SUBMITTED BY RICHARD WEST
Dick walked into the tent and looked over his platoon. They looked up from their dinner and stared back at him.
“Hello, Corporal. We didn’t expect you until late tonight.”
“Yeah. We thought you would have a few pints at the King’s Head after your leave. Before coming back here that is.”
“So you think I’m a piss artist, do you? I’ll remember that next time I’m considering placing you on a charge, Sandy,” Dick laughed good naturedly.
“We all thought the same, Corp.”
“So you all want to be on a charge?” the banter continued.
“Did you save any dinner for me?”
“Good thing I had fish and chips before I got on the train in London.”
“How was the “Smoke”, Corp?”
“Full of smashed buildings and piles of bricks from the bombing. But everyone is bright enough. Now the worst of the Blitz is over, people are hoping these night raids will slowly tail off.”
“How is the place your missus got to live in?”
“Don’t ask. It’s a wreck. Windows all blown out and boarded up. Plaster cracked to hell. Roof leaks. Years of work to put the mess right.”
“At least she has a roof over her head.”
“A bloody land mine fell a few weeks back. Blew the house, two doors down the road, completely away.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
“Mind you lads, there is a big pub at the end of the road.”
“What’s it called?”
“The Swiss Cottage.”
“I think I’ve seen it. A big white building.”
“Suppose you paid it a visit, Corp?”
“My sisters and their husbands came over and we visited the pub.”
“Sounds like a good shindig, Corp?”
“It was a family get-together. That’s all lads.”
“When we got home I was really touched. Winn remembered I love banana sandwiches and she gave me a round. She must really miss me.”
“You sure they were bananas, Corp?”
“Of course they were.”
Dick looked over the eight men. He saw eight innocent looks.
What am I missing?
“Sandy. Why are you all looking like butter wouldn’t melt in your mouths? What’s up?”
Sandy looked at his fellow Privates and then back to Corporal West.”
“Sorry, Corp. But there ain’t been any bananas in Britain since early in 1940. Not sure what was in your sandwiches.”
Dick looked at his “lads” and frowned.
“So what could it have been?”
Private Jones stepped in, “Well, Corp. If I was going to do that, I would boil some turnip, mash it up fine and then lace it with banana essence.”
Dick looked at his lads again.
“Well, I did enjoy the sandwiches. I also enjoyed the beer at the pub.”
“So it was a good leave, Corp?”
“You bet it was.”
“That’s good, Corp, because it”ll be the last for a long time.”
“Why’s that, Sandy?”
“We were told this afternoon that all leave is cancelled and we are confined to barracks.”
“We aren’t in a barracks.”
“OK, Corp. We’re confined to camp until further notice.”
Dick looked at his lads.
“Sounds like we are going over to France lads. I hope we all get to remember the summer of 1944.”
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.
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.
Editor’s note: This story will be published as a series of 10 short stories. This is part nine.