The word was out, and Home Defence was going frantic:
“Bismarck must not break through to the Atlantic.”
We stood to at dawn. Lock keepers were alerted.
Spotters’ cards were issued to all local Scouts and Guides;
“Vessel, grey and rather long, and - this can’t too often be asserted-
If it’s marked ‘Kriegsmarine’, it’s probably the other side’s.”
Around mid-morning, bicycle patrols at Avoncliff
Saw a periscope, or so at least they reckoned.
Workboat Saucy Winston dropped a depth charge; then a second.
The two explosions echoed right round Sally in the Woods,
Startling the moorhens, setting rooks a-cawing; if
What Akela swore, that oil and wreckage had been seen, was true,
The convoy at Brass Knocker Basin, with its vital goods
Intended for Devizes Wharf, could now get safely through.
On Caen Flight’s WRVS refreshment stall
The woman with the tea urn sternly turned away
A chap she thought a ‘foreign-sounding bugger’
Who asked if he could kindly have a coffee and a bun:
But when she found out he was actually a Pole,
Who normally flew Spitfires but had just popped by
To meet a lady bargee he was sweet upon,
Apologised profusely, gave him extra sugar.
A flight of mallard came back in from Semington
With nothing to report. The afternoon grew older.
The hawthorn quietly blossomed in the sun.
Sedge warblers serenaded drowsy soldiers
In pillboxes new-built along the northern shore,
Who swore there’d never been so quiet a day before.
At six o’clock we put the kettle and the radio on,
And wondered if our dinner would be any good.
Big Ben tolled. “This is London. Earlier today, HMS Hood…”
This started when we were in Devizes recently, and we saw a poster about the Kennet and Avon canal during the war, which got us riffing about the action in The Cruel Sea and Sink The Bismarck! relocated to the canal...