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Sunday, 8 November 2009

"The Down 'Omers" or "The Angels of Wan Chai"

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They were the flowers of their poverty,
The prettiest of the weeds.
The need to eat and support themselves,
Would often shape their deeds.
But when British Troops lay bleeding,
In foreign streets so far,
T'was the Angels of Wan Chai,
Showed what real ladies are!


They'd enter short term contracts,
With soldiers posted there.
They'd keep his board and keep his bed,
And be his wife out there.
And as long as the posting lasted,
They'd cleave close to his side,
And when the troopship sailed away,
They'd be someone else's bride.

"funny an' yellow and faithful,
Doll in a teacup, she were,
But we lived on the square,
Like a true married pair,
An' I learned about women from her!"

"Where're you going, Tommy?"
You might ask as he left camp.
"Down 'ome!" was often his reply,
As downhill he would stamp.
So "Down 'omers" they became,
Those flowers of the night,
And while Tommy treated 'em decent,
They'd always treat 'im right!

The memsahib looked down on them,
As nothing but sluts and whores.
But the memsahib looked down on Tommy,
Those pale insipid bores!
But while they were complaining,
How hard the war was on the wives,
T'was the Angels of the gutter,
Went out and saved some lives!

When the memsahib in Singapore,
Were bribing passage for a few,
The Angels of Wan Chai,
Went were the bullets flew,
They carried food and medicine,
To the defenders of Hong Kong,
They bandaged up the wounded,
All night and all day long!

And when the fight was over,
That Christmas the wounded lay,
Out in the streets for 'most a week,
And were tended every day.
By Angels in silk cheongsams,
Skin tight and split to thigh,
Who braved the bullets and the rape,
That Tommy wouldn't die!

British and Canadian,
Indian Soldiers lost,
Were rounded up like cattle,
And into jail tossed!
And in all the years of hardship,
The Wan Chai Angels threw,
Food and meds across the wire,
To try and save a few!

They were the flowers of their poverty,
The prettiest of the weeds.
The need to eat and support themselves,
Would often shape their deeds!
But when Commonwealth Troops lay bleeding,
In foreign streets so far,
T'was the Angels of Wan Chai,
Showed what real ladies are!

Copyright © Res JFB 24th October 2009

Written in honour of the Angels of Wan Chai, whose actions during and after the fall of Hong Kong saved the lives of many Commonwealth Troops. Lest we forget!

The verse in italics is stolen, quite shamelessly, from my friend Rudyard Kipling!