G.D. Martineau


G.D. Martineau: The Parachute Packers PrayerWhen they posted me here to the section,
I was free as the pitiless air,
Unashamed of confessed imperfection,
Having no sort of burden to bear.
I was not an incurable slacker;
Neat, not fussy – I fancied of old,
But today I’m a Parachute Packer,
And my heart takes a turn with each fold.

When I think how I snugly resided
In the lap of this land we could lose,
I believe if I left one cord twisted,
I would place my own neck in a noose.
So I lay the fine silk on the table
And I lift each pale panel in turn.
They have said that my folding is able
But it took me a long time to learn.

For the cords must come free for smooth flowing
And the webbing attachment be stout,
For the brute of a breeze will be blowing
If the aircrew have to bale out.
‘Cos the flyer must float unencumbered,
Come to earth to complete the design,
See, the ‘chute has been carefully numbered,
And in the name in the log book is mine.

So is conscience awakened and care born
In the heart of a negligent maid.
Fickle Aeolus, fight for the airborne,
Whom I strive with frail fingers to aid.
Give my heroes kind wind and fair weather,
Let no parachute sidle or slump,
For today we go warring together
And my soul will be there at the jump.

Should the parachute fail, the person who packed it always attended the funeral: suitable motivation for packing it properly.

Once behind enemy lines, the airmen if they were lucky found help with the ‘escape lines’. Now The WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society is dedicated to the ‘helpers’, escapers and evaders who either organised or used the escape lines of mainland Europe during WW2. Their aim is to; “preserve and commemorate the memory of the ‘helpers’ of the escape lines and of the ‘helpers’ who worked alone, in order to teach successive generations about their vital role in WW2. Without those brave people, many Allied soldiers and airmen, who found themselves stranded behind enemy lines, would not have been able to return to the UK to continue the common fight for freedom; they would have been captured, or dead. They have never forgotten the people who helped them.

The ‘‘helpers’’ of the escape lines aided Allies of many nationalities by sheltering, feeding, nursing, and guiding them – they did this at great cost to themselves and their families – many paid with their lives for their selfless acts of humanity and courage towards total strangers.

“Humanity and courage towards total strangers. It’s worth repeating and never forgetting: ‘When you go home, tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow we gave our today.’

Webmaster’s Note: With thanks to Maurice Arnold from Australia, for his research and subsequent communication, which pointed me to the Blog, “The Escape Line”, wherein was included a copy of the full poem. A further search revealed the poem on the website, “Aircrew Remembered”, which served to confirm the poem’s provenance.

Canadian Army Major and Korean Veteran, Murray Edwards first brought the poem to my attention in 2010. Major Edwards recalled only a portion of the poem, which was recorded in the “Author’s Unknown” section of the IWVPA website. Now, thanks to Mr Arnold, the full poem is available, and more importantly, the author is identified and properly credited.