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