Monday, 25 May 2009

We Sleep Well

It's the 19th of July 1916. A small troop of British soldiers is encamped on a small wooded knoll. They are preparing to advance towards the small French village of Fromelles and liberate it from German occupation. They will never see another dawn.

Lieutenant: "Men, just 100 yards in that direction lies our goal. The Germans are light on the ground and the village poorly defended. The women have been subjected to the most horrendous rape, the men beaten, their homes pillaged, stripped of all belongings. Within a few hours more of fighting, we shall free the villagers."

Sergeant: "Remember, only a dead German will count as a sanctioned detection. If they don't admit to being dead, refer the matter to CPS for a burial decision. God speed."

A deafening silence engulfs the troops, dampening the howls of the relentless artillery bombardment. The very air around them stills and the wavering tree branches stop and bow in seeming recognition of the horror that will soon befall them.

The tranquility of the moment only ends when one soldier tentatively raises his hand.

Postlethwaite: "Er, Sir?"

"Yes Postlethwaite," asks the Lieutenant, "What is it?"

Postlethwaite: "Sir, I ain't being funny no never I'm not, but we 'ave been fighting for nigh on 16 hours now, so we 'ave. The 'elf and safety regulations say we shouldn't fight for no more than 10, so they do and so we should not, so therefore should we do it not."

"Postlethwaite my good man, I appreciate your concern, but we are so close to achieving our objective. Those citizens needs us. If we don't do it then this duty we fall to our reinforcements. They, like you, are battle-weary. You will have plenty of rest soon, I assure you."

Silence returns, and the only awareness the men now have of the impending violence is the suffocating cordite that bites at their lungs. Postlethwaite shifts uncomfortably on his feet, politely coughs, before pleading, "But Sir, we are very tired. We're starting to make mistakes and errors in our judgement so we are. Cuthbert tripped over on the way in through the supply lines so he did."

Cuthbert: "Sir, I fell flat on my nose. There was blood and all. It brought tears to my eyes it did."

Postlethwaite: "It was bad Sir."

All nod and murmur in agreement.

Lieutenant: "Men, you all have a duty to save those women and children, you all hav..."

Griswald: "I'd quite like to go home now."

Lieutenant: "But..."

Wilbert: "What overtime rate are we on after 10 hours?"

Lieutenant: "Well, I don't really..."

Smithin: "I'm hungry. I don't see why I should get shot at when I'm hungry."

Sulley: "Shot at? They've got guns? No one said nothing about guns."

Bradshaw: "I'd quite like to see my pension."

Moore: "The Army's f*cked."

None of the above is true about The Fallen. Similarly, none of the above is true about the thousands of policemen and women who patrol our streets each and every day. Admittedly, we all think the above as the end of our tour grows ever closer and the desperation to go home increases.

It changes nothing.

We all joined the service for a purpose, for the deep sense of satisfaction it brings and the personal pride that no other profession can offer. We all joined so we can help the helpless and punish the aggressor. We help the undeserving. We shall answer that call with just minutes of the shift remaining. We are all tired. Our evidential notes are tainted with grammatical errors, misplaced and missing words. None of us wants to leave a long list of outstanding calls for the next relief to deal with. We miss our meal breaks. We worry. We get assaulted. We moan. We laugh. Some pay the ultimate sacrifice.

Not one of us could ever return to our beds and enjoy the warmth and companionship of our loved ones knowing that we did not do our duty. We never talk about what we did. We want to forget about it, to return to our civilised and mundane normality.

We sleep well.

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  1. I'll admit to being baffled Guv, by the sheer output of quality blogging you find time for!

    I'm also impressed by the way you turned a sarcastic pop at 'elf 'n safety into rather moving description of my last few shifts.

    Keep up the good work, it's nice to know someone understands - and is capable of putting it all into words!

  2. Slightly off-topic and related more to your WWI yarn, but with a twist that actually occurred between two warring factions during Christmas, 1914. Read HERE.