Friday, 5 October 2012

The Soldier

My father, Gerhardus Hermanus du Toit, was one of life’s great enigmas. He came from an Afrikaans upbringing yet married an English speaking woman, spoke only English himself and considered the “English” orientated United Party his lifelong political home. During World War Two, he was working on the Langlaagte Deep Mine as a shaft timber man and because mining and miners were considered “essential “to the war effort,he was not allowed to “signup” for active duty.

So strongly did he believe that he had an obligation to do his bit that his simple solution was to quit the mine job and signup anyway leaving my mother to do the best she could on the meagre army pay. Joining the army simultaneously gave the finger to his Afrikaans relatives since the majority of Afrikaners openly or secretly supported Germany. Manie, as he was known, spent three years in the Signal Corps seeing action first in Egypt and later in Italy. He returned home physically unscathed but like so many returning soldiers the scars were on his psyche.

The Soldier

Come let me wash your face son
We are going to meet your Dad
He’s coming home from up North son
And he’ll leave us no more, are you glad?

The troop train’s due in at eleven son
Three years last week he’s been gone
But today he’ll be at Park Station son
And he’ll wonder at how big you’ve grown

Just look at the flags on the streets son
We are flying the proud Union Jack
Johannesburg is happy today son
For at last her men have come back

Hold tight to my hand on the platform son
Or you’ll surely get lost in this throng
Hear Johannesburg lifting her voice son
To welcome her men with a song

Don’t fret, I’m not really crying son
For tears can mean both joy and pain
And my heart’s bubbling over today son
For your Dad will be with us again

Some day when you have grown up son
You’ll know why I’m no longer afraid
And why there are faces missing son
And the terrible price that was paid

But for now be happy and smile son
There’s nothing can mar our joy
We’ll pick up the threads of our life son
Your Dad your Mom and their boy

Look! There’s your Dad at a window son
Now wave, wave with both hands
There look, he’s seen us, he’s waving
At last, back from far distant lands

There’s hugging and kissing and crying
No more will Mother be sad
For a man is back with his family
Our Soldier, our Hero, my Dad

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