This place they call Tobruk

Name: H.B. Paterson
Date: 1941
Unit: AIF
Location: Middle East

War has produced some memorable poetry over the years with the name Paterson among the best.

Banjo's son, H.B. Paterson, is not well known as a poet but he obviously inherited some of his father's skills.

He wrote two poems for his friend, Victor Wright, while serving in Tobruk. The originals are still held in the family.

This place they call Tobruk

Theres places that I've been in
I didn't like too well,
Now Englands far too blooming cold
And Wintons hot as hell;
The Walgett beer is always warm
In each theres something crook
But each and all are perfect to
This place they call TOBRUK.

We reckoned El Agheila
Was none too flash a place,
El Abiar and Beda Fomm
Weren't in the bloody race,
At the towns this side Bengasi
We hadn't time to look
But I'll take my oath they're better than
This place they call TOBRUK.

I've seen some dust storms back at home
That made the house wives work
Here theres enough inside our shirts
To smother all of Bourke.
Two diggers cleaned their dug out
And their blankets out they shook
Two Colonels perished in the dust
In this place they call TOBRUK.

Theres militant teetotallers
Who abhor all kinds of drink
Theres wives who break good bottles
And pour them down the sink,
This place would suit them to the ground
We've searched in every nook
But booze is rare as hen's teeth in
This place they call TOBRUK.

Theres centipedes like pythons
And theres countless hordes of flees,
As big as poodle dogs they come
A snapping round your knees,
And scorpions large as A.F.V's
Come out to have a look,
Theres surely lots of livestock in
This place they call TOBRUK.

The shellings nice and frequent
And they whistle overhead
You go into your dugout
And find shrapnel in your bed
And when the Stukas dive on us
We never pause to look
We're down our holes like rabbits in
This place they call TOBRUK.

Sometimes we go in swimming
And float about at ease
The water clear as crystal
And a nice clean salty breeze
When down comes blasted Hermann
And we have to sling our hook
We dive clean to the bottom in
This place they call TOBRUK.

I really do not think this place
Was meant for me and you
Lets return it to the Arab
And he knows what he can do
We'll leave the God forbidden place
Without one backward look
We've called it lots of other names
This place they call TOBRUK.

Victor Wright

with the writers compliments
H.B. Paterson

The material for this article was supplied by Mrs Nanette Punch of New South Wales


Last updated: 3 June 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), This place they call Tobruk, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 14 August 2020, http://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories-service/australians-war-stories/place-they-call-tobruk
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