HOW BILL BREAM
WON THE VICTORIA CROSS
by
Walter Stanford
The man in the oil-skin garb sighed hard, 
As he looked at his empty mug 
Then spat three times, and from left to right 
He shifted a juicy plug
Anon, as he sat, with his tar-stained hands 
Reflectively he caressed 
A Maltese Cross of simple bronze 
That hung on his manly chest. 

When a voice said, "What ha' yer got there, Bill?" 
"The Victoria Cross," says he 
"What I won on the night the Shong Long Wong 
Went down in '63."
And the Landlord said, "It's early yet boys, 
Tell 'em the story, Bill." 
(Of course they'd heard it a score of times, 
But it helped to amuse them still). 

So, the hero's mug being promptly filled 
With a fresh supply of ale. 
He gulped it down in one 
And told them the following tale...
"You see, me 'earties, 'twas like this 'ere 
As I was a-finishing tea 
That awful night, when I won 
This 'ere, in December '43. 

I heard a knock at the door, I did, 
And old Jim Bowline shout 
'Ere a wessel's struck on the Silver Sands 
And they're gettin' the life-boat out 
So I lets 'im in, and, by Gorm, 
The wind that night so 'ard it blew 
That the gust what came took 
All the bloomin' tea things up the flue. 

Then I slipped into me oily togs 
And off goes I with Jim 
But the gale blowed 'im in a public 'ouse 
That's the last I see of 'im. 
When I gets down to the life-boat 'ouse 
The skipper, he says, "'Ere Bream 
"The stoker says it'll take two hours 
Afore 'e can get up steam." 

"We ain't got time for that," says I, 
"Why look 'ere, man alive 
We'll 'ire a pair from the stables 'ere 
And I'll undertake to drive." 
So the steeds was brought and 'arnessed on 
They plunged in the boilin' foam 
When the skipper, 'e says, "Ere turn back, Bream 
I left my pipe at 'ome."

We takes 'im back, an 'e goes off 'ome 
And 'e don't turn up no more 
"Gorm this!" says I "Let's leave 'im 'ere." 
And again we starts from shore 
Then comes a splash and the cox'n's voice, 
"I'm overboard!" 'e cried 
As the near 'orse jibbed at a lump of coal 
That was floating on the tide. 

Well, we rescued 'im, and arter that 
We sailed along all right 
But when we got where the ship 'ad been 
She'd disappeared from sight. 
So over the side we felt, all round 
And the crew began to swear 
And they says, "Drive up Bill, lets get 'ome 
We shan't find nothing 'ere!" 

Just then Tom Slacks, 'e gives a shout 
And 'e cries out, "Hi, there stop! 
For I've got 'old of 'er larboard portside 
Mainbrace mizzen top!" 
But just as 'e was a 'aulin' up, 
A shark what was down below 
Bit poor old Tom in the 'and so hard 
'E 'ad to let 'er go.

And arter that we finds no sign 
I says to old Jack Delf, 
"Look 'ere, I'll dive in the stormy main 
And I'll fetch 'er up myself." 
So, in I plunged, and down like lead 
I goes in the seething wet 
Where I bumped me 'ead on the ocean floor 
You can feel the bump 'ere yet. 

It was 'orrible dark, as I felt about 
But no ship could I feel 
So a match I strikes and peerin' round 
I spotted her upturned keel. 
I shouts to me mates at the top, "Righto!" 
And they shouts "Righto!" again 
And I makes for the surface 
'Oldin' on to 'er windlass chain 

I stepped on board and I 'auled 'er up 
And, "Bravo Bill" they cried 
As arter jib, with a piece of rope 
To our bowsprit boom I tied. 
The 'orses gets to the shore at last 
And we 'auls 'er high and dry 
And we finds as she's a Chinese craft 
From the port of Li Dam Li. 

When we read 'er name, we thought at first 
As 'ow we must be wrong 
'Twas the Chinese Emp'rors private yacht 
And 'er name was 'Long Shong Wong' 
'Er crew we takes, and two by two 
Their pigtails long we tie
And 'ang them up on a clothes line there 
In the lifeboat 'ouse to dry. 

And the followin' mornin' that celestial 
Captain and his crew 
Was walkin' about and talkin' 
And they all looked good as new. 
The Emp'ror wasn't on board 'imself 
'E hadn't come out that cruise 
But 'e sent for me, for an interview 
As soon as 'e 'eard the news. 

And 'e says, "Bill Bream, you're a man, you are 
You are, by the big pink joss." 
And then, with 'is own imper'al 'ands 
Pinned on me breast the Cross 
And Tom Slacks 'ere, 'e can bear me out 
And 'e'll say if I've told you wrong 
As to what I done in '52 
At the wreck of the Wong Shong Long.
The end