SUBMITTED BY RICHARD WEST
The ships wake glinted in the moonlight. Dick took a draw on his cigarette and smiled. No one was happy to be here. Not his lads or any of the other soldiers on board.
Three weeks ago we were transferred from Germany to the UK. Everyone thought we were going to be demobbed. Germany was defeated and so there was no need for anti-aircraft guns.
What happens? We get two weeks leave and orders to report to a barracks outside of Southampton. Once we reassembled, we were issued a tropical kit. Then, the bombshell. We were posted to Japanese waters. Not sure where. No one said.
Boy, were the lads pissed.
If Winn had known, she would have tried to stop me from coming back. Being AWL after nearly seven years in the army, would be a bad way to end my military service.
“What ‘cher doing, Corp?”
“Having a smoke.”
“Yeah. But you are staring at the sea behind the ship, as if it were a beautiful woman.”
“What makes you such an expert on my thoughts, Sandy?”
“Well, Corp. We’ve been through a lot during this war and I think I can guess how you feel.”
“Is that right?”
He looked at Sandy and smiled.
It’s true. He probably can figure out what I am feeling.
“OK. What’s going on in my noggin then.”
Sandy thought for a little while and took a deep breath.
“You’re sad to be leaving Winn but thrilled to be on a long sea voyage. Something you have always wanted to do.”
“Sandy. You know me too well. It’s time we moved on with our lives.”
“That’s what all the lads want, Corp.”
“It won’t be long. In a few more months, I think the Japanese will be defeated.”
“We’d rather be back in Blighty now, Corp.”
“Can’t help that, Sandy. Forgive me for enjoying this voyage while it lasts.”
They both smoked another cigarette and gazed at the sea. Half an hour later, Dick noticed the ship change course. He looked at the wake, was steadily curving to the right.
“What’s going on?”
“Dunno,” Sandy replied.
The ship kept up its steady turn until it faced the opposite direction.
Then heard cheering from below decks.
“Hello, Corporal,” Private Jones said as he made his way aft, to join them.
“We are heading home.”
“The Americans have dropped what they call an Atomic Bomb. The Brass think that the war will be over in a few days.”
“What’s an Atomic Bomb?” Sandy asked.
“Don’t really know.”
“It’s a new type of bomb more powerful than a thousand big bombs,” Corporal West added.
“Glad no one had those when we were in Europe,” Jonesy added, “especially the Nazi’s.”
“Too right,” Sandy said.
“So we’ll go home. We’ll be demobilized once we hit Southampton.”
“Yes, Corp. I think the war is over.”
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 ten.