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Aug. 17, 2019 | Saturday
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Writer's Circle: Corporal West’s Adventures - Weekend Leave
File photo.

SUBMITTED BY RICHARD WEST.
WRITER'S CIRCLE

“Corporal.”

“Yes, Jonesy.”

“I’ll volunteer to stay in camp this weekend. No point me going on leave. It”s too far to South Wales for me to get there and back. I’ll only spend the time in a pub.”

Dick looked at Jonesy for a while before replying.

“I’ll try to get them to save up the leave for you Jonesy. Not sure they will though. At least come out to the pub here in town and meet the misses.”

“OK, Corp.”

Most of Dick”s lads were from around London and so they could get back to “the smoke” by train easily. A number of them had the same idea as Dick and had invited their wives or lady friends down to the Sussex countryside. That way the ladies get a break from the city and the lads get to be with them.

Everyone was getting smartened up to meet the train. All the boarding houses in the village were booked solid. Those that couldn’t find a place to stay had left for London instead.

Dick assembled his lads and they marched off to the railway station as if they were the Grenadier Guards. Not a bunch of squaddies in the Royal Artillery.

Sandy kept hopping from one foot to the next as they waited on the station’s platform.

“Calm down, Sandy. You’ll wear yourself out.”

“We”re only engaged Corp. I can’t think what she told her Ma.”

“Then don’t think about it.”

“Yes, Corp.”

“The train’s late.”

“Aye.”

A nervous bunch of soldiers stood forlornly on the platform waiting for the errant train.

The Station Master came on to the platform and informed the gathering that the train had been delayed but did not say why.

Half an hour later he came out and announced the train had resumed its journey and should arrive in twenty minutes.

Again Sandy hopped from foot to foot.

Dick rolled a cigarette. I’m four or five years older than most of my lads. Having married before the war makes me feel like an old timer compared to these boys.

Twenty minutes passed. The train did not appear. Even Dick started to get nervous. Then a private yelled, “There it is.”

A green suburban Southern Railways electric train with four carriages came around a bend and blew its air horn.

As it rolled into the station the soldiers jubilation disappeared. Three of the carriages had bullet holes in them and smashed windows.

The train stopped. The men hesitated, afraid of what they might find.

Suddenly carriage doors flew open and out stepped the ladies. They immediately started to sing, “Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, that I love London town …”

The men cheered and rushed forward. Dick saw Winn and marched over to her.

“You all right?” he whispered.

“ “Course. We all lay on the floor when the plane came at us. Silly pilot, he shot too high. The bullets went a long way above us.”

“You could have been killed. It must have been scary.”

“Dick. The buggers will start bombing us soon. Now that will be scary.”

“But you could have been hurt.”

“I wasn’t. Now let’s get this lot organized and have a party.”

“You don’t much like parties.”

“After being shot at by some German plane, I think I can do as I damn well please, Dick West.”

“That’s my Winn.”

“Get away with yer.”

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Authors Note: 

Corporal Dick West served in the British Army, Royal Artillery during the Second World War, while his wife Winnifred (Winn) struggled with the war in London, England. They were my parents. These short stories are derived from them telling me what it was like in those times. All the characters except for Corporal West and his wife Winn, are fictitious.

Dick was first called up in 1938 during the Munich crisis. He returned to civilian life in 1939 only to be called up again in late summer as the Second World War broke out. He was finally demobbed early in 1946. These stories are in chronological order.

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About Richard West:

Richard grew up in London, England. He trained as an engineer then emigrated to Canada. His career involved travel to many parts of our wonderful planet. Richard is blessed with two wonderful children, and  four super  grandchildren.

West has lived in NOTL since 1979. He has always loved to read. Exposed to Welsh poetry and verse by his wife, he has a soft spot for Dylan Thomas.

He started writing stories in the early 1990s, to see how it was done. Over the intervening years, he has written about family memories and science fiction stories. His journey of learning about this craft has been rewarding.

Richard has written a number of short stories and newspaper articles, as well as two novels.

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Editor’s note: This story will be published as a series of 10 short stories. This is part five.

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