The dangers and deprivations of war inspired many of our staff around the world to write poems, which appeared in the various staff magazines. Most are humorous rhymes about the changes to life faced by those on the home front, but there are also some written by members of staff serving in the forces, including one by Alan Seager who later died as a prisoner of war.
by Northern Assurance Manchester staff, 1941
A coupon-less typist named Rose,
Was wed in original hose.
Typing ribbons to knees,
Made first-rate puttees,
And copying-tissues her clothes.
Said the manager, "once I'd a staff,
But many have now joined the WAAF,
Some are ATS and some Wrens,
They've all downed their pens,
And I've only men - left please don't laugh!"
by M N of Northern Assurance, 1941
Is very much piano;
The diplomatic sortie,
Is plainly not his forte.
Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess,
Caused a furore in the press,
By his one-man flit,
In a stolen Messerschmitt.
A stitch in time
by M N of Northern Assurance, 1941
Susie's sewing patches on her undies;
At this her fingers have become quite deft.
Now sister Susie's undies,
Quite brighten up dull Mondays,
For sister Susie's no more coupons left.
The Civic Guard Anthem
by WAB of Northern Assurance Johannesburg branch, 1941
We are a (k)nightly army,
A glorious chosen few;
And though we're dressed in khaki,
We're really "men-in-blue",
We're mostly old and feeble,
But still we're game to try;
We're Horak's horde of has–beens,
We're Stanley's great standby.
"We ain't no thin red 'eroes,"
We're just the Civic Guard.
We tramp the streets at midnight
And find them hard:
And while our hearts are eager,
Our lungs are not so strong;
The cry goes up for greatcoats,
How long, O Lord, how long?
by Mollie Briggs of Commercial Union Montreal branch, 1942
Though treasured buildings may be shelled.
May British courage high be held,
'Til victory's ours and still we sing,
With heart and voice god save the king.
Doggerel rhymes of an evacuee
by H Gleave of Ocean Accident and Guarantee Liverpool branch, 1944
In the middle of August 41,
Our war-time journeyings had begun,
For Hitler's Luftwaffe had missed number five,
And the records were safe and the staff alive,
So rather than chance an unluckier fate,
We halved "our retention" while still not too late!
Thus some of us up to Crosby went,
And a pleasant time in the "country" spent,
At least, it was pleasant till gales arose,
And snow descended and pipes all froze,
And electric trains stuck in floods of water,
(A thing you'll agree they didn't ought'er!),
But sooner or later the sun again smiled,
And the next two winters were fairly mild.
The staff at Castle Street left behind,
Played at the game of trying to find,
Papers and cases which sometimes weren't there,
And appeared to have vanished into thin air,
And their remedy! Easy! "Give Crosby ring,
They took it up with them, we'll bet anything!"
Why, oh why! Does it happen that things always tend,
Whenever you want them to be at - the wrong end?
But though Goering's airmen still failed to score,
Fate had in her locker yet one shot more,
And one summer morning in "42",
There descended a regular bolt from the blue,
For down at our Castle Street office walked in,
Our American Allies, and there did begin,
A peaceful invasion - without any doubt,
But the result was the same - we had to get out!
So the staff beat a hasty, strategic retreat,
Taking up a new baseline at 10 Dale Street,
But discovered themselves of room very short,
'Twas like into a pint pot putting a quart,
Thus more of us found ourselves taking the road,
Which leads to our pleasant suburban abode.
It is now the middle of "44",
And still we are fighting Hitler's War,
And still mid the City's fever and clash,
There remain but Inspectors and the Cash,
And erstwhile colleagues we fain must own,
Are only a voice on the telephone.
When, oh! When, shall we meet again,
And no longer catch the Crosby train,
Aut under one roof earnour daily bread,
And around us the old familiar faces,
Of our colleagues back from distant places?
Neither Churchill nor Franklin D Roosevelt know,
But the way the proceedings in Russia go,
As also the progress nearer home,
And the steady advance to the north of Rome,
Make me feel optimistic enough to think,
There may be "big news" in next year's Link.
November (with apologies to Thomas Hood)
by Northern Assurance staff member, 1943
No meat, to eat.
No stocking that are fashioned,
No tea, except what's rationed.
No fruits, no suits.
No matter how we seek,
No marmalade this week. No joys, no toys.
No flowers (for you and me),
No sugar in the tea.
No joints, no points,
No drinks, for folks like us,
No seats left in the bus.
No light, at night.
No bitter at the bar,
No petrol for the car.
No fears, no tears.
No doubts of victory.
Our Fighting Men
by HT of Northern Assurance, 1941
They that are close to God's earth,
They have the strength of the soil,
Its strength and unwavering worth;
And knowing that death is re-birth,
Ask nothing for blood or for toil.
They that are close to his sea,
They have the power of the wave,
The power that comes to the free,
Swift borne on the foam they will be,
Forever - the sea-going brave.
They that are close to his sky,
They have the daring of space:
The courage that comes from on high;
And have caught, as they arrow -like fly,
The pride of the clouds and their grace.
The Manchester ABC Rhyme Table
by Northern Assurance staff, 1941
A is for Anderson, handles the claims,
His victims say "hans" should be one of his names.
B is for Butterworth, Lance bombardier,
A little bird tells us he's learned to drink beer.
C is for Cross, "de Ste Croix" if you like,
"Home Guards, Up and At 'Em "(by motor or bike).
C is also took Croker, both soldier and "cop".
If he holds up his hand the whole column must stop.
D is for Day, and she carries a spanner,
For fellows who ask for two bobs for a tanner.
D is for Davies, out East he's consigned:
Hates horses, loves birds, _no, I don't mean that kind.
E is for Evans, another Guardee,
But works in between times, just like you and me.
F is for Flack, who will sing you a rhyme,
And balance Ledger or two at the time.
G is for Gray, with his tresses so sleek.
He prefers the "Glengarry" to caps with the peak.
H is for Hyde, but for him it is no shame,
To say that he never lives up to his name.
J is for Johnson, who'll rattle the keys,
Or put you in splints, just however you please.
K is for military police, JD Kaye,
When the bad soldiers see him they kneel down and pray.
L is for Lees, with "ack" "ack" guns he stands;
But fellows his size pull them down with their hands.
M is for Murch, head warden, sir, please,
Cares no more for sirens than did Ulysses.
N is for no one at Manchester now,
For Nimmo's at Norwich, and working, and how!
O is for Owen "not so big", you may say,
But Heaven help the German who gets in his way.
P is for Proctor, who dreams of the day,
When a ten thousand life case will happen our way.
R is for Robertson and Robinson,
Fire squad, first aid and war risks in one.
S is for Sparkes, the search lighter supreme,
His job's not all smiles, but he'll give you a beam.
T is for Thompson. The home guard recruits,
Say he shows them their rifles and just how they shoots.
T is also for Taylor, a father of three.
He never gets sleep, so he's joined ARP.
U is for Unsworth, who when there is trouble,
Can carry a message six flights at a double.
W for Withers and Williams, who still,
will bandage or dose you, with no doctor's bill.
Of X Y and Z I have nothing to say.
We'll place them with others still with us today.
We have spared them a verse, and I hope they'll agree,
We must save the paper. Don't blame it on me.
by Coder JM Brown of General Accident, c 1943
Pray never bid us do our stuff,
If the seas are very rough;
And steer us clear of rocks and races,
When routing us to distant places.
If good-tempered we must keep,
Allow no wrecks to part our sweep;
And if mines we have to sever,
Gold mines would be rather better.
One thing else we must receive,
Pray God, grant us lots of leave! Amen.
by Northern Assurance Manchester branch, 1940
It's easy enough to be cheerful,
With the morning sun after the rain.
But the fellow worth while,
Is the one who can smile,
When he's run for – and missed – his last train.
The juniors look very cheery,
(Once more they've escaped being late),
But the lad who will win,
Is the one who can grin,
When he doesn't shut down until eight.
The typist is joyful in springtime,
(Her hat is a new one, I'll bet),
But the winner, I think,
Is the one who won't shrink,
At the black-out, the cold and the wet.
We, can't all be Kiplingesque heroes,
But if we can sight through the dark,
And keep our aim strong,
All the blessed day long,
We shan't be so wide of the mark.
Ane' O' Montgomery's men
by General Accident member of staff, c 1944
Saw ye the lad wi' the Balmoral bonnet?
Sae jauntily crocked wi' the hackle upon it,
Just tak a guid look an' ye'll ken him again,
I'll warrant he's ane o' Montgomery's men.
Sae bronzed an' sae fit (he's been oot in the East),
That's tiny bit ribbon denotes that are least,
There'll aye be a welcome in toon or in glen,
When they find he is ane o' Montgomery's men.
The gallant Eighth Army-immortal their fame,
Their deeds will resound when we welcome them hame,
The laddie ye see, neither boastful nor vain,
Nae doot he'll be ane o' Montgomery's men.
God grant it guid lad, ye'll come back frae the strife,
An' maybe ye'll settle an' tak' a wee wife,
An' if ye should live to be three score an' ten,
They'll sae he was ane o' Montgomery's men.
by Northern Assurance Manchester branch, 1943
Vicariously, we strut with pride,
When air mails end cerulean ride,
With tidings fresh from overseas,
Of extra "pips" and "wings" that please,
From West to East – from Groats to Lizard,
Our men are – definitely – "wizard".
Civil defence Act, 1939
by Northern Assurance staff member, 1939
We used to talk of "policies",
And pay our little claims,
When builders' men and architects,
Were just so many names.
But that was all in peaceful days,
The times have changed, and so,
Instead of "Cover" up on top,
We've "Shelter" down below.
Appliance scales were printed forms,
Just useful memory aids,
And fire hose and stirrup pumps,
Belonged to fire brigades.
But that was ere the Nazi men,
Turned everything about.
We used to pay you for your fire,
But now we'll put it out.
Your illness mattered not a jot:
Your doctor's bill we paid.
But that was all before the staff,
Took lessons in First Aid.
A truly strange alternative,
To heal misfortune's dints,
We gave you cheques for broken legs,
But now we'll give you splints.
The sequence logical should be,
That, full of arts and crafts,
We send a clerk to mend your car,
With cylinders and shafts.
Nor should we "pay up" when you bid,
Farewell to earthly strife.
But offer solatium,
The elixir of life.
by Alan Seager of Norwich Union, 11 July 1942 (while a Prisoner of War)
Preserve oh god my soul from hate,
Howe'er world is with me;
Oppressed by unsought enmity,
And tried to my capacity,
Still let me wait.
Till time a right perspective brings,
Till I can see with calmer gaze,
And from the more advanced ways,
My place within the spinning daze,
Of living things.
Everything ends soon late,
And one day I shall learn the truth,
Of things that seem lies in my youth.
So God, till I receive that proof,
Let me not hate.