Friday Fictioneers : Christmas 1914

PHOTO PROMPT © Björn Rudberg


 

Winter of 1914, we made a parcel for Albert – a block of Ma’s sherry-soaked Christmas cake, two packs of Woodbines, a bar of Fry’s chocolate and a hat she’d knitted herself.

‘He’ll need summat warm over there.’ She carressed the stitches, brown and thick as our Albert’s flop of hair.

I hadn’t told her what I’d heard whispered down the pub – the ankle deep water, the bodies lain still and stiff in No Man’s Land till bombs turned them to Flanders mud … the rats.

She slipped a card in too, signed ‘your loving Mother’.

‘That’ll warm him.’ I tried to smile.

 


Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the pic and write a tale. Visit Rochelle’s site to share and to read the other stories.

Notes

Woodbines – at the time, a popular brand of cigarettes mad by the Wills tobacco company here in Bristol. Cigarettes helped with morale in the trenches and were also used as currency.

I was going to use the brand name Five Boys chocolate but didn’t quite have the word count. Five Boys was made by Fry and Son – another Bristol company – and was famous for the image on the front of the wrapper, see below.

 

Image result for five boys chocolate

 

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77 thoughts on “Friday Fictioneers : Christmas 1914

  1. Very nicely crafted, not too sentimental but not glossing over the horror of it all. I remember Fry’s chocolate cream bars, though I’m not sure whether Five Boys was a current product or just something from the past. Merry Christmas, Lynn.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much Sandra. I’m glad you felt it hit the right tone. Apparently Five Boys wasn’t withdrawn until 1976 but I certainly don’t remember it either – probably why they stopped making them. Hope you have a brilliant Christmas too, Sandra

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes indeed. The naivety over the truth of war must have helped some loved ones of those serving at the Front. No such luck for the families of servicemen today, sadly.
      Thanks Iain. You have a brilliant Christmas and a gret 2018

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully done, Lynn. 1914 was just the beginning. The summer of that year was noted for its unusual perfection, day after glorious day of golden sunshine. The winter brought the battles of Givenchy and Ypres that killed more than 100,000 a month. A foretaste of the hell to come. All of that is implied in your story, a sense of foreboding that hangs over every word.

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    1. It was a world changing time, wasn’t it? The first taste of truly mechanised, global warfare. I do think the psychology of the survivors must have changed too, the old comforts swept away, the knowledge that any horrors were possible now. Thank you for your kind, insightful comment Josh.

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  3. Brilliant, once again, Lynn! I echo everyone’s comments in the not too sentimental, wonderful descriptions, key words… you know. What you do so well!

    Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautifully and skilfully written, with no glossing over the horror, and with the importance of family love gently emphasised. Masterly, Lynn.
    Yes I remember Fry’s Five Boys. The images were in relief on the chocolate as well as on the wrapping.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Penny. I’m so glad you felt the tone was right for the story. And I’m so glad you felt the emotions coming through at its heart. I don’t remember the Five Boys bars, but I know they were iconic. So sad we no longer make chocolate in Bristol anymore

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  5. What a sad story. I remember my Gr. Grandpa telling stories of the trenches and the horror therein. He got pneumonia and almost died. While he was recovering in an English hospital, the nurses taught him to embroidery. He sent my Grandma a hankie with the year 1914 embroidered on it along with some flowers. I carried that hankie on my wedding day, and it’s still tucked into my cedar box, too fragile to touch anymore.

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    1. Very true, Bjorn. Sometimes, what is the point in knowing the truth when there’s nothing you can do to help. I’m sure most of the men wouldn’t have wanted their loved ones to know the horrors. Thank you for reading

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    1. Ah, thank you so much for the lovely comment. I can’t imagine how hard those years were for the men who lived and died there – truly a living hell. Such a pleasure to have met you through FF – I always look ofrward to reading your stories, Lish

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  6. You put us right there in the moment, Lynn. There are some things Mother is better off not knowing–and I’m sure the package from home, and her note, warmed him in those trenches.

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    1. I think you’re right on all counts Russell. Mother would have been comforted to think of her boy and his tin of gifts from home, a little human warmth in such a cold place. Thanks so much for the kind comment

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      1. Very true, we all knew our place in those days! Have you read Pat Barker’s Regeneration series of books? Some intereting things in there about how the symptoms of shell shock differed between the classes, how working men survived better psychologically because they were used to extreme hardship throughout their lives. Worth a read if you haven’t already

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  7. A heartrending story, Lynn. I could feel the sorrow. I hope he survived after all. I liked the period references you added to make it more real. My dad was on a troop carrier during WWI. He said he joined the U.S. Navy to keep from wading in the mud. Good writing. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2018. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Talking to your dad about WWI must have been extraordinary, Suzanne. And he was right about the mud – horrifying. Thanks for sharing your story and for reading. All the best for 2018

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    1. I’ve always felt sorry for Chamberlain. Easy with hindsight to condemn the man as an appeaser, but surely no one then really knew the full horror Hitler was capable of and who wanted to plunge the world back into the nightmare of a world war, with the memories of all that loss still so fresh? Poor man. It’s an interesting subject, true enough. I don’t remember Five Boys, though I feel sad that my adopted city has lost its chocolate manufacturing – Fry’s, Elizabeth Shaw, Cadbury, all gone. I don’t feel so sorry about the loss of our tobacco industry of course …

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So sad, the story of the Cadbury factory at Keynsham. When the sale to Kraft was muted they claimed they’d keep making chocolate here and within a short while of course, the plant was closed. We still have a company called Guilbert’s, but they’re very niche. Still, everything changes.

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      2. We’ve lost almost all of our traditional industries here. It was especially sad to lose Brannams famous pottery, and Shapland and Petter’s furniture manufacturers. I’m not good with change.

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      3. It’s a cliche, but it’s sad we don’t make anything much anymore. Many manufacturing jobs were hard, boring and badly paid, but importing everything from elsewhere is truly a terrible idea. Maybe as Asia has to improve its working conditions and raise pay (which I hear is beginning to happen) it will prove more cost effective to make things here again. I hope so

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