‘Tik, Johnnie!’ (pronounced Teek) – the friendly and familiar salutation
between the British Tommy and his Indian comrade-in-arms, heard so
frequently during the first year of the war. Freely translated it means
‘good’, ‘all right’; and many a time it seemed to render more tolerable,
desperate and well-nigh intolerable conditions.
Allah Dad and Hira Singh,
You and I fought for the King!
Hajal Moka, Suba Khan,
You stood with us, man to man –
When we were tottering to our knees
Beneath a barbed cheval-de-frise,
And struggling through the muddy miles,
You’d meet us with a face all smiles
And – Tik, Johnnie!
When we were crouching in the trench,
And choking in the smoke and stench,
The bullets falling like a flail,
You’d pass us with a friendly hail –
And when, on stretchers dripping red,
You bore the dying and the dead,
With pity in your wistful eye,
Your greeting seemed half sob, half sigh –
I’ve seen you leaning on a wall,
Your head smashed by a rifle ball;
You’ve smiled and raised a hand and cried
Then turned upon your side and died.
May Allah, when you go above,
Grant you the heaven you would love;
And if our straying footsteps meet
Then free and friendly-like we’ll greet –