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The Almighty sniffed and said: ‘Jesus, my boy…

France, December 1916. Unidentified members of the Australian 5th Division, enjoying a “smoko” near Mametz, on the Somme

“The main beneficiaries of conflict seem to be ambitious politicians and defence industries. Amidst the patriotic fervour we forget about the damaged individuals and ruined lives that war produces,” writes CLIVE WILLIAMS

SOMETIMES a nation has little option other than going to war, but that hasn’t been the case for Australia since World War II.

Clive Williams.

The main beneficiaries of conflict seem to be ambitious politicians and defence industries. 

Amidst the patriotic fervour we forget about the damaged individuals and ruined lives that war produces. 

Anyway, what I thought I would share with you at the end of 2021 is a poem I found on a loose piece of paper in an old book I bought at Lifeline. 

The poem was probably written during World War I. I haven’t been able to find out who wrote it, but it highlights the hypocrisy of war and deserves wider recognition:

Our day of prayer!

The Almighty sniffed and said: “Jesus, my boy,

There’s a smell rising out of the west;

Do you see that blue vapour surrounding the earth?

I thought it was their day of rest.


They’re trying to signal. They’re turning out smoke;

They’re sending a message across.

Tune in the receiver, let’s hear what they say –

These birds that nailed You to the Cross.”


So Jesus turned on his latest short wave

And nearly had fourteen blue fits.

He said: “That’s no static, it’s bombs and big guns,

They’re blowing each other to bits.


But hold on, they’re praying. They’re down on their knees –

The ones that are not making guns –

They reckon they want You to give them a hand,

They’re fighting a mob called the Huns.


The Huns, too, are praying. They’re telling the world

That God is there, leading them on;

And both sides are making the sign of the Cross;

Their parsons have uniforms on.


They say, if You help them to slaughter their foes,

And keep all the land that they’ve won, 

They’ll go to their churches at least once a week,

And cut out a bit of their fun.


And there’s an archbishop in vestments and lace,

Between prayers he’s doing his sums;

He’s got to keep up his magnificent church

On profits and rents from the slums. 


And, oh! Here’s a beauty. He says he’s the Pope,

With a three-storied crown on his head.

He lives in a Palace. He says he is God.

And collects a few bob from the dead.


They’re sinking their ships. They’re shooting their boys. 

They’re bombing their babies as well.”

“Hold on,” said Almighty, “You’d better make sure

You’re tuned into Earth and not Hell.”


“Oh, yes, it’s the Earth. I would know it again

By the pomp and the cant of the Church.

They march and parade with the strong and the rich

And leave all the poor in the lurch.


Tis two thousand years since I told them the Truth,

To value man more than their lands.

To love one another, to give to the poor –

Just look at the marks on My hands.”


Then God said: “Switch off, Son, You’re making me cry,

They’ve learnt nought from You it appears; 

Just leave them to fight we’ll wait and tune in

Again after two thousand years.”


Let’s hope that 2022 does not see Australia dragged into a conflict over Taiwan. 



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Clive Williams

Clive Williams

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3 Responses to The Almighty sniffed and said: ‘Jesus, my boy…

John F. Simmons says: January 6, 2022 at 12:30 pm

Ian Meikle, editor

I am going to share this article with all my 11 grandchildren, the youngest of whom will be voting for the first time this year. Also, the article has reminded me to share with them a letter I wrote to the Canberra Times before any of them voted for the first time. Here it is if you are interested in re publishing it.

Lest we forget: the German cemetery is a moving place too.

Mark Dapin’s article on the Australian War Graves director, Ken Corke (“Lest sabre-rattlers forget: 60,000 dead, November 11, Forum p2) reminded me of a visit to Normandy in 2012.
On the way to visit Pointe Du Hoc, Omaha Beach and the nearby American cemetery, someone suggested we go to see the German cemetery near La Cambe. I was ambivalent, but it proved to be the most moving place I have ever been. Looking again at the photos of that place today has made me feel cold on a warm day. So many teenagers, so many others without a full name or age, presumably rushed into the Nazis’ army. I wonder how many of them thought like Ken Corke; “I felt like they’d want us to do something that I probably may not agree with.”

If you ever go to that part of Normandy, please visit both the American and German cemeteries, notice the contrast, walk among the graves, read the inscriptions, stand still and silent. Contemplate not so much the futility of war, because Hitler started a war that had to be fought, but think of the consequences of wars for individuals and their loved ones, imagine the youngest person you love being there.

I especially want leaders considering armed conflict to take that pilgrimage. To ask themselves is this fight really necessary or in my innermost soul do I really know that I and some of my advisers want to go down in history as “wartime leaders”.

John F. Simmons, Kambah

Ian Meikle says: January 6, 2022 at 12:37 pm

Dear John,
What a terrific gesture and a terrific letter. Thank you for sharing with us all. Clive will be chuffed, too.
Cheers, Ian M.


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