The Young Man and


The sea is made of white-gold. Its molten movement is foreign to me. Today the sun is burning down- it is late July, but my insides are cold and gripped with fear. I am sailing to a new and terrifying place to fight an enemy who wants me to die.

 I have been separated from my oldest brother Thomas. It’s probably for the best, because I know he would call my fear weakness. In truth, that is what it is. Yet I would do anything to see him now, just for the feeling of home. I wish that we weren’t on this endless sea. I wish that I were sitting in the park talking to Violet, feeding the ducks with my youngest brother James who was so very jealous that Thomas and I were fighting and that he could not, walking contentedly around the garden. I never wanted to be a hero, although Father tells us that this is a great honour.

 I am trying to busy myself with understanding this strange ship. I had never seen the sea before we started this voyage, and the vessel itself is something of great interest to me. It is an enormous iron thing belching steam upwards into the air. The way it moves through the water is extraordinary; so fast and sleek despite its formidable size. I had expected to be seasick- Father said I would be, but this ship barely rocks in the water. It cuts the ocean in half as it ploughs through.

 There are many men aboard. Most, like me, are soldiers going to war. Father tells us that the Empire needs us. I was taught much about the Empire at school, about the brave men who go to new lands for the sake of the Queen, but I had only understood it as formless shapes on a map. I remember Thomas’s wild excitement with geography. He has always loved the idea of an Empire: the sun never setting on England’s conquests. I am, at least, happy that one of the Fall brothers will bring his Father honour.

 Every now and again I get wild shaking fits. My hands can barely grip the pencil I write with. I am not so friendly with the other boys onboard, because I am worried of what they will think about my cowardice, but there is one who may be a good friend. His name is Albert, and he is very strong. I know he misses his sweetheart too- he sits writing letters to her, great long reams of paper filled with loving things. I have tried to write to dear Violet but when I put pen to paper her face departs my imagination and I can’t find the words to tell her how I feel, how much I miss her. So instead I keep her locked up inside my head. When I am feeling at my most afraid, and my hands won’t stop their trembling, I look inside and see her there, and she comforts me.

 Other than my writing, and thinking of Violet, the only other things to do onboard this ship are the constant drills the Sergeants put us through. ‘Advance, retire, left, right’- commands ringing through my head all through the night. We must clean our rifles and shine our boots around the clock. Our uniforms are pressed and starched. Together, we are as anonymous and small in uniforms as a single drop of water in the ocean. That is another of Father’s sayings. ‘As one, you are weak and useless. As part of an army, you are indestructible. Remember boy- a white sheet means nothing, but when combined with reds and blues it becomes the backbone of the Union Jack.’





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