︻┳═一At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we shall remember them. ︻┳═一
The Itch was my entry for the 2015 Age of Edward Contest. Judge Mina Rivera chose it as her second favourite story. That one-shot is now divided into five chapters for ease of reading. I have been writing more chapters in advance for some months and I just can't wait any longer to share Itchy with you. Chapters will post weekly.
Much thanks to my Betas, Lissa Bryan and Ladylibre, for falling in love with Itchy; and to angelari7 and FallingsnowWinter for the gorgeous banners. I'll have an album on Facebook shortly.
This story is dedicated to the Canadian and Newfoundlander soldiers who fought in the Great War, including my grandfather, George Watson (1891-1980).
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we shall remember them.
Flanders: October, 1915…
Private Hale wanted to shoot the poor bastard and put him out of everyone's misery. "Masen!"
"What?" Masen hissed from the other side of the funk hole. (i)
"We all need to sleep and I can hear you from over here. What, have you got the clap (ii) or something?" For once, there were no bombs going off and could he sleep? No!
"Sorry." The kid might have been sorry, but that didn't stop him from scratching. Hale took his helmet from under his head, threw it and sneered as it bounced off Masen's arm. The hit wasn't the least bit satisfying. Hale would have preferred to lob the egg-shaped grenade (iii) in his pack at him.
"Hale!" Captain McCarty barked. "What the fuck are you doing? Helmet on!"
Mouth twisting, Masen passed the helmet back across the dark funk hole. "Sorry, Cap."
Hale put it on. "Sorry, Cap."
McCarty put his hands on his hips. "I asked you a question, Hale."
"Sir. Yes, sir. Masen won't stop scratching. He's keeping me awake."
"And me," Crowley said.
"And me," Yorkie said.
"I think he's got a bad case of the clap," Hale announced.
"I do not!" Masen snarled, scratching away.
"It's not the clap! It's like a thousand blackflies bit me!"
Captain McCarty tugged on his beard. "Masen, follow me."
Masen stood wearily and his shoulders drooped. "Yes, sir." McCarty cut a swath through the warren of frozen trenches and Masen followed dejectedly behind. The kid had his hand thrust into his coat. McCarty could hear him scratching.
It was the second time in a month that this exemplary soldier had gotten into a scrap with his comrades. He had been a fun fellow when the First Unit came over. The boys had all liked him. But he never smiled anymore and had been threatened with discipline more than once for not taking care of his uniform. Maybe the war had gotten inside his head.
Throwing back the flap of the tent that served as an office in the trench, McCarty held it up so Masen could duck inside. The kid was all hunched up like a dog waiting to be beaten. He didn't look old enough to shave. Still, he wouldn't be the first to have wet his Johnson in some tainted French whore.
"Masen," McCarty searched for delicate words while he turned up the lantern. "You got a girl?"
"Um," he scratched his beard, wondering if he ought to shave. His whiskers were uncomfortable but it was only going to get colder. "When you were on leave—"
"Sir, that was two months ago and I did not avail myself of any of the tarts in St. Julien or any other town. You should probably be talking to Conrad. Sir."
McCarty suppressed a sigh. "What's wrong with you, son? Why are you chewing the fat (iv)?"
"Nothing, sir! I am one hundred percent fit for duty, sir."
"Your coat's not buttoned."
"Yes, sir!" Masen took off his leather gloves and fumbled with the buttons. McCarty stopped him before he could do them up.
"Kid. I'm not going to court-marshal you for having your buttons undone."
Masen ducked his head slightly. "Yes, sir."
"Do you have a rash?"
Masen squirmed. "Yes, sir."
Pressing his lips together, Masen opened his coat and pulled up his sweater, shirt and undershirt. McCarty held up the lamp. Masen's belly was covered in a million red blisters. "Dear God."
Isobel Swan opened the door to the surgery and waited expectantly.
"Ah, Nurse!" Colonel Cullen tied off a stitch on his patient's torso. "I wondered if you would have a look at a chap for me. He's been waiting two days and his unit wants him back (vi). Canadian fellow. Rather distinguished record for such a young man. He was one of the men who held the line at the Salientvii last spring when the Huns set off the gas."
"Of course, Colonel."
"Letter from his commanding officer says he has a rash. I'm sure it's the usual. Might take a bit of finesse, he's been arguing with Kelly. Wants to go back to the front. Swears there's nothing wrong with him. Have a look at it and tell me if it's serious, won't you? Private Masen."
"Yes, Colonel." She turned smartly on her heel and marched to the infirmary, smoothing down her white apron. Many gazes followed her as she walked to the large examining room. Wooden chairs lined the hallway. Allied soldiers with non-life-threatening ailments waited in silence. Twenty British, twelve Canadians and three Belgians, according to the uniforms. The stench of the hospital was probably putting them off chatting(viii). She had long since ceased to notice it.
He stood and shifted on his feet self-consciously. "Yes, ma'am."
"Follow me, please." She resisted the urge to giggle. At eighteen years of age, she was still unaccustomed to being madam-ed by a gaggle of injured men.
She took him in the room and shut the door. "Papers?"
He handed her the letter from his captain and stood at ease. Isobel read the letter twice. Edward Masen Jr. didn't seem a sufficiently imposing person to have pushed back the Kaiser's men along a six kilometer unmanned gap left by deadly chlorine gas. He was tall and thin, a colt that hadn't grown into its legs. However, since April, he had reported to distant field hospitals twice to be treated for chemical burns. She handed back his letter, which he folded and pocketed.
"Ye have a rash?"
He avoided looking at her. "Yes, Lieutenant."
She pointed at the two red bars on her sleeve. "My rank is Senior Nurse, soldier. But you may call me Nurse."(ix)
"Yes, Nurse. Is the doctor coming to see me?"
Her lips pinched down. She could smell a lie a mile away and this one knew very well what was ailing him. Venereal disease, in all likelihood. She put on a cheerful face. "Only if we cannae figure it out on our own. Colonel Cullen and Dr. Gerandy have been doing surgeries twenty hours a day. I have plenty of experience dealing with common maladies. Let's see it."
His face blanked. It wouldn't be the first time a soldier pretended to misunderstand her. "Ma'am?"
"Come on, then. I've been told that ye wish to get back to yer outfit, so hop to it." She waited primly with her hands folded. There was nothing soft in her posture. She would not budge.
Private Masen ducked his ginger head and blushed fiercely. She wanted to laugh but he looked like a lost bairn.
She folded her arms and sidled up to him. "Is it the clap?"
"No!" He turned redder than ever.
"Then there isnae anything to be embarrassed about. Strip down to your skivvies."
"That would not be appropriate."
"Dinna make me fetch Matron. She'll be having no nonsense from you."
He ran his hand through his hair, which was in need of cutting. "Perhaps that would be best."
"Verra well." She marched out and shut the door sharply. Her heels clacked on the hardwood as she peered around the ward. She could hear Matron chewing the ear off of someone but she couldn't see her.
Isobel knocked on the open door of the supply closet. Matron was inside, berating a Belgian orderly for a lack of handwashing.
"We haff a bashful one. He willnae let me look at him."
"Really." The matron flicked her skirt, her beautiful mouth thin with disapproval. She stomped down to the examining room, red cape flapping, with Isobel following directly behind. She opened the door and Edward Masen looked up sheepishly. He blanched. Matron was perfect in her fair, English glory and had not lost her bloom at all. She had three bars on her sleeve, signifying a commensurate rank of Captain.
"Good evening, Private. I am Rosalie White, Matron of this hospital. I understand that you will not comply with my best nurse. Is there some problem?"
He opened his mouth to tell them they were women and he wasn't about to strip off his kit for them, but he didn't. He sagged. "No, Matron."
Rosalie nodded curtly and flicked her skirt. "Good." She marched out and shut the door with a bang. His jaw dropped. He shut his mouth with a snap.
Private Masen eyed his nurse as if she were a snake poised to strike. Isobel gestured at the screen propped in the corner.
"Kindly hurry up. There are other lads needing my attention. Ye may go behind there if ye wish, but ye shall nae be going back to the front until we have solved this. I dinnae ken what ye're sae worrit about. Ye've nothing I havenae seen before."
He released his breath in a long sigh and looked at his boots. He removed his belt and the khaki wool trench coat and set them on the examination table, turned his back and pulled off his sweater. Off came the long sleeved cotton shirt, leaving him in his sleeveless cotton undershirt. Isobel sucked in her breath.
He faced her, his mouth turned down, eyes glittering but lowered. "Do I have to show you more?"
She put one hand on his elbow and the other on his wrist, and inspected the welts that covered every inch. "How far does this extend?"
"These are hives."
"How long have ye had them?"
His green eyes welled with tears but he would not let them fall. "Two weeks."
She put her hands on her hips and clenched her teeth. "Since the winter uniform came out."
"Ye foolish man!" She flapped her arms at him. "Why didnae ye tell anyone ye're allergic to wool?"
When he raised his face to look at her, his eyes burned. "I tried to keep the summer uniform. I argued with my commanding officer. He told me that it wasn't up to him."
Isobel gawped at him. "Ye mean he knew you were allergic?"
"He didn't hear me out. Men who refuse to wear the uniform exactly as prescribed are court-marshalled."(x)
"But there must be exceptions!"
"They don't care."
Her voice went up with excitement. "They have tae care! Ye're scratching your skin to ribbons and it'll get infected! What use will ye be with the gangrene?"(xi)
Private Masen did not answer. She growled at him, stalked across the room, pulled a set of towels from the shelves and thrust them at him.
"Should I bring my things?"
"No. I'll call a yeoman."(xii)
He followed her past the waiting men and through a door into what seemed to be a cupboard. He blinked in the dim light and discovered a metal laundry tub approximately two feet square and one foot deep.
"Yeoman!" Isobel yelled, taking a washboard out of the tub. A diminutive girl with a red cross on her apron came scurrying. "Fetch hot water for a bath and then collect Private Masen's things from the examining room."
Isobel turned to Edward, snatched the towels out of his hands and set them on a crate. "You come with me."
She led him to a large storage area, where there were at least thirty buckets full of well water sitting on the floor. A couple of orderlies were adding detergent to them, starting at the far side of the room. Isobel pointed at some of the closer buckets.
"Those have not yet had the disinfectant added. Take two. The next time anyone says you are to have a bath, ye will come here and fetch yer own water. Take care ye do not get any with the Lysol."(xiii)
"Yes, ma'am." He carried the buckets to the storeroom past all the curious faces, and carefully emptied them into the washtub. The yeoman pushed open the door and upended two buckets of steaming hot water into it. Stacking all four buckets, she departed with them.
"I'll be back," Isobel said as she pitched a washrag into the water. Her words sounded more like a threat than a promise.
Edward Masen watched silently as she went out the door and locked him in.
Mindful that his nurse could come in at any moment, Edward unwound his puttees, unlaced his boots, toed off his socks, unbuttoned his britches and undershirt and stripped down to his skin. He watched mist curl from the surface of the tiny tub with avarice. He hadn't had a bath since his last leave, nearly two months prior. He stuck a foot in the water and found it pleasantly warm. Not hot, but a damn sight better than anything else he'd encountered since arriving in the Wipers (xiv) in April.
He squatted down and almost tipped the tub over. After some false starts, he left his feet on the floor, held onto the tub's metal handles and lowered himself in. For a moment, his raw flesh stung. Then, the water brought almost instant relief. He scooped it up and dribbled it onto his chest and shoulders, wet his head, and hunted for the rag so he could wash his legs and feet.
When the nurse returned and kneeled down beside him, he was almost asleep and jumped as she held out a large bowl of thin oatmeal. He reached for it blearily with a murmur of thanks, but she snatched it back.
"It's nae for eating ye daft beggar."
"Oh." His stomach growled.
"When's the last time you ate?"
"I'm not sure." To Edward's consternation, she scooped up some gruel in her fingers. She smeared it onto his chest and he nearly levitated out of the tub in shock. Water sloshed onto the pretty nurse's apron and she got a first class eyeful of his masculine parts. He wanted to drop dead but she just flicked a small towel down over him. He hugged his knobby knees, shut his eyes and pretended she was an old, ugly crone and that he hadn't just mentally broken a couple of Commandments.
The nurse rubbed oatmeal on his back. "When I was a wee lass, I contracted the scarlet fever."
He glanced at her and away. "My baby sister died of that."
"I'm sorry. What was her name?"
"Mary. She was eight."
"That was my gran's name, only I'll wager it was spelled different. M-O-I-R-A." She scrubbed oatmeal into his scalp and had he been a cat, he'd have purred. "I was ten. Once the fever broke, Mam and Gran used oatmeal to calm the itch. I thought we'd try it first since Cookie might not care to spare me any baking soda." She chattered on as she washed him and his head began to nod. He didn't even know he'd fallen asleep until he opened his eyes to find two burly Frenchmen pulling him upright. They wound him in a wet cotton sheet.
"Ne t'enquietes pas,"(xv) one said, lifting him like a child. Edward was asleep before his head touched the mattress.
Chilly air crept around his body, disturbing his rest. Something brushed against his privates. Fingers! Instantly awake, he found the beautiful matron inspecting his personal business. With a yelp, he rolled backward and hit the cold, unforgiving floor.
"Holy shit!" He snatched the sheet and yanked it up to his chin. "What the fuck do you think you're doing? Get out!"
Across the ward, two men murmured together and snickered.
Matron White's glare was petrifying. Would she banish him from the hospital? He gulped. The oatmeal bath really had helped and he had no wish to be kicked out with his treatment incomplete.
"I'm sorry, Matron." He knew he was blushing. He hated that. One of the men a few beds down snorted derisively.
Her expression was stony. "If you wish to be treated here, Private, I suggest you curb your tongue."
"Shall I introduce you to a mouthful of soap?"
She couldn't do that, could she? He bit his lip. "I'm terribly sorry for my foul language, ma'am. You startled me and I'm not accustomed…"
The matron turned up her English nose. "Private Masen, I assume you have not been kept in hospital before. Privacy and personal modesty are luxuries we cannot accommodate. Kindly guard your tongue so you do not injure my nurses."
"Indeed, ma'am. I am sorry, ma'am."
The matron turned away and waved at someone. "Nurse!"
Edward's nurse's narrow boots clicked on the floor. The matron addressed her in indecipherable mutters, snapped her fingers, pointed at him and left him sitting on the floor clutching the sheet like some imperiled heroine from a penny dreadful (xvi). The nurse covered her lush mouth with her fingertips, her dark eyes dancing.
"Have ye broken something, Tommy Canuck?" (xvii)
He shook his head. "Just my pride." And maybe a Commandment. A beautiful, unmarried woman had touched him. Was that sort of conduct normal? Back home, he'd have had to marry her, even if she was several years his senior. What a horrifying thought!
His nurse's smile was wider than her fingers could hide. "Can ye get up or shall I fetch an orderly?"
He looked around self-consciously. The bloodied man in the bed next to him lay unmoving. Down the way, a man who had been blown up lay naked except for bandages, his skin charred black. Across the aisle, another was asleep with his backside hanging out. Edward gathered the sheet around him and his feet under him. The nurse held the thin cotton quilt from his kit. She had obviously realized that his army blanket would be no comfort to his rebellious flesh. He slid onto the mattress and she covered him up.
"How do you feel?"
She laughed and his breath caught. What would she look like without her hair hidden by that white veil?
"Ye'll get used to it."
He winced. "It's not just that. I shouldn't be here, taking up a bed."
She pulled up a stool and leaned toward him. "Now see here, Private. What did they teach you about keeping yer tinder dry?"
He bit his lip.
"Ye've scratched yerself raw, PBI (xviii), and let in the trench muck."(xix)
Dread twisted his belly. The skin between his legs was on fire. His hand tightened on the sheet.
"Matron wants me to have a look at ye. Dinna tell me tis nae appropriate."
Looking at the ceiling, Edward released the sheet from his clutches and brought his hands up onto his breast, where he closed his fists to disguise their tremble. She lifted one side of the sheet, cursed like a sailor under her breath and shouted, "Matron!"
Edward turned white as a ghost. The matron did her own inspection and clicked her tongue. She addressed his nurse.
"You must wash him in carbolic lotionxx and I want the wounds sealed in paste (xxi). He's not to dress or get off the bed until every mark is completely scabbed over."
Matron White turned her glare on him. "It's a good thing you came. A couple of more days and we'd be debridingxxii you down there for gangrene."
"No more scratching!"
He managed to nod.
His nurse brought a robe and helped him into it. She took him back to the treatment room and ordered him onto the examining table. He watched apprehensively as she gathered supplies and scrubbed her hands raw.
She brought over a bottle of carbolic lotion and a bowl of paste, on a tray. "Lie down." She took his wrist, brought it to the side of the table, and picked up the leather restraint to buckle him down. He pulled out of her grip.
"I don't need that."
She leaned over him, near enough to kiss. "Edward, ye'd nae like to hurt me, would you?"
He blinked. "I'd never hurt you."
"A decorated officer broke a nurse's jaw last week."
He placed his hands in the restraints and allowed her to fasten them. He'd have preferred to face a hundred Huns.
"Thank you." She stroked his hair. "It is gonna hurt."
He did his best to smile. "I feel as though I ought to know your name first."
She pressed her lips between her teeth, but smiled anyway. "We're not supposed to tell you our names." (xxiv)
She continued to stroke his hair. "How old are ye, Edward?"
"I know that's what it says on yer papers, but how old are ye really?" Boys, eager for adventure, lied all the time to get in. Unless a parent exposed them, they got away with it.
"My birthday was at the end of September."
He felt his forehead crinkle. "You won't tell?"
Her mouth hovered next to his. He could feel her corset against his arm.
"I won't betray you."
He swallowed hard and breathed, "Sixteen."
She nearly folded herself onto his chest. And him a hero at the Salient! (xxvi) Her eyes stung. "Why do ye nae wish to go to Blighty?" (xxvii)
He caught his breath. "I want my father to be proud of me."
The urge to weep on him was strong but he needed her strength. She ducked down to his ear and her breath was hot on his skin. "Isobel." She pressed her lips to his temple, knowing and not caring that it was forbidden.
Edward blushed and turned his face away as she opened his dressing gown. He clenched his jaw and held his breath.
A cloth saturated with carbolic touched the worst of his wounds and he gasped. The more it penetrated, the worse it burned. "N-no, stop!"
"Ye maun have it, dearie." Rapidly, Isobel washed him all over. When she swept the cloth across his inner thighs, he screamed.
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i Funk hole: a stinking underground room dug into the front part a trench where the men could go to rest when not on duty. Sometimes, they would build bunks, but often they just slept on the dirt floor.
ii The Clap: An STI called gonorrhea, characterized by a yellowish, itchy, burning discharge from the penis. From the French word clapoir, which means brothel.
iii Grenades were new weapons in 1915. The ones the Allies used were egg-shaped.
iv Chew the fat: In the US Civil War, it meant "to sit around and gossip", but by WW1, it meant "to complain or argue, to behave or speak resentfully, or sulk."
vi Triage was a brand new concept (thank you, France) but its performance was very different during WW1 than it is today. Increasingly, instead of the most badly injured patients being given priority in triage, the time required to provide such treatment compelled British surgeons to prioritize in favour of patients with critical but less complicated wounds . A British manual listed the goals of triage as first conservation of manpower and secondly the interests of the wounded . So, patients who were expected to die without a lot of treatment, or who would not be able to return to fighting (amputees, for example), would not be treated as soon as men who could be treated quickly and sent back to the battlefield. Officers received treatment before men of common rank.
vii A salient is a battlefield feature that projects into enemy territory. The salient is surrounded by the enemy on three sides, making the troops occupyingthe salientvulnerable. The enemy's line facing a salient is referred to as a re-entrant (an angle pointing inwards). In 1915, a small number of Canadian troops held Ypres Salient against attacking Germans who employed gas. The few Canadians who managed to stand even took prisoners.
viii To Chat: From the French chatte (originally, a louse. Now, "a woman's pussy" so be careful where you use it). Men would sit around when not on duty and pick lice off each other while they talked. This was called chatting or having a chat. When they went home, the expression was soon widely adopted to mean, "sitting around and having a friendly conversation."
ix Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service or Nursing Reserve, est. 1902, referred to as: QAIMNS or QAIMNR. The Regular Service military nurses (QAIMNS) wore a scarlet cape (or tippet) and Reserve nurses wore a grey cape edged in red. All wore a blue-grey cotton dress and a white apron with or without a red cross. A white veil was worn when on duty. A straw hat would be worn outside and by those who were not on duty. Most British nurses wore the grey cape for the duration of the war because at the outbreak of WW1 there were only 297 members of QAIMNS - matrons, sisters and staff nurses. They were employed in military hospitals at home, and overseas in Malta, Gibraltar, Egypt, South Africa and China. The majority of military nurses served in the QAIMNR (Reserve). There were more than 90,000 women who served with the Nursing Service and 12,000 women who served with the Reserve in all theatres at some time during the Great War.
In addition, QAIMNS sisters wore red stripes on their lower sleeve to signify rank, and these were stitched to the dress material.
x This is true. If a man was allergic to wool, he was expected to do his duty honourably and without complaint by wearing it. Those who failed to do so could be court-marshalled.
xi Gangrene: refers to the death of body tissue due to a lack of blood flow or a bacterial infection. Gangrene most commonly affects the extremities, including toes, fingers and limbs, but it can also occur in muscles and internal organs. Penile gangrene still exists. Treatment for gangrene is not terribly effective so sufferers must undergo amputation or debridement. Trench foot is a form of gangrene that soldiers still must be diligent against today.
xii The Yeomen Nurses of the British Red Cross were active throughout the war, although the American Red Cross was not officially present until 1918. Yeoman Nurses (known as VADs) could be male or female and belonged to Voluntary Aid Detachments. They carried out a range of voluntary positions including nursing, transport duties, and the organisation of rest stations, working parties and auxiliary hospitals. Women were taught first aid, home nursing and hygiene by approved medical practitioners. They also took classes in cooking. Men were trained in first aid in-the-field and stretcher bearing. Talented VADs could take specialist classes to become a masseuse or use an x-ray machine. VADs had to pass exams to receive their first aid and home nursing certificates.
xiii Lysol (from Lysis-ol): Lysol Brand Antiseptic Disinfectant was introduced in 1889 to help end a cholera epidemic in Germany. The original formulation of Lysol contained cresols, which were quite poisonous. In 1918, during the Spanish flu pandemic, Lysol was advertised as an effective countermeasure to the virus. Newspaper ads gave tips to prevent the spread of the disease, including washing sick-rooms and everything that came in contact with patients with Lysol. A small (US50¢) bottle made five gallons (19 litres) of disinfectant solution, and a smaller (US25¢) bottle 2 gallons (7.5 litres). The company also advertised the "unrefined" Lysol F. & F. (Farm & Factory) for use in factories and other large buildings – a 5-gallon can (19 litres) could, when diluted as directed, make 50 gallons of disinfecting solution. Interestingly, in the 1920s, Lysol was marketed as an effective douche to make women's private parts clean and attractive, and was also used to prevent contraception.
xiv The Wipers: British trench slang for Ypres. Ypres Salient (pronounced Eep-ruh Say-lee-ent in English) in Belgium was the scene of some of the biggest WW1 battles. The boundaries of the Salient changed many times during the war, but the allies never lost Ypres once.
xv Ne t'enquietes pas: Don't be unsettled/upset.
xvi Penny dreadful: a magazine printed on inexpensive paper with simple but exciting, sensational, highly-illustrated stories that became immensely popular with the British Victorian public after 1830. The penny dreadful later evolved into the Dime Store Novel.
xvii Tommy/Johnny Canuck: British trench slang for a Canadian soldier.
xviii PBI: Poor Bloody Infantry, the purpose of whose existence seemed to be to act as a post upon which to hang up a backpack comprising half a man's weight.
xix Trench muck: mud from the trenches was often comprised of dirt, stagnant water, heavy metals, feces, blood, urine, human remains, etc. and obviously teemed with bacteria and other toxins. The smallest scratch could admit bacteria that could kill. There were no antibiotics. Gangrene often resulted.
xx Carbolic lotion was used to wash wounds, which were then wrapped in gauze soaked in the same solution.
xxi Paste aka 'Bipp' (bismuth iodoform paraffin paste) was smeared over severe wounds to prevent infection. It contained iodine so it must have stung horribly.
xxii Debridement: As there were no antibiotics or sulphonamides, a number of alternative methods were employed. The practice of 'debridement' – whereby the tissue around the wound was cut away and the wound sealed – was a common way to prevent infection.
xxiii Huns/Krauts: derogatory nicknames for Germans
xxiv In certain branches of service, women were expected to remain anonymous so as to discourage men from taking a personal interest in them.
xxv You had to be 18 to sign up. My own grandfather joined the Canadian Cavalry when he was 14 years old. He wasn't caught and served throughout the war. We don't know where he served as he never talked about it with family members. He also lied about his age so he could be in the Army Reserves in WWII when he was 38. Of course, one of his sons must have thought that was wonderful because he tried to run away from home to join the navy during WWII. Uncle Jack got scared and ran away from the base and MPs came looking for him. That's when he got caught and discharged. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when my grandmother told them he was sixteen. That kid was a handful.
xxvi Ypres Salient: the area around Ypres where battle lines constantly changed.
xxvii Go to Blighty/Old Blighty: Go to Britain, where wounded allied soldiers were sent en route to their own countries. The nickname is derived from an East Indian word for homeland.