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War poetry by
 Mike Subritzky
New Zealand's leading war poet

Mike Subritzky

Mike Subritzky is one of New Zealand's best known war poets. He has an international reputation and his work appears in numerous books, CD's, and anthologies. His poetry and verse is often read on National Radio on ANZAC Day (New Zealand's National Day of Remembrance).

He is the first New Zealand poet to have his war poetry read at Westminster Abbey (2004, by Lord Freyberg), and the first Kiwi poet to be read at ANZAC Corner (The Honourable Russell Marshall), Hyde Park, London.

His poem "SISTER" has been published in more than 20 international anthologies, while his poem "Welcome to Auschwitz" has been translated into more than 8 languages including English, Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, French, Hebrew, Russian, and Sign. It has also been written and performed as a play.

A retired professional soldier, from an old New Zealand military family, he is a Veteran, as are three of his sons.

"Subritzky is regarded as the 'Kiwi Kipling' and writes his war poetry in the gritty, in-your-face style of the barrack room and the forward trench" - The Pangolan Times

ANZAC - Originally the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps - Now any Australian or New Zealand soldier.

ANZAC Day - 25 April, commemorating the ANZAC landing in Gallipoli (on the coast of Turkey) in 1915. A public holiday in Australia and New Zealand.

The photographs on this page were supplied by Mike Subritzky.

Though this poem is a tribute to one particular nurse it becomes a universal tribute to all nurses working in war zones. It is Mike Subritzky's most prolifically published poem having been published in more than 20 anthologies worldwide

(A tribute to Pam M-T and all the Kiwi Nurses)

Young man, you ask me who I am,

and why I wear this faded yellow ribbon...

I am the woman, who held your dying uncle's hand,

and wrote a letter once that broke your grandma's heart.


I am she, who met the 'Dust-Off' at the door,

and carried bloodied, broken bodies through to triage.


Then cut through muddied boots and bloody combat gear,

and washed away the blood and fear and jungle.


I kept the faith when even hope was lost,

and cried within, as young lives ebbed away.


Those hours when death, frosted dying eyes,

mine, was the last smile many young men saw.


I have the voice, that blinded eyes remember,

and the touch of reassurance through the pain.


In darkest night when combat would return,

it was my name that many soldiers called.


I have dressed their wounds, and wiped away their tears,

and often read them letters sent from mum.


I hugged them close, and willed each one my strength,

and smiled and prayed that each boy made it home.


And here today, you ask me who I am...

I am the Nurse, who served in Vietnam.

Mike Subritzky
©Copyright 2001

ANZAC nurse pic

    Pam M-T, ANZAC nurse

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That first time he came home,

he spent the entire 14 days,

asleep on the couch with his jeans and boots on.

Lightly tanned woodsmen's boots (I thought),

the kind rich folks with a couple of acres,

and a Remuera tractor might wear...

and I was bloody angry as the couch was brand new.


No postal address while on his Big OE,

just the odd garbling phone call at some ungodly hour,

and the "Hi Dad I'm fine, I'm working in Manchester as a cook."


The second time he came home,

I could immediately see that

haunted look in his eyes,

and the loss of condition...

It was the photographs that did it for me,

especially the one of him dressed in helmet,

flak jacket, combat gear and sporting an M203,

guarding one of Saddam's palaces.


The photographs were hauntingly beautiful,

and his boots were desert pattern combat boots...
(I hadn't noticed).

He had just completed a 12 month Tour of Duty in Iraq

...and I never even knew.

Mike Subritzky
Copyright October 2006

Remuera tractor: A rich folks' shiny impractical 4 x 4 with road tyres

Big OE: Overseas Experience/Working Holiday

M203: M16/Grenade Launcher combination

Soldier guarding Saddam's palace pic

Guarding Saddam's palace

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Pastures Green is the first New Zealand poem to be read at Westminster Abbey. It was read at the ANZAC Day Service 2004, by Lord Freyberg



Pastures green, poppy fields,

graves for soldiers fallen.

A wooden cross marks a resting place,

a thousand miles from loved ones.


Rusted wire, silent guns,

trenches torn and broken.

A helmet rests on a rifle butt,

the tools of war unspoken.


Anzac Days, colours blaze,

their battle honours borne on.

Old men march and a bugle plays,

in memory of the fallen.

Mike Subritzky
©Copyright 1965

Written after the announcement by then Prime Minister, Keith Holyoake that New Zealand would contribute troops to Vietnam.

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They were rum faced, blushing young Hauraki men

half pissed and smoking last cigarettes and fags in quiet groups, the jumping off trench. Young men from Waihi, Paeroa, Tauranga,

Te Puna, Katikati, Kopu and Thames.

Dutch courage be buggered, Nelson had it right all along,

this was to be his 9th time over the top..."jumping the bags," 

and the rum cut right through, and "cotton-wooled"

the terror that was to shortly come...and it would come;

they all knew it.


...When the whistle blast blew its shrill,

clear, unmistakable signal to all who heard it.

He was the third man up the fire-step ladder.

The crack and thump of a single rifle shot sounded

and the man directly above him pitched backward and behind him.

Then he was up, over the fire-step and running.


It was then that the machine guns commenced their swathe,

cutting through the men of the Auckland Infantry Battalion

in a wide and fiery arch.

He fell into a shell hole, rose covered in mud and filth

and again was on his feet, bayonet fixed, nothing up the spout,

nothing in the magazine.

...hunched over the empty weapon, clearly frightened,

while men fell in silent screams either side of him.

...and the din of cannon fire,

...and the hail of machine gun fire,

...and the crack and thump of those individually

aimed and fired  'personal' small arms shots smothered his world.

A world of chaos, blood, mud, filth and death.

...and everywhere the stench of burnt chemicals and mouldering death.


When the first wave reached the pill-boxes and other hard points,

that bastard wire had not been cut by the Artillery.

It was complete and intact...

They were forced to deal with each pill-box

as they came upon them.

...Hundreds died, and the Auckland Battalion,

once proud, professional and determined,

bled itself to a standstill against those bastard pill-boxes

...that morning at Passendale.


His trousers were ripped and torn

both from shards of exploded HE shells

that littered the moonscape that was Passendale,

and the uncut wire,

and his hands were bruised and bloodied.


For a time, he and several cobbers gathered

in the bottom of a shell hole and shared a couple of fags.

The Huns were firing to their left,

he removed his bayonet

and then fed two clips (10 rounds) into the magazine of his rifle.

Now he could do his job of kill,

a sniper since Gallipoli, none of this "centre of the visible mass" bullshit...

all of his kills were headshots. Helmet or Picklehauber

it mattered not.

Headshots on men who minutes earlier had been firing to kill him.


He continued to fire until the heat from his rifle

was burning his hands as he worked the bolt.

The rum had worn off by now, and groups of wounded and dying

were all about him.


...When the second whistle blast blew its shrill,

clear, unmistakable signal to all who heard it.

This time when he rose in faithfulness and fidelity,

not out of some act of bravery,

but being a Thames man, he knew that

for the rest of his life he would have

to walk down the town's main street,

Pollen Street,

and face men and comrades

who were here and with him

...Men who had risen and moved forward,

at the whistles second shrill blast.


He too rose and ran forward with the other Thames men

and never heard the round that smacked him.

high in the chest...the centre of his visible mass.

The round spent itself punching its way through the four

slung bandoliers that he was wearing. 


250,000 Empire soldiers died in that battle,

but he was not to be one of them.

After 18 hours unconscious in a shell hole,

the British Medics found him during the battlefield cease-fire.

...Some snot-nosed 'Lance-Jack' yelling

"Oi Sir, I reckon this one's goin ta make it...he's a Kiwi."

Private Pulford was passed down the line that next day.

...and lived.

Mike Subritzky
©Copyright 2005


Pic of Private Pulford, First World War

ANZAC 12/2824 Private Basil H. Pulford, 6th Hauraki Company, Auckland Infantry Battalion, 1NZEF. He served on Gallipoli, took part in the Battle of the Somme, and was wounded at Passendale.

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Spirit of Anzac was the first New Zealand poem to be read at the ANZAC War Memorial, Hyde Park, London. It was read on ANZAC Day 2004 by The Honourable Russell Marshall, New Zealand High Commissioner.



They clad us in the colours of the forest,

and armed us with the weapons made for war.

Then taught to us the ancient trade of killing,

and lead us to the sound of battles roar.


So give us comfort as we lay down bleeding,

and pray upon our cold and stiffened dead.

But mark our place that we might be accounted,

this foreign soil becomes our graven bed.


Now children place upon this stone a garland,

and learn of us each Anzac Day at dawn.

We are New Zealand's dead from distant conflict,

our sacrifice remembered ever more.

Mike Subritzky
©Copyright 1986

Mike Subritzky

Pic two anzac soldiers at Gallipoli 1915

The ANZACS in this photo are Brothers Harold (left) and Arthur Bartleet.

The photo was taken outside of their dugout on Gallipoli on Arthur's 21st Birthday on the 20th of November 1915. Both Brothers survived the war.

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soldiers in Vietnam pic A










"To Jimmy B from Huntly - I hope you find Peace mate."

(Casino Barracks, 1974)


A quiet night in the barracks,

around midnight he starts it again,

he's yelling about some damned ambush,

and calling some Viet woman's name.


He always yells out he's sorry,

so sorry for all of the pain,

but every night around midnight;

he kills her all over again.


His life's in a kind of a freeze frame,

he can't move on from the war,

and every night just after twelve,

he's back in the Nam once more.


Back with the old 'Victor' Company,

back in that same Free-Fire-Zone,

and no bastard told those young Kiwi Grunts;

they patrolled near a woodcutter's home.


When the Lead Scout signals it's Charlie,

the Platoon melts quietly away,

the 'Immediate Ambush' signs given,

and the Safety Catch slips onto 'play'.


There's five in the group in pyjamas,

as black as a midnight in May,

and the Killing Ground moves into picture;

then the Gun Group opens the way.


Black figures are falling around him,

now he's up on his feet running through,

and they're sweeping the ground where they dropped them,

as he 'double taps' a screaming torso.


At the Re-Org his fingers are trembling,

the Platoon Sergeant gives him a smoke,

then it's back to the bodies to check them;

and his round hit a woman in the throat.


There are blood trails leading behind them,

and entrails are spilled on the track,

but the woman who screamed once is silent,

two rounds exit right through her back.


The jungle seems silent and empty,

as they dig down and bury the mess,

then it's check ammunition and weapons;

and don't dwell on the past just forget.


Another night in the barracks,

and Jimmy is yelling again,

it's that same old Vietnam movie,

that's spinning around in his brain.


He always yells out he's sorry,

so sorry for all of the pain,

but every night around midnight;

he kills her all over again.

Mike Subritzky 
©Copyright 2001

Soldier in Vietnam pic B

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