Last night I lay upon my bed,
Hearing the ’planes pass overhead.
Some came in and some went out,
While others hovered round about.
Oh Lord, I started then to say,
But paused again, how could I pray
To God for life and safety when,
For every plane The Germans sent,
A score to them from Britain went.
It is a war for truth and right,
And we for justice hard must smite.
But oh! The little children’s tears,
The aged and the mothers’ fears,
They come between me and my prayers.
Of what more value is my life,
Than theirs in all the world’s great strife?
At last I pray if ’tis thy will,
Oh leave me with my loved ones still.
Or if the time has come to die,
Oh send death swiftly Lord I cry.
I thought [and there then] rose to mind,
The time when Herod tried to find
The Saviour Christ when he was born,
And slew between the dark and dawn,
All little children far and near,
Not knowing Jesus was not there.
These too were innocent of wrong,
But died the victims of the strong.
God saw it all and us he sees,
Fighting for right or on our knees.
Those children died and Christ was saved,
The way to life by them was paved.
Christ lived on earth his perfect life,
Then died to save the world from strife.
No one more innocent than He,
And yet He died upon the tree.
Oh send to us the knowledge Lord,
To live in peace and not by sword.
Let sacrifice be not in vain,
After this time of sin and pain.
Teach us to walk in righteousness,
And God the Trinity confess.
The poem as above appeared to be a draft and no re-written version has been found. The lower part of the double-sheet was damaged, so that the words shown in parentheses are a suggestion and two lines (……….) towards the end could not be deciphered.
At the time May wrote the poem (14th July 1943) she must have been feeling rather uneasy, having listened to news of new military action in Italy and having received Ron’s letters in which he could not reveal his own location after transferring to Malta from North Africa where the Allies had been victorious. May was unhappy that the war was taking a great toll in casualties, including civilians, on both sides, as well as spoiling the simple pleasures in life such as she expressed at times in her Diary (e.g. see 16 May 1943) “…Birds are singing, and it is so calm and quiet. War seems very far away, but that is a fallacy…”
More news of Ron’s whereabouts did emerge during August although May did not write in her Diary until the later part of the month.
The poem has been added to the poems collection on this site. It also appears in the book The Casualties Were Small which contains over twenty of May’s poems as well as selected diary extracts, including those which suggest the background to each poem, accompanied by many nostalgic photographs.
Have you read an introduction to May Hill & family (includes photographs) and explored ‘The Casualties Were Small’?