A "rat" with a nice turn of phrase

Name: George Vincent Sarto Rudge
Date: 1939-1945
Unit: 2/4 Field Coy RAE
Location: Tobruk

Sapper George Vincent Sarto Rudge was one of the Rats of Tobruk. He was also a poet with an eye for detail who spent much of his spare time recording in his diaries the events in which he was involved.

He described the devastation caused by the war and the sad sight of thousands of prisoners on the roads into Tobruk. He wrote about the dreadful conditions the troops had to endure during the siege, including the shortage of drinking water, the problems with rats (the four-legged type), spiders and fleas, the dust, sand and heat and the terrible food.

But through it all he maintained a sense of humour and wrote more than a dozen poems, two of which are reproduced here.

To My Mother

"A Night in the Desert"

I'm lonely tonight in the desert
In vain have I tried to sleep
The stars that shine above me
Their silent watches keep.

And it's peaceful here in the desert
With the enemy guns so still
And I think of a world gone crazy
By a mad dictators will.

Now the siren shrieks a warning
And planes swoop overhead
We scramble into our dugouts
And hug the earth's cold bed.

Our guns go into action
And searchlights rake the sky
And with bating breath I gaze on death
As I see a comrade die.

The bombs rain down with a piercing scream
And burst with a deafening roar.
I realise this is no dream
And I curse this bloody war.

I silently murmur a fervent prayer
As I kneel by the side of my pal
I think of his dear old mother
His sister or maybe a gal.

He gave up his all for his country
So carefree young and gay
And here in this lonely desert
His dear life he had to pay.

But his name will go down in history
On the scroll of honour at home
And his soul will live forever
In a hero's sacred dome.

Now the sky is clear again
And the stars their watches keep,
As we crawl back into our dugouts
And in vain we try to sleep.

High in a tower of stillness
Night spreads a jewelled hand
And I earnestly yearn for my return
To my Mother and Aussie land.

George Rudge
Sapper NX21592


I've seen a lot of country
Since I began to roam
But never yet have I ever met
Folks like the folks at home.

I've been in the land so holy
With the Palestinian few
And refugees from Europe
And the scrounging Arab too.

I've worked with many soldiers
And I've been with an Etye flapper
But none of the mob can do the job
Like the good old Aussie Sapper.

I've travelled the land of plenty
Along the Mediterranean Sea
From Cairo to Benghazi
And I've never seen a tree.

They call it the land of plenty
Well I reckon that's a lie
For the only things that are plenty
Is dust and the rotten flies.

I've worked with the Pommy RE
The Indian, Turk and Greek
And one things got me buggered
I don't know what they speak.

They yabber some bleeding lingo
It would drive you mad to hear
Their cognac is rotten
And so is their flamin beer.

And they brag about their soldiers
With a proud and lordly air
They never mention Aussie
But the Aussie doesn't care.

George Rudge
Sapper NX 21592

The material for this article was supplied by Mrs Maureen Manahan of New South Wales

Last updated:

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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), A "rat" with a nice turn of phrase, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 23 July 2024, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/stories/australians-wartime/rat-nice-turn-phrase
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