21 November 1917
- The Leader reports that the mayor’s son, James McNeilly, has returned home “war worn and battle scarred after three years and three months of campaigning”. A Soldier’s Return
- The Leader publishes the poem Unfit to Fight by “A Rejected Soldier”
“Unfit to fight” – tersely the surgeon put it.
“Unfit.” Good God.
If he but know the battle I have struggled through
A battle lasting days and nights and months and years,
A battle knowing little hope, but blackest fears,
A battle to the death for breath.
“Unfit to fight.” Yes, I suppose I am unfit,
And yet, I wonder, if that surgeon knew
How night after night I fought the fight.
In bitter struggle and despair,
With sweat pouring down through matted hair,
And death waiting there,
So tempting in that bottle on the chair
If he would still have said, “Unfit to fight?”
Home, mother, family, sweetheart, friends – all put behind,
That I might fight this battle with my mind,
The battle every hopeless one must fight,
When death seems good, and life is only fright.
With rotting lungs and wheezing breath,
A man shunned, outcast, wishing only death;
But I battled on and in a way I won, until that night,
The surgeon said, “You are unfit to fight.”
You boys out at the front cannot know
The battles fought by those who could not go,
By those who were pronounced ”Unfit to fight.’
And so, tonight,
When taps were sounded, slowly, sweet and clear,
And thoughts float back to those you hold most dear,
Perhaps you’ll breathe a prayer into the night
For those who stayed at home, unfit to fight.