Letter to Blighty

Chapter 1: I Love You, Mother

He collapsed into the deep hole and exhaled loudly. Sergeant Jeremy Havershill was exhausted, and by now, his optimism was starting to whey. It had only been five days in the front line, and five months overall, yet every day felt like a whole year of slugging it out and putting on a service with a smile. At least in here, he could grimace and curse all he wants. He opened his understanding, strained green eyes to a dark and noisy trench, which had his battalion all working to their bodies' maximum levels, striving to stay alive. A tinge of guilt pulled at Jerry's, as he was known to his former soldiers, heartstrings. How could he possibly stay here and leave his battalion to rest and attempt to relax? Jerry turned to look at the other soldiers in the long dug-out, with his straggly, uncut blonde hair blotting out the top half of his vision. All of them were sighing in pain of their injuries, or were on rest, writing their letters back home.

But he needed the slacking off. He looked back on his burnt, charcoal hand. No matter what the pain was, he had to write this letter. Peeking out of the dug-out to look either side of the trench, he saw no men. They must've been requested to work in another part, further down. Even though they were probably in great peril and several of his friends had limbs blown off or were killed completely, Jerry was relieved. He sneaked down low to collect his haversack, and returned to his part of the dug-out. He sat on a snail or slug; however he was used to that. Ignoring the pain, he undone his haversack and pulled out his pen and writing paper.

Exhaling heavily again, he picked up his paper and was shocked to show little flakes of his burnt skin come off, revealing pink skin underneath. Jerry gritted his teeth hardly, in an attempt to ease the pain. With his left hand, he picked up his pen and began to write shakily:

Dear My Dearest Mother,

I have no time to explain any of this to you when I send this to you. I will be too busy to even visit my mother, sadly. However, I can't. I must protect you, Father, Caroline and Ruby. I will therefore explain it in this letter.

Do you remember when we met up at Refergh Square, for me and George to sign up for war? Well, I never wanted to sign up. I did it to prove myself as a man. Every day, I have had to slug it out for all of you, and all you are doing is hoping. Never doing anything about it. Every day, I am forced to go through countless numbers of pains, and I can't have just one single night where I can drift away and let the pain ease and be with my family. Family. So simple, yet so strong. This task I placed upon myself will be my hardest and most crucial thing I have ever done before, and will test our bond as a family.

I also need to describe the truths of war. Let's take an hour. Just an hour. In that hour, I will witness my fellow battalion mates fall with dignity, bullets punctured through their hearts and English and the Fritz's blood all mixed together, almost an unlikely bond between us as battlers. I will witness bodies mangled through the barbed wire, with strips of pink skin and muscle sticking out in all directions, and the victim's faces distorted with pain. I will witness several blood-covered bullets dropped on the floor. We don't know whose blood it is. It could be mine, for all I know. I will also witness tired, wounded soldiers with body parts missing, and guess what? We do NOT have fun, well, we try to, but it is really hard, especially as you don't know if you're head's going to get blown off by some stray explosive shell. We do NOT have lovely clean uniform. If you saw me right now, Mother, you would faint with the number of rips, stains and creases in our uniform. We are NOT relaxed. Trust me, adrenaline and fear IS our blood. Finally, we DO know about the letters that are sent home. We know about the huge black marks that are sent home on our well-worked-on letters. We can tell from your replies. It saddens, yet angers us, to know that the truth is not coming across. Nothing is being done.

The newspapers do give you some sort of truth, but not the entire story. No-one is doing anything about it. But I will. I want to free the soldiers' pain and desperation for the truth to be released. I am not going to send this letter to the Army Offices, no. I'm going to deliver this to you, Mother, hand-delivered. First class guaranteed, certainly. I am going to escape this living hell-hole for the sake of all of us. No matter what the obstacles are, I won't let anyone else get their hands onto this letter, or let anything stop me getting this back to you.

Just remember one thing.

I Love You, Mother.

You son Jeremy.

P.S. I can perfectly reassure you that I have not gone mad. I have thought this through carefully.

The Lieutenant stared at his letter. Was this really going to work? Or would he be caught and be made a fool in front of every soldier and have his dignity crushed? Or would he be considered a hero? A saviour? The odds were 50-50. But after all, he was the reckless one to his battalion. But this was going to surprise everyone.

He folded up the piece of paper and slid it inside the envelope entitled with his address. His home. It was yellow with age and rot. He had waited for this moment for so long. Ever since the idea first struck him, he thought that the terrible food had finally gotten to his head. But every night, every rest, the urge was going stronger and stronger. This wasn't a mental idea. This was his prophecy.

Sighing with fatigue, Jerry slid his envelope inside his inner uniform pocket, next to his heart. He would need it there, after all. Slowly and surely, he peeked out of either side of his dug-out, and sneaked low out into the trench. It was a beautiful night; all the stars above him were glinting bright, the sky was a sultry navy blue and the moon shone its brilliance on him. That was Jeremy's one problem. Luckily, the moon showed where all of the cracked duckboards were. It had become an order to remember where the broken duckboards were, because even the communication line's pigeons couldn't carry several loads of planks on its wings. It also revealed the silhouettes of fixed rifles on the parapet. Those weapons that were our hopes. There was also the fire step, a platform on which you kneeled on and done your shooting. But that wasn't relevant. Not now.

A saddening memory came back to Jerry suddenly. As a schoolboy, he was bullied at school for his tweediness and the fact that he was ill and a coward. Every lunch, they would come up to him and steal his lunch, eating it with great glee in front of him. Studying arithmetic on an empty stomach, his worst subject, did not help matters either.

It was similar at the training camp. Even as a 19 year-old, Jerry had not bulked up particularly. Every guy there teased him for his spaghetti arms and stick legs, as they called him. Even though one guy, Jeffery, said that the 'fellas were only doing it as a joke', he certainly knew that it wasn't a joke at all. The tone they had in their voice, the way thy loomed over him. Obviously behind the General's back, of course.

He snapped out of his memories, and realised something. They were the real cowards, evading the rules behind the General's back. Not knowing how, Jerry began to trudge on, pushing his fatigue behind him, towards the nearest blind alley, 60 yards west.

This time, he wasn't going to be the coward.