The following poem is taken from a booklet entitled “Three Ballads (an intermezzo in War-time” by a distinguished man of letters
The case of Lieutenant Tattoon, M.C.
Is worthy of some remark.
He thought (and one should not think, you see)
That the War which was to make people free
Was now being fought in the dark.
For at first (he said) our aims were clear,
Men gave their lives with gladness
To save small nations from the fear
Of tyrants who would domineer
And doom mankind to madness.
Our rulers had claimed – and rightly I ween – That the Germans must be “broken”;
But afterwards, What that word might mean,
And what sort of peace was to supevene,
Were things which they left unspoken.
And no-one knew whatever on Earth
Our present objective and aim were,
And whether the loss and deadly dearth
Of another Million of lives was worth
Some gains in Mesopotamia.
These were the thoughts of Lieutenant Tattoon – Of course it was very improper,
But he actually gave them expression, and soon
Found out he was trying to jump the Moon
And only coming a cropper!
For to say what you mean is all right as a rule
In a far oversea Dominion,
But at home or under the Prussian school
It is not safe – and a man is a fool
Even to have an opinion.
A Medical Board sat on him, in state
(No wonder they looked so solemn);
His sins were entered upon the slate
With every lapse detailed to date-
And they added up the Column.
He thought – which for a Lieutenant was rash;
He spoke but should have kept silence;
He treated Imperial talk as trash
And considered the honour before the cash
Which might come to the British Islands.
‘Twas insubordination, they said,
And he surely must be crazy – Yet there he stood, in mien well-bred,
Collected and calm, with clean-cut head,
And looking as fit as a daisy.
An M.C. too – so what should they do?
‘Twas a most provoking and strange craze.
Yet to put him in prison a storm would brew
Of wrath – the mere proposal to mew
A hero in Woking or Strangeways!
For half an hour (as once in Heaven)
Silence fell on the folk assembled;
Till by one inspired the stillness was riven:
“‘Twas nervous shock.” The cue was given – And the whole court gaily dissembled.
“Poor fellow!” they said, “‘Twas nervous strain,
He’s a subject for our pity;
Let him to Hospital go, till his brain
Is healed, and there’s no danger again
That he will repeat that ditty.”
To a Shell-shock ward then he was sent,
And there he was kindly treated
And even indulged to the top of his bent:-
But there ever since has safely been pent,
And his words have been repeated.