Major-General Bennett and His True Men

Mary Gilmore


They grouped together about the chief,
And each man looked on his fate,
Should ever the sound of a restless foot
Reach out to the foe in wait.
And bitter the wrath in each man's heart,
And savage the oaths they swore,
As they thought of how they had all been ditched
By 'Impregnable' Singapore!

Flat on her base she squatted the sea,
But, bare as an old bald head,
Her idiot face looked up to the skies
To show she was profiteer bred;
And there under heaven she naked lay,
By the enemy planes confined
While the craven [bastards] sat safe at home
Till their pants wore out behind.

She brought forth death as her eldest child,
With defeat as her second son,
Then she hung a white flag out on a staff
To show that her task was done.
But black with rage the Australians stood,
And God! how those Anzacs swore,
Bennett and all his men alike
At the old [bitch] Singapore.

Whose was the fault she betrayed our troops?
Was it her fault she failed?
Ask of those who slaughtered the flag
That once to the mast was nailed!
Ask of those who pandered for power,
Traitors whatever their rank.
Who flung to the dogs the nation's pride
Till the very name, Singapore, stank.

"Major-General Bennett and His True Men" (the original version of the poem "Singapore") was written by Mary Gilmore in February 1942, after the fall of Singapore. She submitted the poem to the Weekly, who would not accept it as it was for several reasons (the possibility of legal action, of offending its British audience in Australia, and due to the reaction of the wartime censor); the Weekly finally convinced Gilmore to agree to some modifications; however, the censor would only let the poem be published on the condition that certain drastic alterations were made. The Weekly had no time to consult with Gilmore on these changes, and it seems that she only saw the much-changed poem after it was published in the Weekly as "Singapore".
Note: The appropriate words have been inserted [in square brackets] in those two places originally left blank by Gilmore; the blank spaces were left to indicate words which were then considered profane.
[Source: Courage A Grace: A Biography Of Dame Mary Gilmore by W.H. Wilde, 1988, pages 358-360]

Fire of the Southern Cross: A Collection of Poetry for Australian Nationalists

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