Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Have You Heard?

I was looking at my Facebook homepage today and saw a post that had been written by someone imagining what it must be like to be a military wife or husband when their partner is on tour. Whilst the sentiment was nice, I felt the poem had a lot to be desired, a view that, judging by the comments under it, was shared by a lot of other people.

This spurned me on to thinking about how I might address this difficult topic so I put my fingers to the keyboard and came up with the following poem;

Before you read it you should note that;
  • In verse 1 ‘Op MINIMISE’ is the name of the practice of stopping deployed personnel contacting loved ones at home immediately after a major event has occurred in theatre. This is done in order to ensure that the authorities have time to tell the next of kin what has happened to their loved ones before the Jungle drums start beating.
  • In verse 3 the word 'patch’ is the colloquial term for a military housing estate.
I would be most interested in your comments on this poem please.

Have You Heard?

When I dropped the kids at school
The talk was; “have you heard?”
They must be on Op MINIMISE
Because there’s been no word.

I had to do the shopping
the stocks were getting low.
I met Barbara in Tesco’s,
she asked; “Do you know?”

Back home the patch is quiet.
I crack on behind closed doors,
The radio in the background
As I do my household chores.

My mind is spinning painfully.
My emotions are red raw.
How I wish he was here with me,
not in some bloody war.

The phone’s shrill call disturbs me
My mind is suddenly blurred,
It’s Julie from down the road
She asks “Have you heard?”

“Jackie’s Smudge has been injured
He’s coming home today,
I’m going over to help her.”
I didn’t know what to say.

Relief floods in, for my Jack’s safe.
My heart leaps for joy;
But then its shattered; for young Smudge
is such a lovely boy.

It’s hard to be the partner
of service folk on tour.
When they’re away you’re left with
your own hell to endure.

You have to run a household
and tend to grieving kids
whilst guarding your own emotions
and missing them to bits.

John Carré Buchanan
20 March 2012


  1. Replies
    1. Aindre, Thank you very much for your comment.

  2. Hi John.
    I am not a Service wife however I have a vivid imagination and have some councellor training. Being in the position above one must feel a plethora of emotions. Nothing is ever cut and dried in this life. You have your own feelings but need to consider the feelings of others, then you have to deal with the everyday chores that go with being a parent and also deal with the whatever troubles the children have. I think you have captured all these emotions sensitively and well.

    I hope the comments are the sort of thing you were looking for.

    1. Karen, Thank you for your comment. I have had some experience in this role and looking after the families of soldiers who have deployed on operations, but like you I am no expert. I just know it is very hard and admire the women who do it so well.

  3. Hi John, In a way I can connect with what you are saying. When my husband was out on the Lifeboat I felt similar emotions, although the time period was probably shorter. To carry on as normal but also thinking of others involved while not letting your feelings get the better of you is an inner strength that you did not know you had.Jenny.

    1. Jenny, Thanks I guess that is something most partners have to learn, but there is also the feeling of being cut off and alone which can be scary, especially when the news is so often dominated with images from Afghanistan and other operational areas.

  4. Mothers feel just this way too, especially when they only have the BBC World Service for news

    1. Thanks for your comment. What can be worse for parents is that once service personnel get married they often put their spouse down as their next of kin. This means that it is the Husband or Wife who are told something has happened and the Mothers and Fathers may have to wait until the spouse pass on the news.
      What must be said is that the whole Compassionate Process works extremely well. Everyone involved bends over backwards to make sure that the right people get told and if necessary given assistance, as quickly as possible.


I really appreciate constructive feedback. If you are able to comment it would be most grateful.


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