The broken poppy, p.5
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       The Broken Poppy, p.5

           Alice Catherine Carter
 
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CHAPTER THREE

  Ypres, Belgium, 1914.

  7th October 1914.

  Day Forty,

 

  When the other men arrived back from leave, we were informed that we were going to leave for Calais, France by boat departing from Dover. As we left the Yeomanry we began the two mile walk through the mud to the train station and we were accompanied by several other regiments, all travelling to Calais as well. In total there were probably about two hundred or more newly trained soldiers, marching through the thick English mud. Although this time at least, no boots were lost. When we finally arrived at the train station the sun was beginning to set and the sky was painted in a water pallet of reds, oranges and blues. The train finally came an hour or so after we arrived and it took us about seven hours to reach Dover. Although it may have been longer, I lost count after the fifth hour.

  When we finally arrived in Dover, it was about six in the morning. It was practically pitch black, although the sun was beginning to rise and a faint orange light shone on the sea. The air coming over the sea was so cold it made my teeth chatter and winter was definitely on the way. We walked another five miles to get to the Dover ports and we would leave for France around twelve that day. When we arrived at the port, I had not expected to see what I saw.

  Standing on the top of the white gleaming cliffs and looking down at the scene it was awe inspiring. Yet it also showed the desperate actions that man would take against the other, in order to stop one having more power. There were thousands of men on the beach and from up on the cliff edge they all looked like ants, swarming around a nest. It looked like complete chaos looking down, but when we walked to join the other men it was a completely different story. The view was almost enchanting. People were singing our national anthem and it was not orchestrated but men sang it at random. Pride was bursting at the seams from every man you saw and although you obviously cannot see pride, it was like the wind - you felt it. You were proud to be British and you were proud to fight our enemies.

  As we waited to get on the boat, we gave in all of our details and then we were passed along. Along to the hands of war. At around half past midday on Saturday the 6th October 1914 we left for Calais, where we would fight for our country, for the protection of our Allies and our people. I am on the boat now, heading to France and I’m with about two hundred other men cramped into one room on board this boat. I have no idea how many men are on this boat alone but it felt like at least a thousand.

  Rob and Matthew are sitting next to me, but Roger, Paul and Albert have disappeared somewhere, not that I mind.

  Rob has not taken kindly to the sea and by the looks of things, he is experiencing the same sickness that affected Louis’ grandfather. He has gone extremely pale and he is quiet. Too quiet for Rob, but he’ll just get on with it and won’t say a word. The sea hasn’t affected me at all and I quite like the rocking motion, it feels like someone is rocking you to sleep. Speaking of sleep, I should probably try and get some. I think I’ve been awake for about twenty hours and I have no idea when I will get the chance to sleep again.

  Yours,

  Private Thomas Millward.

  ….

  6th October 1914.

  Well, I tried to sleep but the sea did not help. I thought the calm rocking movement would let me fall asleep straight away, but instead about a minute after I finished my last entry the sea took a violent turn and began to throw the boat around in a ferocious way. The battle is brewing.

  Rob is still exceptionally quiet and Matthew is not in a conversation mood. I know he is thinking about our past, and more specifically our deceased parents and if I admit it I am as well. Today marks four years since my father took his own life. He hanged himself, and because we were serving our time in prison, we could not attend the funeral. I imagine the priest only attended because he had to. My father was not liked in my home village of Little Hadford and well neither were we. My brothers and I did not have the best relationship with our father, but he was our father. More than that though, apart from the grief we did feel after his death, we also felt guilty. In all honesty, our previous actions did lead our father onto a path of self-destruction, and I don’t think we’ll ever forgive ourselves completely. That’s where some of the anger and intolerance comes from when you bring Roger and Paul Wilson along with their younger cousin Albert Bradford back into our daily lives – the sight of them just brings too much emotion to the surface.

  ….

  Before I had a chance to continue writing, one of the Captains came round informing us that we would land for France in about twenty minutes time. He gave us instructions telling us exactly what to do when we arrived. Twenty minutes later, we arrived in Calais, France. Following the instructions, on arrival we were to report to one of the officers and give our identification numbers along with various other pieces of information and paperwork.

  From then on, our platoon was joined by another also come from the Yorkshire area. We were part of the reserve army and together we were the 87th and 92nd platoon of the 41st Brigade and the 14th division of the infantry. It was a bit of a mouthful but thankfully if I failed to remember that in a time of crisis my identification number was 040713. Easy enough to remember.

  Yours,

  Private Thomas Millward.

  ….

 
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