,
he raised his hat, I nodded thanks.
Then all the shadow men were gone,
and the ANZAC legend still lives on.

Laurie Smith©2012


*Note* For my overseas readers, everything you need to know about ANZAC DAY can be found via this link. I came out of hiding today for this and I’ll be back Monday.



26 thoughts on “The Shadow Men.

  1. Patricia Salamone

    Beautiful Laurie. People at home will never know what you and your mates had to endure. I think it is the same in our country. We will never know what our soldiers lived through and still do to this day I visited the site about ANZAC Day. It is a moving tribute to your fallen mates, and the fact that you gather in their honor is a wonderful tribute. I too feel that we should honor all service men and women so I will share with you a part of something I wrote for the men and women that serve their country with such honor and dignity.

    They go by air and by sea to a foreign land

    The heat and the dust burns their skin

    They go not to fight but to lend a hand

    In their hearts they carry freedom on their shoulders

    They carry weapons in their eyes you can see honor

    They leave behind their wives, husbands, children, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters,

    Aunts, uncles, cousins, girlfriends, boyfriends, the safety of their home, their jobs, home

    cooked meals, holidays with their family and friends, seeing the birth of their children.

    They follow in the foot steps of their ancestors before them, many will not return, but

    they will persevere and in the end their honor and bravery, and the freedom they carry in

    their hearts will rise up. The ones that have gone before them and have not returned are

    there beside them shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart reminding them that freedom is not




    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Hi there Sorella, I’m so glad you liked my offerings. We should never forget the sacrifice made by members of the military over the years who have served their country. It’s things like Anzac Day, Remembrance Day etc. that help us to keep these people in our memory. You wrote a lovely piece of prose there Sorella.


  2. Ernest Swain (John)

    Hi Laurie, I found that quite moving. There’s no end to your talents. I visited your Anzac Way and the fabulous War museum in Canberra ACT- your poem brought it all back to me. Hope you’re keeping well. John


    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Hi John, It’s always good to see you. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my poem. I do appreciate it. I like to put appropriate links in, it saves an awful lot of waffle on my part. The war museum is great, you need a couple of days to go through it and they’re always changing the exhibits. Did you see the Lancaster bomber in one of the dining areas? I’m feeling better after my week off the net, and have a new lease on things.
      Keep well John,


  3. davidprosser

    A very poignant piece Laurie, and obviously written by someone who served. There are places in the world where the ultimate sacrifice of the ANZAC forces will never be forgotten. Always gratitude for the people from so far away who stood at our side as friends when needed.and who have always remained our staunchest allies.

    There were many men who stood so true
    when evil strode the land..
    And many gave in sacrifice,
    their lives to make a stand.

    In Europe twice they gave it all.
    In Asia they fought for freedom too,
    The strong, the brave the steadfast,
    Those Anzac men so true.

    Lest we forget.© 2014 D.Prosser
    All the very best Laurie.


    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Thanks so much David and what a wonderful poem in reply. A top piece there Mate. Yes the ANZAC tradition is well entrenched in a few places around the world.


  4. Raani York

    This is an amazing tribute to your mates, Laurie! You are a gifted poet, but I think I’ve told you this before. This poem proves I’m right!
    I hope very much you’re doing okay. We miss you here! 🙂
    Take care.


    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Thanks Raani, I had to break ranks, get on air and post it. It’s been fermenting on the laptop for a while. I’m feeling better, will talk again tomorrow.
      Laurie. 🙂


  5. Pingback: U is for Unite | It Goes On

  6. hitandrun1964

    Lovely tribute. Glad to see you, if only for this. Hope all is well and you won’t feel like hiding much longer…well until Monday. The chicklets miss you…chirp, peep. Again, lovely tribute to your mates.



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