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He was born in 1899, Bert Hislop was his name
and from the time he kicked a ball he was a natural for the game.
From a tiny Yorkshire village where the men worked down the pit
his father told him you won’t breathe coal you’ll wear a football kit.
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Even at his young age scouts were on the prowl
will he play for Sheff United, or perhaps become an Owl?
Would he join Manchester City, across the old Pennines?
Only thing they knew was, he’d never work inside the mines.
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Then came 1914, and the war to end all wars
and a generation of young men, arrived on Gallic shores.
One day recruiters came to town, to sign up volunteers
and Bertie Hislop to his age added several years.
Lord Kitchener told the volunteers the war would all be fun
“Over by Christmas time,” but he didn’t say which one.
Despite pleas from his family and local football side
Bertie headed off to France upon a Dover tide.
His home became a muddy trench all waterlogged and cold
and his only simple pleasure was the cigarettes he rolled.
As he stared into the gluey mud he saw his local pitch at home
where he left defenders in his wake as down the wing he’d roam.
They said he’d play for England before reaching twenty-one
but Bertie gave his dreams up to go and fight the Hun.
While artillery fire and charges played havoc with the nerves
Bertie dreamed of beating men with his body swerves.
He dreamt of Yorkshire pudding and his mother’s mushy peas
and how he wished he’d stayed at home and listened to her pleas.
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Bertie wrote a letter home on a freezing Christmas Eve
telling them he’d soon be home on at least a two week leave.
He said he’d miss the Christmas cake, the presents and the trifles
but he had to stay and fight the Huns with his fellow Yorkshire Rifles.
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“All of us are Saxons, vee only hate zee French,”
was shouted at the English lines from the German trench.
“Happy Christmas Fritz”
came a voice from the English line
and “Happy Christmas Tommy,”
replied the men from across the Rhine.
On a frosty Christmas morning, beneath a clear blue Flemish sky
Bertie and his colleagues were not prepared to die.
They dipped into their rations and soon began to sing
first some Christmas carols, then ‘God Save the King.’
As the German trench responded with the carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’
a Boche strolled into No Man’s Land totally defenseless.
He was joined by a couple more, the schnapps had made them brave
and towards the English trenches they gave a friendly wave.
So the men of the Yorkshire Rifles all put down their guns
and climbed over the sandbagged parapet to greet the friendly Huns.
Hands were shook, photos swapped, ciggs given out like candy
and German schnapps was guzzled, along with English brandy.
A couple of Highlanders with a ball came to join the banter
and soon two goal posts were put down, each a tam ‘o shanter.
With their comically, ugly pork pie hats, the Germans did the same
and before you could say Franz Beckanbaur you had an international game.
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Lots were drawn by soldiers, to see who’d make the side
and Bertie got the right wing spot which filled him up with pride.
He terrorized the Germans almost from the start
but not with a machine gun but with his football skill and heart.
The game was never dirty, they’d both seen too much blood
but not an inch was given, on the frozen Ypres mud.
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The Germans took an early lead, in the morning cold
and Bert removed his trench coat and up his sleeves he rolled.
The English ventured forward, with non-stop goal attacks
but they couldn’t rattle Germany and their stoic backs.
Then young Bertie beat two Gerries, with a swivel of his hips
and he beat the German keeper, with the most delicate of chips.
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When half-time came they swapped ‘round ends
with the score-line one to one
and straight away a pumped up Bert went off on a run.
With a drop of his young shoulders and his famous body swerve
he left defenders in his wake as in the ball he curved.
The Tommy’s on the side line, jumped up when he scored
and even the German players stood back to applaud.
But the Germans were resilient and their team refused to fall
and a blonde Aryan head soon made the score two all.
“Feed the ball to Hislop,” came the side line shouts
as the Tommy’s soaked up pressure from the skillful Krauts.
Then Bertie dribbled with the ball on one of his mazy runs
leaving in his wake, a bewildered bunch of Huns.
He dribbled round the goalie, and popped it in to score
and everyone on No Man’s Land forgot about the war.
The Germans then pressed forward, to try and score their third
but the game was abruptly ended when a single shot was heard.
Captain Wainwright removed his pistol, and fired it in the air
and ordered all the Tommy’s, back into their lair.
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Bert returned to the trench carried shoulder high
a hero in a brilliant match, that history would deny.
The history books will tell you, of hat tricks by Geoff Hurst
but they won’t mention Bertie Hislop who buried his one first.
They’ll acknowledge one man shows, Malcolm McDonald’s five v Cyprus
but they won’t tell of Bertie Hislop in No Man’s Land in Ypres.
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Captain Wainwright told the troops, he sincerely apologized
“I had to stop the game men before they equalized.
One thing you’ll someday learn chaps, when you get as old as me
is you never let the Germans take you to penal–ties.
You’ll beat them out at warfare, at rugger and at cards
but you’ll never beat the bastards at scoring from twelve yards.”
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The night before his leave, Bert took up sentry duty
dreaming of his second goal which everyone called a beauty.
He heard a sound in No Man’s Land, and foolishly raised his head
and a seasoned German sniper shot Bert Hislop dead.
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In a desolate mining village, which Maggie helped destroy,
there lies a grave upon the hill of a heroic Yorkshire boy.
The stone says BERTRUM HISLOP
15 years 200 days,
killed in action YPRES
and in this ground he lays.
So when you list your English heroes
and put Rooney at the top,
spare a thought for NO MAN’S LAND,
and a lad called BERT HIS-LOP.