A Blighty One

167 08 August 7th 2016

 

Bertie never talked about the trenches.

He’d watch those grieving mothers in widows weeds look askance when they passed an office-Johnny in the street. Their eyes cried out, wanting to understand why this man walked untouched while their Tommy was just a name on the town memorial – no stone, no coffin, no grassy patch to lay violets come the Spring. These perfect men had shuffled important papers, made decisions that liberated Antwerp, won back Messines and Passchendaele. But though their bodies were intact, their pride took a beating – every sideways glance a punch, every insinuating conversation a sabre to the heart.

No such worries for Bertie. The withered arm, heavy as a sandbag, was sign enough.

This man did his bit. This man was comrade to our lost boys.

Though he accepted the shy kisses from the women, the grateful handshakes from the old men, he kept the secret of his Blighty one*.

The game of poker in a moonlit trench. The aces tucked in his puttees. Angry words and fists thrown.

A sniper’s shot.

No, even though guilt gnawed like rats in his chest, he never told.

The world needs heroes.


Written for the Sunday Photo Fiction prompt. See here for the rules and to read the other stories.

* To have a ‘Blighty one’ meant to gain an injury that involved being sent back home to Blighty (Britain) and away from the trenches, either for treatment – or if the injury was bad enough to stop you fighting – for good.

 

13 thoughts on “A Blighty One

  1. Interesting story, Lynn. I can see how telling a lie like that would start, and how it would be encouraged and reinforced, but I also imagine it would feel like a burden of guilt in time.

    How on earth did you get this from grappling iron, though? I think I’m missing something…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Joy! I don’t think Bertie ever lied – he just allowed people to believe what they wanted to . It doesn’t mena he wasn’t brave at the front, just that these stories are always more complicated than we think. Yes, my brain wanders. I read the plaque under the grappling iron – I thought it was ancient, but it seems it was used in 1916, during WWI. I’ve been watching a programme about the Somme recently and read a story in a history magazine about a soldier in the trenches who caught a ‘Blighty one’ when a sniper shot him as he was fighting with another soldier. The real chap wasn’t fighting over poker, but my mind soon wandered to a more ambiguous story. Thanks for reading my ramblings 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is good. My thoughts ran along the same lines in my post. I’ve been watch Diaries of the Great War on Netflix. which does a great job of utterly stripping any romance from the very notion of war. When I was researching the battle described on the plaque, I came across an article about the way wounded were treated in WWI. It’s amazing we still settle disputes this way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just watched a documentary on the Somme last night – it being 100 years since the conflict, there’s a lot of coverage of it still. Yes, you’re right – appalling that we still do this. Though it seems, no dispute is ever settled these days. Thanks for reading 🙂

      Like

  3. War does such horrific things to people – only know are we learning some of the true atrocities that took place and only know do we realised the physical and mental damage war can do to people. Brilliant writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sally. We never seem to learn, do we? Perhaps that’s the real tragedy of war – that we know how horrible it is, but we keep doing it anyway. Thanks for reading

      Like

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