The Stokers

A freighter ploughs through heavy seas

Navigating oceans by degrees

Racing to bring precious cargo back

Convoyed to reduce the chance of attack

….

The war effort needs these crucial supplies

Ferried to Britain under pewter skies

Below in the cold and merciless deep

Lies a deadly enemy that does not sleep

….

U boats silently stalk their prey

Alert and watching night and day

Silent, merciless cylinders of steel

Torpedoes armed, aimed at the ship’s keel

….

In the freighter’s bowels, ‘neath bulkhead light

Stokers swing shovels in constant night

Sweat, coal dust, crippling heat, endured

Power for the engines must be assured

….

In the stern, the propeller churns

Boiling the sea, the ship tacks and turns

On the bridge the look-out is slack

Failing to spot the moon-silvered track

….

Hell is let loose near the water line

Two explosions rock the ship’s spine

Salt seas pour in with torrent strength

Alarms ring out along the ship’s length

….

The stokers know the emergency drill

But the deluged furnaces are quick to kill

“98 hands lost”, the official post

“Ship sunk within sight of the British coast”

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