Almanac Life (and Poetry): A Desert Poet – Jack Dodds




I’ve been called a lot of things—but a poet is not one of them. I prefer to lace my words together in prose, a mixture of the long and the short, which gives my mind a chance to wander through the ideas that are forming on the page. But I love to read the words of poets; famous, infamous and unknown alike. The poem has a way of reaching into the soul of a person. It’s an art form.


With Remembrance Day only a few days away, it seemed a good time to pull out the poems of my great-grandfather, who fought in the desert in WW2. Earlier in the year, I shared a couple of his poems, which were my inheritance. He was a word smith. He wrote letters, poems and diaries. During his time in Tobruk, he kept a diary which he wrote in every day. Mundane daily details interspersed with battles from history. I have included some examples below.


Sunday 20 – Up 5-45. Wolf went mad. Got a lecture. RAP.  2 bombers fly over. All hands gawking at them. 1 drops 6 bombs. Not a shot fired at them. Our planes but had wrong map reading. ‘Whacko’. Reported bombs fell out of rack. Under shell fire for about 10 mins at 10-0. All went over but gave boys a few thrills. Bucky over for a yarn. Chap from ‘D Coy’ missing with tommy gun. Prisoner said thought Aussies all gone from up here. MICK CARROL RENMARK.


Monday 21 – Pete, Dan and I went shooting. Pete nearly shot ‘Flossie’. Up 5-15.B-fast 6-0. Back to bed. RAP 9-30. Noel over for a yarn. OC back up. AR on Tobruk 5-30. Shift over road. Wash and shave. Read. Fine. AR 7-30 about 30 Fritzies. Dropped few bombs around Tobruk. ‘Open journals’.


Tuesday 22 – Up 6-20. Bed 7-0. Up 10-30. 2 ARs this morning. Few bombs. Reported 4 Fritz down. Fine. Washing. Good dinner. Read. Bucky over for a yarn. No mail for us. AR at 5-0. Bed 9-30. Reported 8 planes, 400 prisoners today.



What strikes me most from his writing though, is his sense of humour, with many of his diary entries starting with a daily flea count! His poems too, show his comedy and wit, which must have kept him going for the years that he served overseas away from family and friends.


So today, on the eve of another Remembrance Day, I want to celebrate and salute the sense of humour and larrikin spirit of our serving men and women. Here are two from Jack Dodd that give an insight into the world he inhabited in 1941, but also his unbeatable sprit that he faced it with. Lest we forget.



On Toast


The Aussie soldier’s weakness in spite of what you hear


Isn’t cigarettes and women or wine or Aussie beer


It isn’t baked potatoes or a brown and gravied roast


It isn’t scrambled googies, but a slab of buttered toast.


When the bugle goes for breakfast or for dinner or for tea


He is not content to stand in line and get his mungaree.


He’s around the cook house fire like a dog around the post


With some rounds of bread he’s snaffled


And he’s busy making toast.


And when he’s fighting battles


And the shells are flying round


And bombs from Jerry aeroplanes


Are learning up the ground


Quite cheerfully he’ll run the risk of giving up the ghost


To reach a fire if he can


And make himself some toast.



**Mungaree – British WW2 slang for food




A Disappointment


He grabbed me by my slender neck


I could not call or scream


And took me to his darkened tent


Where we could not be seen.


He took me from my flimsy wrap


And gazed upon my form


I was so cold, so near, so damp


And he so delightfully warm.


He pressed his fevered lips to mine


I gave him every drop


He took my very soul from me


I could not make him stop.


He made me what I am today


That’s why you find me here


An empty bottle, thrown away


That once was full of beer.





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About Nicole Kelly

Is a teacher, mother, writer and all-round lover of words!


  1. Just lovely words, Nicole.

    I guess maintaining a sense of humour was one of the things that kept them all going. I once saw John Doyle talking about the mini-series “Changi”, which he wrote. He said he was inspired to write it after constantly seeing photos of emaciated, yet smiling, POWs. He marvelled at their sense of humour.

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