He Was A Mate
Poetry by Lachlan Irvine


He was a mate, a real good mate 'e was,
A friendly sort of feller, liked a joke;
And if it had to happen, it's a shame
It had to happen to such a decent bloke.

But - ah, fair dinkum, don't it make you wonder
What God in Heaven's thinkin' about up there;
The way He chooses who to sacrifice
To me somehow it doesn't quite seem fair.

You'd think He'd want to take a bloke like me
Who'd be no loss to no-one here on Earth;
But no, He always seems to pick the best
Whose life amounts to ten times what mine's worth.

But I suppose He'd say it's not His fault,
It's us and how we treat our fellow man;
And if too many good blokes' lives are lost
We can't just blame it all on His great plan.

He slung us here on Earth and said "Righto,
Get on with it you blokes, the world is yours";
But all we've done is fight among ourselves
And destroy each other with our endless wars.

Now, there's a sort of aching here inside,
I can't quite put my finger on what's wrong;
But a soldier can't afford to feel this way,
He's got to grit his teeth and carry on.

So how's a bloke supposed to deal with this?
I know they trained me well, I can't complain;
But this is somethin' you don't learn about
When they teach you how to play the soldier's game.

They teach you how to shoot and how to kill,
You even learn which enemy to hate;
But nowhere in their training do you learn
How to live with the loss of a real good mate.

Lachlan Irvine

The purpose of this poem was to portray some of the thoughts that go through a young soldier's mind when one of his mates is killed. In that sense, the poem is intended to have a general application. When I wrote it however, I had a particular mate in mind. His name was Gary Polglase, known to his friends as "Polly". He was a dog handler in the Anti-Tank Platoon, 3RAR. Here he is pictured with his dog, Julian, just a few weeks before his death, which occurred in April 1968.


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