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Ole was short, round, whiskery.
A trawler skipper, he did not look like Navy,
he looked like fisherman. In the First War
they turned his ship into a minesweeper.
That’s when Ole joined the Navy.
After, he was in the Reserve.
In the Second War they turned his ship into a minesweeper.
Ole in uniform looked as though someone played a joke
on his good blue suit for going ashore.
His crew (they were turned too) weren’t good
at saluting, they were good at catching.
Niagara carrying gold caught a mine.
Weather permitting a salvage boat went out,
         moored, put down a diver, got on with the job.
Ole’s trawler held a watching brief.
They swept, if need be they netted and need
         a mine adrift swinging down on the salvage boat.
Ole sweeping did a cut and run to take the mine
in his other sweep, and took it.
                                                The drill was
then to steer away suitably, let the mine loose
and destroy it by rifle fire.
They were doing that, steering away,
as another mine surfaced swimming towards
the salvage boat.
                          Ole gripped his captive, what else
could he do but hang on? With the one in the sweep
he turned his trawler, put her between
the drifting mine and the salvage boat
without much room – "Ole, please,"
his crew were begging, "there’s a limit, man" –
and bumped, bumped again, bumped (watching
the one they were already holding)
the rogue off course . . .
     and good tarred canvas is not more tough?
                                                                                      ….. 83?
Editor's note
Ole: first publication; Ole was a Scandinavian from the Kaipara area; SS Niagara: a mail steamer, struck a German mine laid across the entrance to the Hauraki Gulf and sank with a cargo of gold bullion in 1940; the last line is a quote from R.A.K. Mason’s poem ‘Youth at the Dance’ (1932)
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