The old warplane lay upon a bed of rocks
Skeletal-like, abandoned, its body rusted and broken;
Torn cables, wires, and trailing metal spars
Spilled from a fuselage ruptured, and nakedly open;
Still attached hung crushed fragments of the plane’s spent wings;
Nearby lay Merlin engines, stripped from the plane’s cowlings,
These now infiltrated with wolf willow, and wild prairie grass.

A small prairie boy clambered over rocks to the starboard wing,
Crawled into the cockpit, pulled levers and pressed buttons,
Surveyed his compass direction, then closed the forward hatch;
And lo! transformed to a fighter plane’s pilot,
Assumed battle skills that few enemies could match.

The boy-pilot fired those twin Merlin engines,
Then ascended the plane swiftly, through a clear prairie sky.
While far above, in silence, a Cooper’s hawk passed by.

When looking by chance in his plane’s rear mirror,
Our boy-pilot saw the enemy bearing down fast from his rear;
Shocked and alarmed, he had no time to think, no time for fear;
Pulled up on the stick, slammed hard-fast to the right,
Cranked the rudder starboard, with all his boyish might;
The enemy streaked past him, then trailed far down and below.
Today the war gods decreed in the boy-pilot’s favor,
Though many missions still were to follow,
His ultimate survival he could not know.

The wreck lay on its bed of rocks,
Far from the air battles of a long forgotten war;
Yet in its solitude, brave comrades were remembered,
Airmen who fought fierce battles nigh thirty years before;
And in that struggle for freedom, many had died,
Men who dared challenge an enemy battle-hardened, and tried.

A faded roundel of red, white and blue
Still marked the plane’s weathered fuselage;
This ancient, metallic, bird-like creature
Shimmering, seemingly floating,
Wrapped in the heat of a summer’s mirage.

Then, for those who might listen,
The old plane uttered a last brief orison,
Offered dear friend, to both you and I;

“ …… I implore all you freemen, I implore you remember
Those squadrons of brave airmen,
With courage in their hearts and strength grown mightier
Dared challenge the wrath of the Teutonic aggressor.”

“I implore you remember them when the sun’s at high noon,
And when the moon glows brightly on a cloudless night;
For by their valour Liberty was won,
And Hope for all mankind shone brighter……”

Thus within lengthening shadows
Spoke the derelict Bristol Beaufighter;
Words proffered before slow gathering darkness,
And the enveloping silence of Time.

John W. Coates


Dedicated to the memory of Pilot Officer Seth James Flannery and crew of RCAF 404 Buffalo Squadron; killed in action on May 1st 1943, while on mission in their Bristol Beaufighter aircraft over the English Channel, near the coast of France.

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