yes, one of the dead was Gavin Ewart's cousin.
sorry about the lack of formatting. I forgot that MS Word returns don't paste as breaks. revised post below.
Incident, Second World War
(in memoriam P.M.B. Matson)
It was near the beginning of the war. 1940 or '41.
when everything was fairly new to almost everyone.
The bombing of cities we understood, and blackouts, and certainly, thanks
To the German Army and Airforce, we'd seen dive bombers and tanks.
But when the fighters came in to strafe with hedge-hopping low attacks
how many bits and pieces would be picked up to fill the sacks?
Aircraft cannon were not much fun for the weary grounded troops
and there wasn't much entertainment when the Stukas were looping loops
but nobody knew for certain the percentage who wouldn't get up
how many would be donating their arms and legs to Krupp.
So somebody in an office had the very bright idea,
why not set up an Exercise: machine gunning from the air?
The War Office would know exactly the kind of figures involved,
an exciting statistical problem could be regarded as solved.
In a field they put khaki dummies, on the reverse side of a hill.
And afterwards, they reckoned, they could estimate the kill.
Opposite these was an audience, to watch the total effect,
a sort of fireworks display – but free – the RAF being the architect.
All arms were represented? I think so. A grandstand seat
was reserved for top brass and others, a healthy open air treat;
enclosed beyond the dummies, they stood, (or sat?) and smoked
or otherwise passed the time of day, relaxed as they talked and joked.
An experienced Spitfire pilot was briefed to fly over low
and give those dummies all he'd got – the star turn of the show,
with all the verisimilitude of a surprise attack.
Then to his fighter station he would whizz round and back.
They waited. And suddenly, waiting, they saw that angel of death
come at them over the hillside. Before they could draw breath
he passed with all guns firing, some fell on their faces, flat,
but the benefit was minimal that anyone had from that
He reckoned that they were the dummies, in his slap-happy, lone-wolf way,
that trigger-crazy pilot. He might have been right, some say
But bitterness and flippancy don't compensate for men's lives
and official notifications posted to mothers and wives.
Nevertheless there were results; percentages were worked out,
how 10 percent could be written off, the wounded would be about
50 per cent or so. Oh yes, they got their figures all right.
Circulated to units. So at least that ill-omened flight
was a part of the Allied war effort, and on the credit side –
except for those poor buggers who just stood there and died.