There will be Time

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Tom Smith was an ordinary boy, 18 years old and working in his father’s blacksmith shop re-shoeing old shire horses. He had a sweetheart, Jane, she was only 17 and was still in school. She was the daughter of Mr Cork, the rich farmer who was the mayor of Lower Thames-Soken, where Tom lived. It was a small town with everyone knowing everyone and regular coffee mornings. There was the large Carter manor sitting prominently of the high slopes of the village. There were many reception rooms where the likes of the Prime Minister and the Prince of Wales have dined on one night or another.

The majestic deer were strolling round the grounds in and out of the apple orchards eating the ripe apples off the ground. The village had a small shop with a post office with papers and spreads. Out of the village ran the idyllic river. The fish danced like ballerinas under the water. The heron stalked the shore like an expectant lion, the king of the jungle. The village swans sat in the shade under the trees, which could be seen in the reflection of the river, gleaming like diamonds in the sun.

On the 28 September 1939, Neville Chamberlain changed the world forever; “We are at war with Germany. The whole village was in the Carter house, huddled round the wireless. When the broadcast finished there was a stunned silence around the room. Some women were snivelling and some men were trying to think what to do next. Mr Carter stood tall and said in his most commanding voice, “Men, follow me, we are going to enlist”. And with those words, Tom’s childhood ended. One month later after basic training Tom was another man. Standing tall with his rifle over his shoulder, his rucksack on his back he walked out of his house and away to war.

The whole village had turned out to see the twelve young men off. Ranging from 16-30 these men were the pride of the village. As they marched towards the truck to pick them up, Tom turned to sit in it and Jane ran to him and said a sentence Tom never forgot, “Tom be careful. Write to me. I want to see you get back healthy, you hear? ” Tom said nothing, just smiled as he was too scared to talk. The truck pulled away and Tom no longer existed; he was Private Smith No 551369. Private Smith was Lieutenant Smith within thirty days of his arrival in France.

He was a sentry and his rifle remained unfired for the whole time. Every day more men were sent over the top, more didn’t come back, and more were sent to replace them. It was a cycle Tom hated. He knew his time was fast approaching to make the final sacrifice. After two months Tom had lost all his comrades from Lower Thames. He was alone. His only solace was his letters to Jane and his mother. They replied to every one in the same way, ‘Dear Son we are thinking of you… ‘ The letters were short and controlled emotion was left out so it didn’t upset him.

The signoff was the same to loving words, ‘Dear child’. These letters were the only thing that kept Tom going. He had seen death on an unprecedented scale and evil of the kind that does not belong on this world: Men dying by snipers, having knee caps exploding by machine guns and men ripped apart by mines and mortar fire. The nights were the worst, lying in the mud trying to catch minutes of rest. The once beautiful fields were now full of death and desecration. Holes so big, if anyone fell into them, they would certainly die. The whole fields stained red with blood from many different men.

Tom woke up, his legs caked in mud and frozen. He managed to get up and pick up his rifle from the soaked floor. The day was different somehow; a lot less noise could be heard from his bunker. He walked out and he immediately saw why. A group had gone over the top about ten minutes ago, and had been mown down. Silence had fallen over the trench. A commander was shouting out names and those people were moving over towards him and preparing for the jump. Tom listened intently; his heart missed a beat when he heard the name – “Lieutenant Smith”.

He slowly walked over to the Commander. There were only about ten men on the list and Tom thought that there were too few men to attempt a jump. To his surprise, this group was just being moved over to another trench because they had been gassed and there were no men left there. The rest of this day was uninteresting, a few rounds of the machine gun were fired and some men went over the top, lasting less than a minute. That evening he received another letter from his mother and Jane. This was a more emotional letter than he had received lately.

It started and ended in the same way as usual but the content moved Tom in a way that could not be described. Reading his mothers words, he knew that he wanted to go home now, see them both and hold them. Deep inside him, though, he knew that he was never going to see them again. In many peoples eyes he was very lucky, the only male survivor of his small little village where he grew up. But on the outside, he kept hiding this fear and telling himself that there was time to do all the things he dreamed off. A few weeks later, he was going over the top.

Emotionally charged, he took a quick peak over. The sight he saw looked completely different now he was going over. The barbed wire standing in the way looked like a giant wall stopping anything trying to get past. Bodies were strewn about across the once beautiful fields, and the bleakness of the landscape was like nothing he could have ever imagined. Then there was a whistle, he jumped up and started walking, too afraid to run. All he could think about was his mother and Jane. Machine gun fire shattered the grim silence and men all around him were getting blown down.

At that time, everything for Tom stopped, he could see men near in serious pain and then he got hit. He looked down. His leg was gone. Then the pain hit. He fell to the ground and started shouting as loud as he could. He just wanted to end the pain and the Commander behind the group walked up to him and put him out of his misery. The pain was gone. The last thing that he thought of was that sentence that Jane had said to him before he left – ‘Be careful. Write to me. I want to see you get back healthy, you hear? ‘

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